Bristol Ornithological Club
Jan 12 2013

Trip Report: Blagdon Lake (12 January 2013)

Being retired and a Tuesday birder, it’s not often that I venture forth for a grown-up day at the weekend. As Nigel Milbourne, patch specialist, was leading I made a special effort to attend. I wasn’t disappointed and am sure the others in the group weren’t either. Nigel was confident we would see 50 species during the morning’s walk. BL is a haven for Tufted Duck, Coot, Wigeon and Pochard and these were seen aplenty. The strong SW wind had cleared most of the gulls from the dam wall but we did manage to ID the 5 most common species on our trip round. Five species of Thrush were also seen – nice that Fieldfare and Redwing were in the same oak tree to allow comparison and a pair of Mistle Thrushes stood to attention on the meadow to display their chest markings. We had a detailed lesson (six scopes being utilised) on the identification of Lesser Scaup, which stayed more or less in the same area for our education – poor light levels and distance made the upper mandible ‘Black Nail tip’ hard to distinguish. (Nigel later showed us a full size reproduction to round off the class). Black-necked Grebe showed surprisingly well for such a small bird in the choppy water conditions, although its cousin the Little Grebe was far less accommodating. The Great Crested Grebes we saw had no breeding plumage head gear visible. Two pairs of Goldeneye were found but the courting display previously seen wasn’t repeated. A wisp of 40 Snipe were flushed from the lake margins with an attendant Grey Heron plus the singular sound of a female Teal making her exit. Our final species was seen from the dam end of the lake looking into Butcombe Bay, a fine pair of Goosander. Nine damp birders finished with a count of 51 species. Thanks to Nigel for leading this most enlightening morning’s birding.

Nick Hawkridge

Jan 09 2013

Trip Report: Portishead (8 January 2013)

28 people set off on a very calm day. It was a shame that it was a low tide with no hope of seeing the Purple Sandpipers, but at the start a Grey Wagtail was seen just over the sea wall, with Goldfinch in a nearby tree. Walking along the front to the lake we saw Mallard, four or five Pochards, female Tufted Duck and numerous Moorhen and Mute Swan. Pied Wagtails milled about on the edge of the lake and on the shore Meadow Pipits were swirling around and two Linnets and a Curlew were spotted on the mud. We made a quick stop at Battery Point and then on through East Wood which was very quiet with only the occasional Blue and Great Tit, although some of the group at the rear saw Long-tailed Tit as well.

At Portishead Pier we all had very good views of the male Black Redstart, which was a first sighting for at least five people. There was a large flock of at least 400/500 Dunlins together with Redshank and Shelduck scattered on the mud. We made our way along the dock side to the swimming pool, where Goldcrest were seen flitting from tree to tree, and then back to the coast and along to the Sailing Club where six Turnstones were very busy feeding on the seaweed. A total of 34 species seen.

Geoff Harris

Jan 02 2013

Trip Report: WWT Slimbridge (1 January 2013)

At least 26 members appeared in the car park (several others arrived later!) After the horrid weather of previous days, it was a joy to arrive in bright sunshine. A perfect morning, added to which it was just after high tide, so the Dumbles and Tack Piece were full of birds, dominated by large flocks of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Dunlin and Wigeon. It was just a case of scanning through these to find the less numerous species. The Bewick’s Swans were easy and useful pointers to where the Ruff, Pintail, Shoveler and others were. There was a neat flock of Redshanks including one Spotted Redshank and a nice line of Black-tailed Godwits. Pochard, Tufted Duck, Shelduck and Mallard were also noted. A small flock of White-fronted Geese was settled into the far side of the Tack Piece whilst out on the Dumbles, Canada and Barnacle Geese were showing, as well as Buzzards and two Peregrines. It was not long before the latter were off and put most of the waders to flight. It was spectacular!

On our walk around the various hides many song birds were noted as well as Water Rail and Mandarin (full-winged birds). I ought to mention a few others: Redwing, Blackbird, Treecreeper, Lesser Redpoll and Chaffinch, also Grey Heron and Curlew. (Sadly we missed the Bittern, again.) I’ve just mentioned some of the, at least, 54 species seen during a splendid morning’s walk in fine weather.

Robin Prytherch

May 31 2012

Trip Report: Northumberland (23rd – 30th May 2012)

Firstly, thank you to Wendy Dickson our leader and guide for showing us the beautiful countryside and bird watching sites of Northumberland. The weather was glorious which enabled our group of 13 to have non-stop bird watching for the whole week. On picking up the mini-bus at Newnham Hall, (expertly driven by Nick and Sue ), we headed north, stopping for lunch at RSPB Old Moor, west of Doncaster. There were some surprises (this reserve is in the middle of an enterprise park): Ringed Plover, Dunlin, four Ruff in breeding plumage, Turnstone and Avocet with chicks were seen. The feeders in the car park produced a family of Tree Sparrows and a pair of Bullfinches. We continued our journey north to Embleton where the comfortable Dunstanburgh Castle Hotel awaited the weary travellers. After supper some of the group were refreshed enough to take a walk through the pretty village to the beach where Swifts were soaring, Sedge and Reed Warblers were heard and Grey Partridge were roosting in the hedges.

