This was a joint meeting of Bristol Ornithological Club and Bristol Naturalists’ Society with an attendance of 28. We met at New Fancy View car park and climbed up to the viewing platform. The birds were generally quiet although Siskin were heard. On the way down some were fortunate to have a splendid view of a male Crossbill at the top of a conifer. We then had a walk around one of the Cannop Ponds. A number of Mandarin Duck were seen including eclipse males, females and juveniles. Grey Wagtails, both adult and juveniles, were active around the outfall. Swallows and Swifts hunted insects over the water.
We then drove to the car park beyond Speech House and walked up to the Crabtree Hill clearing. Linnets and a Stonechat were seen and heard as we positioned ourselves for the main target species of the evening. After about 20 minutes the first “churring” was heard indicating that a Nightjar was indeed present. There then followed a magical half hour, right through dusk, of frequent sightings of Nightjar, some close enough to observe the white spots on the wings of the males. There were at least four birds and the highlight was seeing a bird perching lengthwise on a branch giving a marvellous view in silhouette. About 40 species were encountered during the evening. (Thanks to Mike for coping with quite a large multi-club trip.) Mike Johnson
We set off from the Crown Inn, Churchill on a grey morning with rain forecast to visit the National Trust land at Dolebury Warren which is managed by Avon Wildlife Trust. As 14 of us left the car park Robin, Wood Pigeon, Carrion Crows and House Sparrow were seen or heard. On a short path though woodland we descended to cross the A38 seeing Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit and a Song Thrush. We took the easier way up onto Dolebury Warren Hillfort and on the way more Blue Tit and a Coal Tit appeared. Once on top of the fort we walked around the boundary dyke seeing Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls overhead and a few Swallows doing aerial acrobatics – always great to see. Going through scrub to the far end of our walk a Linnet provided excellent views on top of a hawthorn bush and numerous Goldfinch chattered and flew about, occasionally landing on the scrub. Whilst taking coffee four Green Woodpeckers flew back and forth along the edge of some woodland and occasionally sat on a tussock of grass allowing a reasonable view, though as is the way of things they more often than not sat behind tussocks. A heavy downpour happily coincided with a canopy of trees so we donned waterproofs for the return journey which had the satisfactory result that after five minutes the rain stopped and it stayed dry to the end of the walk. The return added Buzzard, Meadow Pipit, Kestrel, Bullfinch, Mistle Thrush and Blackcap to our list giving a total 27 species. (Thanks to Mark for leading.) Mark Watson
Robin, Alastair and I met in Shirehampton from which it was barely a two-hour drive to Dinas, rather than the three hours threatened in Club News. What a pity that no-one else joined us for a pleasant and peaceful walk through this lovely old oak forest with a rushing torrent running through it and high hills on all sides. There were still plenty of Wood Warblers dancing through the oak leaves, now uttering a somewhat half-hearted trilling song, and Redstarts with juveniles around the woodland edges. We saw two or three Spotted Flycatchers but were unable to locate a Pied Flycatcher – they breed here, but perhaps have already disappeared into the high canopy with their fledglings. The boulder-clogged river produced a Dipper and both Pied and Grey Wagtails. Overhead, Swallows and House Martins hunted, and across the river on a steep grassy slope we picked out a Stonechat family and a Wheatear. Ravens ‘cronked’ overhead now and then and we saw one each of Buzzard and Red Kite. Wrens were still in good voice and the woodlands held Song and Mistle Thrush, all five of the expected tit species and a few more common warblers.
After a picnic lunch watching a Great Tit coming in for mealworms, we went up to the local reservoir where Robin thought he heard a Tree Pipit, and then checked out another quiet valley or two full of Swallows and Redstarts, but not the Common Sandpipers we were looking for. However, we had a lovely day in this wild and empty part of Wales. Thanks to Robin for leading and Alastair for driving. Jane Cumming
This is a really lovely walk across open hills and through wooded combes on top of the Mendips, and 23 members turned up to enjoy it. Song had definitely quietened down, with Song Thrushes and Wrens still making plenty of noise but hardly a peep from Robins and Blackbirds. The warblers were still singing – the group heard Blackcaps, Whitethroat, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers. Plenty of Swallows and House Martins were swooping about overhead. On the highest footpath we encountered Meadow Pipits and a family of Stonechats. In the woodlands we found a family of Nuthatches, a Treecreeper and a Goldcrest. The target bird, Redstart, held out until nearly the end of the walk, but we found at least one adult and a juvenile by the reedy pool close to the car park where we’d started. Other species included a Buzzard, Stock Doves and a Reed Bunting. Two people took a shortcut back to the car park and were rewarded with views of a family of Spotted Flycatchers which the rest of us missed. A selection of crows, tits and finches took my total to 33 species but I suspect I missed a few. Thanks to Geoff for leading one of the most scenic walks in our calendar and for only overrunning by 45 minutes!
Despite the breeding failure of the Avon Gorge birds this year, the two day watch period still enabled visitors to the site to observe both adult birds who had remained in the area watching over their territory. On June 24 the two birds were mainly seen perched in various locations on the Leigh Woods side of the Gorge. During the first watch, I was at the site and saw a juvenile Peregrine fly towards the site from the direction of Avonmouth. It circled around in the area for about four or five minutes then turned and headed off back in the direction of Avonmouth. The remainder of the day both adult birds were observed either flying around the Gorge or perched.
On June 25 once again both adult birds were observed by visitors either perched in various trees once again on the Leigh Woods side of the Gorge. There were two close-up fly-pasts during the morning by the birds much to the enjoyment of our visitors. Unfortunately, a short sharp squall came in from the direction of Avonmouth which caused our members to shut up their scopes until it had passed over. During the afternoon, most of the time both adults were in view to visitors again, either circling around above the site or perched. At about 15:45 both birds flew off down the Gorge in the direction of the Suspension Bridge and did not return for the remainder of the watch.
Three new members were signed up plus two others who made enquiries and took away the various membership documents to fill out later. Lots of Peregrine leaflets were handed out to interested parties who visited us. All in all, it was a very successful and worthwhile watch weekend.
Thanks go to the following members who gave up their time to this watch weekend:
Barry Gray, Gareth Roberts, Julie/Peter Ottley, Robert Hargreaves, Jenny Ellis, William Earp, Judith Craddock, Alastair Fraser, Judy Copeland, Jean Oliver, Phyl Dykes, Mandy Leivers, Annie Davis, Brenda Page, Charles Stapleton, Cecille Gillard.
As this is the last Watch weekend that I shall be organising, (but will still carry out a shift when I can), I should like to thank all our Club members who during the 16 years that I have been running the watch weekends have given their time to make this event the success it has been. Very many thanks and especially to Brenda Page who took on the role of assisting me by organising and getting the members for the Watch weekends. Charles Stapleton