The evening was a wonderful collection of memories, personal reminiscences, and facts about the history of the club, with a delicious birthday cake for all. Robin Prytherch set the ball rolling by telling us about the Pied-billed Grebe, which initiated the whole project 50 years ago, and which to a young birder (yes, even Robin was one once!) was incredibly exciting, the first time ever it had been seen in the whole of the Western Palearctic. There were tales of romantic encounters when Richard met Rosemary whilst birding, of new birders (Alison Pilling) who enticed their husbands to join, of long-standing birders (Mike Jackson) who had been encouraged to start BBS surveys by John Tully, the latter a tremendous enthusiast who encouraged many. Peter Holbrook, past organiser of the Tuesday group, told us that there were 52 meetings last year under the guidance of Mark Watson. The group’s warm welcome has been the start of many a local birder’s career. Former Club Chairman Mike Lord returned from Cornwall with tales of a successful Chough watch adapted from our Peregrine watch. Jane Cumming highlighted the Avon Birds blog as a well-respected and well-used facility. Ken Hall detailed some of the many and varied trips to France which he had run, and former Club Secretary, Wendy Dickson, who had come down from Northumberland, spoke about birds on her previous home in the Shetlands. The whole evening emphasised the wonderfully friendly, warm atmosphere of the club, and was very ably chaired by Ken Carruthers.
Andy and Sue Black
What an enjoyable twitch! Some of the visitors had returned to their former haunts close to Severnside from the Scottish Islands and from the Lizard. As it was an early Spring gathering the local residents were even in their breeding plumage. Eight wise specimens regaled the gathered flock with tales of dedicated research, birding holidays and romance and intrigue. One pair had even met on a BOC walk many years previously. If Black Grouse could talk to their prospective mates at a lek I’m not sure that “Not Bad” would have carried the day, but happily it did. The tale of how the BOC Peregrine watch inspired the locals on the Lizard to set up “Chough watch” was enthralling, and the results spectacular. The last time I saw a Cornish Chough was in Newquay Zoo 45 years ago but now the thought of 50 birds wheeling and sneezing above the headland at Lands End makes a return visit to Cornwall inevitable. Rob Miles
Ten members met at Greylake on a damp/drizzly morning. In the car park we saw Reed Bunting, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Chaffinch. As we started along the reserve some Carrion Crows flew over and a flock of Lapwings were an impressive sight. Throughout the morning we saw about 400 Lapwing which is encouraging as habitat restoration appears to be working well since the reserve was ‘reclaimed’ from arable fields in 2003. We moved on around the reed beds to the furthest viewpoint seeing Goldfinch, Mute Swans and a Stonechat amongst others on the way. At the end of the path we had good, if distant, views of two Marsh Harriers along with Coot, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler and Gadwall. After a bit of debate a very pale Buzzard was confirmed on a faraway fence post. We then went to the hides and had good views of five ‘close by’ Snipe, Pintail, a Black-tailed Godwit and two Golden Plover. On the return to the car park we added half a dozen Redwing, a couple of Fieldfare, Cetti’s Warbler (heard) Common Gull. Greenfinch and Canada Geese to the list along with a Rook. Five members picnicked in the car park and then went off in search of the Cranes. As we arrived at Stathe a Kestrel rounded the corner of a roadside house. The drizzle was increasing considerably and no Cranes were visible from the bank of the Parrett despite a careful search so we decided to call it a day in view of the weather. We totalled 47 species for the visit. (Thanks to Mark for leading). Mark Watson
