Bristol Ornithological Club
Oct 30 2018

Tuesday 30 October – Elm Farm, Burnett Leader Roger Palmer and Phillipa Paget

Thirty six of us set off from Elm Farm on a fresh, dry autumnal morning. Initially we went along a level track for
about 30 minutes before turning right into the valley crossing several fields with adjacent hedgerows and woods.
Two Roe Deer eyed us suspiciously from a nearby field. Early birds included a Green Woodpecker, Long-tailed
Tit, Goldfinch and Chaffinch. Small groups of thrushes were seen at a distance before they eventually came
close enough to be identified as Fieldfare and Redwing. The highlight of this section was probably the
Yellowhammer which perched conveniently on top of a bush for all to see. Coffee break was taken overlooking
the lower half of the valley where two Buzzards sat on top of two telegraph poles together with a distant Grey
Heron. The latter part of the walk took us through a copse and an orchard at the bottom of the valley and then up
the long lane which brought us back up to the farm. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen in the orchard and
two Bullfinches, Goldcrest and a Grey Wagtail were added to the list. A Common Gull was picked out amongst a
group of Black-headed Gulls which were in a field next to the stream and a few saw a Sparrowhawk as we reentered
the farm. Throughout the morning Philippa updated us on agricultural developments on the farm whilst
Roger told us of the wildlife changes, in particular the success or otherwise of the many bird boxes located here,
pointing out one Kestrel box which had produced five youngsters this year. Throughout the morning we were
accompanied overhead by lots of corvids and flocks of Woodpigeons not to mention several aircraft making their
final approach into Bristol Airport. The final bird count was 36. Thanks to Roger Palmer and Philippa for an
interesting morning. John Lees

Oct 27 2018

Saturday 27 October – Newport Wetlands Leader Mike Jackson

Not many field trip reports bother mentioning Woodpigeon but on our approach to Newport Wetlands, and during
the first hour and a half, Woodpigeons were passing southwards at around 1,000 birds every five to ten minutes.
It would be no exaggeration to estimate in excess of 10,000 passed southwards by 10:30. Six of us had gathered
at the car park in full sunshine, although the temperature was only just above freezing. Both White and Pied
Wagtail showed and the first of many Cetti’s Warbler sang. Our walk began with more reed-bed classics; Reed
Bunting and Marsh Harrier. The latter was a silhouette against the sun but we thought it probably a female or
juvenile. There was appetite for winter thrushes but a hoped for Redwing dashed out of sight before positive
identification could be made. Another species out of sight was Bearded Tit. We were told by the warden that five
had been present, but in a reed-bed of this size and with the wind picking up later, a sighting was not to be.
Another species not seen, but heard well, was Water Rail which frequently squealed from the dense reeds.
Peregrine and Kestrel represented the falcons, and a Stonechat perched openly affording good views. A
Chiffchaff showed its approval of the sunshine by serenading us with its two-note song. The open waters were
quiet with Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Little Grebe the only birds of interest. On the coast, the falling tide attracted
a steady stream of Curlews and a couple of groups of 30 plus Dunlins. Shelduck, Teal and Wigeon were on the
estuarine water. Then we had one of those Cetti’s Warbler moments as one sang from the short, skinny hedge
next to the path. This one had to be a dead cert. Up to ten minutes later we’re still staring into this ‘gappy’ hedge
two metres away with absolutely no view of a Cetti’s whatsoever, despite the continuous song constantly
providing a reference point. In the breeze the walk back to the Visitor’s Centre was less productive. Song Thrush
and Green Woodpecker showed, and a late Buzzard was our fourth raptor. The count of House Sparrows at the
feeding station made our list exactly 50 species. Thanks to all attending members for sharing bird sightings, and
for being good company. (Thanks to Mike for leading the walk.) Mike Jackson

Oct 23 2018

Tuesday 23 October – Blaise Castle Leader Di Bunniss

A glorious autumn day encouraged a group of 44 to come along for the walk through Blaise Castle Estate. We set
off past the mansion house and museum, heading down Church Lane into the grounds of St Mary’s Church.
There we sighted a flock of 17 Greenfinches plus one lone Pied Wagtail. The walk continued through the tunnel
and up onto Henbury Hill where Blackbirds were spotted along with the Robins, Magpies, Crows and Jackdaws.
These appeared throughout the walk. On the path winding down to Hazel Brook, keen eyes and ears soon picked
out the Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Coal Tit, Mistle Thrush, Wren and Long-tailed Tits. As we reached the
stream there flew above us a flock of Redwings, early arrivals for the winter. An exciting view of two Marsh Tits
was also noted in this area. On the steady climb up to the castle a Raven called loudly and was spotted flying
over Gorams Chair on the other side of the gorge. We reached the Castle just gone 11:00, so perfect timing to
pause and enjoy the morning break with plenty of space for the large group to find somewhere to settle. On we
went, Pied Piper fashion, to the long meadows of Kings Weston Drive. These proved disappointing, though two
Jays made a bold appearance in the undergrowth, scrabbling among the leaves for food. Taking the quiet Grove
Road back to re-enter the woods at a lower point, the group bringing up the rear were rewarded with a display
from a Grey Wagtail close by in the brook that appeared unconcerned by the many people who stood watching it.
And finally the Buzzard made an appearance, perched on a tree and remaining in good view while the group
passed by. Other birds seen or heard were Black-headed Gull, Wood Pigeon, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Great Spotted
Woodpecker and Sparrow. All together 26 species. Many thanks to Nick for keeping a record of species seen.
(Thanks to Di for leading.) Di Bunniss

