Bristol Ornithological Club
Jun 12 2018

Tuesday 12 June – Compton Dando Leader: Mike Landen

It was a rather overcast morning and a little cooler than the previous few days as 16 of us set off from The Compton Inn. There were a good number of common birds around the village including House Sparrows, Collared Dove, Swallows and Jackdaws (45 for the whole walk). House Martins were absent from their usual haunt near to their nesting sites but we did see a good number (28) just outside the village. Swifts were also absent and, rather surprisingly we did not see any throughout the walk. After a very short walk to the bridge over the River Chew we were unable to find a Dipper, one of our target species for the walk, but we had a good view of a Grey Wagtail. We then walked through some pasture land bordered with woodland where we added Greenfinch, Chiffchaff, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Wren. We climbed a steep path through the woods and then crossed a meadow but we did not see as many butterflies as usual, probably due to the lack of sunshine. Song Thrush, Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, Buzzard and Lesser Black-backed Gull were added to the list. We heard another Chiffchaff and eventually saw it singing from the top of a tall tree. We reached Woollard and made a very slight diversion for another view of the River Chew from the road bridge. There were some beautiful damselflies over the river and a family of Mallards were seen. We also had good views of Pied Wagtails, a Linnet and a Mistle Thrush. We found a nice spot by the river for our coffee break and then continued on towards Publow. We heard a Lesser Whitethroat but, although we spent some time trying to locate it in the gorse, we failed to see it. As we started the walk back along the other side of the River Chew we spotted a Grey Heron. We could still hear the Lesser Whitethroat and, at the same time we also heard a (Common) Whitethroat and managed to see it. We saw two Ravens and we finished our species count with Blackcap, Pheasant and Bullfinch A total of 36 species were seen or heard. Thanks very much to Nick for keeping his usual accurate bird list. (Thanks to Mike for leading, Ed). Mike Landen

Jun 08 2018

Friday 08 June – Forest of Dean Leader: Jane Cumming

On a fine, warm evening eight of us met at Cannop Ponds.  It was good to welcome new member John Dix, joining us for his first field meeting with the Club.  The main theme here was “babies”; a Mandarin duck managing her brood of eight; Mute Swans with two cygnets; two Coot families; and families of Grey and Pied Wagtails. Star billing went to a very young Dipper, posing obligingly for some time.  Most of us had never before seen a Dipper baby (except on Springwatch).  Other birds included a handsome Little Grebe in fine summer plumage.  We moved to Speech House Woodland car park for our walk up to Crabtree Hill, an easy and pleasant walk in the evening sun.  Along the grassy path through the scrub on the lower slopes we were delighted by quite a few Tree Pipits singing and parachuting to the tree tops, the bright Stonechats and lovely red Linnets.  A black boar crossed our path further up.  At the top we took up our usual position to wait for the headline bird.  We heard the calls of the Canada Geese flying in to the lake.  While still light at 21:07 we heard our first churring – Nightjars were definitely around!  Another wait, during which we were entertained by the songs of a Song Thrush and two Garden Warblers, was rewarded by much churring and spectacular flights of Nightjars.   Some were close enough, after swooping over our heads, for us to see their white markings.  One took up position on a dead branch (same tree as last year) so we could see that characteristic silhouette.  In the middle of all this a Woodcock flew over, flying long enough for all except our unfortunate leader to get a good sighting.  As it grew dark, having had plenty of excitement, we set off back down the hill.  Suddenly another Woodcock flew over.   This time our leader saw it, happy to see her first in ten years.  We heard more Nightjars along the way churring and wing clapping.  Our descent in the dark was enlivened by bats (being detected with a gadget) and the odd toad to be avoided.  We knew we would be late home when we returned to our cars at around 22:30 but all felt we had enjoyed a truly thrilling evening with more than 30 species.  Thanks to our leader Jane Cumming.                              Anne Crowe

Jun 05 2018

Tuesday 05 June – Badminton Leader: Nick Hawkridge

An overcast day made for pleasant walking conditions as 22 of us set out across the green of this picturesque village. A Song Thrush and then four welcome Swifts were seen, and then a large number of Jackdaws. House Martins were nesting under the eaves. Before leaving the village we found House Sparrow, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, and the first of two Mistle Thrushes. Nick picked out a Stock Dove in a paddock. Then came the highlight for many as a Little Owl was spotted flying up from a gate to the apex of a barn, where it perched on a security light giving plenty of photo opportunities. A Buzzard looked on from a nearby tree. Another Song Thrush was heard from the wood behind us, then along the hedgerow a Yellowhammer was heard and then seen. A Great-spotted Woodpecker and Greenfinch were added to the list before we entered the wood. The silence along the atmospheric dark track was eventually broken by Blackcap and Chaffinch. Coming out into the open we paused in a field with wide wild flower margins. The first of seven Skylarks was heard, as was a Whitethroat. Two Corn Buntings on a distant wire were identified from a photo. Walking along the airfield we saw several bright Yellowhammers, and more Whitethroats and Skylarks. Two Dunnocks were singing. Entering the estate park we passed another House Martin nest on the gatehouse and a Blue Tit nest in a nearby tree. Six Swallows flew over. The lake had Canada Geese and Mallard (with ducklings). We passed some school parties enjoying the scene, and a falconry tent. Those raptors were not included in our list of 34 species! Many thanks to Nick for leading and keeping the list. Gareth Roberts

