Leaving Bristol on a damp morning the skies brightened as we approached Devon. On leaving the coach at Exminster we made our way down towards the canal and to greet us were Devon’s iconic bird, a pair of Cirl Buntings sitting at the top of a hedge near the Swans Nest pub giving some of us brief views before they flew off. As we made our way along the lane the fields held good numbers of Wigeon on the floods with Shoveler, Teal, Lapwing and Curlew and along the canal tow path skeins of Brent Geese were flying over us heading for the fields as the tide was coming in. We stopped at the Turf’s Lock to view the river across towards Topsham. Here we had good views of Dunlin, Grey Plover, and large numbers of Golden Plover with smaller groups of Redshank, Sanderling, Knot, Black and Bar-tailed Godwits. Avocets were in good numbers here, with about 200 birds, and the river channels produced Red-breasted Mergansers. We walked down the river to Powderham to meet up with the coach. We found a few Stonechats on the way and moved on to Dawlish Warren. Birding from the sea wall on the Warren we could see about 60 Great Crested Grebe on the water, our first view of Great Northern Diver, Red-throated Diver, Shag, Gannet, and a single Common Scoter, Turnstone and Rock Pipit. As we walked along the sand dunes towards Warren Point we stopped to look out at sea, once again finding more Great Northern Diver, Long-tailed Duck and a single Eider. At the hide on Warren Point the waders were coming into roost on the high tide, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Knot, Sanderling and Oystercatchers. The sight of these waders flying around calling as they attempted to settle on the gravel islands was a spectacle. Here we also found more Red-breasted Mergansers, Great Northern Divers, and distantly a single Slavonian Grebe. Smaller birds were very few with Linnet and Goldfinch noted. Also some of the group managed to find Siskin and Goldcrests around the woodland near the visitors centre, but, unfortunately, not the reported Firecrest. After an enjoyable day, weather dry and warm, we left Dawlish heading home with a day’s species list of 72. Many thanks to all who joined me on the coach supporting the BOC. (Thanks to Gordon for leading) Gordon Youdale
Thirty two walkers who met at the Kendleshire Golf Club were not deterred by a cloudy, drizzly morning for a four and a half mile walk – golfers were, however, absent because of a very wet course. We started the walk with Blackbirds and Robin calling and a flock of Redwings flying by. The ponds on the course, as well as being traps for golfers, usually have a variety for water birds and we saw Mute Swan, Grey Heron, Moorhen, Mallard, Canada Geese and an Egyptian Goose – no Coot though. As we moved on from the Golf Course we had excellent views of two very smart Mistle Thrushes and not long after four Song Thrushes nearby. A Green Woodpecker was heard on the way to our short coffee stop and Chaffinch, Great Tit and Dunnock moved around the hedgerows as we walked on to Westerleigh. On the way back to the car park a few Fieldfare flew by and about 17 Yellowhammer were moving between a grass field and mature hedgerow whilst in the distance beyond a colourful Jay flew to the same hedge. As we neared the end of the walk three Goldcrest and a Nuthatch were in a small woodland along with Long-tailed Tits and a Treecreeper. Despite the weather we had an enjoyable walk and saw 38 species but most unusually for a Tuesday walk no Buzzards. Many thanks to Duncan and Pat for leading. Mark Watson
