Bristol Ornithological Club
Jan 01 2017

Sunday 01 January 2017 – Slimbridge

What a miserable start to the year! The morning was chilly and wet, and I doubt I would have bothered to turn out if I hadn’t been asked to lead at the last minute. However, 18 hardy souls braved the weather to join me on a search for interesting birds from various reasonably dry and comfortable hides. I believe this was the first time a winter visit to Slimbridge produced just a single Golden Plover and no White-fronted Geese at all (apparently 120 of them were feeding out of sight, two fields north of the reserve), but the Bewick’s Swans were showing well and we checked off the common duck species for our new year lists. We grilled a couple of Dunlins on Rushy Pen but couldn’t turn either of them into the Little Stint that was being reported regularly there. A few Snipe and a Redshank were some compensation. A group of nine or ten Common Cranes were a lovely sight but, of course, these birds were bred here in captivity so they don’t go on my list! The Zeiss Hide produced a Ruff or two, as well as the lone Golden Plover and plenty of Lapwings and Dunlins. We added more species at South Lake: Cormorant, Great Crested Grebe, and Common Gull. I completed my day’s list with a few Fieldfares and a Reed Bunting, and retired to the pub for a good lunch, but some of the party persevered into the afternoon and Nick’s list got to 52 species, an excellent total under the circumstances. Thanks to all who joined me to carry on the Club’s New Year tradition of a Slimbridge start – and here’s hoping for better weather this time next year! (Jane, many thanks for stepping in as leader.) Jane Cumming

Dec 27 2016

Tuesday 27 December – Snuff Mills

26 members set out on a nice winter’s day. A few common birds including Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, and Robin were seen in the car park. A Song Thrush was heard singing at the start and was still singing when we returned at the end of the walk. As we walked through the woods we spotted Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Great Tit and Woodpigeon. We added Wren and Carrion Crow which included one group of twelve. On reaching open parkland we saw Lesser Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull and some of the group heard a Green Woodpecker. There were also a flock of about 40 Black-headed Gulls and we then added Blackbird and Coal Tit to our list. We stopped for our usual coffee break and had an excellent view of a single Redwing perched in a nearby tree. On the return the footpath was officially closed due to a fallen tree, so we split into two groups with some returning through the village and others alongside the river. Between the two groups we added House Sparrow, Collared Dove, Grey Wagtail, Chaffinch, Grey Heron and Moorhen. Mallards had been seen earlier but there was a large group of about 22 in the water. Similarly Goldcrest had been either heard or seen earlier but some of us now had better views of three to four birds. We had a total of 27 species. Thank you to Nick for leading as well as for keeping a record of birds seen. Mike Landen

Dec 20 2016

Tuesday 20 December – Severn Beach

The weather was good, the tide was rising and we all (26) enjoyed the walk down river along the path at the front of Severn Beach. There were plenty of waders to look at, with enough telescopes to allow all who wanted to have good close views of Wigeon, Knot, Dunlin, and Redshank. We walked back towards the M4 Bridge and watched with awe the Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Turnstone lifting clear of the rising tide and settling back onto the rocks – like fluttering silvered leaves in the low sunlight. A few Pied Wagtails flitted beneath our feet as we walked towards New Passage. Thrushes offered themselves for inspection on distant hedgerows and resolved into Redwing, Fieldfare and Song Thrush. A lone Buzzard guarded a gate entrance from atop the hinge side post and he didn’t stir a feather when the thrush flock took flight. The tide was full as we all grouped around the Pill mouth where Shoveler, Redshank, Teal, and Wigeon had been thrown up on the river bank edges by the encroaching water. Away in the distance on Northwick Warth, and at full scope magnification, we could see Canada Goose, Shelduck, Curlew and Lesser Black-backed Gull waiting for the tide to turn. A quick sally to the Pilning Wetlands by some of the cast showed the often reported flock of Black-tailed Godwit, Knot and Dunlin – all put to flight by a Peregrine and then a Marsh Harrier. Lapwing within the flock gave the best display as their broad wings turned and flashed in the light. A final flick of white from a departing Little Egret, one of blue from a Kingfisher and we turned for the cars and home. Our last bird of the day was a Greenfinch and a final tally of 52 for the day. Thanks to Duncan for stepping in pro tem and Peter for leading. Nick Hawkridge

