Bristol Ornithological Club
Mar 10 2015

Tuesday 10 March – Stanton Drew

 A group of 25 set out from the Druids Arms on a beautiful morning. Beneath the hedgerows and along the banks the early flowers of spring, the celandines, daffodils and primroses, provided welcome splashes of colour and the Stanton Drew stone circle gave us an historical theme. We were quickly treated to the sounds of many birds including Robins, House Sparrows, Great Tits and Wrens. This continued throughout the morning. We passed a garden which had some bird feeders one of which looked rather strange as it consisted of a long string to which was attached a quarter of a red cabbage about 18 inches above the ground. Having failed to think of any birds that might feed on red cabbage we then saw the chickens! We heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming and then spotted a flock of about 80 Starlings flying over. Later we saw another flock of about 30. Chiffchaff were either seen or heard and Coal Tit was added to our list. Small flocks of Common Gulls and Goldfinches of 19 and 35 respectively were also seen. A small number of Fieldfares and Redwings probably on their way north were in the nearby trees. We climbed Knowle Hill to gain a splendid view of Chew Valley Lake and on the way down we heard the sounds of a flock of birds in a large ash tree and were surprised to find there were over 60 Linnets. We saw a Kestrel mobbing a Buzzard and soon after some had a fleeting view of a Sparrowhawk. We passed some farm buildings and had nice views of four Yellowhammers on top of the barns. We had a total of 39 species and, thanks to Nick Hawkridge’s splendid record keeping, a total of almost 500 birds. It was an extremely enjoyable morning and many thanks to Maureen and Bill Dobie for leading the walk.          Mike Landen

Mar 03 2015

Tuesday 03 March – Elm Farm, Burnett

 On a blustery morning 21 of us donned our waterproofs for a walk around Elm Farm where the land is managed under the Defra Environmental Stewardship Scheme. As we set off we saw Goldfinch, Blue and Great Tit and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Not far down the track we saw our first Yellowhammer and a little further on a flock of 20 took off from a field margin planted for winter feed. As we walked downhill our first Buzzard was spotted against the blue sky, the threatening rain clouds having departed. We walked through a small wood in the hope of seeing Woodcock that are there but most were disappointed; a splinter group of four who walked the field adjacent to the wood were however rewarded with a sight of one flushed downhill by the rest of us. Fieldfares and Redwings were seen in small numbers on several occasions along with a few Skylarks and Meadow Pipits. We spotted a couple of hares in different parts of the walk – a bit early for a boxing display though – as well as Roe Deer. Several of the meadows we walked through have been sown with extensive wild flower mixes to provide food for insects and birds and will no doubt give an excellent visual display in a couple of months or so. Thanks to Roger Palmer for leading, Philippa Paget for explaining the management of the land and John Paget for providing a lift for those who wanted one up the hill. In all we saw 39 species.

Mark Watson


Feb 24 2015

Tuesday 24 February – Backwell Lake

The cold east wind was barely offset by the warm sun; the track from The Sperrings to the lake thus offered a brief respite. Our walk began with a small party of House Sparrow on the roofs, with Goldfinch close by, but at the lake the sun threw such a dazzle on the water that those ducks and geese present were reduced to inky silhouettes. An obliging Redwing offered us clear views down to 10m, the eye stripe of this fine bird being particularly bright and the rufous under wing patches were simply bursting up the breast. The lake held plenty of Black-headed Gulls, some fine Mute Swans, Canada Goose, the usual duck population, a solitary Little Egret and just as we were moving from the water’s edge, a pair of Gadwalls churning across the billows. Before leaving the path a Mistle Thrush and two Song Thrushes had been seen, closely followed by more Redwings who lifted from the pasture at our approach and were kept company by several Chaffinches. A stray Grey Wagtail flew over as we made our way along the back lanes, with two Buzzards sitting atop posts and flying off as we mustered for coffee. Further along, one field held a creeping carpet of Meadow Pipits and the alders close by had Treecreeper, Long-tailed and Coal Tit. A field on the corner of the lane held two Stonechats and a different carpet, this time of feeding Black-headed Gulls who suddenly exploded into flight. A large, so probably female, Sparrowhawk circled and then flew quickly away. Following the top track back towards the Common, another field contained plenty of Redwings but we could only find two Fieldfares among them plus another good count of Chaffinches. Dropping down towards the cars a Bullfinch called from the hedge and Nuthatch from the top of the beech trees. In the hedge, try as we might, we could only locate five House Sparrows – the noise was that of 20. As we took our leave of the other 28 walkers the tally was 48 for the day. Our thanks to John for leading. Nick and Annie Hawkridge