This was a joint meeting of BOC and the Ornithological section of Bristol Naturalists’. Five of us met in the car park at RSPB Greylake on a morning of heavy rain. Visibility was fairly restricted due to mist and the rain, however, eight Snipe gave really close views from the hide. It was good to see a Water Rail fully out in the open strutting amongst the many loafing Teal and Wigeon. As with other wetland areas, however, the number of migratory wildfowl seemed to be fewer this winter, perhaps due to less severe conditions in Europe. A sign of the times was that there were more sightings of Great White Egret than Little Egret; perhaps an indication of the breeding success of the larger bird on the Somerset Levels last year. More than once the flocks of wildfowl and Lapwing took to the air, successively, indicating the probable presence of a raptor but, frustratingly, nothing was seen in the gloom. On the bird tables in the car park three Reed Buntings appeared with the more common species of tit and finch. We then drove through flood water pouring off the fields to the Somerset Wildlife Trust reserve at Catcott. The sight of a number of elegant Pintail were the highlight of the afternoon. Conditions were far from ideal for the Starling roost and therefore the meeting was cut short on a day when birding, to say the least, was rather challenging. (Thanks to Mike for leading) Mike Johnson
21 Birders met on a sunny morning with a cold wind blowing. We began with a circuit of the lake which was, unfortunately, rather quiet. One Cormorant was in the Willow on the island, Mute Swans were seen with the usual Muscovy Duck, Moorhens, two Coots, four Canada Geese, one Gadwall, two Shovelers and Mallard. The flock of gulls, mostly, Black-headed, included several Common Gulls and a Lesser Black-backed Gull. A party of eight Tufted Ducks were at the far end of the lake and a Water Rail was heard. There were good views of a Great Spotted Woodpecker and two more were seen later on the walk. In the lanes and fields towards Chelvey we saw plenty of Redwings. The Alders held Goldfinches and a Treecreeper but alas no Siskin or Redpoll. A Raven croaked as it flew over and a pair of Stonechat gave good views along with a Song Thrush and two Mistle Thrushes. It was muddy walking over Morgan’s Hill but Chaffinch and Greenfinch were seen. A total of 41 species were recorded. The first Snowdrops were out and several fungi including Velvet Shank were seen. Thanks to Sue and John Prince for leading. Richard Belson
23 members turned up on a rather cool and cloudy day for this morning walk. As we gathered there were five Meadow Pipits obligingly sat in a tree over the road, as well as a few Fieldfare and Redwing in the taller trees.
Immediately after crossing the busy A420 we saw a pair of Stonechats in a ploughed field. As we continued on the footpath bordering the fields (accosted by a biting wind) we ‘scoped’ a variety of Pied Wagtails, Fieldfares and Meadow Pipits in the stubble. In the far distance a massive mixed flock of birds were seen but were too difficult to identify. We had good views of a Kestrel hovering near the farm and a mixed group of finches and Starlings were seen moving between the ground and a nearby tree. A single Yellowhammer was noted. Absent were the Skylarks which usually abound here and the Corn Buntings. Jackdaw, Crows and Rooks were seen and a Wren sheltering in the crevices of a stone wall (and who could blame it!). As we got to Rushmead Lane we turned right and immediately had a Raven fly overhead. We continued to the junction with the Tormarton Road which is usually a good spot for Corn Buntings and were rewarded by a small group perching in a tree. On the other side of the Tormarton Road we saw Collared Dove, more Fieldfare and Chaffinch. Skylark could be heard in the distance. A possible Peregrine identified by its flight was seen flying over. As we returned along Rushmead Lane we had a group of approximately 25 Golden Plover fly over. Down in the valley to our left a number of hunters were out shooting, a single Pheasant was noted but, unsurprisingly, no Red-legged Partridge. As we approached the junction to turn left and complete our walk we saw a large number of Fieldfare on the field to our right, whilst on the left a small group of Yellowhammers were seen. Overall 25 species were listed. We were somewhat frustrated by poor light and multiple small and large groups of birds in the far distance which defied identification.
