Bristol Ornithological Club
Feb 27 2018

Tuesday 27 February – Bristol City Centre Leader: Nancy Barrett

No “Beast from the East” can deter Tuesday walkers it seems! 22 members turned up and a 23rd joined us along the way. Our first stop near the Prince Street Swing Bridge was to look at the Cormorants and discuss different types and note the evident breeding patches. Walking along past M-shed, we saw the first of many Herring Gulls plus Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed and a Common Gull. The buddleia, brambles and back gardens of Cumberland Road yielded House Sparrow, Great Tit and Dunnock and a Pied Wagtail accompanied us, finding food among the rail tracks. Although the Chocolate Path was closed, we ventured onto the footbridge over the river in a bit of a snowstorm and were rewarded with good views of a Common Sandpiper. Continuing along beside the Floating Harbour, we went through the Underfall Yard and then crossed the road onto a path new to most of us followed by a bit of the Metrobus route. After a welcome coffee stop in the Create Centre we had a look up river to the Suspension Bridge and saw Redshank and distant Buzzard. After returning on the north side of the harbour to the bottom of Jacobs Wells Road, some of the party continued up onto Brandon Hill where Wren, Long-tailed Tit, Song Thrush and Starling were added to the list. We also watched a nearby group of Redwings in good light turning over leaves. 32 species seen and a satisfying morning. Many thanks to Nancy for leading

Feb 25 2018

Sunday 25 February – Chew Valley Lake Leader: Robert Hargreaves

16 members turned out on a cold but sunny morning. The water level of the lake was very high and this had affected the birds, no egrets today for example. However, we got off to a good start at Woodford where the woodland behind the car park revealed two Bullfinches and two Great Spotted Woodpeckers and calls from a Green Woodpecker and two Jays. 50 Redwings were on the move, together with five Fieldfares. Despite the cold, Spring was in the air with song from Dunnock, Chaffinch, and Wren. There were three Goldeneyes on the lake. We then drove in turn to the hides on the west side of the lake. At Villice there were three Scaup (one male) together with more than 20 Tufted Ducks, a Pochard, and a large number of Coots. At Herons Green there were five Teals and two Pochards at the pond, and two Snipes flew in. Two Buzzards were watching from a nearby tree. On the lake side was a large mixed flock of the four usual gull species (we had a Great Black-backed Gull later, at Herriotts). Continuing to Moreton we had Goldfinch, Siskin, Goldcrest, and Long-tailed Tit in the wood. Opening the hide we felt the full blast of the Siberian wind and we didn’t stay long, having taken in the ubiquitous Tufted Duck and Coot. The water was up to the level of the boardwalk at Stratford hide and a Cetti’s Warbler was singing nearby. We had close views of a male Goldeneye, and more distant views of 18 Shoveler, and a female Scaup. At Herriotts Bridge two Reed Buntings flew in as we arrived. The day’s largest concentration of birds included Shelduck, Pintail, and Grey and Pied Wagtail. On the lake side a pair of Great Crested Grebes began displaying with weed, providing a memorable finish. Thanks to Robert for leading this enjoyable meeting, yielding 51 species Gareth Roberts

Feb 20 2018

Tuesday 20 February 2018 –Uphill Leader: Jane Cumming

Birds never do what you want them to, do they?  Every trip leader will recognise that “it was here yesterday” feeling.  On the previous day’s Wetland Bird Survey, as the tide receded hundreds of waders had flown across from their rocky roosts to the beach and trooped along the tideline in an orderly manner for easy counting.  Today they just sat miles away on the rocks watching that vast expanse of beach opening up as the tide dropped, not one flying across to take advantage of the newly available feeding opportunity. 25 people counted ducks as we waited in vain for the waders –81 Shelducks, 130 Wigeons, 45 Teal, twelve Mallards–and estimated the Lapwing flock at around 170 when they flew.  The Oystercatcher flock had dropped to 50 birds and there were about 60 Curlews.  Redshanks were scattered along the muddy banks of the Axe in half-hidden groups so we only found around a hundred of yesterday’s 300 birds For the rest, we left Rob on the beach to make an accurate count of 447 Dunlinsas he waited in vain for yesterday’s 25 Ringed Plovers to appear.  An advance party quickly gave up on the chilly beach-watch and walked out down the Axe to the Bleadon Levels, picking up Little Egret, Grey Heron,Coot, and Reed Bunting for the list.  The rest waited out the waders for a while, then set off along Uphill’s high cliff face to Walmsley Hill, noting three Little Grebe on the freshwater pool and checking the bushes for passerines.  Stonechat and Meadow Pipit were noted and some saw a distant Peregrine putting up the wader flocks on the Brean Down side of the river.  We couldn’t find the reported female Black Redstart but the last stragglers on the return journey eventually picked it up, and some returned to see it after a good lunch at the marina cafe.  It was an enjoyable morning despite the uncooperative waders, with 40 species on the list. Many thanks to Jane for leading (Editor).                                                                                                                    Jane Cumming

