Tuesday 6th November

7:15 – 8:45 5˚c Wind: 7 – 14mph WSW 1022hPa

Mainly clear with some low cloud developing. Woodpigeon passage nearly all in first 30 mins. Not as many as last year on the same day (655). Starlings, fieldfares and redwings mainly in groups of 10+ throughout watch. First bramblings (c5) to land, grounded by juv. sparrowhawk. Very late solitary house martin!

VisMig Counts (all SW apart from thrushes which mainly NW)

Woodpigeon – 265

Fieldfare – 63

Redwing – 56

Starling – 90

Chaffinch – 18

Brambling – 12

House martin – 1

Juvenile sparrowhawk and magpies chasing each other around the park..

Peregrines (pair on taller spire) on CCC didn’t seem too bothered by the woodpigeons!..

Woodies flying overhead..


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

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!

Preliminary Findings

Before setting up the CTBSG, it has been necessary to get the correct permission to access Cabot Tower early enough in the day to make it worth while, as most movements of the types of birds we will be monitoring take place before the tower is open to the public.

After gaining access, a few trial sessions have taken place, with mixed results.

On Friday the 23rd of September things were looking promising with lots of movements of gulls down the Avon into Bristol, a couple of peregrines, a few cormorant, a large conspiracy of 21 ravens grouped tightly together just overhead, and movements south of 62 meadow pipits, 20 grey wagtails and 5 pied wagtails. The session lasted c2 hrs from 6:45 , winds were light with few gusts (SW 10 – 18mph), it was bright and clear with temperatures of 14°C.

For the second preliminary session on Sunday the 25th, I was joined by Ed Drewitt. After being greeted with a grey heron and a peregrine we registered no movement of any passerines apart from perhaps a couple of grey wags that we heard passing over. We were up there for c1.5 hrs, again from 6:45, winds were more gusty (S 12 – 21 mph), grey with drizzle and temps of 15/16°C.

These results perfectly illustrate the nature of bird migration and its unpredictability. Within the space of 2 days, significantly different results with conditions not too dissimilar. The most likely explanation for the lack of movement on the Sunday, was that the weather had turned after a particularly mild day on Saturday with light winds and plenty of sun. Hirundines were definitely making the most of the Saturday’s conditions, with c1k moving south down the Avon Gorge.

Birds over Bristol…

Brandon Hill is one of the best places in Bristol to see urban birds and wildlife. The hill is alive with activity all year round, but Spring and Autumn are the best times to see raptors and passage migrants, with sightings of peregrine, sparrowhawk and buzzard on a daily basis and migrant passerines constantly moving through.

This video is of Clifton’s urban peregrine falcons. The first 2 clips are views from Cabot Tower, looking out to the Wills Memorial Tower at the top of Park Street and the spire of Clifton Catholic Cathedral on Pembroke road.

Brandon Hill has a large variety of resident songbirds, with nesting blackcaps and goldcrests, many passage migrants like redstarts, willow warblers, garden warblers and the occasional kingfisher that stop for short periods and seasonal visitors like overwintering redwings.

Cabot Tower has recently reopened to the public, which has given a new perspective from which to view Bristol’s bird life. Since reopening this summer, it has provided unique opportunities to monitor Bristol’s urban peregrines – from Clifton Village down to the City Centre, and so far this autumn, it has delivered some exciting sightings of passage migrants that would have been missed from ground level.

The reason for the formation of the Cabot Tower Bird Study Group is to monitor this visible migration over Bristol, and submit valuable data to the BTO about bird movements over cities. We will also be comparing data with the Tower 42 Bird Study Group in central London.

After movements of willow warbler, garden warbler and chiffchaff in the last few weeks, wagtails and pipits are now starting to pass over regularly. Perhaps skylark next, some Scandi thrushes, siskins or maybe some woodies in October..?