Oct 16 2018

Tuesday 16 October – Uphill Leader Jane Cumming

On an overcast but very mild day, seventeen people gathered at Uphill beach despite the threat of being made to
count ducks and waders all morning. The beach here at the mouth of the River Axe is so flat that there is a huge
difference between the height of the spring and neap tides. Today’s high tide got nowhere near the sea defences
and Black Rock was hardly surrounded by water at all. This allows a lot of waders to hide in the long grass across
the river without getting flushed out to higher ground so it’s difficult to know whether we managed to see them all.
We only saw 30 Dunlin but there could have been a lot more in deep vegetation on the Brean Down side. We
started with the very numerous Shelducks scattered across the estuary, making a rough count of 380. Freshwater
duck numbers were lower with 60 Mallard, 31 Teal (mainly on pools and along the muddy banks of the Axe) and
42 Wigeon, just back for the winter. We turned our attention to the Oystercatchers, some on Black Rock and
others scattered about the tidal margins, and got to 69 of those, with a few Black-tailed Godwits feeding amongst
them – eight at the final count. There were very few Curlews, only nine for certain, but at least 35 Lapwings
feeding on the tidal mud and well over 150 Redshank in small parties along the river’s edge. We walked over the
salt marsh towards the marina. A Sparrowhawk shot low over our heads and swooped up to do battle with a
Kestrel over the marshes. There was the usual wintering Little Grebe on the freshwater pool by the caravan park,
but no sign of the Black Redstart that sometimes spends the winter around the quarry. Along the hedgerow we
looked and listened for small birds; the tit flock included a Chiffchaff but all the Redwings were flyovers, not
settling in the berry bushes. On Walborough Hill we scanned the river, where we had better views of a couple of
Little Egrets and roosts of mainly Black-headed Gulls of which there were about 450 all told. No Mute Swans – the
winter herd is not back yet. Hundreds of Starlings were flying in close formation, some swirling around over the
Levels, others apparently moving north-east overhead. Skylarks and Meadow Pipits drifted over the hilltop in
small groups. Those with telescopes picked out a couple of Roe Deer browsing peacefully in the meadows behind
Brean. It was a pleasant if not an outstanding morning. The numbers of birds using the estuary are starting to rise
towards winter levels, but there will certainly be more next time. (Thanks to Jane for leading) Jane Cumming

Oct 14 2018

Sunday 14 October – Portland Leader Robert Hargreaves

We met at Ferrybridge with misty rain and high winds, and at high tide. Not much to see, except by the Chesil
outlet a small group of waders remained on the few stones still above the water. A few Skylarks called as we
walked down to see them, a couple of Brent Geese stopped on the fleet, but by the time we reached a spot to see
the waders, they had been frightened off by some other birders leaning over the railings right above them. Still
hiding in the seaweed were three Turnstones. Straight to the Bill and first the Observatory, where we were
welcomed by Martin Cade, the warden, and a couple of Kestrels in the gardens, a lot of warblers, mostly
Chiffchaffs, but talk of a Yellow-browed Warbler. Sue was the first to find it and had good views along with a
Willow Warbler. A walk to the quarry revealed Stock Dove, Blackcap and Whitethroat. At the Bill Swallows were
still passing through, Rock and Meadow Pipits, a Wheatear, but seabirds were few, two Gannets, two Auks and
the Shags. On the way back we made a visit to Suckthumb quarry via Thumb Lane. Seemed very dead at first but
we started seeing quite a few birds. Unfortunately, all were silhouettes and flew just out of sight each time, only
Raven being identified. From one of the bushes came singing which none of us could recognize, a mix of many
Warbler songs. Playing it to a local expert on leaving we were advised it was the sub-song of a Blackcap. Unusual!
Deciding not to stop at Ferrybridge on the way back we could see a flock of Brent Geese as we passed. Pulling in
at the pub we counted 82 Brent Geese, which flew off north. Along the edge of the shore were Ringed Plover,
Dunlin, Turnstone, Oystercatcher and a Godwit which turned out to be a Bar-tail. Coffee at Radipole and the
water was high. No sign of yesterday’s Lesser Yellowlegs, unfortunately, it had flown from Weymouth overnight.
But a Snipe was seen on the little island off the café. A walk produced Shoveler and Gadwall, a Great White Egret,
Cetti’s Warbler and House Martin. A last stop at Lodmoor, the biting north-east wind blowing straight in at us,
gave our first Lapwing, Wigeon and some Black-tailed Godwits. Surprisingly, we had 70 different birds over the
day, the unmentioned Mediterranean Gulls seen everywhere. Thanks to the two new members, Sue and Mark, for
accompanying Anne and me around. (Thanks to Robert for leading) Robert Hargreaves