Bristol Ornithological Club
May 01 2018

Tuesday, 01 May – Folly Farm Leader: Jean Oliver

20 members set out on a beautiful spring day with an early Buzzard to start our list, some Ravens tumbling, the first of many Wrens singing and a Swallow. Singing Blackcaps were also heard and some seen, but the most consistent sound during the walk was probably the bleating of lambs. We tackled our first hill of the day and then walked down to inspect the hedge planted by BOC members last autumn. It’s doing well and there was a bit of pointing to a particularly well grown specimen and claiming to have been the one who planted it! Leaving our burgeoning hedge, we moved on, spotting a Skylark or two and a Sparrowhawk. A Whitethroat was heard but quite hard to find and Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Goldfinch, Bullfinch and others added to the list. Then came the hill of the day – it was quite a long haul but the view at the top made it worthwhile and the coffee tasted good. A welcome descent followed and then a woodland walk. Both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were added to our list and Goldcrest and Nuthatch among others. After a possible breakaway, we climbed the final hill of the day to a plateau with panoramic views. There was something for everyone in this walk including Orange-tip, Comma and Brimstone butterflies, a short, sharp shower with hail and a singing Mistle Thrush aka Stormcock. 36 species in all and many thanks to Jean for leading us. Nancy Barrett

Apr 24 2018

Tuesday 24 April – Puxton Leader: – Gareth Roberts

On an overcast day, 21 of us tried out this new walk starting at Puxton church with its leaning tower. There was plenty of birdsong in the village and churchyard: Greenfinch, Blackbird, Goldfinch, Robin, Blackcap, and the first of many Wrens were heard. After crossing a thousand year old oval field we headed to Avon Wildlife Trust’s Puxton Moor Reserve, part of the North Somerset Levels. Swallows and House Martins were seen in small numbers, and a Song Thrush was in fine voice. Approaching the reserve we heard the first of seven Reed Warblers in the narrow reed beds along the network of ditches, although they remained out of sight. A Reed Bunting was more obliging, seen on the scrub next to the reeds, and another seen flying. The first of three Grey Herons flew over. Eight Skylarks were seen or heard, some giving close views as they lifted off close to the path. After crossing a series of footbridges we had coffee by a splendid old willow, while a Cormorant kept us in view from a pylon. The first of two groups of Linnet flew over and a phrase of Yellowhammer song was heard. Leaving the moor there was Chiffchaff and Chaffinch song, and a Bullfinch was heard, but not seen, in the thick hedge along the lane. However, we had very good views of a Whitethroat singing on a wire. A Swift and a Sand Martin were seen by some, giving us a full house of hirundines. Approaching a patch of reeds where two Sedge Warblers had been seen a few days earlier, a brief snippet of their characteristic song was heard, but they remained elusive. There was a distant yaffle of Green Woodpecker as we passed a group of inquisitive cattle enjoying their first week on the new grass. Back in the village we had the extremes of Goldcrest and Buzzard. The enjoyable walk in a peaceful landscape had yielded 42 species. (Thanks to Gareth for leading, and to Nick Hawkridge for the bird list). Gareth Roberts

Apr 21 2018

Saturday 21 April – Ham Wall Leader: – Alastair Fraser

I have only been to Ham Wall once before to see the Starlings so I was looking forward to going there again to see the place in its springtime splendour. I was not disappointed. Nine of us met in the RSPB car park on a sunny morning but with a hint of mist, which complemented the beautiful setting of reed beds and marsh land. We set off on the Ham Wall loop stopping at the rail-bridge to spot our first of many Marsh Harrier sightings, five in all, and listen to the Chiffchaff and Cetti’s Warbler. Three Great White Egrets appeared to be nesting in the nearby reed beds and a Cuckoo was heard. Further on, the Cuckoo flew over our heads and perched in full view on a bare branch. Those with ‘scopes helped everyone admire our first Cuckoo of 2018. With new leaves just appearing, there were good chances to spot those birds often heard but difficult to see. We had good views of a pair of Blackcaps, Cetti’s Warbler and Chiffchaff. In the reed beds we saw Reed Bunting and had an excellent view of a Sedge Warbler singing away and showing its bright red mouth. A Reed Warbler was sighted further on by the Tor View hide. We heard Bitterns booming and eight were counted in all, (which was pretty good from a reported total of 19). I had not heard Bittern boom before which was one reason I wanted to participate in the walk so I was delighted to hear so many. Garganey were spotted twice as well as other wildfowl including Teal, Shoveler, Wigeon, Tufted Duck and Pochard. Alastair spotted three Common Sandpipers standing on a drowned tree trunk looking at water that seemed too deep for them. Robert and Ann saw two Whitethroats and Lesser Redpoll, which sadly the rest of the party missed. Nevertheless a highlight for me was seeing two Great Crested Grebes courting with head nodding and gifts of weed to each other and another pair who were past that stage because one had some tiny young perched on its back. My thanks again to those with ‘scopes who picked this out. I think we had a very successful day birdwatching, and thank you to Alastair for leading, and to the group for sharing their knowledge and making the day so enjoyable. Alison Hooper.