Feb 22 2015

Sunday 22 February – Barrow Tanks

Four BOC members gathered with me in the car park at Barrow Gurney reservoirs for the planned visit here. There was a threat of strong winds and rain coming in later and it was quite cold, with a southerly breeze, but dry. We proceeded to Tank Number 3, where we were able to watch a Common Sandpiper through telescopes, feeding on the concrete apron. We also saw some Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Teal, and a superb male Goldeneye. There were several Cormorants in summer plumage with the white patch on their flanks and also white on the head and necks – they looked splendid. A pair of adult Great Black-backed Gulls, and a candidate for an Adult Yellow-legged gull, were also present, along with some Little Grebes and Coots. Deciding not to walk all the way round number 3, and bearing in mind the impending weather, we moved to number 2 tank. Here it was less sheltered, with the wind a little stronger. There were some more duck here, and Cormorants. Discussion then took place on the identification of the various gulls that were roosting on the causeway between number 1 and 2 tanks, where we noted the difference between Common, Black-headed, and Lesser Black-backed gulls, mostly in winter or first winter plumage, but with at least one Black-headed Gull in its summer finery. A Raven flew over, briefly calling. We opted to take a short walk around No 1 reservoir, returning along the causeway with time (and weather) pressing. Two members opted to end their visit part way around, but the remaining members decided to press on, where there were more views and discussion relating to the gulls, and more views of Shoveler, Tufted Duck and Teal. We saw various gulls trying to rob a Dabchick of its fish every time it surfaced. A Grey Wagtail flew over. Then with light rain now falling, along with the wind not subsiding, we decided to end the visit and return to the car park and call it a day. Most of the members had not been to this site before, and planned to visit again in more favourable conditions(Many thanks to Chris for leading.) Chris Stone


Feb 17 2015

Tuesday 17 February – Gordano Valley

Twenty people met on a bright cold morning with puddles frozen over and a brisk wind. First sighting were four/five Ravens flying over, with Pheasants dotted along the valley, and Mistle Thrush and Great and Blue Tit singing. Greenfinch and Robins were in the hedges and later Blackbirds, Chaffinch and Goldfinch were seen. Some at the back of the group had a very good view of a Sparrowhawk flying low over the fields. As we crossed the valley three Buzzards were seen and two Stonechats, followed by two Kestrels – one on a post plucking at some prey or other; a bird, a mouse? A Grey Heron also came by with its characteristic lazy flight wending its way across the valley floor. As we continued through Common Hill Wood first Goldcrest, then Coal Tit, Treecreeper, Bullfinch, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were seen or heard. On coming down off Walton Common we were delighted to find a Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly, a first for the year. Last, but by no mean least, House Sparrow were seen in the gardens just before the finish. A total of 39 species were seen or heard during this stimulating walk (Thanks to Geoff for leading). Geoff Harris.

Feb 10 2015

Tuesday 10 February – Severn Beach

It was a windless morning of light mistiness and thick cloud but there were 34 smiling faces to see John Prince present me with a delightful Owl trophy in commemoration of walk 1000 at Ashton Park, and of my starting the Tuesday Club way back in November 1994. Thank you, John and everyone. Today, walk number 1015, we headed to the south beach area noting a good gathering on the exposed mud of Shelduck, Redshank, Dunlin, and Ringed Plover, and then we walked along a small lane behind the village where there were Song Thrush, Wagtails, and Blue and Great Tits. After heading across some fields, to give some distance from the M4, we had a coffee break before taking the bridge over the motorway and onto the wonderful new Pilning Wetlands Nature Reserve, formally a military firing range. There, on the pools, we saw Black-tailed Godwit, Lapwing, more Dunlin, Shoveler, and one Little Egret before the small climb to the River Severn flood bank pathway. Between there and New Passage we saw a large flock of Teal resting on the pill and 150 Wigeon feeding on the grass. The river, an hour or so after high water, was so exceedingly calm it gave the appearance of being iced over and a passing Cormorant was mirrored as it flew under the M4 bridge. It was closely followed at a more leisurely pace by a Grey Heron. Thanks go to Nick Hawkridge for kindly noting the bird species totalling 51. (Thanks to David for leading) David Tombs

