Bristol Ornithological Club
Mar 09 2014

Sunday 09 March – Leigh Woods

This was a popular walk on a lovely sunny morning. A good selection of woodland birds were seen but the birding highlight of the day was a sighting of a colourful male Crossbill high in a pine tree.

Mar 04 2014

Tuesday 04 March – Portbury Wharf

A warm, sunny day greeted 32 eager birders for a walk through the Portbury reserve. A Song Thrush serenaded us, Chaffinch, Wren and Great Tit showed, but an early disappointment was no Little Owl at the barns. At the first hide there was a dramatic fight between two (presumably male) Coot with one desperately trying to drown the other! A good selection of water birds were observed from the second hide, many Little Grebes, a lone Teal, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, well hidden Snipe and about 200 Dunlin. Coffee stop was at the sea bank in the warm sun and no wind. A Cetti’s Warbler shouted from nearby bushes and on the warth were Shelduck, Oystercatcher and Redshank. On the walk through the fields Buzzard were seen and with a final flourish at the parking site were Fieldfare, Redwing and Kestrel which made a very satisfactory total of 47.

Mar 01 2014

Saturday 01 March – Middleton Lakes

 The early frost gave way to warm sunshine as eleven members met at this RSPB reserve in the Lower Tame Valley on the Staffordshire/Warwickshire border which has been made from 400 acres of old gravel workings. The heronry had 18 pairs guarding nests and seven pairs sitting on nests and was very visible from the boardwalk. Further along the Woodland trail many rooks were filling the woods with noise although few nests were seen-had they been damaged in the storms? The woodland was alive with songs and calls and the feeders attracted many birds-Great, Blue and Long tailed Tit, Blackbird, Robin, Nuthatch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Chaffinch, Wren, Dunnock, Song Thrush and Reed Bunting. Three Treecreepers were spotted at one time going from tree to tree. Several Goldcrests were seen and heard, Redwings flew to the top of the trees and a flock of Linnets were noted. Several Great Spotted Woodpeckers were seen and heard and at one time three were drumming simultaneously. Green Woodpecker was also heard. We walked the three kilometre Wetland Trail which looked out over lakes and reedbeds (old quarry pits) sandwiched between the canal and river. Birds were numerous. Ducks included Mallard, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Teal, Goldeneye, Shelduck, Gadwall, Pochard and a female Wigeon. There were Canada and Greylag Geese. Also seen were Little Egret, Coot, Moorhen, Green Sandpiper, Mute Swan, Cormorant, Oystercatcher, Great Crested and Little Grebe, Lapwing and Goosander. A Kingfisher flashed down the river and two Chiffchaffs hopped about in the bushes on the river bank. There appeared to be a breeding colony of noisy Black-headed Gulls. A female Stonechat gave good views from the top of some dry stems. The only birds of prey were several Buzzards. Thanks to Ed for leading this trip on such a sunny day in this super reserve which is a new venue for the club.

Feb 25 2014

Saturday 25 February Bristol City Centre Harbour Walk

 The group met under blue skies and warm sunshine in contrast to last year’s snow and bitter wind. In consequence there was a splendid turnout of 28 members. We left Millennium Square and headed for Prince Street Bridge where our first birds were gulls, Mute Swans, a Great Crested Grebe and Cormorants. The latter were showing their white breeding patches and one magnificent male had a stunning grey face and neck and a black ‘Mohican’ crest. I initially thought he might be a continental variant but further research on the Internet revealed that a proportion of our older male cormorants develop this breeding plumage.