Jun 02 2018

Sunday 02 June – Quantocks Leader: Nick Hawkridge

What a gorgeous day! All we missed was Jeff Holmes, who could not lead and lend us his huge expertise because of illness. He told me when I visited him later that on the previous day cloud had covered the top of the hills – how lucky we were. Nick Hawkridge stepped into the breach as leader with a small amount of persuasion! Twelve people attended, though unfortunately the long walk got the better of some, who had to return to the car park and miss the wonderful views at the top. As we set off up Hodders Combe the woodland was very quiet to start with, damp underfoot, with just Robin and Wren singing. Very soon, Blackcap, Song Thrush, Blackbird and Chiffchaff were heard above the sound of the stream, rippling along beside us. Coal, Great and Blue Tits were seen, then at last came the trill of Wood Warbler – many were heard and we later had some fleeting good views. Calls of Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers and Cuckoo were added to the list, and Gary found the first Pied Flycatcher, sitting at the end of a twig for all to see. Redstart, also in full view, was then spotted (a large patch of orange-coloured fungus on a tree trunk helped point the way to finding it) and the ‘whee whee whee’ calls were a frequent backdrop while we were in the woodland. Then Spotted Flycatchers were added, which we hadn’t expected. As we came out of the trees, Willow Warblers were heard and we started to see Stonechat families, which gave brilliant views, as did a couple of singing Garden Warblers, perched unusually on top of small birch trees. One Red Deer was seen on the skyline. As soon as we had a patch of grass and a glimpse of the sea beyond the combes, Nick proposed lunch – it just happened to be one o’clock! A pair of Cuckoos (found by Gary) appeared, one calling from the trunk of a distant row of pines and the other flying close past us. A shiny brown soldier beetle entertained us but its speedy activity would not allow photography, and Small Heath butterflies were amongst the heather. As we walked westwards along the top of Quantock past Halsway Post to Bicknoller Post, the views were stupendous and we heard the whistle of the steam trains below. Meadow Pipit, Kestrel and Buzzard were seen, Skylarks heard, and a distant Herring Gull led us to Swifts flying high. As we tarted descending from Bicknoller Post we heard Yellowhammers – these were soon seen perched on top of bushes – and our return trip down Lady’s Edge was accompanied by the songs of Redstarts, Garden and Wood Warblers and Blackcaps. Our final bird was a female Grey Wagtail, at last spotted by the stream. Thank you Nick for leading. Judy Copeland

May 22 2018

Tuesday 22 May – Newport Wetlands Leaders: Margaret and Ray Bulmer

A warm sunny day greeted the 30 walkers for a gentle stroll around the reserve. The Lesser Whitethroats were singing in the bushes near the car park but remained out of sight. At the visitor centre, Chiffchaff, Reed Warbler, and Cetti’s Warblers were singing in the reeds. The Sand Martin box is still awaiting tenants but a Little Grebe was spotted on the pond. Making our way to the lighthouse we added Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler and a few Swallow, Swift and Sand Martin flew overhead. The hoped for Bearded Tits did not appear. At the estuary were the resident Shelduck, but a few added Curlew, Dunlin and Ringed Plover. In the reeds a brown bird rose and dropped and someone called Bittern. The very obliging bird flew another couple of times and allowed everyone a sighting. A Cuckoo could be heard in the distance and our only raptor for the day was a Buzzard. After a picnic lunch some headed to Goldcliff for the waders. Here we added Avocet, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Ringed and Little Ringed Plover, Gadwall and Shoveler. Many of the species had young, including Pochard, Canada Geese, Shoveler, Mallard, Coot, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Redshank and Coot. So we had ducklings, goslings and chicklets. We heard that ten Lapwing chicks had been fitted with radio receivers but only five were responding; someone was wading around in the lagoons trying to locate the missing ones while we were there. The weather also encouraged the butterflies and dragonflies to be on the wing. Our final bird total was 54 species but with no Bearded Tits. (Thanks to Margaret and Ray for leading the walk and to Gareth and Godfrey for helping identify the damselflies and dragonflies.) The Bulmers

