Avon & Bristol

Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis ©Lucy Masters Website

The recording area of Avon and Bristol is more or less co-terminus with the former ceremonial county of Avon. Avon was a short-lived county (1974-1996) that was replaced by four unitary authorities in the mid-1990s, including the City of Bristol. The port of Bristol lies close to the mouth of the River Avon, which formed the historic boundary between Gloucestershire and Somerset.

In birding circles, as in others, the term remains in use as it describes the area covered by the Bristol Ornithological Club and is reported in the annual ‘Avon Bird Report’. The term ‘Avon’ is used in national recording of birds and there is an Avon Recorder. The county of Avon is centred on Bristol, but includes South Gloucestershire, Bath and Northeast Somerset, and North Somerset which includes Weston-super-Mare. It’s a very compact area of only c.1300 km², which can be crossed by car in an hour. There are good motorway connections via the M4 and M5.

Traditionally there were two large urban areas, the cities of Bristol and Bath, but the expansion of Weston-super-Mare has seen it become a town approaching the size of Bath. There is also a spread of small towns, with valleys, farmland, which is a mixture of mostly livestock to the south and arable to the north and east, wet moors in the west, woodland and the Mendip Hills to the south to 250m altitude. Two large reservoirs, Chew Valley and Blagdon Lakes, are the main inland water bodies. There is a long coastline at the Severn Estuary.

Birding Avon & Bristol

Away from the major conurbations, Avon is dominated by intensively managed farmland divided by hedgerows, many of them ancient, and with small areas of woodland scattered throughout. Most of the woodland is deciduous and is usually dominated by ash, oak and birch being much less abundant than they are in some parts of the country. This countryside, pleasant as it is, does not offer exciting birding and attention is inevitably focused on a relatively small number of hotspots.

Chew Valley Lake ©Lucy Masters

In the south of Avon, Chew Valley Lake is the county’s most popular birdwatching site. As well as vantage points from two causeways, there are two picnic areas and a public trail & hide, and, in addition, four more hides which are accessible by permit from Bristol Water. Chew attracts large numbers of winter wildfowl – Shoveler, Gadwall, Teal, Pochard, and Tufted Duck are here in nationally important numbers, and the lake is also a stronghold for wintering Wigeon, Mallard, Goldeneye, Cormorant and Coot. Goosander, previously a numerous visitor, now occurs in small numbers only and the status of Smew has changed from regular to very rare; Scaup, on the other hand, is now regular in moderate numbers. Smew is just as likely to turn up elsewhere in the county, and Long-tailed Duck has occurred. Rare wildfowl are a frequent occurrence with Green-winged Teal (Blue-winged Teal is a very rare vagrant), Ring-necked Duck and Lesser Scaup are semi-regular. Chew also gets its fair share of wildfowl of unknown origin, including Ruddy Shelduck, which was previously regular each summer, and occasional Red-crested Pochard.

The lake’s most important habitat for breeding birds is its reed bed, which is one of the largest in south-west England. Cetti’s and large numbers of Sedge and Reed Warblers as well as Reed Bunting breed here. Cuckoo hang on here with their diminished but densest population in the region. Bittern, traditionally a wintering species at Chew, has bred, as have Black-necked Grebe and Ferruginous Duck. Bearded Tit is regular in winter and has bred occasionally; it will perhaps do so more frequently. Cattle Egret records have rapidly gained in frequency all over Avon, not least at this site, and Great White Egret has also been showing well in recent years particularly at Chew in the late autumn – the highest count to date is an exceptional 58! Marsh Harrier is frequent in most months but has not yet bred. Elsewhere around the lake, Garganey occasionally breeds successfully, Great Crested Grebe occurs in nationally important numbers and there is a Grey Heron colony of around 30 nests. There is a small population of Kingfisher year-round, and Water Rail breed and are present in winter. Spotted Crake is occasionally seen in autumn if water levels drop. .

Chew has a huge winter gull roost, peaking at an estimated 10,000+ Black-headed Gulls, 10,000+ Common Gulls, and Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls numbering several hundred each. Of the rarer species, Mediterranean Gull is regular in February & March; Yellow-legged Gull is present all year in small numbers peaking from July to September at fewer than 10 individuals, and Ring-billed Gull was almost annual in winter and spring, but the frequency of sightings has dropped. Iceland and Glaucous Gulls are genuinely rare here though.

Chew Valley Ringing Station operates at the southern end of the lake and has produced records of Marsh and Aquatic Warblers. The lake has also had its share of outstanding rarities over the years including Greater Sand Plover, Black-winged Pratincole, Booted Eagle and an over-wintering Gyrfalcon, as well as Britain’s first Pied-billed Grebe which it shared with Blagdon Lake.

