Sunday 7th October – Redwings

7:15 am Temp : 5°c Wind: N 2mph / gusts 6mph 1020.6hPa

Pretty clear with light airs. Little to no visible migration (ostensibly due to lack of head-wind to give any lift), but our first redwings of the Autumn moving in all directions. Looks like they must have ridden in high on north-easterlies overnight, over-flown and have been making their way back, generally eastwards during the morning. Plenty stopping to feed on the holly around Cabot Tower.

Last years redwings arrived on the 14th October – exactly 1 week from now on the same day as 2011’s first big wave of fieldfares.

Next watch will be Friday 12th from 7:15.


Friday 28th September

6:45 – 8:30 am Temp : 11°c Wind: SSW 10mph / gusts 15mph 1011.4hPa

A cloudy and blustery first meeting of the Autumn, with plenty of peregrines and a trickle of passerine passage.

Lots of black-headed gulls moving into town first thing, mainly via Brunel Lock side of New Cut and Floating Harbour. Gorge peregrine on the Wills Tower just before sunrise, then in flight e-chupping and between Clifton Cathedral and Christchurch just after sunrise. Town peregrine pair on Castlemead, then after mobbing by large group of crows (one of which attacked by tiercel) first record of female peregrine perched on the very top of the tower.

Visible Migration

Grey wagtail 1 W

Alba wagtail 11 W

Meadow pipit 26 SW

Swallow 33 S

Lots of local greenfinch movement, with some potentially on passage.

Thanks Sam, Alex, Liz and Brenda

Saturday 29/09/12 7:00-9:00 7°c W 7 / 12mph 1016.7hPa

Saturday morning solo watch very similar to Friday with mips heading SSW and albas WSW. Fewer swallows. Clearer and less blustery.

Meadow pipit – 49 SW / SSW (largest group 15)

Alba wagtail – 24 W/WSW (1s & 2s then group of 14)

Swallow – 9 S

House martin – 4 S

group of 15 passage finch sp. distant moving west

8:15 60+ carrion crows on Castlemead

8:30 9 crows mobbing peregrine on Clifton Cathedral

Autumn Update 2012

Firstly, apologies for the lack of updates over the Spring and Summer – weather-wise, 2012 has been an extremely unpredictable year, and even after some almost considerable effort by a stalwart skeleton crew to persevere during a dismal Spring.. We saw no interesting visible migration from Cabot Tower (apart from a solitary hobby flying due north only a stone’s throw away) and made an executive decision to cancel the CTBSG Spring migration watches. We had anticipated that even though Autumn 2011 saw plenty of action (most notably the mass influx of winter thrushes in mid-october and “woodpigeon day” on the 6th November), Spring migration might be a different story, with birds flying north choosing different flight paths, which avoided flying directly over the city before reaching Brandon Hill and Cabot Tower – and regrettably, our predictions proved to be accurate.

However.. I am pleased to report that the CTBSG will be meeting up again this month to continue to study the Autumn migration over Bristol, to contribute valuable data to the BTO and to compare results with last year and with the other major urban study taking place this Autumn in central London: T42BSG. After just as dismal a start to the year for the Tower 42 group in the shape of a complete shut-down (due to administrative problems and a change of ownership), I can report that David Lindo has managed to work his magic with the new owners of T42, and they have kindly agreed to give him the go-ahead to recommence proceedings – so it looks like it is going be an exciting Autumn for urban visible migration study in the UK.

This Autumn has already seen some interesting goings on in Bristol, with a few unusual signs of migration over the city coming from the remains of the city-centre peregrines, which I have been closely monitoring. After unexpectedly finding a common tern carcass floating in the harbour earlier this Summer – right underneath the peregrines’ perch in the heart of the city, I was even more surprised just recently to find the remains of a whimbrel on the roof of a city-centre car park..

The tall building overlooking this location was used as a perch by the town peregrines to feed the solitary juvenile in the few weeks after it fledged, and they had obviously been busy picking off passing migrants, as in the same week that the whimbrel was discovered, I also found this feather from a juvenile cuckoo (identified by Ed D) – an equally unusual urban vagrant..

At Brandon Hill, the most notable sighting this Autumn has been a nuthatch feeding in the trees and shrubs around Cabot Tower at around the same time as the peak of the phylloscopus warbler passage. Nuthatches are common in some areas of Bristol, but are typically sedentary (not a single British-ringed nuthatch has ever been recovered outside of the UK and similarly, no foreign-ringed nuthatch has yet been recovered here) and this was my first ever record at the Hill – WWT Slimbridge also with a recent sighting and only their 6th record.

