Bristol Ornithological Club
Nov 27 2018

Tuesday 27 November – Wain’s Hill and Clevedon Pill Leader: Peter Holbrook

Clevedon was windy, overcast with a hint of drizzle as 19 members set off along the promenade towards Wain’s
Hill. Half a dozen Turnstones were seen as well as at least 90 Black-headed Gulls. As we moved on to Poets’
Walk, Blue and Long-tailed Tits were seen and heard and a solitary Jay was sitting in an Ash tree. A Nuthatch
was heard and then seen behind us. As we walked through the woodland, Robin, Wren, Dunnock and Blackbird
were added to the list. As we approached the headland two Goosanders were paddling furiously below us, and a
small flock of 12 Oystercatchers flew low over the water. The sky was darkening and the promised heavy rain
looked likely as we stopped for coffee and also to see about 50 Redshanks feeding at the water’s edge at the
outlet of the Blind Yeo. A flock of 40 Fieldfares appeared and a few Shelducks were seen. We walked along the
Blind Yeo for a short distance as the weather worsened and the walk was shortened as the rain came in. A Grey
Heron sat across the river and a lone Grey Wagtail was added to the list. A few lucky folk had a fleeting glimpse
of a Merlin on the riverbank. By the time we got back to the parked cars the rain was heavy. Nevertheless we had
a good, if shorter than planned, stroll and chalked up 35 species. Thanks to Peter for leading. Mark Watson

Nov 25 2018

Sunday 25 November – WWT Steart Leader: Richard Belson

Eventually 14 BOC members met in the WWT car park for this all-day visit. Unfortunately, some arrivals had been
delayed by the loading of bullocks into transport vans, which temporarily blocked the access road. The day was
rather cold and cloudy with a 15 mph wind adding to the chill factor. However, whilst in the car park we were treated to the sight of twelve Cattle Egrets flying overhead and in the distance sky – flocks of thousands of
Lapwings and Golden Plover with the odd Dunlin. As we headed off into the reserve, we saw Song Thrush,
Chaffinch, Grey Herons, Starlings, Redwings and Kestrel. At the Mendip Hide we saw Shelduck, Dunlin, Mallard
and some Redshanks. In the field behind was a flock of approximately 50 Stock Doves mingled with
Woodpigeons. As we went on to Quantock Hide, we had some blue sky overhead and were rewarded by views of
good numbers of Shelducks as well as Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Little Grebe, three Spoonbills, Snipe, Little Egret,
Black-tailed Godwit and a single juvenile male Pintail. A flock of 40 Skylarks were also present. Again, we had
excellent views of massive flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover. As we progressed to the Polden Hide we added
Blue Tit, Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting, Curlew, Stonechat, Fieldfare and Buzzard to our list. We returned to the
car park for a quick lunch following which nine of us went on to the Natural England car park to walk to the Breach.
We had seven Greylag Geese fly overhead, unusual for this area. Disappointingly, there was little to be seen
when we reached the Breach; however, our patience was rewarded when a male Marsh Harrier arrived flying over
the reed bed. It then spent a good 15 minutes flitting up and down in the vegetation. Initially we were concerned
that it might be caught or tethered, but eventually it flew off with a large unidentified prey in its talons. Shortly after
this a female “ring tail” Hen Harrier flew by. It circled and, as it came by again, a Merlin pursued it; all of which
disturbed a Peregrine. At one point all three birds were in sights of our binoculars. At the same time a Great White Egret flew by. To top it all, as we were driving back along the road, we had lovely views of a Short-eared Owl
quartering the field. Overall, a really good days birding, with 46 species listed. Many thanks to Richard for leading.
Sue Kempson