Dec 13 2016

Tuesday 13 December – Newton St Loe

On a fine dry day 31 of us set off on a pre-Christmas lunch walk around the grounds of Bath Spa University led by Peter Holbrook and Duncan and Pat Gill. As we walked through the village and down to the University we saw numerous Blue Tits, a Redwing, Song Thrush and Starling in the tree tops whilst a Raven flew overhead alongside a Common Gull. We passed Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Robins, Great Tits and Dunnock as we neared the University grounds. A Nuthatch shuffled up and down a tree trunk, Goldcrest flitted about and one eagle-eyed walker saw two Marsh Tits. We progressed uphill in the grounds to the second lake where Mallard came into view along with two Grey Herons, Moorhens, seven Goosanders and 20 Teal towards the top of the lake. A Green Woodpecker appeared, and moving through the woods up to the University, we picked up Siskins, Collared Doves and Pied Wagtail on the way back to Newton St. Loe. We counted 34 species in all on the two hour walk so thanks to the leaders for a pleasant precursor to lunch. Thanks also to Peter Holbrook for ably organising our lunch which was attended by 50 members. We have walked every Tuesday in 2016 and thanks go to the leaders who make this possible, though new leaders and walks are always welcome. Many thanks too for the book token presented to me at the lunch, it was much appreciated. Mark Watson

Dec 11 2016

Sunday 11 December – Blagdon Lake

Report next month

Dec 11 2016

Sunday 11 December – Blagdon Lake

Nigel Milbourne and eight members of BOC met for a morning walk and had a good time, racking up 63 species in the four hours. They also saw a Peacock butterfly in the sunshine, presumably woken up by the warmth. Notable birds included seven plus Great White Egrets, ‘teens’ of Little Egrets, eight adult Bewick’s Swans, the Common Shelduck, several Goosanders, a Chiffchaff, a Common Sandpiper, a small flock of Northern Lapwings, a Eurasian Stonechat and we heard a Water Rail. Many thanks to Nigel for showing members around his patch.

Dec 06 2016

Tuesday 06 December – Slimbridge

The morning was grey and misty but noticeably milder than of late. Eighteen of us set off initially heading towards the Holden Tower. We stopped off at two hides overlooking the Tack Piece where we saw five Common Crane, a largish flock of Canada Geese and good numbers of Lapwings and Rooks. The ponds (which were predominantly free of ice) were mainly occupied by Teal although a single Snipe was seen by some. A group of Pintail flew low in front of us. Chaffinch and Jackdaw were amongst the birds around the busy feeders. A Water Rail was initially heard and then clearly seen and a Buzzard was perched low nearby. Long-tailed Tits, Shelduck and a Great Black-backed Gull were added to the list together with a large flock of Barnacle Geese. Robins cropped up everywhere throughout the morning. After coffee we moved to the Zeiss Tower where there were more Teal, Shelduck and Lapwings, Shoveler, six Dunlin on the edge of one pond and a good view of another Water Rail. Whilst walking between hides a small group of Bewick’s Swans flew over. We then moved towards the Kingfisher Hide where there were ten Gadwall and a Little Grebe. The small hide en route, however, provided perhaps the highlight of the morning when after much patience we saw a Bittern emerge into a gap in the reeds, fish in bill. A Treecreeper, Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Stonechat and Bullfinch also featured in the total of 54 wild birds recorded. Thanks to Nick for leading and for keeping a comprehensive list of sightings. John Lees

