Field trip reports

Trip Reports

  • Tuesday 29 October – Blaise Castle Leader : Di Bunniss Tuesday October 29th, 2019

    The autumn weather stayed dry and cool as the group gathered for this walk through the Blaise estate. We passed by the mansion and took a short lane to the churchyard where a lone Mistle Thrush was seen perched high above us. From there we took the path out and through the short tunnel to emerge in Henbury field where sharp eyes spotted a Goldcrest darting among the branches. The trees along the field edge looked splendid in their autumn colours. Taking the path down to the mill, more birds were seen including Great Tits, Coal Tits, Blue Tits and two Goldcrest, whilst a bold Robin watched us with curiosity. On the edge of the stream was a Grey Wagtail, blending well with the background but showing a flash of yellow as it hopped from one stone to another. Following a climb to the castle (taken slowly, as it is quite steep) we arrived in time to find a perch and enjoy our coffee break where two Rooks were seen and heard. A flock of Redwing then flew overhead. I believe a flock was seen earlier in the walk… possibly this was the same group? Rested and refreshed we followed the path which eventually took us to the cobbled drive leading down to the top of Grove Road, which runs parallel with the woods. A little track led past a field with donkeys and back into the woods. Raven, Jay, Wren, Nuthatch, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Goldcrest had all been heard or seen by this point. Another Grey Wagtail was spotted in the stream and a flock of Long-tailed Tits in the trees. On the final stretch back to the parking area we heard the distinct call of a Tawny Owl. A total of 25 species were recorded. Many thanks to Nick for keeping the bird record. (Thanks to Di for leading) Di Bunniss

  • Tuesday 22 October – Tickenham Leaders : Lois Pryce and Jan Pridie Tuesday October 22nd, 2019

    30 members met on a radiantly warm day to walk Tickenham’s moors and wooded ridge. This was nearly a month later than our usual walk date, so it was interesting to see the differences in birds found. This included a flyover Fieldfare and Redwing, Tit flocks in the woods with Blue, Great, Coal, Marsh and Long-tailed, as well as Nuthatch, Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker, plenty of Jays – and a Bullfinch which we rarely see. And on the partially flooded moors – a flock of 120 Black-headed Gulls with 40 Lapwings flying higher with a few Dunlins. Other birds in the lowlands included Mute Swans, Little Egret, Rooks, Meadow Pipits, Grey Wagtail, Stonechats and Chaffinch, while Ravens, Buzzards and a Kestrel flew above. A total of 38 species. (Thanks to Lois and Jan for leading.) Lois Pryce

  • Tuesday 15 October – Hawkesbury Upton Leader: Nick Hawkridge Tuesday October 15th, 2019

    A fat, puffed up Woodpigeon was dozing on a TV aerial, when its reverie was disturbed by the settling of 15 Starlings, exit stage left – one pigeon. The Starling count (43) was only bettered by Common Gull; c140. As the road climbed slightly, more and more gulls were revealed, all searching for food in the pasture. Linnets, Crows, Jackdaws and a constant flow of Skylark all flew over as we sauntered along part of Marshfield Track. Our attention was drawn to a bush, upon which sat a little bird. The ideas as to its parentage were varied, until finally our intrepid treasurer slunk across behind a wall to get a closer look – Yellowhammer. Just over the rise and in site of the coffee stop, a Snipe whizzed away and half a dozen Swallows flew across the face of the wood in a most determined way. Now our coffee stop would not be complete without a Buzzard, so to find, in Bodkin Hazel Wood, a Nuthatch was a bonus. A Stonechat was spotted; a Great Spotted Woodpecker and Jay were heard as we walked towards Horton Court and in the trees at the start of Walk Wood a pair of Song Thrush and a Mistle Thrush dashed about in the tops. The Cotswold Way was joined and we found further Yellowhammer and a bold Sparrowhawk seen from the path. The ‘Way’ gives most splendid views out over the River Severn. A Pied Wagtail was sitting on top of the Cricket Pavilion and proved to be our final species, making the total up to 36. Thanks to the 26 who turned up on a day with a rainy forecast but which, happily, was nice and sunny. (Thanks to Nick for leading.) Nick Hawkridge

  • Tuesday 08 October – Old Down, Tockington Leader: Sue Black Tuesday October 08th, 2019

    On a morning of gathering gloom and a forecast of rain and wind, a goodly gathering of about 20 set off from Old Down cricket club, having first spotted two Common Gulls and a Black-headed Gull on the playing field. One of the last Swallows flew over our heads. Across the cricket pitch and down the hill towards Tockington Manor, we gathered Robins, Woodpigeons in small flocks, Carrion Crows, and finally on the Tockington school rugby pitch a large number (31) of Pied Wagtails. Here also were seen Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and Mistle Thrush. A Grey Heron sailed past, and a flock of starlings. Between ploughed fields with Rooks, Carrion Crows and Magpies, a Skylark was heard, and a Buzzard appeared, the latter prompting a shout for coffee! Into Sheepcombe Brake and through the woods, where the Jays were busy foraging for winter. Up through a stand of Turkey Oaks to the road where further passerines were added to the count, including Long-Tailed Tits. Near the end of the walk Rob spotted a male Peregrine. Despite the overcast weather we saw Green-veined White and Red Admiral butterflies. After two hours without a drop of rain, our luck ran out and there was a deluge, leading to a hasty and wet end to the outing. Thank you Nick for keeping the record of species seen, a tally of 29. (Thanks to Sue for leading.) Sue Black

  • Sunday 06 October – Portland Bill: Leader Jane Cumming Sunday October 06th, 2019

    Half a dozen people met at Ferrybridge on a bright sunny day with a brisk south-westerly wind. Unfortunately, that describes the least productive conditions at Portland where the birding tends to be much better in a howling easterly or poor weather – fog or rain – to bring seabirds and migrants into the Bill. The birding today was, not surprisingly, a bit rubbish. We checked out the tideline at Ferrybridge, finding two Little Egrets, 43 Oystercatchers, a couple of Bar-tailed Godwits and more Mediterranean Gulls (55) than Black-headed. Ten Skylarks were foraging on a thinly vegetated stony area. On to Portland Bill for a sea watch, where Gannets, Shags and a handful of Razorbills were passing to and fro unconcerned by the wind, and the leader claimed two Arctic Skuas which were dots on the horizon identified largely by process of elimination. Eight Swallows and seven Wheatears reminded us that passage migration was still going on, but the bushes were pretty much devoid of migrants.
    We went up to Southwell for lunch, got discouraged by mud and puddles around the barns, and drove over to Lodmoor where a few interesting species had been reported recently. The Great White Egret thrilled the locals more than us, spoilt as we are by lots at Chew Lake. The Little Gull was nowhere to be seen and the Grey Phalarope kept being seen in whichever part of the reserve we had just vacated! The best bird was probably a partial albino Ruff, presumably the same very striking male that spent last winter at this site. We upped the species list a bit with Grey Heron, Marsh Harrier, Gadwall and Teal, a Snipe, 19 Black-tailed Godwits and a few Lapwings. There were more Little Egrets and Mediterranean Gulls. A House Martin and a Cetti’s Warbler were the only other species of note. It was a pleasant day’s birding but hardly Portland at its best. (Thanks to Jane for leading.) Jane Cumming

  • Tuesday 01 October – Dolebury Warren Leader: Mark Watson Tuesday October 01st, 2019

    After a very poor weather forecast of heavy rain three members set off up Dolebury Warren. Contrary to expectations some blue sky was emerging and the brighter weather held for the majority of the walk, although the wind was strong. On the way from the Crown to the A38 several Wood Pigeons, Goldfinches, Robins, Blackbirds, Dunnocks, Blue Tits and Wren were either heard or seen in the hedgerows and woodland. After crossing the A38 we passed through the hamlet of Dolebury Bottom and noted a few House Martin overhead and a Crow or two in the distance. Great Tits were heard and seen in the woodland beyond the gardens. As we reached the top of the climb to Dolebury Warren we saw the first of five Jays and heard a Green Woodpecker. The weather was now clear and we had good views across the Mendips to Bridgwater Bay. Along the bank of the hillfort a couple of Ravens went overhead followed by two Magpies. As we left the coniferous plantation we disturbed another Green Woodpecker on the rough grass and two of us had a fleeting but good view. We started back to our cars as the usual Tuesday Buzzard appeared as well as a Great Spotted Woodpecker. A Chiffchaff was heard and we saw a couple more House Martins as well as two Swallows. The rain did appear in the form of a very heavy shower about 15 minutes from our cars and happily we had enough warning to don our waterproofs. Not surprisingly the Tuesday target of seeing more bird species than walkers was met with 23 in all on a walk we all enjoyed. (Thanks to Mark for leading.) Mark Watson

  • Sunday 29 September – Pilning Wetlands. Sunday September 29th, 2019

    This meeting was cancelled due to adverse weather.

  • Tuesday 24 September – Arlingham. Tuesday September 24th, 2019

    This meeting was cancelled due to adverse weather.

  • Tuesday 17 September – Marshfield Leader Chris Perry Tuesday September 17th, 2019

    A bright sunny morning with a cool wind greeted 31 members for a walk over the agricultural land to the north of Marshfield. Early sightings were a flock of 22 Woodpigeons, some 70 Carrion Crows, a Buzzard and a Kestrel. Overhead power lines had Corn Buntings perching on them – we saw about 60 in all and we were able to have good views of them. As we moved past cereal fields and a crop of potatoes a large flock of about 60 Linnets kept us company for a while and Swallows (40) and Martins (60) were overhead. The hedgerows provided views of a Whinchat, Whitethroat and a couple of Stonechats and Reed Bunting. Coffee followed shortly after as we contemplated the excellent sightings so far. The return to the start point was equally productive, with a dozen Meadow Pipits, a couple of Red-legged Partridges noted. An uncommon sighting on Tuesday meetings of a Red Kite added interest and a Wheatear on a pasture was seen by some. In all 32 species were seen on a good morning’s birding. Many thanks to Chris Perry for leading a walk with much to interest us. Mark Watson

  • Tuesday 10 September – Folly Farm Leader: Jean Oliver Tuesday September 10th, 2019

    We set off to see “our” hedge, that is the one we planted in October 2017 as part of the Club’s 50th anniversary celebrations. It seems to be looking healthy, even though the height of some species disappointed a few. It is not the time of year for birdsong but many Robins were heard en route plus calls of Chiffchaff, Chaffinch,Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, Buzzard, Nuthatch and Bullfinch among others. Walking through a mixed habitat of woodland and fields, Woodpigeon, Kestrel, Jay and Coal Tit were soon added to our list which eventually included Blackcap, Whitethroat, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tit, Wren, Pheasant, all the Corvids, many Goldfinch and others – 32 species in all. Coffee was enjoyed on Round Hill and the sun came out so many layers were stowed. Here, on the new route which Jean had devised for us, we enjoyed one of many splendid views we had throughout the walk in all directions – I spotted part of the Cotswold edge and May Hill from one point. With the sun came the butterflies including some Painted Ladies and a Comma, all in particularly good condition. While many had missed a Spotted Flycatcher early on, everybody was able to watch two adults hunting from a Hawthorn while a juvenile watched and took note, plus, a bonus for some towards the end of our rather strung out company, a Stoat put in an appearance at the same spot. Back on Folly Farm the Field Bean fields, which were awaiting harvest for animal feed, turned out to be a feeding heaven for about 100 Swallows and 60 House Martins. Many thanks to Jean for leading this ever popular walk. Nancy Barrett

  • Saturday 31 August – Chew Valley Lake Leader: Robert Hargreaves Saturday August 31st, 2019

    Fourteen people met at a cool and breezy Herriott’s Bridge. In the pool there were three Pintails among the more common ducks, two Great White Egrets and three Green Sandpipers. We saw the flash of a Kingfisher and a Chiffchaff called. Soon it was time to walk to the Ringing Station to be greeted by Mike Bailey and his team. Mike gave an extremely interesting talk illustrated by the ringing of the Reed Warbler, Goldfinch and Blue Tit – fascinating. There was then a tour of the nets and parts of the lake not usually accessible, affording a view across to the top of the Stratford hide. Then it was time for tea and luxury biscuits, as Mike thanked us for BOC’s generous grant for thermal imaging equipment, which enables night-time ringing. There was some further discussion about bird migration, punctuated by the excitement of a Collared Dove, caught in the garden net, being ringed. This was only the second Collared Dove ringed, making it rarer than the three times ringed Aquatic Warbler! At 12.30 it was time to leave. We thanked Mike and his team for the warm welcome and for giving us their time and expertise and emerged into a sudden downpour! At this point the group fragmented, some to leave, others to find lunch. When the weather improved, survivors carried on birding at Heron’s Green, the highlights were four Whinchats at the back of the pool, big numbers of Little Grebes in the pool and two Wigeon in the lake. A few of the group spotted a strange hybrid Wigeon with the tame Mallard and two Egyptian Geese near “Salt & Malt”. The long-stayers spent some time in the Stratford hide. We were too late for the Bittern flypast but were pleased with the Sparrowhawk that tried to fly right into the hide and the Hobby. We spotted the currently resident It was good to see Shoveler and Pochard among the ducks and a Great White Egret and Little Grebe close to the hide. It had been a walk with no formal ending, but with plenty to see and do. We had thoroughly enjoyed our visit to CVRS. Thanks to Mike Bailey and the ringing team and to our leader Robert. Anne Crowe
    Black Swan.

  • Tuesday 27 August – Elm Farm, Burnett Leader: Roger Palmer Tuesday August 27th, 2019

    It was a fine sunny morning as 30 of us, including our host Philippa Paget, gathered at the farm entrance. This was to be Roger‘s “retirement walk”, his last time to lead it and so a bit special. Philippa described the farm’s involvement in Environmental Stewardship schemes, while Swallows and House Martins swooped around us. We set off across the fields. A Kestrel was spotted perched on a hay bale – maybe from the family raised in the Kestrel box this year. Near the gate a Green Woodpecker was heard and showed itself briefly. An owl box successfully used by Barn Owls this year was pointed out to us. We continued across fields with wild flower strips, enjoying the butterflies (more visible) as much as the birds. Looking across the valley we saw four Buzzards circling high above. Our coffee stop, half way down the hill, gave great views across to Compton Dando and of another Kestrel on a telegraph pole. Next we went through the cider apple orchard, and left across a rough meadow and enjoyed good views of our second Sparrowhawk, a fly-past Cormorant and heard the call of another Green Woodpecker. Avoiding trampling the Earthballs growing in the middle of the path and noting the ‘wheet’ of a Chiffchaff we all finally made it to the top. On our way back through stubble fields a lucky few saw a Yellowhammer – perched briefly before whizzing back into the hedge. Nearing the end we had our second large party of Goldfinches and stopped to enjoy the purple loosestrife and water mint around the small pond, attractive to butterflies including two bright Red Admirals. Finally it was time to thank Philippa for all the fascinating information about the management of the farm and its wildlife and to thank Roger for finding 30 species of birds and many butterflies and moths. Special thanks to him for all the past walks he has led at Elm Farm. Anne Crowe

  • Tuesday 20 August – New Passage and Pilning Wetlands Leader: Jane Cumming Tuesday August 20th, 2019

    A great turn out for this morning’s high tide walk – people came and went a bit, but if you count them all there were 41 attendees altogether, still well beaten by the species count of 59. We started at New Passage corner, looking along the tideline where a large flock of Ringed Plover and Dunlin with a handful of Turnstones were hanging on to the last remaining pebble bank as the tide started to flow over it. The distant roost held Oystercatcher, Curlew and a few Shelducks. Amongst hundreds of Canada Geese was one Greylag (perhaps ‘George’ from Portishead boating lake) and a pair of Bar-headed Geese (probably the ones that summered at Portbury Pools). A single Wheatear was out on the short grass with them. Next, we walked along the Severn Way towards the pools, checking the marsh for pipits and wagtails, and were rewarded with a Meadow Pipit and a juvenile Yellow Wagtail with half a dozen Pieds and possibly a White Wagtail but it was unconfirmed and quickly lost. A juvenile Green Woodpecker showed well in the paddock on the right, and some lucky people saw a Kingfisher flying up the pill. At the pools we found another wader flock, this one holding the Black-tailed Godwits and Redshanks, and ten Lapwings got up from distant fields. The ‘grebe pool’ held the expected three Little Grebes and a single Tufted Duck in eclipse, and, of course, lots of Gadwall and Coot. A Teal or two sprung up and flew off, and we also noted Grey Heron, Little Egret, Buzzard and all three hirundines. Pride of place though was the skirmish between two Peregrines, with subsequent sightings of both Kestrel and Hobby – a fine falcon morning. (Many thanks to Jane for leading all those people!) Jane Cumming

  • Tuesday 13 August – Chew Valley Lake Leader: Mike Landen Tuesday August 13th, 2019

    It was a very pleasant August morning with plenty of sunshine, not too hot for walking, with no rain forecast and so it was not surprising that 33 members met in the main car park at Chew Valley Lake. We did a bit of birding from the car park and then moved to the dam wall, seeing Little Egret, Grey Heron, Pied Wagtail, Black-headed Gull, Wren, House Martin, Swallow and Canada Geese. We then walked through fields to the north of the lake and added a number of common species – Chiffchaff, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Jackdaw and Green Woodpecker. Further along, we saw, or heard, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Bullfinch and at our coffee break Long-tailed Tits were seen and Goldcrest heard. At the end of Dumpers Lane we stopped on the road bridge which crosses the River Chew and three Mistle Thrushes were spotted at the top of a nearby tree. As we followed the footpath towards Knowle Hill, Collared Dove, Swift and Goldfinch were seen and we also saw our first Buzzard of the day, quickly followed by three more. A Jay was seen briefly. As we walked back along the lake between the two car parks we added Mute Swan, Herring Gull, Coot, Moorhen, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Cormorant, Gadwall and Dunnock. It was an enjoyable walk with a total of 40 species. It is interesting to note that the last time we did it, in December 2017, we had 57 species, highlighting the difference in the numbers seen in the summer compared to the winter. On the plus side Red Admiral, Holly Blue, Comma, Small Copper and Meadow Brown butterflies were seen as well as the caterpillar of the Vapourer moth. Thanks to Nick for keeping a record of birds seen. (Thanks to Mike for leading.) Mike Landen

  • Sunday 11 August 2019 – East Devon. Leader Jane Cumming Sunday August 11th, 2019

    After the previous day’s gales and squalls we were glad to wake to a calmer, sunny day although we did manage to dodge some very heavy showers in the afternoon. When seven members met at Aylesbeare Common the wind was urprisingly moderate and we decided to do the shorter walk around the top of the reserve. A Hobby skimmed over the valley and then settled into the top of a pine where we had excellent telescope views of it for at least ten minutes. Then we encountered a family of Dartford Warblers interacting with a Stonechat and dropping repeatedly down to the path, presumably to eat grit. We weren’t sure which species was the aggressor in the quarrel, but all the activity gave us great views of this often elusive warbler. Swallows hawked for insects and a Coal Tit pottered about in a small pine tree; some saw Buzzard and Kestrel too. We moved on to Seaton Wetlands, as the signposts called it, though I know it as Black Hole Marsh. There we found Oystercatchers, 40 Black-tailed Godwits, nine Dunlins, a Greenshank, a few Redshanks and several Common Sandpipers on the scrapes. Swallows were nesting again this year in the apex of the hide, the vocal young still in the nest. On to the tower hide where we picked up a Curlew and five Turnstones on the river bank, as well nine Cormorants, two to three Little Egrets and a great many Mallard and Herring Gulls. Adult Shelducks were nowhere to be seen but a number of juveniles were still present. Lots of Black-headed Gulls and a handful of both Black-backs were also in the roost, and a Kingfisher zipped by now and then. We failed to locate the recently reported Wood Sandpiper but did add a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Sand Martins and Linnets to our day list. Finally we drove west through sudden torrential rain to Bowling Green Marsh at Topsham to catch the late afternoon tide on the Exe. Magically, the rain stopped as we arrived, and the high tide roost was wonderful to watch with Redshanks and Black-tailed Godwits by the dozen constantly flying in. We picked out a Greenshank, a Ruff, a Dunlin and a dozen Lapwings, but it took a good search to locate the single Spotted Redshank amongst the hundreds of Redshanks scattered along the shore. Then a big flock of Curlews flew in – at least 130 – with about ten accompanying Whimbrels. Three Wigeon and at least a dozen Teal were early signs of autumn. We noted a Little Egret and a couple of Grey Herons, and the main hirundine here was House Martin. The final day-list was 46 species. (Thanks to Jane for leading.) Jane Cumming

  • Tuesday 06 August – Bridgeyate and Siston Leader: Dave Body Tuesday August 06th, 2019

    Our party of 28 had waterproofs in hand or bag; it really did look like rain as we left the car park. A flight of juvenile Starlings flew left and then returned, a few House Martins swished about the chimney pots and five Jackdaws roosted on the tiles of No 29 London Rd. A keen wind made the odd Herring and Black-backed Gull fight their way east, with the Woodpigeons only making short forays from perch to perch. Passing through the newish houses we noted that they were devoid of House Sparrows, but the older ones came up with a couple of pairs. Before we started up the Dramway, two Crows were seen sporting leucistic feathers and a pair of Goldfinches called as we entered the shade of the overhanging shrubs and bushes. Not much to see along here but we heard a blast of Wren, a twitter of Dunnock and a tinkle of Robin. Across High Street and along the course of the Siston Brook we heard our first of four Buzzards calling, and on the Brook our only Grey Wagtail. At the pond a Moorhen and two chicks skulked in the reeds, with the trees above littered with Chiffchaff, all busily feeding and calling frequently. The rain lashed down briefly as we sheltered for coffee but undaunted we carried on over the common and towards Mill Farm and a female Mallard still guarding her eleven fairly large ducklings on the pond there. One sharp-eyed birder spotted a Peregrine on a pylon, and this was confirmed by an equally keen, but young-eyed colleague. The last five minutes – in sight of the car park – were hard-cruel – it poured with rain. A count of 26 wasn’t bad for the conditions and time of year. Thanks to David for leading. Nick Hawkridge

  • Tuesday 30 July – Failand Leader: Gareth Roberts Tuesday July 30th, 2019

    Eleven intrepid walkers were not deterred by the forecast thunderstorms. In the event they passed us by, and despite some rain the conditions were mainly dry and warm. The farm at the start of the walk was productive as usual, we had five Swallows and the first of 17 House Martins, with two still active martin nests on the farm house. There were also Dunnocks, Linnets, and the first of 31 Goldfinches, in three charms. It was pleasing to record a Stock Dove and a Grey Wagtail. In the woods leading to our coffee stop there were two Chiffchaffs and two Long-tailed Tits. A Mistle Thrush was spotted and then three more, presumably a family group, giving good views. Further woodland yielded views of two Nuthatches, and the ‘yaffle’ of two Green Woodpeckers although these kept out of sight. Coal Tit was heard and two Great Tits were seen. A Jay and Buzzard contributed to our total of 27 species. There were some fine Monkey Puzzle trees with impressive “cones” by the track through the Tyntesfield estate, but sadly there were no specialist birds, brave enough to tackle them, in evidence. (Thanks to Gareth for leading – Ed.) Gareth Roberts

  • Friday 26 July – Acres Down, New Forest Leader: Jane Cumming Friday July 26th, 2019

    Were the five members who braved the heavy traffic on the first school holiday weekend foolhardy, or did the hope of New Forest specialities make up for the lengthy drive? Well, we did have two distant views of Goshawk although the wished for Honey Buzzard failed to appear. Spotted Flycatchers performed well as did the Stock Dove in their display flights and Ravens flew nearby with their raucous ‘kronking’ calls. Further on a pair of Bullfinch flew from the heathland into the trees, while Stonechat and Linnet moved between the bushes. The woods proved to be more productive giving two Firecrest, four each of Marsh Tit and Nuthatch and a single Treecreeper. After a late lunch we fought with the traffic on the A31 and made our way to Martin Down just south of Salisbury with the idea of searching for Turtle Dove and Grey Partridge. Neither were found with the grass being too high to see the secretive partridges but the songs of Yellowhammer and Skylark brightened up the afternoon. Hobby and Kestrel appeared along with about 100 Swift feeding and soaring high above the woods. Overall 43 species were seen. Thanks to Jane for leading. Keith Williams

  • Tuesday 23 July – Little Sodbury Leader: Nick Hawkridge Tuesday July 23rd, 2019

    A very hot day. I was surprised that 21 walkers came for a picnic walk and that only three people broke away to finish early. The first bird was a Magpie, followed by a party of mixed tits and Chiffchaff, with a Raven at the
    top of a pylon sounding off every few seconds. A Great Spotted Woodpecker stayed on his bare tree perch all through
    our approach to the reservoir, where we found Little Grebe, Kingfisher and some splendid Emperor Dragonflies. A small flight of Stock Dove, some Corvid and House Martin were around Horton village, with Green Woodpecker making a racket in the trees behind the school. As we headed up the hill for coffee at the Millennium Folly a mixed bunch of tits were studied, with the prize being a Marsh Tit. Green Woodpeckers put up a splendid display both visual and auditory, landing on tree trunks and ‘disappearing’ – just so well camouflaged as we sat in the shade of the Folly. A Barn Owl broke from the Folly, but was quickly into the woods; alas no picture. A few Rook flew over by the hill fort, a couple of Goldcrest were heard by the gates of Widden Hall House, a Whitethroat and, by the corner of New Tyning Lane, the Yellowhammer were singing, with a female showing briefly. Kestrel, House Martin and Linnet were close by as we took our lunch at Old Sodbury Church where the shade offered by the graveyard was most welcome. The slog back in the heat was punctuated by sightings of three separate Buzzard, another Jay and on the final approach to the cars, a Coal Tit. A total of 38 species was not bad considering that it was – did I mention this before – the hottest of days. (Thanks to Nick for leading – Ed). Nick Hawkridge

  • Saturday 20 July – Marshfield Leaders: Sue and Nigel Kempson Saturday July 20th, 2019

    Twelve BOC members attended this walk around Marshfield on a thankfully dry evening. From Tanners Close we crossed the A420 and immediately had Pied Wagtail and Crow in the field and a group of Starlings perched on the distant overhead wire. As we went along the lane, we were treated to the song of our first Corn Bunting as well as distant Skylark. The usual small building was devoid of the Little Owl but as we continued along the track, we did see two Linnets, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, Greenfinch and two Stock Doves flying over. We had stops to have lovely views of a male Yellowhammer perched at the top of a nearby tree, more Corn Buntings and a number of Swallows, Swifts and House Martins flying overhead. One Red-legged Partridge was flushed from the path. Once we reached Rushmead Lane we had five Skylarks fluttering overhead and as we progressed along the lane, we had Blackbird, Pheasant, more Red-legged Partridge as well as distant Deer. We then drove on to Down Road to try for Quail, unfortunately they were not in evidence, but a distant Raven was added to our list. 21 Species in total. Thanks to everyone for attending. (Thanks to the Kempsons for leading – Ed). Sue Kempson

  • Tuesday 16 July – Clevedon and Walton Common Leader: Judy Copeland Tuesday July 16th, 2019

    Another baking hot day. 22 people set off across Clevedon Golf Course, pausing to let the golfers do their thing before we arrived at the cottages, where we found Swallows, House Sparrows, a Pied Wagtail and a Collared Dove. Once we got to the path leading to and along the estuary, we heard the first of several Blackcaps singing and saw Herring Gull on the shore, a Crow on the hedge and a Magpie. Butterflies started appearing – Gatekeepers, Whites, Meadow Browns, and a Small Skipper on Birdsfoot Trefoil. In the big field we saw Great and Blue Tits on the feeders in the adjoining garden, also adult and juvenile Robins. We heard Wren, Bullfinch, Goldfinches and Green Woodpecker, heard and saw Greenfinch, and there were two Marbled White butterflies. From the cliff path we spotted the odd Black-headed and Herring Gulls on the rocks – no Mallard this year – and Dunnock and Wood Pigeons beside the path. We continued along the cliff path, and up the field and track towards Walton Common. In the wood a Wren and a Blackcap sang and there was a juvenile Song Thrush just sitting in the grass. We had lunch in the shade at the edge of the Common and here Brown Hawker and Emperor dragonflies were seen and several outstandingly bright orange Silver-washed Fritillary butterflies, also a Comma, Peacock and Red Admiral. The flowers on the Common – mostly marjoram, St John’s wort and heath and ladies bedstraw – were gorgeous. At the quarry we found an Avon Wildlife Trust work group who were happy to answer questions about the Reserve, then we continued down to the road and up into the wood leading back to the golf course. Two separate Buzzards were spotted briefly, one Goldcrest, a Nuthatch and a Coal Tit were heard. At the end of the walk we had excellent views of a Treecreeper. 26 species was the total. (Thanks to Judy for leading – Ed). Judy Copeland

  • Tuesday 09 July – Goblin Combe Leader: Alastair Fraser Tuesday July 09th, 2019

    The walk goes from the car park by the old quarry, along the Combe then climbing to the top of the limestone escarpment, a short detour round Warren House and then a descent through the woods, passing the ancient settlement at Cleeve Toot. The morning started with a family of Green Woodpeckers flying over the car park and posing in a tree in the field opposite. The woodland in the Combe is quite dense with tall trees making bird sightings (apart from Robin, Blackbird and Wren) a challenge. However, the dawdlers at the back found a Marsh Tit with a Tawny Owl fly past. A Stock Dove could be heard in the trees above followed by the call of a second Marsh Tit further along the path. We had a stiff climb to an area of open pasture to find Bullfinch, more singing Blackcap and a flock of Swallow. Coal Tit and a Raven called in the woods. There was plenty of evidence of breeding with lots of young Robins and Thrushes with beaks of food. 31 species were seen or heard, not bad for the time of year. (Thanks to Alastair for leading – Ed). Alastair Fraser

  • Sunday 07 July – Forest of Dean Leader: Mike Jackson Sunday July 07th, 2019

    22 members assembled at Cannop Ponds on a dry but humid evening. We crossed the causeway, passing a Pied Wagtail family on the picnic tables. Inspecting the top pond we saw a Common Sandpiper perching at the far end. Also on the pond were a Lesser Black-backed Gull, Little Grebe, Coot, Moorhen, Mandarin, Tufted Duck, Mallard and ducklings. The male ducks were in eclipse. There was a Mute Swan on a nest on the bank with an egg plainly in sight. We moved through the woods, hearing Treecreeper, Jay and Wren, down to the lower pond. On this were more Coot, Mandarin and Mallard, also a number of Greylag Geese and another Mute Swan. A Grey Heron was on the bank and a Kingfisher was spotted perching on a branch on the far side before we got to the stone works. At the far end there was a Grey Wagtail on the fence next to the weir. At about 20:15 we set off for Speech House and met up with other members for the walk to Crabtree Hill. There was mention of wild boar being seen on the road. There was a Goldcrest amongst the conifers not far from the car park. More Blackcap and Wren sang from the woods. At Crabtree Hill, three Linnet were seen on the path, Stonechat including juveniles amongst the scrub and a number of Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler. Some deer were seen including at least one Fallow Deer. As it became darker, the first of the Nightjars began churring and calling. Then up to four at a time were seen flying in front of the trees. One settled for a while on a known favourite perch, giving us good views in silhouette through ‘scopes. As it became darker, the Nightjars began flying in the open and came quite near – a most pleasing encounter. Two Woodcocks were also seen flying at separat e times. 34 bird species were seen or heard. Thanks very much to Mike for leading the walk. Alan Daniells

  • Tuesday 02 July – Lower Woods/Wetmoor Leader: Jean Oliver Tuesday July 02nd, 2019

    32 members set off – and another three did a same location/different route walk owing to a late arrival! It was one
    of those perfect English summer mornings, blue sky with lots of cumulus clouds, cool breeze, temperatures just right (unless you like it tropical). However, during the first half hour it did seem to be more of a butterfly, moth and wildflower walk with so many of the former seen on the flowers and brambles bordering the woodland ride. A Song Thrush was singing lustily and some of the other early “spots” (or whatever the audio equivalent of a “spot” is) included Wood Pigeon, Blue Tit, Carrion Crow and the first of the many Wrens and Blackcaps heard throughout the morning. On the more open bits of the route a few House Martins and Swallows were seen, but only two Swifts. A noisy Jay seemed to follow us along a woodland edge at one point near our coffee stop. There had been orchids along the route but the star was a Bird’s-nest Orchid. Meadow Brown butterflies were very numerous and Silver-washed Fritillary, Comma, Speckled Wood, Painted Lady, Marbled White and Ringlet were also seen. A Sparrowhawk was seen by some and three Buzzards circled in a thermal. Among others, there were Linnets and calling Nuthatches and
    Chiffchaffs and the tail end of the group saw a Marsh Tit, making the total of 24 species. Thanks to Jean for leading. Nancy Barrett

  • Thursday 27 June – Exmoor mid-week walk Leader Jane Cumming Thursday June 27th, 2019

    On a glorious summer morning nine members met at Webbers Post and drove on down across the ford to spend a couple of hours in the cool of the valley floor exploring Horner Wood. Flycatchers were very difficult to locate, with just one glimpse of a probable Pied, but we did find Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Wood Warblers, Chiffchaffs, lots of Blackcaps still singing, Marsh Tits, Nuthatch and Treecreeper. A Buzzard glided over and a Jay crashed around in the treetops. Silver-washed Fritillaries glowed in the sunshine and we also noted Red Admiral and lots of Speckled Wood butterflies. With the huge old trees in full leafage and the constant backdrop of falling water, it was a very refreshing place to be on a bright, hot day. After our picnic lunch we drove up to the high moorland past Cloutsham Farm where Swallows outnumbered House Martins this year. We had missed Redstarts in the valley but as predicted we found them on more open ground, with one by the roadside and another with a juvenile at Chetsford Water. Walking Ember Combe and Chetsford Water we found at least five adult Whinchats and some juveniles. A couple of Stonechats and a Willow Warbler were seen, Meadow Pipits flitted about and a few Swifts zoomed around the sky. We did well for raptors on the uplands with Buzzard, Kestrel and Hobby riding the strong wind. The day ended with the traditional cream tea in Horner and a list of some 38 species. (Thanks to Jane for leading.) Jane Cumming

  • Tuesday 25 June – Velvet Bottom Leader: Geoff Harris Tuesday June 25th, 2019

    A good count of walkers today (17), which considering the very low cloud and the final tally of 32 species was not bad either. Whitethroat was the first song we heard and having played the CD with the volume up in the car, we all had our ears tuned to hear the subsequent nine others. As we entered the reserve plenty of Small Heath butterflies were abroad and a small family party of Linnet sat on a fence wire, the dad staying to give us as good an inspection as he afforded us. Along the tree line topping Ubley Warren Farm, a massive flock 150 plus of, mainly, Jackdaw burst up into the fog with a terrific clamour. Along the track a newly fledged, barely flight capable Chaffinch afforded us intimate views. Chiffchaff and Wren were heard, a few Swallows whipped past and a family party of Long-tailed Tits brightened up the gloom. Blackcap and Willow Warbler were both singing and the first of the nine Song Thrush sang from the top of an old dead oak in the valley, which was as well, as a family of Bullfinches was seen as we listened to his melody. Once coffee was over we entered Long Wood and heard Nuthatch and Coal Tit and a bit further on, an acrobatic Marsh Tit was heard and then seen by all but the leader. Leaving the wood and starting the long climb towards the radio masts we were lucky to hear Skylark braving the damp conditions, a bright Yellowhammer showing his tail stripes and a grumpy looking Rook with a juvenile in tow. Before we got into the final stretch along the road, a Stonechat showed, and after a Kestrel was seen hover hunting, some House Martin jinked by and a Meadow Pipit hopped from branch to stem with a beak full of grub for the kids. The ponds didn’t disappoint this year with a fine male Reed Bunting singing form a Sallow branch. Thanks to Geoff for leading and being patient with us for taking an hour longer than normal. Nick Hawkridge

  • Tuesday 18 June – Hinton Blewitt / Litton Reservoirs Leaders: John and Sue Prince Tuesday June 18th, 2019

    24 birders met on a fine but overcast morning and set off through the village of Hinton Blewitt. House Martins, Jackdaws and House Sparrows and a Pied Wagtail carrying food were seen along with a displaying Collared Dove. Rain started as we crossed the fields in which Meadow Brown butterflies were seen. The sound of birdsong aided identification of Yellowhammer, Blackcap, Blackbird, Wren, Robin, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff and Chaffinch. At the two lakes we saw Grey Heron, Kingfisher, Little Grebe, Mallard, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Tufted Ducks, Cormorant and a Green Woodpecker. There were several families of Pied and Grey Wagtails. Climbing e hill to the cars a few saw Bullfinch and we added Greenfinch and Goldfinch to the list, giving a species count of 42. Despite the non-stop rain everyone enjoyed the beautiful walk. (Thanks to Sue and John for leading.) Sue Prince

  • Sunday 16 June- Gower Peninsula Leader: Alastair Fraser Sunday June 16th, 2019

    Thirty three birders set off on a four mile walk around the Gower from Rhossili, after Alastair explained the ancient field systems we would be looking at, and the carboniferous and oolitic limestone rock formations. The fields dating from the thirteenth century and separated by earth banks were planted up with hay meadow, lupin, sunflower, linseed, lavender, lucerne and a sacrificial bird-mix. Normally full of bees and butterflies, the weather was rather dull for many insects to show themselves this day, though Swallows were hunting hopefully. High hedged narrow lanes took us towards the coast and gave good views of a Red Kite and two Ravens, a Yellowhammer was also heard. We had our lunch on convenient rocks overlooking the coast, watching Fulmars on a cliff ledge and small birds including Linnets and Goldfinches flying around the woodland. Kestrels put in regular appearances as we walked towards Worms Head and then a Chough was spotted on a rounded rock, to be joined by four others flying and landing on the grassy cliff edge. Watching a pair of Stonechats in the opposite fields we saw a juvenile Wheatear fly over a drystone wall and the Red Kite flew close by again. 36 species were seen plus one Grey Seal. This was a walk with stunning scenery and plenty of wild flowers and we were lucky that the promised rain did not begin until we were back within reach of the coach and cafes. Very many thanks to Alastair and to Judy for organising – and to the coach driver who had to interrupt a church service in order to get a car moved so we could get through the narrow lanes. Jacky Tonkin

  • Tuesday 11 June – Sand Point/Middle Hope Leader: Nick Hawkridge Tuesday June 11th, 2019

    The rain only really became constant after we were on the way back from the picnic. Before we got to the top of the steps above the car park it was quite calm being totally in the lee of the hill. There was a juvenile Robin, calling Chiffchaff and Blackcap, with a Wren sounding off as we climbed. At the top of the steps we all (seven) watched a family of Whitethroat, the juveniles being ushered into the brambles after we had all had a good look. We did not walk to the end of the Point as it was really windy but cut down towards the normal coffee stop and did enjoy a Kestrel hanging in the wind and a Swift hurtling by. At the coffee stop (early) we watched an adult and juvenile Rock Pipit feeding. There was a bit of a splash as we walked along Middle Hope, but the rain and wind did abate for a while, enough for us to be astonished to hear Skylark – but we all did. We sheltered in the lee of the old concrete piers at St Thomas’s Head for a short lunch stop. A Shelduck and some Mallards were eating too on the banks of the River Banwell and a lone House Sparrow, Greenfinch and Blackcap were heard. As we walked back we had nice flocks of Goldfinches, many juveniles with their families and two Whitethroats. A Curlew and Cormorant were seen just above the horizon heading upstream and as we got back Swallows were flying at head height along the lane beside the car park at the bottom of the steps. For the conditions it was amazing that we got to 30 species, and well done to the hardy souls who turned up. (Thanks to Nick for leading.) Nick Hawkridge

  • Tuesday 04 June – Newport Wetlands Leaders: Margaret & Ray Bulmer Tuesday June 04th, 2019

    Perhaps the threat of poor weather deterred some members, but 16 came along. For some, this was a first visit to the site and they were rewarded with a good days birding. The morning stayed dry as we walked around. Chiffchaff, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Greenfinches, Goldfinches and a Pheasant were around the feeders. A Little Grebe was seen on the pond and the first Reed Warblers were calling in the reeds, and eventually they were seen and also a Sedge Warbler. Cetti’s Warblers were very active and again some folk had good sightings. Only a few were fortunate to see two juvenile Bearded Tits and one member saw a Bittern diving into the reeds. The Cuckoo could be heard but not seen and a Buzzard turned out to be the only raptor of the day. A male Reed Bunting was picked up in the telescope and his plumage much admired. Common Whitethroats were singing from perches and a few Swifts flew over the reserve. The estuary had the usual Shelduck and a Curlew was eventually located hidden in a dip.
    The rain started as we were having lunch, but we were able to shelter in the hides at Goldcliff for the afternoon. The lagoons had a fair amount of water, certainly more than our visit in May, but we saw very few chicks this time and I wondered if they had been predated. A large flock of Black-tailed Godwits were feeding and a sizeable flock
    of Dunlins flew in. Lapwing, Ringed Plover and Little Ringed Plover were seen. The six legged Little Ringed Plover confused us until we spotted the two young sheltering underneath. Some Avocets were around but only one chick could be seen. The Canada Geese appeared to be the most successful with their brood of goslings. We saw a few Swallows at Goldcliff but there were no House Martins seen. A total of 45 species were identified. (Thanks to Margaret and Ray for leading.) Margaret Bulmer

  • Saturday 01 June – Ham Wall Leader: Jane Cumming Saturday June 01st, 2019

    15 members met on a beautiful summer’s morning. We were a little late setting off due to unforeseen roadworks en route but the trip was worth it. First seen were two Spotted Flycatchers, darting in the trees in an identifiable
    manner. We walked to the first platform and then out to the Tor Hide. Greylag Geese flew across in the distance.
    A Cormorant nesting colony was seen on the far side with at least three nests visible, and we were rewarded at the hide with great views of Marsh Harriers (three – four spotted on the day). Also seen near there, were a Grey Heron, Little Grebe, several pairs of Tufted Duck, a few Pochard and, at least, two Great White Egrets flew overhead. Further on, we walked via the board walk to the platforms on the far side of the Glastonbury Canal. There, we potted two Bitterns breaking cover from the reeds (the highlight of the day), and a Hobby. On the way back there were Great Crested Grebe families with young on their back, one – two Little Egrets, several Shovelers, and lots of Gadwall. Many birds were identified from their song or call, Cetti’s Warblers, Reed Warblers, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, at least one Sedge Warbler, Cuckoo (seen once, heard several times), Water Rail and Bittern. Also seen were one Treecreeper, one Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gulls and several Lapwings. It was a great morning out. Thank you to Jane for leading the walk and thanks to Jane, Alastair and others for sharing their knowledge and helping the newer BOC members identify the birds seen and heard. Alison Hooper

  • Tuesday 28 May – Northend Tuesday May 28th, 2019

    Twelve members set off on this lovely walk, which included fabulous views over Bath and the surrounding countryside. We started by climbing Solsbury Hill. After circling the top of the hill, we stopped for coffee before descending gently to Chilcombe Bottom and back to Northend. It was a cloudy day with occasional sunshine and showers. From Northend village we passed both cultivated and wild meadows until we reached Little Solsbury Hill. The song of the Skylark matched the glorious views perfectly. We continued round the top of the hill looking down on woodland and beyond towards Swainswick, Woolley and Lansdown. A Whitethroat could be heard in the woods below. As we journeyed on there was a brief shower but the sun soon came out and we could hear the song of Blackcap, Wren and Chiffchaff. The walk had been very enjoyable and the rain started again as we reached the cars. In summary, a splendid walk with 30 species identified and 215 birds noted. Special thanks to Robert Hargreaves for both leading the walk and keeping the list. Peter Trippier

  • Tuesday 21 May – Compton Dando Tuesday May 21st, 2019

    It was a beautiful sunny morning but not too hot; just perfect for a four mile walk with the hope of seeing some good birds. As 22 of us set off from the Compton Inn there were some common birds around the village, including House Sparrow, Jackdaw and House Martin. There were also good views of two Goldfinches along the brook that flows through the village. After a very short walk to the bridge over the River Chew a Grey Wagtail was spotted in the river. Then there was that tell-tale flash of blue and most of the group had a good, although fleeting, view of a
    Kingfisher flying at great speed along the river. We added Wren to our list but we did not see a Dipper on this occasion. We then walked through pasture land bordered with woodland where we added Greenfinch, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Robin, Mistle Thrush, Blackcap (heard), Carrion Crow and an early morning Buzzard was seen. A Mallard was also seen in the river. After climbing a fairly steep hill we walked through a beautiful meadow where we saw, or heard, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Blackbird, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Pheasant, Song Thrush and Goldcrest. As we descended gently towards Woollard we added Sparrowhawk and Swallow to our list. On reaching Woollard we made a slight diversion for another view of the River Chew from the road bridge. We had our coffee break at a particularly nice spot by the river and then continued on towards Publow. We had decided not to do the detour to Publow itself, so we started the walk back along the other side of the River Chew. We saw Jay, Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Magpie, Canada Goose, Grey Heron, two little Egrets flying and a Raven. It was good to have Mark join us for the first part of the walk and as he returned to Compton Dando, he saw a Nuthatch, so we added this to our list, giving a final total of 39 species, seen or heard. We saw two of our three target birds: Grey Wagtail and Kingfisher. We all enjoyed the walk which passed through lovely countryside and gave frequent views of the river. Thanks to Nick for keeping his usual accurate bird list. Mike Landen

  • Sunday 19 May – Quantocks Sunday May 19th, 2019

    The sessile oak woods, stream and crowberry were a beautiful sight as 14 of us set off up Hodders Combe on a
    lovely sunny morning. A Wood Warbler was singing (the first of five and we saw one), and a Blackcap and
    Chiffchaff joined him. Some of the party saw a Garden Warbler. A Grey Wagtail was briefly along the stream,
    and a Treecreeper, two female Sparrowhawks circling, and Cuckoos calling, added to the excitement. Pied
    Flycatchers (two near nest boxes) and Redstarts were added to the mix. At lunch time on the heath near
    Bicknoller Post we were entertained by Tree Pipit, Whitethroat and Willow Warblers. On the way back across
    Longstone Hill we saw a Cuckoo, which flew past us, a Hobby, Linnets and Stonechats. A lovely walk. Thanks
    to our leader Jeff Holmes and his in-depth knowledge. Some 35 plus species were seen. Sue Prince

  • Friday 17 May – Highnam Woods Friday May 17th, 2019

    On a cool but still evening Hannah Booth, RSPB site manager, gave 19 members another of her informative tours of the woods, with a focus on the habitat management for Nightingales creating blocks of coppice of different ages, together with wet areas. It was interesting to see how a block that we saw when it was newly created in 2017 had matured with its impenetrable Muntjac barrier. Even better, a Nightingale was singing close by the path at the start of our walk. As usual in the early evening Song Thrushes were the loudest and most numerous (over 20) presence. There were also plenty of Blackbirds (eleven), Blackcaps (seven), Wrens, and Chiffchaffs. Two Great Spotted Woodpeckers were active around a tree hole. The first of two Marsh Tits was heard, and briefly seen. Calls were also heard from Jay, Raven, Nuthatch, Long-tailed Tit, and Goldcrest. We completed the circuit at about 21:00 and a Nightingale was singing loudly and nearby – it was in a different block but may have been the same bird. Song Thrushes were still singing and one persisted with exchanges for a further twenty minutes. It was difficult to leave the mesmerising Nightingale song, and one of us made a recording. Despite the careful management plan and hard work, Nightingales continue to decline in numbers at Highnam. From a recent peak of 20 singing males in 2000, numbers fell to six in 2015, then up to 12 in 2017. It is thought that most of these did not pair and breed successfully and this year there are only four singing males. As Nightingales are highly site faithful, the future remains precarious. Many thanks to Hannah Booth for an excellent evening (22 species including the star performer). Gareth Roberts

  • Tuesday 14 May – South Stoke Tuesday May 14th, 2019

    Led by Dave Body, 21 walkers gathered on a bright sunny morning in the centre of the village with lovely views across the valley. As we left the village, we saw House Martins busying themselves around the nearby houses, whilst Swift and Jackdaw flew overhead. South Stoke sits in a designated conservation area so the walk alone was of great interest, with a wildflower meadow, woodland and the reservoir and viaduct at Tucking Mill and what used to be Midford Railway Station. Early on, we saw a tree with several holes freshly carved by a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Many of the birds observed were gathering food for their offspring. We saw a Treecreeper on a telegraph pole by Tucking Mill and the reservoir provided views of numerous birds, including Grey Heron and a pair of Grey Wagtails posing for photographs in the sunshine. As many as twelve Robin were noted on the walk and two buzzards were seen overhead. Other notables included Nuthatch, Coal Tit and Swallow, whilst Pheasant were heard but not seen. All in all, a lovely walk with 37 species and over 150 birds noted. Our thanks go out to Dave Body for leading the walk and to Nick for constructing the list. Peter Trippier

  • Tuesday 07 May – Puxton Moor Tuesday May 07th, 2019

    With competition from the holiday season, including the Club trip to Scotland, a select group of eleven walkers set
    out past the church with its leaning tower on a dry and increasingly sunny day. One of the village Swallows flew over and the first of 14 Wrens sang out. A Reed Warbler was singing as we approached the reed-lined ditches on the lane out of the village and obligingly flew to a bramble. They had arrived on the moor in numbers and we heard eleven on the day. Chiffchaffs were also widespread, but we had only one Blackcap. A Sedge Warbler flew up to a bush close to the path giving us good views. A Moorhen called from a hidden ditch and two Mallard flew off. Above us two Crows were harrying a Buzzard, and a Kestrel was spotted. We later found a Kestrel pellet on a footbridge. The moor was initially quiet apart from a Roe Deer, then the first of two Wheatear was seen, then two Stonechat (who were nesting close by), the first of four Reed Buntings flew by, and the first of four Skylarks began to sing. There were further close encounters with Sedge Warblers. At coffee we kept an eye on a Raven’s nest on a pylon with both adult birds seen (two juveniles had fledged two weeks later). On our return along the river two Swallows were impressively flying at a Sparrowhawk. Whitethroat song was heard and we had good views following a song flight along the scrubby edge of a field. We also heard Dunnock and a distant Green Woodpecker. An enjoyable walk with 38 species (plus an ill-timed Greenfinch at 09:50). (Many thanks to Gareth for leading)
    Gareth Roberts

  • Tuesday 30 April – Priors Wood, Portbury — Leader Judy Copeland Tuesday April 30th, 2019

    A large number of people gathered in Station Road, an intermingling of groups, as a walking group from Nailsea was starting at the same time. House Martins were circling above us, a Blackbird was singing, also a Chaffinch and a Collared Dove. The walk started briskly with the frontrunners off ahead, but at the back we managed to hear Robin, Wren and the first of the Chiffchaffs (three in total), Song Thrush (three in total) and Blackcaps (twelve in total). We caught up with the group who had found a Mistle Thrush on a telegraph wire above the field giving good if distant views. Once into the wood we heard Nuthatch, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Pheasant, Stock Dove, Willow Warbler (two) and a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming. Then came the big surprise – Sue Prince had heard Pied Flycatcher song. Eventually, many people were able to pick it up and a few at the back actually saw it. (A Pied Flycatcher was reported the same morning from the Community Orchard in Pill, a mile or so away.) Sue also thought she heard a snatch of Wood Warbler, but our attention was diverted by good views of a Treecreeper. Goldcrest was heard by those with good ears, also Green Woodpecker, and a Marsh Tit was seen. The weather was excellent and the bluebells gave a good show though past their best the previous week. 30 species, 32 people. Judy Copeland

  • Sunday 28 April – Steps Bridge Nature Reserve — Leaders: Sue and Nigel Kempson Sunday April 28th, 2019

    After the wild and windy preceding day, it was a relief to drive south in calmer, brighter conditions. However at our destination the sky was overcast and it was spotting with rain and it continued to do so for most of the day. Seven of us set off from the Steps Bridge car park walking over the bridge and turning left to walk alongside the
    River Teign in this steep sided valley of mixed woodland. The height of the trees and the developing ‘leafage’ made spotting birds challenging and although many were seen, some were identified by their call. The list included Goldcrest, Blackcap, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Goldfinch, Robin, Blue and Great Tit, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, Grey Wagtail and Wren, with Siskin flyovers and the occasional Swallow seen overhead. At one point the canopy cleared to show over a dozen House Martin above. Memorable moments included the loud continuous ‘rattle’ of a pair of very mobile Mistle Thrushes, and on the river, sightings of a Dipper feeding its fledgling. The odd Nuthatch was heard calling but not seen, as was a Tawny Owl. We had good sightings of Marsh Tit, a first of the year for some. Having initially followed the river, we returned on a track ascending along the side of the valley covered in a carpet of bluebells. Here we had excellent views of both male and female Pied Flycatchers, perching in the open or on a nest box. Great Spotted Woodpeckers were seen and heard as well as the distant ‘yaffle’ of a Green Woodpecker. Disappointingly, there was no sight or sound of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker here. On our return to the car park we drove on to Yarner Wood for lunch, on a quest to see Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, which had been showing well the previous weekend. Over the next couple of hours we heard LSW drumming and calling but only one member had a brief sighting. We however did have further gorgeous views of Pied Flycatcher and Marsh Tit and added Redstart, Pied Wagtail and Mandarin Duck to our list. Frustratingly, even as we returned to the car park we kept hearing the LSW calling, but despite frequent scanning there were no further sightings. Overall 33 species were identified. (Thanks to Sue and Nigel for leading) Sue Kempson

  • Tuesday 23 April – Badminton — Leader: Nick Hawkridge Tuesday April 23rd, 2019

    Twenty six people met at the village hall on a glorious morning, with ‘just in case’ waterproofs staying firmly in the rucksacks. The first of the Blackcap sang from the woods as we set off, with a further dozen record during the
    day. Jackdaw was much in evidence during the walk and the Blue Tit, the most often heard of the Paridae. A welcome sighting of two House Martin, the call of Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Wren made the village green a most popular place. Up Roach’s Lane to find (alas) last year’s Little Owl absent but a Song Thrush showed nicely and a Mistle Thrush sang beautifully from Tyning Wood. Lime Avenue held some birds, all feverishly foraging in the branches but allowing us to distinguish Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit and a pair of fly-through Bullfinch. At coffee the first of the Yellowhammer was seen, a distant speck magically zoomed in on by our excellent photographers. The Skylark sang, a Green Woodpecker ‘yaffled’ and as we walked down Seven Mile Plantation the ‘rattle of keys’ heralded our first Corn Bunting. Across and then along the airfield where there were more Yellowhammer, Corn Bunting and, oh so many, Skylark singing. Keen ears heard the scratchy song of a Whitethroat and we found the brown-backed bird singing from atop a thin spindle of May. A fine picture of a Yellowhammer was taken as we headed towards The Park, but no House Martin was yet in residence at the lodge gatehouse. There was much construction work in progress, for the forthcoming Horse Trials but the two Coot on the lake paid no heed. Into the village with Swallow showing well and a distant call of a Nuthatch completed the count (43). (Thanks to Nick for leading.) Nick Hawkridge

  • Tuesday 16 April – Kings Wood and Wavering Down Tuesday April 16th, 2019

    The weather was wet, grey and gloomy. Thirteen hardy souls set off on what turned out to be a lovely walk in a
    variety of habitats. In total, 37 different species were seen, most notably a Redstart. Leaving the National Trust
    car park behind us, we journeyed upwards along the Mendip Way towards Wavering Down, through woodlands.
    A Sparrowhawk flew over and we saw Blue Tit, Great Tit, Blackcap and later four Nuthatches and two
    Treecreepers, Willow Warblers, Robin, Song Thrush and Swallows. The birdsong was both loud and plentiful – a
    joy to the ear! A Stonechat perched above us, watching our ascent to the ‘summit’, where we had a much
    needed coffee stop. The rain subsided and it was slowly becoming a nice day. Five Linnets were feeding on the
    grass not far from us and soon after we set off again Nick startled a large group of Carrion Crows and seven
    Ravens when he peered over a wall at their gathering. We continued downhill, accompanied by Willow Warblers,
    Chiffchaffs, Wrens, more Swallows, Meadow Pipit and we saw a Green Woodpecker in the distance perching in
    the open on a bare tree. We then had our star bird of the day … a male Redstart. Other birds observed included
    a large flock of Linnet perched high up and some Meadow Pipit. The weather continued to improve and our walk
    went on longer than originally intended but nobody minded because we’d had a most enjoyable time. Thank you
    Clive for a lovely walk. Peter Trippier

  • Sunday 14 April – Ashley Walk, New Forest – Leader: Jane Cumming Sunday April 14th, 2019

    Nine of us assembled in the Ashley Walk car park for an amble across heathland and through woodland for this all day event. A chilly wind from the south east kept the temperatures down and birdlife appeared quite sparse to start with. A handful of species were encountered on the heath at the beginning including Stonechat, Linnet, Meadow Pipit, Goldfinch and Skylark. A patch of scrub and trees added to the list with Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Robin, Long-tailed tit, ‘wheezy’ Greenfinch, Woodpigeon and Wren. The woodland (Pitts Wood) proved more productive with soaring Buzzard, Song Thrush, Stock Dove (seen and heard), a singing Mistle Thrush, Blackcap, three species of Tit (Blue, Black & Coal) and a newly arrived Willow Warbler. As the walk went on, drumming Great-spotted Woodpecker, a Green Woodpecker and Siskin were also encountered, the Siskin flying high above a patch of Pine trees. Lunch was consumed back on the heathland on the sheltered side of a small mound which afforded lovely views of the surrounding landscape. The return journey was the most exciting however, when back in the wood in an open area of short grass, a male Redstart was spotted foraging, closely followed by not one but two Woodlark! Excellent views were had by all as they worked their way across the grass before finally flying off. Heartened by these fabulous views, a serious search for the elusive Dartford Warbler ensued through the gorse on the way back to the car. Sadly, Jane was the only one to catch a brief glimpse, but numbers appear to be down, possibly due to the bad weather last year. A Curlew was also heard across the heath. A short trip to Blackgutter Bottom in the hope of Tree Pipit ended our time together. 37 species seen in total. Many thanks to Jane for leading. Emma Davis

  • Tuesday 09 April – Hanham Leaders: Jenny Weeks, Jean Oliver, Karen & Luke Birmingham Tuesday April 09th, 2019

    The rain held off more or less, as 22 of us walked through the mixed woodland of Bickley and Hencliffe Woods
    and back along the River Avon. The heronry was well populated with adults and two chicks were seen by most,
    as the youngest of the group had kindly brought his ‘scope’. Of the 35 species seen, highlights were: a new
    rookery, six House Martin, two Bullfinch, three Willow Warbler, a preening Peregrine Falcon and the songs of
    many newly arrived Blackcap and Chiffchaff. Despite the chilly weather, there was a good showing of spring
    flowers. (Thanks to Jenny, Jean, Karen & Luke for leading.)
    Jenny Weeks, Jean Oliver, Karen & Luke Birmingham

  • Saturday 06 April – Forest of Dean – Leader: Mike Jackson Saturday April 06th, 2019

    The Forest of Dean was always going to be tricky in early April. Winter flocks now diminished and summer migrants not quite ready. On top of everybody’s hit list were those forest gems – Hawfinch, Crossbill, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Goshawk. All we had to do was find them. From the Speech House Woodland car park, 25 of us set off towards Woorgreens Lake taking in common bird song including Goldcrest and Nuthatch. A Blackcap song was a welcome reminder of impending summer, while a Siskin called from the treetops but remained unseen. We debated the calls of Great and Coal Tit before reaching the lake where noisy Canada Geese and Greylags were most obvious, with a few Mallard and a Coot making up an economic tally of water birds. It was muddy around the lake and some chose drier routes, but when the group reassembled we were treated to the song of Willow Warbler under a soaring Buzzard, and our only gull species of the day, a Lesser Black-backed flyover. The lake had been quiet, but as we walked away towards a firmer path two Siskin alighted in the Birch scrub for all to see. We circled the dense conifer stand anti-clockwise in order to ascend Crabtree Hill, and saw a Treecreeper poking about on the ground, and then among tree roots and buttresses before eventually creeping up a tree trunk or two. There had been no Great Grey Shrike on the hill this winter but Mistle Thrush, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet and Stonechat were all present. Back at the foot of the heath we had more Siskin and deciphered the identity of Goldcrest and a couple of leaf warblers, which were probably Chiffchaff with the confusion fuelled by a singing Willow Warbler just beyond. Lunch was enjoyed in
    partial sun at Cannop Ponds where the Mandarin were very obliging – the males that is. Females numbered only one, as if they may have been sitting on eggs at this time? Little Grebe, Tufted Duck and Raven increased the tally, but in the fast-flowing water between the lakes Dipper and Grey Wagtail were also seen. At RSPB Nagshead, our search for Hawfinch yielded none but three members caught site of a Goshawk soaring with a Buzzard, and a pair of Mandarin were on the Lower Pond. We trekked to the top of the reserve off the back of a Crossbill tip-off from the reserve warden, and indeed, upon arrival at the heath two Crossbill flew over our heads, calling as they went. It was over in a second and we were denied the chance of a good binocular view, but that’s birding!
    We ended with a count of 44 species, three being summer visitors, and we bagged two out of four of our forest
    gem targets (Goshawk and Crossbill). As well as the birds and the location it takes great people to make a field trip work, so thanks go to all 25 for turning up and sharing the day. (Thanks to Mike for leading the walk). Mike Jackson

  • Tuesday 02 April – Gordano Valley Leader: Geoff Harris Tuesday April 02nd, 2019

    After the recent warm spell the temperature had returned to a more seasonal six degrees, although the 18 walkers were relieved that the overnight rain had stopped. We were rewarded with an excellent spring total of 42 species. As we set out, the trees on Moor Lane were full of song with Blackcap (day total nine), Chiffchaff (16), Robin (14), Wren (seven), Great Tit (twelve), Blue Tit (16). There was no Willow Warbler this year, but the first of eight Greenfinch was heard and eventually seen. A male Bullfinch gave fine views at the top of his regular hedge.
    Turning the corner the dawdlers were rewarded with a Sparrowhawk flypast and a Buzzard soared overhead. A Green Woodpecker was seen on a tree and Nuthatch was heard. The first Chaffinch was seen and as the sun came out a Song Thrush sang out. Entering the path over the moor, a Kestrel was hunched on a distant post, teasing us into speculating on Little Owl. The briefest of April showers was timed perfectly for the coffee break, but a Reed Bunting was a consolation. Skylark began to sing and a Snipe flew out of a rhyne. Entering the wood up the hill we heard more of the same songbirds and also Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming. Returning to the village we saw a welcome, and for many, our first Swallow on a wire, alone and waiting for companions. 24 House Sparrow bickered in their usual garden, as a Raven flew over. At the end we saw our second Grey Wagtail, and finally a Stock Dove. Many thanks to Geoff for leading this excellent walk. Gareth Roberts

  • Tuesday 26 February – Uphill and Walborough Hill Leader: Jane Cumming Tuesday February 26th, 2019

    When forty members met on the beach the tide was still well down. We noted four Little Egrets in the marsh, just
    a few gulls on Black Rock and not many ducks in the river mouth, so we decided to head up to Walborough Hill
    (stopping to notice a Little Grebe on the marina pool) to take a look across Bleadon Levels and the River Axe. A
    small male Sparrowhawk flew over our heads and stopped on a distant bush where we could get good telescope
    views of him. We checked the Teal feeding quietly in the marshes – 18 there. There were one or two more Little
    Egrets, and about 200 Redshank were scattered along the riverbank with two Dunlins just visible up at the distant
    bend. The marshes looked very wet, having probably been swamped by recent tides, but they wouldn’t be covered with water today. Across on the Brean side we could see 40 Mute Swans, and four Roe Deer resting along the edge of a field. Skylarks were singing and a Reed Bunting perched up to give good views.What a difference a few days can make! Last weekend on very high tides, 200 Dunlins were pushed up the riveronto muddy pools for convenient counting, whereas today there were none to be seen although they may still have been present, roosting somewhere in the long grass across the River Axe. As the tide rose we returned to the beach where we found just 14 Oystercatchers and eight Curlews, also 88 Shelducks, 73 Wigeons and a few more Teal. The flocks of Black-headed Gulls were starting to thin out, but we picked out a Common Gull and then a Yellow-legged Gull, a nice find for the day. The hedges turned up a good selection of common birds including Long-tailed Tits, a single Redwing, chaffinches and Goldfinches. Finally, there were at least a dozen House Sparrows chirping along the beach road. We saw about 33 species, outnumbered by the number of walkers! (Thanks to Jane for leading the walk) Jane Cumming

  • Sunday 24 February – Blashford Lakes Leader: Keith Williams Sunday February 24th, 2019

    Just four of us travelled down through the early morning fog to Ringwood for a walk around the Blashford Lakes reserve. We gathered in the sun at the Education Centre where the feeders held Chaffinch and Nuthatch, before making our way to the Woodland hide for excellent views of Siskin, Reed Bunting and Coal Tit. Ivy South hide was quiet with Pochard, Cormorant and distant Great-crested Grebe, however Ivy North hide hit the jackpot with a Bittern walking around clear of the reeds immediately outside the windows. Once it melted into the reeds, we listened to a Cetti’s Warbler and searched unsuccessfully for the Water Rail. A warm walk around the fenced off buildings produced Green Woodpecker, a couple of Lesser Redpolls and a single Roe Deer. After lunch we walked up by the stream to the Goosander hide (the Tern hide has been demolished and not yet replaced) to examine the gulls and other ducks on Ibsley Water. No rare gulls or grebes were found, but a single Red Kite drifted over us. The afternoon was rounded off with a drive to Milkham Inclosure which was also quiet, just adding Stonechat, Mistle Thrush, Skylark and Raven to the list. A good time was had by all with 52 species seen, but definitely quieter than last year. (Thanks to Keith for leading the walk). Keith Williams

  • Tuesday 19 February – Backwell Lake and Chelvey Leaders: Sue and John Prince Tuesday February 19th, 2019

    35 birders met on a sunny and spring-like morning at the Perrings above Backwell Lake. Straightaway Canada Geese could be heard calling and most of these seemed to be already paired up. On the lake there were MuteSwan, Mallard, ten Tufted Ducks, three Shovelers, two Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Black-headed Gull, two Coots, and several Moorhens. Four Cormorants sat in the Willow tree on the island. As we walked the lanes towards Chelvey Church we heard eight Robins, two Wrens and two Dunnocks. We saw four Buzzards, Redwing, two Mistle Thrushes, a Song Thrush, and three Jays. A male Blackcap sang and Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Bullfinch were also heard. A Grey Wagtail was on a farmhouse roof. Snowdrops were growing wild, but the wild Daffodils were absent. In all, thirty-five species were seen (Thanks to Sue and John for leading the walk). Sue Prince

  • Tuesday 12 February – Ham Wall, Somerset Levels Leader: Peter Holbrook Tuesday February 12th, 2019

    Twenty-seven birders set off from the RSPB car park on a mild but overcast afternoon. We walked along the main track towards platform one, seeing Kingfisher, Redwing and the usual tits, Robins and Chaffinches. At the platform we looked over the water and reed beds where good numbers of Shoveler, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Teal and Wigeon with one male Pochard were to be seen. Water Rail and Cetti’s Warbler called nearby and Dabchicks weren’t far away either. A pair of Marsh Harrier quartered the reed. Some of us walked up to the open hides nearby where Snipe were in abundance and another Marsh Harrier showed its flying skills. Those members of the party who visited the Avalon Hide were lucky enough to see two Bitterns. The main event of the afternoon was to be the Starlings, but they had recently been using several roost sites and it was difficult to say where they might come in. Some of the party went to Meare Heath area. At about 17:30 the spectacle began, thousands in groups flew over on their way to Meare Heath. Those of the group there had close views – with six Marsh Harriers in the air beneath, keeping the Starlings swirling. Those at platform one had more of a binocular view. A total of forty-two species were seen during the afternoon including four Cattle Egret, Bullfinch, Great White Egret, Reed Bunting, Grey Heron, Cormorant and three to four hundred Lapwings coming in to roost in front of Platform One. Thanks to Peter for stepping in as leader. Sue and John Prince

  • Tuesday 05 February – Pensford Leader: Geoff Harris Tuesday February 05th, 2019

    A warm coat, wellington boots – both pretty essential for today’s amble around Pensford. The playing fields opened our list with Common and Black-headed Gull picking off many tasty morsels. A wander into the village was rewarded – the Dipper whipped across the tops of the turgid water, first up river and then back before disappearing under the house. A Song Thrush regaled us with half-hearted song; a charm of Goldfinch with a few Chaffinch, twittered and trilled. The Mistle Thrush that was roosting in one of the trees went south but not until we’d all (20) had a chance to admire it. Out onto a soggy Publow Leigh with Fieldfare, Redwing and Starling all moving ahead of us. A bonus was a flock of Meadow Pipits, who danced away and then circled back for another look, before settling in a fold of the Leigh, close under Publow Wood. The first of the five Buzzards we saw were perched above the small pool that we had to pass, which contained a pair of Teals. At our coffee stop, close by Lords Wood, one of our throng spotted a pair of Mute Swans in the distance, their heads and necks could be occasionally seen above the bank of their pond. A mixed bag of the tit family was spotted within the woods, with a Goldcrest loitering nearby and three or four Great Spotted Woodpeckers chasing around the tree tops uttering their ‘yickering’ courting calls. As we descended from Compton Common to the River Chew a noisy Coal Tit scolded us and a little further away a Nuthatch sang, but escaped without being seen. The river in full flood was no place for a lone Moorhen, who clucked her way to the safety of the bank, while the line of trees above Grassington did not disappoint, the resident Raven pair displayed most energetically and stylishly. The pool at the bridge by Publow Church held a lone Grey Wagtail but search as we might, we couldn’t turn the many Blue and Great Tits into Siskins – a species often seen here in the Alders. A final total of 38 for the day and many thanks must go to Geoff for leading this splendid walk. Nick Hawkridge

  • Tuesday 29 January – Cheddar reservoir Leader: Alastair Fraser Tuesday January 29th, 2019

    On a chilly, overcast morning 23 of us met at the southern car park. We started with a few minutes scanning the water then set off clockwise. Looking down to the fields, trees and hedgerows we soon spotted a Green Woodpecker poking around in the grass while a Jay flew into a tree nearby. A Mistle Thrush sang loudly; Redwings and Blackbirds rummaged around in the leaf litter. We stopped now and then to scan the water birds on the right, delighted to find a Scaup among the many Pochard; also, a single distant Wigeon. Great Crested Grebes were in pleasing numbers (79). Next: down the steep bank to the lane taking us to the rhynes, and on through the fields to Axbridge and the other side of the reservoir, an extremely muddy walk! This gave us mostly birds in flight including a Grey Heron, two Raven and a Skylark calling over the moor. Nearing the town, we spotted a pair of Stonechats perched on grass tussocks in a field and a Buzzard low in the hedge as we looked across to the woods on the left. A large collection of bird feeders gave good sightings of many small birds, including good numbers of bright Chaffinches and one male Blackcap. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew into the tall trees opposite, to be hidden instantly. Cutting through the streets we came back behind the reservoir where we glimpsed several Reed Buntings in the boundary hedge. A walk through the woods took us back up onto the walkway. We were excited to find the Great Northern Diver in the distance; by the time we got to the sailing club it was really close, we had excellent views, good enough to see the cross-hatching on the back and its pale under- belly as it turned on its side; star bird! We also had just two Gadwall here. It was time to get back to the car park, picking out two Greenfinches and a Treecreeper in the trees and scrub on the way. It had been a great if muddy walk with 52 species seen (if we include the handsome Mandarin). It was good to see the large numbers of water birds, like the thousand or so Coot. Thanks to Alastair Fraser for leading the walk and Nick Hawkridge for the bird list and help with the route. Anne Crowe

  • Sunday 27 January – Exe Estuary Leader: Alastair Fraser Sunday January 27th, 2019

    35 intrepid birders boarded the coach for our annual trip to the Exe estuary. The weather forecast was unfavourable with promises of high wind and rain. Alastair suggested that if anyone wanted to abandon the trip on account of the weather forecast they were welcome to do so. There were no takers, so off we set. Our first port of call was to be Dawlish Warren. Journeying along the motorway Alastair spotted five Buzzards. Another member saw a group of over twenty Red-legged Partridge and a group of Lapwings on the wetlands.
    On arrival at Dawlish Warren it was dry, but with very strong blustery winds. That however, didn’t stop us from walking along the seafront. Some members spotted a Red-throated Diver and a Black-throated Diver, and everyone was able to have close views of groups of Great Crested Grebes. The strong winds and high tide meant there were fewer waders than would have been expected. However, there were the usual Cormorants, Shags and gulls flying around. Some members saw a Grey Seal. Some of us walked out to the hides and were rewarded with close-up views of Knot, Dunlin, Curlew, and Oystercatcher which were sheltering near the hide due to the high tides. Others wandered along the marshes looking for the smaller birds amongst the trees and shrubs, but there were only a few Great and Blue Tits. We could hear some twittering of Goldfinches but could not spot them. The smaller birds were wisely staying out of the strong winds.
    After lunch, we headed back to Exminster and walked along the road alongside the RSPB wetlands, and on to the towpath beside the canal and river, to rejoin the coach at Powderham. There were the usual large group of Canada Geese, Brent Geese, Greylag Geese and a lone Egyptian Goose. Also, Redshanks, Common Gulls, a group of Black-headed Gulls, one already with its black head, a large number of Black-tailed Godwits and at least one Bar-tailed. Thanks to Gareth for pointing out the difference. We counted an amazing 74 species. I believe a great time was had by all. I am sure the other members of the group would want to join me in saying a big thank you to Judy for coordinating the trip and to Alastair for leading us on the day. Joyce Donkor

  • Tuesday 22 January – Coalpit Heath Leaders: Duncan and Pat Gill Tuesday January 22nd, 2019

    33 walkers met at Kendleshire Golf Club. Our numbers were no handicap as we had seen three Bullfinches and one Greenfinch before leaving the car park, but we had no eagles nor albatrosses. Robins were enjoying the cold, sunny morning and we heard the first of 23 singing. Great Tits and Blue Tits were joining in and we had good numbers of both, the former showing their range of calls. Wrens were also starting to make their presence felt. Despite the lengthening days we are still in winter and we had a total of 93 Redwings, including a flock of 57, but there were no Fieldfares. Before we left the golf course we saw a Green Woodpecker with the thrushes among the birches on the far side of the fairway. The ponds had attracted the usual range of water birds with Canada Geese, Cormorant, Mallard, Moorhen and Coot on the list. Walking up the lane we came across 13 Long-tailed Tits flying down the hedge, and some of us had clear views of a Goldcrest on a bare branch, while a second was more typically flitting in and out of sight. On our return leg we were sorry not to see the usual Yellowhammers and finches in their long hedge, possibly because the field below had been sown with a winter cereal, and not left to stubble. However spirits were lifted by two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, four Jays, and a Treecreeper. Many thanks to Duncan and Pat for leading, and for arranging that the forecast rain stayed away until the end of this enjoyable and productive walk (34 species). Gareth Roberts

  • Sunday 20 January – Marshfield Leaders: Sue and Nigel Kempson Sunday January 20th, 2019

    Twenty of us turned out on this cold day which is testament to Marshfield’s continued popularity. We started out by walking towards the small barn that Little Owl have frequented in the past, but this time they were choosing to either stay warm below roof level, or they just weren’t present. As we passed the barn into Northfield Lane, Starling, Robin and Song Thrush appeared on the list. We then picked up on a coming and going of gulls on the ground which morphed from a century of predominantly Black-heads with a handful of Commons, into a single-species group of 127 Common Gull, with the Black-heads now dispersing all around. The next field that bordered the hotch-potch of Culverslade Farm buildings with its machinery, gave us a flight of 15 Skylarks. We stopped to make some observations on this stubble-covered field where a few more larks and buntings were seen, but this soon became a half-hour immersion of our time with 57 Corn Bunting, 47 Yellowhammers, 50 Goldfinches and half a dozen Chaffinches all sallying from the hedgerow and lower trees into and out of the stubble. As well as these, plenty more of other common species were enjoying this most sought after winter food source. A Buzzard with an apparent limp wing caused us some welfare concerns but soon dispelled any myth of injury by gliding effortlessly, and menacingly on to another nearby vantage point, wings now folded neat and proper. Eventually we left the stubble spectacle and ventured to Rushmead Lane where we took the easterly direction to its end. This location can favour passerines but was almost devoid of them at this time (likely they were all back at Culverslade Farm!) but we were compensated with a flock of 107 Lapwings, most of them in the sky but the ones on the ground were cryptic against the ploughed earth. Back along Rushmead Lane to just past the industrial buildings, five Linnet took flight and three Red-legged Partridges loafed in the hedgerow at the edge of Broadmead Brook. As we pondered the identity of a hedgerow-perched dark raptor, no doubt in the gaze of the skulking partridges, a mixed flock of Redwing and Fieldfare alighted on the ridge and proceeded to feed on the ground. The raptor moved and revealed itself as another Buzzard. There were more gulls, with Herring, Black-headed and Common again all featuring as we walked up West Littleton Road. There’s something about this site that keeps throwing up another spectacular; this time it was Meadow Pipit and Pied Wagtail. They were feeding at the fence line of the ploughed field and the first horse paddock, another case of ‘the more you look the more you see’ as our count reached an equal 30 pipits and 30 wagtails. Back at the cars, three Blue Tit and a single male House Sparrow gave us a total species count of 33 for the day.
    After the cold start this turned out to be a classic Marshfield field trip with all of the wish-list represented. Many thanks to Sue and Nigel for leading the walk and to Nick for his essentially precise tally count, and of course to all for turning out and sharing the birds with such good cheer. Mike Jackson

  • Tuesday 15 January – Bristol City Centre Leaders: Margaret Gorely and Nancy Barrett Tuesday January 15th, 2019

    37 of us met outside the ‘We The Curious’ science museum in Millennium Square. It was a cold and miserable morning filled with that annoying misty kind of rain. We set off and crossed Pero’s Bridge, spotting Cormorant, Herring and Black-headed Gull, Mallard, Magpie and Mute Swan on the way. Crossing Prince Street Bridge, we made our way along the Harbour railway where, to the gardens on our left, we saw House Sparrow, Great and Blue Tit, Greenfinch and a Robin. More Mallards (hybrids), gulls, and a trio of Mute Swans kept pace with us as we headed for the Albion dockyard and the marina. We stopped for our coffee break at the giant ‘Hand of a River God’ sculpture in Baltic Wharf. In the gardens behind us, somebody spotted a female Blackcap. Flitting around the feeders in the gardens were the usual Great and Blue Tits, a Robin, some Chaffinch and a Coal Tit. Looking west from Ashton Avenue Bridge, we all saw and heard the solitary Redshank that was probing about in the mud below us. Walking on, we saw lots of Redwings, a couple of Robins and a Wren. Then we spotted what was, for me, the bird of the walk, a fabulous Peregrine Falcon looking down on us from the roof of the red brick Create Centre. We all had great views of it and everybody heard its distinctive call. At the very tip of Spike Island were a few small groups of Black-headed Gulls including three birds which were sporting almost summer plumage heads. Back in Hotwells Road the group split up with thirteen brave souls carrying on up Brandon Hill. Here we saw a large flock of ground-feeding Redwings interspersed with a sprinkling of Goldfinches, Woodpigeon, Jackdaw and a couple of very tame Dunnocks and a Goldcrest was heard but not seen. In all we saw 31 different species. Thanks to everybody for contributing to this walk with their presence, enthusiasm and knowledge. Special thanks to Margaret and Nancy for leading and thanks to Nick for his counting. Steve Smith

  • Sunday 13 January – RSPB West Sedgemoor RSPB leaders Sunday January 13th, 2019

    After a rather gloomy start to the day in Bristol we arrived at Dewlands Farm to be greeted by clear skies, albeit on a rather cool, breezy day. 15 members were in attendance and were met by Nigel and Elaine Smith who were our guides for the morning. Whilst in the farmyard we were treated to large flocks of Lapwing overhead, also Golden Plover and three Buzzards. On the short walk to the barn we had a variety of tits (Blue, Great, Long-tailed) and we heard the odd Redwing. Looking down on the reserve from the higher ground we saw two distant Cranes grazing and got the impression of large numbers of ducks. According to Nigel there were over 50,000 birds in total. Once we reached the barn and got settled in you could see the enormous numbers of ducks, Wigeon, Teal, Pintail, Gadwall and a smaller number of Mallards. Amidst the ducks were hundreds of Black-tailed Godwits and in the distance an enormous flock of Golden Plovers. Smaller numbers of Mute Swan, Canada Geese and both Little and Great White Egrets were present. The next couple of hours were action-packed as a number of raptors regularly disturbed the birds. We had at least four Marsh Harrier cruising the area and sending the birds up in a flurry of activity. Two Peregrines were seen alternately hunting over the site and then perching on fence posts. At one point, one Peregrine attacked a passing Buzzard. We had three Cranes fly fairly close overhead but the highlight for most people was a beautiful male Hen Harrier which took a leisurely flight past the barn giving exceptional views to all.
    Most of the group then proceeded to Greylake, some via Burrow Mump where six Bewick’s Swans and a Little Egret were seen. At Greylake there were again large flocks of Lapwings and Golden Plovers and yet more ducks. In the hide we spent an enjoyable time spotting Snipe tucked away in the vegetation. Once again, we had good views of Marsh Harrier and Peregrine. Overall, we had 30 species which included both quantity and quality. Many thanks to Nigel and Elaine for leading. Sue Kempson

  • Tuesday 08 January – Stoke and Eastville Park Leader: Richard Scantlebury Tuesday January 08th, 2019

    Today’s walk was a real treat for the 48 of us (including a baby!) who met at the Snuff Mills car park. Weather conditions were sunny and still with an average temperature of 8°C. Straightaway we could observe a high number of magpies gathering together as expected at this time of the year. Blackbirds, Great and Blue Tits and Robins were singing as we walked towards the tunnel to cross the M32. We first stopped on the other side of the tunnel, at the bottom of Purdown, to listen to a Greenfinch singing. By the Duchess Pond, we saw four Moorhens, a Coot, a Wren, six Goldfinches in a small bush and a Green Woodpecker briefly flew over our heads. We had the pleasure to watch the majestic flight of a Grey Heron over the pond, before it disappeared. We kept walking away from the pond in Stoke Park Estate, only to stop a minute after in order to observe a beautiful pair of Stonechats at the top of a bush. At the same time, we were amazed by a flock of twelve Meadow Pipits flying overhead. On the way back to the car park, we encountered a Treecreeper and a Goldcrest in the same tree. At about 11:15 we walked along the River Frome towards Eastville Park and saw Mallards, Woodpigeons, Robins, Wrens and Long-tailed Tits along the way, but the star of the day was a gorgeous male Kingfisher. I learnt that male kingfishers have an all-black beak whereas females have a red base. He posed for us for a good ten minutes up on a branch before diving into the river and then calling as he disappeared. He stopped further away up on a branch and sat again for another ten minutes. It was the first time that many of us were able to observe a Kingfisher so close and for such a long time. Along the Frome Valley Walkway around the lake, we were pleased to see a sleepy Tawny Owl roosting in the box that was set up one year ago by the Friends of Eastville Park. Two Cormorants were up in a tree, one of which was a juvenile with its white belly. In total, six Great Spotted Woodpeckers were observed chasing around, an expected behaviour at that time of year. One Raven was chased by several Magpies and Carrion Crows. Above us we could observe Black-headed Gulls, and there were 40 roosting Feral Pigeons up in a tree. A beautiful male Goosander landed slowly in the lake, which was also occupied by Grey Herons, Mallards and Mute Swans. Just before leaving the Walkway, the Kingfisher – most likely the same as before – came back and stopped on a branch close to the water with a very big fish in his beak. At the same time, we could see two Goldcrests up in a tree. On the way back to the car park along the river we saw or heard the following species: Long-tailed Tit, Wren, Goldfinch, Song Thrush, Nuthatch, Pied Wagtail, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Treecreeper, Dunnock and Starling. 45 species were listed overall. Many thanks to Richard who led this amazing walk! Adèle Remazeilles

  • Tuesday 01 January – WWT Slimbridge Leader: Robin Prytherch Tuesday January 01st, 2019

    31 Members raised their hand at the start of the meeting – a wonderful turn out. This did mean, of course, that we were crammed into the Holden Tower initially but all seemed to be enjoying the views of a variety of species. The tide was out so there was not the hoped-for pack of waders on the Dumbles. A few geese and swans were obvious; Mute and Bewick’s Swans and Greylag, White-fronted and Canada Geese. Then a Black-bellied Brent Goose was spotted in a distant flock of Brents – a goose too far for some members! A Peregrine Falcon was well out on the edge of the Dumbles and a Buzzard much closer. It was obviously a predator that caused a flock of Lapwing and Golden Plover to pass overhead and we did eventually see the waders settle in the damp fields from the Zeiss and South Finger Hides, where we also saw Dunlin and a single Little Stint. By now most duck species had been seen; I noted Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, Pochard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Shelduck, Snipe and Water Rail. A good selection of passerines included House Sparrow, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, Chaffinch, Meadow Pipit, Dunnock, Robin, Wren, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Robin and others. The grand total was 51 species, so I’ve obviously missed out a few (i.e. Crane). It was a pleasant fine morning’s birding to set off the New Year. (Thanks Robin for leading yet again!) Robin Prytherch

  • Tuesday 25 December – Snuff Mills Leader: Nick Hawkridge Tuesday December 25th, 2018

    Perhaps the intel of some super birds at Eastville Park made the decision easy for the seven walkers who turned
    up expecting to do Snuff Mills, to choose the park instead. Following the Frome downstream means crossing it via
    the road bridge, where we were delighted to see a Grey Wagtail poking about on the spillway. We were barely out
    of sight of the bridge before we’d added Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tits, so many Woodpigeons as to deter
    accurate counting, and our first Great Spotted Woodpecker. We were joined by our eighth walker and the gatherer
    of the intel, who promptly showed us the Peregrine on the spire of the church at Stapleton and before we recrossed the river for the third time we’d added Goldcrest to the list. At the weir we added Kingfisher, Goldfinch
    and Coal Tit, these last were rivals, scolding each other across the valley. More intel, a quick recce, and up the
    Fishponds Brook we went to see a very unfazed Dipper, cleaning and dozing on its favourite rock. At the lake
    there were 13 Goosanders – five males and eight redheads, nine Cormorants, another Kingfisher, two Grey
    Herons, and many Feral Pigeons – who tried for our elevenses cast offs. As the forthcoming Christmas dinners
    were anticipated, we started back early, but it wasn’t long before we found another Grey Wagtail, heard and saw
    three more Great Spotted Woodpeckers and out first Nuthatch. We didn’t add many to the total (33), on the return
    to Snuff Mills car park, other than a small flight of 30 Starlings and much sharpened appetites. (Thanks to Nick for
    leading, Ed). Nick Hawkridge

  • Tuesday 18 December – Bridgeyate Leader: Dave Body Tuesday December 18th, 2018

    Cancelled on the day due to weather conditions, thanks to Dave for sending this note of his 14 December
    reconnoitre, Ed)

    I walked the route on a dry, fairly bright day. The ground was firm underfoot after a couple of recent frosts and
    there were only a couple of muddy spots – what could go wrong? Early on I had Redwing and six Magpies,
    followed by numerous Blackbirds and some Carrion Crows. Jackdaws and Jay were seen as were the frequent
    Blue Tits, House Sparrows, Chaffinches, Pied Wagtails, to make a list total of 17. As my walk continued there
    were Moorhen, Grey Heron, Raven and a solitary Bulfinch. Unusually for this walk, no Buzzard was seen and
    Green Woodpecker too was missing. Sadly when the Tuesday came for the scheduled walk the weather
    intervened big time – blowing a gale and raining cats and dogs and so it was that the walk was cancelled. Better
    luck next year. Happy New Year to everyone. Dave Body

  • Sunday 16 December – Torbay Leader: Jane Cumming Sunday December 16th, 2018

    It’s a hundred miles to Paignton, albeit well under two hours’ drive from the west side of Bristol, but six members
    made the trip (postponed 24 hours owing to Saturday’s drenching rain). The forecast still wasn’t very encouraging,
    but in the event we only got properly rained on once and the birding was well worth a bit of wet! We met at
    Paignton Pier and for starters we spent ten minutes or so checking the sea, which produced one fly-by Shelduck –
    the only one of the day – a Black-throated Diver and the first of many Great Northern Divers and Great Crested
    Grebes. On to Broadsands for the main course of Red-necked Grebe, Cirl Bunting and Yellow-browed Warbler, all
    of which we eventually found although not everyone got a decent view of the warbler before it flitted off through
    the ivy and vanished. The Red-necked Grebe was joined in Elberry Cove by a Black-necked Grebe, and at least
    a dozen Great Northern Divers could be seen from Elberry Headland (south of Broadsands car park), scattered
    across Torbay; several were very close and gave great views. Scanning around the bay and out to sea also
    produced plenty of Gannets including 20 or so resting on the water in the light wind, and the odd Razorbill as well
    as Cormorants, Shags and Great Black-backed Gulls. Back at the car park we could only find a Reed Bunting at
    the first attempt but a handsome male Cirl Bunting dropped in during our second search, with such common
    species as Woodpigeon, Carrion Crow, Robin, Dunnock, Chaffinch and Goldfinch also taking advantage of the
    feeding area which is kept supplied with seed by generous local birders. The low swampy thicket harboured the
    Yellow-browed Warbler as well as four Bullfinches, Greenfinches and a flock of tits but we couldn’t see or hear any
    of the Chiffchaffs which usually winter there.
    For dessert we drove to Goodrington Sands where we sat out a rainstorm – conveniently at lunch-time – and
    when it dried up a bit we moved up to the Three Beaches Headland a little to the south. There we finally had
    good views of the immature Surf Scoter, accompanied by three female/juvenile Common Scoters, as well as ten
    Great Crested Grebes, another Great Northern Diver, a couple of fly-by Oystercatchers, pairs of Fulmars already
    guarding nest-ledges over on Livermead Cliffs, and the day’s only Guillemot, Kestrel and Grey Wagtail. With
    more rain threatening we counted our successes and set off for home in time to get back to Bristol before dark.
    Altogether we had a very rewarding trip with about forty species in spite of the uncertain weather. (Thanks to Jane
    for leading, Ed). Jane Cumming

  • Tuesday 11 December 2018 – Between Chew and Blagdon Lakes Leaders: Sue and John Prince Tuesday December 11th, 2018

    Twenty-one birders met at Herons Green on a cool but fine winter’s morning. Water levels are now higher. Two
    Goosanders were present along with all the usual ducks, swans and geese. On a patch of mud by the reed bed
    two Black-tailed Godwits, two Grey Herons and several Cormorants were observed through the telescopes. We
    followed the lanes up to Breach Hill Common. There were several flocks of Redwings some of which flew over our
    heads. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen along with the usual small birds, Robin, Dunnock, Wren,
    Blackbird, and Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits. At the coffee stop Nuthatch was heard and Jackie saw a pair of
    Bullfinches and later everyone got a view of these lovely birds further along the walk. Three Common Buzzards
    were close over the field. A Goldcrest was heard. Pied Wagtail and Meadow Pipit helped to bring the total to fiftyfour species. It was a lovely walk with fine countryside views that was enjoyed by all. (Thanks to Sue and John
    Prince for leading.) Sue Prince

  • Saturday 08 December – Cheddar Saturday December 08th, 2018

    Cancelled courtesy of storm ‘Deirdre’.

