Bristol Ornithological Club
Oct 28 2014

Tuesday 28 October – Ashton Court – 1000th Tuesday walk

But first, the report of the very first BOC Tuesday walk in November 1994:

 Nine members met in the car park at Snuff Mills at 10 am on a cool and overcast morning. It was generally considered that the murky conditions would not lead to a dynamic morning of birding and that we should concentrate on the bonus of mid-week exercise and conversation … Suddenly, on the first bridge, the morning was transformed. A Grey Wagtail was seen foraging on the bank. In an adjacent tree, just about within touching distance a pair of Kingfishers sparkled in the dull light, close enough even to spot the female’s diagnostic orange base to the lower mandible. Almost directly underneath them a pair of Dippers bobbed and dived in the water. … It was a most enjoyable mid-week meeting and it is hoped that many more will be arranged. Our thanks go to David Tombs for his genial and informative leadership. “Mike Johnson”

Now todays.

 The popularity of these Tuesday walks has grown and grown, as illustrated by the presence of 41 birders, plus three grandchildren, who met to enjoy the birds of Ashton Court and to celebrate the anniversary. Skylarks singing above the golf course car park was an auspicious start. Then came the call of Great Tits as we made our way, in glorious sunshine, down towards the Red Deer Park. Here even the song of the Wren was almost drowned out by the bellowing of one of the stags, although the hinds seemed distinctly disinterested in the autumn rut. The first of several Buzzards put in an appearance circling over the City ground, happily free of the attention of the many corvids that appeared to be everywhere. As we approached the formal gardens the swarms of ladybirds flying about were so numerous they were actually bumping into us. At Church Lodge car park we were greeted by the welcome sight of Peter Holbrook together with celebration cakes and drinks. Sadly, neither of the founders of these Tuesday walks could be present. Steve Kirk has recently passed on and David Tombs was away on holiday. But our appreciation goes out to them for starting this series of very enjoyable mid-week walks, with every opportunity for newcomers to learn from more experienced birders. Before we embarked on the return journey through Church Wood and the Fallow Deer Park, photographs were taken to record the occasion and provide publicity for the Club. The walkers outnumbered the species of bird seen and heard by 2:1 (a count of just 21), but there were enough individual birds (181, including 43 Woodpigeons) for everyone to get good views, whether of Gulls, Thrushes, Starlings and Long-tailed Tits flying overhead or the small woodland birds flitting about amongst the trees.

1000th Tue walk - Ashton Court

1000th Tue walk – Ashton Court

Here’s to the 2000th walk in 2034! Many thanks to the bakers, Sue Watson and Peter Holbrook, and to the bartender, Mark Watson. Brenda Page

Oct 25 2014

Sunday 25 October – WWT Slimbridge (extra to programme)

 On a mild sunny day we started our bird count working along to the Holden Tower just after high tide getting an impressive number of wild ducks. We then cut across to South Lake to add some waders and gulls to our list. Amongst the numerous Black-headed Gulls and Herring Gulls there were a few Common Gulls and one darker individual that was lighter than a Lesser Black-backed Gull – we later found out that this was a hybrid Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gull! We had lunch in the Peng hide adding Golden Plover and seeing a hybrid Cape-Ruddy Shelduck (apparently it was too dark for a Ruddy). In the afternoon we toured the collection birds and managed to identify all birds seen. A total of 147 species were seen despite the tropical house birds playing hard to get. (Thanks to Louise for organising this meeting) Louise Bailey

Oct 21 2014

Tuesday 21 October – Hengrove Mounds / Manor Woods

 On a fine but windy day the first part of the walk was around Hengrove Mounds, an old landfill site behind Cineworld. A group of 15 set off up a short wet slope and then followed the path along a belt of trees. Initial sightings were of Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon, and Herring Gull moving rapidly across the sky on the strong wind. A Wren was heard in the undergrowth and Long-tailed Tits flitted above. As we walked around the old tip Goldfinches were heard and seen in the hedgerow and overhead a Lesser Black-backed Gull was spotted along with Magpie and Robin. We arrived back at Cineworld car park having added Blue Tit to the list and had coffee before moving on to Manor Woods. This hidden green space with the river Malago flowing through it provided more interest with Black-headed Gulls overhead, a Jay in the treetops and a good view of a Goldcrest alongside the path. A Mallard was heard and on our return through the woodland by the Malago we had wonderful views of a male and female Grey Wagtail perched and catching insects, and on the stream four unexpected Teal. Overall, 22 species were seen. Thanks to Mike Landen and Roger Bingham who made sure we followed the correct route as Margaret Swatton was unable to lead due to unforeseen circumstances.Mark Watson


