Eight BOC members were joined by a couple of local birders to explore the Torbay area and surroundings. Having met on the front at Paignton, we made straight for the Clennon Valley (an inland park area with woodland and ponds) to find a Yellow-browed Warbler that had been in this sheltered valley for a couple of weeks. After some persistence most of the group managed brief glimpses. A walk around the pond area then gave views of more common woodland birds, four duck species, Grey Heron, gulls, Mute Swan, Snipe and Little Grebe. Lunch was consumed whilst sea-watching at Goodrington Sands where we added Gannet, Common Scoter, Oystercatcher, Cormorant, Great-crested Grebe, Shag, Kittiwake and an Auk species to the list. We then moved further south to Broad Sands to catch Cirl Bunting which didn’t disappoint, with excellent views of the brightly coloured males and a few females feeding on the ground. A Great Northern Diver was another highlight here (on the sea). Our final destination was Brixham breakwater where Turnstone and Purple Sandpiper finished the day off nicely.
A cold, dry morning saw 30 members gather at the Salthouse car park. A Jay was flitting around the play area with two Pied Wagtails and, from the vantage points on Poet’s Walk, Oystercatchers and Redshanks were quickly picked out. Teal, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper, Shelduck and beautifully camouflaged Turnstones put in an appearance on the mud and rocks. Two Little Egrets graced the inlet at the end of Poet’s Walk with Wigeon and Curlew plentiful. A Kingfisher was seen by some lucky members and a possible Redwing turned out to be a Mistle Thrush. We saw no Redwings and only a couple of Fieldfares. Goldcrests were heard in profusion at one point and to our delight one appeared in the shrub by the side of us, giving good views to newer members. Lapwings were abundant in the field at the far end of the walk and only then did we spot a lone Grey Heron and a Sparrowhawk.
After a cold and misty start, 17 birdwatchers met for what turned out to be a very enjoyable morning in brilliant sunshine. Although good numbers of estuary birds, such as Teal, Wigeon and Dunlin were seen, most interest was generated by the variety and number of passerines around the site. These included two Stonechats, a late Chiffchaff and singles of Siskin and Redpoll. A large mixed finch flock on Lagoon 3 held our interest for quite a while, including around 150 Chaffinches, Linnets, Goldfinches, Reed Buntings and at least one Brambling. Other birds of note included Peregrine, Raven, Mistle Thrush and Treecreeper. Highlight of the morning for me though was the Grey Seal which we watched diving close to the shore to the north of the power station.
It was a brilliantly sunny morning and there was still a lot of very colourful leaves on some trees, but the blustery northwest wind made the 18 members glad they had (mostly!) come clad in cold weather gear. The decision to make this a “reservoir only” walk was surely the right one – standing water and mud could be clearly seen on the moors. The usual crowd of Coots were in place, Cormorants were posing on the buoys and a raft of Pochard was looking particularly good in the sunlight. Crows, Jackdaws, Rooks, Magpies, Mallards and Tufted Ducks were soon added to the list, as were Starlings in nearby fields. After a bit of concentrated looking, a few Redwings and a possible Fieldfare were also spotted, plus a Buzzard perched on a post and some Long-tailed Tits in the hedgerow. Very good close views were had of a Long-tailed Duck and a Great-crested Grebe that might just have been something else was examined. A lone Redshank was mooching about at the water’s edge and a Green Woodpecker spent some time in a field below us. During the latter part of the walk we saw a pair of Teal, a Grey Wagtail, two Little Grebes and a Sparrowhawk and Carrion Crow tussling above us, and not forgetting a calling Dunnock. Altogether 31 species were seen and one heard.
It was a lovely sunny November day when 13 of us met at the somewhat unlikely venue of the Cineworld car park at Hengrove! The more cynical of us were soon amazed as Margaret led us behind the cinema into the fascinating oasis of the Mounds. This is a former landfill site which has been transformed into a wonderful wild area of nature hidden from all the surrounding main roads. We saw a number of the usual hedgerow and field birds including Redwing, Goldfinch and a mystery bird which was difficult to place, probably a pipit. There were a pair of “flyover” Ravens and numerous gulls. As we headed back to the car park a Green Woodpecker was seen on the roof of the cinema! As our walk here was almost ending, our “mystery” bird popped up again. Further investigation on our return home, sparked by a member who was convinced it was a Water Pipit and a consultation with Ed Drewitt who knows the Mounds, suggested strongly that it was indeed a Water Pipit – the time of year, habitat and a detailed description added to the cause. Has anyone else seen this bird in the vicinity? We then drove to the entrance of Manor Woods Reserve. This was another “hidden gem”, with parkland, woods, meadow and a stream. A Grey Wagtail was quickly spotted, as were various other woodland birds, including Song Thrush and Long-tailed Tits. A pair of Moorhens scuttled into the reeds on the riverbank. On our way back, a pair of Buzzards was seen high over Bishopsworth. A total of 25 species was seen over the two sites.