  • Tuesday 04 December – Newton St. Loe Leaders: Duncan and Pat Gill, Peter Holbrook Tuesday December 04th, 2018

    A record number of 50 members arrived for this year’s pre-Christmas lunch walk from Holy Trinity Church – but
    could we get 50 bird species? We set off in the welcome sunshine. Our group was well spread out, with Peter
    kindly waiting to gather up latecomers, so not everyone saw the single Bullfinch and Greenfinch. We walked past
    a feeder, busy with Blue, Great and Coal Tits, and the local gang of House Sparrows chirruping in the bushes,
    down to the Bath Spa University grounds to the lower lake where there were good views of a Kingfisher working
    its way along the far bank, the resident lonely Mute Swan and some of the 30 Mallards of the day. Moving to “Top
    Lake” we heard Goldcrests in the yew trees and a distant Nuthatch. Three Cormorants perched in taller trees.
    Coffee stop in the pavilion allowed us to admire two Grey Herons, the Mute Swan family (one juvenile left) and the
    ducks, including 23 Teal. One keen member went ahead to the bridge to be rewarded by the sight of a Dipper, a
    new bird for this patch; in spite of a frantic message we missed seeing it dash along the lake edge. We had to
    make do with a handsome Mistle Thrush feeding on what else but mistletoe. Wending our way over the bridge,
    and up through the woods a Treecreeper was spotted. On the way back to the village we saw both Green and
    Great Spotted Woodpeckers, plentiful Redwings and somewhat fewer Fieldfares. Two Blackcaps in bushes at the
    end of the drive rounded off our very pleasant walk, which gave us 40 species altogether. Then it was time to
    enjoy our excellent Christmas lunch at the Riverside Inn during which we showed our appreciation to Mark
    Watson for organising our Tuesday walks and to all the walk leaders including Robert Hargreaves who received a
    BOC Special Award for his contribution to the success of the Avon Bird Blog. Thanks to today’s leaders Duncan
    and Pat Gill and to Peter Holbrook who rounded us up and so efficiently organised our Christmas lunch yet again.
    Anne Crowe

  • Tuesday 27 November – Wain’s Hill and Clevedon Pill Leader: Peter Holbrook Tuesday November 27th, 2018

    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

  • Sunday 25 November – WWT Steart Leader: Richard Belson Sunday November 25th, 2018

    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

  • Tuesday 20 November – Hambrook Leader: Dave Body Tuesday November 20th, 2018

    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

  • Tuesday 13 November – Saltford Leader: Robert Hargreaves Tuesday November 13th, 2018

    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

  • Tuesday 06 November – Goblin Combe Leader: Alastair Fraser Tuesday November 06th, 2018

    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

  • Tuesday 30 October – Elm Farm, Burnett Leader Roger Palmer and Phillipa Paget Tuesday October 30th, 2018

    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

  • Saturday 27 October – Newport Wetlands Leader Mike Jackson Saturday October 27th, 2018

    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

  • Tuesday 23 October – Blaise Castle Leader Di Bunniss Tuesday October 23rd, 2018

    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

  • Tuesday 16 October – Uphill Leader Jane Cumming Tuesday October 16th, 2018

    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

  • Sunday 14 October – Portland Leader Robert Hargreaves Sunday October 14th, 2018

    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

  • Tuesday 09 October – Hawksbury Upton Leader Nick Hawkridge Tuesday October 09th, 2018

    A resurrected walk to the north of the village, hilly, so resuscitation was on the cards, but thankfully all 21 got
    round unscathed – even the octogenarian. We started by going through the gardens of the old pub, where a pair
    of Pied Wagtail ‘chizziked’ at our intrusion, and three Dunnock played chase. A couple of cock Pheasant paraded
    on a wall before scooting off down into Upton Coombe, where we followed. The sun was hot, with a light breeze, a
    zephyr to lighten the parties of Carrion Crows and Jackdaws, but sadly not strong enough to wind assist us to the
    top of Barley Ridge. An obliging Great Spotted Woodpecker remained in her treetop perch for most of us to get a
    ‘good bins full’. The first of several Buzzards circled, calling until another joined the merry-go-round. A test for us
    all was the padlocked five bar gate across the footpath – Pheasant rearing protection I suspect but really – -. A
    couple of Jays were spotted before we went down through Church Wood and into Hannel Bottom where coffee
    and sun were taken. It was quiet, bird-wise, along Small Coombe, a Blue Tit raising the list count (eventually 26)
    but nothing could detract from the tranquillity. Up again we went, past Wine Cellar Farm, with many Pheasants
    littering the landscape and, thankfully, a Nuthatch along the top of Bangel Wood. Our trek back through Upton
    Coombe allowed good views of Green Woodpecker and a much debated Kestrel. Back in the village, we had
    more Dunnocks, a lone Collared Dove and thankfully, for the tally, some House Sparrows. A very lovely day for
    bird walking – even with so few species. (Thanks to Nick for leading) Nick Hawkridge

  • Saturday 06 October – Blagdon Lake Leader Nigel Milbourne Saturday October 06th, 2018

    It was a wet, breezy and cold morning starting at 8°C. Not surprisingly we were a small group of five members.
    We took the cars along the south shore stopping at various points and ending at the hide. Duck numbers were
    building nicely and we saw 41 Pintail, many Teal, some Wigeon plus Mallard, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Gadwall and
    Shoveler. The population of Great White Egrets is increasing with twelve seen with many Grey Herons. Coots,
    Moorhens and a few Great Crested Grebes, one with a large fish, added to the variety. Waders were scarce but a
    Greenshank, Snipe and a Black-tailed Godwit were seen. The only passerines were Robin, Wren and some
    Wagtails and Meadow Pipits. In spite of the weather it was an enjoyable meeting. Thanks to Nigel Milbourne for
    leading. John & Sue Prince

  • Tuesday 02 October – East Harptree Leader Geoff Harris Tuesday October 02nd, 2018

    The sunny autumn weather appeared to have deserted the 15 members gathering for this walk and the strong
    breeze in the trees initially made identification by sound difficult for all but the very sharp of hearing. However,
    Wren, Blue Tit, Coal Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker were soon on the list and then Goldfinches were spotted
    feeding on cones in one of the tall conifers by the track – and not just tens or twenties but an estimated 150 flying
    in and out as we watched. Five Pied Wagtail also flew over. The wood was fairly quiet after we turned off on the path to Smitham Chimney, though Goldcrest and Stock Dove were added. The next really active spot was a
    wonderful hedge – the sort that every field should have, with hawthorn, elder, holly, hazel and many other species.
    This, and the path beside it, was alive with birds including House Sparrow, Robin, a couple of dozen Chaffinches
    and an elusive Bullfinch which kept calling but remained invisible in the thick hedge. The descent into Harptree
    Combe didn’t yield many extra species and the going needed care with many fallen branches or whole trees.
    Later Green Woodpecker, Mallard and Pheasant were all seen and a single Swallow. Then a few Meadow Pipits
    heads bobbing above furrows revealed themselves to be a flock of over 90. Our total number of species was 30.
    This walk has been done in most seasons and is always rewarding – it needs to be with the number of hills en
    route, especially at the end! Thanks to Geoff for leading and keeping us climbing. Nancy Barrett

  • Saturday 29 September – Clevedon Leader: Jason Williams Saturday September 29th, 2018

    A total of twelve members joined me on a very bright but fresh morning at Clevedon. From the Church we made
    our way up to the ‘Viz Mig’ area of Wains Hill. Sadly, there was very little in the way of movement with just a few
    Meadow Pipits and resident Jays going over. Making our way around to the coast we had a Swallow and a
    Wheatear, and on the Estuary a long string of over two hundred Shelducks were observed. A Peregrine was at
    the top of one of the radio masts and was ‘scoped well for all. The Clevedon Pill held a Little Egret and assorted
    gulls and two Stonechats were seen well. A good group of twenty plus House Sparrows were also present. It
    was a quiet stroll along to the Kenn with a few Rock Pipits, Skylark, and Linnet seen. The Kenn had around forty
    Oystercatchers in the roost alongside approximately 40 Curlews, 100 Redshanks and some Dunlins. A few
    returning Wigeon were seen. Heading back we again saw the Peregrine, this time heading off to hunt and three
    more Wheatears. All in all a pleasant walk with around 45 species seen. Thanks to those who joined me.
    (Thanks to Jason for leading the walk.) Jason Williams

  • Tuesday 25 September – Easton-in-Gordano Leader: Judy Copeland Tuesday September 25th, 2018

    Glorious sunshine after the deluge and really, the mud was not too bad. House Sparrow, Robin and Dunnock
    started the list. Robins were everywhere (Nick counted 21!), welcoming the sun in full voice and one or two
    Wrens sang as well. Green Woodpeckers were also calling – we had three or four. The wood going up towards
    Failand was very quiet but numbers of common bird species gradually rose, Coal Tits especially singing well. At
    the bird feeder house at the bottom of Sandy Lane were Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Great and Blue Tits flitting across from the trees and a Pheasant was seen there. Peering over the wall beside the track near Failand House Farm
    we found a single Mistle Thrush on the grass and a Green Woodpecker, which immediately flew – would have
    been a nice view! Nuthatch was eventually heard during the climb up through the wood to the farm. One or two
    Chiffchaffs were ‘weeting’, and over the fields we saw one Skylark, Swallows and several House Martins on
    migration. Six Linnet flew over as we came down towards the village. Speckled Wood butterflies were common
    beside hedges, and in the sheltered south-facing field below Failand church we spotted a Clouded Yellow, several
    Small Coppers, a Common Blue and a Red Admiral, while a Buzzard, first seen on a branch behind some
    overhead wires, gave a good show above us and two Ravens were tumbling. Apologies for the walk being rather
    longer and steeper than some had anticipated but I hope most people enjoyed it nonetheless! Nick counted 33
    species. (Thanks to Judy for leading the walk.) Judy Copeland

  • Tuesday 18 September – Tickenham Leaders: Jan Pridie and Lois Pryce Tuesday September 18th, 2018

    The tail end of some stormy weather was kinder than expected to 20 members meeting by Tickenham’s church.
    Large numbers of Swallows, House and some Sand Martins hunted across the golf course with flocks of
    Goldfinch. Chiffchaffs ‘wheeted’, Green Woodpeckers ‘yaffled’, and Nuthatch, Goldcrest, Chaffinch, Coal Tits and
    Long Tailed Tits called or appeared along the path up to the ridge and along to Cadbury Camp. Two Buzzards
    circled above the woods down from the camp, one strikingly pale. On the return by the Land Yeo and across
    Tickenham Moor were two Cormorants (including one pale-fronted juvenile), Grey Herons, a Grey Wagtail, and a
    Mistle Thrush. Back at the church we finally saw our first two Starling on the spire joined by two more Mistle
    Thrush, and heard a Jay. Total species count 27. (Thanks to Jan and Lois for leading the walk.) Lois Pryce

  • Sunday 16 September – Uphill and Bleadon Leader: Jane Cumming Sunday September 16th, 2018

    Ten members including two guests from the USA met at Uphill boatyard. It was dull and overcast with a southerly
    breeze so perhaps not so good for any expected migrants. We followed the usual route through the boatyard and
    quarry. A Little Egret and Little Grebe were eventually located on the caravan park pond but the quarry and its
    bushes were surprisingly quiet with only a few Long-tailed Tits, Goldfinch and Robins present. A Bullfinch was
    heard but not seen. We carried on over Walborough Hill, finding several Swallows passing through, views of two
    hunting Kestrels, a few Meadow Pipits, Linnets and corvids and delighted by very close views of a Peregrine
    almost catching a Wood Pigeon! We made our way back and over to the estuary. There we found a few
    Redshank and a solitary Dunlin. Duck numbers were down but we saw plenty of Shelducks and four Curlews. On
    the rocky islands offshore were various gulls and Oystercatchers. Overall an unusually quiet morning, no doubt
    due to the wrong wind, but 35 species were seen or heard. Thanks to Jane for leading the walk. Geoff Dring

  • Tuesday 11 September – Woodchester Park Leader: Nancy Barrett Tuesday September 11th, 2018

    A round dozen met in earlier than forecast drizzle and initially, as we walked down into the valley, the predominant
    sound was of rain in the Beech trees, which were a vivid, almost springlike green. By coffee time birds had been
    heard if not seen including Raven, Carrion Crow, Buzzard and Nuthatch. The sound of Mallard was a constant as
    we made our way along lake edges with a total count of 71 and there were Coot and Moorhen too. Search for a
    possible Garganey failed to come up with the goods but on other lakes Mandarin ducks including juveniles and
    Tufted Duck were seen. The weather started to improve and there was a group of House Martins around a
    juvenile Buzzard which was calling. Marsh Tit was heard. The sun put in an appearance during our picnic which
    brought out some butterflies, moths and dragonflies and then, as the National Trust Ranger was unable to join us
    for an update on work in the valley, we decided to continue down to the end of the final lake. This proved to be
    well worthwhile adding Grey Heron and Cormorant to the list and at the very farthest spot two Grey Wagtail and a
    Dipper were seen. En route back past the Mansion more Buzzards, House Martins and a few Swallows were in
    evidence and some calling Chiffchaff. So even if planning a picnic in September might have seemed like tempting
    fate, all’s well that ends well! (Thanks to Nancy for leading the walk.) Nancy Barrett

  • Tuesday 04 September – Arlingham Leader: Alastair Fraser Tuesday September 04th, 2018

    Twenty-one of us met at the village car park in Arlingham on a dull but dry day. Our leader briefed us on the
    birding possibilities of the area – good for a variety of raptors near the river and pipits in the meadows. In view of
    the disappointingly gloomy weather however, we were warned that it may be a bird walk with “no birds”! We set
    off and made an excellent start with a huge flock of House Martins, an amazing 250 of them, wheeling through the
    sky on our left. By the petting farm (with miniature goats) we watched a young Goldfinch being fed by a parent,
    thinking it was a bit late in the year to be still raising a family. Birds included a few Collared Doves, Blue and
    Great Tits; most of us saw the Chiffchaff whose call had beckoned us. Mallards shot up from the invisible
    waterway, startling us. When we arrived at the banks of the Severn for our coffee stop the water was very low, the
    banks very muddy, with some interesting cliffs across the wide river. A Little Egret dropped out of sight behind a
    grassy bank while three Grey Herons rested on the mud. We continued along the raised path parallel to the river
    bank around the land that forms a great bulge into the River Severn, finding plenty of Coots in the water and
    enjoying views of the opposite bank. Not until we turned away from the river opposite the interesting looking town
    of Newnham did we find one Meadow Pipit! We walked back into the village where we were greeted by a
    welcome group of five Long-tailed Tits. A few stragglers missed the cut-through and had to be retrieved by our
    leader; after which more than a few repaired to the community pub, The Red Lion, to sample the excellent food.
    Though our only raptors and pipits were five Buzzards and one Meadow Pipit plenty of birds (31 species
    altogether) were seen or heard and everyone enjoyed the interesting landscape of this new walk. (Thanks to
    Alastair for leading the walk.) Alastair Fraser

  • Sunday 02 September – Pilning Wetlands Leader: Lois Pryce Sunday September 02nd, 2018

    Nine people including two new members met at New Passage on a warm still day with a rising tide and two late
    arrivals who had been trying to find the Rose-coloured Starling at Severn Beach. From the shore birds could be
    seen stretching into the distance, included Turnstones, Curlews, Teal, Black-tailed Godwits, Redshanks, Dunlins
    and a Greenshank. The pools included Black-tailed Godwits with a few Knot amongst them, Gadwalls, Shovelers,
    Snipe, Lapwings nestled in a hummocky field, the odd-looking ‘Branta’ (Barnacle and Brent Goose) hybrid with a
    speckled Barnacle-type face, and Grey Herons. Swallows, House Martins and the occasional Sand Martin were
    flying above. The salt marsh included Little Egret, Meadow Pipits, Linnets, Pied Wagtails, a Skylark, a Wheatear,
    and large groups of Canada Geese; with Kestrels and Buzzard above. Hedgerows and fields included flocks of
    Goldfinch, Chiffchaffs, a possible Lesser Whitethroat, and a Green Woodpecker flying onto a telegraph pole. Late
    sightings as the group split up included a Kingfisher on the Pill, a smart Yellow Wagtail on a pool’s edge, a Stock Dove, a Willow Warbler, Ringed Plovers, and a raft of Shovelers at sea. Total 52 species. (Thanks to Lois for
    leading the walk.) Lois Pryce

  • Tuesday 28 August – Old Down Leader: Sue Black Tuesday August 28th, 2018

    At this bird quiet time of the year 31 optimistic members gathered to walk around the Tockington hills and woods and were surprisingly well rewarded. The walk edged past the old quarry and down into the village, catching the usual woodland birds especially Robins who kept us company almost the whole morning, with their songs now more autumnal. As we walked past Tockington School and its pond a resident Moorhen was spotted, and the first of several Buzzards. A flock of 30-40 Swallows and House Martins flew over the roadside cottages. Crossing several stubble fields, one revealed at least 100 Herring Gulls with about ten Lesser Black-backed Gulls contrasting with their paler cousins. In the next field was a contingent of 80 or so Black-headed Gulls with at least three Common Gulls lurking amongst them. At the same time a flock of about 150 mixed corvids was seen, including Carrion Crows, Jackdaws and Magpies, as well as a Raven and Buzzard. Things were definitely hotting up! Entering Sheepcombe Wood there were more passerines in the form of Nuthatch, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tits amongst others. Emerging from the wood we crossed grassy fields where a Green Woodpecker was seen briefly flying between trees. Soon a cottage garden with a bird feeder enabled more birds to be spotted (Coal Tit, House Sparrow and Chaffinch) and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard. By the time we returned to the cars we were up to a tally of 30 birds, a good number for late August, thanks to the many keen-eyed birders. (Many thanks Sue – a lovely walk) Sue Black

  • Tuesday 21 August – Failand Leader: Gareth Roberts Tuesday August 21st, 2018

    The five-barred gate (and many new stiles, courtesy of the Woodspring Ramblers) to Failand Lodge Farm, admitted 30 walkers, clad, as each person had divined the weather, in shorts and tee-shirts, right through to full wet weather gear and gloves. Collared Dove was spotted as we watched the flock of House Martins scouring the tree tops. A flock of mixed Jackdaws and Rooks were seen through a gap in the trees, where many juvenile tits were playing chase with House Sparrow and a few Starling. Up through the farmyard and down the vale towards the cricket ground, Wren and Chaffinch were calling, a nice flock of Goldfinches was seen and a laughing Green Woodpecker was heard. Just shy of the turn to pass Failand Hill House, a pair of Bullfinches were spotted and on the cricket pitch, with the boundary flags looking like small gulls, were some Carrion Crow. Sharp-eared ladies heard the call of Goldcrest from the majestic firs along Horse Race Lane, a Blackcap ticked at us and a Buzzard ‘mewed’ as we re-joined the footpath that skirts Lime Kiln Plantation. The star bird of the day was then found, a Wheatear – sitting on a hay bale as we headed down for a welcome re-fuel overlooking Warren Cottage. A climb and descent across Portbury Lane, and up again to the new house conversions at Higher Farm Granary. In the field, as we headed towards Charlton Lodge, were 16 Herring Gulls roosting and beside the track, a bright Common Blue butterfly. The first of the Nuthatches was heard in the woods as we entered the Tyntesfield estate, with a Raven passing over. A further Nuthatch calling, a Great Spotted Woodpecker ‘chipping’ and a singing Coal Tit rounded off our count at 33. Thanks to Gareth for leading this lovely walk. Nick Hawkridge

  • Tuesday 14 August – Burrington Ham Leader: Clive Burton Tuesday August 14th, 2018

    Twenty-three walkers turned out to try this new walk. We were rewarded by some stunning Mendip views from the limestone top and along part of the Limestone Link path. The birds were taking their August rest with fewer species seen than usual, nevertheless, we had some close views when they did turn up. Goldcrests were heard as we left the car park. Climbing through woods we noted Blue and Great Tit, Woodpigeon, Blackbird, Chaffinch, and Chiffchaff. A fleeting Bullfinch call was heard by some and on the top a Kestrel was hovering. Along the path below Black Down three Swallows flew over. Two Bullfinches were heard calling in the hedgerow next to us, and then seen flying into a Rowan on the hillside. Another Chiffchaff called and a Raven flew over. There were nice views of two Stonechats on the bracken. As we descended back to the start two Emperor dragonflies investigated us as the sun broke through the cloud cover. Two further Chiffchaffs completed our list. It had been a very enjoyable walk with good company in splendid countryside. Many thanks to Clive for leading. Gareth Roberts

  • Saturday 11 August – Chew Valley Lake Leader: Robert Hargreaves Saturday August 11th, 2018

    Eleven people met at a very cold and windy Herriotts Bridge. We were pleased to find Ian Stapp, a CVL regular well-known for his photographs on the Avon Bird Blog, who told us about some of the waders we might find on the mud bank in Herriotts Pool exposed by the low water level. With the help of ‘scopes, careful searching revealed two Dunlins, still sporting their summer black bellies amongst the twenty Lapwing and a dozen Black-tailed Godwits. Six Green Sandpipers cheered us up, with two Kingfishers racing along the back. They perched for long enough for everyone to get a good view, then dashed off in a flash of blue. A couple of Common Sandpipers kept flying around the pool keeping us amused and then to our surprise, a Curlew called and flew over, a rare bird to see at Chew. The duck in their eclipse plumage were mainly Mallard, Teal and Gadwall, but there were also four Shovelers. We were delighted to see three Great White Egrets but it was too cold for the warblers or Reed Buntings to make their presence known. It was unseasonably chilly for us, too; one of us decided to leave early while the rest had no appetite to search for the leucistic Coot known to be about. We moved on to Herons Green to find two more Green Sandpipers under the trees and a Greenshank flew across to Moreton calling. We were excited by evidence of breeding success: in the small pool were families of Coot, Moorhen, Tufted Duck and Little Grebes (particularly charming). Looking out across the wider water and including our family of five we found 24 Little Grebes! Moving round to Woodford we enjoyed watching the hirundines. A couple of Sand Martins were found and ten Swifts – for some of us the first Swifts of the month and soon to be gone from our skies till next year. A little walk through the trees revealed very few birds but a Bullfinch was heard. This was enough for most of the party, the drizzle started and we were left with four to visit the dam. Two Common Sandpipers were on the west side and three Egyptian Geese were greedily eating up the food offered at the Salt and Malt. In spite of the cold we were very happy with our finds of waders, families, Kingfishers and Swifts. Thanks to our leader, Robert Hargreaves. Anne Crowe

  • Tuesday 07 August – Redhouse Farm. Winford Manor Leader: Nick Hawkridge Tuesday August 07th, 2018

    A group of 24 met at Redhouse Farm where we were greeted by Melanie Patch who had very kindly agreed to show us round the farm and some of the surrounding area. The weather was very pleasant and as we set off we started our list with Collared Dove, House Sparrow and Woodpigeon. We saw the first of several Swallows and Melanie told us that there were six active nests in the farm buildings. We heard and then saw two Ravens as they flew from a nearby tall conifer tree. As we walked along the lanes and fields towards Felton Common we added Carrion Crow, Blackbird, Rook and Jackdaw. Two Stock Doves flew over and we saw Magpie, Chiffchaff, a number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and our first Buzzard of the morning. A Yellowhammer was heard with some of the group able to spot it and a flock of twelve Linnets flew over. As we walked over Felton Common we added Chaffinch, Willow Warbler and Dunnock, and a Whitethroat was seen by two of the group. A Stonechat was also seen with two juveniles being spotted a little later. A few House Martins flew above us and then we had a reasonably good view of a Wheatear, presumably heading south. Bullfinches were heard and some did get a view and similarly Goldcrests were heard, with some spotting at least one bird. As the walk came to an end we added Great Tit and Herring Gull to the list and finished with a flock of 15 Starling. Many thanks to Nick for leading and for keeping an excellent record of species seen. It is usually a quiet time of the year for birding so we were pleased to have seen or heard a total of 31 species. It was a very enjoyable morning and we were very grateful to Melanie for taking us though Felton Common as well as the farm and for sharing her knowledge of the wildlife that the farm attracts. It was lovely to hear about the birds that have been seen this year such as Spotted Flycatchers, Little Owl and Ruff as well as a number of butterfly species that frequent the farm, particularly in the old quarry area. The butterfly species that were seen on the walk included Small Copper, Holly Blue and Silver-washed Fritillary. Mike Landen

  • Tuesday 31 July – Bath Racecourse Leader: Robert Hargreaves Tuesday July 31st, 2018

    A group of 20 set out from Bath Racecourse on a pleasant summer’s morning. There was a cool breeze that made for ideal walking weather. As we left the car park and walked along open countryside we soon saw some common species that included Carrion Crow, Swallow and Goldfinch. Wren and Skylark were heard and, as we walked through a very nice wood, we added Blue Tit, Blackcap and Long-tailed Tit. As we left the wood some of the group saw two Kestrels – an adult and a juvenile. On the next part of the walk we saw or heard Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Nuthatch, Bullfinch, Buzzard, Blackbird and Dunnock. We had our coffee break at a spot that gave excellent views towards Wales, with both Severn bridges visible. Two Ravens flew over giving us all excellent views. We walked on to a second viewpoint where we had good views of a female Sparrowhawk as it flew over the woodland beneath us and four more Ravens flew past. We also saw a party of ten House Martins making their way south on migration and a field in the distance contained a good number of corvids, including Jackdaw and Rook. As we approached the end of the walk we saw four Linnets drinking in the puddles and finished with a flock of 27 Starlings, giving a total of 28 species. Many thanks to Nick for keeping an excellent record of species seen. It was a very enjoyable morning with part of the walk following the Cotswold Way and there were information boards giving some interesting details of the Battle of Lansdown that took place in 1643. We are very grateful to Robert for devising and leading the walk. Mike Landen

  • Sunday 29 July – Newport Wetlands Sunday July 29th, 2018

    Gale force winds and torrential rain did not deter the two brave birders who joined us for this walk. The decision was made to head to Goldcliff and take cover in the hides but that was after a hot drink in the cafe and a scan of the pond, which yielded Gadwall, Moorhen, Mallard and a House Sparrow. The lagoons at Goldcliff were more wet mud than water and some were totally dry but the birds were there. Braving the winds were Grey Heron and Little Egret with Lapwing, Ringed Plover and summer-plumaged Dunlin all huddled close in to the grass. We watched a Kestrel trying to hunt and hover but it resorted to fence post hopping. A Snipe did a brief flight and a Curlew was seen on the bank. A number of Common Sandpipers ran along the muddy edges and a few Teal were noted. The moving herd of cows brought Starling and Yellow Wagtail in their wake. Just as we were thinking of heading home, a pair of Greenshanks caught our attention and with them a Wood Sandpiper. Having expected to find very little due to the weather we managed to see 26 species in all. (Many thanks to Margaret and Ray for some very brave leading.) Margaret Bulmer

  • Tuesday 24 July – Clevedon/Walton Common Leader: Judy Copeland Tuesday July 24th, 2018

    Fortunately, it was still cloudy when 19 of us set out from Clevedon – the hot sun came through later. Walking up through the golf course we saw Herring Gulls, House Sparrows, swooping Swallows and a family of five crows on the roof of the barn. A couple of Greenfinches were on the wall. We stopped to look at the Severn but nothing showed, so we proceeded along the path beside the golf course with its high hedges and picked up some butterflies, mostly Speckled Woods and Gatekeepers and a Common Blue, and heard a Pheasant, a Robin and a Green Woodpecker. Coffee was taken in the big field overlooking the sea, the only birds being a Blue Tit in the adjoining garden and a Magpie, then Goldfinches in the bushes. The coast path was quiet too, but we found the odd Black-headed gull among the rocks and seaweed, including one juvenile. Two Grey Wagtails flew over the rocks and we saw a Crow with white markings on the wings. After we left the coast path, a Greenfinch was spotted flying across the field and it obligingly perched in full view on top of a bush. Once into the wood approaching Walton Common, we heard Buzzard, Goldcrest and Bullfinch. Lunch was taken under the trees and afterwards we saw several Dark Green Fritillary butterflies, eventually getting a perfect view of one on a flower head as we descended from the Common. Also, a Coal Tit was actually singing. In the wood leading back to the golf course we heard Chaffinch and another Green Woodpecker. Back in the open we saw a Buzzard hovering (no, it was not a Kestrel!). It was a nice walk in spite of the small number of species (22) in the heat – and I hope everyone enjoyed it – I enjoyed the recce too! (Thanks to Judy for leading – Ed) Judy Copeland

     

  • Tuesday 17th July – Little Sodbury Leader: Nick Hawkridge Tuesday July 17th, 2018

    Nineteen started out under leaden sky and spitting rain that welcomed us and new members Sarah and Chris. A Buzzard and the first of the interminable Woodpigeon started our count, with a gap in the trees showing a vast host of Corvid on what looked like a newly harvested field. The lake had only a lone Grey Heron on the edge, and a singing Blackcap in the surrounding scrub. The upland, towards Horton, gave some Swallows, and the first of the tinkling Goldfinch we saw during the walk. The sun turned the day a deal warmer, although the bands of high cloud did keep us cool. We counted Swift, House Martin and House Sparrow as we negotiated the streets of Horton, with a Greenfinch on a suite of feeders and the school building sporting a couple of Pied Wagtails. The view from the coffee stop was magnificent, away across Bristol, over the Severn and on towards Wales. The raptor count was upped to two with the appearance of a Sparrowhawk and not much further along, a newly harvested field was being skimmed by 50 Swallows with juveniles on the wire waiting to be fed. One sharp pair of eyes discerned that actually one of the perched Swallows was a Yellowhammer and then the call and song of Goldcrest was heard which lead to a fruitful search for a sight of the gold crowned one. The path across the rape field was a convenient place for a couple of the party to return to their cars. We continued across the field, adding Skylark, and Linnet. On towards The Fort where we saw a big mixed flock of tits, with a couple of Chiffchaff amongst them, feeding in succession from scrubby bush to scrubby bush. After our lunch stop at Old Sodbury Church and the reduction in our numbers by those bent on a pub lunch, we found a Linnet singing from a power wire, a brilliantly coloured male with a vibrantly crimson chest. A flash of white and a harsh screech revealed a Jay and, as the path took us towards the cars, a Chaffinch made the total for the day – 36. (Thanks to Nick for leading – Ed).
    Nick Hawkridge

  • Tuesday 10 July – Lower Woods Leader: Jean Oliver Tuesday July 10th, 2018

    As 19 walkers prepared to enter Plumbers Trench, on a cooler day than of late, Nuthatch, Blackcap, and Wren were heard around the car park. The reserve soon lived up to its reputation as a butterfly hotspot as three Silver-washed Fritillaries were seen in the sunshine, followed by a glimpse of a White Admiral. The birds were quiet until we approached the edge of the wood when Coal Tit and Blue Tit were calling, together with another Nuthatch and Wren. Crossing a field of stubble towards Wickwar we saw the first of five Buzzards. Some Woodpigeons and Goldfinch were seen and heard. Hirundines were seen over the village, and then flying closer; six House Martins, four Swallows, and 20 Swifts. Entering a small wood with a stream we heard the ‘yaffle’ of Green Woodpecker and calls of two Great-spotted Woodpeckers. A Bullfinch was heard from a hedge and four Linnets flew across a field as we approached the coffee stop in the shade of three young oaks. Along the edge of a recently mown meadow there were three more Goldfinches and a Blackcap. Near a brook two Grey Wagtail were added as we re-entered Lower Woods which was again quiet until we joined Horton Great Trench. As well as being “awash with Silver-washed” the woodland margin revealed a female Blackcap making a good fist of imitating Marsh Tit, and a Coal Tit was calling in the expected manner. In a clearing before the descent to the river we had our best birding moments. A Bullfinch was calling and one of two Spotted Flycatchers gave very good views as a large hawker dragonfly patrolled below. Returning to the car park a Chiffchaff song was heard and finally a few phrases of Blackcap song. This very enjoyable walk had yielded 24 species. Many thanks to Jean for leading and to Nick for keeping the list.
    Gareth Roberts

  • Sunday 08 July – Marshfield Leader: Mike Jackson Sunday July 08th, 2018

    On a sunny morning that promised to be very hot nine of us met in the layby on the A420 next to Marshfield, making sure to find a shady spot for each car. At 09:00 we set off along the track leading to West Littleton Road in the hope of seeing a Little Owl somewhere around the outbuilding. Although its old haunt had been disrupted by repair work the bird was back and did not disappoint; perching briefly and going in and out of a small hole with food for its young. What a delightful start to our walk! Continuing along West Littleton Road, two birds on the wire were confirmed (thanks to those who carried ‘scopes in spite of the heat) as Corn Buntings; we were pleased to find five in total. In a field on the left three Red-legged Partridges were spotted; a pleasing sight as they have been hard to find recently. Yellowhammer song dominated and soon we saw several, including a bright yellow bird adorning a power pole’s electrical apparatus. As we turned into Rushmead Lane a beautiful dark Buzzard, which had been perched, flew up the valley and a Wren sang out. Dusty farm buildings and machinery hosted a family of six Pied Wagtails. Our walk along the lane gave several Skylarks, flocks of Jackdaws, Carrion Crows and Rooks but small birds other than Yellowhammer (Dunnock, Chaffinch, and Linnet) were in ones or twos only. Before reaching Tormarton Road we turned back along the lane, pleased to hear a distant Whitethroat before we took a footpath across the field to the rough farm track, Northfield Lane. Two Swifts were spotted overhead to add to the Swallows and House Martins seen swooping over the land. The track proved to be hot and rough going but we were rewarded by the drama of a Sparrowhawk darting out of a tree mobbed by four Swallows. Back at the outbuilding the Little Owl was apparently having a rest from the unbroken sunshine. We concluded our walk soon after midday, happy with the birds we had seen and to finish on the note of a Bullfinch call. We had 26 species altogether and a most enjoyable walk. Thanks to our leader Mike Jackson.
    Anne Crowe

  • Tuesday 03 July – Sand Bay Leader: Nick Hawkridge Tuesday July 03rd, 2018

    Ten of us set out up the steps and into some shade. A Chiffchaff was located skulking in the cover and a couple of Blue Tit juveniles put on an acrobatic display – letting us get very close. Two Swallows were reported from the back of the group, while the front counted Black-headed Gulls, Shelduck and heard the first Skylark. Across the scorched grass and hot slippery stones, where above us the first of the Swifts appeared, with the crack and rattle of a Magpie and the liquid tinkle of Linnet – with quite a few bouncing about, we’d added three more to our total. As we dropped towards the Point, first Whitethroat and then Stonechat were seen and heard. Turning back along the seaward edge of the point a Greenfinch ‘wheezed’ and we flushed the usual breeding Rock Pipit from the rock face at the coffee stop in the pebbly cove. Above and behind us, three more walkers were seen, making their way carefully down and bought reports of three Rock Pipit and another Greenfinch from the very end of the Point. Skylark and Swift accompanied us as we walked the browning turf, with only Carrion Crow and Meadow Pipit being added before we reached the River Banwell and lunch. There were a few Oystercatchers and a couple of Mallard seen as we sat in the not very cool shade to munch our food, but we did benefit from the light breeze whispering in from the estuary. The tramp over the ‘Field System’, that once covered the whole of the downs, was hot. Skylark and Meadow Pipit were frequently seen and, lifting briefly from the hedge, our first raptor, a Kestrel. Our 29th and final bird species was House Sparrow, flying around the very welcome ice-cream van awaiting our return at the car park. (Thanks to Nick for leading – Ed).
    Nick Hawkridge

  • Sunday 01 July – Ubley Warren/Velvet Bottom Leaders: Sue & Nigel Kempson Sunday July 01st, 2018

    Six members met in the small car park for this morning walk. The recent heat wave may have put many people off attending, but in fact the morning was pleasantly cool due to light cloud cover and a helpful breeze. From the car park Reed Bunting, Chaffinch, Wren, Goldfinch and a Buzzard were seen. We followed the usual route to the pool with good numbers of Swallows and House Martins as well as Whitethroat, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crows and Jackdaws. We crossed the field to the road and headed uphill towards the radio mast with constant Skylark song in the background. As we went down the hedge-enclosed track we stopped to view a dragonfly and some of the many butterflies. A number of Meadow Pipits were in the adjoining fields. Long Wood was noted for the aggressive horseflies attacking all and sundry, although we did have fleeting glimpses of Treecreeper, Song Thrush, Robin, and heard Great Tit, Coal Tit and Nuthatch as we rushed through. It was a relief to get to Velvet Bottom, although birds were sparse and, disappointingly, no Redstarts were in evidence. Three of us took a slightly longer route back to the car park and were rewarded with fine views of Linnets in vibrant summer plumage and a solitary Stonechat. Overall 32 species listed. (Thanks to Sue and Nigel for leading – Ed).
    Sue Kempson

  • Tuesday 26 June – Hinton Blewitt and Litton Reservoirs Leaders: Sue and John Prince Tuesday June 26th, 2018

    It was an extremely hot day with temperatures up to 29C and sun in a clear blue sky. Consequently, there were fewer walkers than usual and we walked the circuit in reverse so that the open fields were tackled first downhill. We heard three Yellowhammer and saw one in an Ash tree. The village held the usual House Sparrow and Jackdaw and several houses were adorned with House Martin nests. At the Litton reservoirs we enjoyed welcome shade and we saw a pair of Mute Swans, Moorhen, Little Grebe, Cormorant, two Grey Herons, and a Little Egret. Both Grey and Pied Wagtails flitted around. The only ducks were Mallard and Tufted. Two Common Buzzards flew over calling. Chiffchaff and Blackcap were still singing. We saw Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed Tits. There were many Dragonflies and Damselflies. Other birds of note were a Starling nesting in a hole in the wall of a house, Song Thrush and two Mistle Thrush, with at least eight Wren singing. 37 species were recorded in total. (Thanks to Sue and John for leading, Ed) Sue Prince

  • Tuesday 19 June – Velvet Bottom Leader: Geoff Harris Tuesday June 19th, 2018

    With little or no sun, it was hot and humid all day, as one guy we met said ‘the horse flies are biting and drawing blood’. The climb out of the car park allowed all 17 to see and hear many Jackdaw, all busy hoovering up some, but not all, of the wretched flies. The first Whitethroat was heard and for the impatient – not seen, while those at the rear had good views. A gang of four Magpies where ‘chacking’ and ‘cracking’ over something, unseen by us, in the grass. The hasty song of Dunnock, the tumbling refrains of a Garden Warbler, the first distant song of a Skylark, the near drowning out sound of two Song Thrushes and the tinkling of a couple of Linnets took us to the start of Velvet Bottom itself. The sharp eyed caught the quick drop, from hovering, of a Kestrel, and the keen eared, the sound of Coal Tit and the first Willow Warbler singing his mournful song. As we wandered along, the hedge line was temporary home to more Whitethroat, a Blackcap, some Robins, the first family of Great Tits and four Swallows who went skimming past. As we neared the coffee stop a pair of Bullfinches flew across, the one and only Swift slalomed away and the obligatory Buzzard circled. Above our usual seating area, where the bushes began, we found two Redstarts – both juvenile, who were happily foraging, so very close to us, and reducing the biting fly population in the process. As we entered Long Wood the call of a Great Spotted Woodpecker chipped out, the ‘ooh-ut ooh-ut’ of a Stock Dove was heard and the first Chiffchaff called. We braved the nasty-bitey flies all across the downs to the aerials; we added to the count of Linnets then finally back to the cars, with Goldfinch bringing the tally to 34 and a shocking number of bites. Many thanks to Geoff for leading us on this wonderful walk. Nick Hawkridge

  • Tuesday 12 June – Compton Dando Leader: Mike Landen Tuesday June 12th, 2018

    It was a rather overcast morning and a little cooler than the previous few days as 16 of us set off from The Compton Inn. There were a good number of common birds around the village including House Sparrows, Collared Dove, Swallows and Jackdaws (45 for the whole walk). House Martins were absent from their usual haunt near to their nesting sites but we did see a good number (28) just outside the village. Swifts were also absent and, rather surprisingly we did not see any throughout the walk. After a very short walk to the bridge over the River Chew we were unable to find a Dipper, one of our target species for the walk, but we had a good view of a Grey Wagtail. We then walked through some pasture land bordered with woodland where we added Greenfinch, Chiffchaff, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Wren. We climbed a steep path through the woods and then crossed a meadow but we did not see as many butterflies as usual, probably due to the lack of sunshine. Song Thrush, Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, Buzzard and Lesser Black-backed Gull were added to the list. We heard another Chiffchaff and eventually saw it singing from the top of a tall tree. We reached Woollard and made a very slight diversion for another view of the River Chew from the road bridge. There were some beautiful damselflies over the river and a family of Mallards were seen. We also had good views of Pied Wagtails, a Linnet and a Mistle Thrush. We found a nice spot by the river for our coffee break and then continued on towards Publow. We heard a Lesser Whitethroat but, although we spent some time trying to locate it in the gorse, we failed to see it. As we started the walk back along the other side of the River Chew we spotted a Grey Heron. We could still hear the Lesser Whitethroat and, at the same time we also heard a (Common) Whitethroat and managed to see it. We saw two Ravens and we finished our species count with Blackcap, Pheasant and Bullfinch A total of 36 species were seen or heard. Thanks very much to Nick for keeping his usual accurate bird list. (Thanks to Mike for leading, Ed). Mike Landen

  • Friday 08 June – Forest of Dean Leader: Jane Cumming Friday June 08th, 2018

    On a fine, warm evening eight of us met at Cannop Ponds.  It was good to welcome new member John Dix, joining us for his first field meeting with the Club.  The main theme here was “babies”; a Mandarin duck managing her brood of eight; Mute Swans with two cygnets; two Coot families; and families of Grey and Pied Wagtails. Star billing went to a very young Dipper, posing obligingly for some time.  Most of us had never before seen a Dipper baby (except on Springwatch).  Other birds included a handsome Little Grebe in fine summer plumage.  We moved to Speech House Woodland car park for our walk up to Crabtree Hill, an easy and pleasant walk in the evening sun.  Along the grassy path through the scrub on the lower slopes we were delighted by quite a few Tree Pipits singing and parachuting to the tree tops, the bright Stonechats and lovely red Linnets.  A black boar crossed our path further up.  At the top we took up our usual position to wait for the headline bird.  We heard the calls of the Canada Geese flying in to the lake.  While still light at 21:07 we heard our first churring – Nightjars were definitely around!  Another wait, during which we were entertained by the songs of a Song Thrush and two Garden Warblers, was rewarded by much churring and spectacular flights of Nightjars.   Some were close enough, after swooping over our heads, for us to see their white markings.  One took up position on a dead branch (same tree as last year) so we could see that characteristic silhouette.  In the middle of all this a Woodcock flew over, flying long enough for all except our unfortunate leader to get a good sighting.  As it grew dark, having had plenty of excitement, we set off back down the hill.  Suddenly another Woodcock flew over.   This time our leader saw it, happy to see her first in ten years.  We heard more Nightjars along the way churring and wing clapping.  Our descent in the dark was enlivened by bats (being detected with a gadget) and the odd toad to be avoided.  We knew we would be late home when we returned to our cars at around 22:30 but all felt we had enjoyed a truly thrilling evening with more than 30 species.  Thanks to our leader Jane Cumming.                              Anne Crowe

  • Tuesday 05 June – Badminton Leader: Nick Hawkridge Tuesday June 05th, 2018

    An overcast day made for pleasant walking conditions as 22 of us set out across the green of this picturesque village. A Song Thrush and then four welcome Swifts were seen, and then a large number of Jackdaws. House Martins were nesting under the eaves. Before leaving the village we found House Sparrow, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, and the first of two Mistle Thrushes. Nick picked out a Stock Dove in a paddock. Then came the highlight for many as a Little Owl was spotted flying up from a gate to the apex of a barn, where it perched on a security light giving plenty of photo opportunities. A Buzzard looked on from a nearby tree. Another Song Thrush was heard from the wood behind us, then along the hedgerow a Yellowhammer was heard and then seen. A Great-spotted Woodpecker and Greenfinch were added to the list before we entered the wood. The silence along the atmospheric dark track was eventually broken by Blackcap and Chaffinch. Coming out into the open we paused in a field with wide wild flower margins. The first of seven Skylarks was heard, as was a Whitethroat. Two Corn Buntings on a distant wire were identified from a photo. Walking along the airfield we saw several bright Yellowhammers, and more Whitethroats and Skylarks. Two Dunnocks were singing. Entering the estate park we passed another House Martin nest on the gatehouse and a Blue Tit nest in a nearby tree. Six Swallows flew over. The lake had Canada Geese and Mallard (with ducklings). We passed some school parties enjoying the scene, and a falconry tent. Those raptors were not included in our list of 34 species! Many thanks to Nick for leading and keeping the list. Gareth Roberts

  • Sunday 02 June – Quantocks Leader: Nick Hawkridge Saturday June 02nd, 2018

    What a gorgeous day! All we missed was Jeff Holmes, who could not lead and lend us his huge expertise because of illness. He told me when I visited him later that on the previous day cloud had covered the top of the hills – how lucky we were. Nick Hawkridge stepped into the breach as leader with a small amount of persuasion! Twelve people attended, though unfortunately the long walk got the better of some, who had to return to the car park and miss the wonderful views at the top. As we set off up Hodders Combe the woodland was very quiet to start with, damp underfoot, with just Robin and Wren singing. Very soon, Blackcap, Song Thrush, Blackbird and Chiffchaff were heard above the sound of the stream, rippling along beside us. Coal, Great and Blue Tits were seen, then at last came the trill of Wood Warbler – many were heard and we later had some fleeting good views. Calls of Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers and Cuckoo were added to the list, and Gary found the first Pied Flycatcher, sitting at the end of a twig for all to see. Redstart, also in full view, was then spotted (a large patch of orange-coloured fungus on a tree trunk helped point the way to finding it) and the ‘whee whee whee’ calls were a frequent backdrop while we were in the woodland. Then Spotted Flycatchers were added, which we hadn’t expected. As we came out of the trees, Willow Warblers were heard and we started to see Stonechat families, which gave brilliant views, as did a couple of singing Garden Warblers, perched unusually on top of small birch trees. One Red Deer was seen on the skyline. As soon as we had a patch of grass and a glimpse of the sea beyond the combes, Nick proposed lunch – it just happened to be one o’clock! A pair of Cuckoos (found by Gary) appeared, one calling from the trunk of a distant row of pines and the other flying close past us. A shiny brown soldier beetle entertained us but its speedy activity would not allow photography, and Small Heath butterflies were amongst the heather. As we walked westwards along the top of Quantock past Halsway Post to Bicknoller Post, the views were stupendous and we heard the whistle of the steam trains below. Meadow Pipit, Kestrel and Buzzard were seen, Skylarks heard, and a distant Herring Gull led us to Swifts flying high. As we tarted descending from Bicknoller Post we heard Yellowhammers – these were soon seen perched on top of bushes – and our return trip down Lady’s Edge was accompanied by the songs of Redstarts, Garden and Wood Warblers and Blackcaps. Our final bird was a female Grey Wagtail, at last spotted by the stream. Thank you Nick for leading. Judy Copeland

  • Tuesday 22 May – Newport Wetlands Leaders: Margaret and Ray Bulmer Tuesday May 22nd, 2018

    A warm sunny day greeted the 30 walkers for a gentle stroll around the reserve. The Lesser Whitethroats were singing in the bushes near the car park but remained out of sight. At the visitor centre, Chiffchaff, Reed Warbler, and Cetti’s Warblers were singing in the reeds. The Sand Martin box is still awaiting tenants but a Little Grebe was spotted on the pond. Making our way to the lighthouse we added Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler and a few Swallow, Swift and Sand Martin flew overhead. The hoped for Bearded Tits did not appear. At the estuary were the resident Shelduck, but a few added Curlew, Dunlin and Ringed Plover. In the reeds a brown bird rose and dropped and someone called Bittern. The very obliging bird flew another couple of times and allowed everyone a sighting. A Cuckoo could be heard in the distance and our only raptor for the day was a Buzzard. After a picnic lunch some headed to Goldcliff for the waders. Here we added Avocet, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Ringed and Little Ringed Plover, Gadwall and Shoveler. Many of the species had young, including Pochard, Canada Geese, Shoveler, Mallard, Coot, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Redshank and Coot. So we had ducklings, goslings and chicklets. We heard that ten Lapwing chicks had been fitted with radio receivers but only five were responding; someone was wading around in the lagoons trying to locate the missing ones while we were there. The weather also encouraged the butterflies and dragonflies to be on the wing. Our final bird total was 54 species but with no Bearded Tits. (Thanks to Margaret and Ray for leading the walk and to Gareth and Godfrey for helping identify the damselflies and dragonflies.) The Bulmers

  • Sunday 20 May – Ham Wall RSPB Reserve (joint meeting with BNS) Leader: Giles Morris Sunday May 20th, 2018

    Ham Wall is now one of those venues that can almost guarantee an interesting and varied day’s birding, especially in May. This spring has been topsy-turvy in many ways, but those who made the trip were not disappointed, despite some Ham Wall “regulars” being missing. Setting out along the railway path allowed us to sort out our warbler song ID, with Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Cetti’s and Whitethroat all performing. We stopped to view the Great White Egret colony, visible from the path – extraordinary how quickly this has become an ordinary event! At the first viewing platform ducks and grebes were much in evidence, with the unusually large number of Pochard present this spring being particularly noticeable. One of the missing species at this stage was Hobby. Having arrived from Africa expecting a dragonfly bonanza, most of these birds had pushed on to their breeding grounds without staying long, because the mass emergence of their favourite prey had been delayed by poor weather. Moving on to the Avalon Hide, we added Reed Bunting, Marsh Harrier and Cuckoo, but only one very brief Bittern flight. There is always an element of luck in some of these sightings. On the way out we had searched hard for a reported male Garganey without success, but on the way back the bird was showing well exactly where we had been looking earlier! The return to the car park also proved eventful. First, a long Bittern flight was missed by most of the group who were all watching a Willow Warbler, but then, soon afterwards, another long flight was seen by all the group. This was followed by a Hobby close enough for everyone to see and then an obliging Kingfisher hunting in the rhyne north of the railway bridge. A special bird to finish an excellent morning in a special place and bring the species total to 51. (Many thanks to Giles for leading this joint field trip.) Giles Morris

  • Friday 18 May – Highnam Woods Leader: Hannah Booth, RSPB Friday May 18th, 2018

    On a fine early summer evening 23 members and guests were welcomed by Hannah Booth, the warden. The 120 hectare wood was bought by RSPB in the 1980s. Although a commercial woodland it had retained significant unmanaged areas with ancient oak (one pollarded oak is over 600 years old), hornbeam, wild cherry, and a glade of 150 year old field maple. The current strategy is to manage the habitat for Nightingale, by re-creating blocks of two to ten year old coppice, comprising 25% of the wood, and by creating pools for invertebrates as a food source. As we began our tour we heard the first of eleven Blackcap and nine Song Thrush. The evening chorus was joined by Robin, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, and then Wren and Blackbird. We inspected the coppice block that was new at last year’s visit; it had shown impressive growth and the brash hedging with bramble was impenetrable to the Muntjac deer that would destroy the new growth. A Willow Warbler sang, the only one of the visit, reflecting the low numbers this year. A Raven ‘cronked’ and further along we saw both Mistle Thrush and Great Spotted Woodpecker, two of the five species identified by sight rather than sound in the atmospheric woodland. We then heard a Marsh Tit call. Last year we had heard Nightingale on arrival in the car park, but reflecting this year’s reduced numbers (six singing males, 12 in 2017), it wasn’t until about 21:00 that one began to sing, as the Song Thrushes began to quieten. But it was worth the wait, the strong and varied song held us entranced for 40 minutes of continuous performance. We heard a second Nightingale on the way back to the car park, and also a Tawny Owl, our 21st species. Many thanks to Hannah Booth for leading the excellent tour, and to Nick Hawkridge for the list. Please see next item Gareth Roberts

  • Tuesday 15 May – South Stoke Leader: David Body Tuesday May 15th, 2018

    As parking was at a premium we ended up by the lookout point with its view over the Cam Brook valley. We admired the cloudless sky but mourned the lack of Swift and House Martin. As the party gathered (14), we then did see House Martin – six swirling around the houses, and someone had seen a Swift over the church. The song of Blackbird was with us throughout the day, as was the ‘crack jack’ of many Jackdaw, with Robin and Wren both singing lustily around their territories. The count of singing Blackcap ran to eleven, with Chiffchaff coming in at six. After we had crossed the main road and started down the valley, one of several Chaffinch was heard singing, a Song Thrush chimed in and a Mistle Thrush flew from the grass. We could hear the distant ‘yaffling’ of a Green Woodpecker, the ‘cronk’ of Raven, and in the woods the fast call of a Coal Tit. At the lake the obligatory pair of Mallard looked to us for a hand-out and a Grey Wagtail pair made dashes across the water collecting beakfuls of flies, then posting them into yellow gapes hidden within the greenery below the red safety buoy. Up on the cycle path the first and only Great Spotted Woodpecker chipped its call from nearby trees and a Nuthatch made a brief foray across the path, but not fast enough to be missed by our attentive team. We didn’t see our first Swallow until the farm alongside the canal, which also provided another Green Woodpecker and a single Greenfinch. As the heat built up, any shade and breeze was most welcome but we needed to cross and climb the wide open, and alas, barren orchid field. We did see two Long-tailed Tit and not long before the end a Jay cackled at us. The final bird count was 36 – (an addition of Goldfinch by the cars) and thanks to David for leading. Nick Hawkridge

  • Sunday 13 May – Stoke Park and Eastville Park Leader: Richard Scantlebury Sunday May 13th, 2018

    I joined BOC only very recently. As I live in the local area to Eastville Park and Stoke Park, I chose this walk to venture out (rather early for me on a Sunday morning!) for my very first BOC walk. I was taken aback when Richard explained we wouldn’t finish till one o’clock but had a laugh by the end because it actually finished mid-afternoon – the time had just flown by. Significant interest began right at the meeting point at Snuff Mills car park by the trees where Blue Tits and Great Tits were using the nesting boxes above. Blackcaps, Wrens, Robins and Chiffchaffs were singing as we walked towards the tunnel to cross the M32. Out of these, the Blackcaps are the birds I was not much familiar with so I decided that my challenge for the walk would be to focus on the Blackcap: to see one in real close-up and to be able to identify its song. As we arrived on the other side of the motorway at the bottom of Purdown, Greenfinches were singing; the elongated “eeeeee” feature of their song helpfully reminds us of their colour, “greeeeeeen”, and therefore their name, so makes them easy to remember. By the Duchess ponds, the Canada geese, a pair of Moorhens with their six fluffy chicks and an Orange-tip butterfly were enjoying the glorious warm, sunny weather as much as we were. The aerial interest included a Buzzard (likened by one of the group to aeroplanes circling the skies at Heathrow), a pair of Swifts and a Heron. In the area with the Dew Pond, Richard hoped to spot Whitethroats. I learnt that Blackcaps like to remain inside bushes whereas Whitethroats prefer open scrub and often perch and sing on the top of the tallest bush. And furthermore that the warblers, apart from the Blackcap and Chiffchaff, are summer visitors from the African continent – I too originally arrived here one summer as a visitor from the African continent!
    Soon the group split into two which is when I learnt a key lesson that on a bird walk you can’t see it all. I thought I would press ahead with the faster birders but if only I had stayed with those ambling far behind us I could have had my first ever view in real of a Blackcap. The amblers enjoyed a close-up view as it proudly sang its heart out. Oh well … We ascended the steep slope rising up from the Dew Pond and paused at the top to take in the views of Bristol and beyond, stretching out for miles before us. Then it was on through the woods which was where the Blackcaps decided the time had come to test me out on identifying them. The foliage was too thick to see them but I think I passed the test by correctly identifying their song three times in a row so I was thoroughly pleased and it helped me get over the disappointment of the missed visual sighting earlier. Deeper into the woods, we took time patiently gazing up at the Nuthatch nest which Richard pointed out to us. Nuthatches often use woodpecker nesting holes, they reduce the size of the entrance hole with mud, he explained, and we were finally rewarded with a sighting. A Long-tailed Tit was perched on a post during our walk up to the mobile phone mast and more were flitting in the bushes. Further along, still in the scrubby approach to the mast, we heard a Whitethroat singing clearly from inside a large bush.
    As we descended back down the slopes to cross the motorway, lots of Greenfinches were heard but the highlight was spotting a Bullfinch. On the last leg of our walk through Eastville Park we paused at the Tawny Owl boxes installed on the island in the lake, but there was no visible activity. I was pleased to spot my first Grey Wagtail on the muddy areas of the river bank and then the flash of brilliant blue of my first Kingfisher darting down the river.
    Thanks to Richard for his knowledgeable and friendly leadership of this walk, introducing me to the fascinating and abundant wildlife of my local area and the joys of taking part in a BOC walk. Reethah Desai

  • Tuesday 08 May – Ashton Court Leader: Brenda Page Tuesday May 08th, 2018

    Having basked in record bank holiday sunshine, 24 members turned up expecting t-shirts and sun hats. What a shock! Cloud, mist and a biting cold wind, at least first off. The sun came through late morning causing multiple de-layering. The walk took us from Ashton Court, through Leigh Woods, Monarch’s Way, Fish Pond Wood and back. It was definitely a day for sound as well as visuals. We were greeted with Skylarks over the golf course with a distant Mistle Thrush just audible. The woods were alive with bird song; many Blackcap, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Wren, Goldcrest and the Mistle Thrush, Fish Pond Wood being particularly impressive, the wooded valley concentrating and amplifying the singing birds. A chip of a Woodpecker drew us to a Great Spotted exploring the dead branches in the canopy and Nick was pleased to find a bit of Green Woodpecker poo on the path, maybe from the bird we heard ‘yaffling’ earlier. We saw a few Swallows but no Swifts, a couple of Buzzards being the only raptors. 33 species in total. Thanks to Brenda for leading. Alastair Fraser

  • Tuesday, 01 May – Folly Farm Leader: Jean Oliver Tuesday May 01st, 2018

    20 members set out on a beautiful spring day with an early Buzzard to start our list, some Ravens tumbling, the first of many Wrens singing and a Swallow. Singing Blackcaps were also heard and some seen, but the most consistent sound during the walk was probably the bleating of lambs. We tackled our first hill of the day and then walked down to inspect the hedge planted by BOC members last autumn. It’s doing well and there was a bit of pointing to a particularly well grown specimen and claiming to have been the one who planted it! Leaving our burgeoning hedge, we moved on, spotting a Skylark or two and a Sparrowhawk. A Whitethroat was heard but quite hard to find and Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Goldfinch, Bullfinch and others added to the list. Then came the hill of the day – it was quite a long haul but the view at the top made it worthwhile and the coffee tasted good. A welcome descent followed and then a woodland walk. Both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were added to our list and Goldcrest and Nuthatch among others. After a possible breakaway, we climbed the final hill of the day to a plateau with panoramic views. There was something for everyone in this walk including Orange-tip, Comma and Brimstone butterflies, a short, sharp shower with hail and a singing Mistle Thrush aka Stormcock. 36 species in all and many thanks to Jean for leading us. Nancy Barrett

  • Tuesday 24 April – Puxton Leader: – Gareth Roberts Tuesday April 24th, 2018

    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

  • Saturday 21 April – Ham Wall Leader: – Alastair Fraser Saturday April 21st, 2018

    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.

  • Tuesday 17 April – Kings Wood and Wavering Down Leader: – Clive Burton Tuesday April 17th, 2018

    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

  • Sunday 15 April – St Catherine’s Valley Leader: – Mike Jackson Sunday April 15th, 2018

    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

  • Tuesday 10 April – Hanham Leaders: – Karen Birmingham, Jean Oliver and Jenny Weeks Tuesday April 10th, 2018

    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

  • Saturday 07 April – Sand Point Leader: – Paul Gregory Saturday April 07th, 2018

    As the rain poured down I did wonder how many willing wanderers might brave the weather for a migrant search on Sand Point. In fact eight of us made it and within half an hour the rain stopped and the birds started to show. There were lots of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps in the bushes but we failed to locate any Willow Warblers amongst them. Hirundine movement started soon after the rain and by the time we finished, over 200 Swallows had passed us heading east with a few House and Sand Martins to accompany them. A couple of Tree Pipits went over giving their “zip” calls and a nice Rock Pipit sat up on the rocks at the end of Sand Point allowing us to compare its greyness, black legs and strong black bill to the finer marked Meadow Pipits around. A male Wheatear gave us a bit of a run around but eventually gave itself up along the rocks on the south side. Middle Hope was quiet although we did locate a male Redstart along a hedgerow near the old admiralty site, which is always nice. A Peregrine gave good views on the return walk and we had regular encounters with Stonechats and Ravens. (Thank you Paul for leading.) Paul Gregory

  • Tuesday 03 April – Winscombe – Leader Sue Watson Tuesday April 03rd, 2018

    Rain threatened as 22 of us set off from Winscombe; however, we completed our walk in dry conditions with a little sunshine too. Crossing fields to Sandford Hill we heard a vociferous Wren and saw Jackdaw, Crow, Rook and a good variety of the usual suspects in the hedgerows, such as Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits plus a Lesser Black-backed Gull. Two large flocks of white domestic doves circled the area. Soon we passed the four donkeys, sharing their space with a squirrel. Up the hill we had a glimpse of a retreating Jay, clear views of Blackcap and, emerging from the wood, a brief glimpse of two tumbling Raven. There were lovely views before a grassy downhill where a Yellow Brimstone butterfly fluttered in the sunshine. Here in the next field were 50 crows on the ground. A Song Thrush entertained until a Chiffchaff took our attention and Fieldfare were also heard. Further along a beautiful pair of Kestrel swooped low across the lane and hedges, alighting on a wire and adding to our raptor score of five Buzzards. Later a Grey Heron left a garden pond to the clamour of Herring Gull mobbing. Our count included Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Goldfinch and some of us were lucky to be able to watch a Roe Deer cross two fields in the sunshine. Bird species counted: 37. (Very many thanks to Sue for leading this walk.) Sue Watson

  • Tuesday, 27 March – Wick Leaders Duncan and Pat Gil Tuesday March 27th, 2018

    Maybe the forecasters hadn’t quite got the hang of British Summer Time as it was still raining at ten o’clock when
    25 of us set off – but it did soon stop. Our first pause at the bridge showed how fast the river was running, so no
    Dipper or Grey Wagtail. A Heron on the far bank was spotted and appeared to be in exactly the same place some
    three hours later! Back-tracking we took the Red Ochre trail through Golden Valley – the mud showing it was
    aptly named. Although the greyness of the day kept both song and sightings down, with patience and many pairs
    of eyes, we were soon adding Robin, Wren, Dunnock, Blackcap, Blackbird and Great, Blue and Coal Tits to our
    list and particularly enjoyed several Goldcrests more easily visible than usual in a bare deciduous tree. Plenty of
    Nuthatches were calling and some eventually seen, as were Long-tailed Tits. Coffee at the quarry yielded good
    close-ups for everyone of a Treecreeper. A Chiffchaff was seen by some and a Peregrine heard. When we heard
    and then, on some feeders, saw Greenfinches, their relative rarity nowadays on Tuesday walks was commented
    on. Both Mistle and Song Thrush were seen, but no winter thrushes. At another point near the river there were
    Dipper signs on the top of rocks nearly submerged by the high, fast flowing water – but no Dipper! However a
    Grey Wagtail was seen by some before the walk was over. 35 species were counted including 71 Jackdaws in
    two groups. Thanks to Duncan and Pat Gill for leading. Nancy Barrett

  • Tuesday 20 March – Greylake RSPB Reserve. Leader: Mark Watson Tuesday March 20th, 2018

    Thirteen members met at Greylake on a dry but cold morning and though the recent snow had gone from the
    Levels and Moors the going underfoot was squelchy and some of the paths were closed due to the wet conditions.
    In the car park we saw Reed Bunting, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Chaffinch and a flock of 25 Lapwings as we set off to
    the lookout at the far end of the reserve. Some of us saw a Marsh Harrier in the distance but it quickly
    disappeared behind a copse. We moved on around the reed beds to the viewpoint hearing a Cetti’s Warbler and
    seeing Goldfinch, Mute Swans, Buzzard, Skylark, and a Fieldfare on the way. At the end of the path we all had a
    good, if distant, view of two Marsh Harriers along with a few Mallards and ten Teal flying overhead. Four Great
    White Egrets were on the marsh, occasionally flying short distances, a Little Egret was also feeding and a solitary
    Cormorant passed by. As we moved on to the hides Water Rails were heard and six Snipe were close by on a
    small island as we reached the hides. From the hides many Teal, Gadwall, Wigeon, Shoveler and Coot were on
    the pools and we managed to locate two Pintails reasonably close by. A Grey Heron sat at a field edge and a
    Kestrel hunted overhead as we walked back to the car park. One lucky birder saw a Cetti’s Warbler
    uncharacteristically sitting in full view and Chiffchaffs were heard in the hedgerow. After lunch four of us went on
    the Stathe and were rewarded with a good view of 14 Common Cranes on Aller Moor along with a couple of
    Canada Geese, and also nearby a flock of 23 Little Egrets on the wet grassland next to the River Parrett giving a
    total of 40 species. (Many thanks to Mark for leading.) ` Mark Watson

  • Tuesday 13 March – Gordano Valley. Leader: Geoff Harris Tuesday March 13th, 2018

    The first shirtsleeve walk of the year, hurrah – well I had my arms out to collect some rays, but of the other 26, all
    muffled up with scarves, coat, etc, at least most had dispensed with gloves. As we gathered, the Buzzard started
    to be seen; first up the valley, then down the valley, some above Walton Down and others over Tickenham Hill, so,
    if your geography is up to scratch, all around us. There were Mallard and Pheasant close to the margins of Moor
    Lane Wood and Goldfinch, Blue and Great Tit sang from its branches. A glimpse of Jay and Long-tailed Tit were
    seen as we rounded the top corner of Harley Lane but alas no specials (we have seen Siskin in the past) on the
    feeders. As we wandered along Clevedon Lane, Robins sang, Woodpigeon co-cooed, Greenfinch wheezed,
    Chaffinch trilled and Goldfinch tinkled – a real ‘start of spring’ soundscape. The Skylark took to the heavens as
    we crossed Weston Moor, an obliging Kestrel circled above and the first of seven Reed Bunting were seen just
    before our coffee stop. Up then, through Common Hill Woods where we added Goldcrest to the list, with the third
    and then the fourth Nuthatch of the walk, chiming in with his ‘Toyy, toyy’ call and longer ‘chi-chi-chi-chi-chi’ song.
    On the feeders at Home Farm, an assortment of House Sparrow, Reed Bunting, Blackcap, and all the tit species
    were logged. After a Mistle Thrush, the last bird noted was a Greenfinch singing from the trees at Walton Cross.
    A total bird count of 32 and warm thanks to Geoff for leading us on this splendid walk. Nick Hawkridge

  • Sunday 11 March – Barrow Gurney Reservoirs Leader: Sean Davies Sunday March 11th, 2018

    Report next month.

  • Tuesday 06 March – Snuff Mills. Leader: Nick Hawkridge Tuesday March 06th, 2018

    After a pre-walk review of the Forest of Dean and a hasty rearrangement of venue, 28 members met at the car
    park in Snuff Mills for a pleasant walk with no rain and some sunshine. After crossing the roaring River Frome we
    walked up the valley, seeing many Treecreeper and Goldcrest. A pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers went tearing
    round the treetops with shrieking cries, and Treecreeper followed suit around the bole of a couple of trees. The
    Long-tailed Tits contented themselves with feeding, with the appearance of already being paired off. Another pair
    showed well – Stock Dove, the iridescent neck patches catching the weak sun, and when a lone Raven crossed
    the vale they departed with a clatter. A Nuthatch was seen before we left the wood and once on the flat we saw
    several Black-headed Gulls – some sporting summer hoods. Carrion Crows probed the sward, getting a meal
    from the mole hill infested grass. At our coffee stop in the park we found half a dozen Redwings scouring the last
    of the holly berries and more Great Spotted Woodpeckers called and drummed. The Song Thrush, on the far side
    of the valley, swelled the spring song soundscape and a little further on the first Blackbird added his melody.
    Before we descended to the river a group of five Jays came chasing over, squawking and shrieking in hot pursuit
    of each other – it’s that time of year. Despite careful study of the river bank twigs and bushes, we didn’t find the
    Kingfisher until we were almost back to the mill, with a final tally of 34 and bright sun on our faces. (Thanks to
    Nick for leading, and for sorting out an alternative walk.) Nick Hawkridge

  • Tuesday 27 February – Bristol City Centre Leader: Nancy Barrett Tuesday February 27th, 2018

    No “Beast from the East” can deter Tuesday walkers it seems! 22 members turned up and a 23rd joined us along the way. Our first stop near the Prince Street Swing Bridge was to look at the Cormorants and discuss different types and note the evident breeding patches. Walking along past M-shed, we saw the first of many Herring Gulls plus Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed and a Common Gull. The buddleia, brambles and back gardens of Cumberland Road yielded House Sparrow, Great Tit and Dunnock and a Pied Wagtail accompanied us, finding food among the rail tracks. Although the Chocolate Path was closed, we ventured onto the footbridge over the river in a bit of a snowstorm and were rewarded with good views of a Common Sandpiper. Continuing along beside the Floating Harbour, we went through the Underfall Yard and then crossed the road onto a path new to most of us followed by a bit of the Metrobus route. After a welcome coffee stop in the Create Centre we had a look up river to the Suspension Bridge and saw Redshank and distant Buzzard. After returning on the north side of the harbour to the bottom of Jacobs Wells Road, some of the party continued up onto Brandon Hill where Wren, Long-tailed Tit, Song Thrush and Starling were added to the list. We also watched a nearby group of Redwings in good light turning over leaves. 32 species seen and a satisfying morning. Many thanks to Nancy for leading

  • Sunday 25 February – Chew Valley Lake Leader: Robert Hargreaves Sunday February 25th, 2018

    16 members turned out on a cold but sunny morning. The water level of the lake was very high and this had affected the birds, no egrets today for example. However, we got off to a good start at Woodford where the woodland behind the car park revealed two Bullfinches and two Great Spotted Woodpeckers and calls from a Green Woodpecker and two Jays. 50 Redwings were on the move, together with five Fieldfares. Despite the cold, Spring was in the air with song from Dunnock, Chaffinch, and Wren. There were three Goldeneyes on the lake. We then drove in turn to the hides on the west side of the lake. At Villice there were three Scaup (one male) together with more than 20 Tufted Ducks, a Pochard, and a large number of Coots. At Herons Green there were five Teals and two Pochards at the pond, and two Snipes flew in. Two Buzzards were watching from a nearby tree. On the lake side was a large mixed flock of the four usual gull species (we had a Great Black-backed Gull later, at Herriotts). Continuing to Moreton we had Goldfinch, Siskin, Goldcrest, and Long-tailed Tit in the wood. Opening the hide we felt the full blast of the Siberian wind and we didn’t stay long, having taken in the ubiquitous Tufted Duck and Coot. The water was up to the level of the boardwalk at Stratford hide and a Cetti’s Warbler was singing nearby. We had close views of a male Goldeneye, and more distant views of 18 Shoveler, and a female Scaup. At Herriotts Bridge two Reed Buntings flew in as we arrived. The day’s largest concentration of birds included Shelduck, Pintail, and Grey and Pied Wagtail. On the lake side a pair of Great Crested Grebes began displaying with weed, providing a memorable finish. Thanks to Robert for leading this enjoyable meeting, yielding 51 species Gareth Roberts

  • Tuesday 20 February 2018 –Uphill Leader: Jane Cumming Tuesday February 20th, 2018

    Birds never do what you want them to, do they?  Every trip leader will recognise that “it was here yesterday” feeling.  On the previous day’s Wetland Bird Survey, as the tide receded hundreds of waders had flown across from their rocky roosts to the beach and trooped along the tideline in an orderly manner for easy counting.  Today they just sat miles away on the rocks watching that vast expanse of beach opening up as the tide dropped, not one flying across to take advantage of the newly available feeding opportunity. 25 people counted ducks as we waited in vain for the waders –81 Shelducks, 130 Wigeons, 45 Teal, twelve Mallards–and estimated the Lapwing flock at around 170 when they flew.  The Oystercatcher flock had dropped to 50 birds and there were about 60 Curlews.  Redshanks were scattered along the muddy banks of the Axe in half-hidden groups so we only found around a hundred of yesterday’s 300 birds For the rest, we left Rob on the beach to make an accurate count of 447 Dunlinsas he waited in vain for yesterday’s 25 Ringed Plovers to appear.  An advance party quickly gave up on the chilly beach-watch and walked out down the Axe to the Bleadon Levels, picking up Little Egret, Grey Heron,Coot, and Reed Bunting for the list.  The rest waited out the waders for a while, then set off along Uphill’s high cliff face to Walmsley Hill, noting three Little Grebe on the freshwater pool and checking the bushes for passerines.  Stonechat and Meadow Pipit were noted and some saw a distant Peregrine putting up the wader flocks on the Brean Down side of the river.  We couldn’t find the reported female Black Redstart but the last stragglers on the return journey eventually picked it up, and some returned to see it after a good lunch at the marina cafe.  It was an enjoyable morning despite the uncooperative waders, with 40 species on the list. Many thanks to Jane for leading (Editor).                                                                                                                    Jane Cumming

  • Tuesday 13 February – Chew Valley Lake Leaders: John and Sue Prince Tuesday February 13th, 2018

    An intrepid group of 13 walkers met at Herons Green, Chew Valley Lake, whilst the rain was pelting down. The walk should have gone over Breach Hill to the Ubley hatchery but it was decided to go to Woodford Lodge for coffee to see if the rain would abate. The rain eased so we decided to walk the Grebe and Bittern trails instead as the weather improved. As we passed the first reedbeds a pair of Stonechats and a pair of Reed Buntings gave us good views. The wooded areas were quite wet but the birds were showing well with two Treecreepers, three Goldcrests and several Cetti’s warblers were heard and one seen. A Water Rail was heard. We had good views of a Grey Wagtail. A flock of at least 50 Fieldfares flew over and a Sparrowhawk was mobbed by Carrion Crows. We noticed that Chaffinches are starting to sing. Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed but we could not find it. Two Common Buzzards and two Grey Herons were seen. The lake was very choppy so only Mallard, Coot and Tufted Duck were noted with a pair of Goldeneye close into the shore. It was a good walk. Thanks to John and Sue Prince for leading (Editor). Sue Prince

  • Tuesday 06 February – Eastville Park – Leader: Richard Scantlebury Tuesday February 06th, 2018

    After a cold, frosty night 26 of us, well wrapped up, set off for Stoke Park. In the sun the song of familiar small birds and sight of three Great Spotted Woodpeckers dashing about in a nearby tree cheered us. A Green Woodpecker yaffled. We paused at Duchess Pond to admire the red fox standing out on the grassy slope; a Grey Heron poised then flew, disturbed by a dog walker. After a circuit of the pond we checked the small reed bed for Snipe but they were in hiding. We made our way to Eastville Park via Stapleton Church, enjoying the sound of a Coal Tit calling loudly across the street, but the Peregrine didn’t grace a pinnacle or us with its presence. By the river in Eastville Park we found a Grey Wagtail and, at the weir, our first Kingfisher. Suddenly a Treecreeper was spotted, then another and another. The three Treecreepers were flitting about from tree to tree – another sign that spring is on its way? A look across to the playing fields and allotments yielded two Mistle Thrush, a Stock Dove and a large number of Moorhens (bringing our total for the walk to 14). At the pond we enjoyed the three Cormorants decorating the tree top, another Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming away loudly and some exciting Crow/Sparrowhawk interaction. The pond had the usual water birds along with the glossy red-faced Muscovy Duck, which always causes comment. On our way back around the pond we were fascinated by the perfect stillness of a Grey Heron perched on the edge of “the square” staring intently into the water, holding its neck at an impossible angle. Our return journey gave us another Goldcrest and excellent views of the Kingfisher; we saw it was a female (lipstick!). During our walk we had several small groups of Long- tailed Tits in twos and threes rather than the large flocks of winter but only a single Redwing. We had a very enjoyable walk in spite of our chilly start, with several signs that spring is coming and 37 species altogether. Thanks to our leader Richard Scantlebury.
    Anne Crowe

  • Sunday 04 February – Blashford Lakes Sunday February 04th, 2018

    Despite the reports of some rare gulls just five of us travelled to Ringwood for a walk around the Blashford Lakes reserve on a cold but dry day. On arrival we had a quick scan of Ibsley Water for any of the rarities but only saw Goldeneye and Goosander with the more common ducks. We then gathered at the Education Centre where the feeders held Siskin and Nuthatch before making our way to the Woodland Hide for excellent views of Brambling and Long-tailed Tit. The next two lake hides gave Little and Great Egrets but we missed the Kingfisher directly in front of the hide by five minutes. The reported Firecrest proved elusive (as it did last year) although a family of Roe Deer and a melanistic Fallow Deer were seen. After lunch the party split and two went to look for geese on nearby fields, successfully finding a good flock of White-fronted Geese. The other three returned to Ibsley Water to concentrate on the gathering gull roost. Oystercatcher and Green Sandpiper were added to the list but the main hide was full to the brim and the gull viewing mound also filled up meaning that only one was tall enough to see the Ring-billed Gull. None of the other rare gulls were found before we left to drive home. A good (if cold) time was had by all with 69 species seen. Thanks to Keith for leading (Editor). Keith Williams

  • Tuesday 30 January – Pensford Leader Geoff Harris Tuesday January 30th, 2018

    As soon as the first walker leaned over the parapet, a Dipper feeding below the bridge at Pensford shot away and we feared that would be our only sighting of the morning. Fortunately, this unusually intrepid Dipper dropped down about 40 yards upstream and spent the next ten minutes ducking and diving in the water allowing all 26 of us to get excellent views of it. What a great start to the morning! On a fine, sunny if chilly day, we climbed up over the hillside towards Publow recording a selection of the usual species including Mistle Thrush, Skylark, Blackcap, Goldcrest and Grey Wagtail. A few Cormorants flew over showing the white thigh patch of their breeding plumage, but we saw only one Grey Heron and one Buzzard. A Raven sat in a treetop calling repeatedly with an atypical bell-like note which we thought was connected with display or courtship. In a grove of tall deciduous trees we watched a group of three Treecreepers interacting for a while, then we found two more further along the stream. We spent some time at Publow church where the stream-side alders held half a dozen Siskins alongside a flock of Goldfinches. Nick recorded a total of 44 species from a most enjoyable walk; thanks to Geoff for his leadership. Jane Cumming

  • Sunday 28 January – Exe Leader Gordon Youdale Sunday January 28th, 2018

    Leaving Bristol on a damp morning the skies brightened as we approached Devon. On leaving the coach at Exminster we made our way down towards the canal and to greet us were Devon’s iconic bird, a pair of Cirl Buntings sitting at the top of a hedge near the Swans Nest pub giving some of us brief views before they flew off. As we made our way along the lane the fields held good numbers of Wigeon on the floods with Shoveler, Teal, Lapwing and Curlew and along the canal tow path skeins of Brent Geese were flying over us heading for the fields as the tide was coming in. We stopped at the Turf’s Lock to view the river across towards Topsham. Here we had good views of Dunlin, Grey Plover, and large numbers of Golden Plover with smaller groups of Redshank, Sanderling, Knot, Black and Bar-tailed Godwits. Avocets were in good numbers here, with about 200 birds, and the river channels produced Red-breasted Mergansers. We walked down the river to Powderham to meet up with the coach. We found a few Stonechats on the way and moved on to Dawlish Warren. Birding from the sea wall on the Warren we could see about 60 Great Crested Grebe on the water, our first view of Great Northern Diver, Red-throated Diver, Shag, Gannet, and a single Common Scoter, Turnstone and Rock Pipit. As we walked along the sand dunes towards Warren Point we stopped to look out at sea, once again finding more Great Northern Diver, Long-tailed Duck and a single Eider. At the hide on Warren Point the waders were coming into roost on the high tide, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Knot, Sanderling and Oystercatchers. The sight of these waders flying around calling as they attempted to settle on the gravel islands was a spectacle. Here we also found more Red-breasted Mergansers, Great Northern Divers, and distantly a single Slavonian Grebe. Smaller birds were very few with Linnet and Goldfinch noted. Also some of the group managed to find Siskin and Goldcrests around the woodland near the visitors centre, but, unfortunately, not the reported Firecrest. After an enjoyable day, weather dry and warm, we left Dawlish heading home with a day’s species list of 72. Many thanks to all who joined me on the coach supporting the BOC. (Thanks to Gordon for leading) Gordon Youdale

  • Tuesday 23 January – Coalpit Heath Leaders: Duncan & Pat Gill Tuesday January 23rd, 2018

    Thirty two walkers who met at the Kendleshire Golf Club were not deterred by a cloudy, drizzly morning for a four and a half mile walk – golfers were, however, absent because of a very wet course. We started the walk with Blackbirds and Robin calling and a flock of Redwings flying by. The ponds on the course, as well as being traps for golfers, usually have a variety for water birds and we saw Mute Swan, Grey Heron, Moorhen, Mallard, Canada Geese and an Egyptian Goose – no Coot though. As we moved on from the Golf Course we had excellent views of two very smart Mistle Thrushes and not long after four Song Thrushes nearby. A Green Woodpecker was heard on the way to our short coffee stop and Chaffinch, Great Tit and Dunnock moved around the hedgerows as we walked on to Westerleigh. On the way back to the car park a few Fieldfare flew by and about 17 Yellowhammer were moving between a grass field and mature hedgerow whilst in the distance beyond a colourful Jay flew to the same hedge. As we neared the end of the walk three Goldcrest and a Nuthatch were in a small woodland along with Long-tailed Tits and a Treecreeper. Despite the weather we had an enjoyable walk and saw 38 species but most unusually for a Tuesday walk no Buzzards. Many thanks to Duncan and Pat for leading. Mark Watson

  • Sunday 21 January – Greylake and Catcott Leader Mike Johnson Sunday January 21st, 2018

    This was a joint meeting of BOC and the Ornithological section of Bristol Naturalists’. Five of us met in the car park at RSPB Greylake on a morning of heavy rain. Visibility was fairly restricted due to mist and the rain, however, eight Snipe gave really close views from the hide. It was good to see a Water Rail fully out in the open strutting amongst the many loafing Teal and Wigeon. As with other wetland areas, however, the number of migratory wildfowl seemed to be fewer this winter, perhaps due to less severe conditions in Europe. A sign of the times was that there were more sightings of Great White Egret than Little Egret; perhaps an indication of the breeding success of the larger bird on the Somerset Levels last year. More than once the flocks of wildfowl and Lapwing took to the air, successively, indicating the probable presence of a raptor but, frustratingly, nothing was seen in the gloom. On the bird tables in the car park three Reed Buntings appeared with the more common species of tit and finch. We then drove through flood water pouring off the fields to the Somerset Wildlife Trust reserve at Catcott. The sight of a number of elegant Pintail were the highlight of the afternoon. Conditions were far from ideal for the Starling roost and therefore the meeting was cut short on a day when birding, to say the least, was rather challenging. (Thanks to Mike for leading) Mike Johnson

  • Tuesday 16 January – Backwell Lake Leader Sue & John Prince Tuesday January 16th, 2018

    21 Birders met on a sunny morning with a cold wind blowing. We began with a circuit of the lake which was, unfortunately, rather quiet. One Cormorant was in the Willow on the island, Mute Swans were seen with the usual Muscovy Duck, Moorhens, two Coots, four Canada Geese, one Gadwall, two Shovelers and Mallard. The flock of gulls, mostly, Black-headed, included several Common Gulls and a Lesser Black-backed Gull. A party of eight Tufted Ducks were at the far end of the lake and a Water Rail was heard. There were good views of a Great Spotted Woodpecker and two more were seen later on the walk. In the lanes and fields towards Chelvey we saw plenty of Redwings. The Alders held Goldfinches and a Treecreeper but alas no Siskin or Redpoll. A Raven croaked as it flew over and a pair of Stonechat gave good views along with a Song Thrush and two Mistle Thrushes. It was muddy walking over Morgan’s Hill but Chaffinch and Greenfinch were seen. A total of 41 species were recorded. The first Snowdrops were out and several fungi including Velvet Shank were seen. Thanks to Sue and John Prince for leading. Richard Belson

  • Saturday 13 January – Marshfield Leader: Sue Kempson Saturday January 13th, 2018

    23 members turned up on a rather cool and cloudy day for this morning walk. As we gathered there were five Meadow Pipits obligingly sat in a tree over the road, as well as a few Fieldfare and Redwing in the taller trees.
    Immediately after crossing the busy A420 we saw a pair of Stonechats in a ploughed field. As we continued on the footpath bordering the fields (accosted by a biting wind) we ‘scoped’ a variety of Pied Wagtails, Fieldfares and Meadow Pipits in the stubble. In the far distance a massive mixed flock of birds were seen but were too difficult to identify. We had good views of a Kestrel hovering near the farm and a mixed group of finches and Starlings were seen moving between the ground and a nearby tree. A single Yellowhammer was noted. Absent were the Skylarks which usually abound here and the Corn Buntings. Jackdaw, Crows and Rooks were seen and a Wren sheltering in the crevices of a stone wall (and who could blame it!). As we got to Rushmead Lane we turned right and immediately had a Raven fly overhead. We continued to the junction with the Tormarton Road which is usually a good spot for Corn Buntings and were rewarded by a small group perching in a tree. On the other side of the Tormarton Road we saw Collared Dove, more Fieldfare and Chaffinch. Skylark could be heard in the distance. A possible Peregrine identified by its flight was seen flying over. As we returned along Rushmead Lane we had a group of approximately 25 Golden Plover fly over. Down in the valley to our left a number of hunters were out shooting, a single Pheasant was noted but, unsurprisingly, no Red-legged Partridge. As we approached the junction to turn left and complete our walk we saw a large number of Fieldfare on the field to our right, whilst on the left a small group of Yellowhammers were seen. Overall 25 species were listed. We were somewhat frustrated by poor light and multiple small and large groups of birds in the far distance which defied identification.
    (Thanks to Sue for leading) Sue Kempson

  • Tuesday 09 January – Ham Wall Leader: Mark Watson Tuesday January 09th, 2018

    The weather was cold and misty as 15 of us gathered in the RSPB car park at Ham Wall, not ideal conditions to see the Starlings coming in to roost later. After a brief period before Christmas roosting on Shapwick Heath the Starlings had returned to Ham Wall after the festivities. Blue Tit, Great Tit and Chaffinch were on the feeders and fliting back and forth to the hedgerow, where Wren, Dunnock and Robin were also found. A pair of Pied Wagtails appeared and a single Mute Swan serenely paddled along on the pond next to the car park. Moving along to the first viewing platform we heard a Cetti’s Warbler and passed Mallard, Coot and Gadwall on the pools to the right. At the platform Shelduck, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Pochard and a Great White Egret were before us. A Snipe flew over the reed beds and a male Marsh Harrier quartered the beds giving excellent views of its brown, pale grey and black tipped wings despite the poor visibility. We were also able to see a female and male (probably the same one) further on at the Avalon Hide. On the way to the hide Reed Warblers were heard and a flock of Linnets flew over and a few Goldfinches were in the hedgerow trees along with Jackdaw and a Carrion Crow towards the woodland across the Marsh. After a brief stop for tea/coffee we moved on towards where the Starlings had been recently roosting, well down the old railway track towards the far end of the reserve. After a slow start it was apparent the at least three roosts were in use; one near some of our group at the end of the reserve, one further away beyond trees across the marsh and another beyond the first viewing platform where we passed chattering Starlings when leaving. The best murmuration was distant but there were several thousand starlings dropping onto the nearby reeds next to the track and passing just over our heads. A single Bittern was flying low over the reeds. In between Starling arrivals, a Bullfinch flew across the track and a small flock of Fieldfares also passed by before we headed home. In all 41 species were seen and we had a reasonable show of Starlings even though conditions were not ideal. (Thanks to Mark for leading) Mark Watson

  • Tuesday 02 January – Newton St Loe Leader: Robert Hargreaves Tuesday January 02nd, 2018

    Well, what a day! It was pouring with rain, an amazing eleven walkers in full wet gear, and seventeen Hawfinches seen, a 21st century record for Avon. Starting by the church we soon found a Redwing, but little else. The gate at the bottom of the lakes was deep in mud so out in the wind along the open road to the University. A flock of 50 Redwings were put up by a dog walker ahead of us, along with many Black-headed and Common Gulls. We took shelter around the University buildings, before setting out towards the Keep. A Cormorant could be seen below on the lake with some Teal, Moorhen and a Grey Heron, while a Song Thrush scuttled into the undergrowth. Some finches flew over us, rather large and heavy in flight. Our boys, we guessed excitedly. Getting the binoculars on them showed we had seven Hawfinches, the largest group so far reported in Avon this winter. They quickly disappeared across the lake, followed by an eighth. A Mistle Thrush stayed behind looking down on us, while some Goldfinches twittered. Eagerly we followed the Hawfinches round the lake, but they kept moving ahead of us, then circled back. Those in front saw a flock of seven or so fly back across the lake, and then four more. Our guest, Glen Maddison, set off back to see if the Hawfinches had returned to the first location. The tail end of our walkers hung back, waiting for Glen to report and were pleased with an obliging Goldcrest showing well. From that position they were treated to good views of at least twelve and possibly 17 Hawfinch. Glen’s group finally caught up with the main party for a late coffee stop in the shelter of the pavilion. Hawfinch excitement was very high! A quick visit to the bottom lake revealed a male Goosander, which flew to top lake, later joined by a female. All of us decided to go in search of the Hawfinch again. More were seen with better views; also some Greenfinches and Mistle Thrushes, but no decision on the number of Hawfinches. Wayne Tucker of NSL birding took over the search while we had to set off back. Later he confirmed the full 17 Hawfinches, seen all in flight in one go. We had presided over a record sighting. On our walk back we had Pied Wagtails, two Ravens, twelve Long-tailed and two Coal Tits, both Woodpeckers, and more Goldcrests, bringing our total to 40 species. It was an excellent morning’s birding all round and thanks to everyone. Anne Crow

  • Monday 01 January 2018 – WWT Slimbridge Monday January 01st, 2018

    Thanks to all the 27 members who turned up for this meeting – a very good showing, and a very good showing of birds too, with 64 species logged. About a half of these were noted on our way to (and from) and at the Holden Tower. It was quite a scrummage in the tower as people tried to see everything! Bewick Swans, White-fronted and Greylag Geese were all on show, as well as Canadas, Barnacles and a lone Red-breasted Goose (genuine?). All the expected duck species were seen – eight in all. But the waders were attracting most attention and in particular, two Little Stint which proved rather elusive for some of us, but ticked off by all eventually. The ten species seen, as well as the Stints, were Golden Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin, Ruff, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank and a couple of Avocets, although these were seen best from the Zeiss hide where there were more Snipe. The expected Peregrine was seen and a Buzzard or two watched from fence and hedge. Just as most of the party had left the Holden Tower a Hawfinch was seen there – perhaps the star bird of the morning. We were by now heading through the grounds ‘mopping up’ passerines as gulls (five species) sailed around. These included Redwing, Song and Mistle Thrush, Cetti’s Warbler, Goldcrest and Treecreeper, as well as the expected tits, crows and finches. A swimming Water Rail was spotted from the Kingfisher hide. The weather was mostly kind to us and it was a great morning’s birding. (Thanks to Robin for leading) Robin Prytherch

  • Tuesday 26 December – Snuff Mills Leader: Nick Hawkridge Tuesday December 26th, 2017

    We were twelve at the start and we all saw the first bird on the list – a Goldcrest, which came out of the car park hedge and hung in the trees by the café, giving most of us time to get close with our ‘bins’ – well done Judy. As we walked to the bridge, a further member joined us, Richard, the patch man himself. We squelched along the right bank of the River Frome, which was fast flowing, very high, turbulent and muddy-looking. Up then through the woods to the corner of the hospital having heard a distant Raven calling, seen the usual tit species, two Treecreepers and a cross-looking Buzzard that threaded its way through the branches before alighting and staring down at us. The Magpie count started in the woods and ended at 15 for the day, the Long-tailed Tit 26 – seen in six small flocks, the biggest being eight. We walked past the allotments, where the rear of the party saw Nuthatch, round the new-build homes – Song Thrush and House Sparrow and then onto the playing fields. Only a dozen Black-headed Gulls were feeding on the grass but they were quickly moved on by the dog walkers. A sighting of Coal Tit was made by some and his call heard by most. He was the last bird we saw before we stopped by the fallen tree for coffee. A Redwing was seen as we supped and Starling passed through the gaps in the trees. On our return journey, we were able, thankfully, to walk down the bank of the river even though it was muddy and slippery. The tally built nicely against each species, and we were able to add, most excitingly for Richard, a Little Grebe. It was busily feeding just past the Rhododendrons and among some Mallards – well done Jan for that one. The total for the day was 27, with the final bird being a Jay (well done Lois), seen as we climbed into the cars, in my case heading home to a Boxing Day lunch with family. (Thanks for turning out to lead, Nick.)
    Nick Hawkridge

  • Tuesday 19 December – Iron Acton Leader: David Body Tuesday December 19th, 2017

    A group of 22 set out from the White Hart Inn on what turned out to be quite a pleasant winter’s day, which was clearer than expected with some sun. We immediately saw a number of common species which included House Sparrow, Magpie, Chaffinch, and Jackdaw. A little further on we heard a Green Woodpecker which then gave us a fleeting view. We left the road and walked alongside a field in which there were a large number of birds feeding on the ground. Although at this time of year we may not see as many species on a walk the total number of birds seen is often higher. In this field we saw Blackbird (nine), Fieldfare (179), Redwing (67) and Starling (98) – these numbers being the total seen on the walk. We added Song Thrush and a flock of 100 plus Wood Pigeon, followed by Wren, Goldfinch, Collared Dove, Coal Tit and Dunnock. A Bullfinch and a Pheasant were heard. As we followed a path between two fields a female Stonechat was spotted, quickly followed by the male which gave us an excellent view. From the same spot the winter sun enabled us to have a nice view of a male Yellowhammer in a distant hedge. A flock of 28 Linnets was seen and we added Rook, Herring Gull, Buzzard, Long-tailed Tit, a pair of Mallard and Grey Wagtail. As we approached the end of the walk some of the group saw a Sparrowhawk and others saw Lesser Black-backed gull and Common Gull. Thanks to Nick for keeping a record of the species and numbers seen and to David for leading the walk. Mike Landen

  • Tuesday 12 December – Pucklechurch Leader: Duncan Gill Tuesday December 12th, 2017