Feb 07 2015

Saturday 07 February – Portbury Wharf

Eleven members joined the leaders on a dull wintry day at Sheepway. The overnight frost kept the ground solid for most of the day and there was a distinct edge to the North Easterly wind. A number of species was logged before the start; along Sheepway were plenty of Goldfinches and Greenfinches, though the latter were easier to hear than see. Thrushes were easily found with five species being added. Fieldfares were not much in evidence but it was useful to find Mistle Thrush, Redwing and Song Thrush close enough for comparison. A number of us were interested to learn of the existence of Dark-throated Thrush – though a long study failed to turn a rather dark headed Song Thrush into a star find! Everyone got to check the Goldcrest and then the first of several rather elusive Bullfinches put in an appearance. There were plenty more seen later but some of us missed them completely. Out of the lane through the fields and onto the sea wall produced the usual suspects. The proximity of the docks provided a constant background of noise making hearing bird calls a challenge. Only the first couple of people onto the sea wall managed to see a reasonable flock of Wigeon before they disappeared. Highlights along the bank were several Reed Buntings and a Stonechat. Distant Curlew and Redshank were the only waders. The tower hide provided a bit of respite from the cutting wind, and added more duck – total eight species. It’s an advantage having an AWT volunteer as one of the leaders. Not only did Giles update us on work on the Reserve but took us into the Sanctuary – normally closed to the public. Giles explained the management of this area – leaving plenty of scrub for the Portbury Ringing Group to work in but opening up the grassland to create meadow for wildflowers and invertebrates. Interesting to see how close the reserve is to the built-up area. Roe Deer and Fox were seen, a welcome addition to the list. This continued to expand back along Wharf Lane to Sheepway but a number of hoped for specialties hadn’t heard that we expected to see them. Despite that a very healthy 53 were recorded. It seemed that everyone had an enjoyable morning. (Thanks to Bob Buck and Giles Morris for leading.)     Bob Buck


Feb 03 2015

Tuesday 03 February – Bristol city centre

Nineteen members met in Millennium Square on this very cold but sunny day. Our first birds. apart from the ever present gulls, were some Goldfinches and a Starling by the Arnolfini. The usual gang of Cormorants were by Prince Street Bridge. One was a juvenile with an almost white breast. Some were adults showing their breeding patches and one was a very smart male with continental type plumage. Beyond the M shed the bushes by the railway tracks were searched but there are signs that these bushes are all being cleared away so a lot of habitat for passerines is being destroyed. There is still a flock of House Sparrows. A break by the marina added Mallard and Mute Swan to the list. We then crossed to the New Cut and picked up a Common Sandpiper and Lesser Black-backed Gull. Approaching the tobacco bonds two Grey Wagtails flew overhead and some saw a Kestrel and a Peregrine. Some Redwings were feeding on berries under the flyover. A Buzzard was seen being chased by a Crow over the Ashton Court woodland. About 60 Black Headed Gulls were dancing over the river like butterflies – a very pretty sight. Both the lock gates of the entrance lock to the Cumberland Basin were open so we had the unusual sight of an empty Basin. Gulls were foraging in the seldom exposed mud. A Moorhen was seen on our walk back on the North side of the harbour then we climbed Brandon Hill to add a few more passerines. Wren, Goldcrest, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Coal Tit and Long-tailed Tit were seen and a Nuthatch heard. A few of the group had the energy to climb the tower. Thank you to Nick for his meticulous list of all the birds. Species total 33. Margaret Gorely