Dec 04 2016

Sunday 04 December – Steart

Eight members met on a beautifully bright but cold and frosty day. We spent the morning at the WWT reserve. Although it was high tide the water had not come into the pools outside of the Mendip Hide so views of the birds were a little distant – Shelduck, Little Egret, Redshank, Curlew, Dunlin. Bird feeders on the way gave views of Blue Tit, House Sparrow and Robin. We walked out to the River Parrett where we saw Avocets, Grey Plover, Mute Swans and Teal. A Peregrine which had been sitting on a pylon flew and had an altercation with a Raven. During the day we had several views of Marsh Harriers. Fieldfares and Redwings were seen and heard as we walked to the Quantock Hide where Wigeon, Mallard and Little Stint were added to the list. A group of Roe Deer were seen nearby. On the way to the Polden Hide four Snipe were seen in the grass and two Skylarks seen and heard. After lunch we moved onto the Natural England reserve and walked along the shore by Stert Flats to the Tower Hide. Buzzard was added to the list and a mixed flock of Canada and Barnacle Geese grazed on Fenning Island. Several pairs of Shoveler were seen and four Little Grebes, as well as several Golden Plover. Other raptors included Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and for the four of us who walked up from Steart Gate car park to the ridge overlooking the Breach – a Merlin perched on a fence and then flew at lightning speed to the mud, returned with a wader and proceeded to pluck it. A stop on the way back at Wall Common unfortunately did not reward us with any Short-eared Owls. Over 50 species were recorded. Thanks to Richard Belson for leading. Rosemary Brown

Nov 29 2016

Tuesday 29 November – Chew Valley Lake

A good turnout of 26 members set out from the main car park at Chew Valley on a beautiful day. At the dam wall it was slightly unfortunate that we were looking into the sun which prevented us from having a great view of the birds. However we did see Mallard, Pochard, Gadwall, Coot, Moorhen, Tufted Duck and Great Crested Grebe. We also saw a Goldeneye and a single Lapwing, although more were seen later. We then walked through fields to the north of the lake and added a number of common species to our list. These included Long-tailed Tit, Wren, Dunnock and Robin. Some of the group spotted a couple of Goldcrests and two Grey Wagtails were also seen, as well as our first winter thrush of the morning – a Redwing. As we continued the walk alongside the river we added Rook, Song Thrush and Goldfinch. After our coffee break we walked along Dumpers Lane where the light was now brilliant and we were rewarded with superb views of two Fieldfares and a Mistle Thrush. As we reached the end of the lane two of the group were fortunate to see a Kingfisher flying along the River Chew. Making our way back towards the lake we saw Coal Tit, House Sparrow, and Starling and our only Buzzard of the morning. A small party of six Linnets were seen as well as a Meadow Pipit and a Yellowhammer. We had a very nice view of a male Stonechat showing really well in the bright sunshine. Walking back along the lake between the two car parks we added Teal and Mute Swan. It was a good walk and a respectable total of 47 species. Thank to Nick for keeping a record of birds seen. Mike Landen

Nov 26 2016

Saturday 26 November – Ham Wall and Meare Heath

Eleven members met on a bright crisp mid – morning at the RSPB car park at Ham Wall. We were informed by RSPB staff that the Starlings had roosted on Ham Wall the previous evening so we opted to spend the morning walking through the Natural England Meare Heath reserve. There were a few Redwings in the trees by the car park, audible with their thin “tsueep” call. Goldfinches and Long-tailed Tits fed enthusiastically in the alders and a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers flew over with characteristically undulating motion. There followed the first of many sightings of Great White Egret both in flight and on the ground. It is amazing that this once “twitchable” species is quite often more numerous on the day than its cousin, the Little Egret. Both adult female and juvenile Marsh Harriers glided low over the reeds occasionally quickly dropping from view to pursue prey. We spent some time in the hide at Noah’s Lake as the wildfowl spectacle was brilliant with about 1000 birds on view, the majority being Wigeon. A flock of about twenty Black-tailed Godwits flew over and a Kingfisher darted past the hide, There were nice views of two male Pintail, and a Blackcap, more often in gardens in winter, was seen in adjoining willows. After lunch we walked into the Ham Wall reserve. There were three sightings of Bittern, two in flight and one occasionally seen standing camouflaged in the reeds. By late afternoon we had recorded 49 species but no Starling. This was soon rectified by the first of many flocks, some small and some enormous, swirling in over the reeds from all directions. The weather was perfect for a prolonged display as the flocks twisted and condensed together, particularly when attacked by a Peregrine. A splendid finale to a fine days birding. (Thank you Mike.) Mike Johnson

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