Nov 20 2018

Tuesday 20 November – Hambrook Leader: Dave Body

Forecast as a very cold day with a biting wind, 36 walkers still turned out for this walk – a good deal of which
followed the Frome Valley walkway route. A Dipper was an early spot, along with various tits, 12 Long-tailed
among them. The narrow path did mean the group was well strung out and not all saw the 32 species that were
noted. The crow family was well represented with Carrion Crow, Jay, Jackdaw, Magpie and also two Rooks.
Water-related species were Grey Heron, Grey Wagtail, Mallard, Moorhen, Lesser Black-backed, Black-headed,
Common and Herring Gulls. Wrens were heard often and some seen. Surprisingly, our only member of the
thrush family was one Redwing, very well lit by the sun, which warmed us on occasions, and posing next to a
bunch of red berries. It had taken up the perch of a “query” bird, finally identified as a Yellowhammer. It was
good to see lots of Chaffinches about and some of the group were lucky enough to get good views of a male
Bullfinch. This walk was a “Dave Tombs walk” that we had not done for a long time and proved very worthwhile.
Thanks to Dave for leading. Nancy Barrett

Nov 13 2018

Tuesday 13 November – Saltford Leader: Robert Hargreaves

On a fine, sunny morning 36 of us arrived in Saltford; so many that car parking had to spread all along the river.
Those parked in the designated “The Shallows” were treated to the sight of a hovering, diving Kingfisher, soon
joined by a second flash of electric-blue. A Greenfinch wheezed as we set off to join fellow walkers on the cycle
path bridge over the river Avon. Their treat had been the sight of nine Buzzards in one field – remarkable! A
short walk along the cycle track brought brief sights and sounds of many small birds, a few Redwings, two
Collared Doves and a Jay. Turning right off the cycle track and in the fields around were large numbers of Pied
Wagtails. The footpath continued through the farm where six Red-legged Partridges were spotted. At the coffee
stop a lone Cormorant was spotted perched quietly in a tree to add to the three flying Cormorants seen on our
walk and we enjoyed a flight of 24 Jackdaws. We continued down through the fields reaching the river at
Swineford weir. Here was a pair of Mute Swans, two Moorhens. The next leg took us along the riverbank with
interesting finds by various groups: including a Cetti’s Warbler, a Chiffchaff, one Little Grebe and a Kestrel.
Passing under the railway bridge along the field edge brought us back to the cycle path near Avon Riverside
Station. This led us back to Saltford allowing us to sharpen our senses to cope with the cyclists and to enjoy the
birds in the trees and bushes bordering the path. These included two Treecreepers, two flocks of Long-tailed Tits,
two Great Spotted Woodpeckers and one Song Thrush. We had seen many common birds like the plentiful
Goldfinch (two flights of 25 and 30) and handsome Chaffinch; the total number of species was 42. The weather
and scenery were lovely and everyone seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed the walk. Thanks to our leader,
Robert. Anne Crowe

Nov 06 2018

Tuesday 06 November – Goblin Combe Leader: Alastair Fraser

Orange was a theme for this new walk through Goblin Combe as, despite the overcast weather, the beeches and
birches were at their late autumn best. Before entering the wood we had seen Blue Tit, Great Tit, and the first of
eight Long-tailed Tits. A Mistle Thrush stood out on a bare tree and Goldfinches flew over. Going up the wooded
valley we heard Robin and Goldcrest, and then Coal Tits were seen and heard calling. To much excitement the
experts picked out the call of two Marsh Tits, confirmed by sight. We climbed up to a clearing on the ridge where
Raven and Buzzard were glimpsed as was a fine view to the Severn Estuary. At coffee we were joined by a family
group of 14 small goats, grazing on behalf of the Avon Wildlife Trust and the first of eight Fieldfares and three
Jays were seen. We soon came to a very productive open space. Two Bullfinches were seen, having been picked
up by call. A flock of 20 Chaffinches were moving among the distant trees, and a second flock of 40 a little later.
Four Greenfinches were seen nearby. As we returned to the start along the ridge we had a glorious view of
orange Larch in the valley. We also had the familiar orange wing and tail colours of avis facilis on its unseasonal
migration from the south to its roost at Lulsgate. A flock of 20 Jackdaws was seen in a paddock across the valley.
Dunnock, Wren, and Collared Dove completed our total of 26 species. Many thanks to Alastair for leading this
interesting and scenic walk. Gareth Roberts

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