Bristol Ornithological Club
Apr 29 2014

Tuesday, 29th April – Pucklechurch

Chiffchaff © Stanton


This was a walk in “Stan Country” – one of the many which Stan Wilmott used to lead.      15 members set out across a wheat field to the sound of skylarks – this week against a grey sky.  Blackcaps, robins, blackbirds and wrens were heard throughout the walk – double figures in all four cases.   Some of the time the sound of the M4 was also a constant background but this did not really detract from our enjoyment, though with the increasing foliage,  hearing different species is becoming as frequent than seeing some!  Many chiffchaffs were heard and  some very clearly seen as were, by a few, a pair of bullfinches taking dandelion seeds.  Plenty of magpies were seen, including two chasing a jay. Other birds in abundance were woodpigeons, one flock of 50 feeding in a pasture,  also carrion crows, starlings and a rookery of about a dozen nests. Several willow warblers were heard and a whitethroat, a group of six linnets fluttered  in a hedge and half a dozen swallows were spotted, a couple almost close enough to touch.  The walk ended in sunshine with more skylarks singing as we crossed a final wheat field.  36 species in all.  Thanks to Duncan Gill for leading and for the previous day’s recce, which saved many a step through clayey mud!

Apr 27 2014

Sunday 27 April – Cleeve Hill

 A good mix of habitats and a great view were enjoyed by twelve members on this amble around Cleeve Hill. We got off to a good start with views of Wheatear close to a quarry and were serenaded by numerous Skylarks. Walking first around the top (dodging a few golf balls from the nearby golf course), we picked up several species in scrub including Blackbird, Chaffinch, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Wren and a distant Song Thrush. Several Whitethroat and a good view of Yellowhammer also delighted. Our guide pointed out where to find Ring Ouzel (another time perhaps!) and various points of interest along the way, including a heather enclosure where we might have seen a Stonechat (although this remains unconfirmed!). We then followed the valley down, with great views of Red Kite, Crows and Jackdaws enjoying the thermals along the nearby ridge. Passing through ‘Watery Bottom’, beside the ‘Washpool’ and then along ‘Dry Bottom’, we picked up a few woodland species including Blackcap, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Goldcrest and a calling Marsh Tit. 32 species were seen in all. Many thanks to our guide Beryl, from Cheltenham Bird Club, for hosting this event.

Apr 22 2014

Tuesday 22 April – Newton St Loe

Grey Heron

Grey Heron stalking the Top Lake © Stanton

 A startled Green Woodpecker flew up from the ground as we set off through the churchyard with a further two seen in the adjoining field. Woodpigeon, Blackcap, Carrion Crow, Wren, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin, Chiffchaff, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Rook, finches and tits were all in abundance at various places throughout the walk. As we passed the fishermen on the lower lake at Newton Park we had a good view of a Common Sandpiper. A Grey Heron stood nearby and was determined to stay until the very last moment as we approached. At the upper lake we were greeted by a pair of Greenfinches on the gravel path just ahead of us and a Goldcrest was spotted in the fir trees above. Mallard and Coot were on the lake as well as a pair of Teal whilst the Mute Swans had moved their nest further along the lake this year. Swallows were evident as we approached Stanton Prior and Linnet, Whitethroat and Yellowhammer were in the hedgerows as we walked along the country lane with a Great Spotted Woodpecker high up in a tree. On our way back we had Skylarks in the fields. Despite a little shower the weather was fine. Thanks to Nick for recording some 45 species seen and heard – 15 walkers.(Thanks Rod for leading)


Apr 15 2014

Tuesday 15th April – Gordano Valley.

BOC Brandenburg Trip 2013: Common Crane overhead

BOC Brandenburg Trip 2013: Common Crane overhead

 The walk was sunny and bright 25 walkers saw/heard 36 species. The prime specimen being a Common Crane seen circling at height over the centre of the valley. Thanks to Goeff Harris for leading.