R and G Stanton Cormorant (note the white breeding plumage)

Possible Continental Cormorant

We next scoured the bushes alongside the harbour railway track which produced Greenfinch, Goldfinch, House Sparrow and Blackbird. The roof of the barge adjacent to the Bacon Butty kiosk is always crowded with Black-headed Gulls with their eyes on the chance of some scraps. Many were showing their summer black heads. As we paused for coffee two Ravens and a Sparrow Hawk circled overhead. The walk beside the New Cut added nothing until we reached the flyover when a Redshank and Common Sandpiper were spotted on the edge of the mud. Some of the group also saw a Grey Wagtail. The party divided at Jacobs Wells Road with the more energetic climbing the steps up to Brandon Hill where they added Redwing to the list. The rest took the gentler route beside the water hoping to see the resident Moorhen who did not put in an appearance. The total number of species seen was thirty one.

Feb 18 2014

Tuesday 18 February – Severn Beach

 It was a little after high water as 31 members walked beside the River Severn, which was flowing out very fast owing to recent excessive rains. The traffic noise from the M4 and Severn Bridge was disturbingly loud but we were rewarded with eleven bird species before reaching New Passage and there added Teal, Wigeon, Dunlin, and Shelduck. At the near-by Wetlands Reserve we added Curlew, Oystercatcher, Little Egret, Lapwing, Shoveler, Mute Swan and Common Gull. Taking the New Passage Road we then saw Redwing, Fieldfare, Meadow Pipit, Blue Tit, Jackdaw, Collared Dove, Goldcrest and Goldfinch. We took the Severn Beach back road, noting Sparrowhawk on the way, and walked squelching footpaths and in a bramble-infested area to find Jay, Wren, Chaffinch, and Blue Tit before returning to the High Street. In all we had recorded 45 species, and what was taken as an American Canada Goose in a party of Canada Geese. Thanks to the large number of walker-watchers who turned out and what a calm, sunny warm morning we had.

Feb 08 2014

Saturday 08 February – Uphill / Axe Estuary

 The horrendous forecast of gales and heavy rain for Saturday obviously put off many people attending what turned out to be a really good walk, so it was six hardy souls who set off. We only had one short shower and the sun was out for most of the morning! We took the telescopes to look over the beach at Brean Down. High tide was at 13:00 so at 09:30 the birds were rather scattered but we saw a large flock of Lapwing, some Oystercatchers along the tideline along with Redshank, Dunlin and a few Curlews. In the marshy grass opposite were five Grey Herons standing like sentinels. A few Teal, Wigeon and Mallards were present. We then walked up past the quarry in the local nature reserve. In the lake by the boatyard we found three Dabchicks. From here we walked through the AWT reserve at Walborough adding the usual Robin, Goldfinch and Chaffinch. We also listened to a Goldcrest in the ivy but could not see it. Two Chaffinches were singing, a Reed Bunting called and Skylarks sang as we drank our coffee. There was little to be seen at the sewage works but from the sea wall we saw Snipe and Stonechat. On the return journey we had excellent views of a Kestrel hovering and a lovely rainbow. We should not overlook the masses of Corvids and Woodpigeon in a stubble field. In all we managed a list of 42 species.

Feb 04 2014

Tuesday 04 February – Luckington

BOC Tue 04feb14 DSC00532 Luckington Glen Ruth StantonThirty three is a very respectable total for a Tuesday walk and an even more respectable number for lunch afterwards.  This walk was the last with our organiser, Hazel Wilmott, before her move to Dorset in two weeks. At the start we had a fine pair of Mistle Thrushes who were searching the grass behind the pub car park and on the wing and Jackdaws – mostly as couples – were riding the brisk south easterly wind. Across from the car park and down a narrow lane, a Robin wanted to play at our feet and a Wren sat atop a thorn bush and blasted forth with full song. A couple of flocks of Starlings (one of over 200) flew over and in passing, attracted our attention to the Redwing in the trees. On the ground close by a Dunnock and above three Bullfinches were noted sitting in the sun, a great attraction for the year-listers. The first Buzzard circled overhead and a Green Woodpecker called and flew over the brook at Hancock’s Well. Our second Buzzard, accompanied by a Sparrowhawk circled together above the trees. Those at the front and middle saw a Kingfisher and a few saw it or another on a post, again by the Avon, a little further on towards Sherston, within whose bounds a Little Egret was spied roosting in a tree. Our final Buzzard was seen off by various Corvids, over 20 of which were Rooks who, when not chasing raptors were busily probing the grass for food. On the final part of the walk we followed The Macmillan Way where the fields either side of the path had plenty of Skylarks, some singing and others playing chase. Our final species was a distant flock of 50+ Lapwings giving us an excellent tally of 38. Big thanks and goodbye to Hazel who led this lovely (and hopefully to be repeated) new walk.

