Bristol Ornithological Club
Jan 01 2015

Thursday 01 January – WWT Slimbridge

Our usual leader was laid up with a bad cold but there were only twelve of us, all “old stagers”, so we took ourselves around and just about managed to stay together! Although there was no sun the light was good at the Martin Smith hide en route to the Holden Tower and the Pintail particularly were looking very spruce, also many Wigeon, Teal, Shelduck, Shoveler and Mallard and a few Pochard and Redshank. Behind them in the field were about 60 Bewick’s Swans and huge numbers of Lapwing and Golden Plover were wheeling around – they all went up at one point. Two Buzzards appeared and a Black-tailed Godwit flew in. We visited the Willow Hide next and admired the very tame Water Rail which was happy to walk around in full view for everyone to see. Also there was a female Reed Bunting and other small birds on the feeders. A brisk wind was blowing into the Holden Tower from the Severn in spite of the mild weather, but didn’t stop us seeing a Little Stint with a few Dunlin, good for size comparison. A Buzzard was in the field on his own and two Curlew were eventually picked up beyond the water. Many Canada Geese were present, as well as Greylags and Barnacles. On entering the Zeiss hide we were told that a Marsh Harrier was performing and soon we had very good views of it (a female) flying up and down the bank and then interacting with a Buzzard, again very good for comparison of wing shape. A Sparrowhawk was also seen and a huge flock of Golden Plover flew around in front of us. The Kingfisher hide provided Goldfinches on the feeders, attended by a family of Rats below, a Kestrel, some Gadwall and a Little Grebe, plus a Cormorant flying over. Our attention was drawn to a free-flying Ferruginous Duck which had appeared among the Collection, and we managed to see this on our way to the South Hide. Here we were shown a continental Cormorant with a white face, and three Black-tailed Godwits, one slightly coloured, just starting to go into summer plumage. 55 species in all. (Many thanks to Judy for standing in as leader.) Judy Copeland

Dec 30 2014

Tuesday 30 December – Portishead

No Purple Sandpiper

No Purple Sandpiper

With the period of unseasonal wintry sunny days continuing it allowed us to bask in the warm sunshine but be chilled by the frozen ground. Our group of 23 birders began by looking over the salt marsh towards the flock of Dunlins and Ringed Plovers feeding along the water’s edge. We also noticed a small group of Linnets bending the stems of the grasses while feeding on the seed heads, this very motion revealing their presence. Alas, Battery Point was awash with fishermen and not water – so no Purple Sandpiper but the headland made a splendid watch point to observe from.

Who got to the seat first!

Who got to the seat first!

Up the hill and into East Wood where the common Tit species were all around us, two noisy Nuthatches called to one another and Great Spotted Woodpecker went ‘chip chip’ before flying off. Descending to the jetty and seeing the ongoing work on the new RNLI boat house, I had hoped that the Black Redstart might have put in an appearance but alas not. A further collection of Gulls was counted plus a small flock of Canada Geese waddling their way into the long grass to feed. What disturbed the 30 or so Dunlins was not evident but they showed a pretty turn of speed and agile flight as they flashed in the sunlight before disappearing towards Royal Portbury Dock. The walk along the marina beside the opulent water craft was sparse bird – but not humanity – wise although a further flock of Canada Geese were obviously very used to being fed as they hardly moved as we passed by. Our final birds of the day were; a Buzzard being seen off by Carrion Crows, a distant Song Thrush and a Grey Wagtail up over the roof tops. A total count of 42 species was a fitting end to 2014 for the Tuesday Group. Nick Hawkridge


Dec 22 2014

Tuesday 23 December – Snuff Mills

At the start of this festive week, there is nothing better than to disappear into the woodlands, try and forget the impending jollities and get a good dose of birding. All along the Frome valley we hoped for Siskin but alas none were seen. The Dipper and the Kingfisher were probably also finding their living elsewhere, as the river was so high. At the top of the valley we encountered many corvids; large numbers of raucous Jackdaw, a fair few aggressive Carrion Crows, many cackling Magpies and at least four Ravens. The Blue and Great Tits were starting to show signs of ‘getting friendly’ with some full song from each species, although the Long-tailed Tits were still in big mixed parties with Goldcrest and Blue Tit, – running from tree top to tree top. The playing fields were bare of their normal covering of gulls, in fact, only a few were seen on the wing throughout the whole walk, however we did have splendid views of two Mistle Thrushes on the fields, both standing bolt upright to keep an eye on the marauding dogs. The final section from Frenchay Bridge back to the car park went past a garden with a Jay burying his food stash, a couple of Moorhens fussing around the margins and a dozen hungry Mallards steaming to their feeding station. There was a sighting of a Grey Wagtail and a fine Sparrowhawk, only interested in quitting the area and the unwelcome attentions of Jackdaws. 26 species seen by most of the 20 walkers. Thanks to Dave Body for standing in as leader and for taking us round this lovely walk. Nick Hawkridge

