Bristol Ornithological Club
Jun 09 2015

Tuesday 09 June – South Stoke

 This walk was almost our nearest to midsummer, though with a chilly north easterly wind, it didn’t quite feel like flaming June. However, with the bright sunshine and sparkling visibility, the countryside couldn’t have looked better as 18 of us set off from the lovely village of South Stoke. The first stretch of road walking with superb views to the south gave us whirling House Martins and Swallows and there was much colour from garden plants and shrubs and the ubiquitous Valerian, both pink and red, popping out of every crevice. We turned off the road and onto a footpath in a wonderful meadow, though the low temperature didn’t seem to be tempting any butterflies or indeed many insects. We started the downhill bit of the walk soon adding many common species to our list. Up to four Buzzards were circling and calling and one of them was carrying a large item of prey, probably a rat. Following a steep narrow path further down into the valley Swift and Jackdaw were seen and in the field at the bottom, a Green Woodpecker. Our route then took us into woods with Magpie, Chiffchaff, Great and Blue Tits and Dunnock seen or heard. Still descending we arrived at Tucking Mill, where a Grey Wagtail obligingly perched for all to see. The walk was mainly uphill from then on! We climbed up to the top of the viaduct and joined the former railway track and en-route to our coffee stop at old Midford Station saw a Roe Deer and a Pheasant. Back across the road again we started to follow the old coal canal route and a pair of Marsh Tits were seen and heard. On this stretch we added Great Spotted Woodpecker, Goldfinch and Greenfinch and a Raven. The final species tally was 33. Many thanks to Dave Body for leading this popular and rewarding walk. Nancy Barrett

 

Jun 02 2015

Tuesday 02 June – Sand Bay

Not for the faint-hearted! Lashing rain driven by howling winds, and all togged-up to survive, we eight made the trig point without mishap, collecting Chiffchaff and Whitethroat. One of the circling Herring Gulls appeared overhead before being whipped away to the north east. Wales and Flat Holm had been stolen by the sheeting rain so our going out to the point didn’t seem like a good idea! Down in the relative lee of the land we found more Whitethroats and the first Greenfinch; a Rock Pipit scolded us from the waterside rocks and three Feral Pigeons – two of which looked like the true Rock Dove, defied the wind to tryst among the Sea Pinks. A flight of Linnet (three) came twittering over just as we arrived at our coffee stop, where we also saw a further Rock Pipit foraging and carrying food to some secret crevice in the rocks beyond our sight. The rain did let up for half an hour as we reached our turning point (no picnic lunch today as the wind was forecast to strengthen). Skylark appeared and the special tune of the Song Thrush came to us on the wind. Our tally of 24 was a reflection of the conditions but still the urge to breed kept the Blackcap singing as we descended to – disappointment – no ice cream van! (Many thanks to Nick for leading these hardy walkers.) Nick Hawkridge

 

May 31 2015

Sunday 31 May – Otmoor

 It all started in Beckley just a short stone’s throw from the Otmoor RSPB reserve with a pair of squabbling Jackdaws on an overcast morning. Four members met in the car park to the accompaniment of Lesser Whitethroat and Garden Warbler song while overhead a Red Kite gave a virtuoso flying display thus setting a benchmark for the day. On leaving the car park after reading the sightings board, two of the group expressed a desire to see and hear Turtle Dove. Within a few minutes a gentle purring was heard and a Turtle Dove was sighted on overhead cables so obviously a purrrrrrrrrfect day! Heading towards the hide and scrapes even more Lesser Whitethroats and Garden Warblers were encountered although they were outnumbered by the sights and sounds of Reed Warblers. Added to this cacophony of sound were Chaffinch, Whitethroat, Reed Bunting and the screaming of Swifts overhead. Looking out over the pastures and scrapes, families of Mallard, Greylag and Canada Geese were seen in the company of Little Egrets, Herons, Lapwings, Redshanks and Ringed Plovers. Lunch was taken in the reserve’s posh hide where we witnessed the aerial displays of House Martins with a supporting cast of finches (Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Linnet), and Redshank. Three Common Terns were discovered at the viewing screen and lagoon at the furthest point from the car park, and on the return journey to the car Sedge Warbler and Kestrel were added to the day’s list bringing the total for the day to over 50. Many thanks to Keith Williams for leading our field trip. Richard Scantlebury

 

May 29 2015

Friday 29 May – Frampton on Severn

After a day of heavy rain showers the skies cleared on Friday evening in time for a visit to Frampton on Severn. Seven members attended and had a pleasant walk with lots of birds. The highlights of the evening were the low aerial displays over the lake of hundreds of Swifts and Martins, and the evening chorus of Song Thrushes and Blackcaps. There were a couple of Common Terns on the lake, and a Cuckoo calling. Altogether 32 of the commoner species were seen.    Sheila Ablitt

 

