Bristol Ornithological Club
Apr 24 2018

Tuesday 24 April – Puxton Leader: – Gareth Roberts

On an overcast day, 21 of us tried out this new walk starting at Puxton church with its leaning tower. There was plenty of birdsong in the village and churchyard: Greenfinch, Blackbird, Goldfinch, Robin, Blackcap, and the first of many Wrens were heard. After crossing a thousand year old oval field we headed to Avon Wildlife Trust’s Puxton Moor Reserve, part of the North Somerset Levels. Swallows and House Martins were seen in small numbers, and a Song Thrush was in fine voice. Approaching the reserve we heard the first of seven Reed Warblers in the narrow reed beds along the network of ditches, although they remained out of sight. A Reed Bunting was more obliging, seen on the scrub next to the reeds, and another seen flying. The first of three Grey Herons flew over. Eight Skylarks were seen or heard, some giving close views as they lifted off close to the path. After crossing a series of footbridges we had coffee by a splendid old willow, while a Cormorant kept us in view from a pylon. The first of two groups of Linnet flew over and a phrase of Yellowhammer song was heard. Leaving the moor there was Chiffchaff and Chaffinch song, and a Bullfinch was heard, but not seen, in the thick hedge along the lane. However, we had very good views of a Whitethroat singing on a wire. A Swift and a Sand Martin were seen by some, giving us a full house of hirundines. Approaching a patch of reeds where two Sedge Warblers had been seen a few days earlier, a brief snippet of their characteristic song was heard, but they remained elusive. There was a distant yaffle of Green Woodpecker as we passed a group of inquisitive cattle enjoying their first week on the new grass. Back in the village we had the extremes of Goldcrest and Buzzard. The enjoyable walk in a peaceful landscape had yielded 42 species. (Thanks to Gareth for leading, and to Nick Hawkridge for the bird list). Gareth Roberts

Apr 21 2018

Saturday 21 April – Ham Wall Leader: – Alastair Fraser

I have only been to Ham Wall once before to see the Starlings so I was looking forward to going there again to see the place in its springtime splendour. I was not disappointed. Nine of us met in the RSPB car park on a sunny morning but with a hint of mist, which complemented the beautiful setting of reed beds and marsh land. We set off on the Ham Wall loop stopping at the rail-bridge to spot our first of many Marsh Harrier sightings, five in all, and listen to the Chiffchaff and Cetti’s Warbler. Three Great White Egrets appeared to be nesting in the nearby reed beds and a Cuckoo was heard. Further on, the Cuckoo flew over our heads and perched in full view on a bare branch. Those with ‘scopes helped everyone admire our first Cuckoo of 2018. With new leaves just appearing, there were good chances to spot those birds often heard but difficult to see. We had good views of a pair of Blackcaps, Cetti’s Warbler and Chiffchaff. In the reed beds we saw Reed Bunting and had an excellent view of a Sedge Warbler singing away and showing its bright red mouth. A Reed Warbler was sighted further on by the Tor View hide. We heard Bitterns booming and eight were counted in all, (which was pretty good from a reported total of 19). I had not heard Bittern boom before which was one reason I wanted to participate in the walk so I was delighted to hear so many. Garganey were spotted twice as well as other wildfowl including Teal, Shoveler, Wigeon, Tufted Duck and Pochard. Alastair spotted three Common Sandpipers standing on a drowned tree trunk looking at water that seemed too deep for them. Robert and Ann saw two Whitethroats and Lesser Redpoll, which sadly the rest of the party missed. Nevertheless a highlight for me was seeing two Great Crested Grebes courting with head nodding and gifts of weed to each other and another pair who were past that stage because one had some tiny young perched on its back. My thanks again to those with ‘scopes who picked this out. I think we had a very successful day birdwatching, and thank you to Alastair for leading, and to the group for sharing their knowledge and making the day so enjoyable. Alison Hooper.