(Thanks to Sue for leading) Sue Kempson
The weather was cold and misty as 15 of us gathered in the RSPB car park at Ham Wall, not ideal conditions to see the Starlings coming in to roost later. After a brief period before Christmas roosting on Shapwick Heath the Starlings had returned to Ham Wall after the festivities. Blue Tit, Great Tit and Chaffinch were on the feeders and fliting back and forth to the hedgerow, where Wren, Dunnock and Robin were also found. A pair of Pied Wagtails appeared and a single Mute Swan serenely paddled along on the pond next to the car park. Moving along to the first viewing platform we heard a Cetti’s Warbler and passed Mallard, Coot and Gadwall on the pools to the right. At the platform Shelduck, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Pochard and a Great White Egret were before us. A Snipe flew over the reed beds and a male Marsh Harrier quartered the beds giving excellent views of its brown, pale grey and black tipped wings despite the poor visibility. We were also able to see a female and male (probably the same one) further on at the Avalon Hide. On the way to the hide Reed Warblers were heard and a flock of Linnets flew over and a few Goldfinches were in the hedgerow trees along with Jackdaw and a Carrion Crow towards the woodland across the Marsh. After a brief stop for tea/coffee we moved on towards where the Starlings had been recently roosting, well down the old railway track towards the far end of the reserve. After a slow start it was apparent the at least three roosts were in use; one near some of our group at the end of the reserve, one further away beyond trees across the marsh and another beyond the first viewing platform where we passed chattering Starlings when leaving. The best murmuration was distant but there were several thousand starlings dropping onto the nearby reeds next to the track and passing just over our heads. A single Bittern was flying low over the reeds. In between Starling arrivals, a Bullfinch flew across the track and a small flock of Fieldfares also passed by before we headed home. In all 41 species were seen and we had a reasonable show of Starlings even though conditions were not ideal. (Thanks to Mark for leading) Mark Watson
Well, what a day! It was pouring with rain, an amazing eleven walkers in full wet gear, and seventeen Hawfinches seen, a 21st century record for Avon. Starting by the church we soon found a Redwing, but little else. The gate at the bottom of the lakes was deep in mud so out in the wind along the open road to the University. A flock of 50 Redwings were put up by a dog walker ahead of us, along with many Black-headed and Common Gulls. We took shelter around the University buildings, before setting out towards the Keep. A Cormorant could be seen below on the lake with some Teal, Moorhen and a Grey Heron, while a Song Thrush scuttled into the undergrowth. Some finches flew over us, rather large and heavy in flight. Our boys, we guessed excitedly. Getting the binoculars on them showed we had seven Hawfinches, the largest group so far reported in Avon this winter. They quickly disappeared across the lake, followed by an eighth. A Mistle Thrush stayed behind looking down on us, while some Goldfinches twittered. Eagerly we followed the Hawfinches round the lake, but they kept moving ahead of us, then circled back. Those in front saw a flock of seven or so fly back across the lake, and then four more. Our guest, Glen Maddison, set off back to see if the Hawfinches had returned to the first location. The tail end of our walkers hung back, waiting for Glen to report and were pleased with an obliging Goldcrest showing well. From that position they were treated to good views of at least twelve and possibly 17 Hawfinch. Glen’s group finally caught up with the main party for a late coffee stop in the shelter of the pavilion. Hawfinch excitement was very high! A quick visit to the bottom lake revealed a male Goosander, which flew to top lake, later joined by a female. All of us decided to go in search of the Hawfinch again. More were seen with better views; also some Greenfinches and Mistle Thrushes, but no decision on the number of Hawfinches. Wayne Tucker of NSL birding took over the search while we had to set off back. Later he confirmed the full 17 Hawfinches, seen all in flight in one go. We had presided over a record sighting. On our walk back we had Pied Wagtails, two Ravens, twelve Long-tailed and two Coal Tits, both Woodpeckers, and more Goldcrests, bringing our total to 40 species. It was an excellent morning’s birding all round and thanks to everyone. Anne Crow