From the top of the tower, the signs of Autumn are becoming increasingly regular. The adult peregrines that nested in the Avon Gorge are now frequenting their off-season perches on Christchurch, Clifton Catholic Cathedral, the Wills Memorial Tower and the old tobacco houses by Cumberland Basin.

And not escaping the attention of the local corvids!..

Visible migration is starting to pick-up with the odd meadow pipit and trickles of white wagtails already passing over south and west in the first hour after sunrise. In the coming weeks, there should be a sharp increase in numbers of both of these species and hopefully it won’t be long before the finches and thrushes start to join them.

With that in mind, the first official 2012 meeting of the CTBSG and visible migration watch session of the season will take place on Friday the 28th September 2012. This will be entirely dependant on conditions as usual – but all being well, we should see the Autumn passage of passerines in full swing. As always, we will also be monitoring Bristol’s local raptors and looking out for passing migrants – and with my first red kite sighting in Bristol earlier this year, I am hoping for something even more exciting.. Maybe in the shape of an osprey.. ;)

If you are interested in joining the group, please comment below (email address not publicly displayed) or contact us here. For those of you already on the mailing list, please register your interest and I will confirm and send out further details during the week commencing 24/09/12.

Hope to see you at the top of the tower!

Sam Hobson

Cabot Tower BSG Launch

Sunday morning (2nd Oct) was our first official visible migration watch from Cabot Tower. In between the introductions, pictures, interviews and general chit-chat, we managed to get in a bit of birding and had some good sightings of migrant passerines (often flying right past us at eye-level) heading south over Bristol.

9 of us, including myself, Ed Drewitt and David Lindo (The Urban Birder) were in attendance. We weren’t expecting any significant movement after the extended spell of good weather, light winds, lack of cloud and average visibility – but we had lots more finch movement than previously (including our first siskins and larger groups of migrant chaffinches), plenty of pied / white wagtails (but fewer grey wags) and as usual, a patchy but consistent stream of meadow pipits.

The session lasted c2hrs from 6:45, but all counts are conservative, due to a general lack of vigilance by myself whilst discussing the project etc. during the inaugural session. All movement generally south unless stated otherwise:

meadow pipit – 130 (at least with largest group of 30)

pied / white wagtail – 61

chaffinch – 52 (largest group 15)

siskin – c30 (largest group 8)

goldfinch – 32

A few other bits moving south including a couple of starlings, collared doves and greenfinch, but no significant numbers. No hirundines.

Other sightings (non-migrants) were 8 ravens close by, with a few distant groups of 2 or 3 to the north-west, a pair of adult peregrine (possibly Gorge pair due to size of female) on Clifton Catholic Cathedral and an extremely close sighting of a sparrowhawk flying directly towards the tower, lit from underneath by the early morning sun.

A few pictures by Edward Felton and Tina Smith and a soundbite from Ed Drewitt below (please follow link if soundcloud media player does not display properly)..

Cabot Tower Bird Study Migration Watch Launch with Ed Drewitt:

The next session will be in the coming week depending on the weather and planned Tower 42 meetings, and we are hoping for higher numbers of finches and our first redwings of the autumn.

Thanks to Ed D, Ed F, David, Tina, Alex, Liz A, Liz S and Pete for making it not only a success but plenty of fun too.

Sam Hobson

Official launch this Sunday 2nd October with The Urban Birder

David Lindo – The Urban Birder, will be visiting Bristol this weekend to help launch the first official Cabot Tower Bird Study Group urban visible migration and raptor watch session. The session will be c.3 hrs, depending on conditions, kicking off at 6:45.

We are hoping to count meadow pipit and other passage migrants moving south over Bristol and will also be watching for raptors over the city.

We have had mixed results during the preliminary sessions in the last week, with highlights being lots of meadow pipit movement, migrating grey and pied wagtails, a few hirundines (although plenty on Saturday 24th moving down the Avon Gorge to the west), large groups of ravens and plenty of peregrine and sparrowhawk action. This morning, during an hour long watch from 9-10 am, 40 meadow pipits went over, a charm of 40 goldfinch, then 30 mixed gold and greenfinch landed at Brandon Hill, and just as the sun came out at 10 o’clock, a sparrowhawk flew only metres above CT and a buzzard passed over Clifton Triangle, heading into town.

Lots happening at the moment – hopefully luck will be with with us on Sunday!