Bristol Ornithological Club
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 Blagdonlakebirds.com 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

 

Nov 16 2014

Sunday 16 November – Cheddar Reservoir

 Five members met at the Cheddar end of the reservoir on an overcast morning. The first notable sighting was the very large raft of Coot which must have numbered over a thousand birds. Why Cheddar should be such a draw for wintering Coot was debated without an obvious conclusion. There were also a large number of Great Crested Grebes spread over the Reservoir. Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits searched the water’s edge for food.  Tufted Duck, Pochard, Mallard, Teal and Shoveler were not far from the edge. Amongst the common passerines the highlight for some was their first Redwing of the autumn. Probably the best bird of the day was a male Goldeneye which apparently was the first wintering one to be reported at the reservoir this season. Thirty-nine species were recorded.   (Thanks for leading, Mike.)

Nov 04 2014

Tuesday 04 November – Cheddar

 Twelve of us arrived in a deluge of rain with dark skies. Therefore,we decided just to go around the reservoir as the lower paths quickly become like paddy fields. A slightly delayed start gave us a sunny, dry amble with a large variety of both water and ‘field & hedge’ birds. There were very numerous Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Great Crested Grebe, hundreds of Coot and quite a number of other duck, the most notable being Red-crested Pochard (twomale & threefemale). It was good to see both Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, Pied and Grey Wagtail, good views of a pair of Nuthatch and a mixed flock of finches, tits and a Robin!  Kestrel and Buzzard made an appearance and beyond the yacht club five Redwing feasted on berries.  Across the water, approximately 100 Canada Geese flew in from the southto make a total of 46 species. (Thanks for leading Sue.) Sue Watson

Nov 01 2014

Saturday 01 November – River Avon boat trip

 A nearly full boatload of 37 members and guests were treated to fabulous weather and some great sights (birding and otherwise) on this trip. From the first Cormorant fishing in the harbour as we set sail from the ss ‘Great Britain’ ferry stop to the six Curlew on the sand bar opposite the tiny lighthouse at the entrance to the River Severn we were kept interested and sometimes entertained by the birds on view and also by Ed’s informative commentary. While we waited in the lock to leave the Floating Harbour we began to see the first of at least 20 Jays which seemed to be flying from Ashton Court to Clifton and back, presumably having found a food source to stock up their larders for winter. Both Pied and Grey Wagtails were seen, along with a full complement of the standard corvids of the area including a single Rook as we came back under the Suspension Bridge. A family group of five Ravens were soaring over the M5 bridge and another was seen harassing a Buzzard above Sea Walls. The main highlight was the wonderful display by a pair of Peregrines over Sea Walls, including a half-hearted attempt at chasing some pigeons before following us back towards the Suspension Bridge and giving us one final view while we returned through the lock to the harbour. This was nearly matched by the Grey Heron roost on the river bank at Horseshoe Bend (eleven including two perched in the trees). It was good to see the waders on the mud banks which are normally out of sight from the footpaths, ranging from a single Greenshank, through a handful of Common Sandpipers to one flock of about 120 Redshank on the return journey. The Lapwing also gave a colourful display with the sun showing off the iridescent colours of their plumage. A total of 30 species were seen.Thanks to Ed Drewitt for leading. Keith Williams

Oct 28 2014

Tuesday 28 October – Ashton Court – 1000th Tuesday walk

But first, the report of the very first BOC Tuesday walk in November 1994:

 Nine members met in the car park at Snuff Mills at 10 am on a cool and overcast morning. It was generally considered that the murky conditions would not lead to a dynamic morning of birding and that we should concentrate on the bonus of mid-week exercise and conversation … Suddenly, on the first bridge, the morning was transformed. A Grey Wagtail was seen foraging on the bank. In an adjacent tree, just about within touching distance a pair of Kingfishers sparkled in the dull light, close enough even to spot the female’s diagnostic orange base to the lower mandible. Almost directly underneath them a pair of Dippers bobbed and dived in the water. … It was a most enjoyable mid-week meeting and it is hoped that many more will be arranged. Our thanks go to David Tombs for his genial and informative leadership. “Mike Johnson”

Now todays.

 The popularity of these Tuesday walks has grown and grown, as illustrated by the presence of 41 birders, plus three grandchildren, who met to enjoy the birds of Ashton Court and to celebrate the anniversary. Skylarks singing above the golf course car park was an auspicious start. Then came the call of Great Tits as we made our way, in glorious sunshine, down towards the Red Deer Park. Here even the song of the Wren was almost drowned out by the bellowing of one of the stags, although the hinds seemed distinctly disinterested in the autumn rut. The first of several Buzzards put in an appearance circling over the City ground, happily free of the attention of the many corvids that appeared to be everywhere. As we approached the formal gardens the swarms of ladybirds flying about were so numerous they were actually bumping into us. At Church Lodge car park we were greeted by the welcome sight of Peter Holbrook together with celebration cakes and drinks. Sadly, neither of the founders of these Tuesday walks could be present. Steve Kirk has recently passed on and David Tombs was away on holiday. But our appreciation goes out to them for starting this series of very enjoyable mid-week walks, with every opportunity for newcomers to learn from more experienced birders. Before we embarked on the return journey through Church Wood and the Fallow Deer Park, photographs were taken to record the occasion and provide publicity for the Club. The walkers outnumbered the species of bird seen and heard by 2:1 (a count of just 21), but there were enough individual birds (181, including 43 Woodpigeons) for everyone to get good views, whether of Gulls, Thrushes, Starlings and Long-tailed Tits flying overhead or the small woodland birds flitting about amongst the trees.

1000th Tue walk - Ashton Court

1000th Tue walk – Ashton Court

Here’s to the 2000th walk in 2034! Many thanks to the bakers, Sue Watson and Peter Holbrook, and to the bartender, Mark Watson. Brenda Page

Oct 25 2014

Sunday 25 October – WWT Slimbridge (extra to programme)

 On a mild sunny day we started our bird count working along to the Holden Tower just after high tide getting an impressive number of wild ducks. We then cut across to South Lake to add some waders and gulls to our list. Amongst the numerous Black-headed Gulls and Herring Gulls there were a few Common Gulls and one darker individual that was lighter than a Lesser Black-backed Gull – we later found out that this was a hybrid Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gull! We had lunch in the Peng hide adding Golden Plover and seeing a hybrid Cape-Ruddy Shelduck (apparently it was too dark for a Ruddy). In the afternoon we toured the collection birds and managed to identify all birds seen. A total of 147 species were seen despite the tropical house birds playing hard to get. (Thanks to Louise for organising this meeting) Louise Bailey

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