Jan 28 2014

Tuesday 28 January – Backwell lake

 14 walkers met at Morgan’s Hill in Nailsea. There were two heavy showers during the morning but we escaped getting really wet and when the sun broke through it felt mild. We even found a few snowdrops in flower. A circuit of the lake gave us good views of two male and a female Goosander, Tufted Ducks and a female Pochard. The usual Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Mallard, Coots and Moorhens were joined by a mixed bag of farmyard ducks and two Muscovy ducks. We were much amused by a Herring Gull that had found a tennis ball and was playing bouncy ball and rolling it down a slope. It flew off with the ball. Finally a Grey Heron was seen by the reeds. Along Youngwood Lane we had Buzzards, Redwings and Fieldfares, a Mistle Thrush and two Goldcrests in a Holly bush. The lanes were very muddy but we saw all the usual small birds, Blue, Great, and Long-tailed Tits, Robins, Dunnocks as well as Woodpigeons and a Collared Dove. We had four good-sized flocks of Goldfinches keeping up a stream of contact calls as they flew through the trees. One person managed to see a Bullfinch and another found a Jay. We also found three Common Gulls where a field was very soggy. Altogether a pleasant quiet walk with goods views of Chelvey Church and across to Backwell Hill. In one place, the lane had flooded but most had come prepared with wellington boots. A total of 37 species were seen, fewer than usual, which reflects the mild winter so far.

Jan 21 2014

Tuesday 21 January – Meare Heath and Ham Wall

 19 members met in the Natural England car park on an overcast and breezy afternoon. We first walked down to the viewing platforms overlooking the Ham Wall reedbeds. A couple of members were really lucky on the way down to have a brief glimpse of an otter swimming in the adjacent South Drain; a rare sighting during daylight. The open water areas contained a good variety of birds including Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Mute Swan, Great Crested Grebe, Greylag and Canada Goose. A female Marsh Harrier drifted over the reedbed and Sparrowhawk and Buzzard completed the raptor list. We had a couple of views of a Great White Egret and it was nice to compare size with a nearby Little Egret. We then walked through part of the Meare Heath reserve as we had heard that the starlings had roosted there on the previous evening. On the way a few Redwings and Fieldfares flew over and a Water Rail “squealed”. Groups of Starlings, some of several thousand in number began to swirl in from every direction. Unfortunately, they chose to roost in a part of the reserve that was partly obscured by trees and they were not in the air for long. The spectacle, therefore, was not as impressive has had been hoped. 45 species however was a respectable total for the afternoon.

Jan 18 2014

Saturday 18 January – Eastville Park

 Eight BOC members turned out on a grey day; the rain held off until 1pm and we had sunshine for part of the walk. From the car park we followed the path round the playing field, then went on the Frome River Walkway, passing the lake and along the river path and the Jewish Cemetery before returning to the car park. We spotted approx 30 Black-headed Gulls, a Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Herring Gull and a small flock of unidentified finches flew over. We saw Moorhen, Mallard, Canada Geese, Mute Swan and a Grey Heron busy fishing in the lake. Great Tit, Blue Tit, Song Thrush, Robin, Wren, Dunnock and Blackbird were singing and calling repeatedly. We also saw Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Raven, Rook, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow. We also had a very good views of Jay and a Tree Creeper. Whilst we were looking for a Great Spotted Woodpecker a Sparrow Hawk flew over our heads. House Sparrows were foraging on the common, which made the magic total of 30 species to be recorded on the day.

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