    After the coldest night of the year, 22 well-wrapped members met for the pre-Christmas Lunch walk on a crisp, sunny morning. The Rose and Crown car park proved productive with eleven species sighted before we set off (but after ten o’clock!). These first sightings included flocks of both Redwings and Fieldfares. After crossing the road and climbing the first stile we saw two foxes. We then went along a lane adding to our list with Wren and Blackbird and Collared Dove, Starlings, whose plumage was showing well in the bright sunlight, and then Redwing close enough for everyone to see in detail. Redwing were spotted on various occasions during the walk, 15 plus the largest flock noted. Coffee was taken near the garden centre where distracted by a horse and two ponies meant that most missed a flock of Golden Plovers and another of Lapwings. However, good views of about 40 Golden Plovers were seen in the next field as they wheeled around and eventually landed. Yet another flock, seen by some, were Linnets, again about 40, on the electric wire at the end of the walk. The morning’s total was 29 species. We were back at the pub by midday to join other Xmas lunchers, who hadn’t walked, and we all enjoyed an excellent meal with lots of laughs. Many thanks to Peter Holbrook for arranging it, and then re-arranging it after the original choice of pub closed, and to Duncan Gill for leading the walk and Mark Watson for organising all our Tuesday walks. Nancy Barrett

  • Saturday 09 December – WWT Steart Leader: Richard Belson Saturday December 09th, 2017

    On a cold but initially clear day – eight intrepid members attended this walk around the Steart Marshes. Whilst in the reserve car park we could see multiple groups of Starlings on the move, as well as a large flock of Dunlin which must have been in the thousands. On our way to the Mendip Hide we checked the bushes and trees and were rewarded with good views of many Stonechats as well as a variety of other birds. At the hide were large numbers of Shelduck, some Wigeon, Redshank and Curlew. A male Marsh Harrier spent some time hovering over the reeds giving good views, then a Sparrowhawk came through putting many birds up. On our way to the river we saw Reed Bunting, Linnets and a very large flock of Chaffinches, and on the water were large numbers of Dunlins, a flock of about 180 Avocets and a smaller number of Grey Plovers. At the Quantock View Hide Teal, Shoveler, Little Grebe, Black-tailed Godwits, Grey Heron, Little Egret and Merlin were seen. On our way to the Polden Hide we had a Kestrel and our first Redwings of the day. As we left the hide an unexpected Black Redstart obligingly perched on a post for us.
    After a brief lunch break back at the car park we went on to the Natural England car park and walked out to The Breach. Here we had a closer view of wading Avocet and further views of Marsh Harrier. A Buzzard and possible distant Peregrine completed a good raptor day. Overall 48 species seen.
    Thanks to Richard Belson for leading the walk. Sue Kempson

  • Tuesday 05 December – Chew Valley Lake Leader: Mike Landen Tuesday December 05th, 2017

    A pleasing turnout of 24 members set out from the main car park at Chew Valley Lake on a rather overcast December day. At the dam wall we had a good start to the walk seeing a number of species that included Coot, Moorhen, Goldeneye (five), Teal (six), Great Crested Grebe (twelve), Wigeon (eight), Gadwall (eight), Pochard (six) and a large number of Tufted Ducks. We also noted Black-headed Gull (100 plus), Common Gull (six) and Herring Gull (five) as well twelve Lapwings. We then walked through fields to the north of the lake and added a number of common species to our list. These included Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Redwing (a total of 27 by the end of the walk). After we had crossed a very muddy short section or used the rather perilous diversion, some of the group spotted Grey Wagtail, Treecreeper and Buzzard. After our coffee break we walked along Dumpers Lane and a short section of Denny Lane adding Mistle Thrush,Dunnock, Collared Dove and House Sparrow. As we followed the footpath towards Knowle Hill we enjoyed the best of the morning’s weather and added Jackdaw, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Fieldfare (a total of 57 by the end of the walk). There were a number of very well-maintained hedges alongside the path and on the edges of the nearby fields we saw Yellowhammer (eight), Linnet (15), Skylark (eight) and a flock of Starlings (80). As we walked back along the lake between the two car parks we added Little Egret, a single Great White Egret, Grey Heron, Shelduck, and Goosander, as well as hearing both Great Spotted Woodpecker and Water Rail. It was a good walk with a respectable total of 57 species. (Thanks to Nick for keeping a record of birds seen and to Mike for leading.) Mike Landen

  • Sunday 03 December – Ham Wall and Shapwick. Leader: Giles Morris Sunday December 03rd, 2017

    Eleven people gathered at Ham Wall car park in anticipation of a good morning’s birding and as usual the Avalon Marshes did not disappoint. We started by searching the car park area for the Firecrests that had been reported and, while they failed to show, we quickly started to find a good number of species, including a big flock of Goldfinches and Siskins on the alder cones. This was the first of several finch flocks we saw during the day, but despite some careful searching through these tree top gatherings, there were no Redpolls amongst any of them.
    The new Noah’s hide on Shapwick provided a comfortable stop from which to admire the many hundreds of duck on the lake. The majority were Wigeon (1500 by a recent count), but a search through the melee added Tufted, Gadwall, Mallard, Teal, Shoveler and a few smart Pintail. Two Marsh Harriers added to the excitement, causing flurries of panic in the duck ranks. The walk there and back added Raven, Jay, Reed Bunting, Bullfinch, Stonechat and a couple of Kingfisher fly-pasts and as we returned to the car parks a mixed tit flock included a Chiffchaff and several Goldcrests. Hints of a Firecrest moving with them were confirmed by some of the group as we lunched in the carpark. Switching to the Ham Wall side in the afternoon added several species we had missed in the morning, including the resident Glossy Ibis, our first (surprisingly!) Great White Egret and Snipe feeding on one of the islands.
    All in all a very enjoyable few hours birding with a very good mix of species, giving a final list of 53 for the day. (Many thanks for leading Giles.) Giles Morris

  • Tuesday 28 November – Cheddar Reservoir / Chedddar Yeo Leader: Mark Watson Tuesday November 28th, 2017

    A fine sunny morning with a chilly wind greeted 23 members for a walk around about two-thirds of Cheddar Reservoir perimeter and the remainder on to the levels south of the water to the river Axe and back via Axbridge. From the top of the bank we could see Tufted Duck, Coot in large numbers across the water and a Moorhen near to the bank. As we walked around the reservoir we had a clear view of the several hundred Coot along with a few Great Crested Grebe and Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. We descended the bank to walk along a squelchy drove to the Axe. On the way to the river Axe, a Bullfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Grey Heron Goldfinch, Dunnock, and Robin were seen though only in small numbers. Somewhat surprisingly no Fieldfare or Redwing appeared and there were no Little Egrets on the Axe and adjacent rhynes, although some members spotted a Buzzard, and over 20 Meadow Pipits were counted. Along the path to Axbridge a Stonechat sat in good view and a Kingfisher flashed by. Blue, Great and Coal Tits fed in the hedgerows and on feeders, a Chiffchaff was heard and two Redwings were the only thrushes we saw all morning. Back on the reservoir path Mandarin Duck and Mallard along with quite a few mixed varieties were on the water, and on the way back to the car park the adjacent woods and scrub produced Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tits giving a total of 45 species. (Many thanks to Mark for leading this walk). Mark Watson

  • Tuesday 21 November – East Harptree Leader: Geoff Harris Tuesday November 21st, 2017

    As November enters its final few days, the prospect of any ‘nice’ days grows dim. Today at East Harptree must be counted one of the dimmest so far, but, it didn’t rain. From the car park we could hear Raven calling and what came after? Well, it had to be, Goldcrest, as it is the next, after RN, in the current taxonomic order. A fair few were working hard in the bare fronds of a Spruce, all so very busy, picking off the tiniest of insects, and never still. A Wren called from the deep cover of some old brown leafed brambles and Goldfinch hung (and for a heart stopping moment we thought of Siskin) on the many catkins of the Birch trees. As ever, the pond by the Smitham Chimney was without bird life – it was coloured brown and the paw marks at the edge spoke of many dogs playing. The first flock of Starling came over and we observed many Fieldfare, Redwing and Chaffinch feeding on leaf litter before retreating to the trees and then back down to feed. More Fieldfares were above us and in the distance a vast flock of mixed corvids appeared above the skyline showing three distinct sizes, so probably Rook, Jackdaw and Carrion Crow. The first Jay screeched out its presence and flew rapidly away into the trees, under which we took our customary coffee stop. Geoff declared the path down to the combe to be a no-go area – far too wet, so we dropped down into the village from the top fields, finding a couple of Pied Wagtail there. We didn’t, for certain, latch onto the Grey Wagtail that is often to be found by the stream, only a silhouette of a departing bird, undulating its way into the gloom. Across the fields and to the house whose owners have given notice of wanting to stop up a footpath – shame. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming in the woods above the village, two more Jay called and flew, and our final flock of Fieldfare came over. Ten walkers found 28 species and gave Geoff a big ‘thank you’ for leading. Nick Hawkridge

  • Tuesday 14 November – Eastville/Stoke Park Estate Leader: Rich Scantlebury Tuesday November 14th, 2017

    Twenty-six members met at Snuff Mills car park for a walk round part of Eastville Park. The weather was overcast and damp but the rain held off until after we finished. Eastville Park is well used by dog walkers, joggers, cyclists, walkers and a new development; people camping out. Many birds make the woodland their home, in spite of the disturbance. Just inside the entrance to the park we had Jay, Blue and Long-tailed Tit and heard a Redwing and a singing Blackbird, although the song seemed different to normal. It was either a winter sub-song or possibly a European migrant. An obliging Grey Wagtail sat near the weir and we had a good view of its back and tail before it turned round to show off its yellow frontage. We scoured the brush and shrubbery for Firecrest without success but we saw Goldcrest later on. Then we met a lady who had just seen an Otter in the lake. So we hurried down for a look. There was clear evidence of something in the water and a number of the group were lucky to see a head poke up momentarily. It’s amazing how long they can hold their breath. We had our first view of a Kingfisher on the lake and further round we saw two more, adult and first-winter males. They circled one of the islands in dispute over ownership of the territory. A Sparrowhawk flashed overhead on our return journey, the only raptor of the day. A total of 27 species were seen or heard. Thanks to Richard for leading. Alastair Fraser

  • Sunday 12 November – Axe and Exe Estuaries Leader: Gordon Youdale Sunday November 12th, 2017

    Three unusual birds can’t be bad!!? Eight members met the leader at the Seaton Wetlands, an extensive mosaic of habitats created specifically for wildlife watching. We walked along to Colyford Common hide (tidal saltmarsh and reed) and then back to Stafford Marsh (ponds, reeds and Stafford Brook). Ducks included Shelduck, Teal, Mallard and Wigeon. There were also Herring and Black-headed Gulls. Waders included Lapwing, Redshank, Curlew and Dunlin. Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Little Egret were also noted. We visited the Island Hide at Black Hole Marsh which is a saline lagoon with islands and added Little Grebe, Coot and Grey Heron to the list. The Tower Hide also at Black Marsh but with views also of the Axe Estuary produced several Common Gulls, Cormorant, Black-tailed Godwit, Snipe, Great Black-backed Gull, Oystercatcher, Mute Swan and a very obliging Kingfisher on the rail outside. We then drove to Budleigh Salterton where we walked along the River Otter- there we added Glossy Ibis. On to Mud Bank Hide at Exmouth which overlooks the River Exe where, despite the very choppy waters, there were many Wigeon and Pintail and even a Bahama Pintail. Turnstones were present on the beach and across on the mudbank could be seen many Dark-bellied Brent Geese at a distance. Some of us went onto Bowling Green Marsh hide where we added Shoveler and Greylag Geese. Two members went on with the leader to the viewing platform adding Black Swan, Red-breasted Merganser, 100+ Avocets, Golden Plover, Knot, Stock Doves, Fieldfare and Redwing. Unfortunately, the Pale-bellied Brent Geese and Cattle Egrets seen earlier in the week failed to show. Altogether, about 55 species were seen, on a good day, with sunny spells and a couple of light showers and a northerly wind. Thanks to Gordon for leading and sharing his local knowledge.
    Rosemary Brown

  • Tuesday 07 November – Frampton on Severn Leader: Alastair Fraser Tuesday November 07th, 2017

    Fourteen eager birders, including two guests, met at the car park near the sailing club in spite of a poor weather forecast. We set off for a walk around the lake stopping at the club launch area for a good look across the water. A Little Egret danced past us and several Moorhens pottered about. Great Crested Grebes were quite close. The sole intrepid ‘scope bearer, Rob Hargreaves, enabled examination of the raft of Coots and the large number of Tufted Duck for anything special, and a Yellow-legged Gull was spotted among the other gulls (yes, for once it had truly yellow legs!). Showery rain didn’t stop us walking on, hearing and seeing the usual small birds in the trees and bushes. Looking across the open fields a large flock of winter thrushes was spotted in the distance. A newly turned field produced a large number of Pied Wagtails, with quite a few Chaffinch hopping around the base of the pylon. The tree-lined path at the bottom of the lake gave us groups of Long-tailed Tits, a Bullfinch calling, Coal Tits and a Treecreeper. We were all quite damp by now and happy to shelter under trees for our coffee stop, where we were pleased to see two Jays (probably caching food) and a Song Thrush perched on the fence, among other birds. At this point our leader decided to forego the pleasures of the extremely muddy path through the woods in favour of returning between lakes. Trees and bushes here gave us Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Bullfinch, a flock of Goldfinches, good sightings of Redwing, a fly-past Mistle Thrush and our only raptor of the day, a Kestrel. The small private fishing lake gave us a very clean, bright Mute Swan – a shame it turned out to be a dummy! Court Lake was more productive with Gadwall, Pochard and Mallard to add to our duck list, Little Grebe and a flighty Green Sandpiper. Further along Rob’s ‘scope helped us obtain a good view of the single Whooper Swan, an exciting find. At noon, exactly as forecast, heavy rain came in; our walk was curtailed and we beat a hasty retreat to our cars, or in our brave leader’s case, motorbike, but it had been a good walk with around 40 species seen. Thanks to Alistair for leading the walk. Anne Crowe

  • Sunday 05 November – Chew Valley Lake Leader: Robert Hargreaves Sunday November 05th, 2017

    Arrived at Herriotts Bridge to find a new member, Pete, had found two Goosanders. Before I could get to see them a rumbling noise could be heard approaching from the Mendips – quite intimidating. As it got louder we saw this dark line bearing down on us. A flock of 150 Canada Geese came in close over our heads, half turning to the lake, and the rest landing on the pool – a very memorable sight. As we all gathered we noted a Kingfisher in the channel, 13 Pintails on the pool, two Dunlins by the lake, and Cetti’s Warbler and Chiffchaff were heard. Herons Green first, as there were large numbers of Great White Egrets reported but to my surprise there were only seven present: a Green Sandpiper in the corner was hard to see and only two Black-tailed Godwits. Later we started finding Common Gulls, then eleven Goosanders, a Kestrel, and lastly an immature Yellow-legged Gull. Paying for a permit was not popular so we headed round to Hollowbrook: another Chiffchaff in the woods, two Buzzards flew over and, at the half-finished new Bernard King hide, we found eight Goldeneye and 226 Cormorant in a line, off Denny Island. At lunch at the Dam another three Goldeneye were diving, but no Egyptian Geese. Finally to the Bristol Water hide at Stratford which was pretty full – a good sign. Parades of Wigeon and a Dunlin, two drake Red-crested Pochards in a group of three out in the middle, with more Pintails and gulls. Next was a search for a Jack Snipe in the reeds below – difficult but a Snipe was found. And then, as we got our eyes in, a Snipe deep in the reeds was bobbing up and down. The stripes on its head and short bill confirmed a Jack Snipe. To finish off the day a Water Rail paraded along the front of the reeds and a Bearded Tit called. Thirteen participants enjoyed the day. (Very many thanks, again, to Robert for leading this field meeting)
    Robert Hargreaves

  • Tuesday 31 October – Saltford Leader: Robert Hargreaves Tuesday October 31st, 2017

    Starting below the Bird in Hand pub we went up to the cycle track, where the first arrivals caught sight of a Kingfisher. Walking west along the cycle track Chiffchaff and Goldcrest were found. After 400 yards we turned into the fields along a path with six rickety stiles. Large numbers of Blackbirds and a Redwing flitted along the hedgerows. At the grass airfield there were a few Pied Wagtails with Meadow Pipits mixed in among the sheep. The more we looked the more we saw, 36 Pied Wagtails and 15 Meadow Pipits. Then, in the trees behind, large flocks of Goldfinches, and a Bullfinch and Redwings across the skyline – all so busy. What a buzz. No Red-legged Partridges in the next fields but a Pheasant ran off. Coffee break at Avon Farm and a flock of 19 Longtailed Tits passed through. Down the avenue of trees we heard Green Woodpecker and then photographed a Great Spotted Woodpecker on a treetop. Down by Swineford Lock were four Moorhens, two Swans, and another Kingfisher, and finally two Mallards. Walking downriver a Grey Heron flew over and then another Great Spotted Woodpecker, which turned into three at once. Finally a raptor passed over, a Buzzard. The last fields on the walk back above the cycle track revealed a flock of several hundred Goldfinches and 300 Woodpigeons – winter magic. In the last copse Jean Oliver found a male Bullfinch. The best walk I’ve had there for some time. 18 walkers and 38 species. (Thank you Robert for leading this walk) Robert Hargreaves

  • Sunday 29 October – Clevedon – Leader: Jason Williams Sunday October 29th, 2017

    Fourteen club members joined me on a dry but quite cool day with a brisk NW wind.   We started by walking to the ‘viz mig’ spot of Wains Hill, but this produced only a few Chaffinch and Winter thrushes.   The loop around the headland was generally very quiet with little of note.  We spied a few Redshank, Curlew, Wigeon and a lone Little Egret on Blackstone Rocks below us. Proceeding down to Clevedon Pill we watched a Rock Pipit before walking to the Blind-Yeo sluice; alas, there were no birds on the Yeo. A Peregrine drifted by putting up most of the Gulls and a few Lapwing.   At Blackstone Rocks two male Stonechats buzzed around us for a while. The walk down to the Kenn produced small numbers of Skylark, Meadow Pipits and Linnet. A Buzzard did a good impression of a chicken, sticking out it’s white rump as it sat in a bush.   At the Kenn there were a few Dunlin and Curlew along with Redshank.   The best find of the day was here, a female Scaup. The walk back to the cars was uneventful.  A total of 40 species for the morning.  Thanks to those who joined me. (thanks also to Jason for leading)                                                                                      Jason Williams

  • Tuesday 26 September – Priddy Thursday October 26th, 2017

    Twenty-three members turned out for this popular walk on a misty morning. We spent some time near the church at a very productive tree watching a Tree Creeper. Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Robin, Pied Wagtail were also seen plus Blackbird, Blue and Great Tit and a Song Thrush. Some more distant “thrushes” just might have been winter ones. Robins were singing throughout our walk, a large party of Goldfinches was seen and all the corvids at one time or another. A few Swallows were spotted – will this be the final Tuesday walk of 2017 to see them? The old drove road which led us up to the Priddy Barrows tends to be wet and muddy in dry weather and it outdid itself this year, slowing progress and meaning that eyes were mostly looking downwards but Great Spotted Woodpecker and Meadow Pipit were seen before we stopped for a late coffee break. While conditions meant the view could have been better, two Kestrels were on nearby wires and a singing Skylark lifted any hearts that needed lifting. Smart Red Admirals and a few Speckled Wood butterflies were seen and numerous types of fungi which were duly identified by our regular expert. We shall almost certainly ask what they are again next week, Jean – though might remember the waxcaps! Onward and in spite of much scanning no Wheatears were seen on the walls. Then another muddy path took us down to the Mineries, which were quiet on the bird front but there were lots of darter dragonflies mating. The flat remainder of the walk netted plenty of corvids, some displaying, a couple of Buzzards, House Sparrows and a Nuthatch, and in all 36 species were seen. Thanks to Bill for leading.
    Nancy Barrett

    Leader: Bill Dobie

  • Tuesday 24 October – Folly Farm, hedge planting Tuesday October 24th, 2017

    Thirty-four members gathered at Folly Farm on a warm October day to be briefed on how to plant the 1,100 new trees funded by the club as our main 50th anniversary conservation project. Some very experienced gardeners seemed a little surprised to be told that they had been using a spade incorrectly for too many years to mention, but the resulting twin lines of two foot high saplings and the lack of any recourse to the first aider was a very satisfactory outcome. After lunch in the outdoor classroom, a small group completed the protective stock-fencing while the remaining dozen were given a guided tour by Joe McSorley from AWT. We were treated to a potted history of the site, a wide selection of fungi, and several mixed flocks of finches including Siskin. From the top of the hill we looked down on two Buzzards reeling around. A Raven flew over during the planting session. Green Woodpeckers were heard but not seen. The fields contained many ant hills just waiting to be attacked. I recorded only 17 species but the main purpose of the day was the hedge planting, so thanks for the great turnout. Mark Watson and Mike Landen coordinated our efforts and Ken Caruthers set up the project.                  Keith Williams

  • Tuesday 17 October – Barrow Gurney Tuesday October 17th, 2017

    Eighteen members gathered at the village hall carpark on a warm October day. Our first Yellowhammers were seen along the cycle track heading towards the A38. Once we regained the fields a single Coal Tit showed briefly. We then had distant views of Barrow Tanks finding Herons, Cormorants and three Little Egrets (identity confirmed by a later visit to the tanks) amongst the more common ducks and geese. The birding was quiet while we walked through lanes, with high hedges on both sides, apart from hearing a brief Bullfinch call. Once we re-crossed the A38 (carefully) the open fields supplied good numbers of Meadow Pipits and Skylarks with more Yellowhammers and a Kestrel. Many Woodpigeons were seen with one flock of at least 300 before the final fields gave us three Buzzards and a ‘cronking’ Raven. A good time was had by all with 35 species seen. Thanks to Mark Watson for leading and for some judicious use of the secateurs to clear the way over one of the stiles.            Keith Williams

  • Sunday 15 October- Migration watch – 07:00 to 11:00 Sunday October 15th, 2017
    Bird Aust NP/NW Portishead Wains Hill Sand Point
    Canada Goose 49 N        
    Hobby       1  
    Golden Plover 4 1 flock      
    Woodpigeon   15   49  
    Great Spot Woodpecker       4 2
    Skylark   47     17
    Swallow         4
    House Martin       1  
    Starling 181 140   67 730
    Song Thrush       3  
    Redwing 1 240   2  
    Pied Wagtail 49 12 10 19 21
    Meadow Pipit 69 50   34 37
    Water Pipit 1        
    Chaffinch 409 280 12 E, 96 SW 936 1560
    Brambling 2     1  
    Greenfinch 5 30   27 41
    Goldfinch 72 10 25 16 6
    Siskin 3 16   2 9
    Linnet 52        
    Redpoll 2 3   11 1
    Crossbill       1  
    Bullfinch       4 9
    Hawfinch 1 ??     2
    Reed Bunting 3   1 1 2
    Lapland Bunting       1  
  • Tuesday 10 October – Pilning Wetlands – Leader: Jane Cumming Tuesday October 10th, 2017

    Despite the light drizzle and general murkiness, 25 members turned out for the walk at Severn Beach.  The tide was exceptionally high with the Pill well overflowing its usual banks.  We saw little in the murk apart from a Chiffchaff fly-catching from a bush, until we reached the corner where the concrete walkway ends and we stopped to look out across the levels.  Here was plenty to see:  ducks, gulls, Oystercatchers and Curlews in a distant roost, eleven Ringed Plover on the saltmarsh.  We checked through the flocks of small gulls but could find only Black-headed.  Onwards towards the freshwater pools to count ducks: 41 Teal, 24 Gadwall, eight Shoveler and twelve Tufted Ducks though no-one counted the Mallards.  We turned our attention to the waders: half a dozen Dunlins were feeding amongst the Redshanks and Black-tailed Godwits, one to two Common Sandpipers were about, someone noticed a Ruff and someone else pointed out three Snipe.  A flock of 28 Lapwings floated around the grasslands. Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were passing overhead in some numbers, probably migrating, but I missed the only Swallow of the morning.  Other passerines of interest included a Rock Pipit, Stonechats, Wrens and a sizeable flock of Starlings.  Surprisingly, a Shelduck in flight as we walked back was the only one of the morning.  It was a shame we couldn’t find the Grey Phalarope which was reported later that day, but Nick’s final count was an excellent total of 55 species. (thanks to Jane for leading)                                                                            Jane Cumming

  • Sunday 08 October – Steart Marshes Sunday October 08th, 2017

    28 members met at the WWT carpark on a warm day with sun and light wind. We were greeted by a Peregrine on a distant pylon that maintained its watch all day. Cetti’s Warbler (heard) and several Stonechats were among the reeds en route to the Mendip hide. The water level was high and there were many Little Egret with Redshank, Shoveler, and Shelduck. Two Grey Plovers flew in, and two Marsh Harriers were flying in the distance, beyond the Parrett. Walking towards the river we saw Dunlin and Pintail in the marshes, and distant views of Avocet on the river. A second pylon Peregrine gave good views, and there were two Kestrels on a further pylon. The next stop was the hide at Otterhampton marshes where we had the greatest variety of species. A lucky few glimpsed a Brown Hare. There were good views of Golden Plover in the sun, and a Ruff showed itself briefly. More Grey Plovers were seen. Wader highlights were individual Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, and Curlew Sandpiper. After lunch ten members proceeded to the village car park for a walk along the coast towards the tower hide at the point. The tide was well out so wader views were distant, but we had Stonechat in good numbers. On the lane back to the village we saw Greenfinch among a large charm of more than 100 Goldfinch. A Sparrowhawk flew over to provide a fine final bird of the day. The meeting yielded a total of 54 species, including five raptors and 15 wader species. Many thanks to Richard for leading this enjoyable day.                                                                                                                                                                         Gareth Roberts

  • Tuesday 03 October – Portbury Tuesday October 03rd, 2017

    A dry autumn day but traffic chaos caused by a lorry crash on the M5 delayed the arrival of the seventeen walkers who made it through. Along the lane to Portbury Warth Woodpigeon, Carrion Crow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch and Pied Wagtail were seen in the hedgerows and fields along with a couple of Stock Dove. As we walked down the lane to the nature reserve Blue Tit, Great Tit, Greenfinch and Chiffchaff were seen and heard and the obligatory Buzzard flew overhead. The hides overlooking the pools produced several ducks including Mallard, Teal, Wigeon as well as ten Mute Swans, Coot, five Cormorant and a flock of 50 plus Starling. A few saw a Whinchat as we moved onto the edge of the saltmarsh and several Curlew were just visible feeding on the mud beyond at the water’s edge. The highlight of the walk back across grass fields was a flock of 30 plus Linnet flying overhead. Other birds included Long-tailed Tits, Dunnock, Goldfinch and a pair of Collared Doves giving 33 species in all. Thanks to Roger for leading a good walk and a pleasant day.     Thanks to Roger and Lana for leading                                Mark Watson                                                                             

  • Sunday 01 October – Newport Wetlands Sunday October 01st, 2017

    The forecast of torrential rain and gale force winds may have deterred some, but it turned out to be a worthwhile visit for the seven who set out and the weather was not really a problem. At the wetlands, the ponds had the expected Little Grebe, Wigeon, Gadwall and a Swan family with three largish cygnets.  Cetti’s warblers and Stonechats were in the bushes and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen high on a pylon. With the tide well out we had Curlew, Little Egret and Herring Gulls. A small group of Swallows was swooping over the ponds. We reached 29 species before moving round to Goldcliff.  A quiet start initially with Greenshank, Shelduck and Pied Wagtail but the birds started to arrive as the tide was turning. Now Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Dunlin, seven Little Stint, Lapwing and Ringed Plover were added. A Peregrine was perched on a gate and a Marsh Harrier demonstrated low level flying and landing before a Kestrel did a fly past.  Ruff and Black-tailed Godwit were present and a solitary Sanderling appeared amongst the Dunlin flock. A Snipe, two Wheatear, a flock of Linnets and a Chiffchaff all helped to make a very respectable 55 species (Thanks to Margaret and Ray for leading and the report. Editor).                                                                Margaret and Ray Bulmer

  • Sunday September 24 – Portland Bill Leader: Jane Cumming Sunday September 24th, 2017

    The tide was already high enough to have driven the waders away by the time seven of us met at Ferrybridge, but we tarried a while to watch Swallows streaming southwards down the causeway, find a couple of Wheatears hunting insects on the grass, and pick out a Mediterranean Gull amongst the loafing Black-headed Gulls.  We moved on to the Bill for a short seawatch which produced plenty of Gannets but little else on this calm and sunny day – one distant Kittiwake and a passing auk or two, although we enjoyed waving off a group of 30 Swallows as they headed out to sea and off to Africa for the winter.  We walked past the Observatory quarry which was jumping with species such as Stonechat and Blackcap raiding the blackberries, and up to the Observatory garden to join the morning’s twitch of a Greenish Warbler which had been caught and ringed earlier.  It was flitting about through the sycamore branches with a couple of Chiffchaffs and we all got decent views of it eventually. After our picnic lunch we strolled along the top fields from Southwell, but there has been a lot of shrub removal and new building up there, mainly stables, and there was very little bird life to be found.  The next stop was Portland Castle following a report of a couple of Pied Flycatchers and sure enough, there they were flycatching high in the sycamores.  Back to Ferrybridge where the water had receded and the tideline now held a few Oystercatchers, 11 Ringed Plovers and a Bar-tailed Godwit.  At this point some left for home, but three diehards headed out to Rodden Hive, a quiet backwater on the Fleet beyond Langton Herring, to try for the Grey Phalaropes that had been hanging around there for a few days.  Sadly they weren’t to be found, but we did see 20 Brent Geese (early returners) with Wigeon, Teal and Shovelers, Great Crested Grebes and a few herons.  It was a beautiful and peaceful walk to end the day with, and took the bird count up past 40 species.   (Thank you again Jane!)                                                                                                                                                Jane Cumming

  • Tuesday 19 September – Easton-in-Gordano Leader: Judy Copeland Tuesday September 19th, 2017

    We set out from the village hall in hot sunshine and that’s the way it stayed, contributing to a very leisurely walk for 25 people taking much longer than it should have done!  As we progressed up to the field there was a Robin on the wall, a Lesser Black-backed Gull on the farmhouse, a Starling on a TV aerial, a Collared Dove on a telegraph wire and a Blackbird in flight.  Then House Sparrows in the hedge, also a lovely Red Admiral butterfly, a Coal Tit on the top of a conifer, and Greenfinch, Jackdaws, Wood Pigeon, Blue Tit and a Green Woodpecker were spotted.  No dragonflies at Glebe Pond, but a Buzzard was heard.   After eventually getting across the main road we saw through a gateway a Small Copper butterfly perching on a dandelion; later on the walk we saw two Commas and many Speckled Woods.  Once we were in the fields going up towards Failand we saw three Buzzards, one being mobbed by a Crow, three Rooks flying over, a Herring Gull and a Swallow.  A Great Spotted Woodpecker was spied at the top of a Beech, a flock of about 30 Linnets was wheeling low two fields away and a Kestrel and Goldfinches were seen.   At coffee time a Raven was rolling very high above us.  We made our way safely past some beautiful Red Devon cattle and three people left the group as we reached the road near Failand church, where four Starlings were on the wires.   The rest of us ploughed on and up through the shady woodland below Failand House Farm, the path proving steeper than some of us remembered!  No birds here but up at the top a Cormorant flew over.   Our return trip took us down Sandy Lane to a house with a well-attended bird feeder being used by Chaffinch, Dunnock, Robin, Great and Blue tits.    Dru then spotted the bird of the day giving an excellent flypast; from Keith’s photos this turned out to be a Peregrine, though it was initially thought that it might be a young Hobby.  Final species count (thanks Nick) was 37.                 (Thank you for leading Judy)                                     Judy Copeland

     

  • Sunday 17 September – Blagdon Lake Sunday September 17th, 2017

    Fourteen BOC members had a guided walk at Blagdon and enjoyed a leisurely stroll from the Lodge to Top End and back. Bird highlights included a late Common Swift with the hirundines over the Lodge before we set out, the Black-necked Grebe, Great White Egret, three juvenile Ringed Plovers, a flyover Black-tailed Godwit and about 20 Northern Lapwings at Top End, six Little Egrets feeding alongside the cattle on Lag Farm, a Common Sandpiper in Long Bay, and two or three groups of Eurasian Siskins along the south side of the lake. We noted over 40 species on what was a very enjoyable visit. (Very many thanks to Nigel for leading this walk).
    Nigel Milbourne

    Leader: Nigel Milbourne

  • Tuesday 12 September – Upton Cheyney/Swineford Tuesday September 12th, 2017

    Twelve members assembled at the Upton Inn on a wonderful September morning, bit of nip in the air but lots of warm sunshine and three very bright Red Admirals feeding on ivy flowers in the carpark. This is a walk which can set off briskly, as it’s a downhill start with wonderful views and we were soon seeing Long-tailed Tits, Robin, Wood Pigeon, Goldcrest, Blue Tits and Dunnock. A Kestrel flew into a tree and perched for a while, giving everyone good views, and a Buzzard was spotted in the background. Chaffinches were also seen here as were Carrion Crows and a Pheasant was heard. Throughout our walk Swallows were hunting low over the fields and perching on wires and there were plenty of House Martins about. As we reached the bottom of the hill we passed a thick hedge where House Sparrows were in evidence as were Jackdaws and a Magpie was added to the corvid list. We crossed the A431 to the church and scanned the tower, having seen a peregrine here on a previous walk – but not this day! Moving on Coal Tit, Great Tit and another Goldcrest were added to the count and the first of some Green-veined White butterflies seen. We had our coffee break just below the Bristol/Bath cycle track watching House Martins, a couple of Buzzards, some Meadow Browns and dragonflies. On the cycle path rather more bikes and people were spotted than birds but patience revealed a Willow Warbler to one member and Starlings were noisily enjoying some sort of fruit, damsons or elderberries, in a thick hedge. A Jay was seen by some. Down at the river the views are somewhat obscured these days by untamed growth on both banks but Greenfinches, Chaffinches and Blue Tits were seen, and a Herring Gull overhead. The final bit of this walk is, inevitably, uphill where Bullfinch, Goldfinch and Collared Dove were added to the list. Thanks to Dave Body for leading us. Nancy Barrett
    Leader: Dave Body

  • Sunday 10 September – New Passage / Pilning Wetlands Sunday September 10th, 2017

    The weather was much worse than forecast, so gold stars to the 15 people who stayed the course through wind and wet on a high tide and were rewarded with 46 species. The salt marsh was full of Linnets, Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtail, a Yellow Wagtail and Wheatear. Overhead were Swallows, House and Sand Martins, and flocks of Starlings. A nestled Stock Dove was a surprise. Large flocks of Dunlin flew back and forth along the shore, with resting flocks of Canada Geese and Oystercatchers behind. The pools had numbers of Lapwing, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit and Ringed Plover, two Greenshanks and a Bar-tailed Godwit, Snipe and Ruff (thanks to John Martin for helping us find the latter three). Ducks included Shoveler, Gadwall and a Pintail. On the return we found a Whinchat by the pools’ reeds, and there was a Kingfisher on the inland pill. Our raptors were Buzzard and Kestrel. (Many thanks to Lois for leading). Lois Pryce

    Leader: Lois Pryce

  • Tuesday 05 September – Tickenham Moors and Ridge Tuesday September 05th, 2017

    On the meadow lowlands many Swallows and House Martins flew, including pairs apparently kissing in mid air – parents food-passing to young? Buzzards sat on hay bales, and over twenty Pied Wagtails fed in the Golf Club grass. Climbing the ridge and along the wooded top, birds seemed disappointingly few. When we entered Cadbury Camp with its great views down the Bristol Channel, there was a Wheatear on the banks, six Ravens rolling and displaying, and an aerial fight between a Hobby and Kestrel, the Hobby then doing a long shallow stoop to catch what was probably one of abundant dragonflies. Further along the ridge were high calls from Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrest, Jay, and Green Woodpecker down the slope. Blackcap and Linnets were seen round the old quarry at the base. Back on the moors were Mute Swans, Grey Herons, Kestrel and Wheatear using hay bales as perching spots. Around 40 Rooks were feeding, and a Sparrowhawk and pair of Stock Doves flying; and to the leaders’ pleasure, a Kingfisher, which they hadn’t seen for a long time on the Land Yeo. On the day there were 20 walkers and 33 species recorded. (Many thanks to Lois and Jan for leading). Lois Pryce

    Leaders: Lois Pryce and Jan Pridie

  • Thursday 31 August – Axe and Exe Leader: Jane Cumming Thursday August 31st, 2017

    On a beautiful warm, sunny day we met at Black Hole Marsh near Seaton, a new but rapidly developing site with river habitat and extensive shallow scrapes that are excellent for both freshwater and saltwater species.  There was a variety of herons, ducks and waders including a dozen or more Little Egrets from the nearby breeding colony, 68 Black-tailed Godwits, two Greenshanks, Common and Green Sandpipers, Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Snipe.  The hide’s ceiling hosted an active Swallow nest full of restlessly begging juveniles, and we watched a Kingfisher hunting along the river Axe.  We spent a leisurely and enjoyable morning finding, counting and comparing the various wader species. Bowling Green Marsh was something of a disappointment to those of us who weren’t aware of the recent and extensive redesign, which has completely changed its landscape.  The long muddy raised banks held over 300 Canada Geese and little else on this not-very-high tide, although we were assured that on a bigger tide the roosting waders still turn up there.  We counted Wigeon and Teal, Gadwall and Shoveler, but the only waders on view were a single Dunlin and a single Bar-tailed Godwit with 66 Black-tailed Godwits and a few Redshank. All the same, where better to be on a lovely day like this one than at a couple of East Devon reserves giving us great views of all those birds? The final count was in the region of 40 species.

    (Very many thanks to Jane for leading this trip)                                                                               Jane Cumming

  • Tuesday 29 August – Newton St Loe Tuesday August 29th, 2017

    Though overcast and nothing like the sunshine of the previous day, quite a crowd of us (29) gathered in Newton St Loe for what is always a good walk in an attractive setting. As we left the village, there were Rooks, Swallows, House Martins and a Kestrel. We walked down the hill towards SendaCow, and realised the trees were alive with a large party of small birds, mainly families of Blue and Long-tailed Tits, but also at least one Nuthatch. At the lakes we got good views of one Kingfisher and some people saw a second one. During our coffee stop two Ravens flew over and shortly after that we saw the visiting Little Egret in a tree. There was a family of Mute Swans with five teenage cygnets, and a solitary Black-headed Gull. When we walked on, we had brief views of another large party of small birds, which stimulated a good discussion as to which species; in addition to Blue and Great Tits, there were definitely Coal Tits and a family of Willow Warblers. By this time, our leader realised we had not left ourselves enough time to complete the circuit through Stanton Prior, so we came back through the college, speculating this time on the history of some of the buildings. We ended with a tour of the village where we saw a large flock of Goldfinches (c60), some falconers with what looked like a Harris Hawk, at last Collared Doves, and finally a large flock of House Sparrows (c30). Other birds seen by some of us included Hobby, Chiffchaff and Grey Wagtail. Our total was 41 species. Many thanks to Robert Hargreaves for leading such an excellent walk. Dru Brooke-Taylor

  • Tuesday 22 August – Wick Golden Valley Tuesday August 22nd, 2017

    Unmistakeable signs of Autumn – Swallows all heading South, Robin’s song now quite wistful. However, there was nothing autumnal about the weather and 22 of us left the Rose and Crown in warm hazy sunshine on a walk which is as scenic as the name suggests. First stop, the River Boyd. Despite recent rain, it was low with little bird life, just two Wrens darting over the water into bushes. Dipper and Grey Wagtail are sometimes seen here, but not this time. In the woodland, a young Buzzard, Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker were heard in quick succession. At the second bridge a Jay was moving quickly through trees and a Collared Dove and Blue Tit were seen. At the quarry viewpoint overlooking the larger lake, four House Martin, Coot, Raven and Herring Gull were noted. A Kestrel flew past followed a little later by a juvenile. We scanned the rock ledges in vain for Peregrine and then at last there it was, perched unmoving on a rock on the far side of the quarry. Top marks for those who saw it first! At the second lake were Mute Swan, Mallard and Canada Geese. Much activity was noted as we started to return along the lane to Wick, with one tree alone producing Goldfinch, Chaffinch, male and female Bullfinch, Blue Tit and Great Tit. A highlight was a Spotted Flycatcher atop another tree. As we neared the end we heard Nuthatch calling, then saw it fly past. A flock of Long-tailed Tits, a Treecreeper and a Goldcrest completed the tally. Thanks to our leader Dave Body and to Nick Hawkridge, who logged 38 species. John Beaven

  • Tuesday 15 August – River Avon Tuesday August 15th, 2017

    The bus was on time and we arrived at Abbots Leigh to meet the group who had come out from Bristol, so we were now 23 people to enjoy a morning of hot sunshine and some cloud. Some Swallows and House Martins were flying over the field and a Wren was heard, but otherwise it was very quiet until we reached the woodland around Brackenwood Garden Centre and Leigh Court. Around five Long-tailed Tits were high in a tree, a Collared Dove and a Jay were heard, then we found two or three Goldcrests flitting around in a conifer and a couple of Coal Tits on the trunk. A Nuthatch called loudly and three Buzzards were seen above us, then Suk found a family of Bullfinches in a dark area of low vegetation, not easy to see! There was a Blackbird, a Robin on a twig (they have started their autumn song now), a Blackcap was spotted and a Blue Tit was heard. Down by the river, where we had our coffee break, were an eventual total of 70 plus Black-headed Gulls, and two Common Sandpipers were seen skimming along the water by those quick enough to get on to them. A couple of Mallard were down on the mud – the count went up to 16. Two hawker dragonflies flew around us. At Sea Mills were six juvenile gulls (Herring or Lesser Black-backed) and later seven Herring Gulls flew over calling and one Lesser Black-backed. There were six Redshanks on the bank. A Chiffchaff called from the hedge beside the cycle path and in the big field was a large corvid flock of Crows, Jackdaws and one or two Rooks. A Cormorant flew over, a very pale Buzzard passed at a low level on the Shirehampton side and two Herons were in the trees. Ham Green lake produced only two Moorhen and one Coot, Goldfinches were in the bushes, two Magpies were in a tree apparently sunbathing, two Raven were heard and seen and our last sighting was a lovely sunlit Sparrowhawk flying over. 37 species in total. (Thanks to Judy for leading.) Judy Copeland

  • Saturday 12 August – Chew Valley Lake Saturday August 12th, 2017

    About 25 members met at Herriotts Pool at 09.30hrs. After a brief look for the Garganey on the pool we hurried along to Chew Valley Ringing Station (CVRS), as early birds catch their worms. Mike Bailey organised us into two smaller groups to show us how the ringing system works, while a Sparrowhawk flew past the window. There were examples from Cetti’s Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow, Sedge and Reed Warbler. It is amazing how small and fragile birds look in the hand and how light they are; some members got to hold birds and see how they were aged. Puffing up the chest feathers you could see how much fat they had stored and how soon they would migrate. It was an inspiring revelation to many members. Our thanks to Bob Medland and their team for hosting us. Afterwards, we made a journey round many of the haunts of the lake, where we saw Barnacle Goose, Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Water Rail, Lapwing, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Common and Green Sandpiper, Greenshank, Kingfisher, Swift, Grey Wagtail and found the Garganey. (Many thanks to Robert for leading.) Robert Hargreaves

  • Tuesday 08 August – Winford Manor Tuesday August 08th, 2017

    We didn’t fill the yard with our cars, but 24 walkers still required a fair meterage. After we had counted the Swallows using the barn, our host Melanie took us first to their ochre quarry at the back of Redhouse Farm. It is a large site extensively worked in the past with its refined product being shipped all over the world. The tranquillity was palpable, the sun came out and butterflies exposed themselves to our scrutiny. A Common Blue and a Gatekeeper; fresh out the packet, were much photographed. Bullfinch, Nuthatch, Chiffchaff and Robin were heard and after a long period of song, a quick flash of a Coal Tit. All these were below the lip of quarry, while above, a Raven scooted by and a lone Lesser Black-backed Gull rowed his way from the direction of Chew/Blagdon. Afternegotiating the many chickens, we saw a vast corvid cloud erupt over the trees, and not long after, at the coffee stop, we had good sightings of Goldcrest, Blue and Great Tit and a fair few Chaffinch. Leaving the fields, we turned right onto Hen Lane and followed it to Kingdown, spying a Tawny Owl box in a very exposed position. The houses in the hamlet were well populated with House Sparrow but nothing stirred beneath the closed canopy of Kingdown Lane. Once out onto Felton Common things brightened up, a Willow Warbler sang and a most obliging female Yellowhammer came and sat for an admirably long time. Various aeroplanes trundled over as we wandered towards the airstrip where the eaves of The Round House could be seen to be teeming with House Martin. Turning now to cross the common we came upon some Linnet, a couple of Stonechat and a Whitethroat; debate on the validity of Redstart was inconclusive, so it failed to get on the list. As we left the common, more Chiffchaff called above us in the bushes and a thin Buzzard -like call was heard but not identified conclusively. Our penultimate bird, and only seen by a few, was a Spotted Flycatcher, one of a family that were breeding here earlier. Our final and 34th species was a pair of Collared Dove, seen in the farmyard, where we offered our hearty thanks to Melanie for a delightful birding walk. Nick Hawkridge

  • Tuesday 01 August – Failand Tuesday August 01st, 2017

    29 walkers gathered at the Failand Inn as the clear air after rain gave some fine long views. Walking up the lane to Failand Lodge Farm we had Mistle Thrush and Chaffinch. Two Swallows flew over, the first of a dozen tracking our progress. However, gathering Linnet, Goldfinch, and Starling highlighted a change in the ornithological season. The first of these was a flock of 40-50 Linnets, flitting between a hedge along a field of brassicas and telegraph wires above. Goldfinches, in smaller numbers, flew in noisy groups. Three Buzzards were seen, and then splendid close views of a Kestrel showing brilliant colour in the sun. In the distance both Severn bridges gave a marvellous backdrop. Along a woodland edge we added Nuthatch and Green Woodpecker to the list and three House Martin flew over. Entering woodland after coffee we encountered Goldcrest, Coal Tit, and Wren. Three Ravens ‘cronked’ over some newly restored barns, with one tumbling. Two Swifts, possibly our last of the year, were fuelling up for their journey. We had further fine estuary views as Chiffchaff called. As we entered the Tyntesfield estate there were many Wood Pigeons over the harvested fields, and a Roe Deer bounded into a wood. We ended our walk as warm sun returned, with sight of Blue Tit, call of Wren and finally a Lesser Black-backed Gull on the field. Thanks to Nick for keeping the list, a total of 27 species. Thank you to Maureen and Bill Dobie for leading this excellent walk. Gareth Roberts

  • Tuesday 25 July – Wick Tuesday July 25th, 2017

    On a bright sunny morning 27 members set off from Bridge Yate for a walk along the Dramway and across farmland and woodland south of Siston. On the way to the Dramway, an old track bed for hauling coal, we picked up Collared Doves, Chaffinch and Great Tit and four Swifts flew overhead. Moving along the Dramway numerous Robins were heard and at least three Treecreepers were seen but Bullfinches often seen here were in short supply apart from a fleeting sight of a tail flying into the bushes. As we walked in Warmley Forest Park towards Siston Court, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers were heard, a couple of Buzzards soared over us and Swallows and martins were about. A solitary juvenile Coot dodged in and out of reeds on a pond, Chiffchaffs were heard and an eagle-eyed walker saw a Grey Heron in the distance. The tail end for the group saw a Sparrowhawk and Kestrel passing overhead and later four Linnet nearby. Going back to the car park two Whitethroat and a Jay were heard and Pied Wagtail, Blue Tit and Long-tailed Tit added to the list. Thanks to David for leading a good walk which yielded 37 species. Mark Watson

  • Tuesday 18 July – Clevedon/Walton Tuesday July 18th, 2017

    A cloudless sky and hot sun brought out 17 people. We walked up to the Golf Club buildings where we found a roof covered with 16 Swallows, and also House Sparrow, Blue Tit, Woodpigeon, Coal Tit, Blackbird, Pied Wagtail and Goldfinch. On the gate leading to the track was a juvenile Robin and through the hedge we could see a large number of Herring Gulls and two Lesser Black-backed Gulls, presumably pursuing grounded flying ants on the grass. On the track above the sea we added Linnet and Carrion Crow and one Black-headed Gull on the estuary, but butterflies here were more numerous than birds – Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown, Red Admiral, Gatekeeper, Comma and Brimstone. During coffee in the field, we found two Green-veined Whites with a Small White gathered together on one spot of dried mud. The coast path did not yield much except a high tide and lapping water, but there was one Mallard on a rock pool, one Rock Pipit, occasional Black-headed Gulls, and Wren was heard. Up on Walton Common we saw a Buzzard, Long-tailed Tits, Magpie, Jay and three Swifts, and enjoyed our picnics in the shade. After moving off beside the woodland along the Common towards Walton we found several Silver-washed Fritillaries and a large blue dragonfly – maybe an Emperor. We walked back to Clevedon Golf Course up a wooded footpath and arrived back at the cars at 1400 hrs. The temperature was 28ºC ! Judy Copeland

  • Saturday 15 July – Marshfield Saturday July 15th, 2017

    About a dozen people met on a rather overcast and windy evening, not ideal for finding Quail and in fact we didn’t hear any of them although several were reported singing around Marshfield on that date. However, there was compensation in the form of two Little Owls sitting out on a rooftop, and good views of Red-legged Partridge, Yellowhammer and quite a lot of Corn Buntings which were sitting on the wires or hovering over the barley before dropping out of sight into it. Other observations included two Buzzards and a Kestrel, a scattering of the large gulls drifting about over the fields, a few Swifts and plenty of Swallows, a Skylark or two (not singing any longer), lots of young Starlings flocking in their teenage gangs and some Linnets. Keep trying, those Quail are out there somewhere though more likely to call on a calm and sunny evening. Jane Cumming

  • Tuesday 11 July – Hinton Blewitt and Litton Reservoirs Tuesday July 11th, 2017

    23 members met on a fine and sunny morning. July is often a quiet month for birding but our morning walk from Hinton Blewitt to the Litton reservoirs via Coley was full of interest. We had excellent views of a male Kestrel hovering and two Buzzards. There were plenty of Swallows, House Martins and a few Swifts. One house had several House Martin nests and we saw the adults coming in with insects for the young. We had lovely views of both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Many young birds were seen including Little Grebe, Pied and Grey Wagtail, Coot and Tufted Duck. A young Heron stood in a tree and a rather muddy Little Egret stood at the water’s edge. Three Bullfinches and families of Goldfinches and Greenfinches along with Linnets and a female Chaffinch and House Sparrows were around the villages of Hinton and Coley. We heard Skylark singing over the fields of barley. It was a most enjoyable walk. (Thanks to John and Sue Prince for leading). Sue Prince

  • Saturday 08 July – Forest of Dean Saturday July 08th, 2017

    This was a joint meeting of Bristol Ornithological Club and Bristol Naturalists’ Society with an attendance of 28. We met at New Fancy View car park and climbed up to the viewing platform. The birds were generally quiet although Siskin were heard. On the way down some were fortunate to have a splendid view of a male Crossbill at the top of a conifer. We then had a walk around one of the Cannop Ponds. A number of Mandarin Duck were seen including eclipse males, females and juveniles. Grey Wagtails, both adult and juveniles, were active around the outfall. Swallows and Swifts hunted insects over the water.
    We then drove to the car park beyond Speech House and walked up to the Crabtree Hill clearing. Linnets and a Stonechat were seen and heard as we positioned ourselves for the main target species of the evening. After about 20 minutes the first “churring” was heard indicating that a Nightjar was indeed present. There then followed a magical half hour, right through dusk, of frequent sightings of Nightjar, some close enough to observe the white spots on the wings of the males. There were at least four birds and the highlight was seeing a bird perching lengthwise on a branch giving a marvellous view in silhouette. About 40 species were encountered during the evening. (Thanks to Mike for coping with quite a large multi-club trip.) Mike Johnson

  • Tuesday 04 July – Dolebury Warren Tuesday July 04th, 2017

    We set off from the Crown Inn, Churchill on a grey morning with rain forecast to visit the National Trust land at Dolebury Warren which is managed by Avon Wildlife Trust. As 14 of us left the car park Robin, Wood Pigeon, Carrion Crows and House Sparrow were seen or heard. On a short path though woodland we descended to cross the A38 seeing Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit and a Song Thrush. We took the easier way up onto Dolebury Warren Hillfort and on the way more Blue Tit and a Coal Tit appeared. Once on top of the fort we walked around the boundary dyke seeing Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls overhead and a few Swallows doing aerial acrobatics – always great to see. Going through scrub to the far end of our walk a Linnet provided excellent views on top of a hawthorn bush and numerous Goldfinch chattered and flew about, occasionally landing on the scrub. Whilst taking coffee four Green Woodpeckers flew back and forth along the edge of some woodland and occasionally sat on a tussock of grass allowing a reasonable view, though as is the way of things they more often than not sat behind tussocks. A heavy downpour happily coincided with a canopy of trees so we donned waterproofs for the return journey which had the satisfactory result that after five minutes the rain stopped and it stayed dry to the end of the walk. The return added Buzzard, Meadow Pipit, Kestrel, Bullfinch, Mistle Thrush and Blackcap to our list giving a total 27 species. (Thanks to Mark for leading.) Mark Watson

  • Sunday 02 July – Dinas, mid-Wales Sunday July 02nd, 2017

    Robin, Alastair and I met in Shirehampton from which it was barely a two-hour drive to Dinas, rather than the three hours threatened in Club News. What a pity that no-one else joined us for a pleasant and peaceful walk through this lovely old oak forest with a rushing torrent running through it and high hills on all sides. There were still plenty of Wood Warblers dancing through the oak leaves, now uttering a somewhat half-hearted trilling song, and Redstarts with juveniles around the woodland edges. We saw two or three Spotted Flycatchers but were unable to locate a Pied Flycatcher – they breed here, but perhaps have already disappeared into the high canopy with their fledglings. The boulder-clogged river produced a Dipper and both Pied and Grey Wagtails. Overhead, Swallows and House Martins hunted, and across the river on a steep grassy slope we picked out a Stonechat family and a Wheatear. Ravens ‘cronked’ overhead now and then and we saw one each of Buzzard and Red Kite. Wrens were still in good voice and the woodlands held Song and Mistle Thrush, all five of the expected tit species and a few more common warblers.
    After a picnic lunch watching a Great Tit coming in for mealworms, we went up to the local reservoir where Robin thought he heard a Tree Pipit, and then checked out another quiet valley or two full of Swallows and Redstarts, but not the Common Sandpipers we were looking for. However, we had a lovely day in this wild and empty part of Wales. Thanks to Robin for leading and Alastair for driving. Jane Cumming

  • Tuesday 27 June – Velvet Bottom Tuesday June 27th, 2017

    This is a really lovely walk across open hills and through wooded combes on top of the Mendips, and 23 members turned up to enjoy it. Song had definitely quietened down, with Song Thrushes and Wrens still making plenty of noise but hardly a peep from Robins and Blackbirds. The warblers were still singing – the group heard Blackcaps, Whitethroat, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers. Plenty of Swallows and House Martins were swooping about overhead. On the highest footpath we encountered Meadow Pipits and a family of Stonechats. In the woodlands we found a family of Nuthatches, a Treecreeper and a Goldcrest. The target bird, Redstart, held out until nearly the end of the walk, but we found at least one adult and a juvenile by the reedy pool close to the car park where we’d started. Other species included a Buzzard, Stock Doves and a Reed Bunting. Two people took a shortcut back to the car park and were rewarded with views of a family of Spotted Flycatchers which the rest of us missed. A selection of crows, tits and finches took my total to 33 species but I suspect I missed a few. Thanks to Geoff for leading one of the most scenic walks in our calendar and for only overrunning by 45 minutes!
    Jane Cumming

  • Peregrine Watch – 24/25 June Saturday June 24th, 2017

    Despite the breeding failure of the Avon Gorge birds this year, the two day watch period still enabled visitors to the site to observe both adult birds who had remained in the area watching over their territory. On June 24 the two birds were mainly seen perched in various locations on the Leigh Woods side of the Gorge. During the first watch, I was at the site and saw a juvenile Peregrine fly towards the site from the direction of Avonmouth. It circled around in the area for about four or five minutes then turned and headed off back in the direction of Avonmouth. The remainder of the day both adult birds were observed either flying around the Gorge or perched.
    On June 25 once again both adult birds were observed by visitors either perched in various trees once again on the Leigh Woods side of the Gorge. There were two close-up fly-pasts during the morning by the birds much to the enjoyment of our visitors. Unfortunately, a short sharp squall came in from the direction of Avonmouth which caused our members to shut up their scopes until it had passed over. During the afternoon, most of the time both adults were in view to visitors again, either circling around above the site or perched. At about 15:45 both birds flew off down the Gorge in the direction of the Suspension Bridge and did not return for the remainder of the watch.
    Three new members were signed up plus two others who made enquiries and took away the various membership documents to fill out later. Lots of Peregrine leaflets were handed out to interested parties who visited us. All in all, it was a very successful and worthwhile watch weekend.
    Thanks go to the following members who gave up their time to this watch weekend:
    Barry Gray, Gareth Roberts, Julie/Peter Ottley, Robert Hargreaves, Jenny Ellis, William Earp, Judith Craddock, Alastair Fraser, Judy Copeland, Jean Oliver, Phyl Dykes, Mandy Leivers, Annie Davis, Brenda Page, Charles Stapleton, Cecille Gillard.
    As this is the last Watch weekend that I shall be organising, (but will still carry out a shift when I can), I should like to thank all our Club members who during the 16 years that I have been running the watch weekends have given their time to make this event the success it has been. Very many thanks and especially to Brenda Page who took on the role of assisting me by organising and getting the members for the Watch weekends. Charles Stapleton

  • Tuesday 20 June – Compton Dando Tuesday June 20th, 2017

    It was an extremely hot summer’s day which probably dissuaded some from undertaking a four mile walk and so it was just twelve of us that set off from The Compton Inn at Compton Dando. There were a good number of common birds around the village including House Sparrows, Collared Dove, House Martins, Swifts, Swallows and Jackdaws (25 plus). We also had views of a Grey Wagtail flying along the brook that flows through the village. After a very short walk to the bridge over the River Chew a Dipper was spotted in the river but it was difficult to see through the trees and so not everyone got a view of it before it moved on. We then walked through some pasture land bordered with woodland where we added Greenfinch, Dunnock, Blackcap, Goldfinch, Whitethroat, Wren and an early morning Buzzard was seen. A Mallard was also seen in the river. The next part of the walk took us away from the river up a quite steep path through the woods where a Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tit were heard. We crossed a beautiful meadow where we saw Meadow Brown butterflies and a few Marbled Whites. Song Thrush, Green Woodpecker and Nuthatch were heard and some of us had a good view of a Jay. We reached Woollard and made a very slight diversion for another view of the River Chew from the road bridge. There were a lot of damselflies over the river (beautiful demoiselles) and a Moorhen and Pied Wagtail were spotted. Then there was that telltale flash of blue and we had excellent views of a Kingfisher flying away from us. It sped around the bend in the river about 100 metres away. A few seconds later it returned but saw us and did a very fast u-turn and was gone. We found a nice spot by the river for our coffee break and then started the walk back along the other side of the River Chew. We added Lesser Black-backed Gull, Swift, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Magpie, Bullfinch and Coal Tit. Some of the group also saw a second Kingfisher flying along the river. As we came towards the end of the walk we had good views of a Green Woodpecker and a Raven and we finished our species count with a Grey Heron. Considering the high temperature we finished with a good total of 43 species seen or heard and also saw all three of our target birds: Grey Wagtail, Dipper and Kingfisher. Most importantly we all returned safe and sound with no reports of heat exhaustion! Thanks to Nick for keeping his usual accurate birdlist.(Thanks to Mike for leading)

    Mike Landen

  • Tuesday 13 June – Folly Farm Tuesday June 13th, 2017

    A large group, which waxed and waned a bit throughout the walk, but for the most part numbered 41 members, set out on this new Tuesday walk. The morning started warm but cloudy and turned into a real sunny summer’s day. Our route took us into pastures with long (wet) grass and the sound of many Rooks plus the first of several Song Thrushes with extensive vocabularies which were heard throughout the walk. There were many wonderful views to all points of the compass and with the good visibility Mute swans on Chew Valley Lake were added to the list. Among the summer migrants, seen and heard, were Blackcap, House Martin, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat and Willow warbler.
    At coffee break Mark Watson reminded us that as part of the Club’s 50th anniversary activities, we are funding the purchase of hedging for a planting project at this Avon Wildlife Trust location. This will take place on a Tuesday in late October – hopefully with an even larger group of members! Bird News will have all the details in due course.
    We can usually count on seeing a Buzzard, which reminds some that it’s time for a coffee break. Four were seen early on this occasion and a Kestrel towards the end of the walk. A Hobby, spotted by Sue Prince, was possibly the star of the show for some – though our group was sometimes split into two or three so although the final count did match the number of walkers, not everyone saw or heard every species, which included Great Spotted and Green woodpecker, five species of corvid, most of the Tits, Goldcrest, Dunnock and Nuthatch. Two lucky returners to the carpark were treated to a very close, low level, noisy flypast of a Hobby hot on the heels of a Carrion crow.
    Many thanks to Jean for leading and introducing so many of us to the delights of Folly Farm. Nancy Barrett

  • Tuesday 06 June – Sand Point Tuesday June 06th, 2017

    Six people made the ascent to the trig. point at the top of the steps, where any lingering cobwebs were swiftly dispatched eastward at about 40 knots. Trees and shrubs being all in full leaf and the roaring of the wind over ears, it is surprising that we did get to 28 species. Whitethroat and Blackbird were along and over the path. One Swallow, several Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls were patrolling, skilfully using the updraft from the cliffs. We spent ten fruitless minutes at the point, no dark sickle shape of Manx Shearwater, no long winged Gannet, in fact nothing. Before we reached our coffee stop, three then four beautifully coloured Feral Pigeon played chase along the cliff edge. In the lee of some boulders we drank our brews, the sun warmed us, and above Stonechat and Rock Pipit both scolded loudly. We flushed a Skylark from the newly cut meadows, no soaring song flight for this one, just lifting off, no higher than a Dunnock, sliding along the wind and down. A flock of 28 Goldfinches made enough noise to attract our attention; they swarmed from bushes onto some thistles and back again. Four Jackdaws shot into the belfry of the priory church, a favourite spot. Here two of the party departed for home and we few sat, a little further down for our picnic on the edge of the River Banwell. We listened to singing Blackbird, Greenfinch, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and saw several Shelducks and a single Mallard. The far bank of the river fairly teamed with Corvids and at one point they all lifted off, high enough for us to see that there were well over 300. We would normally have walked back via the Severn edge at St Thomas’s Head, across the field system, but the clouds that were racing towards us had an evil look, so we headed back to the cars. Although it was blowing all day and a few spots of rain hit us, it was an exhilarating outing. Nick Hawkridge

  • Sunday 04 June – RSPB Arne Sunday June 04th, 2017

    Forty-seven members of the BOC, Bristol Naturalists and Bath RSPB joined the coach trip to Arne RSPB reserve. The weather was overcast with sunny spells and a bit windy, the rain holding off until the journey back. RSPB staff, Rob and George met us at Arne. We split into two groups for a guided tour of some of the reserve, including parts not normally open to the public.
    My group walked up the West Trail passing remains of a WWII gun emplacement. Arne was a decoy for the cordite factory at Holton Heath and was heavily bombed. Some of the bomb craters are now wildlife-friendly ponds. A Neolithic barrow is close by. The barrow is on the highest point of the reserve and was once covered in bright flint nodules visible for miles in a treeless landscape. The barrow and the gun emplacement mark the beginning and end of lowland heath in Arne. The natural state of the land is oak woodland. Our Neolithic ancestors felled and burnt the trees. The thin, acid soils turned to heathland (which once stretched from Sussex to Devon). In the 1940s the heath converted to conifers for timber production. The RSPB is restoring the heathland landscape. A thick mulch of needles is left once the pines are gone. This prevents natural regeneration and is difficult and expensive to remove. The RSPB is experimenting with Mangalitza (woolly) pigs who root about exposing the soil. Heather seeds can remain dormant for 100 years and will germinate once exposed to light and air. The pigs also supply the bacon for the café which is harsh, but tastes delicious. The pigs are confined by an ineffective electric fence. They escaped and followed us like a pack of dogs as we walked down the hill.Arne is a stronghold for Dartford Warblers. In the 1960s only ten Dartfords survived in the whole country with just two in Arne. With careful management, Arne now has up to 70 pairs. The birds don’t migrate and are very vulnerable to cold winters. They have up to three broods a year so recover from population crashes quite quickly but they are slow to recolonise if they become locally extinct. The gorse is coppiced in rotation to create low, dense bushes that shelter the birds, and the spiders they prey on, from winter snow. We had a good view of a family of four Dartfords, in spite of the wind.
    The heath is also home to Smooth Snake, Adder, Grass Snake, Common and Sand Lizards. We were shown a number of shallow, oval holes created by Sand Lizards excavating burrows for their eggs. We saw one female lizard in the act. Rare Ladybird Spiders (as seen on Autumnwatch) are captive bred and released onto the reserve, so far going well with an expanding population.
    After the tour, we were free to explore the rest of the reserve. Coombe Heath is to the south. This looks out over Middlebere Lake (part of Poole Harbour). This area is good for Dartford Warbler, Stonechat, Linnet, Meadow Pipit. We were unlucky not to see Osprey. A young male has adopted one of the artificial nest sites but on Sunday he was elsewhere.
    To the north, the reserve consists of mixed woodland (oak, birch and pine), farmland pasture and patches of heath. A colony of Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls nest on Long Island. An evildoer stole all the eggs last year (apparently gulls’ eggs are a thing in posh restaurants). Increased vigilance this year has led to a successful breeding season, although the only Mediterranean gull seen was in Middlebere Lake. Common and Sandwich terns nest on Brownsea Island but we saw not one! However, one member saw a group of Avocet in the distance. Plus a couple of Common Seal.
    A very enjoyable and interesting day out. As is normal with birding ‘we should have been there yesterday’ but we saw 59 species including a Red Kite from the coach (near Shaftesbury). (thanks Alastair for the organisation and leading) Alastair Fraser

  • Tuesday May 23 – Newport Wetlands Tuesday May 23rd, 2017

    An unpromising start with low cloud and drizzle over the estuary but this slowly disappeared and the sun eventually came through. Around the centre were House Sparrow, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Coot and Little Grebe on the pond. The artificial Sand Martin bank is still unused. Walking out towards the lighthouse gave us Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Reed Bunting and Cetti’s Warblers, hiding from view as usual. The Bearded Tits did appear briefly but not seen by all. Swifts, Swallows, House and Sand Martins were all flying over the water. The tide was well out so there were few birds to see. Curlew, Oystercatcher, Herring Gull and Shelduck were visible and the Whitethroat was a noisy accompaniment as we walked along to the hide where Grey Heron and Moorhen were added. In the wood were Blackcap, Wren and Chiffchaff.
    After lunch the group headed to Goldcliff and were able to add Redshank, Lapwing, Ringed and Little Ringed Plover. The Ringed Plover was seen with two little balls of fluff. The Avocets had a few chicks and we had a brief visit from two young Grey Wagtails. A Marsh Harrier and a Buzzard were the only raptors seen, but a family of Raven were mobbed by Crows. Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwit were in summer plumage and the drake Garganey was still hanging around. A Teal, a Wigeon and a Black-headed Gull seemed to be the last of the larger flocks. The fifteen walkers enjoyed the two sites and the day gave us a good total of 61 species but sadly no Cuckoo. (thanks to Margaret and Ray for leading) Margaret Bulmer

  • Tuesday 23 May – Newport Wetlands Tuesday May 23rd, 2017

    The prospect of hail and blustery wet conditions did not deter the group of 23 members. The birds were in full voice in the bushes and hedgerows all around the reserve including Robin, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Wren, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blue Tit, Song Thrush, Blackbird. A Cettti’s Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat were seen by a few of us. At the Centre, Greenfinch, Sparrow and Goldfinch were added. The pond had Coot with young, and a Little Grebe showed on the return. At the start of the walk, towards the lighthouse, Bearded Tits were flying to and fro across the reeds. A few of us saw a Reed Bunting. Reed Warblers were keeping low, although were noisy enough. A Sedge Warbler sitting in a small tree gave everyone a good view. We were hearing a Cuckoo in the distance. Then, first one and then two flew around the reeds giving wonderful sightings. A perching individual allowed some ‘scope work. Later, a third Cuckoo joined the pair before it went off in a different direction. The tide was going out at the estuary; only Shelduck, Curlew, and a Brent Goose were added. Swallow, Sand Martin, House Martin and Swifts were swooping over the reed beds. The RSPB built an artificial Sand Martin nest by the Centre but it has not yet attracted any to nest.
    After lunchtime, the weather began to change so we headed to Goldcliff to shelter in the hides. A sudden hail storm had us closing the windows to avoid a battering. The Avocets did not appear to have young but a few birds were sitting in the grass. Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Little Ringed Plover, Little Egret, Gadwall and Shoveler and Tufted Duck were added. The Canada Geese had a few goslings but the Redshank chicks seen the previous week were not on view. A Skylark was heard. A Buzzard was the only raptor of the day. A small group was keen to go on to Magor Marshes to see Water Voles. The Wildlife Trust released over 200 Water Voles and set up floating platforms baited with apples. The voles climb onto the platform and are unperturbed at being watched. This turned out to be a very successful day with 47 species noted with some firsts for the group.
    (Thanks to Margaret for leading and for the report. Editor). Margaret Bulmer

  • Friday 19 May – Highnam Woods Friday May 19th, 2017

    Storm clouds were gathering as we drove towards Gloucester but we missed the rain. 20 members met on a still, fine evening. A Nightingale was singing metres away as we pulled into the car park, joined by a second in the distance. Hannah Booth from Gloucester RSPB had serious competition from two Song Thrushes as she introduced the walk. Hannah led us on a circuit interspersed with presentations on the ecology of the woodland and the management plan to enhance the habitat for Nightingale at the western edge of its range. Along the first path we heard Chiffchaff, Robin, Wren, Great Tit, and Blackcap. We paused by a two hectare “coup” of coppice as Swifts flew over, Raven ‘cronked’, and there were short bursts from another Nightingale. Coppice, not dense scrub, is the Nightingale’s favoured habitat. The RSPB creates coppiced coups, removing large standard trees to open the canopy. New growth needs protection from Muntjac deer and each coup is surrounded by a thick barrier of cut branches knitted together by bramble. The RSPB bought the 120-hectare wood, predominantly oak and ash, in 1984. Highnam had been a commercial woodland and the scrub and regrowth supported good numbers of Nightingales. There were 20 singing males in 2001, but falling to six in 2012. There were 13 in 2013, but eight in 2016, consistent with the national 50% fall in Nightingale numbers in the last 30 years. As we progressed we heard more Song Thrushes; our evening total was eleven, a third of the reserve’s singing males. Blackbird, Dunnock, Greenfinch, and Chaffinch were added to the list. One third of the wood is intensively managed, including the wide rides which support butterflies and native flowers. Hannah showed us the rare Tintern Spurge, encouraged by heavy machinery disturbing the ground. We passed under a rope across the ride, a bridge for dormice. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, elusive on this visit, favour the undisturbed part of the wood, with some trees up to 200 years old. We did however have both Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker. We heard another Nightingale near a boggy area newly created, by damming ditches, to encourage invertebrates. Some ash trees were less happy with the wet conditions and were dying, good news for the woodpeckers. A Goldcrest and a Coal Tit were heard on the final leg of our walk. We returned to the original coup as the Song Thrushes fell silent.
    We were rewarded by two Nightingales beginning a night of competitive singing providing an atmospheric end to an excellent and informative evening. We totted up nine singing Nightingales, although none were seen. Many thanks to Hannah Booth for giving us so much of her time. (Hannah stayed on for a night survey and two more singing males were located, bringing the reserve’s total this year to eleven). Thanks also to Nick Hawkridge for keeping the bird list, a total of 21 species. (Thanks to Gareth for leading and writing the report. Editor).
    Gareth Roberts

  • Tuesday 16 May – Shapwick Heath/Ham Wall Tuesday May 16th, 2017

    Fifteen members met at the RSPB Ham Wall car park on a grey morning with a damp forecast. We were immediately treated to a display of a dozen Hobbies over the adjacent reedbed and Cetti’s Warblers singing loudly from the hedgerows. Swallows and Swifts and the occasional House Martin passed overhead. We went on to Ham Wall for the morning and soon saw a Great White Egret flying past and a distant Cormorant. Blackcap, Wren and Robins called loudly from the hedges and we heard several Garden Warblers. Towards the first viewing platform we had an excellent view of a male and female Bulfinch about twenty yards away across the South Drain. Numerous duck including Mallard, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Gadwall and Pochard were on the pools on either side of the old railway track. At the Avalon hide we caught a distant view of a Buzzard. A couple of the group walked a little further along the drain and were rewarded with a Glossy Ibis, Garganey and Cattle Egret. On the return journey, the rest of the group saw the first two of these but, sadly, not the Cattle Egret. The path to the hide was accompanied by Reed Warblers, Reed Buntings, Lapwing and, from the hide, a male and female Marsh Harrier circling over the reeds, a magnificent sight. A pair of Great Crested Grebe was taking it in turns, somewhat reluctantly, to carry their chicks around on their backs. Little Egrets intermittently flew past. We could hear Bittern and one or two of the group saw them flying. The rain was patchy and followed us back to the car park and lunch. After lunch with the weather not looking good some decided to call it a day. The rest went to the Shapwick Tower hide. Here we had good views of Kingfisher, Oystercatchers, Black-tailed Godwit and a couple of Marsh Harriers before returning home. The tally of species for the day was 56.
    (Thanks to Mark for leading and writing the report. Editor). Mark Watson

  • Tuesday 09 May – Southstoke Tuesday May 09th, 2017

    21 walkers gathered on a cool cloudy morning in the centre of this picturesque limestone village with fine views across the valley, and beyond to the Westbury White Horse. David Body introduced us to the fascinating history of the landscape, which can justifiably lay claim to be the birthplace of geology. We heard Greenfinch, Robin and Blackbird. As we left the village we saw two House Martins around a nest and a Swift flew over. We heard Chaffinch, Wren, and Dunnock as we descended through a field of cow parsley, cowslips, buttercup, and bugle. A group of Jackdaws was soaring, a sight repeated throughout the morning. Blue Tit, Pied Wagtail and Mistle Thrush together with a ‘yaffling’ Green Woodpecker were added to the list.
    Entering woodland full of garlic, we heard the first of ten Blackcaps, as well as Chiffchaff. We had good views of a Great Spotted Woodpecker. At Tucking Mill reservoir, a pair of Grey Wagtails was showing brilliantly in the welcome sunshine. Swallow, House Martin, and Swift flew over the water. Climbing up to the old “S and D” line, now a cycle track, we had our coffee on the platform at Midford Halt. We saw Goldfinch and Long-tailed Tit along the line, and Buzzard and Sparrowhawk overhead. At Midford a Goldcrest sang so loudly that even some of us with age-related hearing loss could hear it. We followed the valley of the Cam brook and the disused Somerset Coal canal, now reclaimed by nature leaving some fine bridges to nowhere. We saw a Bullfinch and a juvenile Dunnock, naively staying out in the open for us. In an oak wood, we heard more Blackcap and Chiffchaff, our only warblers of the day. Passing under a second disused railway, we came to the remains of the Coombe Hay flight of 22 locks on the canal. Another audible Goldcrest lightened the walk back up the hill to Southstoke, together with sounds of Nuthatch and Stock Dove. We returned to the village in warm summer sunshine and as we passed a splendid limestone barn and the imposing church a group of low flying Swifts screamed overhead. Many thanks to David for leading this excellent walk and to Nick for keeping the list, a total of 35 species. Gareth Roberts

  • Tuesday 02 May – Elm Farm, Burnett Tuesday May 02nd, 2017

    28 members set off for the walk around Elm Farm on a beautiful sunny, warm spring morning. The farm is managed to enhance wildlife and records are kept on bats, insects (moths, butterflies, hoverflies, dragonflies), flowers and, of course, birds in order to monitor progress on improving biodiversity. Parts of the farm are sown with a variety of plants specifically for insects, birds and mammals resulting in good habitat and the production of winter feed. As we set off we saw Greenfinch, Goldfinch, House Martin and Swallow around the farm buildings. We saw a number of common species including Jackdaw, Chaffinch, Grey Heron across the fields. We heard Dunnock, Blackcap and Song Thrush. We heard, and then saw, Skylarks and added Chiffchaff and Pheasant to our list. The farm had 150 Yellowhammers during the winter and although most of these dispersed to breed, we had good views of four feeding on the seed put out on the ground. A Sparrowhawk was hunting in the distance. We then saw a Buzzard, Jay and a Bullfinch, with a good view of the tell-tale white rump as it flew away from us. We had heard a Green Woodpecker earlier and then had good views of another one as it flew in front of us during our coffee stop. Towards the end of the walk we had good views of a Willow Warbler and added Raven, Whitethroat, Mistle Thrush, Goldcrest and Collared Dove. Our walk was enhanced by hares and foxes as well as various butterflies and flowers.
    Thanks to Roger Palmer for leading and to Philippa Paget for explaining the management of the land and for arranging a lift for those who wanted to avoid the walk up the hill back to Burnett. Thanks also to Nick for keeping his usual accurate bird list. In all we saw 36 species on an enjoyable walk. Mike Landen

  • Saturday 29 April – St Catherine’s Valley Saturday April 29th, 2017

    A group of twelve stalwarts gathered together in Beek’s Lane for an invigorating walk in the Valley. Expert birders they were too! I just had to point them in the right direction, mainly down in the first half and back up in the second half. But before that we chalked up quite a few species as we put on our boots. These included Skylark, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Song Thrush. We walked on to a chorus of Blackcap, Chiffchaff and just a single Willow Warbler, Goldcrest (seen not heard) and a Whitethroat, which gave us enticing views in the top of the hedge. We then found the Yellowhammers in a taller hedgerow adjacent to an arable field (recently seeded). A few Linnets appeared there as well. A Sparrowhawk sailed low over the woodland and soon after a Buzzard appeared – the first of several. As we walked the valley bottom Mallard, Mistle Thrush, Long-tailed Tit, Raven and Swallow were added to the list. Monkswood Reservoir held many Lesser Black-backed Gulls plus a few Herring Gulls but a Grey Wagtail was on the roof of the adjacent buildings, unfortunately only seen by a couple of us. On the slow climb back to the cars we added Whinchat (which also flew off before all could see it), Magpie, Green Woodpecker and Jay to the list. The total seen was 44 species. It was a thoroughly enjoyable walk in fine weather. (Thank you for a splendid walk Robin) Robin Prytherch

  • Tuesday 25 April – King’s Wood and Wavering Down Tuesday April 25th, 2017

    Twenty-three members set off from a car park packed with dog-walkers and entered the glorious spring woodland, carpeted with Bluebells, Lesser Celandine, Wild Garlic and orchids. Our wildflower experts were much in demand the whole trip. Bird song filled our ears on a beautiful spring morning – Willow Warbler, Song Thrush, Wren and Blackcap especially singing their hearts out. Out on Wavering Down we saw several Song Thrush anvils – empty snail shells surrounded the large stones that had been used to crack them open. Linnets and Stonechats showed well, Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Whitethroat gave song flights and a Green Woodpecker perched on a drystone wall watching us watching him. Our coffee stop had stunning views over the Somerset Levels, across the estuary to the West Somerset Coast and over to Wales (and we were out of the wind on that side!) We heard, but never saw, a probable Garden Warbler; Stock Dove and Raven were seen by some and it was good to see Swallow, House Martin and Sand Martin all flying together near the quarry. Back in the woodland we surprised a perched Buzzard and the final bird count was 36 species. Thank you Clive for a lovely morning! Julie Ottley

  • Sunday 23 April – New Forest Sunday April 23rd, 2017

    Thirteen of us travelled to the New Forest for a walk from the Ashley Walk car park. The number was far from unlucky as we had sunny weather (albeit a bit cool at times) and great views of a pair of Woodlarks in Pitts Wood Enclosure. These were lifers for some members and a long-searched for UK-first for a few others. From the beginning of the walk we started to find the New Forest specialities we had come for such as Linnets, Stonechats and both Meadow and Tree Pipits. On closer examination, all of these refused to turn into a Dartford Warbler which remained elusive throughout the trip. Another highlight was a beautiful male Redstart perched at the top of a tree. Two Lapwings were spotted on a flypast and twice we heard a Cuckoo but it refused to show itself. Three raptors were seen – Buzzard, Kestrel with a single Red Kite as an added bonus; this species is really spreading out from the various reintroduction sites. The lone Hawthorn bush in front of the lunch stop had a Stonechat and Common Whitethroat competing for the highest branch to search for their lunch.
    On St George’s Day, I wonder if we all realised the significance of the area to the defence of the realm. Who noticed the large white mound, which was not ash from a fire, but a pile of chalk used to mark the targets on the wartime bombing range? Lunch was taken on top of a replica German submarine bunker now covered in earth at the top of Hampton Ridge! The return route produced nice views of Green Woodpecker for the backmarkers and finally a Wheatear, which is unusual for this site, and did someone mention a Willow Warbler (or 20!)? A good time was had by all, with 34 species seen. Thanks to Jane for leading. Keith Williams

  • Tuesday 18 April – Chilcombe Bottom, Northend, Bath Tuesday April 18th, 2017

    Today’s 21 walkers had been warned about quantities of mud during the pre-walk, but by this point in a parched spring the earth was cracked and dry everywhere which at least made for easy walking. We checked Northend for the traditional village species such as House Sparrow and Starling, Collared Dove, Swift and House Martin (the last two not back yet), then walked up the long slope to Solsbury Hill, watching Swallows, Linnets and Skylarks en route. We sat down for a coffee break on the ramparts of the hill fort to admire the views over Bath, while a Whitethroat sang in a nearby bush and Skylarks hovered over the summit serenading us. Swallows were coming in to perch on twigs around the large barn down the hill, perhaps checking out a potential nest site. We 14 walked round the summit and away down the northern slope through fields of sheep and greening woodlands. Turning down Chilcombe Bottom, we stopped to read signs about the disused reservoirs and their new life as part of a nature reserve, but the only waterbirds to be found were a couple of Moorhens. On through a pretty green valley full of sheep, with plenty of Buzzards around and a Raven calling, across a small stream and up to a market garden – this walk has a wonderful variety of habitat. Although some migrants hadn’t returned to their breeding locations yet, we managed a total of 37 species on a sunny spring morning. (Thank you Jane for leading one of your favourite walks.) Jane Cumming

  • Tuesday 11 April – Castle Combe Tuesday April 11th, 2017

    Being at the top of the combe, the car park offered up many vocal corvids flying over, including; Raven, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw and Rook. The first of 27 Chiffchaff was heard as we entered the lane and one even showed itself a bit further down. Some Blackbirds were singing fit to burst and filling the combe with noise, quite masking the soft ‘coocoocoo’ of a spooning pair of Stock Doves. Our climb up the opposite bank had Nuthatch calling and at the top, towards the houses, a Song Thrush and then some Greenfinches also lit up the soundscape and even afforded us a nice clear sighting. Many Blackcaps and Robins sang for us but were not often seen, but the squeaky toy call of the Coal Tit was rewarded with a sighting. The rookery at Upper Castle Combe had nine active nests, more spread out than last year with the old site containing many abandoned homes. Along Summer Track the first Buzzards were seen, a small flock of Linnets twittered their way across out path and we had a fleeting glimpse of a Bullfinch couple. We went for a short way on the B4039, then down to Kent Bottom where the pond had a nice selection of birds; a pair of Tufted Ducks, two House Martins, five Mallards (all male), 16 Canada Geese and singles of Lesser Black-backed Gull, Coot and Little Grebe. The racing circuit being in use made identifying a possible Garden Warbler very difficult. As the lure of identifying the Garden Warbler took so long, we were behind the rest of the group. Along Kent’s Bottom Plantation we had a splendid Peregrine flypast and two Marsh Tits ‘pitchoue-ing’ in the bushes with lengthy sightings of aggressive ‘battle stance’. At the mill in Long Dean a pair of Swallows were caught napping on the roof. Along the path above the river a Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen, more Nuthatch and the lovely song of a Mistle Thrush echoed along the valley. Back in the village, one lucky person saw the Dipper fly round a corner of By Brook and we all heard Greenfinches calling. At the car park a few of the advance party were happily munching their lunch and told us of the finding of Lesser Whitethroat and Grey Wagtail, which brought the tally up to 49. A splendid walk was had by the 30 of us and our thanks go to David for leading. Nick Hawkridge

  • Saturday 08 April – Dundry Saturday April 08th, 2017

    Fifteen members met on a perfect spring morning for a walk around Dundry, Dave’s local patch. Dave is a fount of information about Dundry – its history and birds, and today he expressed concern about the slow arrival of spring migrants. However, the corvids were very busy (the rookery contained 18 nests in 2016) and Dave involved the group in looking more closely at their identification features including when in flight and their calls. In the quarry area we saw Pied Wagtails and heard a Chiffchaff. As we enjoyed the views from Dundry Down we could see Stock Doves in the fields below. Two Swallows and three Buzzards raised our spirits, and passing Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls provided another opportunity for Dave to give us some further identification tips. Although distant, a scan of the Barrow Gurney tanks gave us views of Mute Swan, Coot, Mallard, Tufted Duck and Cormorant, with a Little Egret in the surrounding fields. Making our way round to the south side of Dundry, a Raven flew overhead and a Green Woodpecker called; a Blackcap was seen and a Willow Warbler heard but still no Wheatears. A Yellowhammer eluded the group for some time before being located and giving good views to all. We also enjoyed hearing and seeing Skylark and Nuthatch. This was a delightful morning’s birding with Dave and at least 37 species were recorded. The group enjoyed and benefitted from his local knowledge and invaluable ID tips and would wish me to thank him very much indeed Ken Carruthers

    PS A few days later, Dave reported 32 Wheatears, a male Redstart and a male Yellow Wagtail from Dundry.

  • Tuesday 04 April – Hanham Tuesday April 04th, 2017

    On a warm, dry spring day, 32 of us met at the Chequers Inn, Hanham, for a new walk through deciduous woodland, along field edges and by the river Avon. Trees were almost in leaf, and we admired the billowing Blackthorn and Wild Cherry blossom and the profusion of spring flowers; carpets of Wood Anemones, Bluebells, Cowslips and Lady’s Smock. The bird list numbered 37 in all, either seen or heard. The highlights were the Grey Herons and chicks in the heronry, Buzzard on a nest, Goldfinch building nest, Peregrine, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Greenfinches, Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Treecreepers (three) but surprisingly only one Chaffinch. (Thank you to our leaders for introducing us to this new walk)

  • Monday 03 April – Mid-week “Margaret walk” – Dorset Monday April 03rd, 2017

    Eight members made the trip on a sunny spring day following a misty start. We visited three locations: Lytchett Fields, an RSPB managed wetland area on the edge of Lytchett Bay; Upton Park, an area of mixed woodland on the edge of Holes Bay; and Morden Bog, which is part of Wareham forest.
    Lytchett Fields attracts a range of wildfowl, waders and their predators. A Green-winged Teal and Lesser Yellowlegs had entertained birders for some months and I had seen the Teal on a recce a few days before when the tide was high. However, neither bird could be located on the field trip itself when the tide was low. Many Teal were roosting or hidden in creeks or behind clumps of reed. Something (probably the fox seen on the far shore) put all the Teal up in the air and they landed largely out of sight. No sign at all of the Lesser Yellowlegs, which has been very elusive over the last few weeks. However, we saw about 20 species including Black-tailed Godwit, Little Egret, Redshank, Curlew, Shelduck, Blackcap, Cetti’s Warbler and Greenfinch. We also saw Orange-tip, Brimstone and Peacock butterflies.
    At Upton Park we added two stunning Jays, Common Gull, Mistle Thrush, Coal Tit, Bullfinch, Wigeon, Shoveler, Great Spotted Woodpecker, several very noisy Nuthatches and Raven. The cold water of the incoming tide meeting the sun-warmed mud created a low level rolling mist that was very atmospheric but not ideal for watching distant birds. A couple of weeks ago there was a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker seen at the park. While we were eating our sandwiches Sue saw a small, black and white bird with a ‘bouncy’ flight. It whizzed across the walled garden, over the wall into the trees beyond. Lesser? The jury is still out, unfortunately, as the view was too fleeting for her to be sure and no one else saw it. On to Morden Bog where Great Grey Shrike and Woodlark are recent sightings. We walked though some mixed oak and conifer woodland (Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker) and onto the heathland. The heath seemed very quiet initially until Suk saw our first (of many) Stonechats followed by Linnet 13 (Suk again) a stunning Yellowhammer (Suk) and then, unexpectedly, the Great Grey Shrike (Anne this time) posing at the top of a conifer. On the walk back two Dartford Warblers (yes, Suk again) flew up and perched in a Birch tree. Although it was a bit of a journey and we missed four of our target species we all had an enjoyable day out in three lovely locations with 35 species of bird. (Many thanks to Alastair for organising and leading.)
    Alastair Fraser

  • Sunday 02 April – Sand Point Sunday April 02nd, 2017

    Sand Point can be a brilliant migration watchpoint on a good day but unfortunately this wasn’t one – cool, dry and overcast with a light wind but very little moving. Eight people joined Paul in the car park and climbed the steps up to the grassy summit serenaded by singing Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. We scanned the shore counting 20 plus Shelducks, 100 plus Curlews, a couple of Little Egrets and a handful of Mallard and Teal. Three waders flew by resolving into a Grey Plover with two Dunlins. We walked along the top ticking off the common passerines and remembering other visits where the fields were dripping with Wheatears – none today, nor any hirundines either. Never mind, the views were wonderful! The River Banwell held a good roost of 120 Redshanks and three Mute Swans. A Raven flew over croaking, a couple of Stonechats attracted our attention, and a couple of Cormorants passed overhead. Thanks to Paul for leading and for finding some 32 species on a very quiet day. Jane Cumming.
    PS It was rather galling to watch reports of loads of great birds turning up at Sand Point over the following week or two, but that’s birding, isn’t it!