After some recent foul weather, the morning gave way to clear skies and warm sunshine. Seven members met with Mike Smart, local birder and bird surveyor for this part of Gloucestershire. Mike introduced us to the reserve and its past life as a working canal in the late 1800s, delivering coal to Cheltenham. Here at Coombe Hill Meadows the coal was offloaded and taken by horse and cart into the town. Recent rains had flooded the meadows, something that happens three or four times a year. As we walked along the hedgerows of the canal the berry bushes were alive with winter thrushes. Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, and a few Yellowhammers flew overhead. The flooded fields were full of over 2500 Wigeon, 500 Canada Geese, 100 Greylag Geese, 24 Mute Swans, and smaller numbers of Teal and Lapwings. Scanning through them we also spotted a few Shoveler and Pintail. As we walked back a Water Rail squealed from a concealed ditch. The Wigeon became nervous and at one point the whole flock were in the sky, wheeling around, some getting quite high. Along with common field edge birds such as Robin, Wren and Blackbirds, we counted over 30 species in total, and headed back to Bristol in glorious sunshine.
Due to the previous rain and the state of the fields adjacent to the River Chew it was decided to change the usual walk. So, on a dry morning, part overcast, part sunny, 29 members ambled around the edge of the lake until we reached the new Bittern Hide which is a great improvement on the original one. On the way there and back 33 species were recorded, notably: Bewick’s Swan, a pair of Goldeneye, a female Red-breasted Merganser and two male Goosanders. There were no waders, apart from three lonely Lapwings.
The morning’s field meeting was very well attended and we got off to a great start with excellent views of two adult Yellow-legged Gulls at the Lodge. Then, and before we’d even started the walk, we saw an extremely late juvenile Swallow fly over (it’s the latest date I have in my lake database by some margin with the previous late date being 13th October 2012). A couple of Skylarks were heard flying over at the Lodge and Mike Johnson spotted a ringed Mute Swan, yellow ‘BJB’, there too. Chris Perrins wrote to me later to tell me: “Yellow ‘BJB’ (BTO ZY5592) was ringed at Abbotsbury, Dorset 06/10/11 as a first-winter ? (not hatched at Abbotsbury). It was reported at Chew Valley Lake on 25th July this summer.”The rising wind seemed to keep the small passerines well hidden, though Meadow Pipits were very much in evidence. We even saw a few Red Admirals in sheltered, sunny, spots. A flock of Siskins gave us good telescope views in the Alders at Hellfire Corner and a few of the group found some Redwings at Bell’s Bush where we stopped to check over the wildfowl at Top End. ‘Jonitor’ and ‘Willows’ the two adult Bewick’s Swans were still present despite the rising water level, and we found the Black Swan, two Little Egrets, a handful of Northern Lapwings and some good-looking ? Pintails that have just about attained full breeding plumage. Thanks to everyone who came, it made for a very enjoyable morning walk.
There were 18 participants on this birding walk led by David Body, who took us on a walk devised by, and last walked with, Stan Willmott in July 2010. Soon after leaving the Griffin pub we had Pied Wagtail, Buzzard, Collared Dove, Jackdaw, Dunnock and Wood Pigeon on the list. It was an excellent and sunny weather morning, clouding over a little towards midday. On reaching the high ground, and seeing a roe deer on the way, we had already noted Bullfinch, Raven, Magpie, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Long-tailed Tits and we just stood there to take in the magnificent views of the southern edge of the Cotswolds, the distant Mendips, and Dundry and Lockleaze hills. Then, after climbing yet again and with a view of the River Boyd below, we came upon a wooden gateway covered with hundreds of ladybirds of many colours. By the time we had returned to the Griffin pub for lunch, Jay, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Moorhen, Green Woodpecker, Robin and Chaffinch had also been seen, bringing the total to a respectable 28.
Despite the less than promising forecast 16 members joined me for a walk from Wains Hill down to the Yeo. The very strong wind was a constant reminder that a storm was heading our way the next day and it made birding difficult. Clevedon Pill was quiet with just a small group of Redshank and Lapwing of note, a Grey Wagtail was on the sluice at the Blind Yeo. The coast from Blackstone rocks to the Kenn was also quiet but the Kenn had a few waders with around 100 Dunlins, some Redshanks, Curlews and Oystercatchers present along with Wigeon and Teal. There was also a group of ten Little Egrets just inland here. Carrying further on down the coast we saw small numbers of Meadow Pipits, Rock Pipits and Linnet. Four late Wheatears were enjoyed by all as they bounced on ahead of us and eventually circled back on themselves. A few Turnstones and more Curlews were seen as we approached the Yeo but very little else. After a brief rest at the Yeo we headed back (with the wind now at our backs) and then the first heavy rain shower arrived and soaked us. The only other birds of note on the way back were three Grey Plovers, otherwise it was much the same. Thanks to those who joined me. Around 30 species in total on a difficult morning.