Feb 16 2018

Weekend in Kent, 16-18 February Leader: Jane Cumming

Friday 16 February. A number considered unlucky for some left Bristol for this trip, but on arrival in Kent we were joined by BOC member Lyn and her partner Ray, who stayed with us for the whole trip and whose local knowledge proved invaluable. But before we got to Kent our trip list was already around 40, due partly to an injunction to keep a look-out for Red Kite between Junctions 13 and 11 on the M4 (in fact we saw several); and partly because we made a small diversion to Staines Reservoir en route, having been advised of the presence of a “Horned Lark”. Information on which race was ambiguous (hardly surprising since there are around 40 races of this species). Suffice it to say that it was not the race we call Shore Lark, so there was considerable excitement about this bird, which had evidently arrived from North America, or possibly Asia. We duly found it, but sadly not everyone saw it, since it flew off after showing really well for a few minutes. All this meant that we didn’t reach the Isle of Sheppey until after 15:00. Here we saw Merlin, Marsh Harrier, Barn Owl, Stock Dove, Red-legged Partridge and Hooded Crow before Ray and Lyn took us off to the Swale NNR, where we added Greylag, White-front, Brent and Barnacle Geese to our list – plus Fieldfare, Kestrel and, best of all, a gorgeous male Hen Harrier.By then the light was fading, so we set off towards our hotel; we screeched to a halt when Ray discovered Corn Bunting. But most of us assumed that we were just getting better views of Barn Owl, so dipped out on that opportunity. Saturday 17 February. Our first experience on arriving on the Dungeness peninsula was to fail to find a Caspian Gull, which should have been mingling with a large group of gulls. It wasn’t, so we went for a 45 minute sea watch, where we added Guillemot, Razorbill, Gannet, Kittiwake and Red-throated Diver to our list. From there it was a short journey to the Power Station where an immature Glaucous Gull had been seen for some while. Since there were about 200 gulls in a tightly knit gathering, finding the target bird needed hard work and patience. But finally we all got good views of this spectacular bird. Before lunch at the RSPB Observatory we took ourselves off to Scotney Gravel Pits in the hope of seeing Bean Goose. We failed in this but compensation was rich because we saw Raven, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Buzzard (which surprised us this far east, but the following day we saw many more, so it was no accident); also Gadwall and Wigeon, which had been thin on the ground before this. After lunch, we spent the afternoon touring the RSPB Reserve.At the feeder station we encountered Tree Sparrow, which pleased us, and Greenfinch which have become scarce in recent years. Most of our time on the Reserve was devoted to viewing waterbirds in flooded gravel pits from hides. Between hides we discovered a Great White Egret (OK, so it’s common in the West, but still a rarity here) and a large flock of very colourful Golden Plover. The first two hides treated us to a feast of so many birds that we gloried in the number and variety and didn’t bother too much about listing individual species. That tendency disappeared in a flash at the third hide where we were treated to a male and two female Smew, plus a Slavonian Grebe, a Black-throated Diver and hundreds of Cormorant with all-white heads. Thus sated, we returned to Gillingham and our hotel. Sunday 18 February. Today we first went to a small village called Eastling, which had a mixture of woodland and farmland habitat. On arrival a Little Owl flew into a Yew tree. Not many of us saw it, but the small birds did and they proceeded to emerge and mob the tree in large numbers. This was good for our I/D skills of Blue and Great Tit, Goldfinch, Chaffinch etc., and fortunately the “defenders” included a splendid female Hawfinch, which gave all of us excellent views. There was also much birdsong to be enjoyed – possibly because we were basking in the third successive day of fine, spring-like weather. On the subsequent walk through woods and farmland, we added Yellowhammer, Sparrowhawk and Mistle Thrush to our list, and we also passed close to an active Rookery. Finally, we stopped and were treated to a distant view of three more Hawfinch, including a spectacular male. We heard the repeated sound of a Bullfinch and a lucky few managed to see the bird. The rest of us had to be content with a repeat viewing of a Red-legged Partridge. By now most of us were suffering from WWS (Wader withdrawal symptoms), so after lunch we went to Oare Marshes to solve this problem. And how! We saw Avocet, a large flock of (probably) Knot, Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits, hundreds of Golden Plover and several Ruff. We also saw three Bearded Reedling feeding at the top of a small reedbed. And after a long, hard-working search we finally managed to connect with the Long-billed Dowitcher which has been at Oare Marshes for several weeks but had not been seen for some days. Flushed with success, we went off in search of some Water Pipit, which had been reported recently. What we saw was a Green Woodpecker! Lovely bird, but….. Well you can’t win them all! Nevertheless the consensus was that it had been a brilliant weekend – weather, birds (106 species), company, hotel – and in Alastair Fraser and Keith Williams two of the most skilful and dedicated drivers you could ever hope to meet. Along with Jane Cumming our leader, the rest of us owe these three and Ray and Lyn, an enormous debt of gratitude. Brian Roberts-Wray

Feb 13 2018

Tuesday 13 February – Chew Valley Lake Leaders: John and Sue Prince

An intrepid group of 13 walkers met at Herons Green, Chew Valley Lake, whilst the rain was pelting down. The walk should have gone over Breach Hill to the Ubley hatchery but it was decided to go to Woodford Lodge for coffee to see if the rain would abate. The rain eased so we decided to walk the Grebe and Bittern trails instead as the weather improved. As we passed the first reedbeds a pair of Stonechats and a pair of Reed Buntings gave us good views. The wooded areas were quite wet but the birds were showing well with two Treecreepers, three Goldcrests and several Cetti’s warblers were heard and one seen. A Water Rail was heard. We had good views of a Grey Wagtail. A flock of at least 50 Fieldfares flew over and a Sparrowhawk was mobbed by Carrion Crows. We noticed that Chaffinches are starting to sing. Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed but we could not find it. Two Common Buzzards and two Grey Herons were seen. The lake was very choppy so only Mallard, Coot and Tufted Duck were noted with a pair of Goldeneye close into the shore. It was a good walk. Thanks to John and Sue Prince for leading (Editor). Sue Prince