  • Tuesday 28 March – Gordano Valley Tuesday March 28th, 2017

    Starting in fog and ending in rain, sunny during the walk – excellent. The crowd of 21 (welcome to new walker Simon) gathered at the trees in Moor Lane to listen to the song of a male Blackcap (totally hidden), the rapid ‘cherteach, cherteach’ of a Coal Tit and the call of a distant Willow Warbler. A perching Buzzard resolved into a female Pheasant and the quack of Mallard revealed their position under the hedge. A true Buzzard posed for us as we climbed the slope, showing a strong dark necklace and many Greenfinch wheezed and sang us up the hill. Another Buzzard then flew past and we were delighted to see ‘Blondie’ (nearly all white underwing) one of the regulars in the valley (Not Blondie – one of a pair centred on Norton’s Village, both very pale – RJP). A collection of four Bullfinches showed well, with the males’ chest colour even discernible in the poor light. Linnet, Long-tailed Tit and Goldcrest were all found after the turn along Clevedon Lane, but alas the feeders in the garden opposite didn’t give us any Siskin as they had in previous years. We heard and finally saw our first Chaffinch of the day, near the turn across the Walton Moor and close to a group of five Pied Wagtails. The path was good and we found the first of five Reed Buntings; the splendidly marked male, singing strongly and the female answering with her own quiet whistle. Two distant Lapwing were seen, and a Skylark in song flight. Plenty of Buzzard action was visible across Walton Down including one very aggressive individual seeking to keep the park to itself. Within the trees on the Down we heard Nuthatch calling and the yaffle of a Green Woodpecker, then more Goldcrest and Coal Tit. A Treecreeper came to join the foraging throng – clearly old oak is rich with food at present. Back down towards the village and wondering if we’d see any Swallows or House Martins (alas not) we extended our list to 41 with the addition of Great Spotted Woodpecker and a pair of popinjay Grey Wagtail. All was not finished however, for as we were getting out of boots and into shoes, a Cetti’s Warbler called from the edge of the stream. Well done to Geoff for leading and arranging the weather so conveniently for us.
    Nick Hawkridge

  • Tuesday 21 March – Uphill Tuesday March 21st, 2017

    As we set off in the car it started to rain, turning to hail before it eased off.  Quite a surprise, then, to find that 23 people had decided to defy the dire weather forecast and risk a soaking, but there they were, admiring a couple of newly-arrived Wheatears at the edge of the golf course.  We moved round to the beach to discover that the neap tide wasn’t coming far enough up the sand to force the waders to roost, so we counted 72 Oystercatchers feeding along the tideline, checked out a couple of dozen Wigeon and Teal, then followed the muddy path round to the salt-marsh.  As we topped the dyke a Short-eared Owl flew off in front of us, but to our delight it settled on a fence post and sat there for some time, watching us as we watched it back.  Great start! We spent a while on the dyke, scanning the marsh, and unexpectedly picked up a Sandwich Tern above the moored yachts – in fact it was fishing over the little boating lake.  A good sighting – Avon doesn’t get a lot of these.  We worked round back to the coast path, registering Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Stonechat on the way, to watch the tern plunge-diving into the boating lake and coursing up and down over our heads.  Off to the hilltop overlook to scan Bleadon Levels, where we counted 69 Mute Swans, 42 Shelducks and 106 Redshanks, but not much else on the marsh other than a scattering of Teal.  Some nice raptors though – Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel.  Best of all was the Merlin that one lucky observer photographed on the hilltop, but sadly the rest of us missed it. We returned along the hedgerows (various singing finches but no warblers) to the cliff where a female Black Redstart blended completely into the dark grey boulders until she moved.  A Green Woodpecker called and flew off.  There was still no rain, despite heavy skies and threatening clouds all around us.  In fact it was a really enjoyable morning with some great birds – 42 species on my list. (Thanks to Jane for leading). Jane Cumming

  • Saturday 18 March – Newport Wetlands Saturday March 18th, 2017

    The weatherman promised us clouds and gales, as seventeen birders went over to Wales. You could write a poem about it, but I’m not going to. It was an all-day trip; lagoons, reed beds and foreshore in the morning, lunch near the RSPB centre, then along to the ponds and hides at Goldcliff in the afternoon. A goodly total of 57 species of birds was recorded, mostly what you’d expect to see, so I’ll just mention a few of the highlights. At Goldcliff we counted more than 30 Avocet. A member of the stilt family, and although a proper ‘wader’, they have webbed feet and swim readily, often ‘up-ending’ to feed. In the early 20th century they ceased breeding on the east coast, due mainly to land reclamation. But during WW2, access to the beaches was restricted and the birds returned. There are now over 1500 breeding pairs and are considered to be one of the most successful conservation and protection projects. A Peregrine was seen sitting on a post near one of the hides. When they attack a flying bird, typically a pigeon, they ‘stoop’ at an estimated 180mph and break the prey’s neck or back. In a successful attack, the prey knows nothing about it. On the incoming tide we saw a Cormorant, Latin name Phalacrocorax carbo. Its common name is also derived from Latin, short for Corvus marinus, the sea crow. A most apt name don’t you think? But did you know they are members of the pelican family? A Ringed Plover was spotted at Goldcliff, and another bird attracted a lot of attention and discussion until it was finally decided it was a Little Ringed Plover. They were seldom seen in the UK before WW2, but the advent of sand and gravel pits has provided good nesting environments. When given the Latin name Charadrius dubius, it was thought by French naturalist Pierre Sonneret, in 1776, to be simply a variant of the common Ringed Plover. Hence the ‘dubius’. Two passage migrants, a Greenshank and a Spotted Redshank, were a delight to see. Cetti’s Warblers were seen and heard and Chiffchaffs were calling everywhere. We were all a little dismayed to see so much woodland had been chopped down at the east end of the lagoons – the underlying ash deposits have been cited as the reason. Not a cold day, but windy and overcast, and I think enjoyed by everyone. (Thanks to Ray and Margaret for leading).
    Ray and Margaret Bulmer

  • Tuesday 14 March – Eastville Park Tuesday March 14th, 2017

    It’s quite unusual for the first bird spotted on a Tuesday walk to be a Peregrine – apart from, maybe, one that starts at the Peregrine viewing spot on the Downs! However, being on the leader’s patch has many advantages and so, while boots were still being donned and latecomers arriving, a Peregrine on Stapleton Church had many pairs of binoculars trained on it and, for any members lacking the required faith, a splendid close up photograph was taken by Vera. And the next spot was a Sparrowhawk! A somewhat unexpected sun shone upon 32 members for much of this walk around the park, past the lakes and then along part of the Frome Walkway. There was plenty of birdsong from, among others, Song Thrush, Great Tit, Dunnock, Chaffinch and Greenfinch but Wrens seemed to be outsinging them all – double figures of this species singing were noted. Magpies were in profusion and 45 Carrion Crows counted. More Sparrowhawks and three Buzzards were spotted to add to our raptor count. Some but not all caught sight of a Kingfisher and most a Grey Wagtail. Goldcrest were heard in a Yew tree – by those with excellent hearing – and there was much pondering about sightings in this tree as Firecrest have been observed in the park. However, after more research after the walk, it was decided that two Goldcrest had been seen. 38 species was the total, and the return of the Chiffchaff, several seen and heard, was a real reminder of spring. Many thanks to Richard for leading us. Nancy Barrett

  • Saturday 11 March – Blashford Lakes Saturday March 11th, 2017

    These lakes are a two hour drive from the Bristol area but the birding was, and usually is, well worth the journey. Ten participants began at the Tern Hide on Ibsley Water where we picked out Egyptian Goose, Scaup, Goldeneye and Goosander amongst the commoner freshwater ducks all of which were represented here. An Oystercatcher, a couple of Redshanks and plenty of Lapwings indulging in a bit of spring display flighting were the only waders. We were delighted to locate a Water Pipit and compare it with a couple of nearby Meadow Pipits. We moved on to the Woodland Hide where dozens of finches were on the feeders, including Greenfinch, a few Siskins joined by a single Redpoll and three very attractive Bramblings, the males coming into spring plumage. On to the Ivy South Hide for deeper water and more diving ducks, and our first Teal. A Green Woodpecker called and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were drumming. We finished the morning with a visit to the Ivy North Hide overlooking a small reed bed, which held Cetti’s Warbler and Reed Buntings, then lunched at picnic tables behind the visitors’ centre. In the afternoon we worked the edge of the stream up towards Mockbeggar Lake, finding Goldcrests, a rather elusive Firecrest and two Treecreepers. A Kingfisher was seen several times by some and not at all by others in the party! We walked the 600 metre path up to the Lapwing Hide for a different view of Ibsley Water and greater numbers of ducks, counting 13 Goosanders and enjoying the mild spring air and the sunshine. Having covered all of the Blashford Lakes, we finished the day a couple of miles upriver on the Hampshire Avon where we picked out a White-fronted Goose in a flock of Greylags and an impressive 24 Egyptian Geese (mainly in pairs) feeding in riverside fields. Many thanks to Robert for leading an excellent day and finding a total of 65 species.
    Jane Cumming

  • Tuesday 07 March – Forest of Dean Tuesday March 07th, 2017

    reconnoitre had shown that the Hawfinch would be away from Parkend by 8:30. So, not wishing to waste time looking, or get everyone up at the crack of dawn, we met as usual at New Fancy View at 10:30. A fair crowd (31) managed to pack the viewing platform around some helpful other birders, and we waited and waited – – -. Some nice aerial gymnastics from two groups of Ravens, an ear-bursting song from a Dunnock, distant Greenfinch and Mistle Thrush song, and at last a distant view of Goshawk. We had a slight change of plan and for the second leg of our trip we went up Crabtree Hill in search of Great Grey Shrike. There it was, fairly high up in a distant spruce, (well done to Jan for spotting it). As we got to the top of the hill it gave much better views, perching on low branches and nicely contrasted against the dark background. We walked to the end of the track in search of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker but without success. We were compensated when Margaret found a fine male Crossbill, oh, what beautiful colours. We learned later that those who were at the front during the climb up the hill had seen another Goshawk. Back ‘on plan’, we took our lunch at Cannop Ponds where trotter prints in the mud around the picnic tables and the absence of grass, indicated a wild boar attack of the most distressing kind. We picked up a few more species and counted the Mandarin Ducks (39) as we wandered around the bottom lake. Two or three Treecreeper gave lots of trouble, moving so quickly in the gloom of the trees as to be missed by some of the party. We paused at the end of the lake to search and listen for any sign of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. No realistic chance as, again, it’s an early morning bird. We arrived back at the cars with our tally on 42 and a good day’s birding behind us. Some of us stopped at Parkend on the return trip for the Hawfinch – alas without success. However, at the nearby church we found six Redpolls, hanging comically, and feeding on the catkins at the ends of the slimmest of silver birch branches. (Thanks to Nick for leading). Nick Hawkridge

  • Tuesday 28 Feb – Pensford Tuesday February 28th, 2017

    We welcomed four new walkers to the group, Di and Pete, Chris, and Vera, making our team up to 17. Today was a raw, windy but bright day, but, alas, in the last 30 minutes – heavy, soaking rain. The playing fields by the car park contained no less than five Mistle Thrushes and a couple of gulls. From there, we all piled down to peer under the bridges in the village to try and locate the resident Dipper- a no show. The river was in brown watered spate, handling the Mallard with ease and keeping the Moorhen (red billed with yellow tip) firmly on the banks. As we went up through the village, many House Sparrow called from the roof tops and ivy clad walls. A couple of Starlings posed as sentries on chimney stacks, whistling their love songs into the wind. Nesting material was seen being carried by Jackdaw and we finally located the Greenfinch who’d been wheezing from the scrub. We crossed a very damp Publow Leigh, where a Grey Heron flew ahead of us and a Cormorant was heading west for his elevenses at CVL. We had our first sighting of winter thrush in the fold of the valley, flying up to a magnificent Oak tree, this was just as we entered Lord’s Wood – and once inside the wood, a Green Woodpecker was heard, and a Mistle Thrush started to sing – brilliant. Several Goldcrest showed themselves in the ivy cover of four tall fir trees, with a couple of Long-tailed Tits that were spotted dashing about with a Coal Tit. More Winter Thrushes, in slightly bigger flights were seen, with a Jay for company and Woodpigeons asleep close by. We crossed Compton Common and all had excellent views of a male Great Spotted Woodpecker, first posing in one tree and then another. As we approached the River Chew again, a Buzzard was cleverly spotted sitting on a post. No doubt he was keeping an eye on the Fox lounging in the meadow, who in turn was eying up the flock (80 plus) of mainly Common Gulls – fat chance. A pair of Ravens were on the tall trees behind Grassington and eight Rooks probed the grass beneath, but alas no Dipper or Kingfisher on the river. It was a delightful walk for whose splendid leadership we were most grateful to Geoff. Nick Hawkridge

  • Tuesday 21 February – Between Chew and Blagdon Lakes Tuesday February 21st, 2017

    Weather-wise, a misty damp day but surprisingly the birding was quite good. There was Goosander and Goldeneye on Chew Valley Lake as well as Tufted Duck, Pochard and Mallard. Canada Goose and Cormorant were also close enough to see. As we walked up towards Breach Hill we saw flocks of Redwings, Fieldfares and Starlings with a Song Thrush singing as well. A party of Long-tailed Tits flew in front of us and vanished into the roadside hedge. There were plenty of signs of spring – Primroses and Periwinkle in eye bright flower, Robins (ten) and Chaffinches in full throated song and away to the west, Rooks active in their rookery. Wren, Blue and Great Tit were also singing well, along with several Goldcrests, a Nuthatch and a Great Spotted Woodpecker chip chipping. Some of the group (total 18) were lucky enough to see Grey Wagtail, Buzzard, Kestrel and a couple of Treecreepers. Our views of Blagdon Lake were rather misty but altogether it was a pleasant walk finishing with a female Stonechat on the top of a hedge as we neared the turn along the Chew Lake road having seen 44 species. (Thanks to Sue and John for leading). Sue and John Prince

  • Saturday 18 February – Barrow Gurney Reservoirs Saturday February 18th, 2017

    Six members joined Sean for a walk round the three reservoirs named imaginatively Tanks 1, 2 and 3. The weather was mild, overcast with mist in the hills, brightening later. The tanks attract fewer birds than past years possibly due to milder winters as there can be an influx if the weather turns cold. Ringed Plover have a bespoke nesting area next to Tank 2 that the birds have never taken to. The Sand Martin nest holes have been more successful. The tank’s perimeters are exposed so it is difficult to sneak up for closer views but there are spots with cover you could settle down and wait if you had the time. The Long-tailed Duck was very visible in Tank 3 although being a diving duck it was frequently under water. The dives lasted up to a minute and occasionally it would stick up only its beak for a breath before the next dive.
    Birds on the water – Three Wigeon, two Gadwall, 19 Teal, 23 Mallard, 16 Shoveler, 13 Pochard, 69 Tufted Duck, one Long-tailed Duck (1st winter male, not a female as identified earlier), one female Goldeneye, 19 Cormorant, two Grey Heron, 14 Little Grebe, 13 Great Crested Grebe, 63 Coot, nine Lapwing, two Common Sandpiper, five Snipe, 200 plus Common Gull, two Great Black-backed Gull, 200c Black-headed Gull and a few Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
    Birds around the water – One Buzzard, one Kestrel, one Green Woodpecker, two Grey Wagtail, four Stock Dove, several Meadow Pipits, Great Tit, Blue Tit, two Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, Chaffinch, Robin, Wren, Goldfinch, Raven. Many thanks to Sean Davies for leading. Alastair Fraser

  • Tuesday 14 February –Greylake Tuesday February 14th, 2017

    Ten members met at Greylake on a damp/drizzly morning. In the car park we saw Reed Bunting, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Chaffinch. As we started along the reserve some Carrion Crows flew over and a flock of Lapwings were an impressive sight. Throughout the morning we saw about 400 Lapwing which is encouraging as habitat restoration appears to be working well since the reserve was ‘reclaimed’ from arable fields in 2003. We moved on around the reed beds to the furthest viewpoint seeing Goldfinch, Mute Swans and a Stonechat amongst others on the way. At the end of the path we had good, if distant, views of two Marsh Harriers along with Coot, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler and Gadwall. After a bit of debate a very pale Buzzard was confirmed on a faraway fence post. We then went to the hides and had good views of five ‘close by’ Snipe, Pintail, a Black-tailed Godwit and two Golden Plover. On the return to the car park we added half a dozen Redwing, a couple of Fieldfare, Cetti’s Warbler (heard) Common Gull. Greenfinch and Canada Geese to the list along with a Rook. Five members picnicked in the car park and then went off in search of the Cranes. As we arrived at Stathe a Kestrel rounded the corner of a roadside house. The drizzle was increasing considerably and no Cranes were visible from the bank of the Parrett despite a careful search so we decided to call it a day in view of the weather. We totalled 47 species for the visit. (Thanks to Mark for leading). Mark Watson

  • Tuesday 07 February – Bristol harbour Tuesday February 07th, 2017

    On a lovely sunny morning about 25 members met in Millennium square for a walk around Bristol harbour. The birds proved to be strangely elusive possibly because there was so much disturbance on the walk with the works for the Metrobus route and building at the SS Great Britain and Prince Street Bridge. Cormorants were not on their usual perch at Prince Street Bridge but several were seen at other locations. The bushes by the railway tracks which usually produce a few species were very quiet. A few House Sparrows were seen. On the water were Black-headed, Lesser Black-back and Herring Gulls but not in their usual numbers. Eight Mute Swans were seen. They have not bred in this area for the past three years. Moorhens are doing well in the harbour and the pair that nest in the reed bed produced five young last year. Many of them are still around. The Grey Wagtails that nest near the SS Great Britain have probably been disturbed by the building work. Crossing over to the New Cut the mud provided a Redshank and a Grey Wagtail was flitting around. Good views were had of a Kestrel which perched for the photographers. A Sparrowhawk and Buzzard were also seen but no Peregrine this time. The corvids were represented by Magpies, Crows and a Raven. Those that climbed the steep route on to Brandon Hill added Goldfinch, Song Thrush, Greenfinch and Great Tit to the list. Altogether a species list of 30 was obtained. Thank you Nick for recording the birds. (And thanks to Margaret for leading) Margaret Gorely

  • Sunday 05 February – Exe Estuary Sunday February 05th, 2017

    32 members of BOC and Bristol Naturalists set off by coach for the mouth of the Exe Estuary. During the week storm Doris had poured, so we were lucky to have fair weather. After Exeter excitement rose as we saw some beautiful Brent Geese. By 10.30 hours we had arrived at Dawlish Warren. “Take your lunch with you”, said Gordon Youdale, “it’ll be four hours before you’re back”. Although at first the sea wall appeared to give an empty sea, a Great Northern Diver was soon found followed by Common Scoter, Shags, Cormorants and a few Great Crested Grebes. The walk east along the coast to the hide produced the first Turnstone, Rock Pipits and two Eider. Approaching the hide a wily member of the group caught site of a Peregrine catching a wader on the shingle beach. From the hide, lots of Oystercatcher and Dunlin could be seen. Looking further there were Grey Plovers, showing their black armpits, then racing Sanderling and Knot. Across the water, Goldeneye and two smaller Slavonian Grebes were noted, one coming in close later for good views. Finally, Gordon picked out a Bar-tailed Godwit. Time for lunch and watch the Brent Geese. The return walk gave another Great Northern Diver, a Water Rail and Snipe. Then across the far estuary both Red and Black-throated Divers were seen. On to Powderham for the walk along the estuary, sadly a walk to and back as Doris had flooded the fields and made thepath impassable. No Cirl Bunting, but a glorious Red-breasted Merganser by the bridge, cameras flashing. The look across the mud flats showed over a hundred Avocet, a flock of more than 500 Golden Plovers looking golden in the late afternoon sun, even the Curlew shining. Ending the day over 500 Brent Geese circled in the sky, a fine day, Nick recording over 60 species. And then Gordon found Black-tailed Godwits as well, but then he was the leader. (Many thanks to Gordon for leading) Robert Hargreaves

  • Tuesday 31 January – Clevedon Pill Tuesday January 31st, 2017

    In view of the damp and unpromising weather, and thinking of dripping trees and slippery slopes, we agreed to move the start of the walk from Wain’s Hill to St Andrew’s Church, nearer to the pill, and concentrate on water birds. In the event, the weather improved considerably and 22 members had a lovely walk down the coast to the Dowlais farm track, left on Strode Road and back along the Blind Yeo. The harbour area usually holds Stonechats and Rock Pipits, which eventually gave themselves up, and as the high tide turned, the offshore mud banks began to reappear, attracting 45 Shelducks and twelve Oystercatchers back to join the amazing count of 55 plus Carrion Crows that were hanging around the shore and fields. Nick spotted a single Dunlin amongst 21 Turnstones – then we looked a half-mile down the beach to see a distant flight of about 300 Dunlin. Curlews were easier, 22 of them with 70 Lapwings feeding in the Dowlais fields.
    The Blind Yeo produced a Little Grebe and a magnificent 18 Goosanders (six drakes) from the Strode Road Bridge. Along the river we added a Coot, a total of six Moorhens, and for the luckier walkers, Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail. As the tide fell, a few Redshanks returned to the emerging mud-banks and we picked out the larger gull species amongst at least 200 Black-headed Gulls around the harbour. A Buzzard in the churchyard was the last bird of the morning. Nick’s list totalled 47 species for a very pleasant walk. (Thanks to Jane for leading)
    Jane Cumming

  • Saturday 28 January – Marshfield Saturday January 28th, 2017

    On a rather cold and cloudy morning 18 members (including three new members) met for a walk around Marshfield. As soon as we had crossed the A420 we flushed a Stonechat (one of many Stonechat sightings through the morning) that obligingly perched on a fencepost. As we reached the fields we could both see and hear many Skylarks that were present in large numbers throughout the walk. We made rather slow progress as we had many excellent views of Yellowhammers in both small and large groups. Also we were alerted to the presence of Corn Buntings by their characteristic ‘jangle of keys’ call. There were plenty of Fieldfares, accompanied by a few Redwings in the fields. A flock of about 110 Lapwings sat on a ploughed field interspersed with about 30 Golden Plovers (later on we saw a larger flock of Golden Plovers in flight). Unusually, a single Reed Bunting was seen. Circling back through Rushmead Lane we had views of a large flock of approximately 70 Fieldfares in flight and saw a group of seven Red-legged Partridges. The only raptors seen were Buzzards with, unfortunately, no views of Little Owl. Overall, as the cloud disappeared and the sun came out, we had a very pleasant walk with continuous Skylark and Corn Bunting song and good sightings of 29 species. Sue Kempson

  • Tuesday 24 January – Backwell Lake Tuesday January 24th, 2017

    Thirty-nine members met at the Perrings on a frosty morning to walk round Backwell Lake and along the lanes to the west of Nailsea. Despite the strong sunshine the lake was half-frozen. Two Mute Swans displayed and a Grey Heron flew into the willow tree on the island. There were plenty of gulls, mostly Black-headed, with Common, Herring and Lesser Black-backed present. There were about 16 Shovelers plus Mallard, Pochard and Tufted Ducks with the usual Coots and Moorhens. A lucky few saw a Water Rail emerge from the reeds onto the ice. Another was seen later in a ditch along the lane. A Song Thrush sang lustily and a couple of Bullfinches and many Robins were seen in the trees. Leaving the lake area a Green Woodpecker provided a bit of excitement. We saw our first Redwings and Fieldfares and more were seen throughout the walk. As we headed along Youngwood Lane we saw three Stonechats as well as Mistle Thrushes, Goldcrests, Great and Blue Tits, Blackbirds and Dunnocks. Several Pied Wagtails flew over. Three Sparrowhawks flew past pursued by corvids including a Raven. At Bizley Farm a Little Owl was seen on the roof of the farmhouse. Chaffinch and Greenfinch were added to the list. Coming back along Netherton Wood Lane we found two Common Buzzards in the field opposite Engine Lane. Returning to the cars a Nuthatch was heard calling so the total came to 43 species.
    (Thanks to John and Sue Prince for leading.) Sue Prince

  • Saturday 14 January – Greylake and Catcott Reserves Saturday January 14th, 2017

    The car park at RSPB Greylake is a great place to start a day’s birding. Whilst waiting for the group to assemble we had seen 16 species even before we set off into the reserve. Apart from tits and Reed Buntings on the feeders, the adjacent fields contained good numbers of foraging Fieldfares and Redwings. Once in the main hide we were soon treated to an aerial maelstrom of wildfowl as a Peregrine made repeated stoops into the whirling mass of duck. It soon gave up, having failed to make a kill, and the duck soon settled back down to feeding.Amongst the many hundreds of Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler there were a good number of Pintails, the smartly marked drakes showing up particularly well. Greylake is usually a good place for close views of Snipe and once the first one was picked out we realised that there were about a dozen sitting quietly close in front of the hide. Other notables were Lapwings and distant Golden Plovers disturbed by one of the quartering Marsh Harriers.
    We then moved north to Catcott Lows, where a wintering Chiffchaff was working the hedge in the car park. The main hide here provided a similar selection of species to Greylake, so we decided to walk to the wooded area of the reserve. Searching through the abundant alders, we found a large and restless flock of Goldfinches on the cones, but some thorough checking soon started to reveal Redpolls, with everyone finally getting good views.
    A splendid morning’s birding had fallen just short of 50 species and it says something about the rapid changes to the rich diversity of the avifauna of the Levels that having Great White Egret on the list is now hardly worth a mention. (Many thanks to Bob Buck and Giles Morris for leading) Giles Morris

  • Tuesday 10 January – Coalpit Heath Tuesday January 10th, 2017

    The weather was not cold, just overcast, and miserable; this however did not deter 26 walkers from meeting at the Kendleshire Golf Club. Magpie were seen almost at once with Blue and Great Tit, but the first bit of magic was an overflight of a single female Peregrine. A few minutes later a Buzzard flapped from cover and circled over a single spot – suggesting a prey item, but we got too close and it departed. A Blackbird was flushed from the brambles and as our attention turned towards it, there sitting perched atop a bush – a russet-coloured Kestrel. Just past the greenkeeper’s fire we found a Song Thrush and a handsome Mistle Thrush, who came close enough for all its finer points to be seen. At the water hazards of the 12th green we discovered 31 Canada Geese busily cropping the grass with three Coots, several Mallards and some Black-headed Gulls. Redwings and Goldcrest were next on the list and a further raptor at the top of the lane, in the form of a Sparrowhawk. More Redwings were seen as we headed towards the railway line, but were eclipsed by a brilliantly coloured Bullfinch. At our coffee stop we added Collared Dove and House Sparrow. Out into the countryside parallel to the railway, we added Greenfinch, Wren, Jay and saw many more Goldfinches and Redwings. A single Coal Tit was heard, three Long-tailed Tits seen, several Rooks and then another magic moment, a mixed flock of Yellowhammers/Chaffinches numbering 50 plus falling from the hedges onto the ground with multiple flashes of bright yellow. Up into the air rose another flock, this time Redwings mixed with calling Skylarks, and the last addition – six Moorhens and a single Lesser Black-backed Gull. Thanks go to Duncan and Pat who, at the last moment, stepped in to lead.
    Nick Hawkridge

  • Sunday 08 January – Portland and Radipole Sunday January 08th, 2017

    Weather: dull and damp all day in Bristol but a lovely mild and sunny day in Portland so you know where you should have been. The day’s birding started with a quick twitch in Dorchester for a Rose-coloured Starling. Then on to Ferrybridge to join the rest of the group. Eighteen members made the trip including two new members. The tide was well out meaning the birds were a long way off so we stayed just long enough to see 60 plus Mediterranean Gulls, Red-breasted Mergansers, Little and Black-necked Grebes, Raven, Skylark and Little Egret. Not many waders (a couple of Oystercatchers) and no geese. (Over 500 Mediterranean Gulls are reported roosting in Portland Harbour). A quick stop at Portland Castle: Cormorant and Shag, 50 plus Red-breasted Mergansers, and Kingfisher. At Portland Bill the mild conditions and flat sea looked unpromising but there was quite a bit out there: 20 plus Kittiwakes, Razorbills, Guillemot, Gannet and a probable skua, but too far away to identify for certain. On the cliff below we saw a Rock Pipit and a group of Turnstone with three Purple Sandpipers. A short stop at Chesil Cove for Black Redstart and on to Sandsfoot for a Great Northern Diver, a group of nine synchronised-swimming Black-necked Grebes, more Red-breasted Mergansers, Great Crested Grebe with the backing track of a Song Thrush. The final, scheduled stop was at Radipole where we had several stunning views of Bearded Tits, Reed Bunting, a good mix of ducks and a male and female Marsh Harrier. An additional twitch at Upway for Cattle Egret produced three egret-like birds, but two fields away and mostly obscured by a thick hedge – Cattle Egret not confirmed but a pager alert reported a Cattle Egret at Litton Cheney. Well, why not? It’s sort of on the way home. Where could it be though? Probably near the man with the long lens camera. And there is was – a herd of cows with one Cattle Egret and one Little Egret as a handy comparison. A Grey Wagtail flyover completed the day. Total species for the day: 58. Thank you to Jane for leading and to all the drivers.
    Alistair Fraser

  • Tuesday 03 January – Shapwick Heath/Ham Wall Tuesday January 03rd, 2017

    Twenty-five members gathered at the RSPB Ham Wall car park on a cold dry afternoon in the hope of a good showing of Starlings towards dusk. We headed along the track on the Shapwick/Meare Heath side first towards the Tower Hide as a Great White Egret flew past. From the hide a few saw a Water Rail and many heard it and a Marsh Harrier quartered the reed beds. Numerous Robins sang and a Reed Bunting was seen as we moved on. On the water Moorhen, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Pochard, Gadwall, Great Crested and Little Grebe were added to our list. Some of the group went to Noah’s Hide and most walked further on where four Whooper Swans were seen. Meare Heath Hide yielded a single Kingfisher flashing past and, from Noah’s Hide, the usual Cormorants and a Mink were seen. We moved back towards Ham Wall seeing Little Egrets on the way. As we started along the Ham Wall track a Tawny Owl was heard. Blue Tits, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Siskin, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, a Jay and a Bittern were seen and on the pools we added Pintail to the list. A Kestrel, Snipe and a flock of 40 Linnet passed over as the sun stared to go down. We saw a huge number of Starlings streaming in to the reed beds at both the first and second watching points on the track, making a tremendous noise as they settled and shuttled between different parts of the reed beds to choose a spot for the night. On this occasion we were not treated to prolonged murmurations but it was nevertheless an impressive sight as tens of thousands of birds flowed into the reserve like rivers in the sky. A total of 55 species overall made for a worthwhile visit. (Many thanks to Mark for stepping in at the last moment to lead) Mark Watson

  • Sunday 01 January 2017 – Slimbridge Sunday January 01st, 2017

    What a miserable start to the year! The morning was chilly and wet, and I doubt I would have bothered to turn out if I hadn’t been asked to lead at the last minute. However, 18 hardy souls braved the weather to join me on a search for interesting birds from various reasonably dry and comfortable hides. I believe this was the first time a winter visit to Slimbridge produced just a single Golden Plover and no White-fronted Geese at all (apparently 120 of them were feeding out of sight, two fields north of the reserve), but the Bewick’s Swans were showing well and we checked off the common duck species for our new year lists. We grilled a couple of Dunlins on Rushy Pen but couldn’t turn either of them into the Little Stint that was being reported regularly there. A few Snipe and a Redshank were some compensation. A group of nine or ten Common Cranes were a lovely sight but, of course, these birds were bred here in captivity so they don’t go on my list! The Zeiss Hide produced a Ruff or two, as well as the lone Golden Plover and plenty of Lapwings and Dunlins. We added more species at South Lake: Cormorant, Great Crested Grebe, and Common Gull. I completed my day’s list with a few Fieldfares and a Reed Bunting, and retired to the pub for a good lunch, but some of the party persevered into the afternoon and Nick’s list got to 52 species, an excellent total under the circumstances. Thanks to all who joined me to carry on the Club’s New Year tradition of a Slimbridge start – and here’s hoping for better weather this time next year! (Jane, many thanks for stepping in as leader.) Jane Cumming

  • Tuesday 27 December – Snuff Mills Tuesday December 27th, 2016

    26 members set out on a nice winter’s day. A few common birds including Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, and Robin were seen in the car park. A Song Thrush was heard singing at the start and was still singing when we returned at the end of the walk. As we walked through the woods we spotted Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Great Tit and Woodpigeon. We added Wren and Carrion Crow which included one group of twelve. On reaching open parkland we saw Lesser Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull and some of the group heard a Green Woodpecker. There were also a flock of about 40 Black-headed Gulls and we then added Blackbird and Coal Tit to our list. We stopped for our usual coffee break and had an excellent view of a single Redwing perched in a nearby tree. On the return the footpath was officially closed due to a fallen tree, so we split into two groups with some returning through the village and others alongside the river. Between the two groups we added House Sparrow, Collared Dove, Grey Wagtail, Chaffinch, Grey Heron and Moorhen. Mallards had been seen earlier but there was a large group of about 22 in the water. Similarly Goldcrest had been either heard or seen earlier but some of us now had better views of three to four birds. We had a total of 27 species. Thank you to Nick for leading as well as for keeping a record of birds seen. Mike Landen

  • Tuesday 20 December – Severn Beach Tuesday December 20th, 2016

    The weather was good, the tide was rising and we all (26) enjoyed the walk down river along the path at the front of Severn Beach. There were plenty of waders to look at, with enough telescopes to allow all who wanted to have good close views of Wigeon, Knot, Dunlin, and Redshank. We walked back towards the M4 Bridge and watched with awe the Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Turnstone lifting clear of the rising tide and settling back onto the rocks – like fluttering silvered leaves in the low sunlight. A few Pied Wagtails flitted beneath our feet as we walked towards New Passage. Thrushes offered themselves for inspection on distant hedgerows and resolved into Redwing, Fieldfare and Song Thrush. A lone Buzzard guarded a gate entrance from atop the hinge side post and he didn’t stir a feather when the thrush flock took flight. The tide was full as we all grouped around the Pill mouth where Shoveler, Redshank, Teal, and Wigeon had been thrown up on the river bank edges by the encroaching water. Away in the distance on Northwick Warth, and at full scope magnification, we could see Canada Goose, Shelduck, Curlew and Lesser Black-backed Gull waiting for the tide to turn. A quick sally to the Pilning Wetlands by some of the cast showed the often reported flock of Black-tailed Godwit, Knot and Dunlin – all put to flight by a Peregrine and then a Marsh Harrier. Lapwing within the flock gave the best display as their broad wings turned and flashed in the light. A final flick of white from a departing Little Egret, one of blue from a Kingfisher and we turned for the cars and home. Our last bird of the day was a Greenfinch and a final tally of 52 for the day. Thanks to Duncan for stepping in pro tem and Peter for leading. Nick Hawkridge

  • Tuesday 13 December – Newton St Loe Tuesday December 13th, 2016

    On a fine dry day 31 of us set off on a pre-Christmas lunch walk around the grounds of Bath Spa University led by Peter Holbrook and Duncan and Pat Gill. As we walked through the village and down to the University we saw numerous Blue Tits, a Redwing, Song Thrush and Starling in the tree tops whilst a Raven flew overhead alongside a Common Gull. We passed Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Robins, Great Tits and Dunnock as we neared the University grounds. A Nuthatch shuffled up and down a tree trunk, Goldcrest flitted about and one eagle-eyed walker saw two Marsh Tits. We progressed uphill in the grounds to the second lake where Mallard came into view along with two Grey Herons, Moorhens, seven Goosanders and 20 Teal towards the top of the lake. A Green Woodpecker appeared, and moving through the woods up to the University, we picked up Siskins, Collared Doves and Pied Wagtail on the way back to Newton St. Loe. We counted 34 species in all on the two hour walk so thanks to the leaders for a pleasant precursor to lunch. Thanks also to Peter Holbrook for ably organising our lunch which was attended by 50 members. We have walked every Tuesday in 2016 and thanks go to the leaders who make this possible, though new leaders and walks are always welcome. Many thanks too for the book token presented to me at the lunch, it was much appreciated. Mark Watson

  • Sunday 11 December – Blagdon Lake Sunday December 11th, 2016

    Report next month

  • Sunday 11 December – Blagdon Lake Sunday December 11th, 2016

    Nigel Milbourne and eight members of BOC met for a morning walk and had a good time, racking up 63 species in the four hours. They also saw a Peacock butterfly in the sunshine, presumably woken up by the warmth. Notable birds included seven plus Great White Egrets, ‘teens’ of Little Egrets, eight adult Bewick’s Swans, the Common Shelduck, several Goosanders, a Chiffchaff, a Common Sandpiper, a small flock of Northern Lapwings, a Eurasian Stonechat and we heard a Water Rail. Many thanks to Nigel for showing members around his patch.

  • Tuesday 06 December – Slimbridge Tuesday December 06th, 2016

    The morning was grey and misty but noticeably milder than of late. Eighteen of us set off initially heading towards the Holden Tower. We stopped off at two hides overlooking the Tack Piece where we saw five Common Crane, a largish flock of Canada Geese and good numbers of Lapwings and Rooks. The ponds (which were predominantly free of ice) were mainly occupied by Teal although a single Snipe was seen by some. A group of Pintail flew low in front of us. Chaffinch and Jackdaw were amongst the birds around the busy feeders. A Water Rail was initially heard and then clearly seen and a Buzzard was perched low nearby. Long-tailed Tits, Shelduck and a Great Black-backed Gull were added to the list together with a large flock of Barnacle Geese. Robins cropped up everywhere throughout the morning. After coffee we moved to the Zeiss Tower where there were more Teal, Shelduck and Lapwings, Shoveler, six Dunlin on the edge of one pond and a good view of another Water Rail. Whilst walking between hides a small group of Bewick’s Swans flew over. We then moved towards the Kingfisher Hide where there were ten Gadwall and a Little Grebe. The small hide en route, however, provided perhaps the highlight of the morning when after much patience we saw a Bittern emerge into a gap in the reeds, fish in bill. A Treecreeper, Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Stonechat and Bullfinch also featured in the total of 54 wild birds recorded. Thanks to Nick for leading and for keeping a comprehensive list of sightings. John Lees

  • Sunday 04 December – Steart Sunday December 04th, 2016

    Eight members met on a beautifully bright but cold and frosty day. We spent the morning at the WWT reserve. Although it was high tide the water had not come into the pools outside of the Mendip Hide so views of the birds were a little distant – Shelduck, Little Egret, Redshank, Curlew, Dunlin. Bird feeders on the way gave views of Blue Tit, House Sparrow and Robin. We walked out to the River Parrett where we saw Avocets, Grey Plover, Mute Swans and Teal. A Peregrine which had been sitting on a pylon flew and had an altercation with a Raven. During the day we had several views of Marsh Harriers. Fieldfares and Redwings were seen and heard as we walked to the Quantock Hide where Wigeon, Mallard and Little Stint were added to the list. A group of Roe Deer were seen nearby. On the way to the Polden Hide four Snipe were seen in the grass and two Skylarks seen and heard. After lunch we moved onto the Natural England reserve and walked along the shore by Stert Flats to the Tower Hide. Buzzard was added to the list and a mixed flock of Canada and Barnacle Geese grazed on Fenning Island. Several pairs of Shoveler were seen and four Little Grebes, as well as several Golden Plover. Other raptors included Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and for the four of us who walked up from Steart Gate car park to the ridge overlooking the Breach – a Merlin perched on a fence and then flew at lightning speed to the mud, returned with a wader and proceeded to pluck it. A stop on the way back at Wall Common unfortunately did not reward us with any Short-eared Owls. Over 50 species were recorded. Thanks to Richard Belson for leading. Rosemary Brown

  • Tuesday 29 November – Chew Valley Lake Tuesday November 29th, 2016

    A good turnout of 26 members set out from the main car park at Chew Valley on a beautiful day. At the dam wall it was slightly unfortunate that we were looking into the sun which prevented us from having a great view of the birds. However we did see Mallard, Pochard, Gadwall, Coot, Moorhen, Tufted Duck and Great Crested Grebe. We also saw a Goldeneye and a single Lapwing, although more were seen later. We then walked through fields to the north of the lake and added a number of common species to our list. These included Long-tailed Tit, Wren, Dunnock and Robin. Some of the group spotted a couple of Goldcrests and two Grey Wagtails were also seen, as well as our first winter thrush of the morning – a Redwing. As we continued the walk alongside the river we added Rook, Song Thrush and Goldfinch. After our coffee break we walked along Dumpers Lane where the light was now brilliant and we were rewarded with superb views of two Fieldfares and a Mistle Thrush. As we reached the end of the lane two of the group were fortunate to see a Kingfisher flying along the River Chew. Making our way back towards the lake we saw Coal Tit, House Sparrow, and Starling and our only Buzzard of the morning. A small party of six Linnets were seen as well as a Meadow Pipit and a Yellowhammer. We had a very nice view of a male Stonechat showing really well in the bright sunshine. Walking back along the lake between the two car parks we added Teal and Mute Swan. It was a good walk and a respectable total of 47 species. Thank to Nick for keeping a record of birds seen. Mike Landen

  • Saturday 26 November – Ham Wall and Meare Heath Saturday November 26th, 2016

    Eleven members met on a bright crisp mid – morning at the RSPB car park at Ham Wall. We were informed by RSPB staff that the Starlings had roosted on Ham Wall the previous evening so we opted to spend the morning walking through the Natural England Meare Heath reserve. There were a few Redwings in the trees by the car park, audible with their thin “tsueep” call. Goldfinches and Long-tailed Tits fed enthusiastically in the alders and a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers flew over with characteristically undulating motion. There followed the first of many sightings of Great White Egret both in flight and on the ground. It is amazing that this once “twitchable” species is quite often more numerous on the day than its cousin, the Little Egret. Both adult female and juvenile Marsh Harriers glided low over the reeds occasionally quickly dropping from view to pursue prey. We spent some time in the hide at Noah’s Lake as the wildfowl spectacle was brilliant with about 1000 birds on view, the majority being Wigeon. A flock of about twenty Black-tailed Godwits flew over and a Kingfisher darted past the hide, There were nice views of two male Pintail, and a Blackcap, more often in gardens in winter, was seen in adjoining willows. After lunch we walked into the Ham Wall reserve. There were three sightings of Bittern, two in flight and one occasionally seen standing camouflaged in the reeds. By late afternoon we had recorded 49 species but no Starling. This was soon rectified by the first of many flocks, some small and some enormous, swirling in over the reeds from all directions. The weather was perfect for a prolonged display as the flocks twisted and condensed together, particularly when attacked by a Peregrine. A splendid finale to a fine days birding. (Thank you Mike.) Mike Johnson

  • Tuesday 22 November – Wick/Golden Valley Tuesday November 22nd, 2016

    A hardy group of eleven members gathered in Wick despite the wet conditions for an interesting walk around Golden Valley. Happily the rain held off until the last quarter of the walk and we saw 29 species. As we left the car park, Starling flew over, several Jackdaws were on roof tops and a couple of Magpies were seen. As we walked up the valley alongside the River Boyd, House Sparrows chattered and Chaffinches flitted about the hedgerow and the first of several flocks of Redwings were spotted. On the river, some saw a Grey Wagtail on the far bank, two Goldcrests were spotted and as we crossed the fields above the quarry a male and female Bullfinch moved along the trees ahead of us. Numerous Robins and Wrens made themselves heard and Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls passed by. In a large flock of gulls on a field some distance away a few Common Gulls were distinguished. A Kestrel moved past and a few Carrion Crows and Rooks were on the ground. Thanks to Dave Body for leading.

  • Tuesday 15 November – Cheddar Tuesday November 15th, 2016

    In very misty weather eleven of us crested the reservoir bank and looked carefully for the opposite side which was faintly visible. Not deterred we set off towards the sailing clubhouse as Pied Wagtail danced along the embankment. The water was very low and a Great White Egret was on the ‘island’ about 50m away, along with Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Coot were much in evidence on the water with Teal, Mute Swans, Mallard, a couple of Great Crested Grebes, and bevy of Cormorants and a Grey Heron. Grey Wagtail were also around and a few Meadow Pipits flew by. As we neared our path towards Axbridge, we saw Tufted and Mandarin Duck, and Pochard as we left the reservoir. The ‘squelchy’ part of the walk began with a Goldcrest in the adjacent hedge. Long-tailed, Great and Blue Tits were around as we entered Axbridge and many Goldfinches and a solitary Greenfinch moved about the hedgerow trees. We made our way over the levels to the River Axe, seeing two Little Egrets on grassland and a Great White Egret flying past (probably the same one that was on the reservoir). A Little Grebe and two Moorhen were hugging the banks of the Axe and an adjacent rhyne. Many Fieldfares were around, though fewer Redwings, and a Buzzard flew overhead. As we walked back to the southern side of the reservoir a Green Woodpecker was heard. The weather proved to be better than expected and 46 species were seen. Many thanks Mark. Mark Watson

  • Sunday 13 November – Cheddar Reservoir Sunday November 13th, 2016

    The appointed leader, Kim Howard, found himself alone at the reservoir – maybe because of the Tuesday meeting scheduled two days later. Thanks Kim.

  • Sunday 13 November – Cheddar Reservoir Sunday November 13th, 2016

    This autumn has seen water levels at Cheddar Reservoir fall to their lowest for a number of years and that has provided abundant habitat for many birds. Even though levels had already started to rise, this Sunday walk provided an opportunity to see many of the autumn’s visitors at relatively close quarters but, unfortunately, that opportunity was taken only by me. Perhaps others were off hunting White-tailed Eagles or knew that October’s Lesser Yellowlegs had already departed, but they missed hundreds of wildfowl, including Teal, Wigeon and Gadwall, a thousand or more Coots and four of the spectacular Great White Egrets which have adorned the reservoirs of late. Three small waders dodging between the loafing Cormorants offered an identification challenge and turned out to be day-tripping Dunlin. (Thanks for agreeing to lead the trip, Kim – see what you missed, folks? – ed.) Kim Howard

  • Tuesday 08 November – Clevedon Tuesday November 08th, 2016

    A dry day with a sharp wind greeted us as we gathered on the sea front at Clevedon for a walk along Poet’s Walk and the Blind Yeo. On our arrival at the sea wall Turnstone were on the beach along with a solitary Curlew and Oystercatchers. As we started through the woodland Goldcrest, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Robin and Blackbirds were seen and heard. Blue and Great Tits were also present as we moved on to open ground on the headland overlooking the mudflats and creeks where the Yeo enters the Bristol Channel. Here we saw a good collection of waders and duck including Shelduck, Little Egret, a Canada Goose, Wigeon, 15 Redshanks and a couple of Grey Herons. Whist we had coffee on the breakwater at the foot of Wains Hill, a Stonechat and Wheatear give us excellent close views. We moved along the sea bank to the Blind Yeo and a few saw both Reed Bunting and Meadow Pipit, and a couple of Moorhens were skulking along the river bank. Along the Blind Yeo we saw Goldfinch, Greenfinch, a Green Woodpecker, and Jay. Further on a Sparrowhawk flew low overhead and on the way back a Kestrel sat in a bush giving excellent views, and Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls passed over. Thanks to Jane for leading a great walk with 43 species in all. Mark Watson

  • Tuesday 01 November – Stoke Park Tuesday November 01st, 2016

    A misty morning greeted 24 members at Snuff Mills car park for a walk in Stoke Park and along the Frome. A Grey Heron was at the edge of Duchess Lake along with Moorhen, and a female Stonechat showed briefly. A lone Black-headed Gull sat on a fence post. Several Magpies and Jackdaws were around as well as a flock of 40 or so Wood Pigeon. As we walked around the edge of the Lake over 40 Redwing passed overhead as well as moving around in the trees on the hillside. Three Skylarks rose upwards and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was glimpsed. A couple of flocks of 20 and 30 Goldfinches flew over and when we returned along the edge of the Lake the Stonechat obligingly sat for some time on the top of some briars. We moved out of Stoke Park and along to Stapleton Church, where we had excellent views of a female Peregrine Falcon perched towards the top of the spire. As we descended to the River Frome, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits were heard and seen as well as a couple of Goldcrests. On the river there were two Grey Wagtails and some saw two Jays and two Stock Doves before we returned to the car park. Bristol is lucky to have such wonderful open spaces near the centre of the city and thanks go to Rich Scantlebury, who knows the area like the back of his hand, for leading an interesting walk. Mark Watson

  • Tuesday 25 October – Barrow Gurney. Tuesday October 25th, 2016

    No food at the Inn – what a disappointment for the lunchers – the normally reliable Princes Motto was in the throes of changing landlords. However 11 set off for a misty perambulate around the lanes and fields of Barrow. Up the path and birds started falling to my pencil – Redwing, Blackbird, Collared Dove and Carrion Crow. After counting flocks of Black-headed Gulls, a stream of Wood Pigeons, and listening to the chucking of Magpie, we came upon our first Yellowhammer and what a brilliant coloured bird he was among 7 others. We negotiated the A38, where a line of Starlings obligingly sat and was duly counted, and then went on towards Tank 1 which had some floating Tufted Ducks, Great Crested Grebe, and a Cormorant sitting on each buoy. Here we departed from our usual route, attracted by a bright new gate, and had unrestricted access to the fields above Tank 2 which contained more Tufted Ducks, many Coots and some Mallards. The new gates – replacing some of the area’s worst stiles – continued all the way to the usual coffee stop (the barns), where Raven was heard and Grey Wagtail seen. Up the lane and the first flock of Goldfinches was found, alas none magically turned into Siskin: the expected Bullfinch put in an appearance and as we climbed the track towards the A38 a flight of Stock Doves passed swiftly west. Our first Buzzard of the day called from a tree top but as we approached it took flight. Now close to the A38 by the kennels, an overstocked bird feeder gave us all the usual tit species, and also a vole feasting on the discarded seeds. Another dash across the busy main road and just a flock of five Yellowhammers, 34 migrating Skylarks and three Kestrels added to our total of 38 species. Thanks to Geoff for leading us on this splendid and varied walk. Nick Hawkridge

  • Tuesday 18 October – Saltford Tuesday October 18th, 2016

    On a sunny but cool morning 27 members met by the canal at Saltford. As we started, Common, Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls were seen along with a Mistle Thrush and several noisy Robins. Goldfinch, Blue and Great Tits flitted in the hedges and a Goldcrest was heard. Later in the walk half a dozen Long-tailed Tits were added to the list. Numerous Blackbirds were around and a few Dunnock in the hedge bottoms. A Green Woodpecker was heard but not seen and likewise a Chiffchaff. A Buzzard appeared briefly. As we continued on our way a solitary Redwing was seen and as we paused at Swineford Lock, a Kingfisher flashed past which some were lucky enough to see. A Grey Heron sat in rushes at the edge of the water, a Mute Swan appeared and a Moorhen was spotted. As we returned to the cars, a Kestrel was seen by some of the group, a flock of 16 Linnet, and a single Herring Gull, and lastly a male Bullfinch, first heard then seen. Thanks to Robert Hargreaves for leading a good walk with a total of 36 species.

  • Sunday 16 October – Migration watch Sunday October 16th, 2016

    Very poor weather conditions for the migration watch this year, resulting in few numbers being recorded. Almost 100% cloud cover with very heavy rain and strong SE or SW winds. Fewer species and even fewer birds recorded compared with previous years.

    Coastal Migration Watch 16th October 2016
      New Passage Portishead Clevedon Sand Point
    Species        
    Mute Swan   1    
    Woodpigeon     5  
    Short-eared Owl     1  
    Raven 1      
    Skylark 8 1 2  
    Swallow   1   5
    House Martin       3
    Chiffchaff   1 2  
    Blackbird     3  
    Redwing 1   1  
    Mistle Thrush     1  
    House Sparrow   12    
    Pied Wagtail   moving 7  
    Meadow Pipit 6   3 17
    Chaffinch 30 2 22 32
    Greenfinch     3  
    Redpoll     1  
    Goldfinch   42 10  
    Siskin       2
           

    Many thanks to watch leaders Brian Lancastle, Robin Prytherch, James Payne, Paul Gregory

  • Tuesday 11 October -Badminton Tuesday October 11th, 2016

    Fog and traffic contributed to a rather late start for 21 walkers, but at least by then it was into bright sunshine and a light wind. The Jackdaws eponymous call was around us for most of the walk but along Roach’s Lane there was no sign of any winter thrushes. The calls of Nuthatch, Long-tailed Tit, and the flight call of Greenfinch were heard, also many Skylark travelled overhead for most of the walk. Although a beautiful sunny day, it was chilly when shaded, so we had coffee on the East side of Seven Mile Plantations and stuck to the path outside the wood to keep warm. Many Skylark could be seen either going over eastward or playing chase along the hedgerows, when someone called ‘Swallow – just flew across my bins’. One of the species much in evidence was Blackbird. Every bush, hedge and tree seemed to contain 2 or 3 feeding on nature’s supplies. We debated the route by the grass airstrip, ending up along its edge and were rewarded with the sight of a bright yellow male Yellowhammer. Not much further on, a Red Kite was spotted over the trees. It came closer and closer eventually passing right over our heads and a fine photo was taken. A Buzzard flew close to the Kite and both were harassed by corvids. We moved on past flocks of Meadow Pipit and Linnet but, alas, the Little Owl, who so often frequents the estate gatehouse area, was missing. Our first Redwing of the day was seen and at the pond, a lone Shelduck, some Canada Geese and Cormorant completed the count of 32. (Thanks for leading, Nick)
    Nick Hawkridge

  • Tuesday 04 October – Upton Cheyney Tuesday October 04th, 2016

    Twenty seven people met at the Upton Inn on a mild but overcast morning. Four new members joined us for the walk across fields through Bitton along part of the cycle track, along the banks of the River Avon before going up the hill to the Upton Inn for lunch. Soon after setting off we all had good views of some early winter thrushes, mostly Redwing, and then a pair of Raven were spotted on a nearby tree. Jays were busy collecting acorns, the usual Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tits, also Chaffinch were seen and then Goldcrest in Bitton Church yard. A large flock of Goldfinches was seen in the field approaching the cycle track where coffee and biscuits were consumed. When we came off the track where it meets the river everyone had good views of a Kestrel hovering and some were lucky enough to see Kingfishers along the river. In all 38 species were found. (Thanks to David for leading).
    David Body

  • Sunday 02 October – Portland Sunday October 02nd, 2016

    WRYNECK! Sorry, had to get that out! It was an early and chilly start from Bristol producing beautiful misty vistas in the Gordano Valley and across the Somerset levels. The trip was a week earlier than originally intended so the tide was still up when the six of us met at Ferrybridge. We saw Wheatear, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Pied Wagtail and five types of gull, including 3 Meds. We decided to cut our losses and head for the Bill and the Wryneck reported to be in the Observatory quarry. The approach looked promising; a long line of birders ringing the edge of the quarry and peering into the scrub. “Any sign of the Wryneck?” “It was seen early this morning but not since.” Ever heard that before? A couple of passing Germans were mildly amused at all these eccentric Brits staring at grass and found it worthy of a photo. A passing Peregrine provided some distraction. Hope it wasn’t feasting on Wryneck. Suddenly someone was on it, provoking a polite stampede to his position. The Wryneck made a couple of fleeting appearances, obscured by bramble and then, there it was, on the grassy bank, in full sun, picking off insects. The resident Little Owl also made an appearance before scuttling back into its cave.There was not a vast amount around the Observatory or the huts. Buzzards, a Raven, and a Sparrowhawk soaring above. Kestrel flying over the fields. A large flock of Linnets, a Stonechat and many Swallows.We went down to the coast for a bit of sea watching. We had Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Wheatear and a Turnstone along the rocky shore and a Grey Seal in one of the coves. Out to sea, a passing Cormorant, 2 Shags and a couple of distant Gannet and basically nothing else. A lovely, sunny day with a light off-shore breeze is less than ideal for sea watching. We needed a South Westerly gale! We stopped at Southwell quarry on the way back to Ferrybridge, again not much about. We saw a distant flock of Starling flying over Weston where there is reported to be one juv. Rosy Starling. It was low tide at Ferrybridge. We now had waders but miles away! However, with a bit of patience we saw Bar-tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Little Egret, Gulls, and Dunlin, including some delightful synchronised flying displays with the odd Godwit joining in. Radipole was the final stop. More Gulls, including Meds, a siege (that’s their collective name apparently) of 14 Herons, Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall, squealing Water Rail. We saw Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwit together which always helps with ID. Calling Cettis always just out of view. Bearded Tits were reported so we had a careful look for them, weather just about ideal but no signs. On one of the board walks, suddenly two small birds diving into reeds. And then, out they came for a brief, but unmistakable sighting of Bearded Tits by Judy and Ann. Finally, back at the RSPB centre, half a dozen Snipe were out on the mud in the later afternoon. Total species count 50. Also seen: Clouded Yellow, Painted Lady, Speckled Wood and Red Admiral. Thanks to Cecile, Colin, Robert and Ann for coming and Judy for the lift. (Many thanks for stepping in to lead, Alastair) Alastair Fraser

  • Tuesday 27 September – Frampton Cotterell Tuesday September 27th, 2016

    A cloudy but warm morning saw 14 members meet for a walk north of Frampton Cotterell. On our way to the River Frome Jackdaws and Carrion Crows were on the church tower and adjacent buildings and Wood Pigeons, Blue Tits and a few Goldfinch were in the hedgerows aloud with some Long-tailed Tits. A solitary Grey Wagtail flew along the river for those of us at the back of the party. Herring and Black-headed Gulls flew over and a Buzzard briefly came in to view as we had coffee. As we continued Chiffchaff were heard, a Mistle Thrush seen, several Goldcrest flitted about in a yew tree in Iron Acton churchyard and a single Greenfinch perched at the top of an Ash tree. We crossed the Frome again and went along a rather squelchy path where a Raven was heard but invisible in the distance but loud Robins called in the adjacent woodland. A distant Great Spotted Woodpecker sat at the top of a dead tree and as we returned to the start a Green Woodpecker, Stonechat, Collared Dove and Jay were added to the list to give a total of 32 species. Thanks to David Body for leading in place of Peter Holbrook who met us at the start to organise lunch and to Nick Hawkridge for the definitive list. Mark Watson

  • Tuesday 20 September – Little Sodbury Tuesday September 20th, 2016

    How nice to start a walk with an old favourite – Raven, a pair cavorting in the wind over the church. Sad however to see a line full of House Martins, chitter chattering, shooting away, and then back, almost saying ‘are we going yet’? Eighteen walkers headed just a little east of north into the countryside. The lake we passed was, as usual, home only to Coot, Moorhen and Mallard and the trees contained a few Chiffchaff and one bright Willow Warbler. A Green Woodpecker graced the horse paddocks. We climbed up towards the fine looking house where, at the top, we found the Millennium Tower, funded by The Owl and Swallow Trust, but apparently empty. Here we stopped for coffee and a Nuthatch – calling from and flying between patches of woods. Not until we had traversed the asphalt of New Tynings Lane did we get back to any other birds beside Woodpigeon. Some Chaffinch called from the hedge and the first of three Buzzards turned lazily. After saying goodbye to the non-picnickers a Jay was about all that was new as we headed towards lunch at Old Sodbury Church, after which a Mistle Thrush and a flock of 30 Goldfinch were spotted heading east. The walk back gave us only one extra species (of the 32 we saw) and they were Long-tailed Tits. The greyness of the day denied us the views westward towards the Severn and the hills of Wales but this beautiful walk always provides us with an enjoyable day.. (thanks to Nick for leading)  Nick Hawkridge

  • Sunday 18 September – New Passage Sunday September 18th, 2016

    16 people gathered on a beautiful still morning for a walk along New Passage and the Pilning Wetlands. Many came early to catch the extra-high tide covering pill and salt marsh right up to the embankment. As the walk proper started the river had dropped to expose the edge of the marsh, now full of Linnets, Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails as well as Ringed Plover, Wheatear, Skylarks and a Whinchat. Inland pools included Mute Swans, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Little Grebe and Gadwall, and the sea bank of the marsh showed flocks of Curlew, Godwits, Oystercatcher, Wigeon, Teal, Canada Geese, Pintail, and a Grey Plover. Numbers of hirundines hunted with a Buzzard above, though the hedgerows were oddly empty apart from the ubiquitous Robins. The group pushed on to the scrape past the second sentry box, where 100 plus Dunlin edged the water, and keen eyes found a single Golden Plover and a Little Stint amongst them. We turned down the side lane to see the far pools where sadly that morning’s Wood Sandpiper had just flown away, but saw Shoveler, Tufted Duck and Lapwing. Returning to the shore, the falling tide had now left mud for a lovely array of waders stretching into the distance, including Godwits, Redshank, Dunlin, Turnstones, a few Knot and a Curlew Sandpiper. A total of 54 species seen. (Thank you, Lois, for leading) Lois Pryce

  • Tuesday 13 September – Portbury Wharf Tuesday September 13th, 2016

    It was a very warm humid morning for the 24 of us, with a very distant rumble of thunder being heard as we left Portbury village for our walk around the Warth area. In the distance a Buzzard soared over the Gordano valley, with Chiffchaff and Greenfinch seen. A number of Mistle Thrush played high in the trees and close at hand a Great Spotted Woodpecker “chipped”. As we headed along Wharf Lane towards the reserve the thunder became louder with very dark clouds over South Wales. At the first hide the scrapes were almost dry, so few birds were seen. At the second hide volunteers were working on the island so there were fewer birds than normal but Little Grebe, Mallard, Shoveler and Gadwall were present. Along the path to the sea bank Cetti’s Warbler shouted from the bushes and 30 plus Linnet bounced over the marsh. Along the shore line were Redshank and Black-headed Gulls, a single Curlew and a small flock of Dunlin. A large black-backed gull flew by, ‘It is ugly’ was one comment so it must be a Great! Three Yellow Wagtails appeared by the track, along with the ever present Reed Bunting and a hovering Kestrel. Approaching the creek quietly at the end of the marsh there were the usual Teal and in the willows many Long-tailed Tits, Blue tits and a Blackcap. On the way back to the cars the thunder became ouder and the rain started, lightly at first but most of us were back in time to avoid a soaking and finished with a total of 48 species. (Many thanks to Roger for leading.) Roger and Lana Hawley

  • Sunday 11 September – Aylesbeare & Axe Estuary Sunday September 11th, 2016

    Having met up at the car park at Aylesbeare we had a walk around this unique pebble bed heathland reserve managed by the RSPB for its special wildlife. We made our way around the various footpaths on the heath in search for Dartford Warbler, which had proved elusive for me throughout the summer, Stonechats could be seen on many parts of the heath, looking as if they have had a good breeding season, Siskin were seen and heard as were singing Chiffchaff, Long- Tailed Tits, Coal Tits, Green Woodpeckers, Meadow Pipits, Kestrel and Buzzards. On our way back to the cars we found a Dartford Warbler in the gorse, but although it kept very low and elusive at times most of the group did pick up on the bird. I had noticed through the summer the large number of Stonechat around the heath and I wonder if the Dartford Warbler here is finding it difficult to compete, time will tell. We then moved down to the Axe Estuary and visited Black Hole Marsh, one of the local reserves managed by the East Devon Council. We made our way down to the Tower Hide overlooking the river Axe and looking back towards the reserve pool, and here we picked out waders such as Redshank, Black and Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Common and Green Sandpiper, Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher. On the river we could see and hear Curlew, various wintering duck and gulls that had just arrived, including Wigeon and Teal. A Kingfisher flew in and sat by the hide giving everyone a view of this colourful bird and Water Rail was heard calling in the nearby reeds. We then moved on to the island hide situated near to the middle of the pool, which gives you chance to get close to the birds. Here we saw more Common Sandpipers, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwits and even a Wheatear that was sitting on one of the islands, presumably taking a break from its travels. We could not, however, find the reported Little Stint that had been present earlier even though we spent a lot of time looking. We then walked to Colyford Common and visited the hides there but this was quiet, although we had good views of a juvenile Peregrine hunting and sitting in the nearby field and a Cetti’s Warbler singing nearby. We did manage to get a total of 55 species and my thanks to those of you who joined me on the day. (Thank you to Gordon for leading.) Gordon Youdale

  • Tuesday 06 September – Tickenham Tuesday September 06th, 2016

    20 people walked through Tickenham levels, along the Land Yeo and up woods and meadows on a warm humid day, where birds often seemed thin on the ground except for the ubiquitous Robins singing and ticking – but still we ended up with 33 species. In the woods one group of trees had Coal, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits together, a feeder attracted Nuthatches, and Chiffchaffs called. On Cadbury Camp (guarded by a bull and cows) were Wheatear and a Meadow Pipit in a tree, a Raven doing aerobatics, a lurking Jay, and a large group of Mute Swans visible on distant lowland. On the levels Buzzards perched on hay bales and Grey Herons were silhouetted, with Swans, Little Egret, Green Woodpeckers, Kestrel and Rooks busy on and above the meadows. Starlings perched on a power line with two Mistle Thrush, and a Hobby flew through. We also saw Common Darter and Emperor Dragonflies, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock Butterflies, and Bellflowers edging the Cadbury Camp embankments. (Many thanks to Jan Pridie and Lois Pryce for leading.) Lois Pryce

  • Saturday 03 September – Slimbridge Saturday September 03rd, 2016

    Five members attended this meeting on an initially dry and pleasant day, however heavy rain was forecast for later in the morning. In the car park we had flyovers of both Greylag and Canada Geese, many Swallows and a group of Sand Martins. We set off for the summer walkway but saw little other than a single Wheatear, a few Cormorants and fair numbers of Swallows and House Martins. We retreated to the Holden tower as the rain approached and had good views of a variety of birds including Barnacle Geese, Avocets, Ruff, and Black-tailed Godwits. We proceeded to the Zeiss hide to obtain closer views of the waders. At the Kingfisher hide despite the downpour we had excellent view of a number of Whitethroats and Blackcap. We were lucky enough to see a Kingfisher which streaked in front of the hide and then obligingly perched on a log. We then went on to the South Lake hide where we saw four Cranes, Great Crested Grebes and Little Grebe amongst others. We finished at the Rushy Hide with lovely views of a Snipe. Throughout the morning we heard Cetti’s Warblers, although none were seen. Overall the weather although wet it did not significantly spoil the meeting with over 50 species listed. (thanks to Sue for leading)
    Sue Kempson

  • Tuesday 30 August – Stanton Drew Tuesday August 30th, 2016

    A group of 19 set out from the Druids Arms on a beautiful summer’s morning. As we left the car park we started our list with Wood Pigeon, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow and Collared Dove. We also spotted groups of House Martins and Swallows. As expected for this time of the year the count for these two species was high with 50 plus House Martins and 45 Swallows (mostly on wires) for the whole walk. We passed the Stanton Drew stone circle. Those of us at the back of the group were treated to the sight of a Sparrowhawk circling overhead among a number of House Martins. It was thought that this was a male as a few minutes later a second Sparrowhawk was seen by everyone. This appeared to be a larger bird so it is likely that they were a pair, with this one being a female. It was also circling and being harried by a Carrion Crow. The light was excellent and we had a good view of the bird’s beautiful plumage. This was the highlight of the walk. Two Buzzards were then seen. We added twelve Goldfinches as well as four Rooks, 40 Starlings, 30 plus House Sparrows and two Chiffchaffs. A Greater Spotted Woodpecker was seen briefly and a Linnet was also spotted. A party of Long-tailed Tits was first heard and then about six seen. One member of the group saw a Wheatear and when we arrived at a small clump of conifers we looked for Coal Tits and Goldcrests but saw neither. However, those who are able to detect the higher frequencies heard three Goldcrests. We had a total of 25 species with many thanks to Mark Watson for keeping an excellent record of species seen. It was an extremely enjoyable morning and we were very grateful to Maureen and Bill Dobie for leading the walk.

    Mike Landen

  • Tuesday 23 August – Hawkesbury Upton Tuesday August 23rd, 2016

    Hints of autumn may have been noticed during the last few days but the forecast for this walk was definitely a summer one and some of us were glad of the unexpected breeze as we set out with the promise of a flat walk with no stiles from our leader. Initially it did seem to be rush hour on a narrow Cotswold lane with cars, vans and a very large lorry all pushing us to the verges but there were Swallows and House Martins in the air and soon a large group of gulls at rest in a nearby field was the centre of attention – about 375 Common Gulls. A Raven was heard and then seen and, at the other end of the size scale, a Wren. The treat of the day came next with first a dozen and then more and more Ravens perched on bales and lifting out of trees and eventually all 29 were in the air – a wonderful sight with the sun on the golden fields and maize rustling at our backs. More large, and more distant, flocks of gulls were seen behind a tractor – other notables were Yellowhammers, Stock Dove, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler, four Buzzards and a Kestrel. Near the end of the walk our party of 24 split and some saw a few Speckled Wood butterflies and a Brimstone on the way back. Total bird species tally was 30 – many thanks to Peter Holbrook for leading.

    Nancy Barrett

  • Friday 29 July – Acres Down, New Forest Monday August 22nd, 2016

    With the weather maps showing bands of rain sweeping across the New Forest on Thursday, I postponed this “Margaret Walk” until the next day which, unfortunately, meant that only three people could attend. The open heath held families of Mistle Thrush and Stonechat as we walked out to the raptor watch-point, and Redstarts seemed to be popping up everywhere. The squally skies and fresh wind didn’t bode well for soaring raptors and the watch only produced Buzzard and Hobby. However, the deep summer woods were full of families of young birds. It was hard work finding them with nothing singing and all that foliage but a slow, quiet wander produced a flock of yellow Willow Warbler juveniles; two newly-fledged and genuinely spotted Spotted Flycatchers side by side on a branch, waiting for mum to bring home lunch; a pine tree full of Coal Tits; young brown Robins; and best of all, a family of Firecrests with at least one pale grey youngster begging from its parents. We watched several Marsh Tits foraging, and had glimpses of Song Thrush, Nuthatch and Blackcap. Deer slipped quietly away into cover without giving us the chance to check which species they were. Only a couple of Wrens managed a snatch or two of song. Finally, a Siskin flew over the car park. It was a very pleasant walk that produced 27 species – not so bad for late July. (thnks to Jane for leading) Jane Cumming

  • Tuesday 16 August – Hinton Blewett and Litton Reservoirs Tuesday August 16th, 2016

    On a warm sunny morning 16 walkers met in Hinton Blewett to walk along country lanes to the two reservoirs at Litton and back across the fields with cattle, harvested crops and pasture. We saw, or heard 40 species of birds, which included seven Common Buzzards, a Little Egret, a Grey Heron, eight Cormorants, Little Grebes and an adult Great Crested Grebe with two chicks. There were 36 Swallows, 21 House Martins and several families of Grey and Pied Wagtails. There was plenty to listen out for as Blue, Great, Long-tailed and Coal Tits were active. A Whitethroat hid from us but it did a short rattle several times. At least eight Robins sang or scolded and a Pheasant and Green Woodpecker were heard. Some of the party were fortunate to see a Kingfisher and a Treecreeper. Goldfinches were feeding on thistle seeds as four Lapwings flew over and a Raven croaked in the distance. A few butterflies were seen: Gatekeepers, Whites and Speckled Woods along with a Hawker Dragonfly. (Thanks to John and Sue Prince for leading a very pleasant and varied walk)

    Sue Prince

  • Saturday 13th August – Chew Valley Lake Saturday August 13th, 2016

    Five members met for this morning only walk around the various sites. At Herriotts Pool we observed two Yellow-legged Gulls along with two Black-tailed Godwits, numerous Gadwall, Shoveler and Teal and a single Little Egret. Sharp-eyed Rod located two Goldeneye which ended the time there. We moved to Stratford Hide and numerous Great Crested Grebe, a couple of Little Grebe along with a Grey Heron were observed. The ducks included Pochard, Tufted Duck and Teal. We then walked from Stratford to Moreton Hide. Along the way we saw Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and heard a Green Woodpecker. In a flooded field by a cattle drinking trough we observed six Green Sandpiper. In the Moreton Hide we had a quick view of a Reed Warbler and just before leaving observed a Hobby fly over the trees but we failed to re-locate it after leaving the hide. The small group then moved onto Herons Green where the morning only meeting ended. A total of 24 species were recorded. (Our thanks to Charles for leading this enjoyable walk

    Charles Stapleton

  • Tuesday 09 August – Priddy Tuesday August 09th, 2016

    A group of 23 set out from the Queen Victoria on a very pleasant summer’s morning. There were a number of birds seen around the village including House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Chaffinch. Approximately 50 Swallows were seen moving through and four active House Martins’ nests were noted. The walk along the old track involved carefully negotiating rather a lot of water and mud but we did hear Nuthatch, Chiffchaff and Bullfinch as well as seeing a few more common species including Blue Tit, Great Tit and Dunnock. Some of the group spotted a Kestrel in the distance and three more were seen later on. A total of three Buzzards were spotted and a mixed group of corvids in the fields contained an estimated 30 Jackdaws and 20 Rooks. After we had descended from the highest point of the walk, a couple of young coots were seen with an adult on the pond. As usual there were a lot of Meadow Brown butterflies and we also saw Gatekeeper, Marbled Whites, a Small Copper and a Large Skipper. We saw three Wheatears that appeared to be a family party, and a Reed Warbler was heard. It was a very enjoyable morning’s walk and we managed a total of 27 species. Thanks to Nick for keeping a record of species seen and thank you to Maureen and Bill Dobie for leading.

    Mike Landen

  • Tuesday 02 August – Newton St Loe Tuesday August 02nd, 2016

    Ten people gathered on a drizzly morning for a walk around the University’s grounds. Swallow were flying around and as we walked down the wooded path towards the University Robins, Wood Pigeons, various corvids and tits were seen and heard. Near the lower end of the lakes a Grey Wagtail ran across the path behind us and on the lower lake we saw our first Mallards, both female. Passing though the small woodland on the way to the second lake Goldcrests were seen and heard along with a couple more Grey Wagtails. A Mute Swan and seven goslings were beside the lake with a large number of young Mallards. The other adult Mute Swan was having a quiet moment at the far end. A Grey Heron sat in the trees on the far side and two Moorhens cruised along the shore. The weather was drying a little as we moved through woodland where Robins and Wrens were noisily announcing their presence, and on to the playing fields where a dozen or so Pied Wagtails were on the mown grass, 50 plus Swallows swooped around with occasional rests on the goal cross bars and a flock of Goldfinches moved along the scrub. Returning to Newton St Loe through the university we saw Swifts, our usual Tuesday Buzzard and a flock of five Mistle Thrushes flying from tree to tree near the old mansion. On a drier walk than might have been expected we saw 35 species. Thanks to Robert Hargreaves for leading and finding a good tally of birds.
    Mark Watson

  • Tuesday 26 July – Steart Tuesday July 26th, 2016

    The weather was warm and cloudy as 24 members met at the WWT car park at Steart Marshes. From the car park we saw a female Marsh Harrier and had a fleeting glimpse of our first Little Egret of the day. On the way there and back we heard a Reed Warbler and saw Reed Buntings, a Yellow Wagtail flying past and Goldfinch in the scrub. A couple of Barn Swallows and House Martins caught our eye with their acrobatics, and a Kestrel was also spotted. The tide was not yet up to the pool so after a short stay we moved on to the Steart village car park and walked to the breach in the Parrett bank. On the way we saw Linnet, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Reed Bunting. When the breach and pools came into view we were rewarded with 22 Avocet (including two largish chicks) most of which obliging flew to give excellent views of this iconic bird. About 35 Black-tailed Godwit, ten Redshank, 50 plus Dunlin and a lone Curlew Sandpiper were clearly in view. A couple of Grey Heron were in the distance, and nearer were four Knot, ten Redshank and a few Shelduck. A lone Great White Egret flew by. We ate our picnic in the grassy Natural England car park and then went out to the Tower and poolside hides towards Steart Point. The sun was more in evidence now and Gatekeepers, Commas and Common Blues fluttered past us. At the Tower Hide we saw hundreds of Shelduck on the mudflats of the Parrett and equally large numbers of Black-headed Gulls on the Bristol Channel mudflats and more of the waders seen earlier. On our return to the cars a Whitethroat was heard and a couple of Great Black-backed Gulls passed overhead. Rain threatened as we returned but happily did not fall before we arrived back at the cars after a fruitful visit with a total of 43 species.
    Mark Watson

  • Sunday 24 July – Newport Wetlands and Goldcliff Sunday July 24th, 2016

    As the skies darkened on our arrival it began to rain but not incessantly so the birding wasn’t spoilt completely. No feed had been put out at the RSPB shop so few species seen there, although a nice Little Grebe bobbed up occasionally on the pond. Finches were on the refilled feeders by the play equipment, with ample evidence of breeding success in the area. Not a squeak from the reed beds as we headed towards the estuary edge of the River Severn. A few ducks on the lagoons included a distant Gadwall dozing on the water. Whimbrel and Curlew were spotted moving up and then down the river. We scrutinised the Black-headed Gulls for strangers, without luck, although it was nice to see the striking markings on the juveniles. It won’t be long before their calls will become ‘strident calls’. A Peregrine came through at low level as we made our way towards the Uskmouth end, kept company by a group of Swallows and (we think) Linnets. The top of the tide had pushed an Oystercatcher onto the inlet before the turn to the bird hide but nothing onto the pool in front. Not a Tufted Duck in sight, just Old Nog, a couple of Teal and many Mallard – all these in heavy moult. That was about it for the Wetlands except for a singing Cetti’s Warbler on the track back.
    At Goldcliff the weather was a little kinder, and the pools so much richer in waders. Two Greenshank flew in at the first hide to accompany the Lapwing, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Grey Heron, and the first Dunlin. A small flight of Canada Geese came in to join the party on the shore-side meadow. Further round at the next hide there were much better views of the Dunlin and a couple of Shoveler were found. Further round again – in fact all the way round, more Dunlin and the first juvenile Little Ringed Plover were seen. Through a gap in the reeds a tantalising view of ‘something else’ with the Black-tailed Godwit, still sporting summer plumage and more black-bellied Dunlin. The flocks went up a couple of times and we worked hard at finding the scattered birds but, alas, no Little Stint. On the walk back the ‘cronk’ of a Raven was heard but we couldn’t find it – until it appeared in the distance having been below the bank of the now nearly empty river. To get a better view of the ‘something else’ we stopped at one of the ‘blinds’ and found Yellow Wagtail (juvenile), Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, a Ruff, and two red-chested Curlew Sandpipers – a splendid finish (16:30) to a good days birding for the eleven members present. Special thanks to Jane for her consummate identification skills. Nick Hawkridge

  • Tuesday 19 July – Velvet Bottom Tuesday July 19th, 2016

    It was a fine hot day with a nice breeze and welcome shade. 19 birders had a lovely walk with plenty to see; fast-flying butterflies, large dragonflies and some brilliant birds. Although the first 20 minutes was nearly devoid of the latter – with a Raven, 50 Jackdaw (in one party) and a family of Bullfinches – Skippers, Ringlets, and Marbled Whites were everywhere. Further on, the call of a Spotted Flycatcher was heard and the bird found at the back of some hawthorn. The Redstart we have come to expect in this location finally made an appearance. A fine male in bright colours was seen in full view, obviously keeping an eye on us as we passed through his territory. His mate and family were much harder to spot, only a quick flash of red tail. A family party of six Mistle Thrush flew across the path and the hawthorns were bisected by a swirl of Swallows and a few House Martin. After a shady coffee stop we passed into Long Wood where the calls of Nuthatch, Marsh Tit, Coal Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker were heard, with some even being seen. A family party of Spotted Flycatcher was heard and then seen flitting among the branches. Along this path we also encountered some Silver Washed Fritillaries, skilfully identified by our visitor from the Bath RSPB, Lucy Delve. She also spotted a juvenile Hobby scooting over the hedges at the top of the fields, and kept us entertained with identifications of just about everything, including many Dragonflies – Emperor and Broad-bodied Chaser included. Thanks go to Geoff for leading us round and Lucy for her support. Nick Hawkridge

  • Saturday 16 July – Forest of Dean Saturday July 16th, 2016

    On a warm, calm summer evening 16 members and one German guest met at New Fancy view in the Forest of Dean. We climbed to the viewpoint where the view is beginning to disappear behind the rapidly growing surrounding trees. All was very quiet on the bird front. There were no raptors and only the occasional small bird flying past. We then moved on to Cannop ponds for a more productive walk along the bank. A family of Grey Wagtails was seen near the waterfall. On the lake were Mallards, Tufted and Mandarin ducks. There were a large number of young Mandarins. Swallows were feeding over the water and occasionally dipping in. A party of Swifts were seen overhead. Good views were had of a Kingfisher and a lucky few saw it catch a fish and spend some time trying to swallow it. A Marsh Tit was heard but not seen. Leaving the ponds we moved on to near Speech House and walked from there in the fading light up Crabtree Hill. A very distant Siskin was seen. On reaching the clearing there was a lot of commotion from a gathering of Blackbirds but no evidence of what was alarming them was seen. We didn’t have to wait very long before churring of the Nightjars was heard and two flew very close overhead. We then had a wonderful display of three, four or even five birds hunting. They were also spotted on perches as the light was quite good. We returned to the cars in the dark after a very rewarding evening. The number of species seen was 33. Thank you to Mike for leading again. Margaret Gorely

  • Tuesday 12 July – Dolebury Warren Tuesday July 12th, 2016

    Sixteen members set off from the Crown Inn, Churchill on a warm, sunny day for a walk around the National Trust land at Dolebury Warren. As we left the car park Carrion Crows and Barn Swallows were overhead and as we descended though woodland to the A38 we heard Blue Tits and a Blackcap, as Dunnock and Robins flitted amongst the understorey. Climbing up to Dolebury Warren a Nuthatch and a Great Spotted Woodpecker were heard and Coal Tits were feeding in a garden. As we walked along the edge of the hill fort a Buzzard passed by, and as we moved through some scrub a Whitethroat on top of a hawthorn gave us excellent views and Chiffchaff called along with a Green Woodpecker. Marbled White, Ringlet and Meadow Brown butterflies passed by. In a small belt of coniferous woodland several Goldcrests were heard, and an exceptionally loud Song Thrush was heard and then seen about ten yards away in adjacent broadleaved woodland. As we returned to the cars four Herring Gulls drifted by, a Bullfinch was heard, House Martins performed acrobatics high overhead and House Sparrows were busy in Rowberrow Bottom. Finally a Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk appeared overhead as we re-crossed the A38. The total tally was 31 species (Thanks for leading Mark) . Mark Watson

  • Tuesday 05 July – Avon Gorge nature reserves and Peregrines Tuesday July 05th, 2016

    This was an unusual “walk”. 20 people met at Sea Walls on the Downs, instead of at the Peregrine Watch as a children’s event had been scheduled there at the same time. We shared cars and drove (!) to Bramble Lane, Stoke Bishop, in order to access the three Nature Reserves – Bishops Knoll (Woodland Trust), Bennett’s Patch (AWT) and Old Sneyd Park. Chiffchaff was soon heard, followed by Great Tit, Nuthatch, Carrion Crow and many Blackcaps, and there was a young Robin was on the path as we walked down through the woodland and over the railway bridge to Bennett’s Patch. Here we spent half an hour looking at the Bristol Whales, flowers, butterflies, and having coffee. Two Buzzards were heard and seen over Leigh Woods, then a very fine male Greenfinch was seen calling ‘zee zee’, with glimpses of two others in the bush. Some people visited the dipping pool with its many water snails, a couple of water boatman, three beautiful broad-bodied chaser dragonflies and some blue damselflies. Back in the woods we made our way to Old Sneyd Park reserve with its lovely meadow, to the accompaniment of two Song Thrushes and more Blackcaps singing, and a Jay was seen. We visited the small lake with its family of Mallard (11 including one duckling) and a Moorhen on the viewing platform. Back to the cars and the Peregrine Watch where a Kestrel was seen hovering and two Peregrines spotted, one on a distant rock, another on a tree. A little later we had stunning views of the two young Peregrines chasing one another flying close to the Watch point. Nick pointed out the white tail feathers of the juveniles and the larger size of the female bird. 27 bird species was Nick’s total. (Thanks to Judy for leading.) Judy Copeland

  • Thursday 30 June – Wareham Forest Thursday June 30th, 2016

    forecast was poor but we were very lucky as it stayed dry all day and we even saw some sunshine. We did three walks during the day – the first from Sherford Bridge gave us good views of Jays, Tree Pipits, Linnets, Dartford Warblers, including a youngster, several families of Stonechats and three Hobbies. We heard Green Woodpeckers, Siskins, Yellowhammers, Goldcrests, Skylarks and a Song Thrush. Lunch was taken at Lawson’s Clump picnic site and here we saw Common Buzzards and Siskins. We walked to the top of the hill where you get wonderful views across the forest to Poole Harbour. Finally we drove to Culpepper’s Dish car park, south of Briantspuddle, where we did a walk which added Great Spotted Woodpecker and fine views of two Yellowhammers and Long-tailed Tits. In all we saw or heard 34 species for the day. Eight of us walked and enjoyed marvellous scenery, blue butterflies, yellow wax cap and earth ball fungi and a four-spotted footman moth. Bell and cross-leaved heather were in flower as well as bog asphodel and cotton grass. Many thanks to Jane Cumming for leading us on an enjoyable outing. Sue Prince

  • Tuesday 28 June – Clevedon/Walton Common Tuesday June 28th, 2016

    16 of us met in Clevedon in warm sunshine, and walked up the track beside the golf course. A Wren was heard singing and two Coal Tits, a family of three Magpies, a male Bullfinch and a Squirrel were seen, with House Martins flying overhead. Also, a Silver-washed Fritillary butterfly, recently emerged, was found on the undergrowth. There was a Herring Gull on the roof of a house, with a Chaffinch calling on another house and Swallows on an aerial and flying above us. We walked along the long, hedged path beside the Channel – three Blackbirds on the path here, Blackcap and Chiffchaff singing – then across the field at Walton, where Jean was delighted with the large patches of pink Bog Pimpernel. We continued on to the cliff path, with the high tide lapping beside us and around twelve Mallard bobbing along towards Portishead. A Whitethroat was heard and three Wood Pigeons and a Jackdaw were on the rocks. Next we walked towards Walton Common where we heard a Blackbird and a Song Thrush singing. Rain had been forecast for 1300 hrs, so with the sky darkening we ate our lunch on the Common just before the rain arrived ten minutes later than forecast. We managed to see a Marbled White butterfly before we trudged through the rain back to the golf course. 30 species was the total bird count, Ringlet and Meadow Brown butterflies were also seen. (thanks to Judy for leading)                         Judy Copeland

  • Tuesday 21 June – Compton Dando Tuesday June 21st, 2016

    A group of 17 set off from The Compton Inn at Compton Dando on an overcast but pleasant summer’s morning. There were a good number of common birds around the village including House Sparrows, House Martins, Swallows, Greenfinch and Song Thrush. After a very short walk to the bridge over the River Chew we saw a Dipper, and although not easy to see, the entire group did get a view of this rather special bird. We then walked through some pasture land bordered with woodland where we added Woodpigeon, Wren and a Buzzard was seen. The next part of the walk took us up a quite steep path through the woods where a Blackcap and a Goldcrest were heard. We crossed a beautiful meadow where we saw Meadow Brown butterflies and one or two Marbled Whites. About twelve Swifts gave us a nice display and we also saw 19 Goldfinches, including a family group of seven. As we came towards the end of the meadow a Kestrel gave us an excellent view and a Skylark was heard. We reached Woollard for another view of the River Chew from the road bridge where we saw Mallard with a number of chicks. A Grey Wagtail on the telegraph wire gave us a good view and we added Collared Dove, Long- tailed Tit and Pied Wagtail (including 1 juvenile being fed on a power line). We had planned to walk towards the church at Publow but there was quite a large flock of sheep that were being separated out by the farmer, so we turned round to head back to Compton Dando, this time on the south side of the river. Green Woodpecker, Moorhen, Grey Heron, three Jays and a family party of six Raven were seen. As we continued alongside the river some at the rear of the group had a fleeting view of a Kingfisher. It was a very pleasant morning’s walk and a total of 38 species were seen. Thanks to Nick for keeping his usual accurate bird list. (thnks to Mike and Elaine for leading)    Mike Landen

  • Tuesday 14 June – Sand Point Tuesday June 14th, 2016

    Wind at force 4/5 from the West at the end of Sand Point; keep a sharp eye on the sea. What did we get? Nothing! Until, that was, we were hunting for the Stonechat that was scolding us. “Manx Shearwaters” was the cry and, lifting our bins barely an inch, there they were, the first of 80 or so we saw during the morning. Our cast of eleven had met at 1000 hrs (welcome, new walker David) and gathered Blackbird, Wren, Collared Dove, Robin (including young) Blackcap, Chiffchaff (also including young), Skylark and Song Thrush before the above excitement kicked off. The estuary side of the point was almost sheltered as we made our way along to the coffee stop. The Whitethroat and Linnet were most obliging, posing on occasions for all to see, but the Sparrowhawk was on a mission and whizzed through in the blink of an eye. Our first Swallows and House Martins showed soon after we restarted the walk. At lunch we were serenaded (if you can call it that!) by Greenfinch with Linnet and Whitethroat completing the chorus. Our walk back, in the now increasing sun and slackening wind, was reward with more Greenfinch and a Kestrel who was effortlessly riding the wind. Only one Great Tit and one Blue Tit seen all day but they made the total of 33 seem reasonable for this time of year. The Shearwaters were a real treat. (thanks to Nick for leading) Nick Hawkridge

  • Tuesday, 07 June – Pill Longshore Tuesday June 07th, 2016

    Swifts were seen over the Memorial Club car park before 21 of us, set off to look at a house nearby where they nest every year. Nothing there at the moment, but we examined possible entrances to the eaves and marvelled at the number of House Sparrows that live in Pill. We then walked past the harbour and along the marina beside a very high tide in the Avon, which meant that no waders were about, only a couple of Mallard sitting on a mooring drum in the river. House Martins were beginning to make their nests on the pub and the old Custom House and there were Herring Gulls floating nearby. We made our way on to the marsh, walking beside the thick hedges, which produced Blackcap, Wren and Dunnock singing and a pair of Crows in a tree nearby plucking at nest material. High over the M5 bridge were a Buzzard and loads of House Martins. We walked under the bridge, and two Peregrines (not feral pigeons?) were pointed out, one high up above a pillar and the other on a distant pylon across the river. We continued across the marsh to the path leading through hedges beside the river, and heard Reed Bunting, Whitethroat, Linnet and many Goldfinches, saw a Greenfinch on a fence, then picked up several loud and close Reed Warblers, some people getting occasional glimpses of one as it moved through the reeds. Sue found a Large Skipper butterfly, a Cormorant flew past and three Shelduck were seen sitting on a jetty across the river, waiting for some mud to appear. Others were seen on the distant mud in the estuary from the seat at the end of the path (another good information board). The pink flowers on tall grass stems were identified by Jean as Grass Vetchling. Back on the track under the M5 (Song Thrush song echoing here) we continued under the dock railway on our way to the cycle path back to Pill and heard Chiffchaff, saw Jay and another Buzzard and some lucky people had three Bullfinches, bringing the total species to 37. (thanks to Judy for leading) Judy Copeland

  • Sunday 05 June – Coach trip to Durlston and the Purbeck Hills, Dorset Sunday June 05th, 2016

    44 members and guests set off just after 0800 hrs for Worth Matravers. At Yeovil, Alastair Fraser gave a humorous geological introduction to Purbeck, remembered from his school journals: Jurassic, Cretaceous, Ammonites. Arriving under a baking sky to meadows of Yellow Rattle, we headed for the Jurassic coast. By the time we reached Seacombe Bottom, we had heard or seen Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Goldfinch, Linnet, Wren, Skylark, Yellowhammer, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Greenfinch, Collared Dove, Windhover (Kestrel), Buzzard, Roe Deer and the first of 20 Stonechat. Below pink Thrift-covered cliffs near Dancing Ledge flew Guillemot. Two dots on the sea became Puffins Cormorant, Shag and Commic Tern wandered past. We lunched among the Bee Orchids, Early Gentian and Milkwort, thriving in the short limestone turf. A family of Black Redstart popped up along the fence, to our delight. Under the now burning sun we trudged on through the bright blue spikes of Vipers Bugloss and the maroon-flowered Hound’s Tongue. Although devoid of birds, a few Adonis and Small Heath butterflies and the dead wings of a Cream-spot Tiger were seen and underfoot the hairy caterpillars of the Brown-tail moth. A heavy sea mist descended and a Peregrine flashed by. In the gloom Lesser Whitethroat was heard again. As we searched for it, a Dartford Warbler perched in full view. As the mist lifting we saw Razorbill swimming amongst some Guillemot (including Bridled) below Durlston’s cliffs. A Fulmar swung out in the sun, with another Sandwich Tern, and a pair of Kestrels were seen feeding chicks below the rocks. A day of great twists and turns. Thank you Alastair for your research and an entertaining first lead. Robert Hargreaves

  • Tuesday 31 May – Winscombe Tuesday May 31st, 2016

    A breezy, sunny morning saw 13 of us head out across fields where Swallows swooped and Magpies upset the hedge occupants and a Song Thrush quickly hid from us. Along the lane a female Bullfinch dived into the hedge beside a field with neat green lines of maize appearing and numerous Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls brightly reflected the sun off their white backs. We passed the donkeys and loud Robins on Sandford Hill, and enjoyed butterflies before the trees where we encountered more Chaffinch, Greenfinch and a Goldfinch, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits with a special treat of a family of Marsh Tits,( a parent and four fledglings) and a Treecreeper. Above the canopy a young raptor, possibly a Peregrine, begged for food and a Roe Deer kept stock still amongst the nearby saplings. It was camouflaged by the strong dappled sun giving its back a striped appearance. Emerging from the trees we had wide views of the Mendip Hills ahead of us and beyond Crook Peak, down to Bridgwater Bay and the distant Quantocks. We heard a faraway Cuckoo and as we descended the grassy slope, disturbed four Mistle Thrush and spied a Raven and Buzzard before crossing the yellow seas of buttercup meadows. We also came across a Green Woodpecker and three Great Spotted Woodpeckers, and then back near the car park found the Pied Wagtails (resident there), making a tally of 35. (Thank you for leading,Sue.) Sue Watson

  • Tuesday 24 May –Newport Wetlands Tuesday May 24th, 2016

    A beautiful sunny day attracted 36 walkers and we hoped it would produce plenty of birds. From the car park, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat were in full song. The pond had Little Grebe, Coot and Moorhen. As yet, no Sand Martins are making use of the artificial nest site. The walk across the reed beds gave us Reed Bunting. The Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers were remarkably quiet but did start up later. The hoped for Bearded Tits were only spotted by a lucky few, as the rest were chasing the Cuckoo and were rewarded by seeing two birds perched together. Summer visitors included Swift, Swallow, House Martin, Blackcaps, Garden Warbler, Chiffchaff and a very obliging Cetti’s Warbler who sat sunning itself in full view. After our picnic lunch we went to Goldcliff where we added both Avocets and Redshanks with chicks. The Marsh Harrier put in an appearance as did a Raven. Both were seen off by the adult birds. Ringed Plover and Greenshank were also in the pools and one keen spotter added a Little Ringed Plover. The few ducks around were Tufted, Gadwall, Mallard and Shoveler. In all we had 58 species between the two sites and a lovely warm Spring day as a bonus. (Thanks to Margaret and Ray for leading the walk) Margaret and Ray Bulmer

  • Sunday 22 May – Ham Wall RSPB, Somerset Levels Sunday May 22nd, 2016

    Cetti's Warbler  Mike Landen

    15 members met at the new RSPB car park at Ham Wall on a rather changeable day, when it was difficult to judge what to wear. It was warm in the sun, but cool when the sun went behind the clouds. For those of you who did not attend – you missed a treat! Before we left the car park we had already listed a good ten species including a Cuckoo (heard) and Hobby. Once on the main track there was a chorus of birdsong allowing plenty of practice in identifying calls and songs – Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Blackbird, Whitethroat, Wren, Reed Warbler, Goldcrest amongst others. We saw a variety of ducks as we progressed to the first viewing platform, where we immediately had excellent views of two Bitterns, one chasing the other. It was assumed a male chasing a female and we were able to watch them for over ten minutes as they circled above , the ?female giving a croaking call. We then crossed to the hide and had excellent views of a male Reed Bunting singing, Hobby and Lapwing (only one or two). Overhead were many Swifts (very few House Martins & Swallows) and we had multiple sightings of Great White Egrets. We then proceeded to the new Avalon Hide seeing Great Spotted Woodpecker, Glossy Ibis and Bittern on the way. In the hide we watched a Great Spotted Woodpecker entering and emerging from the reed bed, unusual behaviour. A distant Marsh Harrier was seen. Returning to the track we saw a Cuckoo, a single Garganey, another Bittern, Marsh Harrier and a rather shivery looking Whimbrel. We stopped at the second viewing point and then proceeded back along the main track to the car park with further views of Hobby. Five members continued onto Shapwick Heath where we admired the new hide which gave good views over the scrape with nine Black- tailed Godwits and another Garganey.
    Total species count was 57. Bird of the day had to be the Bittern with 13 sightings during the day, certainly a record for me! Many thanks to Mike Johnson for leading this very enjoyable walk. Sue Kempson
    NB There are now onsite toilets available (open 10 am to 4pm) in the new Ham Wall car park

  • Tuesday 17 May – Stoke Park Estate Tuesday May 17th, 2016

    We set off from Snuff Mills Car Park under a broken sky which gradually became more cloudy as the morning progressed. Initially there was little to get excited about, Blackcap and Goldcrest could be heard, the River Frome hosted a solitary Heron and Mallard and a squirrel breakfasted on a bird table in an adjacent garden, oblivious to his audience. After passing through Stapleton Village and over the M32 a steep climb brought us to Purdown where we were treated to a hovering Kestrel, Swallows and a significant number of darting Swifts, not to mention stunning views over the city. After the coffee break we crossed fields containing lots of Corvids and dog walkers and on into a wood which proved to be the most productive area of the walk. A Greater Spotted Woodpecker flew across as we approached the trees. In the wood a Song Thrush sang, Coal Tit called, Greenfinches and a family of Long-tailed Tits shared the same tree and we all had a great view of a pair of Nuthatches repeated delivering food into a nesting hole (Nick pointed out that mud was clearly visible around the entrance, introduced to narrow the size). On leaving the wood a Chiffchaff showed well for some of the group. Our return to the car park took us past Duchess Pond where we added Whitethroat, Moorhen, Coot and Canada Geese. Nineteen of us were on parade and 36 species were recorded. Thanks to Rich Scantlebury for leading and for imparting his local knowledge. John Lees

  • Sunday 15 May – Quantocks Sunday May 15th, 2016

    The glorious sunny weather may have had something to do with the excellent turn-out of more than 20 members for this woodland and heathland walk. We set off through idyllic sunlit glades following a stream in Hodder’s Combe, picking out warbler song and watching Grey Wagtails on the water’s edge. Having separated Blackcap and Garden Warbler, we started hearing Wood Warblers as well as the ubiquitous Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers. Goldcrest, Redstart and both flycatchers soon followed, and we could hear a Cuckoo for most of the morning. A large herd of Red Deer were following a skyline trail along the top of the combe. We emerged from the trees right beside song-flighting Tree Pipits, and watched Stonechats on the open gorse moorland as we tucked into our picnic lunches. Sadly, it seems that Whinchats no longer breed in the Quantocks, and Jeff had heard no recent news of Dartford Warbler or Lesser Spotted Woodpecker there either. Many thanks as always to Jeff Holmes for kindly leading the walk and for sharing with us his extensive knowledge of the birds of these hills.
    Jane Cumming

  • Tuesday 10 May – Shapwick Heath/Ham Wall Tuesday May 10th, 2016

    Ten members gathered at the RSPB Ham Wall car park on an overcast morning that threatened rain. We ventured on to Shapwick first to see the new hide – an unusual design which gives good views over reed beds and lagoon. On the way along the old railway we saw and heard numerous birds in the trees and scrub including Chiffchaff, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Cetti’s warbler and Blackcap. Two Bittern were heard booming and one seen over the reed beds. From the hide we saw two Marsh Harriers carrying nesting material, a Kingfisher, Reed Warbler and Reed Bunting. Greylag and Canada Geese were on the lagoon along with Pochard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Coot and Little Grebe. We moved on to Noah’s Hide where 37 Common Terns were over the far left of the lagoon. On the way back to the car park both Little and Great White Egret were seen over Meare Heath. After a picnic lunch eight of us set off on Ham Wall only to be greeted by increasingly heavy rain. We sheltered in the hides to the right of the track where we saw Cormorant, Great Crested Grebe with chicks and a variety of duck though no new species to add to our list of 58. The rain showed no sign of stopping so the decision was made to return to the cars to go home and dry out. Thanks to Peter Holbrook for leading us on a productive visit.
    Mark Watson

  • Sunday 08 May – Wick Sunday May 08th, 2016

    Seven members met at the Village Hall on a sunny morning. We left the hall to walk along the back lanes of Wick and within minutes had Blackcap singing followed by Blue Tit and Great Tit. Further along, a Buzzard was sitting on a fence post looking for a meal. Moving on we could hear distant Song Thrush singing. Upon entering the reserve we had more Blackcaps and an obliging Nuthatch. A pair of Mistle Thrushes were seen harassing a Coal Tit which was amusing to observe. Along the river we had good views of a pair of Grey Wagtails and one person had a brief glimpse of a Dipper. A Treecreeper also made a short appearance. Leaving the river heading for Ravens Rock,a Peregrine was seen. At the quarry a Cuckoo could be heard calling, along with Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. Three Buzzards also gave a display, coming quite low at times. Leaving the quarry we decided to skirt round to take the bridle path branching off Quarry road and this produced Swallows, Whitethroat and Ravens. On the footpath towards the reserve entrance more Swallows and House Martins were seen. A pleasant walk with 36 species in total. (Thanks for leading, Chris)                                             Chris Perry

  • Wednesday 04 May – Portland Bill and Weymouth Wednesday May 04th, 2016

    Being in the right place at the right time is the essence of seeing rare birds, and it wasn’t enough to be somewhere in the locality when a Red-rumped Swallow flew over Portland or when Great and Pomarine Skuas put in brief appearances along Chesil Bank. The Portland sightings report looked great that day, but the nine of us who turned up for this mid-week walk weren’t lucky enough to catch up with any of the above. Nonetheless, it was good to see the Chesil Beach colony of breeding Little Terns in full swing and my first Swift of the year coming in off the sea. There seemed to be very few migrants on the land, probably because the unsuitably blue sky and gentle south-east wind gave them no reason to pause on their migration. At sea there was a steady passage of Gannets, a few Manx Shearwaters, one flock of nine Common Scoters, and much to-ing and fro-ing from the local Kittiwakes, Guillemots and Razorbills. A bonus was the Little Owl that lives in the quarry but doesn’t always show, on view today and blinking in the sunshine. Finally, a couple of lucky people had views of the Bearded Tits that we were searching for at Radipole, where Cetti’s Warblers were shouting their heads off and showing unusually well – pressure of numbers causing the birds to pop out of the bushes more often. Worth the visit, shame we missed the rarities. (thanks for leading Jane)

    Jane Cumming

  • Tuesday 03 May – Woodchester Park Tuesday May 03rd, 2016

    At last, a dry, sunny and warmer day than of late forecast for our picnic walk – and a correct one too. Eleven members gathered in the National Trust carpark among many cowslips and accompanied by singing Skylarks,Song Thrushes and Blackbirds with hang gliders soaring nearby over the Cotswold edge. Making our way down into the valley between vast banks of wild garlic, we were soon treated to more singing and calling of Bullfinch and Mistle Thrush and very good views of Blackcaps and a pair of Marsh Tits – these latter uncharacteristically silent. Following the “Playtrail” with its tempting (for some) climbing logs, swings and zipwire, we saw some of our first butterflies of the day, Brimstone, Orange Tip and a pair of Red Admirals. The fresh green of the beech leaves and dark blue of patches of bluebells were looking great in the sunshine. As yours truly is a member, we were able to have a coffee break just outside the park boundary on the gliding club caravan park where a very vocal Green Woodpecker was added to our list, plus Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and Greenfinches, all on feeders, and an obligingly close Tree Creeper, repeatedly posing for all to see.(Well spotted, Alastair) Descending again to the valley floor, we made our way east past some of the lakes where Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Little Grebe and Tufted Duck were seen. Among many others, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Garden Warbler were also observed and/or heard and there were more House Martins and Swallows.
    With the sun still shining, we picnicked at the Kennels. Grey Wagtails were nesting there as on our last visit. The National Trust Ranger, Max Dancer, joined us and gave us a very informative chat on the history of the Park and Mansion, plus what the Trust has already done there in twenty years and its future plans. We had been hearing and seeing Ravens all day, sometimes in conflict with the local Buzzards and our return route, past Woodchester Mansion, took us past the cedar where they are nesting. 41 species in all were noted. (Many thanks for leading, Nancy.) Nancy Barrett

  • Tuesday 26 April – Ashton Court Tuesday April 26th, 2016

    Cheered by the singing of Skylarks, we huddled together at the golf course café trying to keep out of the bitter wind while waiting for all 25 walkers to arrive. We then set off at a brisk pace for Leigh Woods and some shelter. Robin, Chiffchaff, Nuthatch, Blackbird and Blackcap sang as we walked among the Bluebells, and Jay, Great, Coal and Blue Tits put in an appearance. There were plenty of corvids about as we made our way to the coffee stop – there’s obviously a rookery nearby. A Greenfinch called, two Ravens flew over, and a pair of Buzzards turned up. On to Abbot’s Pool, passing a well-stocked birdfeeder busy with tits and Nuthatch. At the Pool everyone saw the Moorhen and Mallard but, sadly, only the very keen-eyed spotted a Pied Flycatcher fly over the water. Back to Ashton Court and a short walk back to the warmth of the cars through grassland dotted with Green-veined Orchids. A delightful ending to a walk filled with blossom, Bluebells and birdsong – Skylarks still filling the air with their song – and a total of 30 species. (Many thanks to Brenda for leading this walk.)