We only saw one, imagine this spectacle over the Gordano Valley

Apr 12 2014

Saturday 12 April – St Catherine’s Valley

 It was mostly overcast with a coolish breeze, even so, twelve members gathered for a very pleasant and rewarding walk. Chiffchaff was the first bird, together with the expected resident birds which included Skylark, Bullfinch and Stock Dove. Blackcap and Green Woodpecker were heard as well as Yellowhammer – a male of the latter then seen on a track. Buzzards then rose up on the wind and even displayed whilst a Jay scolded. When we arrived at the valley bottom a Grey Wagtail was flushed from the brook, a Goldcrest was heard, Nuthatches called and were seen and a Sparrowhawk circled over. During out final ascent back up to the cars we added Coal Tit, Mistle Thrush, Goldfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Marsh Tit, Treecreeper, Kestrel and Pied Wagtail giving us a very good total of 42 species. By now it was very pleasant and warmer… time for lunch! (Many thanks to Robin for leading).

Apr 08 2014

Tuesday 08 April – Castle Combe

TueBOC-April-8-CastleCoombe Another great walk in varied habitat but this week not a single Skylark was heard nor a winter thrush seen, spring had come and the sound of Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Nuthatches predominated. From quite early on singing Robins, Wrens, Chaffinches and Dunnocks were heard as well as calling Great Tits and Blue Tits, plus some other calls that led to speculation as to their identification. Several busy rookeries were passed, both Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers were heard, the former drumming as well as calling – also Goldcrest, but only by a few! At our coffee break stop, while admiring Bluebells and Cowslips, it was remembered that Marsh Tit had been seen here on a previous walk. This time seen and heard by only one person although two more were heard and spotted later in the walk. Soaring Buzzards had been seen several times but we were also treated to good views of a Peregrine and a Sparrowhawk. Just one butterfly, a Brimstone, made an appearance in the fairly cool temperature and this week’s fungus was a Disciotis venosa – one large and one enormous specimen seen. The only House Sparrow was lurking by a feeder just as we were leaving the village to climb back up to the car park (having missed the bus!) 33 species – 23 walkers. Thanks to Duncan Gill for stepping in to lead and best wishes to Dave Body who we hope will rejoin us soon.

Apr 06 2014

Sunday 06 April – Brean Down

 The weather forecast was dreadful: ‘Heavy rain and strong winds worsening around the coasts’ it said. Just the job for a walk along Brean Down then? But that was the forecast put out the night before; by the morning of the meeting the heavy rain had been put back by 12 hours but it seemed that many people had not picked up on this late change resulting in only Margaret Gorely and me joining Paul Gregory for this spring migration watch.Considering that Brean Down is at the end of Weston beach there is a considerable road journey to the foot of the down, but once there we set off up the steep tarmac track to the top of the east down. With thick scrub and bushes aplenty there was high expectation of migrant warblers, chats and other LBJs. A Blackcap obliged with song as well as Chiffchaff but little else other than a couple of resident Blue Tits. From the top a good view of the Axe Estuary revealed a herd of Mute Swans, many Shelduck, twelve Teal, a Little Egret and a pair of Oystercatcher. A couple of Peregrines gave us top entertainment with their powerful command of the sky, one of them decidedly brownish as if last year’s offspring? Things went quiet for a while but Chaffinch and Meadow Pipit were never far away, and then a Stonechat appeared typically on top of a stunted bush. A distant Swallow was next but it soon disappeared leaving us somewhat short-changed of hirundines at this promising site. A few Rock Pipits, Raven and a Linnet made up the numbers with Roe Deer, feral goats, Violet and Cowslip adding variety. A miniscule contribution of a snippet of song from a Willow Warbler elevated the mood but it was thevPeregrines who, at the end of the walk, once again demonstrated their superiority in the air. Wheatear and Ring Ouzel never showed giving a grand total of 27 bird species. Thanks go to Margaret for the refreshments and to Paul for leading.

Apr 01 2014

Tuesday 01 April – Hawkesbury Upton

 It was a pretty misty start to our All Fools’ Day walk and there was much discussion as to whether clout casting might be opportune. 16 members, and soon to be joined by a 17th, set off through the village where there were plenty of Starlings. Soon, we were in typical “top of the Cotswolds” country and could hear many Skylarks singing, though these were out of sight above the mist layer. Plenty of Yellowhammers posed for all to see and first one, and then several Corn Buntings were spotted, some showing in clear profile for easier identification. The light was improving and very good views of a couple of Wheatears were had. Around coffee time, among trees, we added to our list with noisy Nuthatches, Wrens, and Blue and Great Tits. Spring flowers were also in evidence including the Townhall Clock (Moschatel), identified by our fungi guru wearing her plant expert hat. A few Chiffchaffs were heard and, for many, the first singing Willow Warbler of the season. Skylarks continued to be evident and were now clearly in sight. Descending a steep path through woodland there was an aroma of garlic as we crushed Ramson leaves and here the first Bluebells were peeping through. The highlight of this bit of the walk was an explosion of Fieldfares, with a few Redwings, from the tops of the trees. The clever counters among us reckoned over a hundred. This was a walk of two seasons for the price of one! Back on the top and on the Cotswold and Monarch’s Way, the sun was out, more Buzzards were soaring, Pheasants calling, Blackcap, Song Thrush, Goldfinch and Greenfinch all singing. There was a wonderful variety of habitat on this walk and 41 species were noted. Many thanks to Duncan and Pat Gill for leading and Nick Hawkridge’s additional “leading from behind”.