Apr 17 2018

Tuesday 17 April – Kings Wood and Wavering Down Leader: – Clive Burton

It was a grey and blustery day, not the best conditions for hearing the newly arrived warblers we were hoping to locate. There was some danger of the number of walkers exceeding the number of bird species as we headed up through the bluebell woods to the summit of Wavering Down “because it’s there”, and nearly got blown off the top, but once we dropped down into more sheltered regions we finally got the total up to over 30 species against 22 walkers. Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were singing lustily, about seven of each, though I couldn’t hear the one singing Willow Warbler picked out by sharper ears than mine. Two Nuthatches and a Treecreeper were nice finds, and we had good views of a Raven on the ground. A couple of Swallows were a welcome sight since the main arrival hadn’t yet happened. One lucky member wandered off on his own and found two Tree Pipits. The most unexpected sighting was of three Cranes flying over us, far too high to work out whether or not they were wearing the Slimbridge colours although they were certainly heading in the right direction for WWT. A Jay and two Green Woodpeckers were heard but not seen. Many thanks to Clive for leading the walk and for pointing out the Wood Anenomes, Lady’s-smock, Lesser Celandines and the just-appearing Bluebells amongst many other flower species in these beautiful woods. Jane Cumming

Apr 15 2018

Sunday 15 April – St Catherine’s Valley Leader: – Mike Jackson

In this location to the south of Marshfield, the ground soil in the valley lived up to that boggy name with ankle deep mud being the norm after, seemingly, months of rain. With a light mist but none of the forecast precipitation we set off to see what the late coming spring had to offer. As a warm-up we identified some standard stuff including several splendid Yellowhammers, then at quarter distance we were thrilled to hear the bubbling call of a Curlew. Though not seen we estimated it to be not that far away, but probably flying by, a field or two beyond. As the mood returned to bird-searching our gaze was directed at a singing Skylark, but it was interrupted by a dashing wading bird slightly more distant than the lark; Golden Plover was the shout, and a very welcome addition to our growing list. As we descended Ayford Lane the valley became a bowl of acoustics where the drumming of Great Spotted Woodpecker, and the ‘yaffling’ of Green Woodpecker, accompanied by ‘cronking’ Raven and broadcasting Mistle Thrush resonated around us. There was some energetic sparring between Buzzard and Raven of which we did not identify a victor, it was just good sport. Other than Chiffchaff and Blackcap, a lone Swallow and a couple of singing Willow Warblers were the extent of our summer visitors. Near the reservoir five Canada Geese and a Cormorant were, perhaps, expected, but the constant fly-past of Lesser Black-backed Gulls were more about passage movements than the presence of the water body.
When a falcon appeared all eyes went skyward to label it a Peregrine but as the bird quickly disappeared over the ridge it was replaced by an incoming lighter weight Kestrel, thus opening debate on the Peregrine identity. Yellowhammer had been prolific in the early stages but Nuthatch remained vocal throughout the walk, thus providing us with welcome opportunity to enjoy these fantastically attractive species. The nine of us ended up with a total of 41 species (Peregrine included), having walked around seven km in three and a half hours. Thanks to all attendees who made the morning so productive, and ultimately very enjoyable, despite the big muddy clean up that was so necessary at the end. (Many thanks to Mike for leading this rather muddy walk). Mike Jackson

Apr 10 2018

Tuesday 10 April – Hanham Leaders: – Karen Birmingham, Jean Oliver and Jenny Weeks

Twenty-five of us met on a damp grey morning for a muddy walk up through woodlands with bluebells just starting to show some colour, over the fields and back beside the river Avon, with the song of Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Wren frequently accompanying us. Thirty-three species were identified including a large parcel of Linnets, several Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, Goldcrest, Greenfinch, Nuthatch, Cormorant, Kingfisher, Mistle Thrush and Swallow. Grey Heron chicks were seen in one of the nine active nests in the heronry. (Many thanks to Karen, Jean and Jenny for leading this walk.) Karen Birmingham

Apr 07 2018

Saturday 07 April – Sand Point Leader: – Paul Gregory

As the rain poured down I did wonder how many willing wanderers might brave the weather for a migrant search on Sand Point. In fact eight of us made it and within half an hour the rain stopped and the birds started to show. There were lots of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps in the bushes but we failed to locate any Willow Warblers amongst them. Hirundine movement started soon after the rain and by the time we finished, over 200 Swallows had passed us heading east with a few House and Sand Martins to accompany them. A couple of Tree Pipits went over giving their “zip” calls and a nice Rock Pipit sat up on the rocks at the end of Sand Point allowing us to compare its greyness, black legs and strong black bill to the finer marked Meadow Pipits around. A male Wheatear gave us a bit of a run around but eventually gave itself up along the rocks on the south side. Middle Hope was quiet although we did locate a male Redstart along a hedgerow near the old admiralty site, which is always nice. A Peregrine gave good views on the return walk and we had regular encounters with Stonechats and Ravens. (Thank you Paul for leading.) Paul Gregory

