Bristol Ornithological Club
Dec 29 2015

Tuesday 29 December – Severn Beach

For the last Tuesday walk of the year a group of 31 set off from Severn Beach on a bright December morning. The good weather forecast and the opportunity of some exercise after the Christmas festivities ensured a high turnout! The estuary was at the top of the tide as we set off so we concentrated on the bushes and trees at the opposite side of the path to the estuary. We started with a flock of about 30 House Sparrows in one bush and quickly added Collared Dove, Carrion Crow, Robin and Magpie as well as a Blue Tit, Great Tit, Wood Pigeon and Stock Dove. There were flocks of Starlings of about 22 and 11 and 25 birds and we also saw Dunnock and Wren. Keeping an eye on the estuary gave us good numbers of Black-headed Gull and a couple of Curlews flying south west. We passed under the ‘new’ Severn Bridge and as we reached more open ground we saw eight Goldfinches) and 15 Meadow Pipits. Approaching Northwick Warth we had the nice sight of a flock of about 120 Lapwings (we saw another flock of about 240 birds later). We spent some time at the Warth as there was the usual variety of wetland birds and, of course, it gave us the chance to take our 11 am stop for a drink. There were very good numbers of birds around that included 59 Oystercatcher, 500 Widgeon, 28 Redshank, 24 Shelduck, 170 Dunlin, 155 Teal, 60 Shoveler and seven Gadwall. We also saw Mute Swan, Grey Heron and two Dark-bellied Brent Geese. At this point some of the group returned to Severn Beach. Those of us who carried on saw a Grey Wagtail and had excellent views of a Stonechat. Further sightings included Pochard, Pied Wagtail, Common Gull, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Little Grebe and some of the group saw a Reed Bunting. Thank you to David Body for agreeing to lead ‘at the last minute’ and to Nick Hawkridge for keeping his usual accurate bird list and we finished with a nice round total of 50 species. Mike Landen



Dec 22 2015

Tuesday 22 December – Snuff Mills.

Overcast, but still shirtsleeves weather (for some!) on this solstice day with a temperature very close to that of the summer solstice! We 30 gathered to pay homage to the bird population of the River Frome and Vassall’s Park. Moorhen was the first species – two bobbing in the strong current and perilously close to the weir. In the trees on the south side of the river the first Goldcrest were sighted; never still, needle-beaked, miniature dynamos. Not much further into the wood a straggling party of Long-tailed Tit moved about with Blue and Great Tits. A brilliant Jay was admired by us but was not on too friendly terms with the cackling Magpie who were seen over every leg of our walk. A Peregrine was heard and then seen by some of those lurking at the back of the string of walkers, and another spied a Redwing disappearing into a holly bush – never to emerge while watched. Our coffee stop produced a flash of yellow which turned out to be a Green Woodpecker, who gave most of the diners a good display. Through the park and down towards Frenchay bridge where the treetops were simply alive with little birds: Goldcrest, Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed Tit – at least seven of each species all feeding wildly. A Nuthatch close by showed how tiny the others were. A quick look upstream over the bridge for a Kingfisher, but nothing – ah, but there was! Sharp eyes found one low down with his belly facing to show creamy pink. It flew most obligingly downstream affording most of us a good lens full. A dog flushed a female Grey Wagtail when we continued downriver, where a Grey Heron got up and demonstrated its flying skills, threading those vast wings through the brush and trees. Our final close encounter with a male Kingfisher was on crossing the footbridge, where it perched within a few feet of us – stunning. Some of the party enjoyed a Sparrowhawk at close range, but everyone stopped to watch a diaphanously-branched Alder, top heavy with more Goldcrest. The final total of 33 was pretty good for this mid-winter day. (Many thanks for leading Nick.) Nick Hawkridge

Dec 15 2015

Tuesday 15 December – Newton St Loe

It was mild and murky as 33 of us set off, the poor light not aiding identification. This was a shorter than usual walk – a prelude to the Christmas lunch – but it proved very productive. Led jointly by Peter Holbrook and Duncan and Pat Gill, we heard Raven and in a Lime tree saw a mixed flock of Goldfinches, Chaffinches and Greenfinches. Assorted gulls were in the fields, including 150 Common Gulls. Then came the only Buzzard of the day, plus 50 Starlings, followed by large numbers of Corvids, including Jackdaw “grooming” sheep. On the first lake were ten Goosanders – equal numbers of male and female – and a Grey Heron was perched attentively in a tree above the water. Most of us had good views of two Kingfishers at the second lake, where fisheries staff were hauling in a huge net to remove thousands of tiny fish from the over-populated lake (presumably something not appreciated by the Kingfishers!).A flock of 40 Linnet was seen, then a Treecreeper, Grey Wagtail, Long-tailed Tits, a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Dunnock and Goldcrest. A total of 43 species, the count being taken by Nick Hawkridge. 47 of us later attended the festive lunch at the Riverside Inn, Saltford, where Mark Watson thanked Peter for organising the event and told us that, in 2015, 23 leaders (including David Tombs, who had led 163 walks since 1994) led 52 walks. Mark, who appealed for more members to volunteer to lead walks in 2016, was presented with a birding book by Nick as a thank you for organising the Tuesday walks. John Beaven

Dec 13 2015

Sunday 13 December – Portland & Lodmoor

Ferrybridge immediately rewarded us with 30 plus Brent Geese and 20 plus Mediterranean Gulls. A Skylark dropped over and the first of many Turnstones flew round the shop. In the Harbour there were long discussions over a diver, Black-throated or Great Northern, and an auk. Just as we got them in the scope they’d dive again. We finally decided on Great Northern and Razorbill. There were also about 30 Mergansers. At the end of the day they were by the shore at Fleet. At Portland Castle the Black Redstart eluded us, but another Razorbill, and Great Northern Diver were close in, with Shags sitting among the Cormorants, and Rock Pipits flitting about. As we left, a Chiffchaff popped out of a hedge. A Portland Bill sea watch gave Gannets, Kittiwake, Fulmar, endless Guillemot and Razorbills and seven Scoter. As usual the Little Owl was perched under the rock in the quarry, and three Buzzards sat in line. As at Battery Point, the Purple Sandpipers were nowhere to be seen. Calling in at Lodmoor on the way home there were three Black-tailed Godwits, Lapwing and Dunlin. There were eight species of ducks, the Teal only 20 feet away. The Lapwing flew up and a Marsh Harrier dropped into the reeds, and then flying across the reeds was a Merlin. Altogether 60 species were seen. Thanks to Sue and John Prince for leading. Robert Hargreaves


Dec 08 2015

Tuesday 08 December – Portishead

42 people met, with the weather warm and bright to start. The sea front was alive with activity, seeing Meadow Pipits, Pied Wagtail, a tree full of Starlings, Goldfinch, three Reed Buntings, a Curlew, two Ringed Plovers, and Common Gull. On the lake were seen swimming Greylag Goose, Mallard, Moorhen, Coot, Mute Swan and many Black-headed Gulls. We then made our way to Battery Point and as the tide was out the Purple Sandpipers were not seen but three Rock Pipits were. We made our way through East Wood seeing Blue, Great and Coal Tits and, also seen by some, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Treecreeper and Nuthatch. Once we got to the pier we found two Great Black-backed Gulls, Grey Heron, Redshank and approx 800/1000 Dunlins feeding on the mud across from the dock. About this time the heavens opened with a very heavy downpour and at the end of the dock was a lone Cormorant and 20 odd Canada Geese. A total of 39 species seen, so not quite our target of one bird species each. (Thanks Geoff.) Geoff Harris