Oct 19 2014

Sunday 19 October – RSPB Ham Wall

 It was a sunny but windy day for our walk around the RSPB’s Ham Wall reserve. Bob Buck and John Crispin (both RSPB volunteers and experts at identifying birds) were our guides for the morning. We were going “off piste” into the conservation area of the reserve which members of the public don’t normally have access to. This was going to be real treat! Right from the start birds were popping up everywhere – either seen or heard. To kick off were Chiffchaff, Pied Wagtail, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Cetti’s Warbler. One member spotted a late Swallow who must have missed the last bus! There was a number of Stonechats, both male and female, and a stunning Reed Bunting posing beautifully on a swaying reed. As we progressed deeper into the reserve and looked out over lagoons, we spotted a lovely family group of Mute Swans with three young, gliding gracefully across the water. Great White and Little Egrets were present giving us the opportunity to note the difference in size. Wildfowl were in abundance including Gadwall, Wigeon, Pochard, Shoveler, Teal and Mallard; and John gave us some very useful tips for identifying wildfowl in flight. A flock of Lapwings obligingly did a few circuits overhead and we were able to pick out three Snipe within it. During the walk we had a brilliant sighting of a Marsh Harrier quartering over the reedbeds. There was some debate over whether this was a female or young juvenile male, a point which remained inconclusive. We also spotted a Buzzard and this provided a great opportunity to check the differences between the two birds of prey. Bearded Tits proved a little elusive probably due to the windy conditions, but at last they were heard ‘pinging’ and a couple of members had a brief glimpse. Water Rail was also heard but not seen. On the latter part of the walk we were treated to three Ruff feeding in the shallow water, and were able to get good views of three Snipe on the edge of the water (possibly the same ones we saw flying earlier). To round off the walk at the last viewing platform, a Bittern obligingly did a fly-past for us! Throughout the walk we were accompanied by a variety of flying insects including Southern Hawker and Ruddy Darter dragonflies, a Red Admiral butterfly, and a Hornet, and John drew our attention to a couple of specimens of otter spraint. The total number of birds recorded was 43. Many thanks to Bob and John for leading such an interesting and educational walk.          Linda Moysey

Oct 14 2014

Tuesday 14 October – Severn Beach

 Despite the rain pouring down all night and a forbidding forecast, six intrepid members gathered for the high tide at Severn Beach. Their dedication was rewarded by the number and variety of birds they saw through their rain-spattered lenses. There were large flocks of Starlings swirling in the sky, flocks of Dunlin and Turnstones on the shore together with Ringed Plovers running over the beach. Walking towards the Severn Bridge we saw Pied Wagtail, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw and a Little Egret flew overhead. Further towards New Passage there were House Sparrows, flocks of mixed white doves and Woodpigeon plus Black-headed and Herring Gulls over the estuary. On the inlet we saw Teal, Wigeon, Mallard, Grey Heron, Redshank and in the distance large numbers of Dunlin and Curlew. Inland was a flock of Canada Geese and, in the bushes around the house, a flock of mixed tits – Blue, Long-tailed, Great and Coal. Two of us saw a Goldcrest; but there were also Chaffinch, Mistle Thrush, Rock and Meadow Pipits, Blackbird, a Robin and a potential alba wagtail. On the return to our cars, as the sun seemed to be breaking through over the Welsh coast, but not on our side, our chilled damp spirits were lifted by the sight of a Sparrowhawk gliding over the river. Altogether 36 species recorded, so thank you Peter. Ruth Stanton