Feb 01 2015

Sunday 01 Feb – Exe Estuary

Twenty-seven members met at the Water Tower and travelled down to the Exe estuary. By the time we had got to Exeter the sun had come out. Almost as soon as we got off the coach and started to walk towards the Exminster Marshes area we all observed a Barn Owl which was sitting out in the open on a bough of a tree sunning itself. Along the lane we observed hundreds of Canada Geese and in the distance by the motorway flyover were a small flock of Brent Geese. Large numbers of Wigeon were feeding in the field either side of the lane and they were accompanied by a small groups of Shoveler, Teal and Shelduck. Two Grey Herons were flushed from a water filled dyke and there were numerous Mute Swans and Greylag Geese feeding close to the lane. Two Common Snipe were observed along with a large number of Curlew feeding in a distant field. As we arrived at the end of the lane near the RSPB car park a man with a large dog flushed a flock of approx. 400 Brent Geese from a field near the Canal Path. I had been told that a Black Brant had been seen in this flock but, unfortunately, that was the one that got away. Walking along the Canal Path towards the Turf Hotel we had both Pied and Grey Wagtail, as well as more flocks of Wigeon along with a small number of Tufted Ducks in the fields around. A pleasure ferry which was travelling from Topsham disturbed a flock of c500 Avocets. At the Turf Hotel viewpoint we had Dunlin, Redshank in good numbers, two Red-breasted Mergansers, numerous Cormorants and large flock of Black-tailed Godwits who were huddled together sheltering from the very cold breeze. A large flock of Oystercatcher was out on the large mud flats in front of us. Two Long-tailed Duck were observed flying up the estuary and a Common Buzzard was seen just as we moved off. Walking towards Powderham we saw Meadow Pipit and what was to be a lifer for a number of our group was a very obliging Snow Bunting which rounded off the walk before lunch. After rejoining the coach we travelled to Dawlish Warren where the tide was still way out of the Estuary so we concentrated on a short sea watch which produced a small number of Common Scoters, numerous Great Crested Grebes, some Razorbills and many Gannets could be seen feeding far out but viewable with a scope. By this time we were a bit fragmented as some members had gone off to the Dawlish Warren hide and a small number of us had decided to walk along the sea wall a bit further. We had Shag and a few Guillemots viewed close in and also a Lesser Redpoll on a Gorse Bush by the Golf Course. (Well spotted, Nick Hawkridge). By the time my small group had got down near the Hide the other breakaway group were on their way back. They said that the tide was just on its way in but the only birds they had seen were Sanderling, Turnstone, more Oystercatcher and a few said they had Knot as well. Just before finishing off a number of us did manage to observe the Bonaparte’s Gull which was flying along from the direction of Langstone Rock towards the beach area – another lifer for a few. All in all, not a bad days birding at all. Total number species seen was 47. (Many thanks to Charles who tried hard to keep the group together at times)        Charles Stapleton

Jan 27 2015

Tuesday 27 January- Failand

A group of 30 set out from the Failand Inn on an overcast, chilly, but dry day. A Mistle Thrush was prominent in a tree top at Failand Hill Farm and although water birds were not expected, a Cormorant was spotted in transit overhead. Woodpigeons, Carrion Crows, Linnets and Starlings appeared in flocks at various points and a group of 16 Blackbirds were feeding in close proximity. Nuthatches were heard in the woods above Portbury Lane, making chattering calls rather than the more usual whistles. There were also Bullfinch, Long-Tailed Tit and Goldcrest amongst the trees. A very large flock of Chaffinch were feeding on the ground near Limekiln Cottages and other large flocks were seen in flight. During our coffee stop, we saw a flock of Redwing with the occasional Fieldfare and then, a single Buzzard, not very high, probably due to a lack of thermals on that day. Three Ravens croaked loudly and flew around the treetops along Charlton Drive. Crossing the Clevedon Road to the Tyntesfield Estate, a dung heap yielded several Dunnock and a Pied Wagtail and a flock of Meadow Pipits was evident in the adjacent field. Jays could be heard in the woods towards the end of the estate walk. Lesser Black-Backed and Herring Gulls were identified overhead on several occasions. My thanks to Nick Hawkridge for giving me access to his very comprehensive bird list, which totalled 30, (one for each person!) and to Roger Hawley who helped to jog my memory on some sightings. Thanks also to Maureen who was really the leader, having led other groups on this walk on several occasions. Bill Dobie

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