Thanks to all the 27 members who turned up for this meeting – a very good showing, and a very good showing of birds too, with 64 species logged. About a half of these were noted on our way to (and from) and at the Holden Tower. It was quite a scrummage in the tower as people tried to see everything! Bewick Swans, White-fronted and Greylag Geese were all on show, as well as Canadas, Barnacles and a lone Red-breasted Goose (genuine?). All the expected duck species were seen – eight in all. But the waders were attracting most attention and in particular, two Little Stint which proved rather elusive for some of us, but ticked off by all eventually. The ten species seen, as well as the Stints, were Golden Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin, Ruff, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank and a couple of Avocets, although these were seen best from the Zeiss hide where there were more Snipe. The expected Peregrine was seen and a Buzzard or two watched from fence and hedge. Just as most of the party had left the Holden Tower a Hawfinch was seen there – perhaps the star bird of the morning. We were by now heading through the grounds ‘mopping up’ passerines as gulls (five species) sailed around. These included Redwing, Song and Mistle Thrush, Cetti’s Warbler, Goldcrest and Treecreeper, as well as the expected tits, crows and finches. A swimming Water Rail was spotted from the Kingfisher hide. The weather was mostly kind to us and it was a great morning’s birding. (Thanks to Robin for leading) Robin Prytherch
We were twelve at the start and we all saw the first bird on the list – a Goldcrest, which came out of the car park hedge and hung in the trees by the café, giving most of us time to get close with our ‘bins’ – well done Judy. As we walked to the bridge, a further member joined us, Richard, the patch man himself. We squelched along the right bank of the River Frome, which was fast flowing, very high, turbulent and muddy-looking. Up then through the woods to the corner of the hospital having heard a distant Raven calling, seen the usual tit species, two Treecreepers and a cross-looking Buzzard that threaded its way through the branches before alighting and staring down at us. The Magpie count started in the woods and ended at 15 for the day, the Long-tailed Tit 26 – seen in six small flocks, the biggest being eight. We walked past the allotments, where the rear of the party saw Nuthatch, round the new-build homes – Song Thrush and House Sparrow and then onto the playing fields. Only a dozen Black-headed Gulls were feeding on the grass but they were quickly moved on by the dog walkers. A sighting of Coal Tit was made by some and his call heard by most. He was the last bird we saw before we stopped by the fallen tree for coffee. A Redwing was seen as we supped and Starling passed through the gaps in the trees. On our return journey, we were able, thankfully, to walk down the bank of the river even though it was muddy and slippery. The tally built nicely against each species, and we were able to add, most excitingly for Richard, a Little Grebe. It was busily feeding just past the Rhododendrons and among some Mallards – well done Jan for that one. The total for the day was 27, with the final bird being a Jay (well done Lois), seen as we climbed into the cars, in my case heading home to a Boxing Day lunch with family. (Thanks for turning out to lead, Nick.)
A group of 22 set out from the White Hart Inn on what turned out to be quite a pleasant winter’s day, which was clearer than expected with some sun. We immediately saw a number of common species which included House Sparrow, Magpie, Chaffinch, and Jackdaw. A little further on we heard a Green Woodpecker which then gave us a fleeting view. We left the road and walked alongside a field in which there were a large number of birds feeding on the ground. Although at this time of year we may not see as many species on a walk the total number of birds seen is often higher. In this field we saw Blackbird (nine), Fieldfare (179), Redwing (67) and Starling (98) – these numbers being the total seen on the walk. We added Song Thrush and a flock of 100 plus Wood Pigeon, followed by Wren, Goldfinch, Collared Dove, Coal Tit and Dunnock. A Bullfinch and a Pheasant were heard. As we followed a path between two fields a female Stonechat was spotted, quickly followed by the male which gave us an excellent view. From the same spot the winter sun enabled us to have a nice view of a male Yellowhammer in a distant hedge. A flock of 28 Linnets was seen and we added Rook, Herring Gull, Buzzard, Long-tailed Tit, a pair of Mallard and Grey Wagtail. As we approached the end of the walk some of the group saw a Sparrowhawk and others saw Lesser Black-backed gull and Common Gull. Thanks to Nick for keeping a record of the species and numbers seen and to David for leading the walk. Mike Landen