    Brenda Page

  • Tuesday 19 April – Castle Combe Tuesday April 19th, 2016

    Nineteen of us set off on a bright yet mainly overcast morning, leaving the car park meeting point to the sound of both Blackbird and Song Thrush. The road down towards the village gave us good views of Long-tailed Tits, a male Blackcap and an obliging Nuthatch that was feeding along the top of a horizontal bough. A House Martin passed overhead. On the steep climb through the woods we heard Nuthatch, a sound that continued to accompany us throughout the morning. We emerged in Upper Castle Combe where two rookeries (or one split rookery) hosted some 16 active nests. We then walked through quiet lanes where we saw three Buzzards soaring, Pied Wagtail, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, both male and female Blackcaps (three in one tree) and the first Swallow of the morning. In the middle of an adjacent field five roe deer relaxed, eyeing us warily. Some of the group diverted to a newly created pond, which held a Little Grebe as well as Mallard, Canada Geese and a Moorhen. Skylarks were heard and subsequently spotted. After the coffee break we made the long descent towards the village though the valley with its varying landscape. On this stretch we added Mistle Thrush, both Green and Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Chiffchaff, Yellowhammer and Kestrel; a Cuckoo and Raven were heard. Back in Castle Combe village a Goldcrest showed well as did a calling Coal Tit. There was lots of vibrant Bluebells along the way but not enough sun to encourage the butterflies. Back in the car park a Song Thrush foraged on the grass verge, exactly where it had been when we left three hours earlier. In total some 45 species were recorded. Thanks to Dave for leading this very pleasant and always rewarding walk. John Lees

  • Tuesday 12 April – Eastville Park Tuesday April 12th, 2016

    In the car park a Goldfinch was “wall-creeping” under a window ledge, picking off the spider webs for nest making, with Greenfinch and Robin about. The walk started on the south side and wound round the park clockwise. We began by walking down to the junction of the motorway and river. In the playing fields 40-odd corvids rummaged with three Starlings, a Stock Dove flew over and the first of ten Great Tits was heard and seen. Up above circled 33 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and two Herring Gulls. An unseen Green Woodpecker teased us with its ‘yaffling’ somewhere on the woody hillside, with Blackbird, Magpie, Mistle Thrush, a Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, singing spring Wrens, Long-tailed Tit and Coal Tit. In the tall trees at the bottom, a Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen by all. The allotments across the river gave Blue Tit, Chaffinch and Song Thrush. Near the lake a Goldcrest’s song caught our attention swiftly followed by two Stock Doves hiding in the branches – a treat to see them so close. On the lake a Grey Heron fished among the urban waterfowl, with a couple of Muscovy Ducks. Two Collared Doves cooed and a Kingfisher flashed by, too fast for many. At this point a group photo was taken, now posted on the BOC’s Facebook. In the dried rushes was a Comma butterfly, with Peacock, Brimstone and Orange Tip all about. The return walk brought two more Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Jay and a couple of House Sparrows. It was a glorious sunny day, and very enjoyable. Thanks to Richard Scantlebury for leading, and Nick Hawkridge for the count. Robert Hargreaves

  • Sunday 10 April – Cleeve Hill Sunday April 10th, 2016

    Nine members met on a sunny but gusty morning for a walk around the high downland in a quest for Ring Ouzel. In the absence of a designated leader, Annie, the only person who had visited the area previously, led the walk. We were slow setting off from the car park with golfers teeing off over the car park entrance and in the direction of our path. Almost immediately we were lucky enough to see a Red Kite being mobbed by a crow. As we walked down an enclosed path bordered by hedge and small trees we saw a variety of birds including Robin, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Dunnock, Chiffchaff, Wren, Goldfinch, Blackbird and two Swallows. As we proceeded we had splendid views of Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Rook and a Raven. Once we reached the Washpool Valley we scanned carefully for possible Ring Ouzel or indeed any other spring migrants – but without success. However we did see Meadow Pipit, Sparrowhawk and a Buzzard. We also heard a Willow Warbler and Goldcrest. As it was such a lovely day the whole area was busy with families walking and lots of dog walkers and this probably didn’t help our search. It was a very windy walk over the higher downland back to the car park. Thank you to Annie for stepping up to lead the group. Sue Kempson

     

  • Tuesday 05 April –Elm Farm, Burnett Tuesday April 05th, 2016

    On a beautiful sunny, warm morning 26 members set off for a walk around Elm Farm where the land is managed under the Defra Environmental Stewardship Scheme. Recent changes to the scheme have seen the sowing of more wildflower meadows to enhance the insect populations for birds and also to provide seed later in the year. As we set off we saw Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits and a Pied Wagtail around the farm buildings. As walked across the fields we saw two Buzzards in the distance, a Kestrel, a solitary House Martin passed by and a Green Woodpecker was heard. The farm always has a good crop of Yellowhammers and this year was no exception and we had excellent views of 19 taking advantage of feed on a farm track accompanied by 25 Linnets and a single Brambling. As we skirted woodland a Nuthatch sang in the distance along with competing Blackcap. As we started back to the farm on the quiet lane a Jay was spotted and we had fine views of three Willow Warblers in the hedgerow. The walk ended with a Barn Swallow swerving between houses in the village as we approached the farmyard. Thanks to Roger Palmer for leading, Philippa Paget for explaining the management of the land and for arranging a lift for those who wanted to avoid the walk up the hill to Burnett. In all we saw 38 species on an enjoyable walk. Mark Watson

  • Saturday 02 April – Sand Point Saturday April 02nd, 2016

    Fourteen members met in the National Trust car park on a rather windy and cloudy start to the day. Early arrivals were rewarded with views of Raven, Kestrel, Swallows and the first of many sightings of Chiffchaff. Skylarks were singing in the adjacent fields. As we started our walk to Middle Hope we sighted a group of 14 Wheatears. On the rather exposed ground we saw a variety of birds including Meadow Pipit, many Blackbirds (sadly no Ring Ouzels amongst them), Pied Wagtail, Blue Tit, Stonechat and Chaffinch. As we continued our walk overlooking the sloping coastal edge we had excellent views of a pair of Blackcaps and many sightings of both Sand Martin and Swallow. Once we descended to the more sheltered coastal paths we spent some time observing a number of very active Chiffchaffs and Jane was able to identify a Willow Warbler. By now the sun was appearing and the light was vastly improved. We saw Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Linnet, Long-tailed Tit, more Blackcaps, Treecreeper, Goldcrest and a Cormorant. One keen-eyed member spotted a House Martin amongst more Swallows and Sand Martins. Half the group went on to walk out to Sand Point and saw a pair of Oystercatchers, a Curlew, Mallard, a male Bullfinch, Rock Pipit, Buzzard and a male Redstart. The earlier returnees had to content themselves with a Jay. Overall, a lovely walk with excellent scenic views in pleasant company and with good birding, 36 species in all. Many thanks to Jane for leading.

    Sue Kempson

  • Tuesday 29 March – Uphill Tuesday March 29th, 2016

    Ten members gathered at the Uphill Boatyard, on what turned out to be a bright sunny morning – despite the earlier rain and the forecast of more wet. We set off along a new tarmac path towards and past the lake where we saw a couple of Mallard. Lesser Black-backed and Herring gulls were overhead along with some noisy Jackdaws. A Sparrowhawk was seen flying overhead by some and Blue Tit, Great Tit and Chaffinch flitted about in the scrub that has been somewhat reduced in extent by the resurfaced path. A Greenfinch was heard but not seen whilst a Little Egret flew across the marsh. From the hill overlooking the marsh numerous Mute Swans and Shelducks were on the fields across the Axe, along with Teal and Gadwall. It was around high water when a flock of Redshank moved along the edge of the river and a solitary Oystercatcher foraged along the river edge. We were treated to an excellent view of a Stonechat perched on a fence post and the sound and sight of Skylarks high above and an obliging individual that lingered on a tussock. On the Bleadon Marsh we had clear views of two smart male Reed Buntings, one close by on the reeds. A Kestrel flew overhead in the distance and a Buzzard was mobbed by two Carrion Crows. As we returned to the car park a flock of about 50 Linnet flew by. The rain held off and the sun shone for most of the walk and we had a total of 33 species. Thanks to Jane for leading and organising the weather!

    Mark Watson

  • Tuesday 22 March – Lansdown, Bath. Tuesday March 22nd, 2016

    Thirty Three people gathered by Lansdown Racecourse above Bath on a still chilly day, to walk the high flat top and wooded escarpment sides of this Cotswold upland, with leader Jane Cumming hoping for late Golden Plovers and early Wheatears. As we set off, Skylarks and a Kestrel flew above the racecourse turf and a Mistle Thrush sat quietly on a roadside post. A large ploughed field hid a flock of 60 or more Chaffinches (mostly female) quietly feeding with a few Linnets. Adjacent woods held 20 plus Fieldfare, three or four Nuthatches (heard tapping), Goldcrest, Jay, Song Thrush and at the very far corner a Treecreeper. We entered Pipley Wood, a muddy tangled woodland on the hill slope with fallen trees left untouched. We saw three Siskins in low trees, more Nuthatches, and Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers. The wood opened to a magnificent view northwest across Bristol to the Severn. Buzzards patrolled the valley below, and hearing a Raven we saw two black birds on the flat top of majestic cedar that we thought might be Ravens nesting. We climbed out of the wood to meadows running south along the escarpment edge with views down to the Avon and Keynsham, Buzzards and Green Woodpeckers calling and flocks of wheeling Jackdaws. Back on top, with Kelston Tump and Beckford’s Tower in view, the large ploughed fields still didn’t reveal Golden Plover nor did their drystone boundary walls show any Wheatear. But Skylarks and their song surrounded us as we walked back across the racecourse, with the cawing of Rooks, all busy excavating the fields and reminding us it is spring. A total of 35 species, and thanks to Jane for leading.

    Lois Pryce

  • Sunday 13 March – Forest of Dean Sunday March 13th, 2016

    16 people met at New Fancy View on a beautiful sunny spring-like day. However, our arrival followed that of a large birding group from Gloucestershire. We amicably decided that the viewpoint was not big enough for both groups and so we left them to it and proceeded to Speech House. Walking to Crabtree Hill we were serenaded by Siskin, Dunnock, Nuthatch and a variety of tits, Coal being the most common. We had good views of all – as well as a Buzzard perched low in the trees. Arriving at Crabtree Hill we had excellent views of the Great Grey Shrike perched right on top of a tree and good views of a group of Stonechats. We continued on, in search of the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker but without success, sighting a single Great Spotted Woodpecker. On our return walk we had further views of the shrike and Ravens. We did meet the Gloucestershire bird group who gleefully described their wonderful views of Goshawk display when they arrived at the viewpoint. Lunch at Cannop Pond added Mandarin Duck, Coot, Moorhen, Little Grebe, Gadwall, Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, and Grey Wagtail to our list. Marsh Tits were seen on the feeders. We proceeded to the stone quarry in a further attempt to find Lesser Spotted Woodpecker but with no joy, but had lots of woodland bird activity. At 1500 hrs we were back at New Fancy where we had more lizard than bird activity and no sign of Goshawk – apparently all the activity had been mid-morning. Some members finished the day at Parkend and had perfect views of a Hawfinch. Despite the absence of Goshawk and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, this was a very enjoyable day. Thanks to Jane for leading.

    Sue Kempson

  • Saturday 05 March – Wareham Forest Saturday March 05th, 2016

    On a dry and sunny but cool, breezy morning, twelve people made the journey to Wareham Forest and met our leader for the walk – Ian Alexander of Natural England who knows the forest area well. Once assembled we saw Siskin, Stonechat and Mistle Thrush in the trees near Sherford Bridge and as we moved on towards a more open area of heath we passed Redwing, Goldfinch and Green Woodpecker among the trees. As we emerged onto the heath above Morden Bog, Moorhen and Mallard were on The Old Decoy Pond and we heard and saw four Curlews. As we walked slowly on, Dartford Warblers were heard and eventually we got good views of four or five birds on the gorse. Ian told us that earlier in the week he’d seen Woodlarks here but alas we did not hear or see them – the wind was cold and quite strong which probably kept them silent and down. We moved on into a delightful area of mature deciduous trees where a house once stood. Here we heard and saw more Goldcrest, numerous Blue and Long-tailed Tits, a Peregrine overhead and a passing Great Spotted Woodpecker. As we moved on, a Crossbill sat for some time on the top of a conifer giving good views; it eventually moved and, though we could hear it, we did not see it again. We continued our quest across open heath for more Dartford Warblers which we heard but the hoped for Woodlark was absent. On our return to the cars we saw Buzzard, several Greenfinch, Meadow Pipits, both Mistle and Song Thrush and heard a Raven. We decided to move on to Oakhill for lunch and then to see if the Great Grey Shrike reported there was about. Once again we were out of luck but did find a Grey Heron and a Treecreeper. After our return to the cars, Ian left with our thanks for an interesting morning enhanced by his local knowledge. Some of the party then moved onto Middlebere Farm and were rewarded with some excellent views of a Marsh Harrier, a Kestrel and a large flock of Brent Geese (800 plus) grazing a field on the way to the hide. Four Spoonbills were feeding along with Little Egret, Redshank, Curlew, a solitary Dunlin, and a likewise lonely Grey Plover. On the walk back to the car a Stonechat appeared along with more Dartford Warblers. An enjoyable day out, with 52 species noted. Mark Watson

  • Tuesday 01 March – Forest of Dean Tuesday March 01st, 2016

    The arrangement to start at Parkend at 1000 hrs was all rather last minute; however, it was rewarded with sightings of a couple of Hawfinch, which was brilliant. Finally getting to New Fancy View, a little after our time, we made the party up to a dozen. As we walked onto the viewing platform, the sun emerged, which prompted the Goshawk to fly; this was very gratifying, it being so early in their courting season. Ravens appeared, a couple of Buzzards circled, Song and Mistle Thrush sang, some Coal Tits called and a Great Spotted Woodpecker gave a couple of ‘chip chips’. We drove to Speech House, parked, and wandered down to the Beechenhurst picnic site where we had some nice views of Nuthatch on the way and most had views of Treecreeper. We flushed some Redwing, and as we walked back, a couple of Jays cackled. A pleasant lunch in the sun at Cannop Pond allowed us to study Marsh Tit and one Mandarin Duck. It was a pleasure to walk round all the ponds, with possibly an extra 20 odd Mandarin of both sexes, Greylag Goose, Tufted Duck, and some gorgeously coloured Little Grebe. At the end of the ponds the feeders were well stocked and had a couple of Siskin a-dangle, along with many of the usual tit species. At the run-off sluice, a pair of Grey Wagtails was in their usual place (must be a nest site), and at the finish more sightings of the Marsh Tit. We did try again for better views of the Hawfinch at Parkend at the end of day, but nothing doing. A total count of 39 was a good tally for the day. (Very many thanks Nick).

    Nick Hawkridge

  • Sunday 28 February –Chew Valley Lake Sunday February 28th, 2016

    Despite the bitter weather 12 of us met up at Herriott’s end. Still, two Cetti’s Warblers were singing and a Greylag and Barnacle Goose appeared to be courting. Over the back were Shelduck, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard and Tufted Duck. The lake was very full, bad for dabbling duck, so no Gadwall. We walked up to the ringing station where we were kindly invited in to see three birds being ringed: a Wren, a Chiffchaff and a Great Tit. A fallen feather from the Chiffchaff was sent to the BTO for DNA testing to see which race it belonged to –Siberian Chiffchaffs and other oddities can turn up in winter. We then toured the lake from Wick Green to Heron’s Green in 3 cars. At Wick Green a few Goldeneye, male and female, were seen, and Cormorant, Goldfinch and Redwing. Back round to Stratford hide for more Goldeneye and a Common Gull. A Peregrine flew fast over the hide, quickly to be followed by a Sparrowhawk challenging the wind to cross the lake. On leaving, a Grey Wagtail flew over the cars. The gate at Moreton had Long-tailed Tits but our visit to the hide was very short owing to the high water there. The reported Green Sandpiper was hiding from the cold. At Heron’s Green a few more Common Gull. By this time the north wind was chilling our bones and we called it a day. We had 43 species despite the weather. Our thanks to Chris Stone for leading the meeting at short notice, and to Jane Cumming for arranging access to the ringing station. Robert Hargreaves

     

  • Tuesday 23 February –Backwell Lake Tuesday February 23rd, 2016

    A party of 30 birders met in The Perrings, Nailsea for this four mile walk around Backwell Lake and out along Youngwood Lane to Chelvey, returning via Morgan’s Hill. The sunny morning, with little wind, meant that the smaller birds were singing and active. The thrush family was especially pleasing with two Song Thrush, Redwing, a Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush and plenty of Blackbirds. The lake held the usual suspects, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Moorhen, Coot, Mallards with two pairs of Pochard, Tufted Duck, and two Teal. The willows on the island held a Little Egret and a Grey Heron. Jane found an immature Common Gull with the Black-headed Gulls. Three of them had black heads ready for breeding. A Sparrowhawk was harassed by a corvid. Two Cormorants flew over, one of which was the European race. We walked up the little lane by Netcott meadows where a lucky few saw a Siskin. A male sat in a tree giving good views. Other highlights of our walk included a family of Grey Wagtails in the field with the horses and another two later on. There were several Jays, an active rookery and Ravens, along with a Green Woodpecker and Kingfisher. The species total was 42 for the group. (Thank you to Sue and John Prince for leading.) Sue Prince.

     

  • Tuesday 16 February –Bristol Harbourside Tuesday February 16th, 2016

    On a cold, but gloriously sunny morning 25 members gathered in Millennium Square. With so much disturbance on our pathdue to the construction of the Metrobus route and work on two of the bridges I thought that the birds might be absent. Happily I was proved wrong. The Cormorants were still using their favourite perch by Prince Street bridge and though a lot of vegetationhas been cleared beside the railway tracks there was still enough left to please numerous Goldfinches and some House Sparrows. About 20 Mute Swans were close to the Marina. There is no longer a resident breeding pair of swans in the Harbour so they don’t get driven away. A lone Canada Goose had joined them for the day. A Sparrowhawk was spotted over Brandon Hill. We then moved across to the New Cut and followed the chocolate path. Several Grey Wagtails and a Redshank were on the mud which was almost covered by the tide. A Pheasant appeared on the opposite bank -very unusual for this location. Someone spotted footprints in the mud. Photographs were sent to “Otter Gill” who confirmed that they were otter prints. We were very lucky. (I went to look again two days later and there was no sign.) There was also a dead gull with two rings. The number was rather indistinct and unfortunately the BTO was unable to give any information on it. A Common Sandpiper flew up by the Ashton Swingbridge and a Buzzard was seencircling over Ashton Court. One or two people spotted a Peregrine flying over. Black-headed, Herring and Lesser Black-backed gulls were added to the list. The group divided and Nick led the energetic ones up and over Brandon Hill where they added a few passerines and some Redwings. The rest of us took the waterside route and found Moorhens by the ferry walkway, making a total of 30 species. (Thank you for leading Margaret) Margaret Gorely

  • Sunday 14 February –River Exe coach trip Sunday February 14th, 2016

    Thirty club members travelled down to Devon for ourannual walk down the River Exe. On arriving at our drop-off spot at Exminster, we found that many of the fields on the RSPB reserve were flooded due to the recent heavy rainfall in Devon, but we made our way down the lane (through the flooded road) to theTurf Hotel at Powderham. Many wildfowl were seen on our way down: Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Pintail, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Mute Swan, Little Grebe, Canada Geese, Barnacle Geese. A couple of members had a Water Rail walk across a gateway as they were looking into the fields, then we picked out a Peregrine sitting on the nearby pylon watching the prey below. Waders included many Curlew, Redshank, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwits, Golden Plover and Oystercatchers. Some Redwing and Fieldfare were still in the fields with Cetti’s Warbler singing in the hedgerow. Brent Geese were in large numbers although a good search failed to locate the reported Black Brant. A coastguard helicopter flew over and the geese took to the air flying over us calling -what a splendid sight and sound. At the Turf Hotel, even though we were an hour after high tide the river was still very high, presumably flood water making its way down-river, which meant no Avocets could be located. They were probably sitting on Bowling Green Marsh on theother side of the river. We did however pick up Red-breasted Merganser and Turnstone, and our walk down to Powderham church to meet the coach did produce Stonechat, Little Egret and Buzzard. Having had lunch we moved on to Dawlish Warren where we found Common Scoter, Guillemot and many Great Crested Grebe on the sea. Moving on to Warren Point and the shelter of the hide we picked out Grey Plover, many more Red-breasted Merganser, Slavonian Grebe, Shag, Stonechat and Linnets. On our coach trip back homea few lucky members on the right side of the coach had views of a Barn Owl quartering fields on the Powderham estate. My thanks to all who travelled. The weather was kind – dry, sunny although cool – and it was an enjoyable day’s birding with a count of around 70 species. (Thanks to Gordon for leading.) Gordon Youdale

     

  • Tuesday 09 February –Greylake Tuesday February 09th, 2016

    Thirteen members met at Greylake on a cold but fine and dry morning. In the car park we had a good start, immediately seeing Dunnock, Reed Bunting, and many Great Tit and Blue Tit along with Goldfinch and Chaffinch. As we set off around the reed beds numerous Starlings were on the ground feeding along with some Fieldfares. Wood Pigeons flew overhead and Stock Doves were also seen. A flock of over 100 Snipe flew over providing a wonderful sight and about 150 Golden Plovers followed and a smaller flock of Lapwings. A Kestrel was perched in a nearby tree and kept us company for a short time. In the distance a Marsh Harrier flew over the wetland and we later saw a pair from the hide. Large numbers of duck including Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall and Mallard were on the water, as well as Coot. Water Rails were heard but not seen, and Black-tailed Godwit were spotted in the distance. Access to the hide included a short, shallow water feature to cross and some returned to the car park at this stage. Other species seen included Little Egret, Jay, Bullfinch, Peregrine, Buzzard and Redwing. In the afternoon a few went on the find the Common Cranes and were rewarded with 12 in view along a rhyne bank viewed from the very wet bank of the River Parrett at Staithe. In total 44 species were seen. (Many thanks to Mark for leading.) Mark Watson

     

     

  • Sunday 07 February –West Sedgemoor Sunday February 07th, 2016

    Dewlands Farm was our gathering point for this visit to RSPB West Sedgemoor and as the cars arrived our numbers gradually swelled to 14. Local volunteer, Nigel Smith, led us out in cold, damp conditions and gave us a brief summary of the background to the reserve. By the time we approached the viewing barn the weather was beginning to improve and we had seen and heard a good variety of passerines in the hedgerows. The flooded fields in front of the barn were packed with wildfowl and telescopes were soon picking out Wigeon, Pintail, Shoveler,Gadwall and Teal. Nigel’s more experienced eyes located two distant Cranes which everyone was able to see in his scope, and later an equally distant Peregrine. Large flocks of birds were also criss-crossing in the sky at regular intervals and we were ableto pick out Golden Plover as well as Lapwing and Starlings, stirred up by a passing Marsh Harrier. One small group of Pintails gave particularly frequent fly-bys, giving good views of their distinctive angular silhouette. Sharp eyes in the group also picked out a Stonechat, which proved difficult to spot as it flicked from one perch to another, but a Kingfisher was much more obliging, remaining for an extended time on the railings by a sluice. By this time the light was excellent and its colours showed well in the sunshine. Both Whooper and Bewick’s Swans had been reported that week near Burrow Mump, so we moved on to the car-park there to see if we could find them. Plenty of Mute Swans were visible and very distantly near Pathe were some swans with definite yellow rather than orange bills. They were too far away to be sure of identification, so we moved to Aller Drove in the hope of closer views, but unfortunately they were hidden by hedges from this angle. A lone Kestrel took our total species list for theday over the 40 mark and the group then split, with some moving on to Greylake and the rest returning to Bristol. All in all this was a splendid morning’s birding, with an impressive panorama of wildfowl on display. Many thanks to Nigel for hosting us at West Sedgemoor. Giles Morris

     

  • Tuesday 02 February – Coalpit Heath Tuesday February 02nd, 2016

    Wrens and Robins trilling, Daffodils and Primroses flowering, green shoots in hedgerows… Spring must be on the way, we thought optimistically. Certainly the sun shone all morning -albeit the wind was chilly -and birdlife was abundant. Before our 21-strong group left the Kendleshire Golf Course, led by Duncan and Pat Gill, we noted a Redwing in a hedge, three Bullfinches atop an Ash tree, five Black-headed Gulls, Robin, Blackbird, Coot, Mallard, Greenfinch (heard), a flock of Long-tailed Tits, Treecreeper and Goldcrest. Then came a Herring Gull “paddling” (Nick’s description) on the mown grass, apparently seeking worms. A Buzzard flew from a green (no golfers present to admire it), then leaving the golf course we saw a Mistle Thrush and Sparrowhawk while we walked down the lane. A flock of 30 Redwings with a few Fieldfares were gorging themselves on windfall apples, and a Jay flew past. After our coffee stop, things were quiet as we walked along the Dramway, but we did see two Buzzards. Then came the highlight as we stopped for a while to watch activity in a hedge which was alive with up to a dozen Yellowhammers, large flocks of Chaffinches and two Goldfinches. It was a delight to see the colour of the Yellowhammers glowing in the sunshine like a beacon. There was constant movement in the hedge as the birds made frequent forays to feed in the stubble field where there were also 200-plus Rooks.In all, 36 species (thanks for the count, Nick). John Beaven

     

  • Tuesday 26 January – Failand Tuesday January 26th, 2016

    Nine hardy people turned up on this very wet and windy day. The terrain was boggy in places but the aspects were nice and in more clement weather would be excellent. We had a sheltered coffee stop in a convenient open-sided barn. Just after this, along and to the left of the path, was a large meadow/field, whose top edge held a flock of 40 Fieldfare and twelve Starling, feeding using the jump over method – as your neighbour walks forward feeding you fly over him to start your feeding, repeat. Most of the birds we saw were either flushed by our passing (Redwing, Blackbird, Dunnock) or were on feeders (Coal, Great and Blue Tit). The Buzzard and the Jackdaw we saw, seemed to be rather enjoying the wind – shooting upward, pausing in the updraft, and then ‘close wing’ descents, it looked exhilarating. Twenty one species noted, the nine of us feeling “refreshed” from our airy walk. Very many thanks to Bill and Maureen for leading (and managing a smile when we turned up)! Nick Hawkridge

  • Saturday 23 January – Marshfield Saturday January 23rd, 2016

    Eighteen people met on a mild dry day to walk past Castle Farm on a circuit of small back roads. We managed to see many of the classic Cotswolds uplands winter birds one might hope for: scattered Yellowhammers, up to fifty Corn Buntings, sixteen Golden Plover, two Lapwing, a handful of Red-legged Partridges, and a few Skylarks singing. In the rather poor light, Jane helped us recognize Golden Plover in flight by their close formation wheeling together, their sharply pointed wings and their pale undersides. Of note we also saw Redwing, Fieldfare, Mistle and Song Thrush, four Stonechats, large flocks of Jackdaws constantly passing overhead, five Buzzards and one Kestrel. As usual we looked for Little Owls and didn’t find them – we each seem to know one tumbledown building in this area where someone USED to see them! A total of 34 species. Thanks to Jane Cumming for leading.
    Lois Pryce

  • Tuesday 19 January – Bridgeyate Tuesday January 19th, 2016

    It was a beautiful winter’s morning as 16 members set out from Bridgeyate. Although cold it was pleasant in the sunshine so we were all looking forward to a good morning’s birding. In the car park and on the first part of the walk through a modern housing estate we started our list with a number of common species which included Starling, Jackdaw, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Pied Wagtail. As we left the houses a Jay gave us a fleeting, but nice view and approaching a brook some of the group saw a Grey Wagtail. We also saw a small party of Long-tailed Tits with a total of 17 for this species by the end of the walk. We crossed the A420 and walked along the Warmley Forest Trail. Not far along the trail we had ten to fifteen minutes of excellent birding. Firstly, we found a group of Siskin feeding at the top of a couple of Alders and then a little further on a second group, making a total of about 20. We met up with a member who was birding on his own who mentioned that there were Lesser Redpolls around and sure enough within a couple of minutes we had good views of a pair. We also saw three Bullfinches with the two males looking particularly striking in the sunlight. At one point there appeared to be Bullfinches everywhere and we had a total of twelve. To finish off this brilliant period we saw two Goldcrests one of which gave a very good close up view. Later on we saw a single Redwing, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Buzzard and a very nice view of a Sparrowhawk which flew fairly low, directly over our heads. To complete the morning’s birding we added Black-headed Gull, Pheasant, Mistle Thrush, Raven and some of us heard a Green Woodpecker. This was a very enjoyable walk which had some real highlights and it was certainly worth negotiating some quite heavy mud, as well as a couple of tricky stiles. We had a final total of 34 species. Thanks to Nick for keeping the list and to David Body for leading such a successful walk. Mike Landen

     

  • Tuesday 12 January – Between Chew and Blagdon Lakes Tuesday January 12th, 2016

    On a fine but very cold and blustery morning 29 walkers met at Heron’s Green on the west side of CVL. The lake held Mute Swan, Coot, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Great Crested Grebe and a male Goldeneye. Crossing the road we found a small party of Long-tailed Tits in the rough vegetation by Heron’s Green pool. We walked up the lanes past the farms to Breach Hill where we had marvellous views of Blagdon Lake. The highlights were at least four sightings of Bullfinches. There were also Wren, Robin, Blackbird, Blue and Great Tit. Five swans flying towards Blagdon Lake were identified as Bewick’s Swans. We stopped at the entrance to Blagdon Lake where Teal called in the flooded areas. There were peanuts hung up at the Ubley Hatchery where we enjoyed a Nuthatch and two Coal Tits feeding alongside the Blue and Great Tits. On the way back to CVL along two miles of lane we saw Redwing, Fieldfare and nine Little Egrets in a field. A Goldcrest gave us really close views in the hedge. Our final species total was 42. This included a Buzzard, a possible Peregrine and a Cetti’s Warbler was heard.

    The weather was kind and it did not start to rain until we were nearly back at the cars. (Thanks to John and Sue Prince for leading.) Sue Prince

  • Tuesday 05 January – Pensford Tuesday January 05th, 2016

    Twelve members met on a dry overcast morning. From the car park on the adjoining field were some Common and Herring Gulls accompanied by two Mistle Thrushes. A Song Thrush was calling nearby with Blue, Great Tits and a Cormorant flew overhead. As we made our way through the village it was very satisfying to find a great number of House Sparrows. Into our first field it became very evident that the ground would be very muddy and so it proved – all the way round. A Goldcrest was seen by a number of people, and then a single Redwing on a bush was seen by most people – eventually. Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Coal Tit were noted in an isolated tree, and later a Buzzard sitting in another tree giving everyone good views, with, close by, a flock of Fieldfares behind, on other trees. At our coffee stop a flight of 40/50 Lapwings was seen at a distance. At Nutgrove Farm a lone Pied Wagtail was spied on an old field roller, and a Jay, a Nuthatch, and two Raven were seen at Compton Common. The River Chew only gave us Moorhen and Mallard and at Publow Church a flock of Long-tailed Tits flitting around the trees, where finally a lone Treecreeper was noted making its way from tree to tree by the river. We also saw Robins and Blackbirds all the way round. A total of 35 species seen and heard. (Thanks for leading Geoff). Geoff Harris

  • Friday 01 January – Slimbridge Friday January 01st, 2016

    We had a lucky break in the weather which was generally fine until the end, when rain arrived. Allowing for early arrivals and late-comers 30 members gathered for the walk. We trooped off to the Holden Tower and hides adjacent to the Tack piece to enjoy the ‘feast’ of birds before us. A large flock of Lapwings and Golden Plover were frequently ‘spooked’ and, sure enough, a Peregrine was soon seen out on the edge of the Dumbles. It must have been responsible for the flights. Other waders included Black-tailed Godwits, Curlew, Redshank and Dunlin. A few Ruff were present too, but more difficult to pin down. A small flock of White-fronted Geese were spread out beyond the waders and ducks (see below) and we managed to sort out the few Greenland race amongst them. There was also a scattering of Canada, Greylag and Barnacle Geese as well as Bewick’s Swans. Ducks included Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, Pintail, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Pochard and we also found the three Scaup outside Peter Scott’s House! Before that a lovely Sparrowhawk gave prolonged views as it sat on a fence post just below the tower. It was, no doubt, looking for lesser fry and we did encounter a number of passerines – Blue and Great Tits, Robin, Wren, Pied and Grey Wagtail, Dunnock, Starling, Goldfinch and Chaffinch. Other notables included Little and Great Crested Grebe, Little Egret and Grey Heron, Water Rail, Cetti’s Warbler and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Oh, and I almost forgot – Buzzard! I’ve mentioned only about two-thirds of the 60 species noted. A splendid start to the year! Thanks to Judy Copeland for organising the lunch and I usually get thanked for leading, although I am often the one who is led! Robin Prytherch

  • Tuesday 29 December – Severn Beach Tuesday December 29th, 2015

    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

     

     

  • Tuesday 22 December – Snuff Mills. Tuesday December 22nd, 2015

    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

  • Tuesday 15 December – Newton St Loe Tuesday December 15th, 2015

    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

  • Sunday 13 December – Portland & Lodmoor Sunday December 13th, 2015

    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

     

  • Tuesday 08 December – Portishead Tuesday December 08th, 2015

    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

  • Tuesday 01 December – Shapwick Heath/Ham Wall Tuesday December 01st, 2015

    On a dry and mild afternoon 21 members gathered at Shapwick Heath/Ham Wall to see what was around and hopefully catch the Starlings coming in to roost. Bob Buck had kindly agreed to lead as Mike Johnson was unable to make it and Bob was ably assisted by John Crispin. The Starlings were roosting on the Ham Wall side so we set off in that direction. Initially Goldfinch, Tits, House Sparrows and Collared Doves flew by and on the first water a Great White Egret was standing away in the distance. Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls passed over and a Cetti’s Warbler and Water Rail were heard. A collection of ducks including Mallard, Shoveler, Wigeon, Gadwall and Tufted Duck were on the pools along with Canada and Greylag Geese as we visited the new Avalon hide. A fleeting glance of a Kingfisher was seen by some, along with a Reed Bunting and Stonechat. In the far distance a Buzzard passed by and two Marsh Harriers flew over the reed beds. The Starlings started to arrive as dusk crept up and we were treated to huge numbers crossing overhead and falling to their roost away across the reed beds. Some groups swirled impressively before landing. This went on for 20 minutes or so – a marvellous sight. Thanks to Bob and John who volunteer for RSPB on Ham Wall for their time and knowledge. In total we saw 45 species. Mark Watson

  • Tuesday 24 November – Cheddar Reservoir Tuesday November 24th, 2015

    It was grey and windy with such choppy water, how were we to see the waterfowl? A good crowd (22) of dedicated watchers saw most of the birds on offer. As rain had fallen, the way across the moor was bound to be wet – twelve chose this way with me and the others stayed on the reservoir rim with Sue & John and Jane. We got onto Middle Moor Lane and then Stubbingham Drove where the call of Fieldfare was heard, the ‘caw’ of Rooks, and the ‘crackle’ of Pheasant. A mystery call was heard and a large winged bird disappeared into the trees- alas, the one that got away. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flashed from tree to tree and a Green Woodpecker disappeared into the scrub before reappearing again in a field where the boundary hedges were thick with Starlings, Fieldfare, and a few Redwing. We proceeded along the Cheddar Yeo where a couple of Little Grebes dived and swam, and back up Ellenge Stream (a previously seen Otter didn’t reappear!) and into Axbridge. Plenty of local songsters on offer in the village, a Grey Wagtail just by Walnut Farm, and Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Bullfinch recorded , plus a small party of Long-tailed Tits – so plenty to watch. We went back onto the tank rim to view the ducks. A dozen Gadwalls, many ‘Heinz 57′ Mallards, Tufted, a few Wigeon, a good few Pochards and many, many Coot, but alas the Red-crested Pochard were not in our sight. How fortunate that the rim walkers recorded 36 species including three we had not seen- Red-crested Pochard, Meadow Pipit, and Song Thrush, bringing the total up to a credible 51. (Thanks to Sue & John and Jane for leading the tank rim party and to Nick for being in charge overall.) Nick Hawkridge

     

  • Saturday 21 November – Steart Marshes Saturday November 21st, 2015

    17 Members gathered in the new WWT Steart Marshes car park on a crisp, clear, sunny but extremely cold and very windy Saturday morning. We were met by two friendly assistant WWT wardens, Joe and Chloe, who gave us a brief but very informative overview of the 500 hectare site with its myriad salt and freshwater lagoons and its ever changing tidal coastal marsh at the frontier of Bridgwater Bay. We set off along the wetland walkway on our way to the very spacious Mendip hide, spotting a Stonechat on a fence post en route. Numerous small groups of thrushes flew over, mainly Fieldfares. The windows in the new hide were very swish, stiff to open but held up by hydraulic rams. There were some good screens outside which allowed clear views across the lagoons. Some of the many wintering Shelduck were feeding on the exposed mud and there was a lone Little Egret on the far bank and a Curlew plodded across the mud. There were lots of Lapwing and we had the first of many sightings of flocks of Dunlin dazzling us with their fluttering semaphore flight, wheeling around showing dark then snow white plumage sparkling in the sunshine, enough to confuse any marauding raptor. Our group then split into two, some walking out to the coast to see the breach site and the rest going to the other adjacent hide overlooking small lagoons, hosting more Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit and lots of duck including Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon and Mallard. There was also a good view of a solitary Snipe. Not too many birds were seen out on the edge of the saltmarsh and estuary, more Dunlin, a Redshank and overflying Shelduck. A flyover Stock Dove and lots of Meadow Pipits, a Skylark, two Pied Wagtails and a Grey Heron showed well on the walk back to the hide where the two groups came back together. A Kestrel sheltered on the far bank from the stiff breeze.

    After lunch we drove to the Natural England car-park in Steart village for the second part of the visit. In the car park numerous House Sparrows and a few Blue and Great Tits showed well. From here Brian Gibbs and Brian Hill from the Somerset Ornithological Society led us on the northern path overlooking the marshes and the breach area. Unfortunately, it was a neap tide so at high water there was more mud than water and therefore not many waders had been driven off the estuary. There were still lots of good birds to see including Ruff and Redshank with a single Spotted Redshank amongst them, but these were distant birds and a scope was essential. This was a wonderful day out at this exciting new WWT site, which will adapt and change greatly over the next few years as the habitat responds to its new tidal life, slowly being colonised by salt tolerant plants. Thanks to Joe and Chloe and the two Brians for showing us around and to Nick Hawkridge for keeping the list which consisted of 48 species seen or heard. Rob Miles

  • Tuesday 17 November – Uphill and Bleadon Levels Tuesday November 17th, 2015

    With storm Barney predicted to drown us or blow us off a cliff, I rather hoped that no-one would turn up. In the event four mad people were waiting at my parking place – and six more at the official meeting place which I’d failed to notice in Club News! They were right to give it a go; apart from a couple of sharp showers, the worst weather came through only after lunch. It was mild and overcast, but mainly dry, as we walked past the cliff by the sailing club (noting two Dabchicks on the lake) and slowly on through a line of bushes heaving with thrushes and finches. The numbers flitting about and feeding on the blackberries suggested that many of them could be recent winter visitors from the continent, perhaps travelling ahead of the threatening storm. A flock of 250 Woodpigeons were also likely to be visitors passing through. From the hillside overlooking the salt marshes we counted a flock of 100 plus Lapwings and were delighted to see a late (or wintering) Common Sandpiper flitting down the pill and landing on a mud bank to provide a better view. Mute Swans and a few Redshanks moved about as the tide rose but astonishingly we failed to find a single Little Egret all morning! 15Teal sat quietly along the pill with a few Mallard. Black-headed Gull numbers were pushing a hundred but we saw only a handful of Herring and Lesser Blacked-backed Gulls. Passerines included Fieldfares and Redwings, Stonechats, at least ten Skylarks, a large flock of Linnets and some Reed Buntings. A Cetti’s Warbler sang explosively and so close to us that it made me jump. We watched a Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk and some noticed a Buzzard being harassed by a Raven. Back at our starting point, we walked down to the main beach to add to our list Grey Heron, the expected Shelducks, and waders including Oystercatchers, Curlews, Dunlins and Ringed Plovers. In total, eleven walkers saw 49 species and had a better morning than we expected. (Jane, thanks for leading) Jane Cumming

     

  • Tuesday 10 November – East Harptree Tuesday November 10th, 2015

    This was a circular walk of about four miles, for which seven hardy souls made an appearance, even though rain was forecast for all day; in fact we had no rain whatsoever! At the start a Buzzard was heard mewing and we had good sightings of Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, and Wren, with three or four calling Nuthatches. Further on at the entrance to a field, a flock of at least 30 Chaffinches were spread across in front of us, along with Goldfinch feeding off the thistles, and a good sprinkling of Blackbirds – all male. During the walk three or four flocks of 15-20 Redwings were seen and at our coffee stop a small group of Long-tailed Tits flitted by; we also saw a Kestrel and some Starlings. To our surprise we saw both a Red Admiral and a Gatekeeper butterfly. Towards the end of the walk a Buzzard put in an appearance and a Raven was heard calling, and right at the end we were treated to a Treecreeper. Other species seen included Dunnock, House Sparrow, Herring and Lesser Black-blacked Gulls. A total of 25 species were seen or heard. (Thanks go to Geoff for leading). Geoff Harris

  • Sunday 08 November – Blagdon Lake Sunday November 08th, 2015

    I had a fun visit with eleven BOC members, during which we saw some nice birds with a total of over 50 species. Sheila Ablitt spotted an adult drake Red-crested Pochard close to the boat quay by the Lodge, and we saw the adult female, found the day before, off the east end of Green Lawn as well. As we headed along the south side of the lake we spotted a Black-necked Grebe off Rugmoor Point, a group of Common Goldeneye between Rainbow and Rugmoor Points and a juvenile Greater Scaup in Wood Bay, where there was also an adult drake Ferruginous x Common Pochard hybrid. At Top End we found two Dunlin, four plus Little Egrets, two Great White Egrets and ten Bewick’s Swans. I noted that one of the adults had a darvic ring ‘white BCL’, and looking through my database, found out it was a cob named ‘Winkey’. He has been coming to the lake since 2003, first with partner ‘Tinkie’ and latterly with new mate ‘Winker’. Those were the highlights, but there were something like 5000 water birds on the lake which made for a great day’s birding. During the walk we spotted a late Migrant Hawker still on the wing; my latest record at the lake in the past is 12 November 2011. (Many thanks for leading, Nigel.) Nigel Milbourne

     

  • Tuesday 03 November – Portbury Tuesday November 03rd, 2015

    A very dull day greeted the 21 participants for the annual hike around Portbury reserve. The future of the reserve was in people’s minds as it ceases to be managed by AWT and passes to North Somerset council. However, back to the birds. Sadly, the Little Owls are no longer in the ruined barn at the top of Wharf Lane. From the track that leads to the first hide a fox was sighted and from the hide Gadwall and Coot were on the scrapes. The second hide always provides the best viewing. Wigeon were plentiful along with Teal, Little Grebe and Shoveler, and on the island Lapwing, Cormorant and a lone Snipe (very hard to see as it was having a nap, head under its wing). In the track side bushes were flocks of Long-tailed Tits, Redwing and Goldfinch and from the Tower hide Dunlin, Redshank and Curlew were along the shore line. It was from the Tower hide that one of our keen eyed observers got a brief glimpse of a Yellow-browed Warbler. Definitely the star tick of the day. Skylark were seen from the sea bank and a Treecreeper in some willow trees, and in the field hedgerows Bullfinch and Goldcrest brought a good morning’s birding to an end with an excellent total of 50 species. (Thanks for leading, Roger.)  Roger Hawley

  • Saturday 31 October – Oldbury Power Station Saturday October 31st, 2015

    About 25 members gathered at the car park. After early mist it became a beautiful autumn day with scenery to match, the colours of autumn giving a backdrop to our circuit of the grounds. We saw just over 50 different species during the four hours. Some of the highlights among the trees and hedgerows were Bullfinches (seven in total with one flight of four) and good views of a Green Woodpecker. Redwings and Fieldfares flew over and Skylarks were seen over the dried up lagoon (two of them were having a quarrel and gave us a good display). There were also Stonechats. In the surrounding fields were a number of Carrion Crows and Ravens were seen and heard. Although the tide was high and there was not much mud bank showing, we saw a number of waders at a distance. These included flocks of Dunlin, Curlew and Redshank giving us displays with the two Severn bridges as a back ground along with a large flock of Lapwing. On the river there were also Teal, Wigeon and Mallard and on a distant buoy a party of Turnstones were waiting for the tide to recede. As we walked through the woods, we had a close up of a soaring Buzzard over the tree tops. Other birds of prey were a Peregrine and a juvenile Kestrel. Towards the end of the walk we added Little Egret, Little Grebe, Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, Coot and Moorhen at the open pond. Just beyond we finally caught up with a Reed Bunting. It was good to visit a place with such a variety of habitat – and therefore a variety of species. Thank you, Andy Middleton, for leading the group and everyone for joining in bird spotting and identification. The visit was much appreciated.
    Philippa Boyland

  • Tuesday 27 October – Dolebury Warren. Tuesday October 27th, 2015

    Fourteen members set off from Churchill with a wary eye on the overcast weather for a walk around Dolebury Warren. As we walked up the lane and down through a wood to cross the A38 we saw and heard House Sparrow, Wood Pigeon and Great Tit. On the way uphill to Dolebury Warren there were more tits including Blue Tit and Long-tailed Tit along with Chaffinch on feeders and flitting in the woodland. Several Wrens were also heard and numerous Robin singing loudly. Towards the end of the woodland two Jay were seen and heard and a Treecreeper was on the Ash trees. Out on the Iron Age hill fort Carrion Crow and Magpies flew by and as we climbed towards the highest part of the fort two Raven appeared. Goldfinch was in the trees and scrub and numerous Jackdaw were on the Limestone grassland. As we turned to return to Churchill a flock of Meadow Pipit flew nearby and shortly after Redwing and Fieldfare were seen. A Kestrel briefly passed by and a lone Stonechat was spotted on a Blackthorn bush. A few Herring Gull flew overhead just before we walked downhill back to the A38. The rain largely held off bar a couple of showers and a total of 24 species were seen. Mark Watson

  • Tuesday 20 October – Clevedon Tuesday October 20th, 2015

    An impressive 33 walkers turned up at the Salthouse Inn to start our walk over Wains Hill, down the coast, around the golf course past Dowlais Farm, and back along the Pill. We began by admiring the historic look-out point half way up the hill, then checked a sheltered copse beside the church, one of the better areas for passerine migrants – no luck. On to the beach to count four Ringed Plovers, 14 Oystercatchers and 17 Curlews, along with Shelducks, Mallard and a single Redshank. Some very distant ducks on the sea were probably just Wigeon after all! But the most impressive find was a Common Seal, by no means so common in the estuary. Strolling on, we watched a Stonechat, a Grey Heron and a couple of Little Egrets. The single Wheatear on the sea wall was a very tardy migrant. On the inland leg, a Kingfisher was seen by the fastest walkers, a Buzzard and a Peregrine by the slowest, lagging some 15 minutes behind them. But we all made it back eventually with a total of 46 species on this fine sunny morning. (Thanks to Jane for leading.) Jane Cumming

  • Sunday 18 October – Migration watch Sunday October 18th, 2015

    There were good conditions for the migration watch as it was overcast but dry with light winds. The chart and descriptions below show the impressive numbers and variety of birds recorded this year. The chart is interesting in that it shows the typical distribution of birds through the morning, quickly rising to a peak before falling away between 10 – 11am. Many thanks to all the leaders and members who supported the watches.

    Severn Bridge service station – 07.30 to 09.00

    The conditions were cool, with a light NE breeze, and low cloud. The Baltic area was already cold, but the viewing conditions meant that the small groups appeared out of the murk briefly when almost above us, and vanished almost as fast. Identification was largely based on shape and size, as very few identifiable flight calls were heard, though this in part was influenced by the age of the leader. Between 7.45 and 9.00 we observed 47 parties with an average of 12 birds, of which almost all were finches, almost certainly Chaffinches, and almost all were flying north into the wind. The overall rate was 450/hour, with a maximum of 744/hr between 8.30 and 9.00. This is much the largest passage that we have observed in the last five years. The only other birds observed were a small group of Starlings and another that were thought to be Redwings. There were also two Peregrines on the bridge buttress- one of which brought in and ate a kill. Richard Bland

     

  • Sunday 11 October – Portland Sunday October 11th, 2015

    Eleven club members met at Ferrybridge in a cool breeze to study the birds on the end of The Fleet. The highlights for me were the 25 Mediterranean Gulls having only seen them in ones and twos before. Also in attendance were 500 Black-bellied Brent Geese, four Red-breasted Merganser (the first report of the autumn on this site) and some waders – Sanderling, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Turnstone and Ringed Plover. There followed a drive to the Lighthouse on Portland for a sea watch (quiet – just Gannet, Shag and Rock Pipit) before a walk round to the Bird Observatory via the quarry. Two Wheatears were seen near the chalets and one lucky member had a good view of the resident Little Owl which unfortunately popped back between the stones before the rest of the group arrived. The Observatory gardens provided Stonechat, Goldcrest and other common warblers before we went to the usual lunch spot at the Southwell Industrial Estate. Here the same (not so) lucky member managed to lock the car keys in the boot so had to wait for the AA while the rest of the party went to search a bush for a Yellow-browed Warbler with limited success. A further two sites were visited with failed searches for Wryneck and Ring Ouzel before the day ended with two juvenile Swallows. Overall 41 species were seen. Thanks to Jane for leading. Keith Williams

  • Tuesday 06 October – Upton Cheney/Swineford Tuesday October 06th, 2015

    A group of 13 ‘hardy souls’ set out from Upton Cheyney in pouring rain. It did not look very promising for birding but we soon got our morning’s list started with Blue and Great Tits on a garden feeder and a Starling and Chaffinches were seen in the same area. A Thrush was seen flying and quickly identified as a Redwing which was the first of this autumn for the Tuesday walk. By this time the weather was improving and we soon had a nice rainbow to lift our spirits and, apart from a few very light showers, the rest of the morning was very pleasant and decidedly warm in the October sunshine. We soon added Long-tailed Tit (approximately 25 were seen during the walk), Wood Pigeon, Carrion Crow, Robin and Buzzard with a large number of Jackdaws seen over and around the church tower. We saw Collared Dove and Blackbird and some had a good view of the first of three or four Jays with one having an acorn in its bill. A small flock of about 40 Black-headed Gulls flew over and two Goldcrests were heard and then seen. After walking along the Bristol to Bath cycle path we took a footpath along the River Avon. Two or three of our group were fortunate to see a Kingfisher and we also added Kestrel, Yellowhammer and Skylark. A Green Woodpecker was heard and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen briefly. Towards the end of the walk a Chiffchaff was heard and Thrushes were spotted in a dead tree; three were identified as Mistle Thrush and one as a Song Thrush. There were also two Greenfinches in the same tree. It was a much more enjoyable morning’s walk then we envisaged when we set off and we managed a total of 28 species. Thanks to Nick Hawkridge for keeping a record of species seen and to David Body for leading.

    Mike Landen

     

  • Tuesday 29 September – Hawkesbury Upton Tuesday September 29th, 2015

    This is one of our most popular Cotswold walks so, on a perfect Autumn day, it was no surprise it attracted a big turn-out – 28 members. We set off from the Beaufort Arms car park in warm sunshine, soon noting Collared Dove on a rooftop, Jackdaw, Blackbird, House Sparrows and a flock of 30 Starling. As we walked past fields of stubble we saw a Kestrel flying from bush to bush – the first of three Kestrels seen – then a solitary Yellowhammer on a telegraph wire, its colours showing well in the sunshine. A pair of Pied Wagtail and a Meadow Pipit in a field were followed by a Buzzard atop a post, seemingly trying to disguise itself as part of the post. Three Skylark were singing lustily as they rose from the stubble and some of us saw a Hare jumping over a bale of straw. Half a dozen migratory Swallows were heading south. After coffee stop, the list grew steadily as we noted female Chaffinch, a singing Wren, Great Tit and Chiffchaff. A Comma butterfly was sun-bathing on a bush and a Robin sang its wistful autumn tune. Other notable sightings were a fly-over by four Greenfinch, a Goldcrest in an Ash tree, and a flock of Linnet. Total species, 30. Thank you, Peter, for leading and Nick for taking the count. John Beaven

     

  • Sunday 27 September – Clevedon to Kingston Pill Sunday September 27th, 2015

    Eight members assembled outside Clevedon Cemetery on a beautiful “blue-sky” morning, ready for a walk along the coast to Kingston Pill as the tide started to recede. Our leader, Jason Williams, quickly spotted a Nuthatch in the cemetery closely followed by very good views of a Goldcrest, a flock of mixed tits, a Chiffchaff and Swallow; and all before we had reached Clevedon Pill. A large roost of Black-headed Gulls and a few Shelduck were noted but the sight of a Kingfisher in flight and a flock of 25 Cormorants overhead were highlights. A very obliging Rock Pipit, several Reed Buntings and more Swallows were seen as we approached the sluice gates at Blind Yeo where a Grey Wagtail was spotted. From here on there were many Meadow Pipits, small flocks of Linnets and Goldfinches, some Skylarks but only one Wheatear. A lone Buzzard and a variety of corvids, including a Raven, were observed. A Sparrowhawk flew along the hedge causing mayhem by setting up the smaller birds and four Lapwings. Along the coast, small flocks of Turnstones, Dunlin and Oystercatchers rose and settled frequently in the company of Curlew, two Black-tailed Godwits and a Common Sandpiper. Redshanks and Little Egrets busied themselves in the steadily emerging creeks and gullies, mixing with gulls and a Grey Heron. With a species count of 45 this was a good morning’s bird watching. Thanks to Jason for leading such an enjoyable walk. Ken Carruthers

     

  • Tuesday 22 September – Barrow Gurney Tuesday September 22nd, 2015

    Fifteen people met to start the walk. From the car park Chiffchaff and Robin were heard and as we made our way up Hobbs Lane we saw Blue Tit, with Swallows and House Martins flying overhead, and some people seeing a Kestrel and a Jay. At the tanks, Cormorant, G C Grebe, Coot, Tufted Duck, Grey Heron, Mallard and 28 Canada Geese were seen. During the walk we counted four to five Buzzards and a party of seven or eight Long-tailed Tits, Goldfinch and lastly two Ravens. We also saw Specked Wood and Red Admiral butterflies. A total of 31 bird species seen or heard. Geoff Harris

  • Tuesday 15 September – Tickenham Tuesday September 15th, 2015

    Eleven people met by the church on Tickenham moor, on a fine day after the previous one’s torrential rain. Numbers of Mistle Thrushes undulated across the fields with a couple perching on the church weather vane, and Crows flew past with nuts pulled from an adjacent walnut tree. More Crows, Rooks and Jackdaws fed amongst the sheep and cattle with a Buzzard above. Swallows flying low almost brushed our bodies as we crossed the levels towards the Land Yeo, and a Kestrel hunted nearby. We had nice groupings of small birds clustered in trees up to Tickenham Ridge – Wren, Robin, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Blue Tits and Chiffchaff, with a Nuthatch calling in adjacent woodland. In the fields past Cadbury Camp, keen-eyed Jan spotted small birds flitting up and down on the woodland margin – a Spotted Flycatcher group of one adult and two young. Green Woodpeckers perched on apple trees in an adjacent orchard. More small birds clustered in the small sunny quarry at the base of the descent, including Chiffchaffs and Goldfinch, with House Sparrows and House Martins towards the moor. As we returned along the Land Yeo we saw a Hobby, five Herons, a Kingfisher, Mute Swans, and two Kestrels hunting in a field newly cut for hay.Oddly we saw not a single Starling, but the total species count was a respectable 34.Also of interest: Wild Basil, a Yellow Waxcap mushroom, and Migrant Hawker and Common Darter dragonflies. (Thanks to Lois and Jan for leading)
    Lois Pryce

  • Sunday 13 September – New Passage & Pilning Wetlands Sunday September 13th, 2015

    Six of us met at New Passage on a beautiful sunny Sunday morning, later joined by a seventh. We started watching on the Severn Estuary at high tide, soon seeing Herons, Turnstone and many Curlew, Godwits, Black-headed Gulls, Dunlin, Redshank and Oystercatchers, though they were mostly some way off. Along the pill and saltmarsh we saw flocks of Linnets and Starlings with lots of Goldfinches, Meadow Pipits, Pied Wagtails and one Grey Wagtail bobbing on the short grass. All around our heads were Swallows and House Martins (we looked for Sand Martins which have been migrating over, but found none), and from the embankment we saw a Kestrel and Little Egrets, and pools full of Canada Geese. We were encouraged to find one of the Yellow Wagtails seen here recently, by the promise of a bottle of wine to the first to spot one, and we did! – at some distance, but eventually we were confident it wasn’t a Grey but a bona fide Yellow busy following a cow munching its way across the marsh. At the end of the side lane we saw one fine Ruff close up in the shallow pools, and more Ruff and Snipe on the edge of the water further off, the latter showing their stripes well. On the return leg we saw and heard Chiffchaff, and had a wonderful sight in one small area of the embankment hedgerow of Stonechats, Wheatears, Whitethroats and Robin perching and flying within a few inches of each other. Back at the Estuary the tide had fallen, and we saw Wigeon, Teal, and many Redshank scurrying along the water’s edge, one or two Ringed Plover and more Turnstone hidden in the seaweed. We saw a total of 45 species, which didn’t even include common species such as Blackbird, Tits or Dunnock! Many thanks to Lois for leading this very enjoyable saunter along the coastline and to the knowledgeable birders who kindly shared their knowledge with us less-experienced folk!
    Alison Pilling.

  • Tuesday 08 September – Newton St Loe Tuesday September 08th, 2015

    A cloudy and chilly start as 23 of us set off through the church yard towards Newton Park. As we approached the lower lake a Kingfisher flew across the far side. In case anyone had missed it another did a flyby and so did another for good luck. A Grey Wagtail was on the far side and then we had good views of an adult and juvenile Grey Heron in the field opposite. A family of Mute Swans added grace to the upper lake whilst the Mallard, Coot and Moorhen provided the sound effects. A little further on those towards the rear were rewarded with views of a Little Owl and Green Woodpecker. Throughout the walk there were Goldfinch, Great and Blue Tits, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Wren, Robin, Gulls, Nuthatch and flocks of Linnet, Jackdaw and Crow. The expected Swallows, House Martins and Sparrows were at Stanton Prior and we were all rewarded with a view of another Little Owl at New Barn on our way back. Many thanks to Nick for meticulously recording 34 species and to Rod for leading.
    Rod Vowles

     

  • Tuesday 01 September – Winscombe. Tuesday September 01st, 2015

    Twenty members met at Winscombe on a fine, sunny morning for a four mile walk on Mendip. A Lesser Black-backed Gull watched us depart the car park from a nearby rooftop. As we left the village we saw Jackdaw, Swallow and House Martin and three Blackcaps flitting along a hedgerow, and a Buzzard was seen high over Sandford Hill. A flock of Linnets about 28 strong appeared and as we climbed through the woods up Sandford Hill two Jays were seen, Green & Great Spotted Woodpecker were heard, along with Goldcrest, a Bullfinch, a couple of Nuthatches and a Treecreeper. Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits showed and on the way back towards Sidcot a Kestrel passed by. A highlight was a Spotted Flycatcher which obligingly made feeding flights from the top of a not too distant tree giving everyone an excellent view. The walk ended as it had started with a Gull – this time a Herring – as we were almost back at the car park. We saw 34 species overall and also had some great views across the Severn Estuary to Wales and the Quantocks in the clear air. Thanks to Sue Watson for leading.
    Mark Watson

     

  • Tuesday 25 August – Old Down, Tockington Tuesday August 25th, 2015

    Nine brave members gathered at the car park adjacent to the football field in Tockington where dark clouds lingered ominously. We set off through fields of lush green grass where three juvenile Green Woodpeckers were seen hopping around within the short vegetation. We then wandered onwards through the small winding roads of Tockington where Robins, Goldfinches and a few Swallows were seen. In the fields beyond, a rock resembling a dead Barn Owl elicited much interest until closer inspection revealed its true identity. Before descending into the woods a pair of Meadow Pipits were flushed from the undergrowth and five Buzzards were observed soaring gracefully over the fields. The woods presented a welcome shelter from the light drizzling rain which became heavier as we made our way back through the lanes and recently harvested fields of Tockington. A garden feeder had attracted some frantically feeding Blue Tits and a Chaffinch, and a total of 56 Wood Pigeons were spotted grazing on the left-over grain in a nearby field. We wandered back to the car park through the woods where we paused to sample some juicy blackberries. Many thanks to David Tombs for leading this scenic walk. Hannah Meinertzhagen

     

  • Tuesday 18 August – Hillesley Tuesday August 18th, 2015

    26 walkers set off accompanied by one wolf look-a-like puppy(belonging to the Fleece, a friendly community owned pub with great food). The puppy seemed keen to stick with us, so soon had to be taken back home – thanks, Sue! Walking through the village, House Martins, Collared Dove and Starlings were soon noted. It being mid- August there was a lack of birdsong and contact calls heard were sometimes hard to identify in the still thick foliage, though Goldfinch were in evidence. Two Whitethroat were seen by some. Soon after turning off the road there were Swallows hawking over a nearby field, while five young Pheasant were pottering by the hedge – and another dozen of the same by the hedge in the next field! One of the highlights was then spotted by some – a Red Kite. This was followed by very good views of another Red Kite sitting in a dead tree, while the first one flew around. Everybody saw at least one of these. A climb up a track littered with hazelnut shells brought us up to the top of the Cotswolds. Here Nuthatch was added to the list and some time was spent watching a family group of six Spotted Flycatchers doing their fly-catching from a wire fence – another highlight of this very beautiful walk. 27 species were seen in all with another couple heard. Many thanks to Peter for leading. Nancy Barratt

  • Sunday 16 August – WWT Steart Marshes and NNR Bridgwater Bay Sunday August 16th, 2015

    Eight members gathered at the Steart Marshes car park on a chilly (but dry) Sunday morning. This new reserve is a work in progress with the old sea wall having been breached in September 2014 to create new areas of saltmarsh with ever-changing creeks and channels providing food and refuge for wildlife. From the Mendip hide there were good views of the lagoons but the birds were distant – Shovelers, Little Egrets, Canada Geese and a few Avocets. The walk out to the River Parrett allowed us to appreciate the amount and quality of landscaping undertaken by the WWT, and enjoy the Goldfinches, Linnets and Greenfinches. From the river viewpoint there were better views of Avocets but few other waders – only a distant Redshank. Returning to the Polden hide we passed flower and butterfly-rich grassland, with many Small Tortoiseshells and at least two Clouded Yellows, along with a Buzzard and various finches. From the Polden hide we added Pied Wagtail and a very pale Buzzard to the list. During lunch at the car park, Starlings, House Sparrows and a Pheasant were noted. After lunch we drove to Natural England’s car park at Dowell’s Farm and walked out to Steart Flats where views of Curlews, Shelduck and distant gulls were obscured by a heat haze. From the Tower hide we observed two Little Grebes, Redshank, juvenile Peregrine and Common Sandpiper; the views of Whinchats and Stonechats together were instructive. In the fields around the hide were Dunnocks, Linnets, Chaffinches and a Kestrel. The walk along the road to the car park brought the day’s species total to 33. This was a very enjoyable visit to the Steart area and, as the new WWT reserve “matures”, one that is sure to continue to attract visitors. Very many thanks to Richard for leading. Ken Carruthers

  • Tuesday 11 August – Hinton Blewitt Tuesday August 11th, 2015

    21 birders met in the village on an overcast but windless day. We took a new route up past the church and through lanes to come out at the far end of the houses. We soon saw both Green and Great Spotted 11 Woodpeckers and in Coley we watched House Martins visiting nests on one of the older houses. Some of the youngsters had already fledged as the sky nearby was full of birds. Litton reservoirs provided plenty of variety, with at least twelve Grey Wagtails, a Kingfisher, ten or so Little Grebes, six Cormorants, two Grey Herons along with Tufted Duck, Mallard, Coot and Moorhen. We took a new route over Shortwood Common adding two Common Buzzards, Yellowhammer and a Pheasant. Chiffchaffs and Blackcap were heard and seen during the walk with all the usual pigeons, finches and corvids including two Ravens. We had a total of 39 species on a varied and enjoyable four mile walk. (Thanks to John and Sue Prince for leading.) Sue Prince

  • Saturday 08 August – Chew Valley Lake Saturday August 08th, 2015

    Twelve members met at Herriott’s Bridge on a fairly warm and sunny morning. There were a number of Black-tailed Godwit and Lapwing in the Pool on the opposite side to the main lake along with Gadwall, Teal, and a small number of Shoveler. A female Goldeneye was spotted by Louise,-well done, and later we all had close views of the male. A Kingfisher darted across the pool to end the stop and then we moved on to Stratford Hide. Whilst there we had Great Crested Grebe, Shelduck, Tufted Duck and Pochard all feeding nearby. In the reeds we had a Reed Bunting and also a Reed Warbler was noted. Just before we left the hide we observed a single Greenshank and a small number of Green Sandpiper. We then moved off on foot to the Moreton Hide and on the way had Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, and a Common Whitethroat. A Sparrowhawk made a slow pass over the trees as well as a distant soaring Buzzard and a croaking Raven was noted. In the hide our leader located a small number of Black Tern as well as two Common Tern, all observed dipping in the lake opposite the hide. We then walked back to our cars at Stratford and drove to Heron’s Green. In the bay we had Little Grebe, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Grey Heron and numerous Pied Wagtails. This was a morning only meeting and as the time had moved past 13:00 hrs the members started to disperse. It was nice to see a number of new members present who told the leader that they looked forward to going out with the Club again. The total number of species seen during this meet was 42. (Our thanks to Charles for leading this most enjoyable morning’s birding.) Charles Stapleton.

  • Tuesday 04 August – Priddy Tuesday August 04th, 2015

    A group of 18 set out from the Queen Victoria on a dull and overcast morning. There were 24 plus House Martins flying around the village and a little further on 90 plus Jackdaws which is evidently called a ‘clattering’ or ‘train’ of Jackdaws. A Raven was heard ‘honking’ and then seen and a few common bird species were noted including Swallow, Lesser black-Backed Gull and Long-tailed Tit. The walk along the old track involved carefully negotiating rather a lot of water and mud, so the birding was of secondary importance for this part! As we got to the highest point of the walk, Priddy Nine Barrows, we heard a Skylark singing and eventually it was spotted. After we had descended, a couple of young Coots were seen on a nice looking pond. As usual there were a lot of Meadow Brown butterflies and we also saw a few Marbled Whites and a Ringlet. Towards the end of the walk some of the group had superb views of a splendid low flying Buzzard. No binoculars were needed to appreciate how beautiful this bird of prey is. In spite of the weather not being ideal for birding, it was an enjoyable morning’s walk and we managed a total of 24 species. Thanks to Geoff Harris for keeping a record of species seen and thank you to Maureen and Bill Dobie for leading. Mike Landen

     

  • Tuesday 28 July – Bridgeyate Tuesday July 28th, 2015

    On a bright breezy sunny day 18 walkers set out from the Griffin to see what we could find in the birding doldrums of late July. As expected, the total of 30 species was not high but we enjoyed watching the commoner species going about their business, albeit more quietly then usual – we coaxed the occasional song out of a Robin or Wren but generally the woods were silent. We argued over the identification of a young Linnet feeding in and out of the gutter on a farm roof, and noted several Swifts which will soon be on their way back to Africa. Swallows and House Martins were hawking for insects overhead or low over a mown field. One Blackcap showed briefly but made no sound. We glimpsed a Buzzard and had a better view of a Kestrel, but only the lucky front-runner saw the Kingfisher. Nevertheless, I was amazed to find out how much open hillside and varied woodland habitat there is north of Warmley, loads of space to wander around and so close to Bristol. (Many thanks to David for leading the walk and showing us an area that was new to most.)

    David Body

     

  • Tuesday 23 June – Blaise Castle Thursday July 23rd, 2015

    19 walkers assembled in the Blaise car park on a warm morning after overnight rain. The conditions had encouraged the ant colonies to multiply and Swifts and gulls were massed taking advantage of the flying meal. 90 Lesser Black- backed Gull, 40 Herring Gull and 35 Swift were counted – but the aerial acrobatics made it hard to be sure of the numbers. Carrion Crow and Chaffinches were seen on the way to the churchyard and eleven Jackdaws were counted around the church tower where several of them had nests. Down at the Hazel Brook a rat was swimming in the water, then up in the meadow we were treated to a reprise of the gulls and Swifts spectacle, joined this time by a Common Gull. In the woods were Woodpigeon, Blackcap, Wren, Dunnock, Robin and on the meadows Magpie and Rook. Two Ravens were spotted and three Buzzards at different times, twice so close that their different markings could be clearly seen. We had our coffee break at the castle where two weeks previously a Red Kite paid a visit – unfortunately, this was not repeated – but we went on to hear Stock Dove, and see Grey Wagtail, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Jay, Chiffchaff and a solitary Long-tailed Tit. Seven Goldfinches congregated in trees near the old water mill. Altogether 27 species were recorded, not a huge count, but for a site in the city with many dogs and families enjoying themselves, it was a rewarding morning. (Thanks for leading, Ruth and Glyn.) Ruth Stanton

     

  • Tuesday 21 July – Steart Tuesday July 21st, 2015

    Twenty seven members gathered at the Natural England car park in Steart village on a good day for a picnic walk. Reports of Avocet chicks and a solitary Spoonbill raised our hopes for a successful day. Swallows flew overhead, a Pied Wagtail was on a nearby roof and a Greenfinch was calling as we set off towards Bridgwater Bay. Many Linnet were seen along the coast and several hundred Shelduck bobbed on the estuary with more on the mud. Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit and Sedge Warbler were spotted or heard on the reeds and in the adjacent meadows. We arrived at the Tower Hide and as we were a large group spilt up to visit this hide and the three hides beyond. The pools yielded Little Egret, Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Cormorant, a single Curlew Sandpiper, a Kestrel and a few gulls. On the way back to the car park for lunch Great Tit, Blue Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Goldcrest and Goldfinch were added to the list amongst others. After lunch we walked out to the breach in the River Parrett sea wall which was constructed by The Environment Agency as a managed retreat to help protect upstream areas from flooding and also to improve flood protection for Steart and other nearby villages. The breach feeds the newly created (2014) Steart Marshes wetland managed for the Environment Agency by WWT. It transpired that the Spoonbill had left for Slimbridge and the Avocets were not around but we did see 86 Black-tailed Godwits feeding. The walk ended back at the car park, though a few of us went to have a look at the area opposite the new WWT car park but the water had drained by then so nothing new turned up. Overall tally of 48 species made for a good days’ birding. (Our thanks to Mark for leading.) Mark Watson

     

  • Saturday 18 July – Capel-y-ffin Saturday July 18th, 2015

    Ten people turned up at Capel, having negotiated the long narrow road on a morning with some dark clouds, but after a few spots of rain we had glorious sunshine most of the time. Early arrivals spotted one Red Kite in addition to the first of many Buzzards. House Martins were whizzing round and a Nuthatch was calling as we set off up the road towards the pony trekking centre. We soon found Redstarts flitting across between the trees and a big bright orange fritillary butterfly, probably Silver-washed. Beyond the woods we heard several Blackcaps tinkling and Swallows were flying low over the fields, then a ‘wheet’ call in a tree above us was identified by sight as a Willow Warbler. The scenery up the valley was spectacular throughout the walk, while we had fantastic views of three Ravens interacting, then three Buzzards and many Crows wheeling in the air above the mountain. Stonechats were quite numerous (six plus) and gave super views perching on bush and bracken with food in their beaks, and we saw several Wheatears, including one juvenile on a fence, followed by good views of single birds then two on a rock on the escarpment later. Someone then spotted a very smart Whinchat, who performed well with close views. Meadow Pipits were everywhere, alerting us with their ‘clink’ call and showing their white outer tail feathers (one member was checking her id details). We also found a good number of Small Heath butterflies, very small but noticeably bright flying among the bracken. The stream Nant Bwch was below us all the way and there was a small waterfall at one point, but there were no Dippers and only one Grey Wagtail.

    During lunch on a grassy patch beside the track a raptor flew up the valley and back, causing some panic as bins were not at the ready, and was finally pronounced to be a Hobby. We continued to the top of the escarpment near Lord Hereford’s Knob, where the 180 degree view looking north towards Hay on Wye is wonderful at any time and particularly on such a clear day. The group then split up, with most returning the same four kilometres down the valley, some directly to the cars and others of us meandering along enjoying more butterflies – Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood and Ringlet – and moths and plants including one patch of butterwort – no doubt Jean could supply a list of the others! Final bird list was 30 species, including 15 Linnets, and a Green and two Great spotted Woodpeckers and a Jay, which called from the trees. Many thanks to Richard Brown for leading us.

    Judy Copeland

     

  • Tuesday 14 July Little Sodbury Tuesday July 14th, 2015

    Only six braves turned out on what was a very dull morning with rain forecast for later in the day. The rain, or rather fine drizzle, came on a little after we had passed Old Sodbury Church and spoiled what is normally a splendid view towards Chipping Sodbury and beyond. Despite the poor visibility up till then we had counted 13 bird species, including a mass of Lesser Black-blacked Gulls and Herring Gulls riding a thermal at the foot of the hill. Swallows and House Martins were abundant, a Kestrel, a Raven and a Green Woodpecker also ‘played’ the fine drizzle. However, after we had had a refreshment break under the cover of the trees on the climb up to Old Sodbury Fort, things improved; the drizzle stopped and there was brightness all about. We decided not to do the full walk, with picnic on the high view-point above Horton, because of the likelihood of further rain but, while on the short cut, we were rewarded with sightings of Red Kite, Meadow Pipit, Greenfinch, Swift, Yellowhammer, Whitethroat, and Blackcap. At the ‘pond’ we saw Moorhens, Little Grebes, and Mallards then, as we returned to the footpath, a Grey Herron rose up above the trees, bitterly complaining at something. Our total species count was 38. Thanks to the ‘brave six’ for coming, for despite the weather, we had a good walk (Thanks David for leading). David Tombs.

  • Tuesday 07 July – The Downs Tuesday July 07th, 2015

    The Tuesday walkers who joined our annual visit to the Avon Gorge to see the Peregrines were well rewarded. Two juveniles were sitting on a bare tree stump when we arrived. When the brief shower of rain passed they took off, joined their sibling and the three of them presented us with a beautiful aerial display. They practised their passing techniques, before one of them broke away to chase a Carrion Crow, which appeared most surprised to be the pursued rather than the attacker. After watching the Peregrines, we walked past the wildflower meadow, with its Common Spotted Orchids, and on to Sea Walls. A family of Kestrels entertained us here, flying on to a ledge in the cliff face and into a garden, where one of them sat in the bird bath for quite a while before deciding he had better make the most of the opportunity to have a wash. Since we had spent so long enjoying the raptors, we decided not to go on to the Nature Reserve but instead visited the Gully where six feral Kashmiri goats from the Great Orme have been introduced to manage the scrub, allowing us to enjoy the rare limestone-loving plants. As we left the Gully, a Buzzard put in an appearance, bringing the total number of birds seen and heard to sixteen – Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Cormorant, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Herring Gull, Jackdaw, Lesser Black- backed Gull, Magpie, Nuthatch, Wood Pigeon and Wren. Brenda Page

     

  • Saturday 04 July – Forest of Dean Saturday July 04th, 2015

    Eight members and one guest from Costa Rica, who had decided that the delights of an evening’s birding in the Forest of Dean was sufficient to attract him away from his ornithological paradise, met at New Fancy View on a warm early evening. From the viewing point we observed two Goshawks circling over the distant trees but a good enough view to note the slower and more powerful wingbeat than its Sparrowhawk relative. Song in early summer is beginning to die back but Song Thrush, Blackcap and Chiffchaff were prominent. We moved on to Cannop Ponds where Swallows, House and Sand Martins swooped low over the water feasting on the abundant supply of flying insects. A family party of Grey Wagtail worked along the shoreline and four Common Sandpiper rested on a stump protruding from the water before giving us a flyby display. A Kingfisher flashed by and a Siskin was an unexpected bonus on a nearby feeder. Several juvenile Mandarin Duck loafed on the water. We then moved on to Crabtree Hill to station ourselves for the possibility of Nightjar. A Garden Warbler started up its prolonged babbling and Stonechat and Linnet were present on the heathland. We waited patiently until 9.50 and then a “churring” was heard. What followed was a magical display of several Nightjars, some flying overhead, with just sufficient light to observe the white wing and tail patches. At one point there were three in the air together. A real bonus was the flight of a Woodcock calling with its shrill flight note. 44 species had been recorded and we felt our way in the twilight back to our cars contented. (Thanks to Mike for leading.)