Mar 29 2014

Saturday 29 March – Newport Wetlands.

County name 'Vicar of the marshes'

Male Reed Bunting © R Scantlebury

In overcast skies and mist, but with the sun trying to break through, some of the 19 of us applied our first sun cream of the year. The car park was surrounded by calling Chiffchaff, Greenfinch and Goldfinch and Wren. On the bird feeders at the Centre we were rewarded with many and both sexes of Reed Bunting, Mallard cleaning up and Coot and Moorhen chugging across the lake towards the Sand Martin house-home-shelter. Walking on, one of the many Cetti’s Warblers heard throughout the day, called from a bramble patch and took flight affording us a brief but rewarding view. Also in flight, a splendid pair of Mute Swans, who wheeled and landed at the first lagoon, much to the distress of the Canada Geese already there, although the Tufted Ducks and Pochard paid no heed. The first ‘Ping Ping’ of Bearded Tit was heard but no sighting was made until we’d been to the river, seen a distant Curlew, many Shelduck and probably Dunlin. Only three people (‘laggards’ who were not desperate for coffee and were far behind!) managed to see Bearded Tit one of which, unusually, left the reeds to fly behind and round the watchers before going back under cover. Sand Martins were admired as we moved on towards the hide. The overlooked lake gave us Gadwall, Great Crested Grebe, and Little Grebe. On the way back for lunch, sharp eyes caught the movement of a single Red-legged Partridge skulking along the hedge, and we heard and then saw Green Woodpecker.
At Goldcliff we visited all the hides and screens. The first gave distant views of Avocet with, a bit closer, Teal, Wigeon, Lapwing and a pair of Little Ringed Plover at the edge of stones – so well camouflaged. Moving further up the lake and into a better position to see the top end we were suddenly rewarded by a fantastic aerial display of Avocet, 80 plus birds wheeling and calling – superb. A Sparrowhawk put in an appearance, flushing the Avocets again and most of the other waders – Redshank and Godwit. At the last hide, around the far side of the lake, we found two Greenshanks, stalking and feeding in the shallows with two pairs of Pintail feeding alongside many Teal and Wigeon. A final hunt found a Bar-headed Goose with a large number of Canada Geese and a Starling in full headlong flight being chased by a slate backed Merlin.

Mar 25 2014

Tuesday 25 March – Hambrook.

The promise of a mildish spring morning enticed 31 walkers to enjoy the area around Hambrook. We waited for the Dipper to show at Bradley Brook and just as folks had given up it duly arrived and gave everyone time to admire it. When most had moved on, two Kingfishers were spotted sitting on a branch before flying off. Heading towards Moorend Chiffchaff and Blackcap were added, with Blue Tits and Jackdaws on the way towards Winterbourne Down and Winterbourne. All the birds were in fine voice with Robin, Great Tit, Wren, Dunnock, and House Sparrow added into the mix. By the time we reached Bradley Brook and Monks Pool Nature reserve we had added Long-tailed Tit, Greenfinch, Buzzard, Kestrel, Goldfinch, Jay, Skylark, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Green Woodpecker. 62 Jackdaws were seen and generally in pairs. Mallard were enjoying the Bradley Brook and overhead were Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull. This walk was lovely and not diminished by the mud or the tricky stiles where Margaret G did a very good acrobatic performance of a near back flip before being caught by two of the men. As we neared the end of the walk three Canada Geese flew over the pub, making a total of 31 species for the morning. We were surprised not to see any Grey Wagtail on the Brook but as were walking back home a pair flew up river.


Dipper ©R Stanton

Dipper in Bradley Brook Hambrook


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