On a lovely sunny morning about 25 members met in Millennium square for a walk around Bristol harbour. The birds proved to be strangely elusive possibly because there was so much disturbance on the walk with the works for the Metrobus route and building at the SS Great Britain and Prince Street Bridge. Cormorants were not on their usual perch at Prince Street Bridge but several were seen at other locations. The bushes by the railway tracks which usually produce a few species were very quiet. A few House Sparrows were seen. On the water were Black-headed, Lesser Black-back and Herring Gulls but not in their usual numbers. Eight Mute Swans were seen. They have not bred in this area for the past three years. Moorhens are doing well in the harbour and the pair that nest in the reed bed produced five young last year. Many of them are still around. The Grey Wagtails that nest near the SS Great Britain have probably been disturbed by the building work. Crossing over to the New Cut the mud provided a Redshank and a Grey Wagtail was flitting around. Good views were had of a Kestrel which perched for the photographers. A Sparrowhawk and Buzzard were also seen but no Peregrine this time. The corvids were represented by Magpies, Crows and a Raven. Those that climbed the steep route on to Brandon Hill added Goldfinch, Song Thrush, Greenfinch and Great Tit to the list. Altogether a species list of 30 was obtained. Thank you Nick for recording the birds. (And thanks to Margaret for leading) Margaret Gorely
32 members of BOC and Bristol Naturalists set off by coach for the mouth of the Exe Estuary. During the week storm Doris had poured, so we were lucky to have fair weather. After Exeter excitement rose as we saw some beautiful Brent Geese. By 10.30 hours we had arrived at Dawlish Warren. “Take your lunch with you”, said Gordon Youdale, “it’ll be four hours before you’re back”. Although at first the sea wall appeared to give an empty sea, a Great Northern Diver was soon found followed by Common Scoter, Shags, Cormorants and a few Great Crested Grebes. The walk east along the coast to the hide produced the first Turnstone, Rock Pipits and two Eider. Approaching the hide a wily member of the group caught site of a Peregrine catching a wader on the shingle beach. From the hide, lots of Oystercatcher and Dunlin could be seen. Looking further there were Grey Plovers, showing their black armpits, then racing Sanderling and Knot. Across the water, Goldeneye and two smaller Slavonian Grebes were noted, one coming in close later for good views. Finally, Gordon picked out a Bar-tailed Godwit. Time for lunch and watch the Brent Geese. The return walk gave another Great Northern Diver, a Water Rail and Snipe. Then across the far estuary both Red and Black-throated Divers were seen. On to Powderham for the walk along the estuary, sadly a walk to and back as Doris had flooded the fields and made thepath impassable. No Cirl Bunting, but a glorious Red-breasted Merganser by the bridge, cameras flashing. The look across the mud flats showed over a hundred Avocet, a flock of more than 500 Golden Plovers looking golden in the late afternoon sun, even the Curlew shining. Ending the day over 500 Brent Geese circled in the sky, a fine day, Nick recording over 60 species. And then Gordon found Black-tailed Godwits as well, but then he was the leader. (Many thanks to Gordon for leading) Robert Hargreaves
In view of the damp and unpromising weather, and thinking of dripping trees and slippery slopes, we agreed to move the start of the walk from Wain’s Hill to St Andrew’s Church, nearer to the pill, and concentrate on water birds. In the event, the weather improved considerably and 22 members had a lovely walk down the coast to the Dowlais farm track, left on Strode Road and back along the Blind Yeo. The harbour area usually holds Stonechats and Rock Pipits, which eventually gave themselves up, and as the high tide turned, the offshore mud banks began to reappear, attracting 45 Shelducks and twelve Oystercatchers back to join the amazing count of 55 plus Carrion Crows that were hanging around the shore and fields. Nick spotted a single Dunlin amongst 21 Turnstones – then we looked a half-mile down the beach to see a distant flight of about 300 Dunlin. Curlews were easier, 22 of them with 70 Lapwings feeding in the Dowlais fields.
The Blind Yeo produced a Little Grebe and a magnificent 18 Goosanders (six drakes) from the Strode Road Bridge. Along the river we added a Coot, a total of six Moorhens, and for the luckier walkers, Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail. As the tide fell, a few Redshanks returned to the emerging mud-banks and we picked out the larger gull species amongst at least 200 Black-headed Gulls around the harbour. A Buzzard in the churchyard was the last bird of the morning. Nick’s list totalled 47 species for a very pleasant walk. (Thanks to Jane for leading)