May 20 2018

Sunday 20 May – Ham Wall RSPB Reserve (joint meeting with BNS) Leader: Giles Morris

Ham Wall is now one of those venues that can almost guarantee an interesting and varied day’s birding, especially in May. This spring has been topsy-turvy in many ways, but those who made the trip were not disappointed, despite some Ham Wall “regulars” being missing. Setting out along the railway path allowed us to sort out our warbler song ID, with Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Cetti’s and Whitethroat all performing. We stopped to view the Great White Egret colony, visible from the path – extraordinary how quickly this has become an ordinary event! At the first viewing platform ducks and grebes were much in evidence, with the unusually large number of Pochard present this spring being particularly noticeable. One of the missing species at this stage was Hobby. Having arrived from Africa expecting a dragonfly bonanza, most of these birds had pushed on to their breeding grounds without staying long, because the mass emergence of their favourite prey had been delayed by poor weather. Moving on to the Avalon Hide, we added Reed Bunting, Marsh Harrier and Cuckoo, but only one very brief Bittern flight. There is always an element of luck in some of these sightings. On the way out we had searched hard for a reported male Garganey without success, but on the way back the bird was showing well exactly where we had been looking earlier! The return to the car park also proved eventful. First, a long Bittern flight was missed by most of the group who were all watching a Willow Warbler, but then, soon afterwards, another long flight was seen by all the group. This was followed by a Hobby close enough for everyone to see and then an obliging Kingfisher hunting in the rhyne north of the railway bridge. A special bird to finish an excellent morning in a special place and bring the species total to 51. (Many thanks to Giles for leading this joint field trip.) Giles Morris

May 18 2018

Friday 18 May – Highnam Woods Leader: Hannah Booth, RSPB

On a fine early summer evening 23 members and guests were welcomed by Hannah Booth, the warden. The 120 hectare wood was bought by RSPB in the 1980s. Although a commercial woodland it had retained significant unmanaged areas with ancient oak (one pollarded oak is over 600 years old), hornbeam, wild cherry, and a glade of 150 year old field maple. The current strategy is to manage the habitat for Nightingale, by re-creating blocks of two to ten year old coppice, comprising 25% of the wood, and by creating pools for invertebrates as a food source. As we began our tour we heard the first of eleven Blackcap and nine Song Thrush. The evening chorus was joined by Robin, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, and then Wren and Blackbird. We inspected the coppice block that was new at last year’s visit; it had shown impressive growth and the brash hedging with bramble was impenetrable to the Muntjac deer that would destroy the new growth. A Willow Warbler sang, the only one of the visit, reflecting the low numbers this year. A Raven ‘cronked’ and further along we saw both Mistle Thrush and Great Spotted Woodpecker, two of the five species identified by sight rather than sound in the atmospheric woodland. We then heard a Marsh Tit call. Last year we had heard Nightingale on arrival in the car park, but reflecting this year’s reduced numbers (six singing males, 12 in 2017), it wasn’t until about 21:00 that one began to sing, as the Song Thrushes began to quieten. But it was worth the wait, the strong and varied song held us entranced for 40 minutes of continuous performance. We heard a second Nightingale on the way back to the car park, and also a Tawny Owl, our 21st species. Many thanks to Hannah Booth for leading the excellent tour, and to Nick Hawkridge for the list. Please see next item Gareth Roberts

May 15 2018

Tuesday 15 May – South Stoke Leader: David Body

As parking was at a premium we ended up by the lookout point with its view over the Cam Brook valley. We admired the cloudless sky but mourned the lack of Swift and House Martin. As the party gathered (14), we then did see House Martin – six swirling around the houses, and someone had seen a Swift over the church. The song of Blackbird was with us throughout the day, as was the ‘crack jack’ of many Jackdaw, with Robin and Wren both singing lustily around their territories. The count of singing Blackcap ran to eleven, with Chiffchaff coming in at six. After we had crossed the main road and started down the valley, one of several Chaffinch was heard singing, a Song Thrush chimed in and a Mistle Thrush flew from the grass. We could hear the distant ‘yaffling’ of a Green Woodpecker, the ‘cronk’ of Raven, and in the woods the fast call of a Coal Tit. At the lake the obligatory pair of Mallard looked to us for a hand-out and a Grey Wagtail pair made dashes across the water collecting beakfuls of flies, then posting them into yellow gapes hidden within the greenery below the red safety buoy. Up on the cycle path the first and only Great Spotted Woodpecker chipped its call from nearby trees and a Nuthatch made a brief foray across the path, but not fast enough to be missed by our attentive team. We didn’t see our first Swallow until the farm alongside the canal, which also provided another Green Woodpecker and a single Greenfinch. As the heat built up, any shade and breeze was most welcome but we needed to cross and climb the wide open, and alas, barren orchid field. We did see two Long-tailed Tit and not long before the end a Jay cackled at us. The final bird count was 36 – (an addition of Goldfinch by the cars) and thanks to David for leading. Nick Hawkridge