Thursday dawned with low cloud and mist, but this didn’t dampen our spirits, we were off to the Farne Islands. We travelled to Seahouses where we boarded “Glad Tidings” and sailed first to Staple Island. On the way we encountered Eider, Fulmar, Gannet, Guillemot, Razorbill and Puffin. On landing the sight, noise and smell was something to behold. Fulmar, Shag, Kittiwake, Guillemot, Razorbill and Puffin were all vying for the smallest crag to nest and rear young. The comings and goings were constant with the Guillemots doing a Mexican Wave every time a Gull flew over them. From Staple Island we sailed to Inner Farne – what a sight! Thousands and thousands of Terns: Sandwich, Common and Arctic were breeding. Yes, a number of us were chosen for a peck on the head by an Arctic. Holy Island was visited on Friday. Driving over the causeway, Wendy showed us the path the Pilgrims take to the island. At low tide it is possible to walk across the sands following an ancient route known as Pilgrims’ Way. This route is marked with posts and has refuge boxes for stranded walkers, just as the road has a refuge box for those who have left their crossing too late. A walk around the island produced a Barn Owl hunting for food and carrying prey back to its nest; Eider and Scoter at sea from the sand dunes; Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Wheatear were sighted in the fields. On our return journey to the hotel we called at Budle Bay where a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers were enjoying the lovely late afternoon’s sun together with Curlew, Redshank and Eider. Saturday saw us visiting Harthorpe Valley. This is a very pretty, narrow and in places steep sided wooded valley which produced Red Grouse, Red-legged Partridge, Grey Partridge, Common Sandpiper, Cuckoo, Treecreeper, Ring Ouzel, Spotted Flycatcher, Whinchat, Stonechat, Wheatear and Lesser Redpoll. There was an early tide on Sunday morning so everyone was up bright and early to travel to Warkworth Harbour, Amble to board the boat which was chartered to take us to Coquet Island. We had fantastic views of Roseate, Sandwich, Common and Arctic Terns along with Purple Sandpiper, a Dunlin of the “Alpina” species in magnificent summer plumage, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Guillemot, Razorbill and Puffins. On the way back to shore a few of the group spotted an Arctic Skua flying past the boat. After landing, we made our way to Druridge Bay and visited a number of the Northumberland Wildlife Trust Reserves in the vicinity – Ladyburn Lake, Druridge Bay C.P., Cresswell Pond, Druridge Pools, East Chevington and Huxley. Grey Wagtails were spotted at Cresswell and Tree Sparrows at Druridge Pools. Huxley produced Wigeon, Gadwall, nesting Oystercatchers, Black-tailed Godwit, and Redshank. A pair of Coal Tits were feeding young in a nest they had made behind the sign on the visitor centre. A breeding colony of Little Terns at Long Nanny was our treat on Monday. These Terns are under 24 hour surveillance by wardens to protect them from predators. There were also a large number of Sandwich Terns present, together with a few pairs of Ringed Plovers, Eider and Dunlin. Back on the mini-bus, we travelled south to the Ingram Valley. This valley was different to the Harthorpe being much more open and not so steep. A stop along the river soon produced Common Sandpiper, Dipper and Grey Wagtail and a Cuckoo was spotted being chased off by a Meadow Pipit. At the top of the valley some of the group explored a small wooded area which produced the first sighting of the week of Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Spotted Flycatcher and Common Redpoll.

Our last day was sadly upon us, but another great day’s birding was in store. We visited Hulne Park, Alnwick where we came across Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tits along the path to the river. As we crossed the river more Goldcrest were sighted along with the first Nuthatch of the week and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Crossing over another bridge further down the river, we spotted a pair of Grey Wagtails and a busy Dipper collecting food, which was observed flying under the bridge to a probable nest site. After a brief shopping trip in Alnwick, we drove to Cullernose Point where a colony of Kittiwake and Fulmar were nesting on the cliffs. Some of the group walked the coastal path to Craster (famous for its smoked kippers). A smaller group then continued on the coastal path to Embleton along which Eider, Sandwich Tern, Razorbill, and Gannets were spotted at sea. With heavy hearts we left Embleton on Wednesday morning, (where did the week go)? We took another stop at RSPB Old Moor for lunch. A warden told us that a pair of Bitterns had bred on the reserve, (being a first for Yorkshire), but sadly on that day they were out of view. It was then back on the bus and back to Bristol. In all a total of 127 species were observed or heard over the week.
A huge thank you to Nick and Sue for driving the bus so safely. A huge thank you also to Judy for all her hard work in organising the trip, expertly led by Wendy, which everyone thoroughly enjoyed.

Julie Evans

May 30 2012

Trip Report: Newport Wetlands (29th May 2012)

The sun was shining when the 20 walkers arrived at the car park and it kept shining all day. We started off from the centre with singing warblers in every bush, including Blackcap, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Chiffchaff and the noisy Cetti’s. It was an ideal day to see Bearded Tits and we were not disappointed. They were seen flying over the reeds but we also had very good views of the four juveniles (without beards). Next to the juveniles was a Reed Bunting in clear view and Reed Warblers were everywhere in full song. On the ponds were Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Tufted Duck and Pochard. The estuary had many Shelduck and a few Curlew, but a small party of juvenile Wrens had a captive audience. The Cuckoo remained elusive, although could be heard in the distance. After lunch we carried on to Goldcliff where we added Avocets with chicks, Redshank and Lapwing also with 12 chicks. Black-tailed Godwit, Gadwall and Little Egrets were also seen and helped make a total of 45 species for the day. Thanks to Ray and Margaret for leading.

Margaret Bulmer

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