May 26 2015

Tuesday 26 May – Clevedon / Walton Common & Coast Path

 17 people gathered in Clevedon as the cool windy conditions turned into a warm sunny morning. Two Herring Gulls were sitting on different roofs close by. We had to wait for golfers on the path up over the golf course and meanwhile notched up Robin, Goldfinch, Swallow, House Martin, Wren, Blackcap and Pheasant. At the edge of the wood we found two families of Long-tailed Tits, one containing 11/12 youngsters, and a Song Thrush was singing. Inside the wood we had three Treecreepers (one carrying food), Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker calling, a Chiffchaff, and a Goldcrest which not everyone could hear! There was also an unidentified “seep” call. On Walton Common we had coffee by the butterfly slope and were well rewarded with a view of two “Goshawks” high above. There was much discussion on whether we could claim them but the final verdict was that the size and behaviour pointed that way. (Jane has submitted the description to the experts.) One was chased by a Mistle Thrush and two Swifts were spotted very high up. Lunch was taken in a field overlooking the calm sea. From the coast path, where we enjoyed the lapping and gurgling of the waves, we saw a Pied Wagtail silhouetted on a rock, a pair of Mallards and two Shelduck flying. Whitethroat, Linnet and Greenfinch were heard and three Mistle Thrushes were on the field leading back towards Walton-in-Gordano. On the path back to the golf club we added Bullfinch and a juvenile Robin. By the end of this picnic walk, half our number had either gone back or walked speedily onwards to Clevedon to fulfil their commitments. My species list was 38. (Once again, many thanks to Judy for leading this walk.) Judy Copeland

 

May 20 2015

Wednesday 20 May – New Forest

 A total of seven people congregated in the Ashley Walk car park ready to explore a small corner of the New Forest and, hopefully, catch up with some of the speciality birds to be found there. Our walk took us through a variety of habitats – woodland, heathland, river valley and forest ‘lawns’ – giving us every chance of finding some of them. Indeed, we hadn’t been going long before we encountered the first of many Stonechats and Linnets – they are clearly doing very well here! A little further and Jane alerted us to a Redstart singing nearby. This smart individual gave us all wonderful views – eventually! By now we were up on an area of open heathland and our only Lark of the day gave us distant views. However, the rather long tail ruled out the Woodlark we had hoped to find – so we made do with Skylark. Continuing along the path we entered a wooded area where many of the common woodland species were showing including Treecreeper, Stock Dove, Goldcrest, various finches and, high up on one of the trees, a Spotted Flycatcher – a rare treat. Heading on towards our lunch spot a Tree Pipit gave good views. Lunch was taken in an area that ‘looked good’ for Dartford Warbler, but with the exception of more Stonechats, Linnets and a fly by Cuckoo there appeared to be no sign of them. However, as we were finishing lunch one of these gorgeous birds popped up onto some gorse at a bit of a distance. At this stage not everyone had seen it, so we headed towards the area where it had last been seen and were lucky enough to find a couple of them reasonably close giving sensational views. Having looked at them, we moved swiftly on to ensure we didn’t disturb them as it looked like they were a breeding pair. Although we may not have seen everything we might have hoped for, everyone was well pleased with a great days birding. Many thanks to Jane Cumming for her excellent leadership and ID skills!  Dave Horlick

May 19 2015

Tuesday 19 May – RSPB Newport Wetlands

The prospect of hail and blustery wet conditions did not deter the group of 23 hardy members. The birds were in full voice in the bushes and hedgerows all around the reserve including Robin, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Wren, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blue Tit, Song Thrush and Blackbird, with a Cetti’s Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat seen by a few. At the centre, Greenfinch, Sparrow and Goldfinch were added. The pond had Coot with young, and a Little Grebe showed on the return. At the start of the walk towards the lighthouse the Bearded Tits were flying to and fro across the reeds. A few members saw a Reed Bunting but Reed Warblers were keeping low although noisy enough. A Sedge Warbler sitting in a small tree gave everyone a good view. We were listening to a Cuckoo in the distance when one and then two flew around the reeds giving wonderful views. A perching individual allowed some telescope views. Later a third cuckoo joined the pair before it went off in a different direction. The tide was going out at the estuary but Shelduck, Curlew, and a Brent Goose were seen. Swallow, Sand Martin, House Martin and Swifts were swooping over the reed beds. The RSPB have built an artificial Sand Martin nest by the centre but it has not attracted any to nest as yet. After lunch the weather began to change but we headed to Goldcliff and shelter in the hides when a sudden hailstorm had us closing the windows to avoid a battering. The Avocets did not appear to have young but a few birds were sitting in the grass. We added Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Little Ringed Plover, Little Egret, Gadwall, Shoveller and Tufted Duck to the list. The Canada Geese had a few goslings but the Redshank chicks located the previous week were not seen. A Skylark was heard and a Buzzard was the only raptor of the day. A small group was keen to go onto Magor Marsh Nature Reserve to see the Water Voles. The Gwent Wildlife Trust have released over 200 Water Voles and have set up floating platforms loaded with an apple. The voles climb onto the platform and are unperturbed at being watched. This turned out to be a very successful day and gave us 47 species with some firsts for the group. (Thank you to Ray and Margaret for leading). Margaret Bulmer