May 13 2018

Sunday 13 May – Stoke Park and Eastville Park Leader: Richard Scantlebury

I joined BOC only very recently. As I live in the local area to Eastville Park and Stoke Park, I chose this walk to venture out (rather early for me on a Sunday morning!) for my very first BOC walk. I was taken aback when Richard explained we wouldn’t finish till one o’clock but had a laugh by the end because it actually finished mid-afternoon – the time had just flown by. Significant interest began right at the meeting point at Snuff Mills car park by the trees where Blue Tits and Great Tits were using the nesting boxes above. Blackcaps, Wrens, Robins and Chiffchaffs were singing as we walked towards the tunnel to cross the M32. Out of these, the Blackcaps are the birds I was not much familiar with so I decided that my challenge for the walk would be to focus on the Blackcap: to see one in real close-up and to be able to identify its song. As we arrived on the other side of the motorway at the bottom of Purdown, Greenfinches were singing; the elongated “eeeeee” feature of their song helpfully reminds us of their colour, “greeeeeeen”, and therefore their name, so makes them easy to remember. By the Duchess ponds, the Canada geese, a pair of Moorhens with their six fluffy chicks and an Orange-tip butterfly were enjoying the glorious warm, sunny weather as much as we were. The aerial interest included a Buzzard (likened by one of the group to aeroplanes circling the skies at Heathrow), a pair of Swifts and a Heron. In the area with the Dew Pond, Richard hoped to spot Whitethroats. I learnt that Blackcaps like to remain inside bushes whereas Whitethroats prefer open scrub and often perch and sing on the top of the tallest bush. And furthermore that the warblers, apart from the Blackcap and Chiffchaff, are summer visitors from the African continent – I too originally arrived here one summer as a visitor from the African continent!
Soon the group split into two which is when I learnt a key lesson that on a bird walk you can’t see it all. I thought I would press ahead with the faster birders but if only I had stayed with those ambling far behind us I could have had my first ever view in real of a Blackcap. The amblers enjoyed a close-up view as it proudly sang its heart out. Oh well … We ascended the steep slope rising up from the Dew Pond and paused at the top to take in the views of Bristol and beyond, stretching out for miles before us. Then it was on through the woods which was where the Blackcaps decided the time had come to test me out on identifying them. The foliage was too thick to see them but I think I passed the test by correctly identifying their song three times in a row so I was thoroughly pleased and it helped me get over the disappointment of the missed visual sighting earlier. Deeper into the woods, we took time patiently gazing up at the Nuthatch nest which Richard pointed out to us. Nuthatches often use woodpecker nesting holes, they reduce the size of the entrance hole with mud, he explained, and we were finally rewarded with a sighting. A Long-tailed Tit was perched on a post during our walk up to the mobile phone mast and more were flitting in the bushes. Further along, still in the scrubby approach to the mast, we heard a Whitethroat singing clearly from inside a large bush.
As we descended back down the slopes to cross the motorway, lots of Greenfinches were heard but the highlight was spotting a Bullfinch. On the last leg of our walk through Eastville Park we paused at the Tawny Owl boxes installed on the island in the lake, but there was no visible activity. I was pleased to spot my first Grey Wagtail on the muddy areas of the river bank and then the flash of brilliant blue of my first Kingfisher darting down the river.
Thanks to Richard for his knowledgeable and friendly leadership of this walk, introducing me to the fascinating and abundant wildlife of my local area and the joys of taking part in a BOC walk. Reethah Desai

May 08 2018

Tuesday 08 May – Ashton Court Leader: Brenda Page

Having basked in record bank holiday sunshine, 24 members turned up expecting t-shirts and sun hats. What a shock! Cloud, mist and a biting cold wind, at least first off. The sun came through late morning causing multiple de-layering. The walk took us from Ashton Court, through Leigh Woods, Monarch’s Way, Fish Pond Wood and back. It was definitely a day for sound as well as visuals. We were greeted with Skylarks over the golf course with a distant Mistle Thrush just audible. The woods were alive with bird song; many Blackcap, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Wren, Goldcrest and the Mistle Thrush, Fish Pond Wood being particularly impressive, the wooded valley concentrating and amplifying the singing birds. A chip of a Woodpecker drew us to a Great Spotted exploring the dead branches in the canopy and Nick was pleased to find a bit of Green Woodpecker poo on the path, maybe from the bird we heard ‘yaffling’ earlier. We saw a few Swallows but no Swifts, a couple of Buzzards being the only raptors. 33 species in total. Thanks to Brenda for leading. Alastair Fraser