Bristol Ornithological Club
Feb 28 2017

Tuesday 28 Feb – Pensford

We welcomed four new walkers to the group, Di and Pete, Chris, and Vera, making our team up to 17. Today was a raw, windy but bright day, but, alas, in the last 30 minutes – heavy, soaking rain. The playing fields by the car park contained no less than five Mistle Thrushes and a couple of gulls. From there, we all piled down to peer under the bridges in the village to try and locate the resident Dipper- a no show. The river was in brown watered spate, handling the Mallard with ease and keeping the Moorhen (red billed with yellow tip) firmly on the banks. As we went up through the village, many House Sparrow called from the roof tops and ivy clad walls. A couple of Starlings posed as sentries on chimney stacks, whistling their love songs into the wind. Nesting material was seen being carried by Jackdaw and we finally located the Greenfinch who’d been wheezing from the scrub. We crossed a very damp Publow Leigh, where a Grey Heron flew ahead of us and a Cormorant was heading west for his elevenses at CVL. We had our first sighting of winter thrush in the fold of the valley, flying up to a magnificent Oak tree, this was just as we entered Lord’s Wood – and once inside the wood, a Green Woodpecker was heard, and a Mistle Thrush started to sing – brilliant. Several Goldcrest showed themselves in the ivy cover of four tall fir trees, with a couple of Long-tailed Tits that were spotted dashing about with a Coal Tit. More Winter Thrushes, in slightly bigger flights were seen, with a Jay for company and Woodpigeons asleep close by. We crossed Compton Common and all had excellent views of a male Great Spotted Woodpecker, first posing in one tree and then another. As we approached the River Chew again, a Buzzard was cleverly spotted sitting on a post. No doubt he was keeping an eye on the Fox lounging in the meadow, who in turn was eying up the flock (80 plus) of mainly Common Gulls – fat chance. A pair of Ravens were on the tall trees behind Grassington and eight Rooks probed the grass beneath, but alas no Dipper or Kingfisher on the river. It was a delightful walk for whose splendid leadership we were most grateful to Geoff. Nick Hawkridge

Feb 24 2017

Norfolk 24 to 27 February

The first club trip I went on was to Norfolk and it was one of the best weekends I ever spent. This one more than lived up to the previous high standard. The weather was kinder to us than the forecasts predicted. We got a bit wet on Saturday, Sunday was windy but sunny and Monday’s storm hit us on the drive home leaving us to do the birding in relative comfort. We explored the Norfolk coast using Hunstanton as our base visiting Holme, Thornham, Titchwell, Cley, Holkham and Sculthorpe Moor as well as Welney WWT, Roydon Common, Flitcham, Sandringham and the mysterious Wolferton Triangle, Lynford Arboretum and points in-between. The group saw 116 species, I won’t list them all! The highlights were: Hen Harrier and Marsh Harrier roosts; seven types of Geese including one White-fronted in a group of Pink-footed; Shore Larks only metres away, a beautiful bird that instantly disappears when it lands – a whole flock of 40 could vanish before your eyes; a close fly past of a Bittern at Titchwell; Crossbill, heard in two locations and a small flock seen at Lynford; Hawfinch at Lynford just as we were giving up and heading back and a Little Owl at Flitcham which was another well-behaved bird that flew in just as we thought we would not see it; Bramblings and Redpoll, including a Mealy. Bad news for listers, Mealy Redpoll is merging back into Lesser Redpoll. We also saw Red-legged and Grey Partridge. The Grey is no longer stocked for shooting and is not supposed to be shot. So these should be proper wild birds rather than tame target practice for shooters. There was a huge raft of Common Scoter offshore from Hunstanton and more Scoter off Titchwell. Patient observation (by Ken and Jane, let’s be fair) turned these into Velvet Scoter with the not too obvious flash of a white wing patch. The van flushed two Woodcocks sitting in the road and we had a Sparrowhawk in front of us for a few hundred metres down a narrow lane. Several turns round the Wolverton Triangle looking for Golden Pheasant were ultimately successful for two minibus passengers who spotted one in the bushes heading for cover. So they do still exist! There was also a futile attempt to find a Glaucous Gull with a report that one was at a pig farm just past a Methodist chapel. We found a Methodist chapel but no pig farm. There was a pig farm, and no chapel, but a large flock of gulls, in a field, some distance away plus another huge flock on the next field, hundreds more circling above and even more among the pigs. Time to move on! The one disappointment concerned Barn Owl. We had no sightings in spite of multiple visits to favourite haunts. They were seen about by others but there is a concern the numbers may have taken a hit due to poor weather in the breeding season. Ken is also a fund of knowledge about the area from local celebs (Nelson and sea captains rather than Stephen Fry) to Norfolk round tower churches and the stained glass window at St Margaret’s church, Cley with an image of a White-crowned Sparrow in celebration of a famous twitch in 2008 and the generous collection to the restoration fund by twitchers. There are so many other good sightings to report but space won’t allow. So, you will have to go and find out for yourself, preferably on the next club trip. Many thanks to Ken for leading, his expert knowledge and enthusiasm. Thanks also to the rest of the group for being so helpful and such good company. Alistair Fraser