    Mike Johnson

     

  • Tuesday 30 June – Compton Dando Tuesday June 30th, 2015

    A group of 23 set off from The Compton Inn at Compton Dando on a beautiful summer’s morning. This was a new walk, although parts of it are shared with other walks that we do in this area. There were a good number of common birds around the village including House Sparrows, House Martins and Swallows with a Blackcap heard. After a very short walk to the bridge over the River Chew we were rewarded with a good view of a Dipper feeding in the fast flowing water giving ideal conditions for this rather special bird. It was a very nice start to the walk. We then walked through some pasture land bordered with woodland where a Buzzard was seen. The next part of the walk took us away from the river up a quite steep path through the woods where we added Great Spotted Woodpecker, Treecreeper, Song Thrush, and Nuthatch. We crossed a beautiful meadow where we saw a large number of Meadow Brown butterflies and a quite a lot of Marbled Whites. We reached Woollard and made a very slight diversion for another view of the River Chew from the road bridge. We had good views of an adult and juvenile Grey Wagtail and a pair of Bullfinches flew over, heading for a cherry tree. We followed the river upstream and saw a Mistle Thrush, a Grey Heron and an adult Moorhen with three juveniles. We had time to walk towards the church at Publow and at the third bridge over the Chew some saw a second Dipper and we all had good views of four or five Grey Wagtails. We turned round to head back, this time on the south side of the river and some had views of a Kestrel. Those at the front of the group had fleeting views of a Kingfisher and those at the rear also saw a Kingfisher. Those of us in the middle saw neither! Our final species of the day was a Redstart. Thanks to Nick for keeping his usual accurate bird list and we finished with a total of 41 species. (Thanks to Mike for leading) Mike Landen

  • Saturday 20 June – Ham Wall Saturday June 20th, 2015

    This was a joint meeting with Bristol Naturalists’ Society and eight of us met in the new RSPB carpark at Ham Wall on a bright warm morning. The air was full of the song of Blackcap, Blackbird, Wren, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff and Song Thrush. We walked down to the first viewing platform and viewing screens and amongst the usual variety of ducks saw a Pochard with a young brood, not a common sight in this area. Cetti’s Warblers were very vocal with their explosive song and some were lucky to see a Kingfisher flash by. On to the new Tor Hide where we were treated to a prolonged view of a Bittern in flight. Somerset is now the leading County for breeding Bitterns which is quite a success story for the various conservation organisations, their staff and particularly all their volunteers who have worked so hard in creating and managing suitable habitat for this species and many others requiring large mosaics of wetland. To prove the point we had wonderful views of both male and female Marsh Harriers drifting low over the reeds and a number of Hobby feeding on the plentiful supply of dragonflies. Both Great White and Little Egrets flapped over Walton’s reedbeds giving a continental flavour to the morning. We recorded 54 species during the morning including Common Tern which is another fairly new breeding species for the Avalon Marshes. (thanks to Mike for leading)      Mike Johnson

     

  • Tuesday 09 June – South Stoke Tuesday June 09th, 2015

     This walk was almost our nearest to midsummer, though with a chilly north easterly wind, it didn’t quite feel like flaming June. However, with the bright sunshine and sparkling visibility, the countryside couldn’t have looked better as 18 of us set off from the lovely village of South Stoke. The first stretch of road walking with superb views to the south gave us whirling House Martins and Swallows and there was much colour from garden plants and shrubs and the ubiquitous Valerian, both pink and red, popping out of every crevice. We turned off the road and onto a footpath in a wonderful meadow, though the low temperature didn’t seem to be tempting any butterflies or indeed many insects. We started the downhill bit of the walk soon adding many common species to our list. Up to four Buzzards were circling and calling and one of them was carrying a large item of prey, probably a rat. Following a steep narrow path further down into the valley Swift and Jackdaw were seen and in the field at the bottom, a Green Woodpecker. Our route then took us into woods with Magpie, Chiffchaff, Great and Blue Tits and Dunnock seen or heard. Still descending we arrived at Tucking Mill, where a Grey Wagtail obligingly perched for all to see. The walk was mainly uphill from then on! We climbed up to the top of the viaduct and joined the former railway track and en-route to our coffee stop at old Midford Station saw a Roe Deer and a Pheasant. Back across the road again we started to follow the old coal canal route and a pair of Marsh Tits were seen and heard. On this stretch we added Great Spotted Woodpecker, Goldfinch and Greenfinch and a Raven. The final species tally was 33. Many thanks to Dave Body for leading this popular and rewarding walk. Nancy Barrett

     

  • Tuesday 02 June – Sand Bay Tuesday June 02nd, 2015

    Not for the faint-hearted! Lashing rain driven by howling winds, and all togged-up to survive, we eight made the trig point without mishap, collecting Chiffchaff and Whitethroat. One of the circling Herring Gulls appeared overhead before being whipped away to the north east. Wales and Flat Holm had been stolen by the sheeting rain so our going out to the point didn’t seem like a good idea! Down in the relative lee of the land we found more Whitethroats and the first Greenfinch; a Rock Pipit scolded us from the waterside rocks and three Feral Pigeons – two of which looked like the true Rock Dove, defied the wind to tryst among the Sea Pinks. A flight of Linnet (three) came twittering over just as we arrived at our coffee stop, where we also saw a further Rock Pipit foraging and carrying food to some secret crevice in the rocks beyond our sight. The rain did let up for half an hour as we reached our turning point (no picnic lunch today as the wind was forecast to strengthen). Skylark appeared and the special tune of the Song Thrush came to us on the wind. Our tally of 24 was a reflection of the conditions but still the urge to breed kept the Blackcap singing as we descended to – disappointment – no ice cream van! (Many thanks to Nick for leading these hardy walkers.) Nick Hawkridge

     

  • Sunday 31 May – Otmoor Sunday May 31st, 2015

     It all started in Beckley just a short stone’s throw from the Otmoor RSPB reserve with a pair of squabbling Jackdaws on an overcast morning. Four members met in the car park to the accompaniment of Lesser Whitethroat and Garden Warbler song while overhead a Red Kite gave a virtuoso flying display thus setting a benchmark for the day. On leaving the car park after reading the sightings board, two of the group expressed a desire to see and hear Turtle Dove. Within a few minutes a gentle purring was heard and a Turtle Dove was sighted on overhead cables so obviously a purrrrrrrrrfect day! Heading towards the hide and scrapes even more Lesser Whitethroats and Garden Warblers were encountered although they were outnumbered by the sights and sounds of Reed Warblers. Added to this cacophony of sound were Chaffinch, Whitethroat, Reed Bunting and the screaming of Swifts overhead. Looking out over the pastures and scrapes, families of Mallard, Greylag and Canada Geese were seen in the company of Little Egrets, Herons, Lapwings, Redshanks and Ringed Plovers. Lunch was taken in the reserve’s posh hide where we witnessed the aerial displays of House Martins with a supporting cast of finches (Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Linnet), and Redshank. Three Common Terns were discovered at the viewing screen and lagoon at the furthest point from the car park, and on the return journey to the car Sedge Warbler and Kestrel were added to the day’s list bringing the total for the day to over 50. Many thanks to Keith Williams for leading our field trip. Richard Scantlebury

     

  • Friday 29 May – Frampton on Severn Friday May 29th, 2015

    After a day of heavy rain showers the skies cleared on Friday evening in time for a visit to Frampton on Severn. Seven members attended and had a pleasant walk with lots of birds. The highlights of the evening were the low aerial displays over the lake of hundreds of Swifts and Martins, and the evening chorus of Song Thrushes and Blackcaps. There were a couple of Common Terns on the lake, and a Cuckoo calling. Altogether 32 of the commoner species were seen.    Sheila Ablitt

     

  • Tuesday 26 May – Clevedon / Walton Common & Coast Path Tuesday May 26th, 2015

     17 people gathered in Clevedon as the cool windy conditions turned into a warm sunny morning. Two Herring Gulls were sitting on different roofs close by. We had to wait for golfers on the path up over the golf course and meanwhile notched up Robin, Goldfinch, Swallow, House Martin, Wren, Blackcap and Pheasant. At the edge of the wood we found two families of Long-tailed Tits, one containing 11/12 youngsters, and a Song Thrush was singing. Inside the wood we had three Treecreepers (one carrying food), Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker calling, a Chiffchaff, and a Goldcrest which not everyone could hear! There was also an unidentified “seep” call. On Walton Common we had coffee by the butterfly slope and were well rewarded with a view of two “Goshawks” high above. There was much discussion on whether we could claim them but the final verdict was that the size and behaviour pointed that way. (Jane has submitted the description to the experts.) One was chased by a Mistle Thrush and two Swifts were spotted very high up. Lunch was taken in a field overlooking the calm sea. From the coast path, where we enjoyed the lapping and gurgling of the waves, we saw a Pied Wagtail silhouetted on a rock, a pair of Mallards and two Shelduck flying. Whitethroat, Linnet and Greenfinch were heard and three Mistle Thrushes were on the field leading back towards Walton-in-Gordano. On the path back to the golf club we added Bullfinch and a juvenile Robin. By the end of this picnic walk, half our number had either gone back or walked speedily onwards to Clevedon to fulfil their commitments. My species list was 38. (Once again, many thanks to Judy for leading this walk.) Judy Copeland

     

  • Wednesday 20 May – New Forest Wednesday May 20th, 2015

     A total of seven people congregated in the Ashley Walk car park ready to explore a small corner of the New Forest and, hopefully, catch up with some of the speciality birds to be found there. Our walk took us through a variety of habitats – woodland, heathland, river valley and forest ‘lawns’ – giving us every chance of finding some of them. Indeed, we hadn’t been going long before we encountered the first of many Stonechats and Linnets – they are clearly doing very well here! A little further and Jane alerted us to a Redstart singing nearby. This smart individual gave us all wonderful views – eventually! By now we were up on an area of open heathland and our only Lark of the day gave us distant views. However, the rather long tail ruled out the Woodlark we had hoped to find – so we made do with Skylark. Continuing along the path we entered a wooded area where many of the common woodland species were showing including Treecreeper, Stock Dove, Goldcrest, various finches and, high up on one of the trees, a Spotted Flycatcher – a rare treat. Heading on towards our lunch spot a Tree Pipit gave good views. Lunch was taken in an area that ‘looked good’ for Dartford Warbler, but with the exception of more Stonechats, Linnets and a fly by Cuckoo there appeared to be no sign of them. However, as we were finishing lunch one of these gorgeous birds popped up onto some gorse at a bit of a distance. At this stage not everyone had seen it, so we headed towards the area where it had last been seen and were lucky enough to find a couple of them reasonably close giving sensational views. Having looked at them, we moved swiftly on to ensure we didn’t disturb them as it looked like they were a breeding pair. Although we may not have seen everything we might have hoped for, everyone was well pleased with a great days birding. Many thanks to Jane Cumming for her excellent leadership and ID skills!  Dave Horlick

  • Tuesday 19 May – RSPB Newport Wetlands Tuesday May 19th, 2015

    The prospect of hail and blustery wet conditions did not deter the group of 23 hardy members. The birds were in full voice in the bushes and hedgerows all around the reserve including Robin, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Wren, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blue Tit, Song Thrush and Blackbird, with a Cetti’s Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat seen by a few. At the centre, Greenfinch, Sparrow and Goldfinch were added. The pond had Coot with young, and a Little Grebe showed on the return. At the start of the walk towards the lighthouse the Bearded Tits were flying to and fro across the reeds. A few members saw a Reed Bunting but Reed Warblers were keeping low although noisy enough. A Sedge Warbler sitting in a small tree gave everyone a good view. We were listening to a Cuckoo in the distance when one and then two flew around the reeds giving wonderful views. A perching individual allowed some telescope views. Later a third cuckoo joined the pair before it went off in a different direction. The tide was going out at the estuary but Shelduck, Curlew, and a Brent Goose were seen. Swallow, Sand Martin, House Martin and Swifts were swooping over the reed beds. The RSPB have built an artificial Sand Martin nest by the centre but it has not attracted any to nest as yet. After lunch the weather began to change but we headed to Goldcliff and shelter in the hides when a sudden hailstorm had us closing the windows to avoid a battering. The Avocets did not appear to have young but a few birds were sitting in the grass. We added Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Little Ringed Plover, Little Egret, Gadwall, Shoveller and Tufted Duck to the list. The Canada Geese had a few goslings but the Redshank chicks located the previous week were not seen. A Skylark was heard and a Buzzard was the only raptor of the day. A small group was keen to go onto Magor Marsh Nature Reserve to see the Water Voles. The Gwent Wildlife Trust have released over 200 Water Voles and have set up floating platforms loaded with an apple. The voles climb onto the platform and are unperturbed at being watched. This turned out to be a very successful day and gave us 47 species with some firsts for the group. (Thank you to Ray and Margaret for leading). Margaret Bulmer

  • Sunday 17 May – Exmoor Sunday May 17th, 2015

    Exmoor National Park holds important species of breeding birds that have declined nationally in the UK. Recent Moorland surveys have found good numbers of Whinchat – 300+ males, Stonechat – 450+ males, Grasshopper Warbler – 300+ males, Skylark – 2500+ males, and Cuckoo – 60-100 males. So, on an overcast, dry morning twelve members walked off from Webber’s Post down into the oak woodland of East Water hoping to see some of these species. Good numbers of warblers were in song – Chiffchaffs, Blackcap, Willow, Wood and Garden Warblers. As we walked down the road three Cuckoos flew around together chasing and calling. Lesser Redpolls and Siskin were seen and heard flying over but no close views unfortunately. A distant Buzzard was hovering near a group of Red Deer on the hillside. As we dropped down into the woodland a Wood Warbler was in full song and we eventually all had good views of it along with a female Redstart and an obliging pair of Pied Flycatchers that were active around a natural hole. Other species seen included a pair of Treecreepers, Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Song Thrush, with a Mistle Thrush singing in the distance. Down on the stream in East Water a juvenile Dipper was seen well by some of the group. We then walked up out of the woodland onto some moorland edge. A pair of Stonechats was perched on the gorse and several Meadow Pipits flew around, but unfortunately no Tree Pipits were seen. On the opposite hillside two Cuckoos were calling and one was ‘scoped’ perched on a tree with a small bird mobbing it. On the walk back to East Water we saw more woodland species that had already been spotted along with a Green Woodpecker calling. It was pleasing to find such good numbers of Pied Flycatchers, Redstarts and Wood Warblers.         Jeff Holmes – am report                      After lunch it was a short drive to Ember Coombe and a not very promising walk down to Chetsford Water, exposed to the cold wind. After a false start, where I unsuccessfully tried to turn Sue’s Reed Bunting into a Whinchat (my excuse is based on the total absence of reeds), we soon had excellent views of a breeding pair of Whinchats, a singing Whitethroat, Meadow Pipits and a Blue Tit. We then drove round to another part of Chetsford Water. I called a Kestrel (it was a Cuckoo), a Wheatear (which was a Redstart) and was left wondering where on earth the Little Grebe was (the Cuckoo was a female and had started calling). However, everyone else seemed to be having a successful afternoon’s birding and I enjoyed the cream tea, so many thanks to Jane for leading. Nigel Kempson – pm report

     

  • Tuesday 12 May – Shapwick Heath and Ham Wall Tuesday May 12th, 2015

     On a dry but overcast morning 26 members assembled in Natural England’s car park for a day’s birding on the Somerset Levels. We were not disappointed; whilst waiting for the group to assemble we were entertained by Song Thrush, Greenfinch, Cetti’s and Garden Warbler, and Blackcap singing. On the way to the first main pool Swifts were overhead, with Whitethroat and more Cetti’s Warblers in the undergrowth. Our first major bird was a male Marsh Harrier displaying over the reed bed giving good views to all watchers. At the pool the water level was higher than normal with only a single Little Egret to be seen. Although ‘Big John’ advised that more waders were under the bank, at last they moved producing a small flock of Black-tailed Godwits, a Ruff and a Curlew Sandpiper – our second major bird. It was then on to the hide at Noah’s Lake where again the water level was high. In the distance were ‘comic’ terns, and Hobbies catching prey and eating on the wing. It was almost lunchtime so it was back to the cars with another stop at the wader pool to see a small flock of Whimbrel which had flown in to join the Godwits. After our picnic lunch the party crossed over the road into the RSPB Ham Wall reserve but we soon split up into small groups to explore. From the Tor View hide in the middle of the reed bed Great White Egrets and Bitterns were the highlights. This was a brilliant day producing 49 species seen or heard with at least four major birds. Regretfully, Otters were absent again this year.(Thank you for leading this walk Peter)  Peter Holbrook

     

  • Saturday 09 May – Dyrham Park Saturday May 09th, 2015

     Three National Trust members, including Dyrham Park’s well-informed head gardener Dale Dennehy, joined six from the BOC for this walk through the parkland of Dyrham Park, north of Bath. Dale made this a most interesting walk as he identified various plants and trees and told us about the NT’s ongoing plans for the park and gardens. The house is currently under wraps while its roof is being replaced and there is a lot of work going on around the chapel walks to clear shrubbery and open up new paths. With the disturbance by workmen, birds were hard to find in this area but there will be a nice section of open woodland habitat when they have finished. The terrain is hilly, well wooded, grazed by cattle and the NT’s herd of Fallow Deer. On a rather windier morning than I would have chosen, some expected species such as Stock Dove (several pairs normally breeding) could not be either seen or heard, but we did manage to find woodland birds like Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Coal Tit although we weren’t able to see them all. Swallows were zooming in and out of the barns on a hilltop, probably nest-building, and songsters included three Chiffchaffs, a Blackcap and a Goldcrest. The rookery is doing fine though the original large colony seems to have sub-divided into several smaller ones. Finally some of us located the usual Raven’s nest in a vast Cedar tree by the main drive, where they have been nesting for some years. Thanks so much to Dale for his very informative contributions which really made walking the park worth the chilly wind! Jane Cumming

  • Tuesday 05 May – Prior’s Wood, Portbury Tuesday May 05th, 2015

    Rain and strong winds abated to allow eleven of us to set out into the green world of Prior’s Wood. However, Nick pointed out that there were white horses on the distant Severn and the sound of the wind and the motorway made it hard to hear any song. We had already notched up nesting Starlings in the village, Jackdaw and House Sparrow, and eventually we heard Wren song, followed by Chiffchaff, and a Herring Gull flew overhead. The sun came out and we managed to hear Marsh Tit, Robin, Goldcrest, Blackbird, Blackcap and Nuthatch, but sightings were few and far between. We found an ideal place for coffee in the sun by some felled tree trunks, surrounded by bluebells which gave off some scent when the sun reached them. Great Tit, Chaffinch and a Great Spotted Woodpecker called, a Song Thrush flew across our path, a Mistle Thrush sang and some lucky people spotted a Fox trotting past beyond the bridge over the stream – a Weasel was seen a bit later. Much clearance has been done by Avon Wildlife Trust, removing the rhododendron, replanting many trees and creating two ponds, but there was no activity here. A single Whitethroat was heard outside the wood, and after a brief shower on our way back we finally found House Martin in the village. Nick counted 30 species. (Thank you for leading this walk Judy). Judy Copeland

     

  • Tuesday 28 April – Stoke Park Estate Tuesday April 28th, 2015

     A group of about 20 members gathered at the Snuff Mills car park to be welcomed by the spring sunshine and a cool breeze. We set off towards Eastville Park then crossed over the motorway bridge where a Greenfinch was heard and a perched Buzzard was spotted. From here we made the climb up to the BT Tower which was rewarded by the sighting of a Sparrowhawk, fields of dandelions and lovely views over Bristol. We walked through the fields towards a wooded area. Between the gaps in the canopy a soaring Buzzard could be seen and among the trees Blackcaps, Nuthatches, Chiffchaffs and Long-tailed Tits were heard and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen. We left the warm shelter of the woods and headed over the fields, where a Mistle Thrush was spotted. A fishing pond supporting a Moorhen, two Canada Geese, some Coots and Mallards. A couple of agile Swallows could be seen speeding through the sky and a singing Whitethroat was observed emerging from a thick tangle of brambles. Many thanks to Rich Scantlebury for leading this enjoyable walk. Hannah Meinertzhagen

     

  • Saturday 25 April – Kilcott, Gloucestershire Saturday April 25th, 2015

     Five members gathered on a rather chilly morning, but the sun and walking soon warmed us – not to mention the bird song! A very loud Song Thrush started us off and soon we added Dunnock, Great Tit, Blackcap, Robin and Chiffchaff as we headed off down the valley. The fields and borders were magnificent with a brilliant display of primroses, cowslips, bluebells and much more. We soon added Blackbird, Chaffinch, Green Woodpecker and Buzzard to the list, the latter trying to kid us with its Kestrel-like hovering. Great Spotted Woodpecker eventually showed itself well, but calling Stock Doves were elusive. There was the usual – ‘is it a Mistle or Song Thrush’ moment – both were seen and heard! Jay was heard as was Goldcrest, the latter always difficult to see. When we got to the mill pond we added Swallow, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Moorhen and Tufted Duck. As we walked through the village more Buzzards were overhead and two Sparrowhawks were seen in brief display as well as Raven. House Martins appeared as well as more Swallows. Then the long climb up to Hawkesbury. Near the top we added Treecreeper and Marsh Tit. Then, as we emerged above the woodland, Whitethroat was heard and Yellowhammer sang and showed itself, if rather distant. Linnet and House Sparrow ended the list which totalled 40 species. A good tally! Robin Prytherch

     

  • Tuesday 24 April – Castle Combe Friday April 24th, 2015

     We set off from the car park on the edge of Castle Combe under a cloudless sky, albeit a bit chilly to start with. We had some early sightings in the adjacent field including a Pied Wagtail, Stock Dove, numerous Corvids, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. The initial part of the walk took us up a steepish hill through a copse to some quiet country lanes to the north of the village. A Nuthatch called long and loud en route but avoided visual detection. Birds that were less shy however included a Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Swallows, House Martins, Coal Tit and the first Buzzard of the day. After the coffee break (where some had an excellent view of a Goldcrest) we gradually descended through a long valley back towards the village. White tree blossom and wild flowers were abundant and at one point we passed alongside a small wood full of freshly bloomed bluebells. The warming sunshine also seemed to encourage the butterflies to emerge with Brimstone, Large and Small White, Peacock and Orange Tip amongst those recognised. Birdsong was noticeable all morning and sightings on this leg included Bullfinch, Chiffchaff, Nuthatch, and several Wrens. In the village itself a Grey Wagtail was spotted as was a Mistle Thrush on the walk back up the hill to the car park. Also during the morning two active Rookeries were seen. Warm sun continued to shine on 33 of the righteous (I can’t really vouch for the other 32) throughout the morning and a total of 40 species was recorded. Thanks to Dave for leading a very enjoyable walk on a very pleasant morning. John Lees

  • Sunday 15 March – Forest of Dean Wednesday April 15th, 2015

     It was at nine o’clock when a baker’s dozen of members embarked on a circumnavigation of Woorgreens Lake, led by Keith Williams, serenaded by Nuthatches, Wrens and Great Tits. Thoughts of Asterix the Gaul came to mind as we spied a large wild boar that appeared to be shadowing our party! Arriving at the lake we encountered what appeared to be a battle royal between various factions of Canada Geese with a score of Goosanders spectating. Climbing gradually up to Crabtree Hill, where we met a party from the Dursley Birdwatching Society who appeared to be on Shrike duty, we too loitered to gaze and admire the Great Grey Shrike before returning to the start of our walk. The next port of call was New Fancy View, the Raptor view point, where our planned stay was curtailed by drizzle and poor visibility, but a number of Ravens, Siskins and a pair of displaying Buzzards were duly observed. As usual there was a large number of the brightly- plumaged Mandarin Ducks on Cannop Pond, while Goldcrest, Grey Wagtail, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and a Kingfisher were discovered on the edges of the pond. In all over forty species were seen, noted, recorded and photographed on this trip. Many thanks to Keith for leading the trip.  Richard Belson

     

  • Tuesday 14 April – Easton-in-Gordano Tuesday April 14th, 2015

     Outside the pub at the end of the walk, as the stragglers rolled in, I met Nick who asked if I’d seen anything else in the Skylark field (at least three were singing). I said no, we were hurrying as late for lunch. But he and Annie had seen seven Wheatears! Anyway, apart from that major lapse on my part, it was a lovely springtime walk on a gorgeous morning, once the sun gradually emerged, with a beautiful display of flowers – kingcups (marsh marigold) beside Glebe Pond, and a mass of primroses and celandines in the lanes. Some of us had our first glimpses of House Martin and Swallow as they swooped across the first field, and Chiffchaffs sang everywhere, with almost as many Blackcaps tinkling away and Nuthatches calling. We had Buzzard and Sparrowhawk, the usual Green Woodpecker on the apple trees by the track near Failand House Farm, which then flew to a telegraph pole, and we heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker call. A couple of Song Thrushes sang, also one or two Willow Warblers, our most recent arrivals and a Bullfinch called though was not seen. Stock Dove was noted, flying faster than the many Woodpigeons, and two Coal Tits were seen on a feeder. Nick’s count was 39 species – and there were 28 of us walking. Judy Copeland

     

  • Sunday 12 April – Uphill Sunday April 12th, 2015

     It was a bright, sunny morning with a fresh south-westerly breeze and a rising tide as Paul Gregory led a group of five out past the cliffs of Uphill onto the Bleadon Levels. The many singing hedgerow birds included plenty of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, probably newly arrived. Out on the marsh, Shelduck and Redshanks were the most numerous species. We noted some Little Egrets (at least five at high tide) and compared leg colour and mantle differences on the larger gulls. As we strolled on to the Weston Sewage Works area we started collecting in the freshwater birds – a Dabchick here, Coots there, and in the end five more ducks including a smart male Shoveler and some lingering Tufted Ducks. Shorebirds were harder to come by, just a couple of Oystercatchers but no sign of the smaller waders we expected. We did have a fly-by Peregrine and a Kestrel, nice views of singing Willow Warblers, Reed Buntings, and a Green Woodpecker flying off. Skylarks added their voices to the chorus, and we were pleased to see a few Swallows which only started arriving in numbers this week. The geography is very interesting around here with Crook Peak behind us and Brean Down in front. We could also see Brent Knoll to the south and the Brecon Beacons stretching away in the distance in glorious sunshine. Thanks very much to Paul for his leadership and a total of 42 species on my list – and I probably missed a couple. This is an area well worth further visits. Jane Cumming

     

  • Tuesday 07 April – Eastville Park / Fishponds Tuesday April 07th, 2015

     The morning started misty but by the time we were leaving the car park – in a part of Eastville Park unfamiliar to many, the sky was beginning to break up. Almost immediately we spotted an occupied Carrion Crow nest which, as it turned out, was the first of several. We headed down through the park towards the River Frome accompanied by the sound of a Chiffchaff and a Song Thrush melodiously serenading from the top of a tree. The river brought us a Grey Wagtail and a group of Long-tailed Tits together with the expected river birds. The lake was relatively quiet although a Mute Swan and a Canada Goose were observed on nests on the island. The highlight of the morning, however, came shortly after the coffee break when a Kingfisher dived and caught a fish directly in front of the leading part of the group. It then conveniently flew a few yards to another twig level with the rear of the group where it proceeded to adjust the position of the fish ready for swallowing, The latter part of the walk took us out of the park along some scrub and woodland behind houses at the edge of Fishponds and by now we were bathed in sunshine. Other notable species seen included Blackcap, Goldfinch, Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Coal Tit and a group of five Jays all giving chase to one another. All in all 34 walkers saw some 33 species. The accompaniment of birdsong throughout the morning and the appearance of several butterflies suggested that spring had truly arrived. Thanks to Rich for leading, and especially for taking us to places many of us had never walked before.

    John Lees

     

  • Tuesday 31 March – Forest of Dean Tuesday March 31st, 2015

     There were more Ravens than any other corvid during our walk today, with five seen at close range from our start point at New Fancy View. All the common tits called and displayed around us and our pulses quickened with distant views of raptors but most resolved into Buzzard. A Goshawk did appear after half an hour which was above my expectation given the brisk cold wind. A short drive to Speech House fields, parking beneath a fine stand of Oaks and finding that cameramen had laid bait on a fallen tree trunk to lure in birds – and thus offered us excellent views of Nuthatch, Blue, Great and Coal Tit. The fields – recently used as a marathon start point – were bare until a pair of Mistle Thrushes flew in; they stood immobile for many moments – that strong upright posture, the bold spotted breast, so characteristic of the species. A short walk down the woods looking for Hawfinch only gave us a further view of a dashing Goshawk and a single singing Chiffchaff. The roof of the Beechenhurst café supported two Pied Wagtails and we had our first sighting of Carrion Crow – patrolling the grounds looking for titbits. Back to the cars and on to Cannop Ponds for lunch, during which a pair of the local population of Mandarin Ducks paddled fairly close looking for handouts, the Coot displayed – their wings arched like the Sydney Opera house – and Mute Swan cleared up the leavings at the top of the spillway. As we walked around the ponds we added Grey Wagtail, Great Spotted Woodpecker, and Greylag Goose to the list and increased our count of Mandarin Duck to 12 (all in pairs). A modest bird list of 34 was seen by most of the 13 people who’d trusted the forecast, and included in that number two new walkers who were most warmly welcomed. (Thank you Nick for leading).  Nick Hawkridge

     

  • Saturday 28 March – Newport Wetlands Saturday March 28th, 2015

     A small but select group gathered in the car park of the RSPB Newport Wetlands reserve in the presence of singing Chiffchaff and Greenfinch. As we made our way to the reserve centre we had the strident anthem of multiple Wrens & Cetti’s Warblers. The forecast of wind and rain proved to be correct as our group headed to the foreshore and lighthouse. It appeared that most passerines were sheltering from the torrid elements while their braver compatriots Pochards, Coots, Tufted Ducks & Little Grebes could be seen riding out the rough waters of the pools. Amongst the Curlews on the shoreline a smaller curlew-like bird was discovered and identified as a Whimbrel. While we sheltered from the inclement weather Teal, Cormorant and Canadian Geese were seen from the hide as well as some unidentified passerines. There was a debate over the parentage of a possible hybrid duck. Was it a Scaup mixed with Tufted or Gadwall duck? We retreated to the visitor centre. On route we found a Goldcrest, Marsh Harrier and another Chiffchaff. Coffee and cakes were on the agenda as we watched small flocks of Greenfinch and Reed Bunting, a female Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Little Grebe demonstrating how small it was, almost under our feet. As the precipitation ceased and the outlook improved the group headed to Goldcliff. The stars of the afternoon were a Spotted Redshank, unfortunately not in summer plumage, and an elegant Greenshank. The supporting cast included Wigeon, Redshank, Oystercatchers, Lapwings, Shelduck, and Shovelers. The chorus lines of Avocets and Black-tailed Godwits were disturbed by a maundering Marsh Harrier, but practice was quickly resumed although the sound system seemed muffled probably due to the high winds. Thanks to Nick for leading this field trip in challenging conditions with nearly 50 species seen, identified & recorded.

    Rich Scantlebury

     

  • Tuesday 24 March – Doynton Tuesday March 24th, 2015

     On a mild and sunny day, 25 walkers set out across the Doynton farmland to take a northern route into the Golden Valley. The youngest of us by far was a journalist-in-training from UWE, tasked with interviewing us about our choice of an official UK bird between the suggested options of Robin, Wren or Kingfisher. I hope he wasn’t too bored!

    Since I was last in this area, two of the quarries have filled up with water providing some interesting new habitat. It seems likely that breeding will be attempted by the pair of Greylags, two pairs of Dabchicks and two pairs of Coots that have taken up residence there – new birds for the site list, I’m sure. The older inhabitants, Raven and Peregrine, were both on station and showed nicely. If that Peregrine isn’t deaf it must have nerves of steel, as it completely ignored a large digger trundling around on the bank only about 20 yards above its perch. Familiarity breeds indifference?

    Other birds of interest included a pair of Mistle Thrushes, so large and grey compared with the Song Thrush; at least four singing Chiffchaffs which were probably new arrivals; a Blackcap in close proximity to a fat-ball feeder who had probably wintered there; also Buzzard, Jay, Goldcrest and Meadow Pipit to add to the usual field and woodland species. Sadly, any Dipper on the river must have fled long before we all tramped over its bridge. It was a lovely early-spring morning, and thanks to Margaret for showing us some new footpaths through a beautiful rural landscape.                  Jane Cumming

     

  • Tuesday 17 March – Marshfield. Tuesday March 17th, 2015

     A new walk in warm spring sunshine, vocal lambs, Celandines and Primroses, plenty of bird-life – truly glorious! Led by David Tombs, 25 of us set off from opposite the Village Hall just as the sun was breaking through the mist. Our departure was marked by the busy, noisy occupants of the Rookery in the trees above. Some were still repairing their nests; others might already have been sitting on eggs. After crossing the playing field, we entered the wide valley of the Doncombe Brook, having already seen a flock of 150 Common Gulls wheeling high above, as well as Long-tailed Tit, a flock of Chaffinches in a ploughed field, one Buzzard sitting in a tree and another Buzzard calling above us. As we entered the edge of Cloud Wood we heard Skylark, then Nuthatch, and noted Goldcrest, Wren, Pheasant and Magpie. At coffee break, before we entered Marshfield Wood, we saw a Kestrel being mobbed by a Crow while a Buzzard circled nearby. In the wood, a pair of Ravens were calling, and Chaffinch, Coal Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker were heard. Back near the village, Jackdaw, Bullfinch, Jay and Yellowhammer were seen. Then, in the churchyard, came what for some was the star sighting: a female Grey Wagtail seeking insects on the church roof. As it posed obligingly, revelling in the sunshine, we admired its bright yellow markings which showed so well against the roof tiles. Species recorded, 37. Thank you, David, for finding and leading the walk – we hope it will become a regular.  John Beaven

     

  • Tuesday 10 March – Stanton Drew Tuesday March 10th, 2015

     A group of 25 set out from the Druids Arms on a beautiful morning. Beneath the hedgerows and along the banks the early flowers of spring, the celandines, daffodils and primroses, provided welcome splashes of colour and the Stanton Drew stone circle gave us an historical theme. We were quickly treated to the sounds of many birds including Robins, House Sparrows, Great Tits and Wrens. This continued throughout the morning. We passed a garden which had some bird feeders one of which looked rather strange as it consisted of a long string to which was attached a quarter of a red cabbage about 18 inches above the ground. Having failed to think of any birds that might feed on red cabbage we then saw the chickens! We heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming and then spotted a flock of about 80 Starlings flying over. Later we saw another flock of about 30. Chiffchaff were either seen or heard and Coal Tit was added to our list. Small flocks of Common Gulls and Goldfinches of 19 and 35 respectively were also seen. A small number of Fieldfares and Redwings probably on their way north were in the nearby trees. We climbed Knowle Hill to gain a splendid view of Chew Valley Lake and on the way down we heard the sounds of a flock of birds in a large ash tree and were surprised to find there were over 60 Linnets. We saw a Kestrel mobbing a Buzzard and soon after some had a fleeting view of a Sparrowhawk. We passed some farm buildings and had nice views of four Yellowhammers on top of the barns. We had a total of 39 species and, thanks to Nick Hawkridge’s splendid record keeping, a total of almost 500 birds. It was an extremely enjoyable morning and many thanks to Maureen and Bill Dobie for leading the walk.          Mike Landen

  • Tuesday 03 March – Elm Farm, Burnett Tuesday March 03rd, 2015

     On a blustery morning 21 of us donned our waterproofs for a walk around Elm Farm where the land is managed under the Defra Environmental Stewardship Scheme. As we set off we saw Goldfinch, Blue and Great Tit and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Not far down the track we saw our first Yellowhammer and a little further on a flock of 20 took off from a field margin planted for winter feed. As we walked downhill our first Buzzard was spotted against the blue sky, the threatening rain clouds having departed. We walked through a small wood in the hope of seeing Woodcock that are there but most were disappointed; a splinter group of four who walked the field adjacent to the wood were however rewarded with a sight of one flushed downhill by the rest of us. Fieldfares and Redwings were seen in small numbers on several occasions along with a few Skylarks and Meadow Pipits. We spotted a couple of hares in different parts of the walk – a bit early for a boxing display though – as well as Roe Deer. Several of the meadows we walked through have been sown with extensive wild flower mixes to provide food for insects and birds and will no doubt give an excellent visual display in a couple of months or so. Thanks to Roger Palmer for leading, Philippa Paget for explaining the management of the land and John Paget for providing a lift for those who wanted one up the hill. In all we saw 39 species.

    Mark Watson

     

  • Tuesday 24 February – Backwell Lake Tuesday February 24th, 2015

    The cold east wind was barely offset by the warm sun; the track from The Sperrings to the lake thus offered a brief respite. Our walk began with a small party of House Sparrow on the roofs, with Goldfinch close by, but at the lake the sun threw such a dazzle on the water that those ducks and geese present were reduced to inky silhouettes. An obliging Redwing offered us clear views down to 10m, the eye stripe of this fine bird being particularly bright and the rufous under wing patches were simply bursting up the breast. The lake held plenty of Black-headed Gulls, some fine Mute Swans, Canada Goose, the usual duck population, a solitary Little Egret and just as we were moving from the water’s edge, a pair of Gadwalls churning across the billows. Before leaving the path a Mistle Thrush and two Song Thrushes had been seen, closely followed by more Redwings who lifted from the pasture at our approach and were kept company by several Chaffinches. A stray Grey Wagtail flew over as we made our way along the back lanes, with two Buzzards sitting atop posts and flying off as we mustered for coffee. Further along, one field held a creeping carpet of Meadow Pipits and the alders close by had Treecreeper, Long-tailed and Coal Tit. A field on the corner of the lane held two Stonechats and a different carpet, this time of feeding Black-headed Gulls who suddenly exploded into flight. A large, so probably female, Sparrowhawk circled and then flew quickly away. Following the top track back towards the Common, another field contained plenty of Redwings but we could only find two Fieldfares among them plus another good count of Chaffinches. Dropping down towards the cars a Bullfinch called from the hedge and Nuthatch from the top of the beech trees. In the hedge, try as we might, we could only locate five House Sparrows – the noise was that of 20. As we took our leave of the other 28 walkers the tally was 48 for the day. Our thanks to John for leading. Nick and Annie Hawkridge

     

  • Sunday 22 February – Barrow Tanks Sunday February 22nd, 2015

    Four BOC members gathered with me in the car park at Barrow Gurney reservoirs for the planned visit here. There was a threat of strong winds and rain coming in later and it was quite cold, with a southerly breeze, but dry. We proceeded to Tank Number 3, where we were able to watch a Common Sandpiper through telescopes, feeding on the concrete apron. We also saw some Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Teal, and a superb male Goldeneye. There were several Cormorants in summer plumage with the white patch on their flanks and also white on the head and necks – they looked splendid. A pair of adult Great Black-backed Gulls, and a candidate for an Adult Yellow-legged gull, were also present, along with some Little Grebes and Coots. Deciding not to walk all the way round number 3, and bearing in mind the impending weather, we moved to number 2 tank. Here it was less sheltered, with the wind a little stronger. There were some more duck here, and Cormorants. Discussion then took place on the identification of the various gulls that were roosting on the causeway between number 1 and 2 tanks, where we noted the difference between Common, Black-headed, and Lesser Black-backed gulls, mostly in winter or first winter plumage, but with at least one Black-headed Gull in its summer finery. A Raven flew over, briefly calling. We opted to take a short walk around No 1 reservoir, returning along the causeway with time (and weather) pressing. Two members opted to end their visit part way around, but the remaining members decided to press on, where there were more views and discussion relating to the gulls, and more views of Shoveler, Tufted Duck and Teal. We saw various gulls trying to rob a Dabchick of its fish every time it surfaced. A Grey Wagtail flew over. Then with light rain now falling, along with the wind not subsiding, we decided to end the visit and return to the car park and call it a day. Most of the members had not been to this site before, and planned to visit again in more favourable conditions(Many thanks to Chris for leading.) Chris Stone

     

  • Tuesday 17 February – Gordano Valley Tuesday February 17th, 2015

    Twenty people met on a bright cold morning with puddles frozen over and a brisk wind. First sighting were four/five Ravens flying over, with Pheasants dotted along the valley, and Mistle Thrush and Great and Blue Tit singing. Greenfinch and Robins were in the hedges and later Blackbirds, Chaffinch and Goldfinch were seen. Some at the back of the group had a very good view of a Sparrowhawk flying low over the fields. As we crossed the valley three Buzzards were seen and two Stonechats, followed by two Kestrels – one on a post plucking at some prey or other; a bird, a mouse? A Grey Heron also came by with its characteristic lazy flight wending its way across the valley floor. As we continued through Common Hill Wood first Goldcrest, then Coal Tit, Treecreeper, Bullfinch, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were seen or heard. On coming down off Walton Common we were delighted to find a Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly, a first for the year. Last, but by no mean least, House Sparrow were seen in the gardens just before the finish. A total of 39 species were seen or heard during this stimulating walk (Thanks to Geoff for leading). Geoff Harris.

  • Tuesday 10 February – Severn Beach Tuesday February 10th, 2015

    It was a windless morning of light mistiness and thick cloud but there were 34 smiling faces to see John Prince present me with a delightful Owl trophy in commemoration of walk 1000 at Ashton Park, and of my starting the Tuesday Club way back in November 1994. Thank you, John and everyone. Today, walk number 1015, we headed to the south beach area noting a good gathering on the exposed mud of Shelduck, Redshank, Dunlin, and Ringed Plover, and then we walked along a small lane behind the village where there were Song Thrush, Wagtails, and Blue and Great Tits. After heading across some fields, to give some distance from the M4, we had a coffee break before taking the bridge over the motorway and onto the wonderful new Pilning Wetlands Nature Reserve, formally a military firing range. There, on the pools, we saw Black-tailed Godwit, Lapwing, more Dunlin, Shoveler, and one Little Egret before the small climb to the River Severn flood bank pathway. Between there and New Passage we saw a large flock of Teal resting on the pill and 150 Wigeon feeding on the grass. The river, an hour or so after high water, was so exceedingly calm it gave the appearance of being iced over and a passing Cormorant was mirrored as it flew under the M4 bridge. It was closely followed at a more leisurely pace by a Grey Heron. Thanks go to Nick Hawkridge for kindly noting the bird species totalling 51. (Thanks to David for leading) David Tombs

  • Saturday 07 February – Portbury Wharf Saturday February 07th, 2015

    Eleven members joined the leaders on a dull wintry day at Sheepway. The overnight frost kept the ground solid for most of the day and there was a distinct edge to the North Easterly wind. A number of species was logged before the start; along Sheepway were plenty of Goldfinches and Greenfinches, though the latter were easier to hear than see. Thrushes were easily found with five species being added. Fieldfares were not much in evidence but it was useful to find Mistle Thrush, Redwing and Song Thrush close enough for comparison. A number of us were interested to learn of the existence of Dark-throated Thrush – though a long study failed to turn a rather dark headed Song Thrush into a star find! Everyone got to check the Goldcrest and then the first of several rather elusive Bullfinches put in an appearance. There were plenty more seen later but some of us missed them completely. Out of the lane through the fields and onto the sea wall produced the usual suspects. The proximity of the docks provided a constant background of noise making hearing bird calls a challenge. Only the first couple of people onto the sea wall managed to see a reasonable flock of Wigeon before they disappeared. Highlights along the bank were several Reed Buntings and a Stonechat. Distant Curlew and Redshank were the only waders. The tower hide provided a bit of respite from the cutting wind, and added more duck – total eight species. It’s an advantage having an AWT volunteer as one of the leaders. Not only did Giles update us on work on the Reserve but took us into the Sanctuary – normally closed to the public. Giles explained the management of this area – leaving plenty of scrub for the Portbury Ringing Group to work in but opening up the grassland to create meadow for wildflowers and invertebrates. Interesting to see how close the reserve is to the built-up area. Roe Deer and Fox were seen, a welcome addition to the list. This continued to expand back along Wharf Lane to Sheepway but a number of hoped for specialties hadn’t heard that we expected to see them. Despite that a very healthy 53 were recorded. It seemed that everyone had an enjoyable morning. (Thanks to Bob Buck and Giles Morris for leading.)     Bob Buck

     

  • Tuesday 03 February – Bristol city centre Tuesday February 03rd, 2015

    Nineteen members met in Millennium Square on this very cold but sunny day. Our first birds. apart from the ever present gulls, were some Goldfinches and a Starling by the Arnolfini. The usual gang of Cormorants were by Prince Street Bridge. One was a juvenile with an almost white breast. Some were adults showing their breeding patches and one was a very smart male with continental type plumage. Beyond the M shed the bushes by the railway tracks were searched but there are signs that these bushes are all being cleared away so a lot of habitat for passerines is being destroyed. There is still a flock of House Sparrows. A break by the marina added Mallard and Mute Swan to the list. We then crossed to the New Cut and picked up a Common Sandpiper and Lesser Black-backed Gull. Approaching the tobacco bonds two Grey Wagtails flew overhead and some saw a Kestrel and a Peregrine. Some Redwings were feeding on berries under the flyover. A Buzzard was seen being chased by a Crow over the Ashton Court woodland. About 60 Black Headed Gulls were dancing over the river like butterflies – a very pretty sight. Both the lock gates of the entrance lock to the Cumberland Basin were open so we had the unusual sight of an empty Basin. Gulls were foraging in the seldom exposed mud. A Moorhen was seen on our walk back on the North side of the harbour then we climbed Brandon Hill to add a few more passerines. Wren, Goldcrest, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Coal Tit and Long-tailed Tit were seen and a Nuthatch heard. A few of the group had the energy to climb the tower. Thank you to Nick for his meticulous list of all the birds. Species total 33. Margaret Gorely

     

  • Sunday 01 Feb – Exe Estuary Sunday February 01st, 2015

    Twenty-seven members met at the Water Tower and travelled down to the Exe estuary. By the time we had got to Exeter the sun had come out. Almost as soon as we got off the coach and started to walk towards the Exminster Marshes area we all observed a Barn Owl which was sitting out in the open on a bough of a tree sunning itself. Along the lane we observed hundreds of Canada Geese and in the distance by the motorway flyover were a small flock of Brent Geese. Large numbers of Wigeon were feeding in the field either side of the lane and they were accompanied by a small groups of Shoveler, Teal and Shelduck. Two Grey Herons were flushed from a water filled dyke and there were numerous Mute Swans and Greylag Geese feeding close to the lane. Two Common Snipe were observed along with a large number of Curlew feeding in a distant field. As we arrived at the end of the lane near the RSPB car park a man with a large dog flushed a flock of approx. 400 Brent Geese from a field near the Canal Path. I had been told that a Black Brant had been seen in this flock but, unfortunately, that was the one that got away. Walking along the Canal Path towards the Turf Hotel we had both Pied and Grey Wagtail, as well as more flocks of Wigeon along with a small number of Tufted Ducks in the fields around. A pleasure ferry which was travelling from Topsham disturbed a flock of c500 Avocets. At the Turf Hotel viewpoint we had Dunlin, Redshank in good numbers, two Red-breasted Mergansers, numerous Cormorants and large flock of Black-tailed Godwits who were huddled together sheltering from the very cold breeze. A large flock of Oystercatcher was out on the large mud flats in front of us. Two Long-tailed Duck were observed flying up the estuary and a Common Buzzard was seen just as we moved off. Walking towards Powderham we saw Meadow Pipit and what was to be a lifer for a number of our group was a very obliging Snow Bunting which rounded off the walk before lunch. After rejoining the coach we travelled to Dawlish Warren where the tide was still way out of the Estuary so we concentrated on a short sea watch which produced a small number of Common Scoters, numerous Great Crested Grebes, some Razorbills and many Gannets could be seen feeding far out but viewable with a scope. By this time we were a bit fragmented as some members had gone off to the Dawlish Warren hide and a small number of us had decided to walk along the sea wall a bit further. We had Shag and a few Guillemots viewed close in and also a Lesser Redpoll on a Gorse Bush by the Golf Course. (Well spotted, Nick Hawkridge). By the time my small group had got down near the Hide the other breakaway group were on their way back. They said that the tide was just on its way in but the only birds they had seen were Sanderling, Turnstone, more Oystercatcher and a few said they had Knot as well. Just before finishing off a number of us did manage to observe the Bonaparte’s Gull which was flying along from the direction of Langstone Rock towards the beach area – another lifer for a few. All in all, not a bad days birding at all. Total number species seen was 47. (Many thanks to Charles who tried hard to keep the group together at times)        Charles Stapleton

  • Tuesday 27 January- Failand Tuesday January 27th, 2015

    A group of 30 set out from the Failand Inn on an overcast, chilly, but dry day. A Mistle Thrush was prominent in a tree top at Failand Hill Farm and although water birds were not expected, a Cormorant was spotted in transit overhead. Woodpigeons, Carrion Crows, Linnets and Starlings appeared in flocks at various points and a group of 16 Blackbirds were feeding in close proximity. Nuthatches were heard in the woods above Portbury Lane, making chattering calls rather than the more usual whistles. There were also Bullfinch, Long-Tailed Tit and Goldcrest amongst the trees. A very large flock of Chaffinch were feeding on the ground near Limekiln Cottages and other large flocks were seen in flight. During our coffee stop, we saw a flock of Redwing with the occasional Fieldfare and then, a single Buzzard, not very high, probably due to a lack of thermals on that day. Three Ravens croaked loudly and flew around the treetops along Charlton Drive. Crossing the Clevedon Road to the Tyntesfield Estate, a dung heap yielded several Dunnock and a Pied Wagtail and a flock of Meadow Pipits was evident in the adjacent field. Jays could be heard in the woods towards the end of the estate walk. Lesser Black-Backed and Herring Gulls were identified overhead on several occasions. My thanks to Nick Hawkridge for giving me access to his very comprehensive bird list, which totalled 30, (one for each person!) and to Roger Hawley who helped to jog my memory on some sightings. Thanks also to Maureen who was really the leader, having led other groups on this walk on several occasions. Bill Dobie

  • Tuesday 20 January – Shapwick Heath/Ham Wall Tuesday January 20th, 2015

    As seven of us set off from Ashcott car park on an overcast afternoon with rain threatening we saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Starling and Redwing. On Ham Wall Reserve, as we went to the first view point, Dunnock, Pied Wagtail, Redwing, a Mistle Thrush, Grey Heron and Chiffchaff were spotted. The pools yielded Moorhen, Coot, Gadwall, Great Crested Grebe, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Cormorant and Mute Swan. Next we went to the new RSPB Tor hide in the hope of seeing Water Rail and were rewarded with excellent views of two feeding along the water’s edge. On our way to and from the second viewpoint we added Great White Egret, Teal, Wigeon, Marsh Harrier and Mallard. On our return to Shapwick Heath to see the Starling roost we had views of two male Bullfinches, Goldcrest, Goldfinch and a large flock of Long-tailed Tits. The overcast conditions meant that the Starlings arrived a little earlier than on the last few days. We had good views of several large murmurations which roosted some distance away from the track in a number of different areas rather than one. All in all an excellent visit with a total of 42 species and the rain held off until we left. Thanks to Mike Johnson for leading his second BOC group here in three days (with a third visit looking at plants planned for the following day). Mark Watson

  • Sunday 18 January – Shapwick Heath and Ham Wall Sunday January 18th, 2015

    Eighteen members met at the new RSPB car park at Ashcott Corner on a bright crisp afternoon. Bristol Naturalists’ were also meeting there that afternoon under the leadership of club member Giles Morris so we decided to combine and have a joint field meeting. We walked down the path being the former Somerset and Dorset Railway track from Burnham-on-Sea to Evercreech that divides the two sides of Ham Wall. The RSPB have created a number of new features at this reserve lately one being the new Tor Hide and boardwalk approach which takes you right into the heart of the reed bed. At the hide we had wonderfully close views of a Water Rail stealthily weaving between the vegetation seeking insect prey. A Kingfisher sped past in a turquoise-blue flash and a Cetti’s Warbler announced its presence with an explosive outburst of notes. From the viewing platforms we observed a good selection of water birds including Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Mute Swan, Grey Heron and Little Grebe. Waders were represented by Lapwing and Snipe. Incredibly, these days, you seem more likely to see a Great White Egret rather than its smaller cousin at this reserve and such was the case today. Some had brilliant views of a Goldcrest feeding in an alder with the sun lighting up its orange and yellow crown stripe. A Marsh Harrier drifted low over the reeds. We then walked through part of the Natural England Meare Heath reserve where we had heard that the Starlings had roosted the previous evening. We were not disappointed as just before dusk tens of thousands of the birds poured into the reed beds, swirling and twisting in their huge flocks. A captivating sight as usual(Thanks to Mike for leading) Mike Johnson

  • Tuesday 13 January – Between Chew Valley & Blagdon Lakes Tuesday January 13th, 2015

    Thirteen members set off from Herons Green for a walk along quiet lanes between the Lakes. We got off to a good start with a Kestrel hovering over nearby fields and water birds on Chew Lake including Canada Goose, Coot, Little Egret, Great Crested Grebe, Tufted Duck and Goosander amongst others. The weather held for a while as we climbed with Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Robin and Dunnock flitting about the hedgerows. Excellent views were had of Great Spotted Woodpecker on a feeder along with Goldfinch. As the walk progressed spots of rain began to fall and then eased again as we had views of Jay, Redwing, Bullfinch, Song and Mistle Thrush, Blackcap and Wren. Just before the heavy rain started, which accompanied us nearly to the end, we saw Goldcrest, Grey Wagtail, our customary Buzzard and an obliging Nuthatch feeding on peanuts. We arrived damp at our cars after an excellent walk with a tally of 49 species. Sadly the Bittern at Heron’s Green did not show. Thanks to Nick Hawkridge who kept us on the right route and Sue and John Prince for planning the walk. It was good to see them at lunch and learn that Sue is recovering well from her operation. Mark Watson

  • Saturday 10 January – Blashford Lake Saturday January 10th, 2015

    There was some cause for concern en-route as the weather was less than promising, but, thankfully, it improved upon arrival. Nine members paraded, though initially going to the ‘wrong’ car park, one car load saw a Long- tailed Duck, which had disappeared by the time we all looked later. The feeder outside the visitor centre was busy with, amongst other species, Tits, Siskins, Chaffinches, and at least two Nuthatches. We walked to the Woodland Hide where the feeder was really busy, again mainly with four species of Tit (including a Long-tailed with a ring on its leg) and four species of Finches, though there was no sign of the hoped for Brambling or Redpolls. We moved on to South Hide at Ivy Lake where we saw a number of the more common water birds, including Shoveler, Wigeon, Gadwall and Great Crested Grebe, but our attention was then drawn to a fly-by Great White Egret. Our next stop was the north hide at the same lake, where a Chiffchaff was flitting around, and Teal was added to the list. The Great White Egret re-appeared and gave good views as it circled quite near to the hide, and landed just out of sight. After leaving the hide we walked up and down a path that had recently held a Firecrest, but had noluck with that and had to settle for a couple of Goldcrests. As we had been making our way around the hides and paths, a flock of about twenty five flighty and vocal Siskins flew into the trees over our heads a number of times, but despite close examination, we couldn’t pick out any Redpolls amongst them. We crossed the road to Ibsley Water, where a Ring-billed Gull had been reported, and a couple of gulls were picked out from the quite distant mass as being possibles. Discussion took place, but, none were definitely nailed as RBG. However, well worth seeing were singletons of Bewick’s Swan, Black-necked Grebe, Goldeneye, and a few each of Pintail and Goosander.
    Next, we drove the short distance to Milkham Inclosure where we hoped to find the Great Grey Shrike that had been seen recently. No sign of it, but, with the help of a local birder, there was compensation in the form of a Ring Tail Hen Harrier, which flew along a ridge in the middle distance. Also of note here were two Mistle Thrushes, Fieldfare, Redwing, Stonechat, Green Woodpecker and a Treecreeper, which was one of at least five seen during the day. Our last stop was at Blackwater Arboretum, where there is a small, but well established, Hawfinch roost site. Local birders also arrived to see them, but on this occasion it may be that the birds had got there first and were sitting tight in the fading light. Not all was lost here though, as we had seen a male Crossbill in the car park. Also present were two male Bullfinches. On the walk back to the car, we heard a Tawny Owl calling very clearly. A total of 59 species were noted.
    Thanks to the nine attendees for making it an enjoyable day, and especially to Louise for leading. Trevor Ford

  • Thursday 01 January – WWT Slimbridge Thursday January 01st, 2015

    Our usual leader was laid up with a bad cold but there were only twelve of us, all “old stagers”, so we took ourselves around and just about managed to stay together! Although there was no sun the light was good at the Martin Smith hide en route to the Holden Tower and the Pintail particularly were looking very spruce, also many Wigeon, Teal, Shelduck, Shoveler and Mallard and a few Pochard and Redshank. Behind them in the field were about 60 Bewick’s Swans and huge numbers of Lapwing and Golden Plover were wheeling around – they all went up at one point. Two Buzzards appeared and a Black-tailed Godwit flew in. We visited the Willow Hide next and admired the very tame Water Rail which was happy to walk around in full view for everyone to see. Also there was a female Reed Bunting and other small birds on the feeders. A brisk wind was blowing into the Holden Tower from the Severn in spite of the mild weather, but didn’t stop us seeing a Little Stint with a few Dunlin, good for size comparison. A Buzzard was in the field on his own and two Curlew were eventually picked up beyond the water. Many Canada Geese were present, as well as Greylags and Barnacles. On entering the Zeiss hide we were told that a Marsh Harrier was performing and soon we had very good views of it (a female) flying up and down the bank and then interacting with a Buzzard, again very good for comparison of wing shape. A Sparrowhawk was also seen and a huge flock of Golden Plover flew around in front of us. The Kingfisher hide provided Goldfinches on the feeders, attended by a family of Rats below, a Kestrel, some Gadwall and a Little Grebe, plus a Cormorant flying over. Our attention was drawn to a free-flying Ferruginous Duck which had appeared among the Collection, and we managed to see this on our way to the South Hide. Here we were shown a continental Cormorant with a white face, and three Black-tailed Godwits, one slightly coloured, just starting to go into summer plumage. 55 species in all. (Many thanks to Judy for standing in as leader.) Judy Copeland

  • Tuesday 30 December – Portishead Tuesday December 30th, 2014

    With the period of unseasonal wintry sunny days continuing it allowed us to bask in the warm sunshine but be chilled by the frozen ground. Our group of 23 birders began by looking over the salt marsh towards the flock of Dunlins and Ringed Plovers feeding along the water’s edge. We also noticed a small group of Linnets bending the stems of the grasses while feeding on the seed heads, this very motion revealing their presence. Alas, Battery Point was awash with fishermen and not water – so no Purple Sandpiper but the headland made a splendid watch point to observe from.

    Up the hill and into East Wood where the common Tit species were all around us, two noisy Nuthatches called to one another and Great Spotted Woodpecker went ‘chip chip’ before flying off. Descending to the jetty and seeing the ongoing work on the new RNLI boat house, I had hoped that the Black Redstart might have put in an appearance but alas not. A further collection of Gulls was counted plus a small flock of Canada Geese waddling their way into the long grass to feed. What disturbed the 30 or so Dunlins was not evident but they showed a pretty turn of speed and agile flight as they flashed in the sunlight before disappearing towards Royal Portbury Dock. The walk along the marina beside the opulent water craft was sparse bird – but not humanity – wise although a further flock of Canada Geese were obviously very used to being fed as they hardly moved as we passed by. Our final birds of the day were; a Buzzard being seen off by Carrion Crows, a distant Song Thrush and a Grey Wagtail up over the roof tops. A total count of 42 species was a fitting end to 2014 for the Tuesday Group. Nick Hawkridge

     

  • Tuesday 23 December – Snuff Mills Monday December 22nd, 2014

    At the start of this festive week, there is nothing better than to disappear into the woodlands, try and forget the impending jollities and get a good dose of birding. All along the Frome valley we hoped for Siskin but alas none were seen. The Dipper and the Kingfisher were probably also finding their living elsewhere, as the river was so high. At the top of the valley we encountered many corvids; large numbers of raucous Jackdaw, a fair few aggressive Carrion Crows, many cackling Magpies and at least four Ravens. The Blue and Great Tits were starting to show signs of ‘getting friendly’ with some full song from each species, although the Long-tailed Tits were still in big mixed parties with Goldcrest and Blue Tit, – running from tree top to tree top. The playing fields were bare of their normal covering of gulls, in fact, only a few were seen on the wing throughout the whole walk, however we did have splendid views of two Mistle Thrushes on the fields, both standing bolt upright to keep an eye on the marauding dogs. The final section from Frenchay Bridge back to the car park went past a garden with a Jay burying his food stash, a couple of Moorhens fussing around the margins and a dozen hungry Mallards steaming to their feeding station. There was a sighting of a Grey Wagtail and a fine Sparrowhawk, only interested in quitting the area and the unwelcome attentions of Jackdaws. 26 species seen by most of the 20 walkers. Thanks to Dave Body for standing in as leader and for taking us round this lovely walk. Nick Hawkridge

  • Tuesday 16 December – Pucklechurch Tuesday December 16th, 2014

    This year’s pre-Christmas Lunch walk was well supported with 37 members setting off from the Fleur de Lis at Pucklechurch. It was a lovely sunny morning with the church’s cockerel weather-vane shining golden and the light frost melting. Through the village various chattering House Sparrows, 15 tuneful Dunnocks, Robin, Blackbird, Blue Tit, and Magpie were busy foraging and there was debate about the identity of a beautiful, small tree absolutely covered in red berries. Before we reached the fields we had a Silver Birch dripping with a large flock of Redwing and Fieldfare plus some Blue Tits and a Raven surveyed the scene from the top of a fir tree. Crossing the fields was quite muddy underfoot but produced seven Meadow Pipits. A member hoped for some early spuds at the nursery we passed. He was disappointed but bulbs and beets were purchased by others, whilst a group of 26 Stock Doves swooped across, beyond the yard. Buzzards were only spotted towards the end of our walk, which was shortened a little to be back for our excellent lunch at the pub, joining those who had not perambulated. We saw 29 species. There were about 60 people who enjoyed the cheery atmosphere and a good meal, well organised again by Peter Holbrook. Mark Watson thanked Peter and the leaders of the 2014 walks. Ed Drewitt then thanked Mark for taking on the role of organiser and said his farewell as Chairman. Thanks to Pat and Duncan Gill for leading.

    Sue Watson

     

  • Tuesday 09 December – Portbury Wharf Tuesday December 09th, 2014

     A grey but still day greeted 23 enthusiasts for a jaunt around Portbury Reserve. Numerous Redwings were feeding on the huge crops of berries in the lane. A Kestrel was perched in a nearby tree but became nervous of the watching throng and made an exit stage left. There were not many birds seen at the first hide as the scrapes were having a makeover. The second hide was much better but the height of the reeds was not easy to see over. (Since cleared) However, many Lapwings were on the island and Shoveler, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Little Grebe graced the pools. At the third hide good views were had of the resident Reed Buntings. On the warth a flock of Linnets bounced into view and disappeared in the vegetation along with a lone Skylark. A walker’s dog put up a Snipe. Just as we thought we would be denied, a Buzzard too appeared at the end to make a total of 42 species. (Thanks for leading,Roger) Roger Hawley

     

  • Sunday 07 December – Blagdon Lake Sunday December 07th, 2014

    Seven members met Nigel Milbourne, a voluntary warden for Bristol Water, and our leader for the day. Early morning rain had given way to sunshine and we first spent some time at the fishing lodge looking out over the Lake and then walked down to the dam. The main highlight of the morning for some of group was the good views of Black-necked Grebe at Wood Bay. For me the morning was memorable for the number of species encountered, being sixty-one. Nothing rare, other than the Grebe, but a tribute to Bristol Water for their effective management of the various habitats verging the Lake. Indeed, if the water level had not been so high and we had had more exposed mud I dare say we would have added to the list with more waders. Only Snipe and Lapwing were seen on the day. Four Siskins feeding upside down with a flock of Goldfinches in alders at Hellfire Corner held our attention for a while. Stock Doves in flight were observed and the calls of both Woodpeckers, Water Rail and Bullfinch heard. The sun encouraged some insects to fly which were appreciated by a Chiffchaff darting for its prey. A very enjoyable morning greatly enhanced by Nigel’s considerable knowledge of all aspects of flora and fauna at the Lake. His website Blagdonlakebirds.com is well worth a visit. Mike Johnson

     

  • Tuesday 02 December – Slimbridge Tuesday December 02nd, 2014

     The Tuesday walkers started out as a group of 25 people but soon split into threes and fours as we worked our way around the site. There was plenty to see on the Tack Piece, including about 50 Bewick’s Swans although the main winter flock had clearly not yet arrived. Amongst plenty of Curlews and Redshanks, six very distant Ruffs could be discerned but I don’t think anyone located the 4 Little Stints that were also supposed to be present. Dabbling ducks were well represented in big numbers, but one of the best sightings was of three Cranes, clearly colour-ringed so returnees from the Somerset Levels introduction but still a beautiful sight. A Peregrine regularly stirred up the thousands of Lapwings, Dunlins and Golden Plovers. We looked through hundreds of feral Greylags and Barnacles to pick out about 47 White-fronted Geese – the genuine winter visitors. Sadly, a comprehensive search of the huge Teal flock from the Zeiss Hide failed to uncover the reported Green-winged Teal. Strolling on around the other hides, we noted 41 species in total including Skylark, Reed Bunting and Great Spotted Woodpecker, ending up with 90 Black-tailed Godwits on the South Lake. I suspect that Mark’s final list held a better species count than that. Many thanks to Mark Watson for leading a most enjoyable morning. Jane Cumming

     

  • Sunday 30 November – Steart Sunday November 30th, 2014

     The WWT reserve at Steart has been created as a result of the work by DEFRA to realign the sea wall and provide flood prevention measures in the area. The old sea wall was breached on the 6September 2014 allowing water to flow into the reserve to start the process to create an inter-tidal salt marsh. So the reserve is at an early stage of development and it will be interesting to see it mature over the next few years. The fog on the motorway gave way to brilliant sunshine by the time 28 members gathered in the WWT car park. The calm conditions and the sun made for a very pleasant day in this exposed landscape. The mature hedge by the entrance held Redwing and Fieldfare, a first sighting this winter for many of the group. The views from the Mendip hide over the lagoons required telescopes as the birds were mostly distant. Most notable were the flocks of Lapwing, Golden Plover and Shoveler. A sleeping Pintail was an ID challenge. Continuing to the river, the flocks of waders on the mud were distant but it is a long walk to the breach to get a closer view. Alas there were no Avocets in sight. We took the northerly path past the Polden hide to give views over an area of bog and rough grass. Meadow Pipits, Skylarks, Pied Wagtails and Goldfinches added to the variety.After a lunch break we drove round to the Natural England car park to walk out to Fenning Island. A search around the car park failed to find Little Owl which are resident here. We also missed out on Short-eared Owl this time. The flocks of waders were the main attraction. Persistence by one persondid find a Common Gull amongst the Herring Gulls and close scrutiny found a Spotted Redshank on one of the pools where there were a couple of Little Grebe. Stonechats and a Reed Bunting flitted around. Finally a couple of Avocets were seen heading up river.  By the time we gathered in the car park to depart, the group total was about 53 species seen. More impressive was the number of waders. We saw about 6-7,000 Dunlin, over 1,000 Lapwing, 200plusGolden Plover, about 120 Grey Plover and lower numbers of other waders. This new WWT reserve shows great promise and is well worth repeated visits. (Many thanks to Richard for leading.)   Richard Belson

  • Tuesday 25 November – Coalpit Heath Tuesday November 25th, 2014

     Seventeen members arrived at the Kendleshire Golf Club car park on a dry but overcast morning. As we set off alongside the golf course, Dunnock and Robin flew about the hedgerow and on the course Moorhen and Black-headed Gulls were avoiding the golf balls along with a solitary Canada Goose.  A Carrion Crow passed overhead as well as our first Mistle Thrush -we saw another later. A flock of Long-tailed Tits moved between trees, a Kingfisher flashed in and out of view and a Goldcrest wasspotted. As we left the golf course, a Rook and two Song Thrushes were perched in a tree and a Grey Heron languidly flew across the adjacent field. Shortly afterwards Redwing made an appearance and just before coffee a male Bullfinch showed. As the walk progressed, the cloud lowered and light rain began to fall. We added Coal, Blue and Great Tit, Wren, Collared Dove and Pied Wagtail to our list and saw a fox hurrying along beside a hedge. The rain continued and towards the end of the walk a Buzzard appeared and a Carolina Wood Duck cruised in the distance on a fishing pond.Overall we saw 32 species. Thanks to Duncan Gill and Peter Holbrook for leading. Mark Watson.

  • Tuesday 18 November 2014 – Frampton Pools Tuesday November 18th, 2014

     After a misty start to the day the sun broke through and the lakes and surrounding countryside looked very attractive with plenty of autumn colour still evident. 21 birders did the circular walk around the lakes and through woodland. A pheasant shoot was fortunately just finishing. We saw 46 species as a group total. On the water there were Swans and Canada Geese with a Greylag Goose in the fields where the winter wheat was already showing through. A Little Egret, Cormorants and several Great Crested Grebes gave good views. We had three sightings of Kingfisher. There were Mallard, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Wigeon and Gadwall as well as Coots and a Moorhen. The hedges and woodland provided two Goldcrests, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits. We had four Common Buzzards in total, three were with a Sparrowhawk, and a Kestrel. Some of the group were lucky enough to see a Green Woodpecker, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers and two Treecreepers. It made a very pleasant stroll on a lovely autumn morning. (Thanks to Sue and John Prince for leading.) Sue Prince

     

  • Sunday 16 November – Cheddar Reservoir Sunday November 16th, 2014

     Five members met at the Cheddar end of the reservoir on an overcast morning. The first notable sighting was the very large raft of Coot which must have numbered over a thousand birds. Why Cheddar should be such a draw for wintering Coot was debated without an obvious conclusion. There were also a large number of Great Crested Grebes spread over the Reservoir. Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits searched the water’s edge for food.  Tufted Duck, Pochard, Mallard, Teal and Shoveler were not far from the edge. Amongst the common passerines the highlight for some was their first Redwing of the autumn. Probably the best bird of the day was a male Goldeneye which apparently was the first wintering one to be reported at the reservoir this season. Thirty-nine species were recorded.   (Thanks for leading, Mike.)

  • Tuesday 04 November – Cheddar Tuesday November 04th, 2014

     Twelve of us arrived in a deluge of rain with dark skies. Therefore,we decided just to go around the reservoir as the lower paths quickly become like paddy fields. A slightly delayed start gave us a sunny, dry amble with a large variety of both water and ‘field & hedge’ birds. There were very numerous Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Great Crested Grebe, hundreds of Coot and quite a number of other duck, the most notable being Red-crested Pochard (twomale & threefemale). It was good to see both Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, Pied and Grey Wagtail, good views of a pair of Nuthatch and a mixed flock of finches, tits and a Robin!  Kestrel and Buzzard made an appearance and beyond the yacht club five Redwing feasted on berries.  Across the water, approximately 100 Canada Geese flew in from the southto make a total of 46 species. (Thanks for leading Sue.) Sue Watson

  • Saturday 01 November – River Avon boat trip Saturday November 01st, 2014

     A nearly full boatload of 37 members and guests were treated to fabulous weather and some great sights (birding and otherwise) on this trip. From the first Cormorant fishing in the harbour as we set sail from the ss ‘Great Britain’ ferry stop to the six Curlew on the sand bar opposite the tiny lighthouse at the entrance to the River Severn we were kept interested and sometimes entertained by the birds on view and also by Ed’s informative commentary. While we waited in the lock to leave the Floating Harbour we began to see the first of at least 20 Jays which seemed to be flying from Ashton Court to Clifton and back, presumably having found a food source to stock up their larders for winter. Both Pied and Grey Wagtails were seen, along with a full complement of the standard corvids of the area including a single Rook as we came back under the Suspension Bridge. A family group of five Ravens were soaring over the M5 bridge and another was seen harassing a Buzzard above Sea Walls. The main highlight was the wonderful display by a pair of Peregrines over Sea Walls, including a half-hearted attempt at chasing some pigeons before following us back towards the Suspension Bridge and giving us one final view while we returned through the lock to the harbour. This was nearly matched by the Grey Heron roost on the river bank at Horseshoe Bend (eleven including two perched in the trees). It was good to see the waders on the mud banks which are normally out of sight from the footpaths, ranging from a single Greenshank, through a handful of Common Sandpipers to one flock of about 120 Redshank on the return journey. The Lapwing also gave a colourful display with the sun showing off the iridescent colours of their plumage. A total of 30 species were seen.Thanks to Ed Drewitt for leading. Keith Williams

  • Tuesday 28 October – Ashton Court – 1000th Tuesday walk Tuesday October 28th, 2014

    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.

    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

  • Sunday 25 October – WWT Slimbridge (extra to programme) Saturday October 25th, 2014

     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

  • Tuesday 21 October – Hengrove Mounds / Manor Woods Tuesday October 21st, 2014

     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

     

  • Sunday 19 October – RSPB Ham Wall Sunday October 19th, 2014

     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

  • Tuesday 14 October – Severn Beach Tuesday October 14th, 2014

     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

  • Tuesday 07 October – Winscombe Tuesday October 07th, 2014

     Heavy rain, until just before the start of the walk, cleared to give a lovely blue sky for the ten hardy souls who had driven in hope, through the rain. Towers of Persil-white cumulus plus the occasional dark grey cloud gave a dramatic back-drop to a fair tally of all varieties of corvids, some gulls, Woodpigeons and hedgerow birds. We had a glorious view of a male Yellowhammer, perched on the top point of a bare tree, standing out in the autumn sunshine. A pair of Peregrines flew high above the hill before we climbed up to the wood to enjoy a coffee stop. Here, a Jay flew past and shortly afterwards a Sparrowhawk was seen high on the thermals with over 16 Ravens (in total) calling at intervals; seven of those flew over together. We finished with a flurry of six Pied Wagtails on the rooftops around the car park, giving a total species count of 27. (Sue, thanks for leading.) Sue Watson

     

  • Tuesday 30 September – Tickenham. Tuesday September 30th, 2014

    Twenty three people attended this walk on a warm sunny day, covering Tickenham Moor, fields, Land Yeo River, wooded slopes of Tickenham Ridge, and the open pastureland of Cadbury Camp. At the start, many birds were seen feeding around the Tickenham Church yew trees, including two or three Mistle Thrush and a group of three Greenfinch, doing the ‘batty’ flight more usually reserved for spring. An adjacent walnut tree saw a steady stream of corvids – most or nearly all Rooks – plucking the green encased nuts and flying off ; somewhere they must have been dropping them from a height or letting vehicles break them open to get to the meat inside. The subsequent field and woodland walk was generally quieter but a fair number of birds were seen and heard, including Nuthatch, Jay, Goldcrest, and Long-tailed Tit, and a juvenile Hobby (lighter beneath) and many Buzzard soared above (once again the variation in underwing colouration was most marked). On Cadbury Camp were Meadow Pipit, Skylark, and a Green Woodpecker – heard but not seen. Back down on the moor a couple of Mute Swans flew low over the rhynes with a few flying Mallards close behind. A Kestrel, which circled briefly before landing on a telegraph pole, was mobbed by a crowd of Meadow Pipit – keeping their distance, but making their presence felt. A few lucky people saw Clouded Yellow butterflies, and more noticeable were the scores – probably hundreds – of mostly coupled, reddish dragonflies (Common Darters?) sporting and possibly laying their eggs into the water among the vegetation growing on the margins of the Land Yeo. Total bird species seen/heard was 32. Lois Pryce  (Thanks to Lois and Jan for leading).

  • Sunday 28 September – Weymouth and Portland. Sunday September 28th, 2014

     14 members assembled at a chillyish Ferrybridge. It was high tide which meant no waders, but the highlight was a close view of a Peregrine being mobbed by Crows. Also of note here were three Mediterranean Gulls, four flyover Sandwich Terns, Wheatears and plenty of Swallows. We moved on to a much warmer Portland Bill and started with a sea watch. After a patient wait, during which time we saw Gannets, Shags, Rock Pipits and again, lots of Swallows passing by, we were rewarded with eight Balearic Shearwaters. We walked to the Observatory Quarry and surrounding area, hoping to catch sight of the Barred Warbler and Wryneck that had been reported there over the last day or so, but, had no luck with those. There was though, a difficult to see Little Owl in the Quarry, and a Whitethroat. A Sparrowhawk and two Kestrels were also seen nearby. Lunch was taken at Southwell where we shared a grassy knoll with a Lime Hawkmoth caterpillar. We took a stroll around some nearby fields again hoping for Wryneck, but, as well as more common species, we had to be content with Stonechat, Stock Dove, Raven, and more Wheatears. In the lane leading to the fields the air was filled with the buzzing from a huge number of Honey Bees collecting pollen from the Ivy. We also came across the web of a Small Eggar Moth. Our next stop was Portland Castle where after a short while we saw the Black Guillemot which had been present for a week or more. It was already in winter plumage, but was still a delightful bird to see. There was also a Kingfisher and Little Egret here. Lastly, we headed for Radipole and found a number of Snipe, ten Black-tailed Godwits, Water Rail, two Chiffchaffs, another Kingfisher, and Cetti’s Warblers (heard only). The last member to leave later reported seeing some Bearded Tits. Also, some of us saw the long staying Hooded Merganser. To tick, or, not to tick? Including the Merganser a total of 60 bird species were counted. The weather brought out a good selection of butterflies, the best of which were some Clouded Yellows, two Wall Browns, Painted Lady, Green Veined White, and male and female Common Blues interacting together. Thanks to Louise for leading an enjoyable day. Trevor Ford.

  • Tuesday 23 September – Blagdon Lake. Tuesday September 23rd, 2014

     A fine day saw 25 members meet at the Causeway to get good views of a Common Sandpiper in amongst the Gulls. A walk to the lodge saw a division of watchers, with 17 opting for the far side and eight the Lodge side, the £3.50 charge for the walk may have been a factor for those without permits. The far side was fairly quiet with Mistle Thrush and Nuthatch being viewed with the Greylag/Bar-headed hybrid Goose in with the Canada Geese and the other lake regulars. There were no Buzzards until the last five minutes of the walk when six turned up. The Lodge side had more luck with a Marsh Harrier, probably juvenile, Little Egret, Raven and Kestrel and Blackcap. Most of the small birds showed but Greenfinch and Chaffinch were conspicuous by their absence. Margaret Swatton  (Thank you Margaret for leading.)

  • Tuesday 16 September – River Avon, Ham Green to Pill Tuesday September 16th, 2014

     13 people set out on the bus from Pill, another seven joined us at Abbots Leigh, having come by bus from Bristol, then Jan turned up on her bike, making 21. The weather was perfect. Robins sang as we went along, Rooks and Jackdaws were feeding on the lawn of the bungalow opposite Brackenwood Garden Centre. Raven was heard and two Buzzards heard and seen. In the wood Coal Tit and Goldcrest were calling, and at one point everyone stared across to a dead birch tree engulfed in a fungus – which Our Expert has now indentified as Birch Polypore. On arrival at the river we scanned without success for the Greenshank, but later one lucky person saw it flying out from the near bank and going up river. We counted a total of about 50 Redshank, three Cormorants, many Black-headed Gulls but only one Lesser Black-back. One Common Sandpiper was found, one Lapwing and, to start with, one Heron though the final total was eight. The best spot of the day was a Roe Deer on the opposite bank walking towards a fox, which ducked down into the grass to allow it to pass. Behind the deer was another fox and both foxes sat looking across at us, watching us watching them and knowing that the river was an effective safety barrier! Greenfinch and Goldfinch were noted and we caught up with House Sparrow at the farm and Grey Wagtail and Moorhen on Ham Green Lake, before reaching Pill and following alleyways back to the Memorial Club. Nick noted a total of 43 species.Judy Copeland (Thank you to Judy for leading.)

  • Saturday 13 September – Severn Beach. Saturday September 13th, 2014

    On a somewhat chilly and rather overcast morning some fifteen club members met at Severn Beach for one of the leader’s near annual BOC / Severnside coastal walks. However, with the Severn Beach high tide wader roost having become less attractive to the smaller shorebirds in recent years it was decided that a walk north along the sea wall to New Passage and Northwick Warth would be appropriate as good numbers of wildfowl and waders had been frequenting this area in recent weeks. Before the group set off from the meeting point a few small shorebirds were seen on the incoming tide. These included some twenty five Ringed Plovers and two juvenile Curlew Sandpipers; the latter was a target species for the morning’s walk! On the journey a large party of over one hundred House Martins were seen swirling around over Severn Beach and Pied Wagtail were particularly numerous on the grassy bank behind the sea wall. Also, a couple of Wheatear gave fleeting views but not all of the party saw them. On arrival at New Passage the tide was reaching its full height and good numbers of birds were gathering on the salt marsh. The first species of note was a juvenile Ruff that was consorting with a small group of Redshank. The leader attempted to ensure that everyone had good views of this individual. Of interest, four juvenile Ruffs had been present in the area during the preceding week. For a few minutes hundreds of migrating hirundines descended and flew low over the tide line, presumably picking off insects disturbed from the grass by the advancing waters. A couple of Kestrels that were interacting with each other flew overhead and disappeared toward the recently established wetlands. Most of the participants then walked north along the sea wall in order to obtain better views of the small waders and other species present but the cold northerly winds caused a number of members to abandon the trek and headed back towards Severn Beach. However, most saw a Hobby that performed very well over the salt marsh before it too disappeared. As well as the numerous wildfowl and waders, good numbers of Meadow Pipits and a few Skylarks were present on the salt marsh, the former caused some debate due to their rather bright plumage. For those attendees that continued to brave the chilly wind, four juvenile Curlew Sandpipers and a juvenile Little Stint were eventually located amongst the Dunlin and Ringed Plover flock. One of the juvenile Curlew Sandpiper had a small yellow flag with black letters EEP on its right tibia and a red and a metal ring on its left leg; this bird was of Norwegian origin. (Details of the Curlew Sandpiper are set out at the end of this report). All in all the meeting proved to be quite productive if somewhat cold. (Many thanks to Brian for leading the walk.)

    Brian reported the details of the ring on the juvenile Curlew Sandpiper and received the information that it had been ringed in Revtangen,Norway on 3rd September 2014 at 16.00hrs. Revtangen is 950kms from Severn Beach.

  • Tuesday 09 September – Old Down. Tuesday September 09th, 2014

    This was asplendid weather day. The air was still, the sky a light blue, the sun was warm and there were 19 walkers all eagerly waiting for the off. While walking across the cricket field we admired a stand of majestic Scots Pines and then descended the hill leading to the village of Tockington. There were a few birds noted on the way including many Pied Wagtails on the cricket ground and several Crows, a Robin, House Martin, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Swallow, Wood Pigeon and Jackdaw further on. The paths across the fields were bone dry and we reached our view-point refreshment area, overlooking part of Alveston, having added Blackbird, Starling, Mistle Thrush, Raven, Magpie and Blue Tit. We then followed a footpath behind a row of houses with large gardens and crossed a road, climbed a stile, and then walked beside part of Old Down Country Park, by which time the sun had become rather warm and birds were in hiding, so we added only a few more species to our list, including Lesser Black-backed Gull, Dunnock, Bullfinch and Long-tailed Tit. A total count of 25. (Thanks to David for leading)       David Tombs

  • Tuesday 02 September – Barrow Gurney Tuesday September 02nd, 2014

     Fourteen of us started from the pub car park, seeing a Raven, House Martins, and Swallows above us. As we walked up Hobbs Lane we had good views of two Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk. Around the tanks the usual suspects were seen, Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Coot, and Great Crested Grebe, with a Cormorant on each buoy. As we left the tanks, five Grey Herons had gathered and were standing in one field together, looking like soldiers on sentry duty. Further along, Great Spotted Woodpeckers were seen, and as we approached our coffee stop by the old barn, two birds were seen briefly and heard calling – Hobby/ Kestrel? It was only as we got nearer that we confirmed that they were Hobby, and a tick for the patch, this being the first time Hobby had been seen on this walk. We were seeing Buzzards throughout the walk, at least six or seven, with also four Jays and two Green Woodpeckers seen just after our stop. Towards the end of the walk four Whinchats were seen, perching on old railway sleepers acting as posts. They were at a distance but confirmed by scope views and photos – a brilliant sighting and again a first on this walk. We also had Wren, Robin, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Blackbird, Stock Dove, Nuthatch and Meadow Pipits, to give total of 38 seen or heard. Geoff Harris  (Thanks Geoff for leading)

     

     

  • Saturday 30 August – Chew Valley Lake Saturday August 30th, 2014

     Twelve members met at Herriotts Bridge for this morning only walk around the lake area. From Herriotts Bridge 14 Black Terns were observed flying low over the water on the Sailing Club side of the lake. There were Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler as well as a single Great Black-backed Gull and two Grey Herons on the pool. As we were about to move on to Herons Green Bay a Hobby was observed being mobbed by a Crow. At Herons Green Bay the Spotted Crake that had been showing up to about 0840 had decided to elude us but still we had four Little Egrets, a flock of 20 Sand Martins and a very good view of a Kingfisher which obliged by sitting on a bare branch on the opposite side of the Bay. (Well spotted Jane and Geoff!) A Whinchat was observed on top of the bushes at the rear of Herons Green Pool. We moved to Villice Bay where on the approach to the hide we saw a Blackcap and a Common Buzzard. From the hide all the members were able to observe a single Garganey as well as Pochard, Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler, three Green Sandpipers, two Greenshanks, six Little Grebes, a Great Crested Grebe and three Common Terns. A Sedge Warbler perched on top of the reeds at the left of the hide and Kingfisher flew past. As we were getting ready to leave the hide we were treated to a further Hobby, which put in an appearance over the top of the trees on the opposite side of Villice Bay. All in all, a very good mornings birding, with 34 species being noted. (Thanks to Charles for leading) Charles Stapleton

     

  • Tuesday 26 August – Bridgeyate to Wick Tuesday August 26th, 2014

     I can hardly contain myself. We started with Jackdaw hordes – their calls and fuss all around during the walk. There was a nice field full of approximately 80 Herring Gulls feeding with 13 Lesser Black-backed Gulls but by far the best was to get to a corner of the Blue Lodge estate and hear a terrible racket of Corvid versus raptor! What a raptor, a pale underwinged, tatty headed Osprey, who gave us good views before dropping from his perch and leaving away south westward into the valley and out of sight. This walk is one of those much favoured by Stan Wilmot and, notwithstanding the Osprey, gave all nine walkers splendid views of a Dipper posing mid-stream just above the bridge over the Boyd, near Court Farm in Wick. Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail were also there but departed before most of the party had arrived. So, after all that, even the masses of Swallows nearly taking our eyes out and the 300 plus flock of brown Starlings and the dozen Long-tailed Tits obligingly crossing a hedge gap to allow counting, and the fir tree full of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs feeding voraciously could really match the Osprey. There was a total of thirty two species for the day. Many thanks to Dave Body for leading.

     

  • Tuesday 19 August – Elberton Tuesday August 19th, 2014

     19 members turned up for this extended walk on what the weather forecasters predicted to be a dry, and at times, sunny day. It was just as forecast and rather humid too. Our first noted birds were House Martin, Swallow, House Sparrow, and Collared Dove as we passed Redhill Farm on Marshacre Lane. Easy,level walking through a crop of head-high maize and then down a lane and through several fields, one with grazing sheep, brought us to Littleton-on-Severn village. We had by then added Buzzard, Jay, Goldfinch, Raven, and Robin to our list. We climbed a hill, savouring the splendid views across the Severn Vale, at which point five members took the ‘morning-only’ breakaway leaving the 14 remaining walkers to continue up the hill to enjoy spectacular vistas to the north. Further on lunch bags were opened on a hill overlooking Thornbury as a Kestrel flew by. Then came the long slog through wheat fields and lanes, both with a considerable amount of mud, before we reached our vehicles, having only 23 birds on our list. A most splendid, scenic walk with good company. David Tombs (Thanks to David Tombs for leading).

  • Tuesday walk 19 Aug 2014 ELBERTON Tuesday August 19th, 2014

    19 members turned up for this extended walk on what the weather forecasters predicted to be a dry, and at times, sunny day. It was just as forecast and rather humid too. Our first noted birds were House Martin, Swallow, House Sparrow, and Collared Dove as we passed Redhill Farm on Marshacre Lane. Easy, level walking through a crop of head high maize and then down a lane and through several fields, one with grazing sheep, brought us to Littleton-on-Severn village. We had by then added Buzzard, Jay, Goldfinch, Raven, and Robin to our list. We climbed a hill, savouring the splendid views across the Severn Vale, at which point five members took the ‘morning-only’ breakaway leaving the 14 remaining walkers to continue up the hill to enjoy spectacular vistas to the north. Further on lunch bags were opened on a hill overlooking Thornbury as a Kestrel flew by. Then came the long slog through wheat fields and lanes, both with a considerable amount of mud, before we reached our vehicles, having only 23 birds on our list. A most splendid, scenic walk with good company. (Thanks to David Tombs for leading).

  • Sunday 03 August – Langford Lakes and Normanton Down, Wilts Sunday August 03rd, 2014

     It was a warm and sunny day following the heavy rain on Saturday. The main target was Stone Curlew. As these are best seen in the afternoon we took the chance to visit Langford Lakes first. The Wiltshire Wildlife Trust has created an attractive and accessible reserve. The reserve is being extended beyond the lakes to include some additional wetland and water meadow. Having said that, the species list was not extensive on the day. Great Crested Grebes were there in number; one pair with a second brood, the first having been eaten by a pike. A pond in the extended reserve had five Gadwalls. Coots and Canada Geese were present in large numbers along with a couple of Herons, three Little Egrets, Tufted Duck, Cormorant and Moorhen. Kingfishers were well evident. We saw three different birds, possibly four, with a fifth calling. Green Woodpecker and Blackcap were heard in the car park with a Buzzard overhead. Damselflies, dragonflies and butterflies were everywhere and were worth the visit in themselves.Normanton Down is not far from Stonehenge in a landscape rich with barrows and ancient monuments. The Stone Curlews can be found on bare ground. The farmer leaves patches in the fields especially for them. So, we were looking for a well camouflaged brown bird in a brown, bare field about half a mile away with heat haze adding an extra challenge. What could be simpler? Well, almost anything as it turned out. Stone Curlew were not to be seen in spite of some realistic, bird-like earth clods fooling the unwary. However, a Red Kite overhead and a Little Owl sitting stoically in the eaves of a barn were some compensation. Brown Hare, many Common Blue butterfly and a Clouded Yellow were also a delight to behold. Thanks to Roger for organising the trip. Other species: Starling, Pied Wagtail, Stock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Rook, Magpie, Raven, Robin, Mallard, Mute Swan, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit. Alastair Fraser

     

  • Tuesday 29 July –Swineford Tuesday July 29th, 2014

     A Goldfinch in the car park gave a good start to a varied walk, enjoyed by 24 of us. It was again hot and sunny as we passed under shady trees by the side of a barley field and climbed to Upton Cheney, from where there was a wonderful view. Leaving the village some mature trees gave welcome shade and Goldcrest were identified. There was a lively flock of ten Mistle Thrushes, some of which followed us as we dropped downhill, looking towards Fry’s Factory in the valley. There was a pair of noisy Ravens in a treetop in the fields and two Buzzards soaring, whilst various butterflies, particularly Meadow Browns, fluttered on the brambles and nettles alongside our path. A couple of “late-to-leave ” Swifts were seen. Our coffee break was at Bitton church-yard after which Duncan had a glimpse of a Grey Wagtail by the stream. There were beautiful blue/black damselflies against pink Himalayan Balsam and a Green Woodpecker was heard. A Kestrel flew away along the hedge-line and Martins and Swallows swooped as we crossed a field. A few of us almost had to duck as a young Grey Heron flew low above our heads. We reached the busy Bristol/Bath cycle path, alongside the railway and were lucky to have the “Earl David “steam train chuff along with lots of children waving from the carriages. Moving along the field edge by the river we heard a Moorhen, before a narrow boat and a motor boat passed by. On the bank there were numerous Small Tortoiseshell and Small White butterflies and more damselflies. By the end of the morning we had noted 32 species – not bad for a hot July day! (Thanks to Pat and Duncan Gill for leading.) Sue Watson

     

  • Sunday 27 July – Titchfield Haven and Farlington Sunday July 27th, 2014

    Titchfield Haven is a wetland reserve on the Solent not far from Fareham. The reserve has several good hides and a range of habitats; salt/brackish water, fresh water, reed beds, wet pasture and woodland. The weather was warm and sunny with some cloud cover and light winds.. Tern breeding platforms held a few Common terns, a Little Egret, Black -headed Gull, Oystercatcher and a group of Turnstones pushed up by the rising tide. Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler were visible in the reeds around the edge of the pool. Just inside the reserve itself is a raised platform looking over the reed beds where we saw more Reed/Sedge Warblers and two Bearded Tits in quick succession flying across the bed, the second making the characteristic pinging call. Linnet were on the blackthorn bushes. From the first hide there were Common Sandpiper, Godwit, Gadwall, a Fulvous Whistling- Duck (a tropical duck most likely an escapee, so we are not counting that), Avocet, Shoveler and Dunlin. Walking further round the reserve we could hear Water Rail in the reeds and finally spotted one skulking at the edge of the reed bed, a first for Jane’s year list. A walk through the woodland part of the reserve produced Blue Tit, Tree Creeper, a family of juvenile Goldcrest, a Great Spotted Woodpecker (and a Green Woodpecker calling from behind us), a family of Coal Tits, Chiffchaff, Robins, Wren and Blackbird. A hide overlooking a wet pasture produced Canada Geese, the only Swallow of the day and a soaring Buzzard.  On to Farlington, another coastal wetland just across the water from the NE corner of Portsea Island (Portsmouth). One entrance to the reserve is closed until September because of repair works so we had to use our imagination to get in. An open pool a short way into the reserve held a good number of Godwit, large flocks of Oystercatcher and Redshank, Greenshank, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Egret, Avocet, Shelduck with Reed and Sedge Warbler round the edge. At some unseen signal a large, mixed group of waders took off, passed over our heads and flew to the emerging mud flats off shore. We (i.e. Jane) were convinced the godwits were both Black and Bar- tailed. A glimpse of them in flight confirmed both kinds. A group of six juvenile Bearded Tits appeared in the reeds on the far side of the pool and a Kingfisher flashed by (twice).We saw two Red Kites around Newbury on the way down and three more Buzzards on the way back, but no other raptors. Around 60 species in total.

  • Tuesday 22 July – Easton-in-Gordano Tuesday July 22nd, 2014

     Never have I led a walk in such hot sunny conditions – ten people survived the course, seven went back before “the extra bit”. We started off with Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Greenfinch, Wood Pigeon and a family of eight Long-tailed Tits. These were in a tree at Glebe Pond, where we stopped to look for dragonflies, seeing either a Four-spotted or a Broad-bodied Chaser and some Azure Damselflies. (As here, each bit of shade was crowded into by the group to get away from the sun.) We had our first Buzzard as we walked up the fields, and later on our return saw a white blob on a distant telegraph pole, which I identified as Blondy, another of “Robin’s Buzzard’s”- a very pale individual. To our delight she flew right over us giving a superb view of her pale face and wings in the sunshine. Just after coffee break, Elaine spotted not one but two Peregrines soaring high and some of the group witnessed a food pass between them. Brilliant! We saw 14 Crows adorning another telegraph pole, a Pied Wagtail feeding on the grass near some cows, and a lone Linnet on a bare twig. Swallow and House Martin were noted, but Swifts seemed to have left the previous day. Otherwise, many of the species were just heard, including Stock Dove, Green Woodpecker, Coal Tit, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Wren, Nuthatch and Blackbird. The butterflies made up the numbers, at least nine species being noted. Nick’s total species count was 33, though most of us saw less than that! Judy Copeland

     

  • Tuesday 15 July – Little Sodbury Tuesday July 15th, 2014

     The day started windless, cloudless and humidly warm and 22 birders sat enthralled on the first ‘old fort’ high point, with its magnificent 180 degrees of crisp and clear view across the Severn Vale. This became our first rest and refreshment break and birds noted up to then were about 18 and included House Sparrow, Crow, Buzzard, Woodpigeon, Chiffchaff, Mallard, Blackcap, Dunnock, Raven, Swift and Lesser Black-backed Gull. There was also a good showing of butterflies from Ringlets and Blues to Peacocks. There were further extensive views of the Severn Vale as we walked towards the second, and larger, ‘old fort’ as well as views of the rolling hills in Wiltshire Following the welcome shade, as we descended a tree-lined path, several morning-only birders broke away to leave about 14 of us to enjoy our packed lunches as we sat on conveniently placed tree logs in a field with good views over Chipping Sodbury. Refreshed, we walked on and looked in at Old Sodbury Church before the long walk back to our start point, having added Chaffinch, Wren, House Martin, Coot, Mistle Thrush, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Kestrel to our total of 34 birds on the list, kindly recorded by Nick Hawkridge. David Tombs

  • Sunday 13 July – Forest of Dean Sunday July 13th, 2014

     14 members met on a warm and sunny evening at New Fancy View. We first climbed up to the viewing platform. It was relatively quiet although Chiffchaff, Goldfinch, Mistle Thrush, Green Woodpecker, Blackcap, Nuthatch and Swift were either seen or heard or both. We then drove to Cannop Ponds and had a delightful walk round the eastern shore of the southern Pond and then back along the cycle path to the stone works. We had a really good view of eleven juvenile Mandarins. Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins swooped down over the pond feeding on the abundant insects. We then walked through part of Russell’s Inclosure, where Nightjars had been seen the previous year. Although the ground of the plantation had become somewhat densely covered with bracken there was a particular part opposite which looked promising. After a 45 minute wait and the light fast fading we were rewarded with a Nightjar flying over our heads and landing in a tree a few feet away. It was then really good to hear it “churring” at such a close distance. About 30 species were encountered. However we decided it was very much the quality of the experience rather than the quantity of birds that made the evening memorable. Mike Johnson

  • Tuesday 08 July – Frampton Cotterell Tuesday July 08th, 2014

     Twenty five members, including two new ones, met at the Globe Inn, Frampton Cotterell on a very overcast but warm morning. Before we set off up along the Frome Valley the leader warned everyone about the possibility of ticks – fortunately none were encountered. By the time we reached the coffee stop it had really warmed up and the sun was out. Along the riverbank we had all spotted the lovely yellow and grey of the Grey Wagtail and a singing Song Thrush. Near the end of the walk some heard and others saw a Yellowhammer and even a Goldcrest was spotted – making a total of 25 species for the day. A very enjoyable walk that also included various butterflies, damsel flies and many wild flowers. Thanks to Peter for leading. Dave Body

     

  • Tuesday 01 July- Priddy Tuesday July 01st, 2014

     Walking conditions were ideal for the twenty who came today – sunny with some cloud. Through the village we were aware of considerable numbers of House Sparrows, Jackdaws, House Martins and Carrion Crows with a few Swallows, Goldfinch, Collared Dove, Wood Pigeon, Blue Tit and Wren. Going down Nine Barrows Lane and across the lower fields, Rook, Blackbird, Great Tit, Chaffinch and Robin were seen or heard but only a single Long-tailed Tit. Songs were more fragmentary or muted than a month ago. In particular a Blackcap’s song was initially unrecognised by some of us. On the high ground by the Barrows, the wide sky revealed several distant Buzzards, Lesser Black-backed Gulls and half a dozen Ravens. A small group of Linnets flew overhead, as well as Meadow Pipits and Skylarks. Meadow Brown & Ringlet butterflies abounded amongst the long grasses. Down at the pond a Coot was on the water and Reed Bunting and Reed Warbler could be heard but not seen. Dragonflies and Mayflies swarmed low over the pond and reeds. Nearby, Burnet moths were emerging from their chrysalides and a Marbled White butterfly enjoyed the sunshine. Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs sang occasionally. On our return towards the village three Mistle Thrushes flew low overhead “clicking” and a single Swift passed by at high altitude. The final bird on our list was a Greenfinch. Thanks to Nick Hawkridge for keeping a detailed record (Total 33 species) Bill & Maureen Dobie

     

  • Friday 27 June – Marshfield Friday June 27th, 2014

     Eleven members met at the lay-by on the Marshfield bypass on a fine sunny evening. We stuck to the lanes on the north side of the bypass, avoiding the muddy track. Our first sighting was of Swallows and Swifts busily soaring and diving after the numerous insects in the evening air. Then we came across a recently mown field on our left with a great flock of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Herring Gulls and Carrion Crows. On the other side of the road we saw, and some of us heard, our first Corn Bunting sitting in the top of a distant tree. Several more were spotted later on. Moving on, a Sparrowhawk was sighted and flocks of Rooks with young made their presence known. The roadside verges were bright with the beautiful blue Meadow Cranesbill, together with Scabious, Knapweed and the yellow Ladies Bedstraw. Further on, near farm buildings, we had sightings of Yellowhammers, resplendent in their bright yellow plumage. Also Pied Wagtails, both adults and young, were seen hopping about on the roof of a barn. On our return, flocks of Starlings with young flew by preparing for their evening roost. We were also delighted to hear Red-legged Partridge in a field close to the road, but they didn’t show themselves. In a tree nearby some activity was spotted which turned out to be Great Tits feeding their young. Then a Grey Heron flew overhead. Other common birds seen were Stock Doves, Collared Doves, Woodpigeon, Linnet, Goldfinch, Song Thrush, House Martin, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Dunnock and a Pheasant. Our final sighting of the evening was of a Buzzard sitting on a telegraph pole. In total 27 species were identified. We did not see any Quail but, all in all, it was a very enjoyable evening out. Many thanks to Louise Bailey, who stood in for Charles Stapleton to lead the walk. Clive Burton.