Apr 17 2018

Tuesday 17 April – Kings Wood and Wavering Down Leader: – Clive Burton

It was a grey and blustery day, not the best conditions for hearing the newly arrived warblers we were hoping to locate. There was some danger of the number of walkers exceeding the number of bird species as we headed up through the bluebell woods to the summit of Wavering Down “because it’s there”, and nearly got blown off the top, but once we dropped down into more sheltered regions we finally got the total up to over 30 species against 22 walkers. Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were singing lustily, about seven of each, though I couldn’t hear the one singing Willow Warbler picked out by sharper ears than mine. Two Nuthatches and a Treecreeper were nice finds, and we had good views of a Raven on the ground. A couple of Swallows were a welcome sight since the main arrival hadn’t yet happened. One lucky member wandered off on his own and found two Tree Pipits. The most unexpected sighting was of three Cranes flying over us, far too high to work out whether or not they were wearing the Slimbridge colours although they were certainly heading in the right direction for WWT. A Jay and two Green Woodpeckers were heard but not seen. Many thanks to Clive for leading the walk and for pointing out the Wood Anenomes, Lady’s-smock, Lesser Celandines and the just-appearing Bluebells amongst many other flower species in these beautiful woods. Jane Cumming

Apr 15 2018

Sunday 15 April – St Catherine’s Valley Leader: – Mike Jackson

In this location to the south of Marshfield, the ground soil in the valley lived up to that boggy name with ankle deep mud being the norm after, seemingly, months of rain. With a light mist but none of the forecast precipitation we set off to see what the late coming spring had to offer. As a warm-up we identified some standard stuff including several splendid Yellowhammers, then at quarter distance we were thrilled to hear the bubbling call of a Curlew. Though not seen we estimated it to be not that far away, but probably flying by, a field or two beyond. As the mood returned to bird-searching our gaze was directed at a singing Skylark, but it was interrupted by a dashing wading bird slightly more distant than the lark; Golden Plover was the shout, and a very welcome addition to our growing list. As we descended Ayford Lane the valley became a bowl of acoustics where the drumming of Great Spotted Woodpecker, and the ‘yaffling’ of Green Woodpecker, accompanied by ‘cronking’ Raven and broadcasting Mistle Thrush resonated around us. There was some energetic sparring between Buzzard and Raven of which we did not identify a victor, it was just good sport. Other than Chiffchaff and Blackcap, a lone Swallow and a couple of singing Willow Warblers were the extent of our summer visitors. Near the reservoir five Canada Geese and a Cormorant were, perhaps, expected, but the constant fly-past of Lesser Black-backed Gulls were more about passage movements than the presence of the water body.
When a falcon appeared all eyes went skyward to label it a Peregrine but as the bird quickly disappeared over the ridge it was replaced by an incoming lighter weight Kestrel, thus opening debate on the Peregrine identity. Yellowhammer had been prolific in the early stages but Nuthatch remained vocal throughout the walk, thus providing us with welcome opportunity to enjoy these fantastically attractive species. The nine of us ended up with a total of 41 species (Peregrine included), having walked around seven km in three and a half hours. Thanks to all attendees who made the morning so productive, and ultimately very enjoyable, despite the big muddy clean up that was so necessary at the end. (Many thanks to Mike for leading this rather muddy walk). Mike Jackson

Apr 10 2018

Tuesday 10 April – Hanham Leaders: – Karen Birmingham, Jean Oliver and Jenny Weeks

Twenty-five of us met on a damp grey morning for a muddy walk up through woodlands with bluebells just starting to show some colour, over the fields and back beside the river Avon, with the song of Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Wren frequently accompanying us. Thirty-three species were identified including a large parcel of Linnets, several Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, Goldcrest, Greenfinch, Nuthatch, Cormorant, Kingfisher, Mistle Thrush and Swallow. Grey Heron chicks were seen in one of the nine active nests in the heronry. (Many thanks to Karen, Jean and Jenny for leading this walk.) Karen Birmingham