Apr 03 2018

Tuesday 03 April – Winscombe – Leader Sue Watson

Rain threatened as 22 of us set off from Winscombe; however, we completed our walk in dry conditions with a little sunshine too. Crossing fields to Sandford Hill we heard a vociferous Wren and saw Jackdaw, Crow, Rook and a good variety of the usual suspects in the hedgerows, such as Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits plus a Lesser Black-backed Gull. Two large flocks of white domestic doves circled the area. Soon we passed the four donkeys, sharing their space with a squirrel. Up the hill we had a glimpse of a retreating Jay, clear views of Blackcap and, emerging from the wood, a brief glimpse of two tumbling Raven. There were lovely views before a grassy downhill where a Yellow Brimstone butterfly fluttered in the sunshine. Here in the next field were 50 crows on the ground. A Song Thrush entertained until a Chiffchaff took our attention and Fieldfare were also heard. Further along a beautiful pair of Kestrel swooped low across the lane and hedges, alighting on a wire and adding to our raptor score of five Buzzards. Later a Grey Heron left a garden pond to the clamour of Herring Gull mobbing. Our count included Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Goldfinch and some of us were lucky to be able to watch a Roe Deer cross two fields in the sunshine. Bird species counted: 37. (Very many thanks to Sue for leading this walk.) Sue Watson

Mar 27 2018

Tuesday, 27 March – Wick Leaders Duncan and Pat Gil

Maybe the forecasters hadn’t quite got the hang of British Summer Time as it was still raining at ten o’clock when
25 of us set off – but it did soon stop. Our first pause at the bridge showed how fast the river was running, so no
Dipper or Grey Wagtail. A Heron on the far bank was spotted and appeared to be in exactly the same place some
three hours later! Back-tracking we took the Red Ochre trail through Golden Valley – the mud showing it was
aptly named. Although the greyness of the day kept both song and sightings down, with patience and many pairs
of eyes, we were soon adding Robin, Wren, Dunnock, Blackcap, Blackbird and Great, Blue and Coal Tits to our
list and particularly enjoyed several Goldcrests more easily visible than usual in a bare deciduous tree. Plenty of
Nuthatches were calling and some eventually seen, as were Long-tailed Tits. Coffee at the quarry yielded good
close-ups for everyone of a Treecreeper. A Chiffchaff was seen by some and a Peregrine heard. When we heard
and then, on some feeders, saw Greenfinches, their relative rarity nowadays on Tuesday walks was commented
on. Both Mistle and Song Thrush were seen, but no winter thrushes. At another point near the river there were
Dipper signs on the top of rocks nearly submerged by the high, fast flowing water – but no Dipper! However a
Grey Wagtail was seen by some before the walk was over. 35 species were counted including 71 Jackdaws in
two groups. Thanks to Duncan and Pat Gill for leading. Nancy Barrett

Mar 20 2018

Tuesday 20 March – Greylake RSPB Reserve. Leader: Mark Watson

Thirteen members met at Greylake on a dry but cold morning and though the recent snow had gone from the
Levels and Moors the going underfoot was squelchy and some of the paths were closed due to the wet conditions.
In the car park we saw Reed Bunting, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Chaffinch and a flock of 25 Lapwings as we set off to
the lookout at the far end of the reserve. Some of us saw a Marsh Harrier in the distance but it quickly
disappeared behind a copse. We moved on around the reed beds to the viewpoint hearing a Cetti’s Warbler and
seeing Goldfinch, Mute Swans, Buzzard, Skylark, and a Fieldfare on the way. At the end of the path we all had a
good, if distant, view of two Marsh Harriers along with a few Mallards and ten Teal flying overhead. Four Great
White Egrets were on the marsh, occasionally flying short distances, a Little Egret was also feeding and a solitary
Cormorant passed by. As we moved on to the hides Water Rails were heard and six Snipe were close by on a
small island as we reached the hides. From the hides many Teal, Gadwall, Wigeon, Shoveler and Coot were on
the pools and we managed to locate two Pintails reasonably close by. A Grey Heron sat at a field edge and a
Kestrel hunted overhead as we walked back to the car park. One lucky birder saw a Cetti’s Warbler
uncharacteristically sitting in full view and Chiffchaffs were heard in the hedgerow. After lunch four of us went on
the Stathe and were rewarded with a good view of 14 Common Cranes on Aller Moor along with a couple of
Canada Geese, and also nearby a flock of 23 Little Egrets on the wet grassland next to the River Parrett giving a
total of 40 species. (Many thanks to Mark for leading.) ` Mark Watson