Bristol Ornithological Club
Jan 28 2014

Tuesday 28 January – Backwell lake

 14 walkers met at Morgan’s Hill in Nailsea. There were two heavy showers during the morning but we escaped getting really wet and when the sun broke through it felt mild. We even found a few snowdrops in flower. A circuit of the lake gave us good views of two male and a female Goosander, Tufted Ducks and a female Pochard. The usual Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Mallard, Coots and Moorhens were joined by a mixed bag of farmyard ducks and two Muscovy ducks. We were much amused by a Herring Gull that had found a tennis ball and was playing bouncy ball and rolling it down a slope. It flew off with the ball. Finally a Grey Heron was seen by the reeds. Along Youngwood Lane we had Buzzards, Redwings and Fieldfares, a Mistle Thrush and two Goldcrests in a Holly bush. The lanes were very muddy but we saw all the usual small birds, Blue, Great, and Long-tailed Tits, Robins, Dunnocks as well as Woodpigeons and a Collared Dove. We had four good-sized flocks of Goldfinches keeping up a stream of contact calls as they flew through the trees. One person managed to see a Bullfinch and another found a Jay. We also found three Common Gulls where a field was very soggy. Altogether a pleasant quiet walk with goods views of Chelvey Church and across to Backwell Hill. In one place, the lane had flooded but most had come prepared with wellington boots. A total of 37 species were seen, fewer than usual, which reflects the mild winter so far.

Jan 25 2014

Saturday and Sunday 25/26 January – Poole and Wareham Forest

 The ground might have been water-logged but the air was dry on Saturday morning when we met at Sherford Bridge to begin our walk through the varied habitat of Wareham Forest. We saw a Moorhen walking the river bank and Song and Mistle Thrushes were singing. As we progressed we saw a Goldcrest, a pair of Ravens, a Carrion Crow, Buzzard, Grey Heron and Cormorant and a Kestrel. Further on we noted Robin, Dunnock, Treecreeper, Grey Wagtail, Coal Tit and Bullfinch for our list. A pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers were photographed and in the open heathland Dartford Warbler and Stonechat hopped in and out of the gorse. We enjoyed our lunch break at Lawson Clump, where a Peregrine obligingly circled above until seen by just about everyone. On to Middlebere Farm where a male Hen Harrier treated us to a wonderful display, followed five minutes later by a female Marsh Harrier. The lower hide added Teal, Shelduck, Little Egret, Lapwing, Dunlin and Grey Plover plus a probable Yellow Legged Gull. From alongside the hide on the hill above the farm we looked down on Little Grebe, a Green Sandpiper, and a flock of Brent Geese. We were grateful for the good weather as the forecast for the Sunday was dire.
On Sunday those who took a pre-breakfast walk along the coastal footpath stayed dry, enjoying the song of several Blackbirds, Wren and House Sparrow while Gulls, Crow, Pied Wagtail and Sparrowhawk flew by. But after breakfast the heavens opened and so we set off for the comparative shelter of the hide at Brand’s Bay on Poole Harbour. Huddled together in the middle of the hide we were rewarded with two Sandwich Terns, one adult and one first winter, a Great Northern Diver, Bar-tailed Godwits, Wigeon, Curlew, Redshank, Dunlin, Avocets, Oystercatchers, Ringed Plover, Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls, and a pair of Red -breasted Mergansers. Having decided to abandon Poole Harbour and the torrential rain, we took the Ferry across to Sandbanks, adding Shag, Mallard and Turnstones to our list, with a possible Red-necked Grebe, then on to Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve. By now the rain had stopped and on the feeders outside the Visitor Centre Siskin and Greenfinches were busy. From the Woodland Hide we watched Lesser Redpoll visiting the feeders just outside the large glass window, soon joined, to the delight of everyone, by Mealy Redpoll, giving clear views of their distinctive features, while a tiny Vole scurried around in the leaf litter below. This Reserve was new to many of us and well worth a return visit. Also seen here were Black-necked Grebe, Goldeneye (displaying males), Pintail, Great Crested Grebe, Chaffinch, Nuthatch, Reed Bunting, Pheasant, Collared Dove, Rook, Shoveler, Pochard, Teal, Gadwall, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Tufted Duck, Pintail, Egyptian Goose, Goldeneye, Jay, Long-tailed Tits, and Coal Tits.

Jan 21 2014

Tuesday 21 January – Meare Heath and Ham Wall

 19 members met in the Natural England car park on an overcast and breezy afternoon. We first walked down to the viewing platforms overlooking the Ham Wall reedbeds. A couple of members were really lucky on the way down to have a brief glimpse of an otter swimming in the adjacent South Drain; a rare sighting during daylight. The open water areas contained a good variety of birds including Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Mute Swan, Great Crested Grebe, Greylag and Canada Goose. A female Marsh Harrier drifted over the reedbed and Sparrowhawk and Buzzard completed the raptor list. We had a couple of views of a Great White Egret and it was nice to compare size with a nearby Little Egret. We then walked through part of the Meare Heath reserve as we had heard that the starlings had roosted there on the previous evening. On the way a few Redwings and Fieldfares flew over and a Water Rail “squealed”. Groups of Starlings, some of several thousand in number began to swirl in from every direction. Unfortunately, they chose to roost in a part of the reserve that was partly obscured by trees and they were not in the air for long. The spectacle, therefore, was not as impressive has had been hoped. 45 species however was a respectable total for the afternoon.

Jan 18 2014

Saturday 18 January – Eastville Park

 Eight BOC members turned out on a grey day; the rain held off until 1pm and we had sunshine for part of the walk. From the car park we followed the path round the playing field, then went on the Frome River Walkway, passing the lake and along the river path and the Jewish Cemetery before returning to the car park. We spotted approx 30 Black-headed Gulls, a Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Herring Gull and a small flock of unidentified finches flew over. We saw Moorhen, Mallard, Canada Geese, Mute Swan and a Grey Heron busy fishing in the lake. Great Tit, Blue Tit, Song Thrush, Robin, Wren, Dunnock and Blackbird were singing and calling repeatedly. We also saw Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Raven, Rook, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow. We also had a very good views of Jay and a Tree Creeper. Whilst we were looking for a Great Spotted Woodpecker a Sparrow Hawk flew over our heads. House Sparrows were foraging on the common, which made the magic total of 30 species to be recorded on the day.

Jan 14 2014

Tuesday 14 January – Badminton

 A sparkling sunny, frosty morning attracted 19 members. The walk, led by Peter Holbrook, began with a flurry of activity with feeders in a garden and the woodland on the edge of the village producing Goldfinch, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Blackcap, Chaffinch, Robin, House Sparrow, Mistle Thrush and Buzzard to name just a few. As we continued along the fringe of the wood we saw Jackdaw, Collared Dove, Raven, Wren and Dunnock. Then things became strangely quiet and for an hour or more we saw no birdlife whatsoever, even though conditions were perfect. Those who had been on previous winter walks here recalled seeing large flocks of Yellowhammer adorning the hedgerows and drystone walls as well as other species. This time they were all absent. We consoled ourselves that the glorious morning compensated for the lack of birds, and it was not until we reached the Badminton estate that things perked up. We knew a Little Owl had been seen here on previous walks and right on cue a Little Owl was seen briefly on the roof of a dovecot. As we walked through the estate we saw Pied Wagtail, 200-plus Starlings wheeling above the oaks, and flocks of Redwing busily feeding on the grass. The “chack, chack” calls of a distant flock of Fieldfare could be heard and a pair of Mute Swan glided on the lake. Total species, 32.