Dec 16 2014

Tuesday 16 December – Pucklechurch

This year’s pre-Christmas Lunch walk was well supported with 37 members setting off from the Fleur de Lis at Pucklechurch. It was a lovely sunny morning with the church’s cockerel weather-vane shining golden and the light frost melting. Through the village various chattering House Sparrows, 15 tuneful Dunnocks, Robin, Blackbird, Blue Tit, and Magpie were busy foraging and there was debate about the identity of a beautiful, small tree absolutely covered in red berries. Before we reached the fields we had a Silver Birch dripping with a large flock of Redwing and Fieldfare plus some Blue Tits and a Raven surveyed the scene from the top of a fir tree. Crossing the fields was quite muddy underfoot but produced seven Meadow Pipits. A member hoped for some early spuds at the nursery we passed. He was disappointed but bulbs and beets were purchased by others, whilst a group of 26 Stock Doves swooped across, beyond the yard. Buzzards were only spotted towards the end of our walk, which was shortened a little to be back for our excellent lunch at the pub, joining those who had not perambulated. We saw 29 species. There were about 60 people who enjoyed the cheery atmosphere and a good meal, well organised again by Peter Holbrook. Mark Watson thanked Peter and the leaders of the 2014 walks. Ed Drewitt then thanked Mark for taking on the role of organiser and said his farewell as Chairman. Thanks to Pat and Duncan Gill for leading.

Sue Watson


Dec 09 2014

Tuesday 09 December – Portbury Wharf

 A grey but still day greeted 23 enthusiasts for a jaunt around Portbury Reserve. Numerous Redwings were feeding on the huge crops of berries in the lane. A Kestrel was perched in a nearby tree but became nervous of the watching throng and made an exit stage left. There were not many birds seen at the first hide as the scrapes were having a makeover. The second hide was much better but the height of the reeds was not easy to see over. (Since cleared) However, many Lapwings were on the island and Shoveler, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Little Grebe graced the pools. At the third hide good views were had of the resident Reed Buntings. On the warth a flock of Linnets bounced into view and disappeared in the vegetation along with a lone Skylark. A walker’s dog put up a Snipe. Just as we thought we would be denied, a Buzzard too appeared at the end to make a total of 42 species. (Thanks for leading,Roger) Roger Hawley


Dec 07 2014

Sunday 07 December – Blagdon Lake

Seven members met Nigel Milbourne, a voluntary warden for Bristol Water, and our leader for the day. Early morning rain had given way to sunshine and we first spent some time at the fishing lodge looking out over the Lake and then walked down to the dam. The main highlight of the morning for some of group was the good views of Black-necked Grebe at Wood Bay. For me the morning was memorable for the number of species encountered, being sixty-one. Nothing rare, other than the Grebe, but a tribute to Bristol Water for their effective management of the various habitats verging the Lake. Indeed, if the water level had not been so high and we had had more exposed mud I dare say we would have added to the list with more waders. Only Snipe and Lapwing were seen on the day. Four Siskins feeding upside down with a flock of Goldfinches in alders at Hellfire Corner held our attention for a while. Stock Doves in flight were observed and the calls of both Woodpeckers, Water Rail and Bullfinch heard. The sun encouraged some insects to fly which were appreciated by a Chiffchaff darting for its prey. A very enjoyable morning greatly enhanced by Nigel’s considerable knowledge of all aspects of flora and fauna at the Lake. His website is well worth a visit. Mike Johnson


Dec 02 2014

Tuesday 02 December – Slimbridge

 The Tuesday walkers started out as a group of 25 people but soon split into threes and fours as we worked our way around the site. There was plenty to see on the Tack Piece, including about 50 Bewick’s Swans although the main winter flock had clearly not yet arrived. Amongst plenty of Curlews and Redshanks, six very distant Ruffs could be discerned but I don’t think anyone located the 4 Little Stints that were also supposed to be present. Dabbling ducks were well represented in big numbers, but one of the best sightings was of three Cranes, clearly colour-ringed so returnees from the Somerset Levels introduction but still a beautiful sight. A Peregrine regularly stirred up the thousands of Lapwings, Dunlins and Golden Plovers. We looked through hundreds of feral Greylags and Barnacles to pick out about 47 White-fronted Geese – the genuine winter visitors. Sadly, a comprehensive search of the huge Teal flock from the Zeiss Hide failed to uncover the reported Green-winged Teal. Strolling on around the other hides, we noted 41 species in total including Skylark, Reed Bunting and Great Spotted Woodpecker, ending up with 90 Black-tailed Godwits on the South Lake. I suspect that Mark’s final list held a better species count than that. Many thanks to Mark Watson for leading a most enjoyable morning. Jane Cumming