     

  • Tuesday 24 June – East Harptree Tuesday June 24th, 2014

     Unlike previous years when the rain has been incessant or in deluge form, today was hot – hot – hot. Renowned for its lung-busting hill at the finish it was no surprise that only eight brave souls made the effort. From the shady side of the car park we had good views of Coal and Blue Tit, but special mention to the Nuthatches that played chase into the trees directly above. Along the lane towards the Chimney, the song or rather half the song of a Blackcap was heard – ‘it must be close’ and it was, throat pulsing to produce its liquid refrain. Nothing avian on the pond, but one splendid water lily, Common Newts on the surface, (we counted ten) and a Broad-bodied Chaser, fast and furious – out from its reed stem patrol around the area and back onto the stem – what a fat, powerful, powder blue body and swept wings he had. Spotted Orchid along the path down into the woods above the farm, where the first of the Raven was heard, and the first of six Chiffchaff called close by – very brave. A welcome rest in the shade for coffee and ‘I spy Swallows and House Martins’. Into Harptree Combe with more Chiffchaff and Blackcap calling, numerous Wrens, an obliging Treecreeper posing for us all, and a Song Thrush singing us out onto the road. Up through the village and our expected scream of Swift materialised, but it wasn’t until we’d climbed off the road that we got to do a proper count which was twelve. We admired a food-carrying Grey Wagtail, who refused to dive down towards her nest until we’d all got well clear. The final climb, with frequent rests to admire the view over CVL, a final Buzzard, a single Pied Wagtail and a couple of Linnets, finished our total at 29. Well done to all the walkers for ‘surviving’ this hot day and to Geoff for leading this beautiful walk. Nick Hawkridge

     

  • Tuesday 17 June – Hinton Blewitt Tuesday June 17th, 2014

     It was a warm sunny day with a light north-easterly breeze. 20 members met opposite Hinton Blewitt church and walked through the villages of Hinton Blewitt and Coley to the reservoirs. There were all the usual birds around, plenty of nesting House Sparrows, Blackbirds, Chaffinches, Starlings, Wrens, Jackdaws and House Martins and Swallows. We saw a Mistle Thrush carrying food to its chicks. The water levels were high on the lakes. Two families of Mallard had young, Coots were nesting and a pair of Great Crested Grebes had a youngster riding on the parents’ back and being fed fish by its father. There was a dabchick but no Wagtails, Herons or Cormorants. We saw two Sparrowhawks flying high over the reservoirs and several Common Buzzards as well. A pair of Shelduck were perhaps unusual in this area. Both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were seen and heard. The usual route back was surprisingly muddy which meant some detours and scrambling up the banks. We did add Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Yellowhammer to the list. The green lane was good for butterflies including Brimstone, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Tortoiseshell and Speckled Wood. It was an interesting walk of just over five miles with a total of 43 species seen. (Thanks to John and Sue Prince for leading.) Sue Prince.

     

  • Tuesday 10 June – Woodchester Park. Tuesday June 10th, 2014

    Group Woodchesterb

     What a treat awaited us as we 22 Tuesday walkers assembled at the car park of Woodchester Park. A deep, densely-wooded valley with sides so steep that the trees providing us with a gorgeously dappled-shaded canopy – seemed amazingly tall. Ponds, one meandering so gracefully into the distance the eye was immediately drawn to far shore. A low mellow-stoned building where we lunched whilst thinking about its construction and previous use and a magnificent many-chimnied mansion. The National Trust leaflet describes Woodchester as “beautiful, peaceful, lovely and elegant”. Matt, an NT ranger who came to talk to us about the work being done here, said it was ‘romantic and tranquil’. We learnt how they are nurturing, amongst other things, the bat population – Greater and Lesser Horseshoe bats who have a summer roost and nursery in the mansion – and that the building we were in was the kennels. And the birds? Woodpigeon, Chaffinch, Wren, Blackbird, in the valley, with Song Thrush heard. Our first sighting of a Buzzard at the top, Blue and Great Tits at our coffee stop, Coots with young, Mallard and Treecreeper at the Old Pond, Tufted Duck, Grey Wagtails (described as ‘dancing on their tails’ by one of our party) and a Hobby at Middle Pond. Swallows at the kennels and House Martins and Rook at the Mansion, plus a handsome Mistle Thrush resting on the railings allowing us time to admire him. We also met three Exeter University PhD students looking for 15 badgers who had tracking collars; they located eight of them. Thank you Nancy for leading this lovely walk, providing us with a comfortable, pretty glade for elevenses and arranging for Matt to come and share his knowledge with us. It was a beautiful and interesting day with 31 species in all. Annie Hawkridge

    Boc Tue 10 June 2014 Woodchester Glen Ruth Stanton Belted Galoway cattle
    Boc Tue 10 June 2014 Woodchester Glen Ruth Stanton Belted Galoway cattle

     

     

  • Tuesday 03 June – Sand Bay Tuesday June 03rd, 2014

     By sticking strictly to time (10 o’clock start), we couldn’t count Little Egret, two of which flew over the car park, reasoning that we’d pick them up later. That held good for the Kestrel that came over at about the same time – we had three sightings of them, but alas the Egrets eluded us. The climb to the Trig Point netted us Chiffchaff, but not a squeak from a Greenish Warbler that was here the day before. The falling tide had left four Oystercatcher and some Shelduck feeding on the mud, but few other species apart from the gulls heading out towards Flat or Steep Holm. All 16 of us made it to Sand Point and what a lovely breeze was blowing to cool our brows in the sun. The first sighting of Cuckoo was made there and we saw it (or another) three more times over the course of the walk. A few Swifts and Swallows were feeding by the point and the first flight of Linnets also came over. On towards a welcome sit, coffee and chat gave us a flight of Feral Pigeons, a lone Rock Pipit and, carried on the wind, the shrill song of a Wren. All was fairly quiet up to the lunch stop on the banks of the River Banwell where we fed, rested, and listened to the Greenfinch wheezing, Robin singing and a Garden Warbler singing a truncated version of his song. Back along Middle Hope with the estuary on our right, we heard several Whitethroats but only got a good view of one. Our last species of the 35 of the day was a Blackcap singing from the underbrush by the rear entrance to the car park. An ice-cream was most welcome at the finish. Nick Hawkridge

     

  • Sunday 01 June – Aylesbeare and Axe Estuary Sunday June 01st, 2014

     A change of plan and what a good day you missed! The weather was kind and the four members who met Gordon in the car park were soon off to Bowling Green Marsh to see a ‘lifer’ for most –a Ross’s Gull. There was also a Little Gull and Mediterranean Gull in amongst the Black-headed Gulls, summer-plumaged Black-tailed Godwits and various duck and goose species. Back at Aylesbeare Common we were joined by another member for a while as we explored the paths on the RSPB reserve; Stonechat, Yellowhammer, Linnet, Willow Warbler, Whitethroat and Blackcap were amongst the birds identified. The unmistakeable song of a Tree Pipit soon enabled us to see him, but the Dartford Warblers (previously seen in this area) evaded us. Of the 30 species of butterfly recorded on this reserve, we were only able to identify Small Heath, Brimstone and Green Hairstreak. After lunch, we visited the Axe Estuary Wetlands – more specifically Black Hole Marsh and went to the Tower and Island hides. A good variety of birds including Reed Bunting, Reed Warbler, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Little Egret and Grey Heron were seen. Four adult Canada Geese had ten young between them and we also saw young Shelduck, a Coot and Oystercatcher sitting on their nests. The Bee-eaters reported that day across the river in Axmouth did not come our way. The two webcams in the information centre showed a Blue Tit nest with young and a nest with young Kestrels. About 50 species were seen during the day. Many thanks to Gordon for leading and his local knowledge and also for driving this small group between venues. Rosemary Brown

     

  • Tuesday 27th May – Shapwick Heath/Ham Wall Tuesday May 27th, 2014

     A small band of twelve members set out on a sunny morning to enjoy an amble along Shapwick Heath, passing the lagoons and visiting Noah’s and Meare Heath hides. There was then time to picnic in the Ashcott car park before a pleasant hour on Ham Wall. We had lively action from the start with Reed Warbler, Coal, Great and Blue Tits at the car park edge. A Robin and juvenile were seen and in a short distance a pair of Cetti’s Warblers were displaying, waggling their wings alternately at each other, framed in a gap through the bushes. Several more were heard along the track as was a Cuckoo periodically calling and a booming Bittern, more of which were seen flying later in the day when we reached the new Ham Wall hide. The lagoons had a good variety of water birds but few waders. There was a pair of Marsh Harriers and swooping Hobbies, and a Sparrowhawk giving a ‘fly past’. Little Grebe and Great White Egret were in the middle distance and a Whitethroat moved around the scrub alongside the South Drain. We were entertained by a Great Spotted Woodpecker on the bare branches of trees in standing water near Noah’s hide. A number of different chicks were seen, with a Great Crested Grebe sheltering hers on the nest. It was lovely to see Common Tern on the Ham Wall and we rounded the day off with a juvenile Blackcap, Long-tailed Tits and a Treecreeper making 56 species in all. (Thanks to Sue for leading.) Sue Watson

     

  • Tuesday, 20 May – Newport Wetlands Wildlife Reserve Tuesday May 20th, 2014

     This reserve was established in 2000 to mitigate losses of wildlife habitat when the Cardiff Bay Barrage scheme was built, and is owned by National Resources Wales. The RSPB Visitor Centre has a shop and café, and there is a good picnic area. 18 of us met up at the car park and spent the morning roaming the site. The main ponds are bordered by extensive reed beds and were established on a reclaimed fuel ash disposal site, so cannot be developed very much for fear of disturbing the underlying deposits. By contrast, the area around the Centre has been extensively managed and is now maturing very nicely. A new feature is a set of Sand Martin nesting boxes. Weather for the day was dry, with only a slight breeze – ideal conditions for seeing the Bearded Tits, but we did saw any. Nor did we see the Marsh Harrier! However, Cetti’s, Sedge and Reed Warblers were calling loudly and some good sightings were reported, a Cuckoo made a brief appearance and Whimbrel were seen on the Severn mud flats, near the East Usk Lighthouse. After a picnic lunch we went by car to Goldcliff, at the other end of the reserve. This is an entirely different habitat, constructed on flooded fields in what was formerly a farming area. There are now a number of bird hides along the bank, with good views of the scrapes. Avocets breed here and we saw several chicks. It is a good area for waders and we saw Greenshank, Redshank, Little Egret, Ringed and Little Ringed Plover, and a Dunlin in summer plumage. Shovelers, Shelduck and Gadwall swam around to keep us entertained. This is a good venue and well worth visiting every year to see the improvements and growing number of birds being attracted to the site. Total number of species seen on this occasion was 56. Ray & Margaret Bulmer

  • Saturday 17 May – Coombe Hill Meadow Saturday May 17th, 2014

     We met Mike Smart on a warm sunny evening for a guided walk around this wetland meadow alongside the canal. Brimstone butterflies were flitting around us as Swallows flew overhead to the sound of Skylarks. We took the circular walk through the SSSI spotting many plants before overlooking the first scrape. There were two Avocets feeding and the Oystercatchers had a chick following them about. Further on we heard the sound of Cuckoo and then it flew into the top of the nearest tree and gave us great views of it calling. The pond had lots of Mallards with their ducklings. Coming around to the other side of the scrape a Sedge Warbler sat on the fence post a few metres from us and gave us a serenade. We waited for dusk to arrive watching the wetland and were rewarded with a Whimbrel flying in and landing next to the Curlew; I didn’t realise there was such a size difference. This was a great end to an evening walk with 47 species seen. Thank you to Mike for leading. Louise Bailey

     

  • Tuesday 13 May – Priors Wood – Bluebell Walk Tuesday May 13th, 2014

     The wet, slippery and very muddy conditions of the previous week had fortunately dried up well in the sunshine and we were able to avoid the worst of it by keeping to the main path rather than the usual side track. Blackcaps were singing everywhere, also Wrens, Robins, Chaffinches and Goldcrests, though only one or two Chiffchaffs. On a thin downward-facing branch of a tree beside the path sat a Mistle Thrush, which I assumed to be a juvenile as it didn’t move while everyone traipsed past. Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were heard in the distance and a Song Thrush was singing. When we eventually arrived at the Bluebell area we found them to be profuse and stunning amid the green bracken. AWT had kindly left some sawn tree trunks nearby for us to sit on so we stayed there for our break, but when we reached the slope leading down to the stream we almost wished we’d waited. It was paradise – Bluebells and Bracken, surrounded by a forest of green and some Copper Beeches and a blue blue sky. Orange Tip butterflies and one Brimstone added to the colour. We only lost two people before the climb up to the fields above Noah’s Ark where our first Swifts were flying. Towards the end of the walk a Sparrowhawk was noted by the frontrunners and we heard one Whitethroat. In the village at the start we had 12 House Martins, House Sparrows, Starlings, Jackdaws, Blackbird, Collared Dove and Goldfinch. Rain threatened at one point but stayed away, and we ended up with 35 species (24 people). Judy Copeland

  • Saturday 10 May – Lower Woods Nature Reserve Saturday May 10th, 2014

     What a pity only four members turned up for this meeting on a lovely sunny morning! Lower Woods is one of the largest oak-ash woodlands on heavy clay soils in England. Bill Heslegrave, a volunteer with Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, led us through some of the grassy trenches, rides and 23 coppices in this ancient wood. Birds were surprisingly scarce but we did see or hear Swallow, three species of Tit, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Jay, Grey Partridge, Buzzard, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Mistle Thrush. Song Thrushes appeared to be present in most areas we visited. Sadly we did not hear or see any Nightingales – there are only one-two pairs here now compared to 12-15 pairs ten years ago. We walked through some beautiful flower-rich areas where we saw Early Purple Orchids, Twayblade, Pignut, leaves of Meadow Saffron and large swathes of Bluebells. Bill showed us some Cotham Marble as we walked along the Little Avon River and we learnt a lot about the history and management of this lovely area. Thanks to Bill for leading.

    Rosemary Brown

     

  • Tue 6th May 2014 South Stoke. Tuesday May 06th, 2014

    Boc Tue 06 May14 2 South Stoke Ruth Stanton Boc Tue 06 May14 1 South Stoke Ruth Stanton Boc Tue 06 May14 3 South Stoke Glyn StantonThe Wren and Chaffinch were our first species and proved to be (apart from Woodpigeon) the most abundant bird. Our new kneed organiser joined us 11 walkers for the first ½ mile, walking well since his operation. Before the hill Robins and House Martin were spotted, the House Sparrows called from the roofs and the view from the hill top as ever was most uplifting, but no raptors circling or other hirundines / swifts having arrived to herald the start of summer. The first of the Chiffchaffs sang as did the many Blackbirds as we walked through the woods, a Blackcap pair showed superbly as they went about their spring goings-on, and a Song Thrush broke into his thrice repetitious song. Down at the lake a sign said that green algae was in evidence, so ‘no fishing’, of course without anglers the Grey Heron was present with 3 Mallard. Up along the old rail track (now a posh cycle route) Goldcrest was seen and our first Mistle Thrush, and a Coal Tit balanced head down, feeding voraciously. Along the route of the Coal Canal we spotted 5 or 6 Mistle Thrush congregated in one bush, chuckling together – migrating birds or just mingling?? Now we had to climb back up South Stoke hill and on the first pitch a sharp eyed walker found Bath Asparagus growing along the edge of the lane. The final incline had Swallows skimming over the grass! The special bird of the day, a single Treecreeper, seen, finding its living foraging on the bath stone of the 3m high wall of School House, which gave us a final count of 34. Best wishes to David Body, who would normally have led this walk, for a speedy recovery.

    Nick & Annie Hawkridge

  • Tuesday 06 May – South Stoke Tuesday May 06th, 2014

     The Wren and Chaffinch were our first species and proved to be (apart from Woodpigeon) the most abundant birds. Our ‘new-kneed’ organiser joined us eleven walkers for the first half mile, walking well since his operation. Before the hill, Robins and House Martin were spotted, House Sparrows called from the roofs and the view from the hill top as ever was most uplifting, but no raptors circling or other hirundines / swifts had arrived to herald the start of summer. The first of the Chiffchaffs sang, as did the many Blackbirds as we walked through the woods, a Blackcap pair showed superbly as they went about their spring goings-on, and a Song Thrush broke into his thrice repetitious song. Down at the lake a sign said that green algae was in evidence, so ‘no fishing’. Of course, without anglers, the Grey Heron was present with three Mallard. Up along the old rail track (now a posh cycle route) Goldcrest was seen and our first Mistle Thrush, and a Coal Tit balanced head down, feeding voraciously. Along the route of the Coal Canal we spotted five or six Mistle Thrushes congregated in one bush, chuckling together – migrating birds or just mingling? Now we had to climb back up South Stoke hill and on the first pitch a sharp-eyed walker found Bath Asparagus growing along the edge of the lane. The final incline had Swallows skimming over the grass! The special bird of the day, a single Treecreeper, was seen finding its living foraging on the Bath stone of the 3m high wall of School House, which gave us a final count of 34.

    Nick & Annie Hawkridge

     

  • Tuesday, 29th April – Pucklechurch Tuesday April 29th, 2014

    This was a walk in “Stan Country” – one of the many which Stan Wilmott used to lead.      15 members set out across a wheat field to the sound of skylarks – this week against a grey sky.  Blackcaps, robins, blackbirds and wrens were heard throughout the walk – double figures in all four cases.   Some of the time the sound of the M4 was also a constant background but this did not really detract from our enjoyment, though with the increasing foliage,  hearing different species is becoming as frequent than seeing some!  Many chiffchaffs were heard and  some very clearly seen as were, by a few, a pair of bullfinches taking dandelion seeds.  Plenty of magpies were seen, including two chasing a jay. Other birds in abundance were woodpigeons, one flock of 50 feeding in a pasture,  also carrion crows, starlings and a rookery of about a dozen nests. Several willow warblers were heard and a whitethroat, a group of six linnets fluttered  in a hedge and half a dozen swallows were spotted, a couple almost close enough to touch.  The walk ended in sunshine with more skylarks singing as we crossed a final wheat field.  36 species in all.  Thanks to Duncan Gill for leading and for the previous day’s recce, which saved many a step through clayey mud!

  • Sunday 27 April – Cleeve Hill Sunday April 27th, 2014

     A good mix of habitats and a great view were enjoyed by twelve members on this amble around Cleeve Hill. We got off to a good start with views of Wheatear close to a quarry and were serenaded by numerous Skylarks. Walking first around the top (dodging a few golf balls from the nearby golf course), we picked up several species in scrub including Blackbird, Chaffinch, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Wren and a distant Song Thrush. Several Whitethroat and a good view of Yellowhammer also delighted. Our guide pointed out where to find Ring Ouzel (another time perhaps!) and various points of interest along the way, including a heather enclosure where we might have seen a Stonechat (although this remains unconfirmed!). We then followed the valley down, with great views of Red Kite, Crows and Jackdaws enjoying the thermals along the nearby ridge. Passing through ‘Watery Bottom’, beside the ‘Washpool’ and then along ‘Dry Bottom’, we picked up a few woodland species including Blackcap, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Goldcrest and a calling Marsh Tit. 32 species were seen in all. Many thanks to our guide Beryl, from Cheltenham Bird Club, for hosting this event.

  • Tuesday 22 April – Newton St Loe Tuesday April 22nd, 2014

     A startled Green Woodpecker flew up from the ground as we set off through the churchyard with a further two seen in the adjoining field. Woodpigeon, Blackcap, Carrion Crow, Wren, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin, Chiffchaff, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Rook, finches and tits were all in abundance at various places throughout the walk. As we passed the fishermen on the lower lake at Newton Park we had a good view of a Common Sandpiper. A Grey Heron stood nearby and was determined to stay until the very last moment as we approached. At the upper lake we were greeted by a pair of Greenfinches on the gravel path just ahead of us and a Goldcrest was spotted in the fir trees above. Mallard and Coot were on the lake as well as a pair of Teal whilst the Mute Swans had moved their nest further along the lake this year. Swallows were evident as we approached Stanton Prior and Linnet, Whitethroat and Yellowhammer were in the hedgerows as we walked along the country lane with a Great Spotted Woodpecker high up in a tree. On our way back we had Skylarks in the fields. Despite a little shower the weather was fine. Thanks to Nick for recording some 45 species seen and heard – 15 walkers.(Thanks Rod for leading)

     

  • Tuesday 15th April – Gordano Valley. Tuesday April 15th, 2014

     The walk was sunny and bright 25 walkers saw/heard 36 species. The prime specimen being a Common Crane seen circling at height over the centre of the valley. Thanks to Goeff Harris for leading.

    We only saw one, imagine this spectacle over the Gordano Valley

  • Saturday 12 April – St Catherine’s Valley Saturday April 12th, 2014

     It was mostly overcast with a coolish breeze, even so, twelve members gathered for a very pleasant and rewarding walk. Chiffchaff was the first bird, together with the expected resident birds which included Skylark, Bullfinch and Stock Dove. Blackcap and Green Woodpecker were heard as well as Yellowhammer – a male of the latter then seen on a track. Buzzards then rose up on the wind and even displayed whilst a Jay scolded. When we arrived at the valley bottom a Grey Wagtail was flushed from the brook, a Goldcrest was heard, Nuthatches called and were seen and a Sparrowhawk circled over. During out final ascent back up to the cars we added Coal Tit, Mistle Thrush, Goldfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Marsh Tit, Treecreeper, Kestrel and Pied Wagtail giving us a very good total of 42 species. By now it was very pleasant and warmer… time for lunch! (Many thanks to Robin for leading).

  • Tuesday 08 April – Castle Combe Tuesday April 08th, 2014

    TueBOC-April-8-CastleCoombe Another great walk in varied habitat but this week not a single Skylark was heard nor a winter thrush seen, spring had come and the sound of Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Nuthatches predominated. From quite early on singing Robins, Wrens, Chaffinches and Dunnocks were heard as well as calling Great Tits and Blue Tits, plus some other calls that led to speculation as to their identification. Several busy rookeries were passed, both Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers were heard, the former drumming as well as calling – also Goldcrest, but only by a few! At our coffee break stop, while admiring Bluebells and Cowslips, it was remembered that Marsh Tit had been seen here on a previous walk. This time seen and heard by only one person although two more were heard and spotted later in the walk. Soaring Buzzards had been seen several times but we were also treated to good views of a Peregrine and a Sparrowhawk. Just one butterfly, a Brimstone, made an appearance in the fairly cool temperature and this week’s fungus was a Disciotis venosa – one large and one enormous specimen seen. The only House Sparrow was lurking by a feeder just as we were leaving the village to climb back up to the car park (having missed the bus!) 33 species – 23 walkers. Thanks to Duncan Gill for stepping in to lead and best wishes to Dave Body who we hope will rejoin us soon.

  • Sunday 06 April – Brean Down Sunday April 06th, 2014

     The weather forecast was dreadful: ‘Heavy rain and strong winds worsening around the coasts’ it said. Just the job for a walk along Brean Down then? But that was the forecast put out the night before; by the morning of the meeting the heavy rain had been put back by 12 hours but it seemed that many people had not picked up on this late change resulting in only Margaret Gorely and me joining Paul Gregory for this spring migration watch.Considering that Brean Down is at the end of Weston beach there is a considerable road journey to the foot of the down, but once there we set off up the steep tarmac track to the top of the east down. With thick scrub and bushes aplenty there was high expectation of migrant warblers, chats and other LBJs. A Blackcap obliged with song as well as Chiffchaff but little else other than a couple of resident Blue Tits. From the top a good view of the Axe Estuary revealed a herd of Mute Swans, many Shelduck, twelve Teal, a Little Egret and a pair of Oystercatcher. A couple of Peregrines gave us top entertainment with their powerful command of the sky, one of them decidedly brownish as if last year’s offspring? Things went quiet for a while but Chaffinch and Meadow Pipit were never far away, and then a Stonechat appeared typically on top of a stunted bush. A distant Swallow was next but it soon disappeared leaving us somewhat short-changed of hirundines at this promising site. A few Rock Pipits, Raven and a Linnet made up the numbers with Roe Deer, feral goats, Violet and Cowslip adding variety. A miniscule contribution of a snippet of song from a Willow Warbler elevated the mood but it was thevPeregrines who, at the end of the walk, once again demonstrated their superiority in the air. Wheatear and Ring Ouzel never showed giving a grand total of 27 bird species. Thanks go to Margaret for the refreshments and to Paul for leading.

  • Tuesday 01 April – Hawkesbury Upton Tuesday April 01st, 2014

     It was a pretty misty start to our All Fools’ Day walk and there was much discussion as to whether clout casting might be opportune. 16 members, and soon to be joined by a 17th, set off through the village where there were plenty of Starlings. Soon, we were in typical “top of the Cotswolds” country and could hear many Skylarks singing, though these were out of sight above the mist layer. Plenty of Yellowhammers posed for all to see and first one, and then several Corn Buntings were spotted, some showing in clear profile for easier identification. The light was improving and very good views of a couple of Wheatears were had. Around coffee time, among trees, we added to our list with noisy Nuthatches, Wrens, and Blue and Great Tits. Spring flowers were also in evidence including the Townhall Clock (Moschatel), identified by our fungi guru wearing her plant expert hat. A few Chiffchaffs were heard and, for many, the first singing Willow Warbler of the season. Skylarks continued to be evident and were now clearly in sight. Descending a steep path through woodland there was an aroma of garlic as we crushed Ramson leaves and here the first Bluebells were peeping through. The highlight of this bit of the walk was an explosion of Fieldfares, with a few Redwings, from the tops of the trees. The clever counters among us reckoned over a hundred. This was a walk of two seasons for the price of one! Back on the top and on the Cotswold and Monarch’s Way, the sun was out, more Buzzards were soaring, Pheasants calling, Blackcap, Song Thrush, Goldfinch and Greenfinch all singing. There was a wonderful variety of habitat on this walk and 41 species were noted. Many thanks to Duncan and Pat Gill for leading and Nick Hawkridge’s additional “leading from behind”.

  • Saturday 29 March – Newport Wetlands. Saturday March 29th, 2014

    In overcast skies and mist, but with the sun trying to break through, some of the 19 of us applied our first sun cream of the year. The car park was surrounded by calling Chiffchaff, Greenfinch and Goldfinch and Wren. On the bird feeders at the Centre we were rewarded with many and both sexes of Reed Bunting, Mallard cleaning up and Coot and Moorhen chugging across the lake towards the Sand Martin house-home-shelter. Walking on, one of the many Cetti’s Warblers heard throughout the day, called from a bramble patch and took flight affording us a brief but rewarding view. Also in flight, a splendid pair of Mute Swans, who wheeled and landed at the first lagoon, much to the distress of the Canada Geese already there, although the Tufted Ducks and Pochard paid no heed. The first ‘Ping Ping’ of Bearded Tit was heard but no sighting was made until we’d been to the river, seen a distant Curlew, many Shelduck and probably Dunlin. Only three people (‘laggards’ who were not desperate for coffee and were far behind!) managed to see Bearded Tit one of which, unusually, left the reeds to fly behind and round the watchers before going back under cover. Sand Martins were admired as we moved on towards the hide. The overlooked lake gave us Gadwall, Great Crested Grebe, and Little Grebe. On the way back for lunch, sharp eyes caught the movement of a single Red-legged Partridge skulking along the hedge, and we heard and then saw Green Woodpecker.
    At Goldcliff we visited all the hides and screens. The first gave distant views of Avocet with, a bit closer, Teal, Wigeon, Lapwing and a pair of Little Ringed Plover at the edge of stones – so well camouflaged. Moving further up the lake and into a better position to see the top end we were suddenly rewarded by a fantastic aerial display of Avocet, 80 plus birds wheeling and calling – superb. A Sparrowhawk put in an appearance, flushing the Avocets again and most of the other waders – Redshank and Godwit. At the last hide, around the far side of the lake, we found two Greenshanks, stalking and feeding in the shallows with two pairs of Pintail feeding alongside many Teal and Wigeon. A final hunt found a Bar-headed Goose with a large number of Canada Geese and a Starling in full headlong flight being chased by a slate backed Merlin.

  • Tuesday 25 March – Hambrook. Tuesday March 25th, 2014

    The promise of a mildish spring morning enticed 31 walkers to enjoy the area around Hambrook. We waited for the Dipper to show at Bradley Brook and just as folks had given up it duly arrived and gave everyone time to admire it. When most had moved on, two Kingfishers were spotted sitting on a branch before flying off. Heading towards Moorend Chiffchaff and Blackcap were added, with Blue Tits and Jackdaws on the way towards Winterbourne Down and Winterbourne. All the birds were in fine voice with Robin, Great Tit, Wren, Dunnock, and House Sparrow added into the mix. By the time we reached Bradley Brook and Monks Pool Nature reserve we had added Long-tailed Tit, Greenfinch, Buzzard, Kestrel, Goldfinch, Jay, Skylark, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Green Woodpecker. 62 Jackdaws were seen and generally in pairs. Mallard were enjoying the Bradley Brook and overhead were Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull. This walk was lovely and not diminished by the mud or the tricky stiles where Margaret G did a very good acrobatic performance of a near back flip before being caught by two of the men. As we neared the end of the walk three Canada Geese flew over the pub, making a total of 31 species for the morning. We were surprised not to see any Grey Wagtail on the Brook but as were walking back home a pair flew up river.

     

     

  • Sunday 23 March – Forest of Dean. Sunday March 23rd, 2014

    Just over 35 people met at Nagshead RSPB reserve and just as Ed was introducing the morning a Hawfinch flew over ‘ticking’. During the morning’s walk around the woodland Nuthatches dominated the birdsong along with Blue Tits, a few Great Tits, and Coal Tits. A Chiffchaff was singing by the meadow while Redwings sat at the top of the oak trees. Towards the end of the walk the group had good views of Treecreeper and Goldcrest, and earlier a Stock Dove flew past. A single Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard ‘drumming’ while various Siskins called as they flew overhead. We moved on mid-morning to New Fancy View, and before the rain and hail set in we had distant views of at least two Goshawks above the horizon along with a Buzzard. Closer by two Ravens were displaying, and in a nearby pine tree a pair of Crossbills were feeding – the male was bright red-orange. As we headed back to the cars a flock of 13 flew over ‘chipping’ away. We finished off before lunch at Cannop Ponds where our first Swallow of the year was flying over the water. Nearby Tufted Ducks, Coots, Little Grebe, Cormorant, and Mandarin Ducks were feeding. A pair of Grey Wagtails were down by the stream, and a tame Raven came down by the ponds. Nuthatches also dominated the soundscape and we finished off the walk around 12.30pm in glorious sunshine.

  • Tuesday 18 March – Bridgeyate. Tuesday March 18th, 2014

    Getting across the A420 outside the Griffin Inn is always a challenge, particularly when trying to identify the Wagtail on the house tops opposite! However, the Collared Dove and Magpie offered no such contest, as we entered the housing estate en route for the Dramway. Some Lesser Black-backed Gulls fought the wind and Woodpigeon were blown out of the trees but the Wrens, calling like mad from bush tops, seemed not to be affected by its strength, each bird on its storm tossed twig, riding like a true acrobat – no pause or halt in that fulsome noise. Not far along the track we heard the first of three Chiffchaffs singing. Close by were Bullfinch, the female contentedly eating thorn buds while her two suitors called and fluttered showing themselves off with scarcely any heed paid of our close observation. The freshly cleared path around the common was possibly too raw to attract much bird life, apart of course from the Great Tits, with the ringing song of ‘Teacher Teacher’, and the high ‘Tszee Tszee’ of the Blue Tit. Spring is most definitely here, well- close! We found a pair each of Moorhen and Mallard on the pond hard by Siston Brook, and up the hill were more Bullfinch; again courting was in full swing. Flying across us was a Great Spotted Woodpecker, putting in nearly as brief an appearance as two pairs of Long-Tailed Tits – heard more than seen, even allowing for 22 people all trying to see them at once. The Dunnock all perching at a much higher level than normal, were singing and fluttering – urgency of the season? At last, hostelry bound with a total of 27 species, we saw the Raven some had heard earlier and a final Buzzard, circling lazily for height.

  • Tuesday 11 March – Elm Farm, Burnet. Tuesday March 11th, 2014

    Out at the stewardship scheme acreages of Elm Farm, we walked in the bracing NE wind under a full grey/white sky with plenty of birdlife. From the car park we had splendid views and heard the wheezing call of Greenfinch and there was an addition of five more of these brightly feathered birds, some setting off on circular sprint chases above us. An early Buzzard was seen flopping down into pasture, while along the path to the feeding area where seed is provided during the winter, our group of 29 walkers saw Yellowhammers grouped with Chaffinch and Greenfinch, we counted six calling and singing. Our first sightings of migrating Fieldfare and Redwing occurred at this point – a mixed flock of 27. We caught sight of some more at the bottom of the hill, this time mixed with Starling (a flock of 41).
    The Barn Owl boxes we saw round the patch did not appear to be occupied, as was the case with the Kestrel box down by the River Chew. The climb up the hill towards the wood, from which echoed the ‘yaffle’ of Green Woodpecker and the ‘chip chip’ of Great Spotted Woodpecker, drained us of all the energy we’d conserved going downhill! We stopped for a breather and, turning to admire the view, caught sight of a Grey Heron stalking along the back of the pool. Along the path the tiny tracks (slots) of Muntjac were identified, and this miniature deer was seen disappearing into the woods. We too descended to the woods, with hope (vain as it happened) of finding Woodcock. As we climbed towards the farm a Brown Hare was disturbed, which shot away across the fields. Our final bird tally was 32.

  • Sunday 09 March – Leigh Woods Sunday March 09th, 2014

    This was a popular walk on a lovely sunny morning. A good selection of woodland birds were seen but the birding highlight of the day was a sighting of a colourful male Crossbill high in a pine tree.

  • Tuesday 04 March – Portbury Wharf Tuesday March 04th, 2014

    A warm, sunny day greeted 32 eager birders for a walk through the Portbury reserve. A Song Thrush serenaded us, Chaffinch, Wren and Great Tit showed, but an early disappointment was no Little Owl at the barns. At the first hide there was a dramatic fight between two (presumably male) Coot with one desperately trying to drown the other! A good selection of water birds were observed from the second hide, many Little Grebes, a lone Teal, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, well hidden Snipe and about 200 Dunlin. Coffee stop was at the sea bank in the warm sun and no wind. A Cetti’s Warbler shouted from nearby bushes and on the warth were Shelduck, Oystercatcher and Redshank. On the walk through the fields Buzzard were seen and with a final flourish at the parking site were Fieldfare, Redwing and Kestrel which made a very satisfactory total of 47.

  • Saturday 01 March – Middleton Lakes Saturday March 01st, 2014

     The early frost gave way to warm sunshine as eleven members met at this RSPB reserve in the Lower Tame Valley on the Staffordshire/Warwickshire border which has been made from 400 acres of old gravel workings. The heronry had 18 pairs guarding nests and seven pairs sitting on nests and was very visible from the boardwalk. Further along the Woodland trail many rooks were filling the woods with noise although few nests were seen-had they been damaged in the storms? The woodland was alive with songs and calls and the feeders attracted many birds-Great, Blue and Long tailed Tit, Blackbird, Robin, Nuthatch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Chaffinch, Wren, Dunnock, Song Thrush and Reed Bunting. Three Treecreepers were spotted at one time going from tree to tree. Several Goldcrests were seen and heard, Redwings flew to the top of the trees and a flock of Linnets were noted. Several Great Spotted Woodpeckers were seen and heard and at one time three were drumming simultaneously. Green Woodpecker was also heard. We walked the three kilometre Wetland Trail which looked out over lakes and reedbeds (old quarry pits) sandwiched between the canal and river. Birds were numerous. Ducks included Mallard, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Teal, Goldeneye, Shelduck, Gadwall, Pochard and a female Wigeon. There were Canada and Greylag Geese. Also seen were Little Egret, Coot, Moorhen, Green Sandpiper, Mute Swan, Cormorant, Oystercatcher, Great Crested and Little Grebe, Lapwing and Goosander. A Kingfisher flashed down the river and two Chiffchaffs hopped about in the bushes on the river bank. There appeared to be a breeding colony of noisy Black-headed Gulls. A female Stonechat gave good views from the top of some dry stems. The only birds of prey were several Buzzards. Thanks to Ed for leading this trip on such a sunny day in this super reserve which is a new venue for the club.

  • Saturday 25 February Bristol City Centre Harbour Walk Tuesday February 25th, 2014

     The group met under blue skies and warm sunshine in contrast to last year’s snow and bitter wind. In consequence there was a splendid turnout of 28 members. We left Millennium Square and headed for Prince Street Bridge where our first birds were gulls, Mute Swans, a Great Crested Grebe and Cormorants. The latter were showing their white breeding patches and one magnificent male had a stunning grey face and neck and a black ‘Mohican’ crest. I initially thought he might be a continental variant but further research on the Internet revealed that a proportion of our older male cormorants develop this breeding plumage.

    We next scoured the bushes alongside the harbour railway track which produced Greenfinch, Goldfinch, House Sparrow and Blackbird. The roof of the barge adjacent to the Bacon Butty kiosk is always crowded with Black-headed Gulls with their eyes on the chance of some scraps. Many were showing their summer black heads. As we paused for coffee two Ravens and a Sparrow Hawk circled overhead. The walk beside the New Cut added nothing until we reached the flyover when a Redshank and Common Sandpiper were spotted on the edge of the mud. Some of the group also saw a Grey Wagtail. The party divided at Jacobs Wells Road with the more energetic climbing the steps up to Brandon Hill where they added Redwing to the list. The rest took the gentler route beside the water hoping to see the resident Moorhen who did not put in an appearance. The total number of species seen was thirty one.

  • Tuesday 18 February – Severn Beach Tuesday February 18th, 2014

     It was a little after high water as 31 members walked beside the River Severn, which was flowing out very fast owing to recent excessive rains. The traffic noise from the M4 and Severn Bridge was disturbingly loud but we were rewarded with eleven bird species before reaching New Passage and there added Teal, Wigeon, Dunlin, and Shelduck. At the near-by Wetlands Reserve we added Curlew, Oystercatcher, Little Egret, Lapwing, Shoveler, Mute Swan and Common Gull. Taking the New Passage Road we then saw Redwing, Fieldfare, Meadow Pipit, Blue Tit, Jackdaw, Collared Dove, Goldcrest and Goldfinch. We took the Severn Beach back road, noting Sparrowhawk on the way, and walked squelching footpaths and in a bramble-infested area to find Jay, Wren, Chaffinch, and Blue Tit before returning to the High Street. In all we had recorded 45 species, and what was taken as an American Canada Goose in a party of Canada Geese. Thanks to the large number of walker-watchers who turned out and what a calm, sunny warm morning we had.

  • Saturday 08 February – Uphill / Axe Estuary Saturday February 08th, 2014

     The horrendous forecast of gales and heavy rain for Saturday obviously put off many people attending what turned out to be a really good walk, so it was six hardy souls who set off. We only had one short shower and the sun was out for most of the morning! We took the telescopes to look over the beach at Brean Down. High tide was at 13:00 so at 09:30 the birds were rather scattered but we saw a large flock of Lapwing, some Oystercatchers along the tideline along with Redshank, Dunlin and a few Curlews. In the marshy grass opposite were five Grey Herons standing like sentinels. A few Teal, Wigeon and Mallards were present. We then walked up past the quarry in the local nature reserve. In the lake by the boatyard we found three Dabchicks. From here we walked through the AWT reserve at Walborough adding the usual Robin, Goldfinch and Chaffinch. We also listened to a Goldcrest in the ivy but could not see it. Two Chaffinches were singing, a Reed Bunting called and Skylarks sang as we drank our coffee. There was little to be seen at the sewage works but from the sea wall we saw Snipe and Stonechat. On the return journey we had excellent views of a Kestrel hovering and a lovely rainbow. We should not overlook the masses of Corvids and Woodpigeon in a stubble field. In all we managed a list of 42 species.

  • Tuesday 04 February – Luckington Tuesday February 04th, 2014

    BOC Tue 04feb14 DSC00532 Luckington Glen Ruth StantonThirty three is a very respectable total for a Tuesday walk and an even more respectable number for lunch afterwards.  This walk was the last with our organiser, Hazel Wilmott, before her move to Dorset in two weeks. At the start we had a fine pair of Mistle Thrushes who were searching the grass behind the pub car park and on the wing and Jackdaws – mostly as couples – were riding the brisk south easterly wind. Across from the car park and down a narrow lane, a Robin wanted to play at our feet and a Wren sat atop a thorn bush and blasted forth with full song. A couple of flocks of Starlings (one of over 200) flew over and in passing, attracted our attention to the Redwing in the trees. On the ground close by a Dunnock and above three Bullfinches were noted sitting in the sun, a great attraction for the year-listers. The first Buzzard circled overhead and a Green Woodpecker called and flew over the brook at Hancock’s Well. Our second Buzzard, accompanied by a Sparrowhawk circled together above the trees. Those at the front and middle saw a Kingfisher and a few saw it or another on a post, again by the Avon, a little further on towards Sherston, within whose bounds a Little Egret was spied roosting in a tree. Our final Buzzard was seen off by various Corvids, over 20 of which were Rooks who, when not chasing raptors were busily probing the grass for food. On the final part of the walk we followed The Macmillan Way where the fields either side of the path had plenty of Skylarks, some singing and others playing chase. Our final species was a distant flock of 50+ Lapwings giving us an excellent tally of 38. Big thanks and goodbye to Hazel who led this lovely (and hopefully to be repeated) new walk.

  • Tuesday 28 January – Backwell lake Tuesday January 28th, 2014

     14 walkers met at Morgan’s Hill in Nailsea. There were two heavy showers during the morning but we escaped getting really wet and when the sun broke through it felt mild. We even found a few snowdrops in flower. A circuit of the lake gave us good views of two male and a female Goosander, Tufted Ducks and a female Pochard. The usual Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Mallard, Coots and Moorhens were joined by a mixed bag of farmyard ducks and two Muscovy ducks. We were much amused by a Herring Gull that had found a tennis ball and was playing bouncy ball and rolling it down a slope. It flew off with the ball. Finally a Grey Heron was seen by the reeds. Along Youngwood Lane we had Buzzards, Redwings and Fieldfares, a Mistle Thrush and two Goldcrests in a Holly bush. The lanes were very muddy but we saw all the usual small birds, Blue, Great, and Long-tailed Tits, Robins, Dunnocks as well as Woodpigeons and a Collared Dove. We had four good-sized flocks of Goldfinches keeping up a stream of contact calls as they flew through the trees. One person managed to see a Bullfinch and another found a Jay. We also found three Common Gulls where a field was very soggy. Altogether a pleasant quiet walk with goods views of Chelvey Church and across to Backwell Hill. In one place, the lane had flooded but most had come prepared with wellington boots. A total of 37 species were seen, fewer than usual, which reflects the mild winter so far.

  • Tuesday 21 January – Meare Heath and Ham Wall Tuesday January 21st, 2014

     19 members met in the Natural England car park on an overcast and breezy afternoon. We first walked down to the viewing platforms overlooking the Ham Wall reedbeds. A couple of members were really lucky on the way down to have a brief glimpse of an otter swimming in the adjacent South Drain; a rare sighting during daylight. The open water areas contained a good variety of birds including Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Mute Swan, Great Crested Grebe, Greylag and Canada Goose. A female Marsh Harrier drifted over the reedbed and Sparrowhawk and Buzzard completed the raptor list. We had a couple of views of a Great White Egret and it was nice to compare size with a nearby Little Egret. We then walked through part of the Meare Heath reserve as we had heard that the starlings had roosted there on the previous evening. On the way a few Redwings and Fieldfares flew over and a Water Rail “squealed”. Groups of Starlings, some of several thousand in number began to swirl in from every direction. Unfortunately, they chose to roost in a part of the reserve that was partly obscured by trees and they were not in the air for long. The spectacle, therefore, was not as impressive has had been hoped. 45 species however was a respectable total for the afternoon.

  • Saturday 18 January – Eastville Park Saturday January 18th, 2014

     Eight BOC members turned out on a grey day; the rain held off until 1pm and we had sunshine for part of the walk. From the car park we followed the path round the playing field, then went on the Frome River Walkway, passing the lake and along the river path and the Jewish Cemetery before returning to the car park. We spotted approx 30 Black-headed Gulls, a Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Herring Gull and a small flock of unidentified finches flew over. We saw Moorhen, Mallard, Canada Geese, Mute Swan and a Grey Heron busy fishing in the lake. Great Tit, Blue Tit, Song Thrush, Robin, Wren, Dunnock and Blackbird were singing and calling repeatedly. We also saw Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Raven, Rook, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow. We also had a very good views of Jay and a Tree Creeper. Whilst we were looking for a Great Spotted Woodpecker a Sparrow Hawk flew over our heads. House Sparrows were foraging on the common, which made the magic total of 30 species to be recorded on the day.

  • Tuesday 14 January – Badminton Tuesday January 14th, 2014

     A sparkling sunny, frosty morning attracted 19 members. The walk, led by Peter Holbrook, began with a flurry of activity with feeders in a garden and the woodland on the edge of the village producing Goldfinch, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Blackcap, Chaffinch, Robin, House Sparrow, Mistle Thrush and Buzzard to name just a few. As we continued along the fringe of the wood we saw Jackdaw, Collared Dove, Raven, Wren and Dunnock. Then things became strangely quiet and for an hour or more we saw no birdlife whatsoever, even though conditions were perfect. Those who had been on previous winter walks here recalled seeing large flocks of Yellowhammer adorning the hedgerows and drystone walls as well as other species. This time they were all absent. We consoled ourselves that the glorious morning compensated for the lack of birds, and it was not until we reached the Badminton estate that things perked up. We knew a Little Owl had been seen here on previous walks and right on cue a Little Owl was seen briefly on the roof of a dovecot. As we walked through the estate we saw Pied Wagtail, 200-plus Starlings wheeling above the oaks, and flocks of Redwing busily feeding on the grass. The “chack, chack” calls of a distant flock of Fieldfare could be heard and a pair of Mute Swan glided on the lake. Total species, 32.

  • Sunday 12 January – River Exe and Dawlish Warren Sunday January 12th, 2014

     Leaving Bristol on a bright but cold Sunday morning 37 members were looking forward to a day’s birding on the Exe and at Dawlish Warren. Our first stop was at Exminster Marshes where the extensive flooding precluded a planned walk to Powderham Church; it was, however, a bonus for the wildfowl. From the bridge and road, good numbers of Wigeon were seen, along with Teal, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Mallard and Shelduck. Small flocks of Canada and Greylag Geese flew across the flooded fields along with many Lapwings and gulls. Redshanks fed along pool edges and the occasional Grey Heron appeared from deeper ditches. In the distance a small group of Black-tailed Godwits was spotted. Starlings and Redwings were a welcome sight but the good views of a Chiffchaff captured the group’s interest.
    Leaving Exminster for Dawlish Warren, Little Egrets were spotted from the coach, along with a sizeable flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese on Starcross Golf Course. Upon arrival at Dawlish Warren Jane outlined the identification features of Bonaparte’s Gull and so the group set out for Langstone Rock with high hopes. Sadly, sea conditions were not conducive to comfortable sea-watching with a strong onshore wind and heavy swell. Several Shags, a few auks, gulls and a doughty Kestrel battling into the winds appeared to be our lot, until some Common Scoters were spotted. As luck would have it, some white wing patches confirmed the presence of at least one Velvet Scoter. After lunch the group headed for the hide and, despite some serious “sand-blasting”, a Long-tailed Duck was spotted close to one of the groynes. The relatively sheltered river held Red-breasted Mergansers, a Little Grebe, Shelduck and Cormorants with some members spotting a Slavonian Grebe. From the crowded hide the group enjoyed excellent views of waders as the tide continued to rise: Oystercatchers, Knot, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Ringed Plovers, Redshanks and some Bar-tailed Godwits – identification niceties were aired and debated. Just before we left, ten, very wet, richly-coloured Skylarks and a Meadow Pipit flew in front of the hide prompting further discussion. Despite a wet walk back to the coach all agreed that it had been a wonderful finale. Many thanks to Judy for organizing and looking after us, and to Jane for leading in challenging circumstances – your pre-trip checking and research was much appreciated – we’re only sorry that the Bonaparte’s Gull did not oblige!

  • Tuesday 07 January – Pensford Tuesday January 07th, 2014

    Eight of us started walking from the Pub car park, first seeing Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, Pied Wagtail and Robin. As we passed over the fast flowing River Chew there was nothing in sight, in fact when we walked along it from Woollard to Publow it was the same. Up over the fields out of Pensford there was a large party of Jackdaws and Crows feeding on the ground. It was not till we got to Lords Wood that we began to see anything of significance. First in the bag a Great Spotted Woodpecker, then two to three Goldcrests, two to three Coal Tits and then Siskins in a flock of 40 to 50 feeding in the Alder trees, a lovely sight. A lone Wigeon was on the lake, a very odd place to see one too. Nearby appeared a Treecreeper, then a Nuthatch and some Redwing. A bit later we saw a Mistle and Song Thrush with a Kestrel sitting on a power cable. Some lucky people of the group saw a Sparrowhawk but our final birds of the day were a Mute Swan and a Grey Wagtail. Considering the awful wet weather we have had, the ground all through the walk was merely soggy. A total species count of 40 either seen or heard.

  • Wednesday 01 January – Slimbridge Wednesday January 01st, 2014

     As the rain poured down on my arrival I wondered whether there would be anyone else there. I shouldn’t have doubted. BOC members are made of tough stuff! Nine appeared, well kitted out for the weather and we were soon in the shelter of the hides. The Tack Piece and Dumbles were full of water and birds. As usual, it was where to look. Wigeon, Teal, Lapwing, Curlew, Golden Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Pintail, Bewick’s Swan, Canada Goose, Dunlin, Redshank, Ruff… it goes on. Because of the near continuous rain it was a challenge to sort out the smaller birds, like Little Stint and Skylark, even a distant Mistle Thrush, unless they were very close. Then we got wind of the Green -winged Teal and soon found it, after a dash through the rain, at the Zeiss hide, right in front of us. There were more birds there (mostly Teal) but searching did not produce one bird of prey, but a Grey Heron showed us its head and shoulders. At the Kingfisher Hide the feeders were busy with Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Great and Blue and Long-tailed Tits. The star there was a Great Spotted Woodpecker. At the South Lake Great Crested Grebe and Cormorant were noted. With gulls and other species not mentioned we noted a total of 52, which was not too bad for such a rotten day. So it was a Happy New Year.

  • Tuesday 31 December – Snuff Mills Tuesday December 31st, 2013

     As my record book’s crinkled pages attest it was wet when we set out. Our first birds were a party of four male Blackbirds at a standoff atop a TV aerial. Nothing delicate could survive the roaring, white topped water as it dived under the bridge, although a Mallard pair had found sanctuary in a small inlet and a Moorhen not much farther off. Up the south bank of the Frome we eight marched where we counted one then two Jays and noticed the Tit families were making spring-like noises. Across the recreation ground towards the Oldbury estate were nine Carrion Crows on the ground feeding and a Song Thrush in full song. Once into the estate Black-headed Gulls – up to 60 at one time with a couple of Common Gulls – adorned the football pitches and posts. The hedges of Perrymans Close had many House Sparrows, ten counted but more were close by, with a Raven seen going fast over the pavilion heading NNW. At coffee more Jays were seen and then as we descended back towards the Frome a distant Green Woodpecker was heard and a fine male Great Spotted Woodpecker showed well. Little new was seen along the bank as we returned although one spot was alive with Long-tailed Tits mixed with Coal, Blue, and Great Tits and not far away a pair of Grey Heron roosted in the trees. Our final species was a Buzzard, stationary at first while he eyed us up before departing over the ridge. We were then back to the start with a count of 32 species.

  • Tuesday 17 December – “Between the Lakes Walk” Tuesday December 17th, 2013

     We were lucky to enjoy a fine bright morning for our walk from Heron’s Green at CVL over Breach Hill past Ubley Hatchery and back along the lanes to CVL, a total distance of nearly five miles. The views over Blagdon Lake were lovely and the mixed habitats of water, fields and woods made for a good range of birds. All the usual ducks, swans, Coots, herons and Little Egrets were at Heron’s Green. As we climbed the hills the hedges and fields held Woodpigeons, Crows, Blue Tits, Chaffinches, Robins and, at the farms, Pied Wagtails and Sparrows. We saw one Sparrow taking a long piece of grass into a hole in the wall – a bit early for nesting? We heard a Raven croaking and saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker fly to a tree. There were a few Redwings and Fieldfares about and at one wooded stop we had Treecreeper and two Goldcrests along with Long-tailed Tits. At Ubley Hatchery there was another Treecreeper and a Coal Tit with good views of two more Goldcrests. Along the stream we noted Goldfinch, Siskin and a Grey wagtail. On the return route we saw another Great Spotted Woodpecker, Bullfinch, Common Buzzard and a field of Common Gulls. Back at CVL there were two female Goosanders. The walk produced a total of 43 species seen by 28 walkers. It was an excellent morning with good conditions underfoot and the country lanes were quiet.

  • Tuesday 10 December – Pucklechurch (Christmas Lunch) Tuesday December 10th, 2013

     35 members set off on a grey but very mild morning from the car park of the Fleur de Lys in Pucklechurch, soon to be joined by a 36th member, who had cycled from the centre of Bristol. This is always a slightly shorter walk than our usual Tuesday ones so we can be back at the pub in good time for our annual Christmas lunch. While still walking through the village, already on the list were Starling, House Sparrows, Jackdaws, Woodpigeon and Collared Dove, plus a Pied Wagtail. We soon saw Redwings and Fieldfares in abundance and then a group of Meadow Pipits was spotted by our chairman, Ed Drewitt, who was invited to come more often to Tuesday walks! Four Bullfinches on the ridge of a barn roof were quite a find and most people saw at least one. A couple of Goldcrests were heard and, for those of us who can no longer hear them, one obligingly flew over us. A Song Thrush was also heard as we stopped for coffee. It was such a still morning that even as we approached the part of the route that takes us near the M4, there was little motorway noise until we were quite close to it. Very good views of Dunnock and Wren were had in nearby hedgerows and crossing the fruit farm yet more winter thrushes were seen. Altogether 28 species were listed. Thanks to Duncan Gill for leading and Pat for bringing up the rear of such a large group. We were back at the pub as midday was striking and a good meal was had by all, joined by quite a few members who hadn’t taken the pre-meal exercise. After the meal, which had been arranged by Peter Holbrook once again, Ed Drewitt thanked Hazel Wilmott for organising the Tuesday walks and Mark Watson was warmly welcomed as our next organiser, as Hazel is moving away from the area next year.

  • Saturday 07 December – Curry Moor Saturday December 07th, 2013

     Twelve members met at the Newbridge Sluice north of the village of North Curry. This was a new location for a Club field meeting on a different part of the Somerset Levels than normally visited. We commenced the walk along the southern bank of the River Tone giving extensive views of the surrounding area. Mixed flocks of Fieldfares, Redwings and Starlings were feeding in the adjacent fields. The willows and hedges contained Reed Bunting, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Linnet. The river contained surprisingly few birds although small numbers of Mallards,Teal and Moorhens were seen together with a Little Grebe. We diverted off the bank for a while and stopped at a Wetlands and Willow interpretation Centre which contained a number of interesting information displays about the area, its wildlife and river control measures. We walked round a small adjoining copse and added a few common woodland species. On the return walk we heard a Raven “cronking” as it flew over and a number of Skylarks were seen. The Moor is susceptible to flooding in winter and is known to attract substantial numbers of wildfowl and waders. It would be well worth a visit after prolonged rainfall. Forty-one species were encountered during the morning.

  • Tuesday 03 December – Slimbridge Tuesday December 03rd, 2013

     What has not been said about this national resource?! We 22 set out – not for us the duck or goose preservation ponds – but into raw boned and wild, windy bird hides. We had to break ourselves in slowly – the luxury and heating of the Peng observatory was just the job. From behind clear glass we were afforded close views of Bewick Swan, the youths in a pleasing grey plumage with the magnificent adults in almost ‘brilliant white’. The Tufted Duck and Pochard were ducking beneath the surface creating a mad flurry by frantic paddling of webbed feet in their haste to hoover up the last of that morning’s feed. From just outside the window slots of the Rushy hides there were many male and female Pintail. At the back of the ponds a small troop of Teal crept from rush bed to rush bed, so noticeably smaller in comparison to the many Shelduck, and the rotund “lump” of a single, very brown hybrid Ruddy – Cape Shelduck. Moving along to the Martin Smith hide one sharp-eyed watcher spied a Snipe in the grass and on the banks a Black-tailed Godwit feeding to the depth of that strikingly long bill. Along at the Robert Garnett hide we found half a dozen Curlews and the fields full of Greylag Geese, Lapwings, and hiding away at the back by the pollarded willows, a small group of White-fronted geese. At the Holden Tower we saw an aerial swirl of several hundred Golden Plovers, three stately Common Cranes feeding and three Great-Black-backed Gulls asleep on the mud. When everything suddenly got up we knew a raptor would be somewhere and, sure enough, a Peregrine swished past. Along to the Zeiss hide for, we hoped, a Bittern but, alas, none on show. However, our reward was a sharp red billed Water Rail, a ball of feathers that resolved into a Buzzard and away among the Wigeon and Lapwing some Dunlin foraging in the grass. At our penultimate stop – the Kingfisher hide – provided not only the eponymous bird but a Little Grebe and Greenfinch. After a tortuous slog to the South Lake hide only Grey Heron, Cormorant, and Great Crested Grebe could be added to our list. However, with a total of 62 species, not a bad days birding. Thanks to Gordon Youdale for escorting us most of the way, smoothing our entry, and making the morning most rewarding by pointing out some unseen treasures.

  • Sunday 01 December – Torbay Sunday December 01st, 2013

    Eight BOC members were joined by a couple of local birders to explore the Torbay area and surroundings. Having met on the front at Paignton, we made straight for the Clennon Valley (an inland park area with woodland and ponds) to find a Yellow-browed Warbler that had been in this sheltered valley for a couple of weeks. After some persistence most of the group managed brief glimpses. A walk around the pond area then gave views of more common woodland birds, four duck species, Grey Heron, gulls, Mute Swan, Snipe and Little Grebe. Lunch was consumed whilst sea-watching at Goodrington Sands where we added Gannet, Common Scoter, Oystercatcher, Cormorant, Great-crested Grebe, Shag, Kittiwake and an Auk species to the list. We then moved further south to Broad Sands to catch Cirl Bunting which didn’t disappoint, with excellent views of the brightly coloured males and a few females feeding on the ground. A Great Northern Diver was another highlight here (on the sea). Our final destination was Brixham breakwater where Turnstone and  Purple Sandpiper finished the day off nicely.

  • Tuesday 26 November – Clevedon Tuesday November 26th, 2013

     A cold, dry morning saw 30 members gather at the Salthouse car park. A Jay was flitting around the play area with two Pied Wagtails and, from the vantage points on Poet’s Walk, Oystercatchers and Redshanks were quickly picked out. Teal, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper, Shelduck and beautifully camouflaged Turnstones put in an appearance on the mud and rocks. Two Little Egrets graced the inlet at the end of Poet’s Walk with Wigeon and Curlew plentiful. A Kingfisher was seen by some lucky members and a possible Redwing turned out to be a Mistle Thrush. We saw no Redwings and only a couple of Fieldfares. Goldcrests were heard in profusion at one point and to our delight one appeared in the shrub by the side of us, giving good views to newer members. Lapwings were abundant in the field at the far end of the walk and only then did we spot a lone Grey Heron and a Sparrowhawk.

  • Saturday 23 November – Oldbury Power Station Saturday November 23rd, 2013

     After a cold and misty start, 17 birdwatchers met for what turned out to be a very enjoyable morning in brilliant sunshine. Although good numbers of estuary birds, such as Teal, Wigeon and Dunlin were seen, most interest was generated by the variety and number of passerines around the site. These included two Stonechats, a late Chiffchaff and singles of Siskin and Redpoll. A large mixed finch flock on Lagoon 3 held our interest for quite a while, including around 150 Chaffinches, Linnets, Goldfinches, Reed Buntings and at least one Brambling. Other birds of note included Peregrine, Raven, Mistle Thrush and Treecreeper. Highlight of the morning for me though was the Grey Seal which we watched diving close to the shore to the north of the power station.

  • Tuesday 19 November – Cheddar Reservoir Tuesday November 19th, 2013

     It was a brilliantly sunny morning and there was still a lot of very colourful leaves on some trees, but the blustery northwest wind made the 18 members glad they had (mostly!) come clad in cold weather gear. The decision to make this a “reservoir only” walk was surely the right one – standing water and mud could be clearly seen on the moors. The usual crowd of Coots were in place, Cormorants were posing on the buoys and a raft of Pochard was looking particularly good in the sunlight. Crows, Jackdaws, Rooks, Magpies, Mallards and Tufted Ducks were soon added to the list, as were Starlings in nearby fields. After a bit of concentrated looking, a few Redwings and a possible Fieldfare were also spotted, plus a Buzzard perched on a post and some Long-tailed Tits in the hedgerow. Very good close views were had of a Long-tailed Duck and a Great-crested Grebe that might just have been something else was examined. A lone Redshank was mooching about at the water’s edge and a Green Woodpecker spent some time in a field below us. During the latter part of the walk we saw a pair of Teal, a Grey Wagtail, two Little Grebes and a Sparrowhawk and Carrion Crow tussling above us, and not forgetting a calling Dunnock. Altogether 31 species were seen and one heard.

  • Tuesday 12 November – Hengrove Mounds and Manor Woods NR. Tuesday November 12th, 2013

     It was a lovely sunny November day when 13 of us met at the somewhat unlikely venue of the Cineworld car park at Hengrove! The more cynical of us were soon amazed as Margaret led us behind the cinema into the fascinating oasis of the Mounds. This is a former landfill site which has been transformed into a wonderful wild area of nature hidden from all the surrounding main roads. We saw a number of the usual hedgerow and field birds including Redwing, Goldfinch and a mystery bird which was difficult to place, probably a pipit. There were a pair of “flyover” Ravens and numerous gulls. As we headed back to the car park a Green Woodpecker was seen on the roof of the cinema! As our walk here was almost ending, our “mystery” bird popped up again. Further investigation on our return home, sparked by a member who was convinced it was a Water Pipit and a consultation with Ed Drewitt who knows the Mounds, suggested strongly that it was indeed a Water Pipit – the time of year, habitat and a detailed description added to the cause. Has anyone else seen this bird in the vicinity? We then drove to the entrance of Manor Woods Reserve. This was another “hidden gem”, with parkland, woods, meadow and a stream. A Grey Wagtail was quickly spotted, as were various other woodland birds, including Song Thrush and Long-tailed Tits. A pair of Moorhens scuttled into the reeds on the riverbank. On our way back, a pair of Buzzards was seen high over Bishopsworth. A total of 25 species was seen over the two sites.

  • Sunday 10 November – Coombe Hill Meadows Nature Reserve, Glos Sunday November 10th, 2013

     After some recent foul weather, the morning gave way to clear skies and warm sunshine. Seven members met with Mike Smart, local birder and bird surveyor for this part of Gloucestershire. Mike introduced us to the reserve and its past life as a working canal in the late 1800s, delivering coal to Cheltenham. Here at Coombe Hill Meadows the coal was offloaded and taken by horse and cart into the town. Recent rains had flooded the meadows, something that happens three or four times a year. As we walked along the hedgerows of the canal the berry bushes were alive with winter thrushes. Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, and a few Yellowhammers flew overhead. The flooded fields were full of over 2500 Wigeon, 500 Canada Geese, 100 Greylag Geese, 24 Mute Swans, and smaller numbers of Teal and Lapwings. Scanning through them we also spotted a few Shoveler and Pintail. As we walked back a Water Rail squealed from a concealed ditch. The Wigeon became nervous and at one point the whole flock were in the sky, wheeling around, some getting quite high. Along with common field edge birds such as Robin, Wren and Blackbirds, we counted over 30 species in total, and headed back to Bristol in glorious sunshine.

  • Tuesday 05 November – Chew Valley Lake Tuesday November 05th, 2013

     Due to the previous rain and the state of the fields adjacent to the River Chew it was decided to change the usual walk. So, on a dry morning, part overcast, part sunny, 29 members ambled around the edge of the lake until we reached the new Bittern Hide which is a great improvement on the original one. On the way there and back 33 species were recorded, notably: Bewick’s Swan, a pair of Goldeneye, a female Red-breasted Merganser and two male Goosanders. There were no waders, apart from three lonely Lapwings.

  • Saturday 02 November – Blagdon Lake Saturday November 02nd, 2013

     The morning’s field meeting was very well attended and we got off to a great start with excellent views of two adult Yellow-legged Gulls at the Lodge. Then, and before we’d even started the walk, we saw an extremely late juvenile Swallow fly over (it’s the latest date I have in my lake database by some margin with the previous late date being 13th October 2012). A couple of Skylarks were heard flying over at the Lodge and Mike Johnson spotted a ringed Mute Swan, yellow ‘BJB’, there too. Chris Perrins wrote to me later to tell me: “Yellow ‘BJB’ (BTO ZY5592) was ringed at Abbotsbury, Dorset 06/10/11 as a first-winter ? (not hatched at Abbotsbury). It was reported at Chew Valley Lake on 25th July this summer.”The rising wind seemed to keep the small passerines well hidden, though Meadow Pipits were very much in evidence. We even saw a few Red Admirals in sheltered, sunny, spots. A flock of Siskins gave us good telescope views in the Alders at Hellfire Corner and a few of the group found some Redwings at Bell’s Bush where we stopped to check over the wildfowl at Top End. ‘Jonitor’ and ‘Willows’ the two adult Bewick’s Swans were still present despite the rising water level, and we found the Black Swan, two Little Egrets, a handful of Northern Lapwings and some good-looking ? Pintails that have just about attained full breeding plumage. Thanks to everyone who came, it made for a very enjoyable morning walk.

  • Tuesday 29 October – Bridgeyate Tuesday October 29th, 2013

     There were 18 participants on this birding walk led by David Body, who took us on a walk devised by, and last walked with, Stan Willmott in July 2010. Soon after leaving the Griffin pub we had Pied Wagtail, Buzzard, Collared Dove, Jackdaw, Dunnock and Wood Pigeon on the list. It was an excellent and sunny weather morning, clouding over a little towards midday. On reaching the high ground, and seeing a roe deer on the way, we had already noted Bullfinch, Raven, Magpie, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Long-tailed Tits and we just stood there to take in the magnificent views of the southern edge of the Cotswolds, the distant Mendips, and Dundry and Lockleaze hills. Then, after climbing yet again and with a view of the River Boyd below, we came upon a wooden gateway covered with hundreds of ladybirds of many colours. By the time we had returned to the Griffin pub for lunch, Jay, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Moorhen, Green Woodpecker, Robin and Chaffinch had also been seen, bringing the total to a respectable 28.

  • Sunday 27 October – Clevedon Yeo Sunday October 27th, 2013

     Despite the less than promising forecast 16 members joined me for a walk from Wains Hill down to the Yeo. The very strong wind was a constant reminder that a storm was heading our way the next day and it made birding difficult. Clevedon Pill was quiet with just a small group of Redshank and Lapwing of note, a Grey Wagtail was on the sluice at the Blind Yeo. The coast from Blackstone rocks to the Kenn was also quiet but the Kenn had a few waders with around 100 Dunlins, some Redshanks, Curlews and Oystercatchers present along with Wigeon and Teal. There was also a group of ten Little Egrets just inland here. Carrying further on down the coast we saw small numbers of Meadow Pipits, Rock Pipits and Linnet. Four late Wheatears were enjoyed by all as they bounced on ahead of us and eventually circled back on themselves. A few Turnstones and more Curlews were seen as we approached the Yeo but very little else. After a brief rest at the Yeo we headed back (with the wind now at our backs) and then the first heavy rain shower arrived and soaked us. The only other birds of note on the way back were three Grey Plovers, otherwise it was much the same. Thanks to those who joined me. Around 30 species in total on a difficult morning.

  • Tuesday 22 October – Severn Beach Tuesday October 22nd, 2013

     Despite the weather forecast 22 members walked along the seawall from Severn Beach to New Passage in time for the high tide roost. Conditions were not pleasant, being very windy with driving rain at times . The only birds of note were three Shelducks flying south. When we reached New Passage the weather improved and we were rewarded with good views of the winter visitors: Wigeon, Teal, Pochard, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Redshank, Turnstone, and a flock of wheeling Dunlins and Starlings. A few of the group spotted a distant Peregrine hunting. We then moved on along the seawall to look over the new Severn Wetlands reserve but the weather turned foul so we finally gave up and returned to Severn Beach, driving several Wheatears on the rocks before us. Altogether 30 species recorded during the shortened morning’s walk.

  • Tuesday 15 October – Swinford Tuesday October 15th, 2013

    A windless and reasonably warm morning with a clear blue sky saw 21 birders assemble at the Swan Inn. After a slight delay, while lunch orders were taken, we set off with a spring in our steps and were soon walking dew-fresh paths to one of the many viewpoints in the area, noting Jackdaws, Crows, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Raven, Song Thrush and Pied Wagtail on the way. A refreshment stop in a churchyard was accompanied by the music of strimmers as a gardens team cut back the grass around the stones of my namesake. Later, on the Bristol – Bath cycle path and footway, we noted Green Woodpecker, Goldcrest, Jay, Grey Wagtail and three Goldfinches but the star birds were Kingfisher, Grey Heron and two Buzzards as we walked beside the River Avon on the way back to the pub, ably led by Duncan Gill. A total count of 25 species was recorded.

  • Tuesday 08 October – Barrow Gurney Tuesday October 08th, 2013

    20 people set off, but before even leaving the car park we had already seen Pied Wagtail and a flock of Starlings, some flying through and others sitting on a telephone wire along with a Mistle Thrush enabling us to see the difference in size. As we walked up Hobbs Lane, we pushed a Kestrel from telephone post to post, and at the top of the lane we saw Blackbird, House Sparrow and Robin. We had a distant view of a Cormorant on a buoy on Barrow tank, and in fact we then found one sitting on each buoy! As we approached the tanks several Mallards, Great Crested Grebe, Tufted Ducks, Coot, Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls were seen. Just as we were leaving the tanks a Grey Heron was spotted. Continuing on our way we added Goldfinch, Wren and Blue Tit to our list, with one lucky member seeing a Jay and a Buzzard. Goldcrest was heard, but proved too elusive to see. At the very end of the walk, we caught sight of a Sparrowhawk overhead. Altogether 28 species seen or heard.

  • Sunday 06 October – Portland and Lodmoor Sunday October 06th, 2013

     About a dozen members met at Ferrybridge on the causeway to Portland on a lovely, sunny day. The Fleet at Portland was a bit quiet but notable sightings were 15 Mediterranean Gulls, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Brent Geese with Wheatear, Kestrel and Swallow on the shingle bank. We then went to Wyke Regis where Jane had heard of some rarities and, with a bit of patience, we were lucky to see a Red-backed Shrike and a Red-breasted Flycatcher in the same patch of hedgerow and brambles. The Shrike was sitting up nicely on the hedge and the Flycatcher was flitting about in some ivy, both giving good views, albeit at a distance. These were lifetime firsts for most of us. Chiffchaff, Pied Wagtail, Goldfinch and Pheasant were also in the area.Portland itself was a bit lacking in the migrants we hoped for and some of the scrub areas were exceptionally quiet. However, while we sat and ate our lunch, we were entertained by a Wheatear hunting ants very close to us. Walking down through the farmland we saw Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard. A dark-coloured mystery bird of prey sitting on a wall raised hopes of a Black Kite or some other exotic but the consensus was that it was another Buzzard. Whinchat, Stonechat, Linnet, Wheatear and Meadow Pipit were also seen. The final stop was the RSPB’s Lodmoor reserve in Weymouth. The brackish ponds had one Spoonbill, Wigeon, Little Egret, Lapwing and Dunlin, and Cetti’s Warbler could be heard in the bushes. A few of us walked a bit further round the path and were lucky enough to get a glimpse of a male Bearded Tit moments before we set off back to the cars. A Water Rail could be heard in the reeds. The Marsh Harriers did not make an appearance but we did see a Peregrine, mobbed at first by Rooks then soaring and stooping from a great height. Twenty or so other common species were also seen through the day.

  • Tuesday 01 October – Hillesley Tuesday October 01st, 2013

    Instead of one of those “misty, moisty” autumn mornings with shafts of sunlight catching the seasonal colours, 21 members turned out on a wall-to-wall grey morning. However, before we set out our leader told us “This is a lovely walk” – and it was, through a varied habitat of lanes, open hillsides, deep tracks with overhanging trees, which were surely very ancient ways, and typical Cotswold villages. Jackdaws were the first birds on our list and we saw and heard many more of them throughout the walk and also added other corvids – Crows, Raven and Rooks. Harking back to summer, several groups of House Martins were seen, a few Swallows, Chiffchaff and a Willow Warbler. Everybody got a good view of a Mistle Thrush perched on a bare branch but there were no winter thrushes about. Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk were spotted and a Grey Wagtail from one of the several bridges we crossed. The beady-eyed picked out a Stock Dove and some Common Gulls feeding with others. Altogether 38 species were recorded and a couple of group photographs taken on a new “Monet” bridge which took the footpath past a former mill.

  • Tuesday 24 September-Tickenham Tuesday September 24th, 2013

    14 members met on a mild but foggy day for a walk circling Tickenham Moor and the Blind Yeo River, the fields and wooded slopes up to Tickenham Ridge, and prehistoric Cadbury Camp at the top. The moors showed Mute Swans, Mallards, Heron, and Buzzard; one member said there were moves to turn this area into a Lapwing reserve, which would be valuable. We found a good variety of common birds in the Ridge area, most strikingly a Nuthatch posing for great views on top of a tree. Plenty of late Swallows and House Martins chased the abundance of insect life, particularly crane flies, but by far the commonest sounds were the Robins who seemed to have marked out almost every meter of the terrain. Cadbury Camp is literally the high point of the walk and usually gives great views down the Bristol Channel, but today the fog blotted out everything. However the mist highlighted beautiful displays of autumn cobwebs and the group settled happily for coffee into the furthest perimeter ditch between two banks. There were many plants and fungi of interest, including species of the dainty, ephemeral, cowpat-loving Dung Fungi and brightly flowering Field Scabious, Red Bartsia and Common Gromwell; and some members even collected Field Mushrooms for their tea. By the end of our walk – with a Kestrel near the church – we had counted 30 bird species.

  • Saturday 21 September – Ham Wall and Meare Heath Saturday September 21st, 2013

    Thirteen members met at the Meare Heath car park on a pleasant early autumn morning. A number of passerines were noted in the car park including Dunnock, Robin, Chiffchaff and Blackbird. The willows and alders on the first part of the Meare Heath reserve track held Great, Blue, Coal and Long-tailed Tits. As soon as we had a view of the South Drain we heard a penetrating series of short high- pitched whistles and some saw the bright turquoise-blue flash of a Kingfisher speeding by. Good views were had of a male Marsh Harrier floating over the reeds and the flooded peat cuttings were occupied by Gadwall, Mallard and Teal. Natural England had recently drained down the Meare Heath lagoon to expose areas of mud. The first bird to be identified was a Glossy Ibis which had been in the area for a while. This was a “lifer” for some. As well as Ruff, Redshank and Snipe the lagoon also hosted a Spotted Redshank and the now resident breeder Great White Egret. It was good to compare its size with its smaller cousin Little Egret. We heard Bearded Tit, Water Rail and Cetti’s Warbler. We then walked through part of the Ham Wall Reserve where further sightings were had of Marsh Harrier and Great White Egret, and Wigeon was added to the wildfowl list. About 43 species were encountered during the morning.

  • Tuesday 17 September-Coalpit Heath Tuesday September 17th, 2013

    Thirteen optimistic birders set out from Kendleshire Golf Club on a dry morning, heading towards the ponds. Lesser Black-backed gulls and Black-headed gulls were flying overhead. Moorhen were spotted on the first pond and Mute Swans on the second. Four Coots were swimming across the lake where there was a new bridge. As we continued we saw Chiffchaff in the trees and Wrens were hopping around the branches at the base of a fig tree. A Robin was perched on the top of a tall spruce and a little lower down two Goldfinches were chasing around. There was a lovely flock of Long-tailed Tits in a willow. The highlight of the walk has to be a large plump Mistle Thrush sitting at the top of a sweet chestnut tree – another flew off the tree lower down. We stopped for elevenses at the Ram Hill colliery and admired a huge boletus toadstool, which is associated with Birch trees. The rain looked as though it was coming in, as forecast, so we took a short cut back through the 13 lanes. By ‘Bleak House’ there was a lovely flock of House Martins flitting backwards and forwards around some conifers. Reaching the golf practice range, we saw many Pied Wagtails hopping amongst the golf balls.
    Thank you Duncan and Peter for leading this lovely walk and getting us back before the heavens really opened. 24 species were recorded but no Blackbirds.

  • Sunday 15 September- Brean Down Sunday September 15th, 2013

    It was a pity that only three of us turned up to join leader Andrew Slade from Burnham who was kind enough to lead this Club trip, but perhaps the rising south-westerly winds were discouraging. There were plenty of signs of migration that morning, if nothing particularly unexpected. Swallows, with a handful of martins, passed south constantly in small groups, well over 100 in total, and several species of warbler had joined the tit flocks in more sheltered areas. We started well with a Peregrine overflying the car park and we saw it again later, jousting with a couple of Ravens. With the tide low and turning, we counted 122 Shelducks on Weston beach, and Andy picked out a couple of Wigeon amongst several dozen Teal. He also found a lone Black-tailed Godwit with a handful of Curlews; that was it for the waders. The pickings were very sparse as we wandered down the sheltered side of the promontory, but towards the end we found some mixed flocks with several Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps and a couple of Willow Warblers. One group also seemed to include a young Spotted Flycatcher which was a pleasant surprise. In total we had around 30 species during an enjoyable walk, and the rain held off until we were back in the car park.

  • Tuesday 10 September-Blagdon Lake Tuesday September 10th, 2013

    A warm, still, sunny morning saw 23 members turn out for a walk along to the lodge from the causeway where we notched up 23 species before returning to the far side of the lake for another 11. There were no surprises and all the expected birds were there. The main sources of interest were a Snipe on the very low level lake and a Heron which seemed to be lying down “having a nap” as one member put it. The sluice was completely devoid of water with only one Grey Wagtail where we usually see several.
    However, a cheerful walk with a good mixture of birds.

  • Tuesday 03 September-Winscombe Tuesday September 03rd, 2013

    A happy bunch of 19 people left Winscombe village, walking towards Sandford Hill on a warm but misty morning. As we set off there was a variety of birds from Jackdaw and Herring Gull to Pied Wagtail and Collared Dove on the roofs. Across the fields we soon had Swallows overhead and reached a poplar tree filled with a large mixed flock of finches, along with Blue Tit, Goldcrest and a nearby Bullfinch. Over 20 Chaffinch rose from rape stubble and nearby we saw a Raven calling from a tree top and a Song Thrush. A Buzzard flew above as we walked up to the wood where we saw Jay and Chiffchaff before emerging onto the hilltop to enjoy our coffee stop. In the distance we caught sight of a Hobby heading south. The sun was quickly burning off the mist and in a grassy field was a Magpie with a juvenile Green Woodpecker bouncing alongside it. The remainder of the walk gave Great Spotted Woodpecker, Wren, Nuthatch heard and lovely views of four Long-tailed Tits heading along the hedgerow and across a gap above a gate. Of course there were also a number of Pigeon, tuneful Robins, martins, Blackbirds etc. interspersed with numerous horses and quite a number of different butterflies, appreciating the sun and flowers. The less common, brightly-coloured Clouded Yellow caused some excitement as we headed towards Shipham and returned through Sidcot. 29 bird species seen. Thank you Sue and Mark Watson for leading.

  • Saturday 31 August – Chew Valley Lake Saturday August 31st, 2013

    Twelve members met at Herriott’s Bridge on a warm sunny morning for this walk around the various areas of the Lake. At Herriott’s Bridge and pool we all observed three Black-Tailed Godwit, seven Ruff as well as Gadwall, Shoveler and Teal. A small flock of ten Long-tailed Tits flew into some dense bushes on the lakeside of Herriott’s Bridge along with a small creamy coloured bird that vanished into the dense undergrowth. A bird matching this description was later identified as a juvenile Reed Bunting by another group visiting the lake. Just before leaving this area some members observed a Grey Wagtail, Chiffchaff and two Kingfishers that flew across the pool from the lakeside. Small numbers of Swallow, House Martin and Sand Martin were also observed. Moving to Heron’s Green Bay all members had good views of a Ferruginous Duck with a group of Tufted Duck not far from the shore. Both Common and Green Sandpiper were noted as well as two Snipe, four Little Egrets, eight Little Grebe as well as a small number of Pied Wagtail and a single Meadow Pipit. Just before moving off to Villice Bay Hide members had a good view of a Wheatear. After only adding three Grey Herons to our tally at Villice Bay we finished off the meet at Stratford Hide where we observed Pochard, Teal, and Wigeon. A probable Garganey was located as well as two Ruddy Duck and a further Wheatear rounded off what was a good mornings birding. Total number of species recorded for the morning was 44. Thanks to Charles Stapleton for leading.

  • Tuesday 27th August – Pill / River Avon Wednesday August 28th, 2013

    The two groups, arriving on busesfrom different directions, met at the gateway to Leigh Court, Abbots Leigh on a lovely sunny morning, 14 of us in all. I decided to divert from the direct path to the river into Paradise Bottom and this proved fruitful. Tits of almost every sort were flitting high in the very tall trees (deciduous, redwoods and pines) and necks were craned trying to follow them and also a couple of Treecreepers. Nuthatch and Goldcrest were heard, a Green Woodpecker called, a Wren sang and Comma and Speckled Wood butterflies were found basking in the sunshine, so I called an early coffee break in this beautiful area. We then retraced our steps to the main path to the river. The high tide meant we did not find Redshank or Lapwing (seen on a recce the previous week) but the setting was lovely and we did find a Common Sandpiper, courtesy of Roger’s scope. Also 50+ Black-headed Gulls, an immature probable Lesser Black-backed Gulland some Mallardwereon the water, and four Herons on the bank. Ham Green pool produced a Moorhen and a Mute Swan among the water lilies and a young Rook in a tree above us. 32 species in all.

  • Tuesday 20 August – Priddy Wednesday August 21st, 2013

    19 people set off on a warm, calm morning and accumulated eleven species by the time we had left the village. These included House Martins (still nesting), Swallows, Blackbird, Gulls, a flock of Jackdaws and a Greenfinch on a Hawthorn by the Churchyard. Down the lane by Priddy Pond, a Nuthatch called then landed close by, giving good views. There was also a distant view of a Jay. Climbing through fields, the wider horizon revealed Buzzards, a Magpie (surprisingly few around), a flock of Goldfinch on Teasels and a flock of Linnets. Bullfinch and Wren were heard. On the high ground, by the nine Barrows, Ravens, Crows and a pair of Meadow Pipits flew off.

    Several Buzzards were up by now and we watched Wheatears on the stone walls and fence posts. A Moorhen was heard down by the ponds near Stock Hill. The hot sun brought out a number of butterflies, including Clouded Yellow and Small Copper. The day’s total was 26 bird species.

  • Tuesday 13 August – Elberton. Tuesday August 13th, 2013

    The few spots of drizzle at the beginning gave way to bright skies and, at times, sunshine. Eleven of us set off from Elberton and were soon walking through a forest of three metre high sweet corn which, fortunately, was still dry. Reaching Littleton-on-Severn with18 bird species on our list, including House Martin, Swallow, Collared Dove and Pied Wagtail, we bade farewell to two in our group and continued up to a magnificent view-point overlooking the Severn, which was at flood-tide, and there we rested a while, having added Mallard, Goldfinch and Blue Tit to our totals. Two more members then left as the remaining seven headed further up the hill to reach our lunch stop at a viewpoint overlooking Thornbury. Refreshed, we then walked the remaining two miles back to our cars, passing through Elberton churchyard on the way and with only 23 regularly seen birds on the list, which included Blackbird, Jackdaw and Raven.

  • Tuesday 6 August – Frampton Cotterell Wednesday August 07th, 2013

    A return to warm sunny weather welcomed the eighteen members who set off from the Globe in Frampton Cotterell. House Sparrows and Jackdaws accompanied us as we approached the adjacent meadows which had been refreshed by the previous days rain. The first section of the walk took us in the direction of Iron Acton alongside a very narrow River Frome where a flyover of Goldfinches and a startled Green Woodpecker were the best of the early sightings. The pre-coffee break highlight for some of the group, however, was the slow procession across a gap between two trees of a flock of Blue, Great and some 16 Long-tailed Tits. We left the stream and moved along hedgerows where Bullfinch were seen and a family of warblers flitted around, eventually being identified as Willow Warblers. Moving uphill we skirted horse fields, corn fields and hay meadows where Swallows and House Martins zoomed around in the warm conditions. Two Swifts were also spotted. There were several sightings of a Buzzard which proved to be the only raptor of the day. Mention must be made of the multitude of butterflies encountered particularly the abundance of the Large and Small White variety (100+). Others identified include Comma, Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper, Small Copper, Peacock and the once common Small Tortoiseshell. As to the birds, 27 species were noted. Thanks to Peter for leading a very pleasant walk.

  • Sunday 4 August – Keyhaven Monday August 05th, 2013

    Waders were the day’s main highlights, with 16 different species encountered. The weather was perfect for the start of Cowes week – sunny with a brisk wind. Ten birders met at the harbour where a number of Turnstone made use of a blue boat to perch on as the tide was high. A walk along the shoreline produced Redshank, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Dunlin and Curlew on the salt-marsh. Further along on the landward side of the path were Linnet, a distant Kestrel, Starling, Swallow and Shelduck. At the first freshwater pool gulls including a Mediterranean Gull and a Greenshank and Little Egret congregated on the outward leg, and 120 Black-tailed Godwits and 300 Dunlins on the return journey. The second pool provided the most interest however – highlights being Curlew Sandpiper (picked out amongst the numbers of Dunlin by their peachy summer plumage), Ringed Plover, a juvenile and adult Little Ringed Plover, Redshank, Snipe, Ruff, Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit and a Water Rail (seen briefly by some). After a quick lunch stop we all nipped round to the other side of the pool to twitch a Long-billed Dowitcher which had been in the area for a few days. After a little patience, good views were had by all. An obliging Snipe came alongside at one point affording a good comparison between the two species. Some of the group rounded the day off nicely with a Hobby on the way back to the cars – making it around 40 species in all.

  • June & July – Avon Gorge Peregrine Watches Monday July 15th, 2013

    The Avon Gorge Peregrine Falcons raised four young this year. Due to various other events which clashed with our normal programme we had to hold our two watch weekends later this year, which apart from the weather conditions did not cause us many problems.

    By the date of the first watch weekend on Saturday 22 June all four chicks had fledged and had been seen perfecting their flying skills in and around the Gorge, still dependant on their parents for supplying food. Saturday 22 June turned out to be a very cold overcast day with quite a strong breeze and the odd squally shower which did deplete the numbers of watchers at the site. Phil Gentle from LCE was in attendance with his usual optics road show but due to damage caused to his Gazebo by the strong wind he had to call it a day by early afternoon. The 11 weather did not stop the four chicks giving the small number of visitors good views with all six birds in flight and they were treated to some close passes by two birds with the two adults watching from the trees on the opposite side of the Gorge. The watch on 23 Jun was no better weather-wise, it was still very cold with the odd sharp shower. LCE turned up late for their second visit but finished quite early on. The bad weather did not prevent three of the juvenile birds chasing a passing flock of pigeons without success. Later in the day two of the young birds were observed perched in the top of two nearby trees being buffeted by the strong wind.

    In contrast, the second watch weekend was a very warm sunny one with very little wind which did cause a noticeable lack of activity from the birds. It was only during the early morning and the late afternoon they put in a flying display for the visitors who numbered fifteen at one stage. Both adult birds were for most of the day either sitting in the trees or on the old Raven’s nest on the opposite side of the Gorge. We did observe two pigeons being brought in by the parent birds to the old Raven’s nest for the waiting young birds during the morning session on Sunday 14 July with all six birds in the air later in the afternoon engaged in a game of tag around the Gorge.

    Although due to the adverse weather conditions the number of visitors was well down, it still proved to be a successful watch. My thanks to those members who helped this year and to those members who braved the weather.

    This years watchers were,:- Judy Copeland, Alison Levinson, Jeannette Maxwell, Peter Holbrook, Cecile Gillard, Barry Gray, Margaret Swatton, Jean Oliver, Phyl Dykes, Brenda Page, Chris Perry, Richard Bland, Gordon Youdale, William Earp, Mandy Leivers, Sue Sayers, Charles Stapleton

  • Trip report: Bathampton (25 June 2013) Wednesday June 26th, 2013

    A brilliant and informative introduction to the area by the leader (from inside the church as a tree shredder was howling outside) was a novel way to start our walk along the Kennet and Avon canal. The playing fields were alive with Swift and Swallow, some Collared Doves were spooning on the roof tops and just as Tiny was bemoaning the fact that the narrow boat from which delicious cake could be bought was closed, a Kingfisher made its speedy exit, stage right, towards Bath. As we passed the many sculptures on the canal side, a Grey Wagtail bobbed along the water’s edge, catching low flying insects. Magpies were attempting to rustle up a good feed from the many young birds that we heard along the way, Goldfinch and Chiffchaff among them. It was good to hear and eventually see the Whitethroat that abounded along this stretch and, drawn by that lovely song, catch sight of Blackcaps. A friendly dog walker regaled us with tales of the many raptors he’d seen the previous day and when we met again, as we climbed to the hill to Claverton church, he said we’d just missed a Water Rail his dog had flushed. In the churchyard for a belated coffee stop and while Tiny got the key and fought with his thoughtfully provided coffee machine we watched the Blue and Great Tits working hard in the Yew tree above us. Some further Swallows, House Martins and Swifts played in the air and around the church tower before we departed back along the canal for a rerun of the species seen on our way out. A notable Buzzard circled over the hill and Raven had a quick pass at some Jackdaws before disappearing into or behind the trees. As far as totals go; 23 walkers and 29 species, and a huge thanks to Dave ’Tiny’ French for leading and doing all the prep work that made this such a memorable walk.