May 17 2015

Sunday 17 May – Exmoor

Exmoor National Park holds important species of breeding birds that have declined nationally in the UK. Recent Moorland surveys have found good numbers of Whinchat – 300+ males, Stonechat – 450+ males, Grasshopper Warbler – 300+ males, Skylark – 2500+ males, and Cuckoo – 60-100 males. So, on an overcast, dry morning twelve members walked off from Webber’s Post down into the oak woodland of East Water hoping to see some of these species. Good numbers of warblers were in song – Chiffchaffs, Blackcap, Willow, Wood and Garden Warblers. As we walked down the road three Cuckoos flew around together chasing and calling. Lesser Redpolls and Siskin were seen and heard flying over but no close views unfortunately. A distant Buzzard was hovering near a group of Red Deer on the hillside. As we dropped down into the woodland a Wood Warbler was in full song and we eventually all had good views of it along with a female Redstart and an obliging pair of Pied Flycatchers that were active around a natural hole. Other species seen included a pair of Treecreepers, Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Song Thrush, with a Mistle Thrush singing in the distance. Down on the stream in East Water a juvenile Dipper was seen well by some of the group. We then walked up out of the woodland onto some moorland edge. A pair of Stonechats was perched on the gorse and several Meadow Pipits flew around, but unfortunately no Tree Pipits were seen. On the opposite hillside two Cuckoos were calling and one was ‘scoped’ perched on a tree with a small bird mobbing it. On the walk back to East Water we saw more woodland species that had already been spotted along with a Green Woodpecker calling. It was pleasing to find such good numbers of Pied Flycatchers, Redstarts and Wood Warblers.         Jeff Holmes – am report                      After lunch it was a short drive to Ember Coombe and a not very promising walk down to Chetsford Water, exposed to the cold wind. After a false start, where I unsuccessfully tried to turn Sue’s Reed Bunting into a Whinchat (my excuse is based on the total absence of reeds), we soon had excellent views of a breeding pair of Whinchats, a singing Whitethroat, Meadow Pipits and a Blue Tit. We then drove round to another part of Chetsford Water. I called a Kestrel (it was a Cuckoo), a Wheatear (which was a Redstart) and was left wondering where on earth the Little Grebe was (the Cuckoo was a female and had started calling). However, everyone else seemed to be having a successful afternoon’s birding and I enjoyed the cream tea, so many thanks to Jane for leading. Nigel Kempson – pm report

 

May 12 2015

Tuesday 12 May – Shapwick Heath and Ham Wall

 On a dry but overcast morning 26 members assembled in Natural England’s car park for a day’s birding on the Somerset Levels. We were not disappointed; whilst waiting for the group to assemble we were entertained by Song Thrush, Greenfinch, Cetti’s and Garden Warbler, and Blackcap singing. On the way to the first main pool Swifts were overhead, with Whitethroat and more Cetti’s Warblers in the undergrowth. Our first major bird was a male Marsh Harrier displaying over the reed bed giving good views to all watchers. At the pool the water level was higher than normal with only a single Little Egret to be seen. Although ‘Big John’ advised that more waders were under the bank, at last they moved producing a small flock of Black-tailed Godwits, a Ruff and a Curlew Sandpiper – our second major bird. It was then on to the hide at Noah’s Lake where again the water level was high. In the distance were ‘comic’ terns, and Hobbies catching prey and eating on the wing. It was almost lunchtime so it was back to the cars with another stop at the wader pool to see a small flock of Whimbrel which had flown in to join the Godwits. After our picnic lunch the party crossed over the road into the RSPB Ham Wall reserve but we soon split up into small groups to explore. From the Tor View hide in the middle of the reed bed Great White Egrets and Bitterns were the highlights. This was a brilliant day producing 49 species seen or heard with at least four major birds. Regretfully, Otters were absent again this year.(Thank you for leading this walk Peter)  Peter Holbrook

 

May 09 2015

Saturday 09 May – Dyrham Park

 Three National Trust members, including Dyrham Park’s well-informed head gardener Dale Dennehy, joined six from the BOC for this walk through the parkland of Dyrham Park, north of Bath. Dale made this a most interesting walk as he identified various plants and trees and told us about the NT’s ongoing plans for the park and gardens. The house is currently under wraps while its roof is being replaced and there is a lot of work going on around the chapel walks to clear shrubbery and open up new paths. With the disturbance by workmen, birds were hard to find in this area but there will be a nice section of open woodland habitat when they have finished. The terrain is hilly, well wooded, grazed by cattle and the NT’s herd of Fallow Deer. On a rather windier morning than I would have chosen, some expected species such as Stock Dove (several pairs normally breeding) could not be either seen or heard, but we did manage to find woodland birds like Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Coal Tit although we weren’t able to see them all. Swallows were zooming in and out of the barns on a hilltop, probably nest-building, and songsters included three Chiffchaffs, a Blackcap and a Goldcrest. The rookery is doing fine though the original large colony seems to have sub-divided into several smaller ones. Finally some of us located the usual Raven’s nest in a vast Cedar tree by the main drive, where they have been nesting for some years. Thanks so much to Dale for his very informative contributions which really made walking the park worth the chilly wind! Jane Cumming

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