Reports on Bristol Ornithological Club Walks

FEB282017

Tuesday 28 Feb – Pensford

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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
FEB212017

Tuesday 21 February – Between Chew and Blagdon Lakes

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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
FEB182017

Saturday 18 February – Barrow Gurney Reservoirs

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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
FEB142017

Tuesday 14 February –Greylake

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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
FEB072017

Tuesday 07 February – Bristol harbour

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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
FEB052017

Sunday 05 February – Exe Estuary

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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
JAN312017

Tuesday 31 January – Clevedon Pill

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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
JAN282017

Saturday 28 January – Marshfield

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Golden Plover -Geoff Harris
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
JAN242017

Tuesday 24 January – Backwell Lake

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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

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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