  • Trip report: New Forest (22 June 2013) Sunday June 23rd, 2013

    As eleven walkers mustered at the Ashley Walk Car Park, two members wandered down the slope and got off to a great start with fleeting glimpses of a female Montagu’s Harrier! As we set off, we had high hopes of seeing Dartford Warblers, Woodlark and possibly Honey Buzzard. Early sightings included Stonechat, Linnets, a good number of Mistle Thrushes, and a very young Blue Tit which floated by and flopped to the ground. A calling Cuckoo was heard as we reached a small wooded area which revealed a number of Redstarts, including a youngster. There was then an opportunity to compare the songs of Blackcap and Garden Warbler as they conveniently sang on either side of the path. Even so, discussion ensued as to which was which. As we made our way, other songsters included Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldcrest, Chiffchaff and Wren, but the next highlight was a beautifully performing Tree Pipit which gave great views of its parachuting song flight. Just before our lunch stop we came across an active Great Spotted Woodpecker’s nest, and two or three Siskins flitted around here too. As we ate our sandwiches beside a stream we were entertained by more Redstarts, and some Great Tits which were picking at ant hill mounds. A few Stock Doves put in an appearance, including one that called close by. Unfortunately, Woodlark and Honey Buzzard remained elusive, probably not helped by what turned out to be a showery and breezy day, though one back marker did catch sight of a Dartford Warbler. The two who had started with the Harrier got lucky again near the end with a brief Spotted Flycatcher. There were sightings of some Roe Deer and a couple of Fallow Deer also turned up. We finished off by trying for the Montagu’s Harrier along the road at Black Gutter Bottom, but with no luck. Our total of species seen and/or heard was 36. Many thanks to Jane for leading such an enjoyable day.

  • Trip report: Hinton Blewitt, Coley and Litton Reservoirs (18 June 2013) Wednesday June 19th, 2013

    16 members met on an overcast and humid morning by the Ring O’ Bells pub. A Song Thrush was singing and a Chiffchaff calling as we set off along the lanes to Coley. A Hare crossing in front of us was a surprise and on a house in Coley we observed six active House Martin nests. Brown Trout idled in the stream. The lower lake at Litton had been drained for repair works so the upper lake was our best bet for water birds, but we did see a family of Grey Wagtails on the way. Mallard and Tufted Duck were on the upper lake with a couple of Great Crested Grebes – what a gruff call they make! In an Ash tree we were lucky enough to see a Great Spotted Woodpecker family and get good views of a youngster with its red cap. A Coal Tit was heard and during the walk we heard at least four Song Thrushes, four Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. We had a Yellowhammer, Long-tailed Tits, two Bullfinches, Chaffinch and Goldfinch. The fields by the long green lane held families of Rooks. At this time of year there were many wildflowers in bloom. It was a very pleasant walk of four and a half miles with a total of 36 species. Thanks go to Sue and John Prince for leading.

  • Trip report: Sand Bay (11 June 2013) Wednesday June 12th, 2013

    Fifteen birders met in the car park below the point and collected Jay, Magpie and Woodpigeon, plus some distant Swift before we attempted the steep path to the Trig point. Beside the steeply climbing path a couple of Chiffchaff sang and distantly a Blackcap, while above our heads a Kestrel hovered and a Cormorant flew past. Along the point we saw and heard very little as the wind was rather brisk, apart from a couple of Shelducks foraging on the tide line, but this didn’t detract from the beauty of the setting with abundant wild flowers and lovely sea views. Down on the channel side of the point and out of the wind we could hear at last and we were soon on to Whitethroat, Wren, Linnet and Goldfinch, while on the shore a solitary Rock Pipit stood sentinel guard near his nest. After the coffee stop and a prolonged search for a sight of the Whitethroat, we saw several Starlings, Carrion Crows, Blackbirds, Dunnocks and a single Great Tit. Going down towards our lunch spot, two Curlews were identified on the river bank alongside a Lapwing. During our leisurely stop we debated the identity of two duck 11 shaped blobs in among the grassy tussocks. A Greenfinch and then a Robin serenaded us from the power cables and then the birds stood up and revealed themselves as Shelducks. The walk back across the ancient field system and by the mine research establishment gave us a solitary Mallard asleep among the weed strewn stones. Before we reached the car park we saw more Jackdaws and our first House Martins. A bag of 34 for the day. Many thanks for leading, Nick.

  • Trip report: Dinas RSPB Reserve, mid Wales (9 June 2013) Monday June 10th, 2013

    Eight members gathered on a glorious morning in this most stunning of locations. We were soon on our way along the board walk. Were those singing birds Blackcaps or Garden Warblers? Well both, which either helped or confused! That challenge was soon forgotten as we listened to a Redstart and eventually saw it. A Willow Warbler fussed around us – it had a nest nearby, no doubt. Then a Pied Flycatcher caught our attention before Nuthatches took over. They were feeding chicks in the same nest box as eight years ago! We were then looking at the River Towy/Afon Tywi but apart from Grey Wagtails and a Buzzard overhead it was just a stunning vista. A fantastic male Redstart showed itself off just as we started the rocky footpath around the hill. There were many Wood Warblers but they mostly eluded our gaze although one lucky member had a good view. A freshly fledged family of Treecreepers stopped us as we watched the busy parents passing over freshly found insects. How many were there? two, three, four, well possibly seven, including the parents. Marsh Tits were heard, but proved elusive. Goosanders were spotted flying down stream along the Tywi. Then at a clearing a Tree Pipit rewarded us with a song flight, a Cuckoo called from the far mountainside and the bluebells were magnificent. After lunch six of us decided to explore the broad combe on the south-west side of the Gwenffrwd. This turned out to be quite an exploration! The pathways had fallen into disrepair but at least the bridge over the Gwenffrwd stream was still standing. We battled on up and up and eventually got to the open well maintained track. It was all downhill from here, fording the stream this time…wet feet! But, on the home stretch Red Kites gave excellent views, so it was worth the struggle. Thank goodness Richard Brown still had his old map from the previous visit; it was a great help.

    (PS. I have since spoken to the RSPB to confirm that the Gwenffrwd is still in the reserve, but that access is too expensive to maintain.) Thanks for leading, Robin.

  • Trip report: Hawkesbury Upton (4 June 2013) Wednesday June 05th, 2013

    Meeting at the Beaufort Arms we collected Greenfinch in the car park, Jackdaw from the church spire and House Sparrow from the lane beside the ‘The Fox Inn’ and our access to the fields. This was a new walk through some lovely countryside and wooded valleys. Across the fields the Swallows skimmed and Swifts chased about above us and a brash Pheasant strutted his stuff in the corner; a Kestrel rounded to the hover above the roadway before disappearing behind some trees. Did I mention it was a lovely day? Well it makes such a difference. Either a Blackcap’s, Willow Warbler’s, or Chiffchaff’s call or song accompanied us for most of the way and we were lucky to see or hear three Great Spotted Woodpeckers. We had good views of Treecreeper among the ivy clad trees and Wren sang from the Briar patches. As we left the cover of Church Wood, through the animal proof fence, a Hobby skimmed over and the first of the four Buzzards we saw circled lazily around. Further on and up past Lower Kilcott, a Jay was heard and briefly seen. A small flock of twelve Starlings, all juveniles, forged over the rise close to our journey’s end and we heard the call and saw a flash of emerald as a Green Woodpecker flew in his undulating fashion over the fields. Nineteen walkers (who collected 30 species) all enjoyed this great morning’s birding, and give our hearty thanks for the charming stewardship of our excellent leader Hazel Wilmot.

  • Trip report: Kennard Moor (1 June 2013) Sunday June 02nd, 2013

    Eleven members met in the village of West Pennard on a bright but cool morning. We then drove a short distance on to the Moor and parked adjacent to a farm drove. This was a first visit for the Club to this rather remote part of the Somerset Levels even though Glastonbury Tor was less than two miles away. We heard a Sedge Warbler in a nearby ditch and a Skylark rose from the adjacent field in glorious song. We paused and listened to some song from a willow which sounded somewhat like a Reed Bunting but not quite. When it flew it was indeed a Reed Bunting and we concluded it must have had a local Somerset accent. Further down the drove a Lesser Whitethroat “rattled” in a hawthorn and gave a brief view as it worked its way down the field hedge. This was a life bird for some of the members. For the rest of the morning we wandered through the lane which crosses the Moor. Although the birding was fairly quiet, it was nice to hear and see a number of Common Whitethroats, Chiffchaffs, Linnets and Goldfinches as they all flitted in and out of the hedgerows. About thirty species were encountered during the morning. It may well be worth revisiting this area during the winter as the habitat looks promising. Thanks for leading, Mike.

  • Trip report: Frampton-on-Severn (31 May 2013) Saturday June 01st, 2013

    It was a glorious early summer evening. The midges were ‘dancing’ in numbers uncountable, but where were the Hirundines? Approximately 200 at the same time last year but a single Swallow and only ten Swifts on this occasion – really rather troubling. However, nine members identified 38 species, ten of which presented before leaving the car park. Whilst it was very welcome to be able to make comparisons between Common Tern and summer plumage Black-headed Gull on the mid lake pontoon, the star bird of the evening was a seemingly resting, in transit, Yellow Wagtail. It had chosen to perch on dead bramble covering the lowest tier of a pylon and illuminated by late evening sunshine so that everyone was able to make leisurely observations. A Buzzard carrying what appeared in profile to be a young rabbit also came to rest, this time atop a hedge, before continuing its journey. Firstly a Cuckoo and then a Nightingale were heard briefly and so tantalizingly that four of the group eventually returned to the location of the latter where a more fulsome but still incomplete song was appreciated. Goslings, being shepherded towards the lake in a huge crèche by Greylag, Barnacle and Canada Goose parents restored our faith in numbers. It had been a varied and rewarding evening and as ever, was good to conclude in fading light with the bats taking over the patrol.

  • Trip report: Newport Wetlands and Goldcliff (28 May 2013) Wednesday May 29th, 2013

    It drizzled most of the day and the target species – Bearded Tit – was absent… but all in all eleven walkers had a great day out in Wales. The walk started well with House Sparrow, Cetti’s Warbler and Chiffchaff in the scrub along the lane to the visitor centre. The feeders there were alive with Greenfinch and below the raised walkway Coot juveniles, while pestering their parents, were calling in a most Water Rail fashion. As we approached the hot spot for Bearded Tits, the rain intensified. It deterred them, but not the Sedge Warblers, who hung from the top of the reed stalks long enough to be seen by all. The river was very high so only Shelduck were showing and, for the lucky few, a Wheatear. A sit in the hide for coffee allowed us to see Little Grebe with two tiny chicks and some Tufted Duck busily diving and one acting as though it was a decoy. Cuckoo was heard in the distance and as we went through the wood Blackcap and Willow Warbler sang. Beneath the pylons we had great views of Reed Buntings, Whitethroat, and House Martins who were weaving between the reed stalks, well below the seed heads. A group went on after lunch to the Goldcliff reserve and were lucky enough to see Little Ringed and Ringed 13 Plovers. The rest returned to the reserve to “twitch” the Woodchat Shrike that had been reported in the RSPB centre log as ‘A cracking little bird’. (It was!) We all met up at Goldcliff and from the first hide we saw Avocet, and Oystercatcher – both seen to be nesting, some very acrobatic Lapwing and ten (final count) Dunlin, all with the rich dark bellies of their summer plumage. As we plunged out of the hide into the heavier rain a Cuckoo disappeared southward pursued by angry Chaffinch. The day ended with a total of 57. Thanks to Peter Holbrook for co-leading.

  • Trip report: RSPB Otmoor (26 May 2013) Monday May 27th, 2013

    Seventeen members met in this beautiful Oxfordshire reserve on a sunny, warm morning. The walk started brilliantly in the car park with a Cuckoo calling, the distant purring of a Turtle Dove and the song of Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and a Garden Warbler. The reserve is a mosaic of wet meadows, and reed bed together with some hedges and mature trees and there are extensive big, wide-open sky views. Raptors then put on a good show with Red Kite, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Hobby all performing well. As we approached one of the mature trees another Turtle Dove began calling. Whether it was a master of camouflage or a ventriloquist, despite standing only a few yards from the bird, it remained unseen. We walked beside a ditch which was fringed with a small amount of reed. Small it may have been but good enough to give all a wonderful close view of a female Bearded Tit, with accompanying “pinging”. Also seen and heard were Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler and Reed Bunting. The rattle of a Lesser Whitethroat was new for some and a Common Whitethroat was seen and heard for comparison. Bullfinch, Linnet, Stock Dove, Little Egret and Redshank were all noted and Common Terns were flying close by. About fifty four species were encountered during the morning including nine species of warbler.

  • Trip report: Southstoke (21 May 2013) Wednesday May 22nd, 2013

    The ‘Save Our Pub’ sign made a good perch for a Blackbird; let’s hope it works as well for the pub! Rain had fallen; the grey skies were thinning so we eleven set out with light hearts. House Sparrow, Robin, and Woodpigeon our sightings before a plunge down into Horsecombe Vale where the ‘squeaky wheel’ sound of Goldcrest mixed with that of Blackcap. A Greenfinch offered us his ‘zizzing’ call, a Great Spotted Woodpecker ‘chipped’ and a busy Nuthatch gathered a beak full and flew down the hill to its waiting family. A lone Jay flashed across a clearing, in the bottoms Chiffchaff sang, and by the time we reached the waterworks at Tucking Mill, Blue Tit and a Green Woodpecker had regaled us with their calls. The newly laid bed of the old Somerset and Dorset railway had plenty of human traffic – off to explore the newly opened tunnels. There was little avian life until the end, near to our start along the line of the Somerset Coal Canal where Swallows skimmed over the meadows, House Martins along the hedges and above them all, Swifts. The hovering Kestrel made a dark black cross against the blueing sky and a circling Buzzard joined the raptor count, while down on the grass, a Pied Wagtail leapt and fluttered catching beakfuls of newly hatched insects. A Long-tailed Tit was spied in the bushes and a Bullfinch called but, try as we might, no sighting, unlike a Song Thrush which sang from his favourite pitch with great gusto. Before our final climb up the Limestone Link an obliging Yellowhammer sang from his concealment behind the thickest of hedges, only occasionally finishing his song with ‘and no cheese’. The Chaffinches made themselves very obvious as did two male Pheasants trying to share the favours of several females. A tally of 31 species was seen and big ‘thank you’ to David Body for leading.

  • Trip report: Inglestone Common BBQ (14 May 2013) Wednesday May 15th, 2013

    Due to the weather the annual BBQ was cancelled. Many thanks to Hazel and John for the invitation to invade their cottage garden. Good news – three Nightingales are singing in Lower Woods, the same number as last year.

  • Trip report: Lower Woods Nature Reserve (10 May 2013) Saturday May 11th, 2013

    Before we started our evening walk through Lower Woods there was a Treecreeper calling at the car park. The woods resounded with birdsong, made particularly difficult to identify by the Song Thrushes, which could be heard at all points on our walk. By the stream we saw a Spotted Flycatcher. This is the first time I have spent more time studying the flowers, including Wood Anemone, Violet, Primrose, Bluebell, Ramsons, Early Purple Orchid, Lesser Celandine, Cuckoo Flower and Cowslip than watching birds. Only once did I look up to see and hear a Nuthatch. We climbed out of the valley to have great views of Swallows, House Martins and Swifts flying over the fields. As it grew dusky a Tawny Owl called and then as the Song Thrushes went quiet we could hear three Nightingales singing. We had an excellent woodland walk with 21 species seen. Many thanks to Hazel for leading and knowing the best spot for Nightingales.

  • Trip report: Shapwick Heath (7 May 2013) Wednesday May 08th, 2013

    26 members met at Natural England’s Shapwick Heath car park on the first hot day of the year. In the morning we walked towards Noah’s Lake but the way was barred as the bridge to Meare Hide had been removed for maintenance and the main path closed just before the lake. After a picnic lunch in the car park we headed towards the RSPB Ham Wall reserve. Altogether 50 species were recorded during the day with the highlights being a Garden Warbler and a Cetti’s Warbler singing in view, a pair of Great White Egrets getting ‘cosy’, a pair of Marsh Harriers soaring over the reed bed, up to 15 Hobbies feeding on the wing in one group, a flock of eleven Bar-tailed Godwits in summer plumage and a Cuckoo calling and posing on a branch close to the path. A brilliant hot day birding.

  • Trip report: Blaise Woods (4 May 2013) Sunday May 05th, 2013

    To help with birdsong recognition, Judy was persuaded by Alison to lead this meeting ,but in fact the best birder in the group was Luca, a young Italian who had picked up the meeting from our website -as had Lucile, a young French girl. With Brenda and Stephen, who also travelled by bus, we six made up the entire party. It was blustery with showers, but sheltered within the woods, where there was abundant birdsong and we constantly had to stop to identify the variety of songs and sounds heard. Two Stock Doves were seen perched on a bare tree trunk and also heard –which delighted Luca as he had not heard the call before as they only winter in Italy. Blue Tits, Great Tits and Coal Tits flitted about, together with one Long-tailed Tit, but not the Marsh Tit which had been seen by the mill on the recce two days previously. Several loud Blackcaps sang, but only one was seen; a Green Woodpecker laughed in the distance and Luca heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming. A Grey Wagtail flitted down the stream and there was a Mallard pair on the pond. As we scaled the steps to the Folly, we had a glimpse of a Raven, and a Nuthatch lurked in the bushes in full song. At the end of the walk, we saw two Mistle Thrushes; one of which obligingly landed and serenaded us with its song.  Other songsters included Chiffchaff, Song Thrush, Goldcrest, Robin and Blackbird, and a screeching Jay, which together with the other usual culprits seen around Blaise, brought our total up to 25 species.  This was a pleasant morning in a wonderful habitat right on our doorstep and an extremely useful session in identifying bird song in the field.

  • Trip report: Hambrook (26 March 2013) Wednesday March 27th, 2013

    It was cold but dry and 29 birders, having placed lunch orders, left the ‘White Horse’ to meander around the many footways of the area. Not surprisingly, Mallard seen on Bradley Brook was first on our list of 22 species, which included Siskin, Skylark, Grey Wagtail and Fieldfare. Green Woodpecker put in a few calls as we walked across Bury Fort and Buzzard and Magpie also put in a brief appearance there. Ransom’s garlic scented the air beside the River Frome where a coffee stop was made and two members provided some delicious nibbles. There were 24 birders in the pub for lunch and a presentation by the ‘Princes’ was made to our outgoing super-organiser, Peter Holbrook.

  • Trip report: Badminton (19 March 2013) Wednesday March 20th, 2013

    With a trusty co-leader like Duncan and 30 enthusiastic walkers we were all set for a brisk trot around this four and a half mile bird walk. From the playgroup school – where three male Blackbirds chased and squabbled, we crossed the village green to find Mistle Thrushes fighting in the trees, Jackdaws all cosy in pairs and Greenfinches singing lustily from atop the, as yet, budless trees. Along Roach’s Lane where the feeders at Corner House were rich in tits and finches, and the trees above us were filled with the sound of chattering Starlings and the soft ‘chuck chuck’ of Fieldfares. They duly lifted off and flew to a single leafless Oak, displaying themselves to us allowing an inspection of size and posture differences. Along the beginning of the Seven Mile Plantation our first raptor of the day, a Buzzard, was perched on a wall, and we enjoyed our coffee break, soaking up the warm sun. Along the first half of the airstrip, we descended to cross the stream where a bright male Yellowhammer showed his canary-colouring to the whole party. As we walked towards Little Badminton several more were seen, along with Fieldfares, Jackdaws and Starlings. Our second and final raptor, a male Kestrel, alighted on the power lines and then flew off towards the American Barn. In the Deer Park, by its northern entrance, we passed the lake where a 14 pair of Canada Geese took to the water and about 150 Common Gulls were at roost on the grass beyond. The final stretch was through the stables and past the kennels, where a lively couple of male Greenfinches called and sang in their best circular swivel-hipped courtship dance, trying desperately to win the favours of the four or five females in the audience. Our tally of 28 species was, alas, missing some we might have expected to see at this time of year and, with the benefit of previous visits, had hoped to: no Chiffchaffs, no Woodpeckers, no Owls, no Ducks, but still, a lovely morning to be out birding.

  • Trip report: Whiteford Burrows (17 March 2013) Monday March 18th, 2013

    Ten members met in the car park in the pretty village of Cwm Ivy where a Jay, Green Woodpecker and Coal Tits were spotted to give the day a flying start. The weather was perfect being sunny with no wind and, although a little cold, it warmed up pleasantly as the day went on. The descent to the woods turned up a Treecreeper, Wrens, Siskins and Goldcrests. Emerging from the woods on to the sand dunes we were delighted with Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Stonechats. We then proceeded to the beach where there were Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, a large flock of Oystercatchers, Curlew, and Common Gulls; spectacular numbers of Brent Geese gaggled away to each other. Lunch was taken overlooking the estuary towards Burry Port and Llanelli with a backdrop of the snow-covered Black Mountain. How lucky we were to be eating our lunch watching Eider and Red-breasted Mergansers with a few Turnstones thrown in for good measure. It was back through the wood where a Raven, Song Thrush and Long-tailed Tits were spotted. The path over the marsh was quite wet but walking under the trees to our ascent up the hill revealed more Goldcrests and Robins. Forty-two species were recorded for the day. Thank you to Roger for leading a perfect birding day.

  • Trip report: Bristol City Centre (12 March 2013) Wednesday March 13th, 2013

    No rain this year on our urban walk – just snow! However, nothing daunted, nine, then ten and eventually a round dozen members turned up. We made our usual start crossing Pero’s Bridge from where we saw Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. With low temperatures and a strong wind, we weren’t surprised at having to work hard at spotting any birds but the chocolate-coloured heads of Black-headed Gulls reminded us that the season is changing. In spite of exposed mud along the New Cut we didn’t find a Common Sandpiper this year or a Redshank, though we saw the latter later. A group of Starlings flew over us and a Kestrel (our only raptor of the day) put in an appearance. By now, even this hardy bunch of members decided that coffee inside the Create Centre was a good idea and we lingered long enough to take a look at the display of “found” plastics in the gallery. With the sun now out, such small birds as Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Dunnock lengthened our list and we started back towards the Centre adding Grey Heron and Jackdaw. More than half the party took up the offer of yet another coffee in our leader’s flat and enjoyed great views of the SS Great Britain and Harbourside. For the final three of the party, Brandon Hill produced only an extra couple of species: Great and Blue Tits, thus making the total tally 21. Thanks Margaret for: leading, your local knowledge, and that second coffee!

  • Trip report: Forest of Dean (5 March 2013) Wednesday March 06th, 2013

    Twenty-four members, joined by another before we left New Fancy View, gathered for the annual Tuesday morning Forest of Dean expedition. As the sun had already been shining for some hours we optimistically kept our eyes peeled for possible sunning adders on the climb up to the viewing point where the visibility wasn’t gin- clear, but quite good enough for us to enjoy repeated flypasts with some aerobatic manoeuvres by the local Ravens. While in the car park, we had already heard a Song Thrush singing. An early distant view of a raptor was judged to be a Peregrine. Buzzards and Sparrowhawks were also seen but not a Goshawk and few smaller birds. However, everyone seemed to be smiling – an hour of warm sun on our backs and wall-to-wall blue sky made sure of that. We moved on to Speech House where, predictably, the Mistle Thrushes were in the field and then, as we walked through the woods down to Beechenhurst, we spotted all the usual suspects including Greenfinch, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Wren and many singing Robins. On to the picnic site at Cannop Ponds and mid-summer (English!) temperatures. Here we did have to jump up from our lunches to view, at last, a circling Goshawk. There were also Long-tailed Tits flitting through the Alder catkins and a Grey Wagtail nearby, plus, of course, the handsome Mandarin Ducks among the Coots, Moorhens, Little Grebes, Tufted Ducks, etc. on the lake. En route to Nagshead Reserve we saw the Greylags and some of the party saw Marsh Tit and Siskin. A visit to the Bruce Campbell hide gave good views of Nuthatch and, although a final walk through the oakwoods didn’t add to our total of 35 species, or reveal any Hawfinches or Crossbills, Colin was able to show us evidence of the latter on some discarded cones. Many thanks are due to him for both leading a very enjoyable walk and the work put in beforehand on his recces.

  • Trip report: Forest of Dean (2 March 2013) Sunday March 03rd, 2013

    The ancient woodland of the Forest of Dean made a welcome start to March as 22 BOC members joined a walk with chairman, Ed Drewitt, starting off around the RSPB’s Nagshead reserve. Blackbirds were all over the woodland, scattering as we approached them along the footpaths – many were probably migrants getting ready for their journeys northeast back to Scandinavia. The songs of Coal, Blue, and Great Tits rang throughout the woods, while the drumming call of a Great Spotted Woodpecker entertained us all. Nuthatches, with their Morse-code style calls were relatively easily to find, while the mouse-like Treecreeper took a little more time, but was spotted nonetheless. Siskins were often evident, especially close to the car park where some were in the trees, and others were chasing each other and singing simultaneously. After an hour and a half walk, we drove to the New Fancy Viewpoint – but the low cloud and cool temperatures made little opportunity for Goshawks to display. However, most of the group did see a very distant Goshawk, though for many it was difficult to identify as it drifted in and out of sight. Moving on to Speech House, we checked the nearby playing field for thrushes – it was busy with various Redwings, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, and at least three Mistle Thrushes. What was even more surprising was that another field nearby contained more Song Thrushes than Redwings! We came to the conclusion these must have been migrants, fattening themselves up on earthworms. Two Stock Doves were perched in an oak tree, and some of the group watched a Magpie feeding on the wound of a sheep (the sheep was completely oblivious!). Back at the car park, some extra bird food laid out by some members attracted dozens of Chaffinches; Blue, Great, and Coal Tits; a Pied Wagtail; at least two Nuthatches and Blackbirds. Before we moved on, a Treecreeper flew into a tree nearby. Our final stop was Cannop Ponds – by now the cloud was breaking, and in glorious sunshine we enjoyed seeing over 20 Mandarin Ducks at close view. Meanwhile, the weedy lake was full of Moorhens, at least four Little Grebes, Tufted Ducks (including a hybrid), Coots, Mallards, and domestic ducks. Behind us in the Alder trees some Long-tailed Tits passed by, and some members spotted a Goldcrest and a Grey Wagtail. To complete the day, a Raven flew right in front of us before coming down to the lake bank and then perching in a tree. Two others were soaring in the distance. Finishing just before 1300 hrs, some of the group relaxed with their lunch at Cannop Ponds before visiting some other smaller sites, some 13 spotted at least three displaying Goshawks at New Fancy View (one chasing off a pair), while others caught sight of one or two Twite at Aust on their way home.

  • Forest of Dean, Saturday 2nd March Saturday March 02nd, 2013

    The ancient woodland of the Forest of Dean made a welcome start to March as 22 BOC members joined a walk with chair Ed Drewitt, starting off around the RSPB’s Nagshead reserve. Blackbirds were all over the woodland, scattering as we approached them along the footpaths – many were probably migrants getting ready for their journeys northeast back to Scandinavia. The songs of Coal Tits, Blue Tits, and Great Tits rang throughout the woods, while the drumming call of a Great Spotted Woodpecker entertained us all. Nuthatches, with their Morse-code style calls were relatively easily to find, while the mouse-like Treecreeper took a little more time, but was spotted nonetheless. Siskins were often evident, especially close to the car park where some were in the trees, and others were chasing each other and singing simultaneously. After an hour and a half walk, we drove to the New Fancy Viewpoint – but the low cloud and cool temperatures made little opportunity for Goshawks to display. However, most of the group did see a very distant Goshawk, though for many it was difficult to identify as it drifted in and out of sight. Moving on to Speech House, we checked the nearby playing field for thrushes – it was busy with various Redwings, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, and at least three Mistle Thrushes. What was even more surprising was another field nearby contained more Song Thrushes than Redwings! We came to the conclusion these must have been migrants, fattening themselves up on earthworms. Two Stock Doves were perched in an oak tree, and some of the group watched a Magpie feeding on the wound of a sheep (the sheep was completely oblivious!). Back at the car park, some extra bird food laid out by some members attracted dozens of Chaffinches, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal, Tits, a Pied Wagtail, at least two Nuthatches, and Blackbirds. Before we moved on a Treecreeper flew into a tree nearby. Our final stop was Cannop Ponds – by now the cloud was breaking, and in glorious sunshine we enjoyed seeing over 20 Mandarin Ducks at close view. Meanwhile, the weedy lake was full of Moorhens, at least four Little Grebes, Tufted Ducks (including a hybrid), Coots, Mallards, and domestic ducks. Behind us in the Alder trees some Long-tailed Tits passed by, and some spotted a Goldcrest and a Grey Wagtail. To complete the day, a Raven flew right in front of us before coming down to the lake bank and then perching in a tree. Two others were soaring in the distance. Finishing just before 1pm, some of the group relaxed with their lunch at Cannop Ponds before visiting some other smaller sites, some spotted at least three displaying Goshawks at New Fancy View (one chasing off a pair), while others caught sight of one or two Twite at Aust on their way home. Ed Drewitt

  • Trip report: Old Down, Tockington (26 February 2013) Wednesday February 27th, 2013

    This was a three degrees, cold and dry, easterly breeze morning walk and 18 cheery and enthusiastic members got off on a rapid ramble along the top edge of Sheepcombe Brake, picking up Chaffinch, Dunnock, Blackbird and Blue Tit on the way. Passing The Fox Inn, in the centre of Old Down, we saw a further six species, including Green Woodpecker and Robin, we then took to a steep path down though the wood, where Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Siskin and Bullfinch were noted on the way.  At Lower Hazel we saw Mallard, Buzzard and Herring Gull as we climbed up onto Stroud Common, with Alveston just across the valley. After a refreshment stop on the common we took again to Sheepcombe Brake on a different but equally steep path and then to a small road leading to Tockington. There we adding to the list a Song Thrush, Moorhen, Sparrow Hawk, Raven and Redwing, after which came the long climb back to the cars. With a reasonably good list of 32 birds plus a grey squirrel and no mud on our boots we were all as, or more, cheerful than when we started. Thanks to David Tombs for leading.

  • Trip report: Bridgeyate (19 February 2013) Wednesday February 20th, 2013

    It was a glorious spring morning and 26 Tuesday walkers set off out of Bridgeyate towards Siston Common and Webbs Heath. Nine species of birds were recorded around the housing estate including Herring Gull, Collared Dove, Dunnock and Starling. As we walked along the Dramway path and down to the stream, a Bullfinch was calling from the hedgerow. A Song Thrush was singing loudly high in the trees but we could not spot him. We walked up a long hill and into Warmley forest and saw twenty Magpies sitting on the hilltop grass and we tried to decide whether it was the males or females displaying. There were magnificent old oak trees silhouetted against the bright blue sky together with alder trees which were a beautiful purple colour from bursting buds. Two Jays darted back and forth from tree to scrub while three Buzzards circled overhead. There were small groups of Long-tailed Tits flying from ash tree to ash tree accompanied by Blue Tits and Great Tits. Chaffinches, Robin, and Dunnocks were seen in the hedgerows and two House Sparrows were performing upside down together on a tree, maybe looking for insects or a complicated mating ritual! The wistful sound of a Goldcrest was heard and it was seen hopping high in an oak tree. Two Great Spotted Woodpeckers were heard drumming on opposite sides of the valley .We passed a small lake and saw a male and female Mallard Duck sitting contently on the bank in the sun. We recorded 29 species of birds. Thank you to David Body for leading this really beautiful walk through woodlands, hills, valleys and streams.

  • Trip report: Berrow (17 February 2013) Monday February 18th, 2013

    The planned walk was to watch winter thrushes and Blackcaps feasting on the masses of Sea Buckthorn berries in an area of the dunes at Berrow that gets very little attention from birdwatchers. Unfortunately, the snow fall early in the year heralded the arrival of thousands of birds, which subsequently devoured virtually every single berry. Our meeting point was the small car park along the coast road. Twelve members/non-members duly arrived 9 on a glorious spring morning, bright sunshine and crystal blue skies. However, they missed best birds which had already passed over while I was waiting for the attendees. The first was a fine Red Kite drifting northeast being mobbed by a couple of Crows, quickly followed by two Siskins and three Redpolls also heading north. These sightings buoyed my optimism for the meeting. A very pleasant walk however yielded very little. We all enjoyed excellent views of several Bullfinches and Linnets. Once on the beach, where the sea nearly looked blue, we had plenty of Sanderling and Dunlin dashing along the tide edge allowing a great comparison of these species. Two Shoveler flew past over the sea, these are unusual here. On such a lovely day, it’s sometimes just great to be outside enjoying the coastal fresh air. Thank you to all who attended and for Andrew Slade for leading.

  • Trip report: Backwell Lake (12 Febuary 2013) Wednesday February 13th, 2013

    On a chilly grey morning 22 birdwatchers met at The Perrings, Nailsea for a walk round Backwell Lake and the local countryside towards Chelvey Batch and Manor. Two Little Egrets were on the bank at the lake, one already with breeding plumes but the Goosander which are normally present during winter were absent. However, Tufted Duck, Shoveler and Gadwall were present with the usual Mallard, Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Moorhens and Coot. A few Common Gulls were on the water with the Black-headed Gulls and a couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls. In the Alder trees we saw plenty of Goldfinches and two Siskins. At the bridge by the end of the lake we saw a Tree Creeper and some Redwings. Several lucky members of the group had seen Bullfinch and a female Blackcap in the trees by the AWT reserve. As we walked along Youngwood Lane we added more Redwing, a Song Thrush and Pied Wagtails in the fields with the horses. There were Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits along the hedgerows with Chaffinches, one of which was already calling in sub-song. Other highlights of the morning were a pair of Peregrines circling overhead, a Buzzard and a Kestrel hovering. Fieldfares were added to the list of winter thrushes. It was a rather muddy walk but very enjoyable. We saw the first Celandines and Violets of spring. In total 43 species of bird were seen. Thanks to John and Sue Prince for leading.

  • Trip report: Norfolk (1 – 4 Feburary 2013) Tuesday February 05th, 2013

    A Wild Goose Chase and Much More

    A party of 17 departed Bristol in good order on the Friday morning, 13 in the minibus and four outriders travelling by car; destination – the comfortable Burleigh Hotel in Hunstanton. This was definitely a winter event with weather ranging from bracing to bleak – strong winds throughout and some brief flurries of snow on the second day. We did, fortunately, avoid rain. During the journey interesting spots from the minibus just south of Peterborough were Red Kites and our first Barn Owl. Arriving at Tottenhill Ponds early afternoon gave us three Smews and other waterfowl including a flock of Greylag Geese. From there we went to Roydon Common to enjoy good views of five Hen Harriers – four ringtails and a male. The day ended at Snettisham to see the evening spectacle of the Pink-footed Geese arriving to roost on The Wash – or so we thought. The geese had other ideas, having adopted a different roosting location. Ah well! Having settled into the Burleigh, morning walks on the beach offered some interesting birds including Fulmars and a Shag and gave an appetite for breakfast. On Saturday the main destination was the splendid RSPB Reserve at Titchwell with its well-stocked visitor centre, commodious hides and sea-viewing on the beach for the hardier. There were excellent views of Avocets and a Water Pipit amongst many others. Leaving Titchwell we visited Thornham Marshes, Burnham Overy, Lady Anne’s Drive at Holkham (our one view of a White-fronted Goose), Wells Quay and Choseley Barns. We had further views of Barn Owl and Brown Hares on the way back to Hunstanton. Throughout the weekend skeins of geese were seen going to and fro but the Pink-footed Geese kept their distance, usually at a height. However, large numbers of Brent and Greylag Geese were much more approachable and on our last day we passed a grazing flock of Egyptian Geese.

    Day three, Sunday, started with a visit to Cley which produced a Purple Sandpiper on one of the pools and sightings of Common Scoters and Red-throated Divers on the sea. After refreshments in the cosy Cley Visitors’ Centre we moved onto Salthouse Beach and found a flock of Snow Buntings and were struck by their effective camouflage – difficult to pick out on the shingle, having landed less than 20 yards away. Next it was the Hawk and Owl Trust’s reserve at Sculthorpe where there were several further views of a Barn Owl. We enjoyed a hide looking onto feeders which, apart from the usual visitors, attracted Marsh Tits, a Nuthatch, Bullfinches, Bramblings and a Water Rail. The last day started on Snettisham Beach in sunshine with a high tide pushing large numbers of waders in. Next was our third and final circuit of “The Wolferton Triangle” – three intersecting roads near the Sandringham estate -said to be a haunt of Golden Pheasant but we drew yet another blank*. However, a Muntjac was seen by some as compensation. Then it was on to Lynford Arboretum to see a Hawfinch, and finally to Thetford to see a Black-bellied Dipper in non-Dipper territory. This individual was a continental race vagrant, obviously an attention-seeker because not only did it pose patiently for a gaggle of snappers only 20 yards away but it had chosen to take up winter residence about 300 yards away from the headquarters of the BTO! Our final tally was 109 species.

    Many thanks to Jane Cumming for her genial leadership and expert knowledge of the territory, and to drivers Alastair Fraser and Ken Carruthers.

    *P.S. We discovered later that, just as they were preparing to leave for Bristol, the lucky members in the car had close views of two Golden Pheasants!

  • Trip Report: Burnett (29 January 2013) Wednesday January 30th, 2013

    Elm Farm at Burnett, run by Philippa and John is under a stewardship scheme, so plenty of areas are left uncut and some areas are seeded for wildlife. With the rain after snow it was wet underfoot and the standing water in some fields developed quite well during our walk! Ten walkers were undeterred by the showers and pleased with our haul of 28 species. Several large flocks of mixed Fieldfare and Redwing were seen throughout but only the occasional Starling. Chaffinches were plentiful but we didn’t find any Brambling among them. We only identified one Yellowhammer for sure and some flocks of possible Linnet. A big party of Raven – some doing the tumble – came over, while another was being harassed by a Sparrowhawk who then confirmed his ID, going into a steep dive toward us, flashing across the path and away into a copse of ash trees. Down by the pond where the Owl and Kestrel boxes are, a lone Grey Heron stood – quite still – but looking very thin. Nothing else stirred although there was a hint of brown at the entrance to the Kestrel box – a nest prospector or, more likely, a foul weather refugee. The hoped for Woodcock didn’t materialise, and the Mistle Thrush was missing from his usual spot, although we did hear one singing from the woods. A Treecreeper was located and shown to most of us. Back at the farm, the feeder was playing host to many Blue and Great Tits, Gold and Green Finches and the boss of them all – House Sparrow. Thanks to Roger for leading this lovely walk and to Philippa for coming round with us and sharing her knowledge.

    Nick Hawkridge

  • Trip Report: Portbury Wharf (15 January 2013) Wednesday January 16th, 2013

    Thirty one people met at Portbury for one lap around the reserve on a bright and cold morning. As we started, a Grey Heron flew over and a Robin ticked from the bushes. At a bird feeder those rare birds House Sparrows shared the food with Blue and Great Tits. At the top of Wharf Lane the Little Owl showed well, eyes closed against the bright sun. From the middle hide, Tufted Duck, Shoveler and Pochard were abundant and careful scrutiny revealed three Snipe at the waters edge of the island. It is a rare day indeed, even in summer, when you can stand on the sea bank and feel comfortable. The temperature was close to freezing but a total absence of wind and bright sun made our coffee break very pleasant as we watched Redshank, Shelduck and Dunlin on the estuary mud. On our way back through the fields, Bullfinch were seen and from where our cars were parked we observed Redwing worming in the adjacent field and two Buzzard soared to complete a very satisfactory total of 43 species.

    Roger Hawley

  • Trip Report: Blagdon Lake (12 January 2013) Saturday January 12th, 2013

    Being retired and a Tuesday birder, it’s not often that I venture forth for a grown-up day at the weekend. As Nigel Milbourne, patch specialist, was leading I made a special effort to attend. I wasn’t disappointed and am sure the others in the group weren’t either. Nigel was confident we would see 50 species during the morning’s walk. BL is a haven for Tufted Duck, Coot, Wigeon and Pochard and these were seen aplenty. The strong SW wind had cleared most of the gulls from the dam wall but we did manage to ID the 5 most common species on our trip round. Five species of Thrush were also seen – nice that Fieldfare and Redwing were in the same oak tree to allow comparison and a pair of Mistle Thrushes stood to attention on the meadow to display their chest markings. We had a detailed lesson (six scopes being utilised) on the identification of Lesser Scaup, which stayed more or less in the same area for our education – poor light levels and distance made the upper mandible ‘Black Nail tip’ hard to distinguish. (Nigel later showed us a full size reproduction to round off the class). Black-necked Grebe showed surprisingly well for such a small bird in the choppy water conditions, although its cousin the Little Grebe was far less accommodating. The Great Crested Grebes we saw had no breeding plumage head gear visible. Two pairs of Goldeneye were found but the courting display previously seen wasn’t repeated. A wisp of 40 Snipe were flushed from the lake margins with an attendant Grey Heron plus the singular sound of a female Teal making her exit. Our final species was seen from the dam end of the lake looking into Butcombe Bay, a fine pair of Goosander. Nine damp birders finished with a count of 51 species. Thanks to Nigel for leading this most enlightening morning’s birding.

    Nick Hawkridge

  • Trip Report: Portishead (8 January 2013) Wednesday January 09th, 2013

    28 people set off on a very calm day. It was a shame that it was a low tide with no hope of seeing the Purple Sandpipers, but at the start a Grey Wagtail was seen just over the sea wall, with Goldfinch in a nearby tree. Walking along the front to the lake we saw Mallard, four or five Pochards, female Tufted Duck and numerous Moorhen and Mute Swan. Pied Wagtails milled about on the edge of the lake and on the shore Meadow Pipits were swirling around and two Linnets and a Curlew were spotted on the mud. We made a quick stop at Battery Point and then on through East Wood which was very quiet with only the occasional Blue and Great Tit, although some of the group at the rear saw Long-tailed Tit as well.

    At Portishead Pier we all had very good views of the male Black Redstart, which was a first sighting for at least five people. There was a large flock of at least 400/500 Dunlins together with Redshank and Shelduck scattered on the mud. We made our way along the dock side to the swimming pool, where Goldcrest were seen flitting from tree to tree, and then back to the coast and along to the Sailing Club where six Turnstones were very busy feeding on the seaweed. A total of 34 species seen.

    Geoff Harris

  • Trip Report: WWT Slimbridge (1 January 2013) Wednesday January 02nd, 2013

    At least 26 members appeared in the car park (several others arrived later!) After the horrid weather of previous days, it was a joy to arrive in bright sunshine. A perfect morning, added to which it was just after high tide, so the Dumbles and Tack Piece were full of birds, dominated by large flocks of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Dunlin and Wigeon. It was just a case of scanning through these to find the less numerous species. The Bewick’s Swans were easy and useful pointers to where the Ruff, Pintail, Shoveler and others were. There was a neat flock of Redshanks including one Spotted Redshank and a nice line of Black-tailed Godwits. Pochard, Tufted Duck, Shelduck and Mallard were also noted. A small flock of White-fronted Geese was settled into the far side of the Tack Piece whilst out on the Dumbles, Canada and Barnacle Geese were showing, as well as Buzzards and two Peregrines. It was not long before the latter were off and put most of the waders to flight. It was spectacular!

    On our walk around the various hides many song birds were noted as well as Water Rail and Mandarin (full-winged birds). I ought to mention a few others: Redwing, Blackbird, Treecreeper, Lesser Redpoll and Chaffinch, also Grey Heron and Curlew. (Sadly we missed the Bittern, again.) I’ve just mentioned some of the, at least, 54 species seen during a splendid morning’s walk in fine weather.

    Robin Prytherch

  • Trip Report: Northumberland (23rd – 30th May 2012) Thursday May 31st, 2012

    Firstly, thank you to Wendy Dickson our leader and guide for showing us the beautiful countryside and bird watching sites of Northumberland. The weather was glorious which enabled our group of 13 to have non-stop bird watching for the whole week. On picking up the mini-bus at Newnham Hall, (expertly driven by Nick and Sue ), we headed north, stopping for lunch at RSPB Old Moor, west of Doncaster. There were some surprises (this reserve is in the middle of an enterprise park): Ringed Plover, Dunlin, four Ruff in breeding plumage, Turnstone and Avocet with chicks were seen. The feeders in the car park produced a family of Tree Sparrows and a pair of Bullfinches. We continued our journey north to Embleton where the comfortable Dunstanburgh Castle Hotel awaited the weary travellers. After supper some of the group were refreshed enough to take a walk through the pretty village to the beach where Swifts were soaring, Sedge and Reed Warblers were heard and Grey Partridge were roosting in the hedges.

    Thursday dawned with low cloud and mist, but this didn’t dampen our spirits, we were off to the Farne Islands. We travelled to Seahouses where we boarded “Glad Tidings” and sailed first to Staple Island. On the way we encountered Eider, Fulmar, Gannet, Guillemot, Razorbill and Puffin. On landing the sight, noise and smell was something to behold. Fulmar, Shag, Kittiwake, Guillemot, Razorbill and Puffin were all vying for the smallest crag to nest and rear young. The comings and goings were constant with the Guillemots doing a Mexican Wave every time a Gull flew over them. From Staple Island we sailed to Inner Farne – what a sight! Thousands and thousands of Terns: Sandwich, Common and Arctic were breeding. Yes, a number of us were chosen for a peck on the head by an Arctic. Holy Island was visited on Friday. Driving over the causeway, Wendy showed us the path the Pilgrims take to the island. At low tide it is possible to walk across the sands following an ancient route known as Pilgrims’ Way. This route is marked with posts and has refuge boxes for stranded walkers, just as the road has a refuge box for those who have left their crossing too late. A walk around the island produced a Barn Owl hunting for food and carrying prey back to its nest; Eider and Scoter at sea from the sand dunes; Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Wheatear were sighted in the fields. On our return journey to the hotel we called at Budle Bay where a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers were enjoying the lovely late afternoon’s sun together with Curlew, Redshank and Eider. Saturday saw us visiting Harthorpe Valley. This is a very pretty, narrow and in places steep sided wooded valley which produced Red Grouse, Red-legged Partridge, Grey Partridge, Common Sandpiper, Cuckoo, Treecreeper, Ring Ouzel, Spotted Flycatcher, Whinchat, Stonechat, Wheatear and Lesser Redpoll. There was an early tide on Sunday morning so everyone was up bright and early to travel to Warkworth Harbour, Amble to board the boat which was chartered to take us to Coquet Island. We had fantastic views of Roseate, Sandwich, Common and Arctic Terns along with Purple Sandpiper, a Dunlin of the “Alpina” species in magnificent summer plumage, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Guillemot, Razorbill and Puffins. On the way back to shore a few of the group spotted an Arctic Skua flying past the boat. After landing, we made our way to Druridge Bay and visited a number of the Northumberland Wildlife Trust Reserves in the vicinity – Ladyburn Lake, Druridge Bay C.P., Cresswell Pond, Druridge Pools, East Chevington and Huxley. Grey Wagtails were spotted at Cresswell and Tree Sparrows at Druridge Pools. Huxley produced Wigeon, Gadwall, nesting Oystercatchers, Black-tailed Godwit, and Redshank. A pair of Coal Tits were feeding young in a nest they had made behind the sign on the visitor centre. A breeding colony of Little Terns at Long Nanny was our treat on Monday. These Terns are under 24 hour surveillance by wardens to protect them from predators. There were also a large number of Sandwich Terns present, together with a few pairs of Ringed Plovers, Eider and Dunlin. Back on the mini-bus, we travelled south to the Ingram Valley. This valley was different to the Harthorpe being much more open and not so steep. A stop along the river soon produced Common Sandpiper, Dipper and Grey Wagtail and a Cuckoo was spotted being chased off by a Meadow Pipit. At the top of the valley some of the group explored a small wooded area which produced the first sighting of the week of Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Spotted Flycatcher and Common Redpoll.

    Our last day was sadly upon us, but another great day’s birding was in store. We visited Hulne Park, Alnwick where we came across Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tits along the path to the river. As we crossed the river more Goldcrest were sighted along with the first Nuthatch of the week and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Crossing over another bridge further down the river, we spotted a pair of Grey Wagtails and a busy Dipper collecting food, which was observed flying under the bridge to a probable nest site. After a brief shopping trip in Alnwick, we drove to Cullernose Point where a colony of Kittiwake and Fulmar were nesting on the cliffs. Some of the group walked the coastal path to Craster (famous for its smoked kippers). A smaller group then continued on the coastal path to Embleton along which Eider, Sandwich Tern, Razorbill, and Gannets were spotted at sea. With heavy hearts we left Embleton on Wednesday morning, (where did the week go)? We took another stop at RSPB Old Moor for lunch. A warden told us that a pair of Bitterns had bred on the reserve, (being a first for Yorkshire), but sadly on that day they were out of view. It was then back on the bus and back to Bristol. In all a total of ...

  • Trip Report: Newport Wetlands (29th May 2012) Wednesday May 30th, 2012

    The sun was shining when the 20 walkers arrived at the car park and it kept shining all day. We started off from the centre with singing warblers in every bush, including Blackcap, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Chiffchaff and the noisy Cetti’s. It was an ideal day to see Bearded Tits and we were not disappointed. They were seen flying over the reeds but we also had very good views of the four juveniles (without beards). Next to the juveniles was a Reed Bunting in clear view and Reed Warblers were everywhere in full song. On the ponds were Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Tufted Duck and Pochard. The estuary had many Shelduck and a few Curlew, but a small party of juvenile Wrens had a captive audience. The Cuckoo remained elusive, although could be heard in the distance. After lunch we carried on to Goldcliff where we added Avocets with chicks, Redshank and Lapwing also with 12 chicks. Black-tailed Godwit, Gadwall and Little Egrets were also seen and helped make a total of 45 species for the day. Thanks to Ray and Margaret for leading.

    Margaret Bulmer

  • Trip Report: Capel-y-ffyn, near Abergavenny (25th May 2012) Saturday May 26th, 2012

    Eleven members assembled on a warm and breezy day in unbroken sunshine in the very scenic Vale of Ewyas. Early birds seen included Swallow, Jackdaw, Blackbird and Dunnock, while a Buzzard soared overhead. An unseen Green Woodpecker yaffled in the distance, and an elusive warbler divided opinions between Garden and Blackcap. As the walk turned uphill, Goldfinch and Carrion Crow were added to the list. Meadow Pipits were common in the valley, and soon the first Redstart was heard and then seen by some at the back of the group. As we walked on, Tree Pipits vied for attention with Meadow Pipits, and the first pairs of what were to be several Stonechats appeared. A Grey Heron lifted off from the small stream in the valley, and a Pied Wagtail paddled in it. Linnets and Skylarks were abundant towards the top of the valley, and Magpies and Chaffinches were added to the day’s list. At the top of the hill, the breeze became a gale and a Swift and a group of (presumed) Racing Pigeons were observed before we stopped for lunch and enjoyed the stunning views north of the Brecon Beacons. Moving on, the wind made birding difficult until we dropped over the edge of the hill. A Wheatear was spotted soon after and a Coal Tit was seen in the woods. A Raven was discovered on the ground on the edge of the woods, and a very distant Cuckoo was heard by keen ears. A definite Blackcap was seen well and a flurry of Wrens kept the count ticking over, before Blue Tit and Robin belatedly joined the list. A short rest stop provided the best views of Redstart of the day, and also brief views of a Great Spotted Woodpecker. A mystery yellow bird was seen to fly in to the canopy and become elusive, with opinions ranging from Siskin to Wood Warbler, before the walk returned to the bridge where the cars had been left. A final bird was added to the list after some of the group had departed, as a large raptor soaring in the distance revealed itself to be a Red Kite. The final tally of 32 shouldn’t disguise what was a superb scenic walk in perfect weather, and very many thanks to Geoff for leading.

    Stuart Matthews

  • Trip Report: Hinton Blewitt (22nd May 2012) Wednesday May 23rd, 2012

    At last a bright sunny day and no cold wind! 18 birders arrived opposite the Ring O’ Bells pub to walk through the pretty village and across fields to Litton Reservoirs. A pair of Grey Wagtails, a Pied Wagtail, Coots, Mallard and a Tufted Duck were at the lower reservoir. Water levels were high. The upper reservoir held Dabchicks, two families of Coots with young and a pair of Great Crested Grebes. There were at least five Grey Herons around. Bird song included at least five Blackcaps, seven Chiffchaffs and a Whitethroat. We also heard Pheasant, Blackbird, Goldcrest, Wren and Robin. A Skylark was heard from the bridleway. A family of Long-tailed Tits with eight young provided a pretty sight. Margaret and Sue saw a pair of Bullfinches from the lane. Altogether some 40 species were seen or heard. No great rarities but a good selection in pretty countryside. Butterflies were on the wing with Holly Blue, Small Tortoiseshell, two Brimstones and an Orange Tip seen.

    Sue Prince

  • Trip Report: Lower Kilcott (20th May 2012) Monday May 21st, 2012

    Although it was overcast with a slight chill in the northerly breeze we had a splendid morning’s walk. We were Phyl Dykes and myself. Where were you all? You really missed an enjoyable morning in superb scenery. Birds were a-plenty with a good mix of residents and migrants in song. We started off with Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Skylark and Yellowhammers. Then, as we set off down into the first valley a Bullfinch was singing its quiet wheezy song. House Martins appeared, Goldcrest and Great Spotted Woodpecker were heard and so it went on. There was a slope full of cowslips with Thrushes singing from the woodland. A Sparrowhawk put in a brief appearance and Buzzards stayed aloft for longer. By the time we’d got to the mill pond, Nuthatch and Swallow had been noted. At the pond the Mute Swans had a nest almost within touching distance. Tufted Ducks and Moorhens were well out of the way. At Lower Kilcott a scan of the slopes above produced a couple of Red-legged Partridge where expected. At the top of the second big valley, Whitethroats were singing, a Raven called and a Kestrel hovered and finally House Sparrow, Greenfinch and Swifts were seen in Hawksbury Upton. Well, almost finally, as when I departed I found a Lapwing (the 46th species) which Phyl missed! Fortunately she had already thanked me for introducing her to a lovely place.

    Robin Prytherch

  • Trip Report: Frampton-on-Severn (18th May 2012) Saturday May 19th, 2012

    A party of Great Tits (adults + young) greeted us loudly from a horse chestnut tree near the car park as 14 members assembled for a somewhat gloomy evening stroll around Frampton Pools. The Sailing Club lake was quiet apart from a few Coot, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Mute Swans and a distant pair of Terns (Common?) that skimmed the water before disappearing. Two Mistle Thrushes perching on the wires posed agitatedly until a Sparrowhawk skittered past us into the trees. A pair of Gadwalls drifted past on the lake as a huge flock of Swifts 11 and Hirundines (1000+) arced across the sky overhead all around us. Despite the poor light we identified them as predominantly Martins (House and Sand) together with a few Swallows. The woodland rewarded us with the distinctive bubbling calls of two Nightingales. Heading back to the village in the failing light we were serenaded by the high clear phrases of Song Thrushes while bats flitted by and a noisy flock of Jackdaws flew to roost in the trees. As night fell on the outskirts of the village a strange call eventually resolved itself into a Tawny Owl perched in a large garden conifer. It conveniently flew to a nearby TV aerial and was silhouetted against the sky before we we all dispersed into the night. Total number of bird species recorded was 27. Thanks to Phyl for leading.

    Rob Collis

  • Trip Report: Shapwick and Ham Wall (15th May 2012) Wednesday May 16th, 2012

    Ten of us started walking the windswept track westward. Our first delights were Warblers: Reed, Sedge, Cetti’s, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, and Chiffchaff and only 100 yards covered. The next 100 yards were fantastic; a group of four Hobbies turning, darting, sprinting as they chased Swallows and House Martins. Rising above all this madness 20+ Bar-tailed Godwits fled east. A Buzzard floated serenely above them and to our left there was an Osprey with a tasty meal, slung fore and aft beneath, clenched in its awesome talons. A further few yards and we were rewarded with a Great White Egret, initially floundering in too deep water, then landing and starting to fish. With scopes all set to admire this beauty (three Darvic leg rings Red White Black) our interest was further tweaked by a loose group of 17 Black-tailed Godwits, some preening, some sleeping, but none feeding. A small group of Gadwall, some Coot and a lone Moorhen completed this ensemble. A male Reed Bunting sang from the top of a bush as we turned to continue our walk. We all trouped into the Meare Heath Hide for elevenses; the normally teeming waters held a solitary Pochard. Maybe our luck had changed – but it hadn’t ! Two Bitterns flopped down into the reeds on our right and as we left, a Marsh Harrier also shot off to the right. The woods were full of Blackcap and Wren, and then, on the stiffish breeze we heard “Cuckoo, Cuckoo.” Heading to the other hide came the unmistakable call of Goldcrest, which then showed itself. No pine type trees for miles, so there are exceptions. Double-decker Cormorants’ nests were perched on the dead branches above the very full lake and the ever present Lesser Black-backed Gulls were cruising over the reeds, watchful for a lax parent surrendering a tasty offspring. On our way back to the car park for lunch another Marsh Harrier was sighted and a couple of Kingfisher, one sitting, desperate to be admired, which it was. Would we be so lucky after lunch? Yes! An Osprey was sitting on top of a T bar in the reeds, giving ample time to register the markings and make a stab at its gender. Another Kingfisher showed well, and there was an actual sighting of a Willow Warbler. The day finished with our 48th and 49th species – a pair of Little Grebe and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Great birding, convivial company, kind weather – who could ask for more? Well done ‘The Levels’.

    Nick and Annie Hawkridge.

  • Trip Report: BBQ and Nightingales (8th May 2012) Wednesday May 09th, 2012

    Despite the weather forecast 20 members joined me as we invaded Hazel’s cottage garden on Inglestone Common for our annual BBQ. After the social part of the evening we assembled outside, suitable booted, to enable Hazel to guide the party first by car to the Lodge and then a 20 minute walk along the very muddy Lower Woods paths to listen to two, possibly three, singing Nightingales (once the Thrushes and Robins were quiet). It’s quite true that it’s possible for the Tuesday walkers to be quiet when necessary! Another brilliant evening with many thanks to all who helped to organise the event, provided the refreshments (you should have seen the desserts again this year) and in particular thanks to Hazel and John for their warm hospitality.

    Peter Holbrook

  • Trip Report: Shapwick Heath and Ham Wall (6th May 2012) Monday May 07th, 2012

    Fourteen members met up at Ashcott Corner car park for this visit to the dual reserves of Shapwick Heath and Ham Wall. Early highlights included a singing Garden Warbler in the bushes near the car park as well as Common Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, and other common species on the walk towards Meare Heath lagoon. Overhead, Swallows and Swifts were joined by House Martins. The water held the usual Great Crested Grebes, Coots, Moorhens and common duck species. Bitterns boomed unseen, and distant Cuckoos called, and the explosive song of the Cetti’s Warbler was a constant accompaniment to the chattering Reed and Sedge Warblers in the reedbeds. Some of us were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a Cetti’s before it disappeared into the undergrowth. The lagoon itself held Lapwing, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwits, two types of Alba Wagtail and a Little Ringed Plover and overhead Buzzards, Marsh Harrier and Hobbies were competing for attention. The walk towards Meare Heath Bridge produced good views of displaying Whitethroats, more Hobbies, Cormorants and a Grey Heron in flight. Whilst the whole group did not continue to Noah’s Hide, the members that did reported Marsh Harrier and Bitterns in flight views. The return to Ashcott Corner produced more of the same species and the entrance to Ham Wall produced good views of a Great White Egret, and then a Kingfisher for some observers. Lingerers were rewarded with good views of both Garden Warbler and Cetti’s Warbler. Moving on to the first viewing platform, a definite highlight of the trip was a view of two Bitterns chasing each other in flight, intentions unknown! A third Bittern appeared briefly in the reeds at the back of the pool. A Little Grebe was present on the water, and a stunning male Whinchat posed for all in front of the platform. The rest of the walk added several more common species to the list, a second Great White Egret, a Little Egret, a very obliging Garden Warbler and more Hobbies. In all 54 species were seen on a surprisingly fine spring day! Thanks to Mike Johnson for leading.

    Stuart Matthews

  • Trip report: Newport Wetlands (29th April 2012) Monday April 30th, 2012

    On a day dominated by extreme weather with trees toppled, roads flooded, and constant driving rain and wind, we arrived at Newport Wetlands Centre to find that all of three people (including the leader!) were ready to brave the elements. However the birds were undaunted despite the weather, and we totted up a very respectable tally of 36 species in the hour and a half that we spent before tumbling into the café to warm up, and to add a few more species through the window!! Almost as soon as we stepped out of the car Goldfinches were popping out of the bushes, Cetti’s, Sedge and Reed warblers were warbling away in the reeds, and the sound of a pig squealing revealed the presence of a Water Rail. A possible “ping” suggested that there was a Bearded Tit lurking somewhere but they were sensibly not showing themselves in the teeth of the gale. Nearer the shore the tide was out and the mudflats were enjoyed by a Curlew as well as about half a dozen Whimbrel, plus the usual Dunlin, Shelduck and Oystercatchers. On the rocks below us was a flock of rosy Linnets and a brightly plumaged Wheatear. On the ponds were lots of Tufted Ducks and Pochards, and from the newish but nicely recycled hide we saw a very handsome Great Crested Grebe. Swallows and Sand Martins flew over in good numbers, and as we opened the door to the hide, a flock of Swallows twittered their way out through an open window. All the time we were in there they were doing a flypast in front of the hide, and even diving past our faces back into the hide, no doubt checking it out as a possible nest site. Eventually when we got to the point that our binoculars were being blown out of our hands we called it a day. It was a memorable morning, for the birds, the weather and that hot cup of coffee! Thank you very much Charles for leading.

    Sue Black

  • Trip report: Prior’s Wood (24th April 2012) Wednesday April 25th, 2012

    A glorious day (hardly any rain) and mud glorious mud. Only the leader had her wellies on and a recce just
    beforehand would have been a good idea (it was done a month earlier when all was dry and the bluebells were just starting)! The bluebells today gave us a good show, but there will be more to come. We heard plenty of birds singing as we walked up the track, perhaps more Blackcaps than anything else, but a few Chiffchaffs to help those wanting to learn song. Most of us had a good view of a Mistle Thrush high in a tree, a Song Thrush was singing, one Willow Warbler sang close to the track, we heard a Nuthatch and Alison spotted a Treecreeper. The party got well spread out as usual, but we joined up for coffee and a Sparrowhawk was spotted while we were looking at a Buzzard. Skylark was heard when we reached the field above Moat House Farm, a Swallow was seen and I was told that a Tawny Owl called on our return to the wood! Jean pointed out the plant Toothwort and she named a black bobble on a tree trunk as King Alfred’s Cake. We saw Orange Tip, Speckled Wood and Holly Blue butterflies. 32 people, 29 species.

    Judy Copeland

  • Trip report: Gordano Valley (17th April 2012) Wednesday April 18th, 2012

    On a bright spring morning 19 members walked to the end of Moor Lane and along Clevedon Lane listening to the calls of Blackcap, Whitethroat, Chaffinch, Robin, Goldfinch and Chiffchaff. In the adjacent fields Pheasant and Mallards were feeding as well as Swallows and House Martins on the wing. Crossing the moor we disturbed two Roe Deer. Buzzards and Kestrels were being mobbed over our heads but regretfully we can only confirm as stated on the local and national news the day before that no Redshanks or Lapwings are breeding on the moor as the marshy areas are drying out. The first Willow Warbler was heard and a Reed Bunting flitted along the ditch. As we left the moor an adjacent field held nine Wheatears. After the coffee break (with CWB) we climbed up Common Hill Wood, through the wood to the drumming sound of a Great Spotted Woodpecker, across Walton Common and back down to the cars. A good walk with 29 species recorded.

    Peter Holbrook

  • Trip report: Warmley Forest Park (14th April 2012) Sunday April 15th, 2012

    Our morning started cold and damp, but with hope of improvement we set off along the brook into the park. Our first bird was a Blackcap moving through the bushes. As we approached the lake a Willow Warbler gave good views singing on the end of a branch. Through the park and on to the common we had more Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. On the common everyone had a good view of a resting Tawny Owl. Leaving the common we went on to the lower end of Overscourt Wood with more woodland birds. After crossing to Webbs Heath we had five Swallows skimming the fields. In all 25 species were seen.

    Chris Perry

  • Trip report: Castle Combe (10th April 2012) Wednesday April 11th, 2012

    The threat of April showers did not deter the 19 members who set out from the car park in Castle Combe. Ravens were circling overhead and birds were in full song in the bushes and ancient hedgerows. Blackcaps, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler were joined by Robin, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch. The most prolific bird of the day was the Nuthatch and it meant that we all were able to get good views and recognise the call. The tea break stop was the signal for the only heavy shower of the day and a mad dash to reach the shelter of the woods. In the woods the bluebells along with wild garlic were coming out and again the Nuthatches were calling. On a sunny bank a slow worm was basking undisturbed until spotted by Pat but it slid back into its hole when we were all peering at it. In the By Brook a Little Egret was finding fish in a pool and two Buzzards were seen overhead. Nearing the end of the walk Coal Tit, Bullfinch and Song Thrush were added and brought the total to 26 species. Thank you to David for leading this walk around a very beautiful area.

    Margaret Bulmer

  • Trip report: Easton-in-Gordano (3rd April 2012) Wednesday April 04th, 2012

    26 members arrived at the car park, two off the bus, and we set off across the road and over some fields on a bit of local footpath actually not known to all! Dunnock and Greenfinch were singing to start with and we soon added other common species, but there was some uncertainly about a Sparrowhawk/Kestrel before it started hovering. Skylarks were singing, Green Woodpeckers were heard, and later two were seen dodging around a small tree in a garden in Failand (also seen there on the recce). I hope everyone eventually caught a glimpse. Three Buzzards were circling together, a couple of Cormorants flew over and some people managed to see distant Martins flying high, presumably Sand Martins. Two Marsh Tits showed well outside Mulberry Farm, just after I had mentioned the likelihood of seeing them. Tanpit Wood was a miracle of Spring with its celandines, violets and trickling stream, and a Blackcap sang from a branch close to the stile at the top. (Nick opened most of the gates beside the stiles, but sorry about the hills!) As we returned down the fields to E-in-G, at least three Meadow Pipits separated from the Linnet flock and appeared in a tree close to us. A final treat was a bright Speckled Wood butterfly on the ground. 36 bird species in all.

    Judy Copeland

  • Trip report: Sand Point (31st March 2012) Sunday April 01st, 2012

    Eight members met in the car park and were immediately listening to Chiffchaffs seemingly singing from every direction. As we walked up on to the Point a Blackcap sang from a hidden perch close to the path, its sweet song filling the air. Overhead passage was quiet with only a few Meadow Pipits moving. At the end of the Point a female Merlin was disturbed from the rocks and flew wide around Sand Bay carrying some small prey, presumably looking for somewhere to sit and feed on it. A dull male Wheatear was located sitting on the rocks allowing scope views, which was nice. As we walked along Middle Hope, overhead passage was enlivened by the odd Redpoll and Siskin. Skylarks were singing, reminding us that it was Spring despite the cold. At St Thomas’s Head we could see Redshank, Shelducks and a Little Egret on the River Banwell and along Woodspring Bay. Three Swallows whizzed past so quickly that not everyone saw them. Only a Kestrel and a pair of Buzzards were spotted on the walk back to the car park. It was a lovely morning.

    Paul Gregory

  • Trip report: Hambrook (27th March 2012) Wednesday March 28th, 2012

    A magnificent weather day brought out 41 walkers – quite a crowd – to the White Horse car park. The walk was firstly beside the motorway where, thankfully, traffic noise was reduced by the easterly breeze. By the time we had reached Quarry Barton and Bradley Brook Bridge 16 birds, including Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Jay and Mallard, had been seen. Then, at a bridge over the River Frome, we spotted Grey Wagtail, Kingfisher, Sparrowhawk, Goldfinch, Goldcrest and Treecreeper. A refreshment break was held in Huckford Old Quarry Nature Reserve before walking beside the Frome and then up to Bury Hill Iron Age Fort. Dropping back down to river level, Dipper, Bullfinch, Green Woodpecker, Grey Heron and Moorhen brought the total to 37 species on a very varied habitat walk of about four miles in perfect conditions.

    David Tombs

  • Trip report: Bridgeyate (20th March 2012) Wednesday March 21st, 2012

    26 members gathered on a mild spring morning for this walk through varied habitat. Near the start, some agitated corvids drew attention to a Sparrowhawk which flew into a dense hedge and disappeared. Two Jays were seen and the walk was notable for the number of Jays recorded (eight by this observer.) A Blackcap was heard and then seen sitting prominently on a garden hedge. The walk followed the dramway footpath at the start. Its tall hedges proved excellent cover for birds and as well as the more common species there were stunning male Bullfinches. Re-crossing the A420 we entered the Warmley Forest Park where hawthorns were beginning to show green shoots and there was a bank of flowering primroses. Another Sparrowhawk flew over and several Buzzards were seen during the morning. A Mistle Thrush was heard and finally located. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was watched and a distant Green Woodpecker was heard. Ravens flew over as we watched bees busily entering and leaving a hole in an oak tree. Two Mad March Hares galloped around the fields, where two Roe Deer were lying beneath a hedge. The total number of bird species seen was 27. Thank you to David for leading this enjoyable walk.

    Margaret Gorely

  • Trip report: Backwell Lake (13th March 2012) Wednesday March 14th, 2012

    It was a cool misty morning, but 34 birders arrived in The Perrings to walk around the lake, along Youngwood Lane and out towards Chelvey church and manor. The lake held the usual Coots, Swans and Canada Geese, but seven Shovelers gave us a fly past and there were a pair of Gadwalls, a few Tufted Ducks and a female Pochard. A Sparrowhawk was spotted whilst we waited to start our walk, and a Buzzard was down in the field. It then sat in a tree studying us studying it! The male Wood Duck and male Muscovy Duck were still present, and the trees around the lake had Goldfinches, Greenfinches, tits and a Song Thrush singing. One lucky person saw a Bullfinch and a few of us heard a newly-arrived Chiffchaff. In the field by Coombe Grange Farm the wild daffodils were in flower and the horse fields held Meadow Pipits, Pied Wagtails and Greenfinches. Further along, a Romanian lorry had got stuck, having been misdirected by sat-nav into an unsuitably narrow lane. We located the farm he needed and he was linked up with the farmer! Later, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were added to the list, the latter heard drumming, and Geoff found another Chiffchaff. We also saw Jay, Ravens and a Heron. 48 species were seen altogether in spite of poor visibility – a good morning.

    Sue Prince

  • Trip report: Forest of Dean (11th March 2012) Monday March 12th, 2012

    14 members met up at the car park by Speech House on a bright and sunny morning to walk the surrounding woodland and look at the nearby pools. Leaving the car park we observed Nuthatch, Tree Creeper and Redpoll moving through the trees plus a Mistle Thrush. Moving on towards Woorgreens Lake we saw Brambling, Green Woodpecker, more Redpoll, a small flock of Siskin, heard and then observed a Willow Tit, and also saw Longtailed Tit, Coal Tit and a number of Goldcrest. At the Lake we saw Goosander, Tufted Duck and Grey Wagtail and a Reed Bunting was spotted by most. We took a route from the car park past the rear of Speech House and back through the Arboretum to the car park, where we observed a pair of Crossbill in the trees above us. We moved to New Fancy View where we observed a Goshawk sitting in a tree at fairly close distance, plus another four birds soaring above the forest tree line. We saw Raven and a Sparrowhawk before leaving for Cannop Pools where we saw Mandarin, plus Little Grebe and Marsh Tit. An early pre-meet walk in the woodland area of Parkend Church by four members produced Hawfinch, Brambling, Redpoll and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Total number of species recorded was 47. A good day’s birding was enjoyed by all.

    Charles Stapleton

  • Trip report: River Exe Coach Trip (4th March 2012) Monday March 05th, 2012

    As I arrived to meet up with the club members on the coach at Exminster, the rain which had been heavy all morning in Devon stopped. As we made our way down the lane towards the river, wildfowl such as Teal, Shoveler, Pintail and Wigeon were busy feeding on the flooded pools and in amongst the Wigeon we were rewarded with good views of the American Wigeon that had been in the area all winter. Canada Geese were also feeding in the fields and five Barnacle Geese were with them; these birds, presumably of wild origin, had arrived a couple of days earlier. As we started to look at the waders in the flooded fields, such as Lapwing, Golden Plover and Blacktailed Godwit, all the birds lifted and a Peregrine passed through them and gave us all good views as it sat on the nearby electrical pylon. As we arrived at the canal we managed a glimpse of some Avocets on the river – this would be our only view of the day. Large numbers of Brent Geese flew over our heads into the fields but alas the Red-breasted Goose reported recently had presumably left. As we made our way towards the Turf Hotel Cetti’s 10 Warbler was heard in the nearby bushes. Reaching the hotel (open for Coffee in March, usually closed when we visit in January!), waders were feeding on the mud on the incoming tide – Dunlin, Curlew, Redshank, Knot, Grey Plover, Bar and Black-tailed Godwits, with a few Red-breasted Mergansers swimming in the tidal passages. Making our way down to meet up with the coach at Powderham we saw Little Egrets in the fields and more Brent Geese, with Buzzard and Sparrowhawk over the distant trees. On arrival at Dawlish Warren we made our way to the hide on the point for the wader roost. From the lifeguard station en route we managed to see Common Scoter, Slavonian Grebe, Eider Duck and Great Crested Grebe on the sea. As the tide was not that high the wader roost was not that numerous but we did see Knot, Dunlin, Sanderling, Turnstone, Redshank, Greenshank, more godwits, and Oystercatchers. At the Visitor Centre on the walk back, some of us checked out the bird feeders and in amongst the Greenfinch and Chaffinches we were rewarded with good views of a pair of Brambling.

    Gordon Youdale

  • Trip report: Forest of Dean (3rd March 2012) Sunday March 04th, 2012

    31 members turned out on the annual Tuesday visit to The Forest of Dean. The chosen time was perfect, a bright clear and almost cloudless day, perfect Goshawk watching weather. The Goshawks did not disappoint us. We witnessed some brilliant displays by at least three birds high in the sky, which included an aerial battle between Goshawk and Sparrowhawk, keeping us entertained for some time. The group then moved to Speech House corner to look for Hawfinches, but drew a blank. The walk through the woodland to Beechenhurst Lodge produced little except the tit family. Lunch was taken at Cannop Ponds picnic site. Afterwards we walked around the larger lake. Several Treecreepers were sighted in the trees between the two lakes, also Grey Wagtail feeding in the stream, Mandarin Duck, Bullfinch, Siskin and Greylag Goose A very close view of a male Great Spotted Woodpecker above our heads was a highlight of the day. Most of the group finished our walk back at the picnic site, but two of the party moved on to Nags Head Reserve. A beautiful bright spring day was enjoyed by all.

    Colin Morris

  • Trip report: Mid-Wales (24th – 26th February 2012) Sunday February 26th, 2012

    What a treat – three balmy days in West Wales with an accompaniment of glorious soaring Red Kites for the latter part of the outward journey, in an elegant new minibus driven in turn by three cautious drivers over what was often truly exhilarating terrain. Our first luncheon stop alongside Tregaron Bog (Cors Caron) produced the only rainfall of the weekend but also the explosive flight of three nearby Snipe. The first sea watch began just south of Aberystwyth where two Goosanders could be observed, in the breaking waves, with a Great Crested Grebe. Behind our group, three more drifted down the rushing River Ystwyth, with Stonechat, Song Thrush and Meadow Pipit busy nearby. Below the main town sea front a successful search for Purple Sandpiper, accompanied by Turnstone, was the prelude to a truly spectacular evening build up of Starlings un-numbered. This, together with their eventual descent to roost beneath the pier was absolutely spectacular.

    We were now thirteen in number. After a superb supper followed by a most comfortable night in our remote but idyllic Brynarth Country Guest House setting, one member claimed to have added 25 species to his list in just ten minutes before breakfast. Even the later risers ticked one of the many Nuthatches and a Great Spotted Woodpecker from the dining room window during the meal. We travelled back to Cors Caron where two of our target species were soon to cause delight. Firstly a drifting male Hen Harrier, where, with good optics, even his white upper tail coverts could be identified, followed later by a ring-tailed female or juvenile. Next, at least four busy Willow Tits, in nearby leafless bushes and against last year’s dried marsh grasses, were a sight to behold. Lunch was taken on the beach at Clarach Bay before walking along the cliff path until close enough to count at least 25 Red-throated Divers wondrously spread and feeding along the Sarn Gynfelyn (a submerged shingle bank). Further north, at Borth, a minor twitch was suggested and behind a café, only yards from the sea front, on an uninviting looking horse paddock, was a very hungry Glossy Ibis. It fed constantly whilst being close enough for everyone to record its ring numbers. Eventually it flew away southwards, presumably to roost. Scanning the Dyfi Estuary revealed Ringed Plover, accompanied by Sanderling, plus Curlew, Wigeon and Shelduck. The final stop of the day was inland alongside the Ystwyth, in full torrent flow, making it both impressive and very noisy. A Grey Wagtail crossed into thick Rhododendron and then an active pair of puffed up Dipper became the final treat of the day.

    Sunday morning started with a walk up the hillside to ‘greet the sunrise’ and be greeted by the end of the dawn chorus. Our ‘resident’ Mycologist had trained us to identify the aptly named Yellow Brain fungus on Gorse, with many other enquiries kindly satisfied as necessary. The group arrived to spend four wonderful hours at RSPB Ynys-hir Reserve, which mixes Oak woodland with wet grassland and marshes and where a surprisingly obliging Treecreeper allowed for close scrutiny and many photos to be taken. Despite much checking for its territory, reputed to be ‘near nest box 39’, the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker eluded us. However, not so the Greenland White-fronted Geese, which were eventually spied by our leader at a distance of three extensive fields away with much sedge in the foreground! Then across the Rheidol railway and over the mountains where yet another attempt to find Chough failed but the spectacular range of habitat was fully appreciated. We next passed through the area of Cwmystwyth, which was the last stronghold of the Red Kite, prior to the successful re-introductions in England and the Welsh population happily recovering in parallel. Whilst distracted and hugely impressed by the industrial archaeology of the 18th century Cwmystwyth lead, zinc and silver mine, our youngest, eagle-eyed member called a Peregrine Falcon at the very top of the ridge, hundreds of metres above. Our last stop was at the breathtaking cascade over the dam at Penygarreg Reservoir in the Elan valley. No further birds to be seen and with fading light, the journey back to Bristol was successfully completed. It had been a terrific weekend with 85 species, a variety of good memories and many new experiences to contemplate. We are tremendously grateful to Robin for leading and sharing, to Ken, Sue and Nigel for the safe transport and to Judy for all of the perfect arrangements.

    Phyl Dykes

    N.B. We have learnt more about the Glossy Ibis seen at Borth, which was carrying a colour ring. Apparently it was ringed as a chick on 7th May 2007 at the Coto Doñana, southern Spain.

  • Trip report: Bristol City Centre (21st February 2012) Wednesday February 22nd, 2012

    Drizzle has accompanied us several times when we’ve done the February urban walk and this year was no exception. However, it was very light and intermittent and 18 members set off from Millennium Square without any opened umbrellas. Several Cormorants were soon spotted with breeding patches showing. Searching the buddleia and brambles past the new M-Shed museum was at first unrewarding – quite a bit of cutting back had been done and the houses above seemed to be devoid of any feeders. However, patience paid off as we eventually saw Blue and Long-tailed Tits, Robin, Blackbird, Goldfinch and Collared Dove – and the bacon sandwiches at the Buttery did smell good! Leaving the water to cross Cumberland Road, a high altitude Wren was singing on the roof of an abandoned warehouse. We scanned the mud in the New Cut for Redshank and Common Sandpiper and everybody eventually managed to see both as well as plenty of Black-headed Gulls – heads in various stages of colour – and Herring and Lesser Black- backed Gulls. There were more signs of spring with both Greenfinch and Song Thrush heard. Margaret led us on a new bit of path with views across to Rownham Hill and down river before we turned back towards the Centre, adding Pied and Grey Wagtail to our list. Some of the group left us before the climb up Brandon Hill, where we were rewarded with good views of both Redwing and Mistle Thrush, bringing our total to 31 species. Many thanks to Margaret for leading.

    Nancy Barrett

  • Trip report: Midford Brook (18th February 2012) Sunday February 19th, 2012

    Ten members met at 0930 hrs at Monkton Combe car park for the walk to Midford and back. We had a brief stop to see the grave of Harry Patch in the churchyard, where Goldcrest were seen and we also saw five species of Tits at bird feeders nearby. We went on to Tucking Mill and to the fishing lake, viewing stretches of the river on the way and then on to Midford where we stopped by the Mill and looked down from the old viaduct. The return walk gave views of Midford Castle, and we were back at the car park by 12.30 hrs. Birds seen included two Kingfishers and two Dippers, Marsh Tit, Raven, Siskin and Buzzard and birds heard were Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker and Song Thrush, making a total of 27 species altogether. We also saw evidence of occupied Badger setts with fresh earth scattered about. We were led by local resident birder Terry Doman who gave us a most interesting informative talk on the history and geology of the area as we went along. Our grateful thanks to him for making the walk so enjoyable.

    Roy Curber

  • Trip report: Greylake (14th February 2012) Wednesday February 15th, 2012

    On a bright winter’s morning 17 members met at the RSPB Greylake reserve in Somerset to view the mixed flock of wintering wildfowl – Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Mallard, Tufted Duck plus Mute Swan, Little Egret, Snipe, Buzzard, Kestrel, Lapwing and a very close view from the hide of a Water Rail. Following a picnic lunch we headed for the nearby village of Stathe to find 31 Common Cranes picking in the fields adjacent to the feeding-station – a first view of this species for most of the party. Spring must be in the air as one of the Cranes was jumping up and down as in displaying. The final part of this trip was spent in the RSPB Swell Wood hide inspecting the heronry but only two Herons put in appearance. A good day with a total count of 38 species.

    Peter Holbrook

  • Trip report: Pucklechurch (7th February 2012) Wednesday February 08th, 2012

    The forecast encouraged 27 walkers this overcast morning; the light levels rendered LBJs virtually colourless! Before we left the Rose and Crown car park, the Thrushes decorating the tall trees had been identified as both Fieldfare and Redwing, the tail-flicking Sparrow as a Dunnock and the flocks of others as House Sparrow. We headed right towards Parkfield where the grass below the hedge was alive with moving Skylark; one obliged us with a brief lift off and cascade of song. Meadow Pipits were also found within the flock. Turning towards the M4, we had brief views and sounds of a lone Siskin before it got fed up with being stared at and departed westward. As we joined the disused railway track, heading away from the M4, the overhang was lively with various Tit species, Chaffinches, Goldcrest, and a fully flushed male Bullfinch. The fields,obviously heavy with mud, had attracted a mix of gulls-Herring, Lesser Black-backed, Black-headed, and Common, which again were not disposed to stay and be stared at. A pair of Stock Doves flew over the clearing as we approached the remains of the pit-head buildings and the landfill of the abandoned brick clay quarry. Ducking under the road at the Dramway roundabout we headed East and collected a croaking Raven and a dozen cawing Rooks – looking set to nest in the trees on the ridge. Finally, walking past the Tumulus and across more muddy fields we arrived back to the sounds and sights of Jay, Goldfinch and a splendidly bright Greenfinch. A total of 35 species. Special thanks to Duncan for leading.

    Nick and Annie Hawkridge

  • Trip report: Portbury (31st January 2012) Wednesday February 01st, 2012

    27 well clad birders met at Portbury on a cold and dull morning. Some favourites to begin with were Redwing, Robin, Goldfinch and Long-tailed Tit. At the top of Wharf Lane the Little Owl showed well and delighted everyone as it glared at us from the barn. Approaching the first hide a Greenfinch showed and a flock of Lapwings flew over. An eagle eyed observer spotted a Merlin. Then were heard the whistle of Widgeon and trill of Dabchick and a Bullfinch made a brief appearance. From the second hide overlooking the main pool Gadwall and Shovelers were seen as well as a male Goosander, which was unusually out of the water. Coffee break was in the third hide, (though some complaint about the draught and lack of heating)! From there we scanned the foreshore and Dunlin and Turnstone were seen. At the end of the sea bank a male Reed Bunting posed very nicely and in the creek were seen Redshank and Teal. Nearing the end of our walk we saw Green Woodpecker and Sparrow Hawk. My choice for bird of the day is between Merlin, Goosander and Little Owl. I will go for the Little Owl, which was enjoyed by everyone. 54 species were recorded.

    Roger Hawley

  • Trip report: Steart (28th January 2012) Sunday January 29th, 2012

    Ten members met on, what would be for Steart, an unusually beautiful sunny, windless morning and set off to follow the coast path to Steart Point. The tide was falling by the time the group reached the hides on the Point and the exposed mud was covered with roosting and feeding waders. A mixed flock of many thousands of small waders, mostly Dunlins and Knot performed fantastic aerial displays – better any day than a mass of old Starlings. On the Point there were many Curlews and small numbers of Turnstones, Bar-tailed Godwits, Grey Plovers and Snipe. A single Spotted Redshank showed well in a lagoon below the tower hide, and on the Fenning and around the Parrett Estuary were huge collections of Lapwings. An immature Merlin was present on the Point and was seen by some members chasing waders over the tide, but the high spot of the morning was a Short-eared Owl. This stunning bird was seen at close-range hunting over the fields giving prolonged and detailed views – the earth moved for many, especially the leader! This brought to an end an enjoyable two-owl walk (a Little Owl was 10 roosting close to the car park) and a final Goldfinch brought the morning’s tally to just fewer than 50 species.

    Dick Best

  • Trip report: Compton Dando (24th January 2012) Tuesday January 24th, 2012

    Even the most optimistic forecast didn’t promise dry conditions for this walk and that proved to be correct, as did the Bird News warning about mud! However, ten hardy souls assembled in the drizzle. Before we left the cars a Cormorant was spotted. We set off across a large field, one third of which had been planted with bird friendly plants – though quite a few of them were continuing to flower rather than setting seed owing to the mild winter! It was perhaps harder to identify some smaller birds in the poor light but passing through varied habitat we were soon notching up numbers including Redwing and Fieldfare and had good views of a perched Mistle Thrush. The drizzle stopped, the temperature rose and as well as the promised banks of snowdrops, we spotted primroses in bloom and lesser celandine. Both Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers were seen by some and a Treecreeper. Coffee break was on the bridge in Woollard, which had replaced the one swept away by the 1968 flood. We looked in vain for a Dipper at another bridge and also failed to see a Brambling, often mentioned on our wish list for the morning. There was one slippage in the mud and the victim being rubbed down by various hand maidens was captured on more than one camera! Altogether we saw 29 species and many thanks are due to Roger for leading and sharing with us his extensive local knowledge.

    Nancy Barrett

  • Trip report: Poole Harbour Weekend (21st – 22nd January 2012) Monday January 23rd, 2012

    With stunning heathland to explore, we started at Wareham forest (Sherford Bridge), a potential spot for some of the  rarer species, many of which sadly remained elusive! We were treated to a scold or two from the Dartford Warbler however and had excellent views of pair-bonding Ravens on a pylon. There was potential sighting of Crossbill (which had been teasing some members with their call) high up in the evergreens further on, but they were too quick to get a scope on, as were some possible Redpoll seen by some of the group at the beginning of the walk. Definite sightings of a Treecreeper and Nuthatch didn’t disappoint however with their arboreal gymnastics as well as winter Thrushes, Coal Tit & Goldcrest amongst others. After a lunch-stop it was on to Middlebere Farm hide to gain one of the closest views of a female Marsh Harrier that many had had, which attempted a pass at a Teal before putting up a field’s worth of Lapwing. The last call of the day was Arne RSPB reserve. Pushed for time we passed the busy bird feeders (woodland birds galore) to walk to the Viewpoint overlooking Poole Harbour which afforded distant views of Avocet, a couple of flying Mergansers, waders and geese before John, to everyone’s surprise, spotted a male Hen Harrier disturbing some of the water birds! Day two was sea & estuary watching on either side of the Studland peninsula. Highlights included a Grebe master-class with Jane spotting a Red-necked Grebe amongst the Black-necked as well as a Great Northern Diver, more flying Mergansers, Brent Geese & waders. A Razorbill was also spotted making frequent dives. Knoll beach produced some Great Crested Grebes and a good comparison between Black-headed & Mediterranean gull. There were more Mediterranean gulls at the Littlesea hide. With a few more ducks & water birds added to the list we moved on to Brand’s Bay hide. With the tide going out the exposed mud encouraged the waders to come closer and views of Black-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover (just spotted amongst the Dunlin), Oystercatcher, Curlew, Pintail, Redshank & Wigeon were worth the breeze. A lunch stop at Middle Beach was rewarded with a Sandwich Tern (somewhat appropriately!), before we headed inland to Waddock Cross Watercress Beds. A quick scan unearthed a Green Sandpiper, Grey Wagtail & several Pipits, with Sue finding a wintering Chiffchaff. 80 species (+ two possibles) later and ten happy wind-swept BOC members headed for home. Many thanks for another excellent winter weekend, and thanks to Jane for leading.

    Emma Davis

  • Trip report: Frampton on Severn (17th January 2012) Wednesday January 18th, 2012

    It was a still chilly morning as 31 Birders gathered to begin their walk around Frampton Pools. The first lake still had ice on it and there were only a handful of Coots skating gingerly around. As we started down the wooded 9 track there was a flock of Long- tailed Tits in the overhead trees flitting from branch to branch. At the main Blue Pool, we admired Greylag Geese, Canada Geese and on the overhanging willow trees eight Herons. Mute Swans were fluffing up their plumage on the frozen water. One pair of Swans were creating their own waterway through the ice. Suddenly the peace was shattered by a convoy of 4×4’s and a trailer with about eight gunmen on board. They waited as we finished admiring the beautiful group of wildfowl, before telling us they were here to shoot geese! A few shots later and the birds were flying away high overhead – I hope they got away! There were only a few small birds venturing out in the cold, a Robin valiantly singing and a wonderful sight of a Blackcap eating mistletoe berries high in a tree. There were some lovely flocks of Fieldfares flying over the fields as well as chattering in the trees. A Mistle Thrush was resting high in one of the mistletoe trees. A flock of Lapwings winged their way across the fields behind the Beech wood. On the homeward stretch of the Blue Lake we spotted two Great Crested Grebes diving in the water. We recorded 35 species and had a super walk around the beautiful lakes. Thank you Peter for leading a lovely walk and keeping us safe from the shooters!

    Hazell Willmott

  • Trip report: Golden Valley Wick (14th January 2012) Sunday January 15th, 2012

    It was a very cold, frosty but sunny start to this morning meeting. As we walked along the road to the entrance to the valley several members picked up on Redwing, Bullfinch and Blackcaps feeding in bushes on the opposite bank of the river. After entering the reserve we all had good views of Goldcrest and Treecreepers, a real bonus. A little further on was a party of Long-tailed Tits. As we moved further up the path into open fields towards Raven’s Rock we had good views of another Bullfinch plus a Jay and Great Spotted Woodpecker. At the main quarry there was no sign of the Peregrines but as we walked through to the rear quarry two were seen in flight. In the water filled quarry was a pair of Little Grebes. In the open fields by the farm several members saw a Hare. We had been hoping for a Nuthatch and were not disappointed as near the end of our walk one was heard and then seen. The final tally was 34 species. Thanks to all for making it such an enjoyable meeting.

    Chris Perry

  • Trip report: Somerset Levels (10th January 2012) Tuesday January 10th, 2012

    The prospect of the Somerset Levels starling roost attracted 37 members to Ashcott Corner on a dry but overcast afternoon. We first walked down the track to the viewing platform at Ham Wall and soon encountered over a dozen passerines in the willows, alders and surrounding scrub including Reed Bunting and Chiffchaff. Two lucky members also had a good view of Siskin and Lesser Redpoll. There was a good variety of water birds on the lagoons and islands including Pochard, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall, Little and Great Crested Grebe. A Great White Egret flew over the reed bed and a female Marsh Harrier was seen perched in a small willow tree. Both Water Rail and Cetti’s Warbler were heard. We then walked along the Meare Heath track hopefully to view the Starling roost. At first several small flocks flew in the direction of Ham Wall and we wondered whether the roost was to relocate that evening out of our view. Suddenly the first of several enormous flocks of thousands of birds filled the sky directly in front of us and we were then treated to a spectacular display as they cascaded into the reeds. The display was enhanced by the sight of a Hen Harrier in the middle of one of the flocks.

    Mike Johnson

  • Trip report: WWT Slimbridge (1st January 2012) Sunday January 01st, 2012

    At least 23 members appeared in the car park (or later!). As we assembled a Peregrine rushed over us all, heading for a large flock of Lapwing and Golden Plover. We were soon on our way to the Holden Tower, some stopping at hides en route. It took some time to sift through all the birds on view of geese, ducks and waders.Some White-fronted Geese were ‘hiding’ amongst a Greylag flock. Canada Geese and Bewick’s Swans were scattered over the Tack Piece with a mix of Shelduck, Mallard, Pintail, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck and Shoveler, as well as about 50 Black-tailed Godwits, a mass of Dunlins, Lapwing and Golden Plover. A few Ruff and Redshank were also spotted. Eagle eyes picked out some Skylarks and Linnet. Two Peregrines were finishing off some prey out on the edge of the Dumbles where there was the usual flock of Barnacle Geese (and more Canadas) as well as more Dunlins and Golden Plovers. The waders and ducks were frequently rushing about in flocks – no doubt flushed by the Peregrines. Buzzards were about too but sitting quietly and giving good views. As we walked to the other hides the