Nov 30 2014

Sunday 30 November – Steart

 The WWT reserve at Steart has been created as a result of the work by DEFRA to realign the sea wall and provide flood prevention measures in the area. The old sea wall was breached on the 6September 2014 allowing water to flow into the reserve to start the process to create an inter-tidal salt marsh. So the reserve is at an early stage of development and it will be interesting to see it mature over the next few years. The fog on the motorway gave way to brilliant sunshine by the time 28 members gathered in the WWT car park. The calm conditions and the sun made for a very pleasant day in this exposed landscape. The mature hedge by the entrance held Redwing and Fieldfare, a first sighting this winter for many of the group. The views from the Mendip hide over the lagoons required telescopes as the birds were mostly distant. Most notable were the flocks of Lapwing, Golden Plover and Shoveler. A sleeping Pintail was an ID challenge. Continuing to the river, the flocks of waders on the mud were distant but it is a long walk to the breach to get a closer view. Alas there were no Avocets in sight. We took the northerly path past the Polden hide to give views over an area of bog and rough grass. Meadow Pipits, Skylarks, Pied Wagtails and Goldfinches added to the variety.After a lunch break we drove round to the Natural England car park to walk out to Fenning Island. A search around the car park failed to find Little Owl which are resident here. We also missed out on Short-eared Owl this time. The flocks of waders were the main attraction. Persistence by one persondid find a Common Gull amongst the Herring Gulls and close scrutiny found a Spotted Redshank on one of the pools where there were a couple of Little Grebe. Stonechats and a Reed Bunting flitted around. Finally a couple of Avocets were seen heading up river.  By the time we gathered in the car park to depart, the group total was about 53 species seen. More impressive was the number of waders. We saw about 6-7,000 Dunlin, over 1,000 Lapwing, 200plusGolden Plover, about 120 Grey Plover and lower numbers of other waders. This new WWT reserve shows great promise and is well worth repeated visits. (Many thanks to Richard for leading.)   Richard Belson

Nov 25 2014

Tuesday 25 November – Coalpit Heath

 Seventeen members arrived at the Kendleshire Golf Club car park on a dry but overcast morning. As we set off alongside the golf course, Dunnock and Robin flew about the hedgerow and on the course Moorhen and Black-headed Gulls were avoiding the golf balls along with a solitary Canada Goose.  A Carrion Crow passed overhead as well as our first Mistle Thrush -we saw another later. A flock of Long-tailed Tits moved between trees, a Kingfisher flashed in and out of view and a Goldcrest wasspotted. As we left the golf course, a Rook and two Song Thrushes were perched in a tree and a Grey Heron languidly flew across the adjacent field. Shortly afterwards Redwing made an appearance and just before coffee a male Bullfinch showed. As the walk progressed, the cloud lowered and light rain began to fall. We added Coal, Blue and Great Tit, Wren, Collared Dove and Pied Wagtail to our list and saw a fox hurrying along beside a hedge. The rain continued and towards the end of the walk a Buzzard appeared and a Carolina Wood Duck cruised in the distance on a fishing pond.Overall we saw 32 species. Thanks to Duncan Gill and Peter Holbrook for leading. Mark Watson.

Nov 18 2014

Tuesday 18 November 2014 – Frampton Pools

 After a misty start to the day the sun broke through and the lakes and surrounding countryside looked very attractive with plenty of autumn colour still evident. 21 birders did the circular walk around the lakes and through woodland. A pheasant shoot was fortunately just finishing. We saw 46 species as a group total. On the water there were Swans and Canada Geese with a Greylag Goose in the fields where the winter wheat was already showing through. A Little Egret, Cormorants and several Great Crested Grebes gave good views. We had three sightings of Kingfisher. There were Mallard, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Wigeon and Gadwall as well as Coots and a Moorhen. The hedges and woodland provided two Goldcrests, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits. We had four Common Buzzards in total, three were with a Sparrowhawk, and a Kestrel. Some of the group were lucky enough to see a Green Woodpecker, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers and two Treecreepers. It made a very pleasant stroll on a lovely autumn morning. (Thanks to Sue and John Prince for leading.) Sue Prince


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