Feb 23 2017

50th Anniversary Dinner held at Bristol Zoo, 23 February

A fine tribute to a wonderful club, I arrived early to help set up the table flowers with Phyl Dykes, a long standing member and one of the many unsung heroines of the BOC. The roosting calls of the adjacent Flamingos in the lagoon outside presented a perfect backdrop to the venue. A quick chat with Dr Mark Avery provided a taster of the brilliant and witty talk that followed later. There was news from Chairman Ken that not only had the Avon Gorge Peregrines mated, but former Chairman Ed and Liz were also successfully raising young, future club member Freddie Drewitt. A memorable meal followed with fine wine and good company. A fabulous evening: may the BOC in the words of Mr Spock “Live long and prosper”. Rob Miles

The evening was animal themed, not only birds but carpet, walls, doors and animal models including a large crocodile! We were greeted with a quiz which continued through the evening and proved challenging! Oliver Smart awarded a stunning model of a Pied-billed Grebe (the club’s logo) to Rich Scantlebury for best bird photo, a peregrine falcon in flight. As we sat for the excellent dinner, Judy Copeland received a big bunch of flowers for her unstinting time as membership secretary (46 years not out!). These were presented to her by Dr. Mark Avery, who then gave an excellent speech after the meal. He reminded us that he was a Bristolian born and bred, and a previous member of the BOC. A job with the RSPB (including 13 years as its Conservation Director) laid the ground for a subsequent career as a freelance journalist, author and conservation activist, particularly against driven grouse shooting, which is the subject of his book “Inglorious”. He helped to set up the Hen Harrier action group. We were enthralled by his enthusiastic and humorous talk. The evening was a very successful and enjoyable occasion, and a fitting finale to the celebrations! Sue and Andy Black

Feb 21 2017

Tuesday 21 February – Between Chew and Blagdon Lakes

Weather-wise, a misty damp day but surprisingly the birding was quite good. There was Goosander and Goldeneye on Chew Valley Lake as well as Tufted Duck, Pochard and Mallard. Canada Goose and Cormorant were also close enough to see. As we walked up towards Breach Hill we saw flocks of Redwings, Fieldfares and Starlings with a Song Thrush singing as well. A party of Long-tailed Tits flew in front of us and vanished into the roadside hedge. There were plenty of signs of spring – Primroses and Periwinkle in eye bright flower, Robins (ten) and Chaffinches in full throated song and away to the west, Rooks active in their rookery. Wren, Blue and Great Tit were also singing well, along with several Goldcrests, a Nuthatch and a Great Spotted Woodpecker chip chipping. Some of the group (total 18) were lucky enough to see Grey Wagtail, Buzzard, Kestrel and a couple of Treecreepers. Our views of Blagdon Lake were rather misty but altogether it was a pleasant walk finishing with a female Stonechat on the top of a hedge as we neared the turn along the Chew Lake road having seen 44 species. (Thanks to Sue and John for leading). Sue and John Prince

Feb 18 2017

Saturday 18 February – Barrow Gurney Reservoirs

Six members joined Sean for a walk round the three reservoirs named imaginatively Tanks 1, 2 and 3. The weather was mild, overcast with mist in the hills, brightening later. The tanks attract fewer birds than past years possibly due to milder winters as there can be an influx if the weather turns cold. Ringed Plover have a bespoke nesting area next to Tank 2 that the birds have never taken to. The Sand Martin nest holes have been more successful. The tank’s perimeters are exposed so it is difficult to sneak up for closer views but there are spots with cover you could settle down and wait if you had the time. The Long-tailed Duck was very visible in Tank 3 although being a diving duck it was frequently under water. The dives lasted up to a minute and occasionally it would stick up only its beak for a breath before the next dive.
Birds on the water – Three Wigeon, two Gadwall, 19 Teal, 23 Mallard, 16 Shoveler, 13 Pochard, 69 Tufted Duck, one Long-tailed Duck (1st winter male, not a female as identified earlier), one female Goldeneye, 19 Cormorant, two Grey Heron, 14 Little Grebe, 13 Great Crested Grebe, 63 Coot, nine Lapwing, two Common Sandpiper, five Snipe, 200 plus Common Gull, two Great Black-backed Gull, 200c Black-headed Gull and a few Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
Birds around the water – One Buzzard, one Kestrel, one Green Woodpecker, two Grey Wagtail, four Stock Dove, several Meadow Pipits, Great Tit, Blue Tit, two Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, Chaffinch, Robin, Wren, Goldfinch, Raven. Many thanks to Sean Davies for leading. Alastair Fraser

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