Blagdon Lake is a smaller and older reservoir, but nevertheless has good populations of most of the species of wildfowl found at Chew. There is a small reed bed and lakeside walks. Rare birds have included Blue-winged Teal, Long-billed Dowitcher, Black-winged Pratincole, Red-necked Phalarope, Blyth’s Pipit and Franklin’s Gull.

Migration at the reservoirs is good – Common, Arctic and Black Terns are a feature of both spring and Autumn along with Little Gulls. Wader passage is almost non-existent in spring but may be marked in autumn if water levels drop sufficiently. Some species, notably Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint and Spotted Redshank, are less numerous than they used to be and large flocks of Lapwing seem to be a thing of the past. In good years the lake is still a prime site for species such as Greenshank, Ruff and Green Sandpiper, often accompanied by less common species, and Black-tailed Godwit and Wood Sandpiper have become more numerous. Maybe a future autumn will reach the heights of 2011, when Spotted Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Semi-palmated Sandpiper and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper were present simultaneously.

The passage of Swift and Hirundines is impressive. Yellow Wagtail pass through in small numbers, sometimes overlapping with Water Pipit, which winters here (usually fewer than 10) and can stay into April by which time they have acquired summer plumage. Osprey is seen each year and regularly stays for a week or more, and Hobbies visits throughout the summer.

Nearer Bristol, Barrow Gurney Reservoir tanks are three large concrete bowls which hold waterfowl in winter and get the occasional interesting passage migrant but their man-made structure and scant vegetation limit their overall species count. A male Long-tailed Duck has graced the site over several recent winters, and Great Northern Divers occasionally visit.

A feature of the reservoirs of Chew, Blagdon and Barrow Gurney is that during strong winds, seabirds turn up, having been blown up the estuary. Grey Phalarope and Sabine’s Gull are semi-regular, and most of the other British seabirds have appeared at one time or another (except the auks). At least one representative from either the divers or the rarer grebes is to be expected each winter.

The Mendip fringe, which leads up to the upland heath of Black Down in neighbouring Somerset, is worth exploring. It is Avon’s highest ground where Grasshopper Warbler, Whinchat, Stonechat and Tree Pipit can be found, and if we’re lucky, a Nightjar or Dartford Warbler may cross the boundary from Somerset to breed around Burrington.

From the south-west corner of the county at the Axe Estuary and Uphill, Avon’s coast is on the eastern shore of one of Britain’s largest and most important estuaries, the Severn. It has internationally important numbers of waders and shorebirds. It has the highest levels of environmental protection in Europe with all of Avon’s coast being a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), and much of it designated a Special Protection Area (SPA) and a Ramsar site. The coastal strip extends all along Avon’s western boundary. This estuary has the world’s second highest tidal range so vast mud flats are exposed and covered twice daily. Many bird species thrive upon them, particularly on migration and in winter. The Severn Estuary has huge numbers of waders, and Avon gets its share of these, with sites such as the Axe Estuary, Sand Bay, Clevedon Bay, Portbury Wharf, Severnside and Oldbury Power Station attracting good numbers of species such as Oystercatcher, Grey and Ringed Plover, Curlew, Turnstone, Dunlin and Redshank. Species associated with sandier shores, such as Bar-tailed Godwit and Sanderling occur mainly on migration. Sand Point and Wain’s Hill attract land migrants and, with Ladye Bay, can be good sea-watching points in autumn, while the stretch with the outflows of the Rivers Yeo and Kenn are good for passage and winter waders. Battery Point in Portishead is the only reliable local site for wintering Purple Sandpiper.

Just inland are the wet lowlands of Bleadon Levels, Congresbury Moor, Kenn Moor, Nailsea Moor and the Gordano Valley which have great biodiversity of which the wetland and farmland birds are an important part. The area is largely damp moorland habitat of low-lying flat fields with rhynes (drainage ditches) between them – like a smaller version of the Somerset Levels. Breeding waders are sadly a thing of the past here, but Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler and Reed Bunting all breed along the rhynes and Lapwing, Snipe, Green Sandpiper and Little Egret can all be found in winter. In common with much of Avon, the Gordano Valley sees Red Kite frequently passing overhead.

The coast north of the mouth of the River Avon is dominated by two Severn road crossings and the narrowing of the estuary. Known as Severnside, ducks, waders and storm-driven seabirds occur here. The key spots on Severnside include Chittening Wharf, Severn Beach, New Passage with its newly created Pilning Wetlands, and Northwick & Aust Wharfs. Pilning Wetlands has added greatly to the attractions of the area and regularly holds several hundred Black-tailed Godwit in winter, with smaller numbers of Avocet and Little Ringed Plover during the summer. It attracts passage migrants such as Ruff, Wood Sandpiper and Greenshank and rarities have included Collared Pratincole and Citrine Wagtail. During severe south-westerly gales seabirds can get funneled up the estuary and watching from the seawall at Severn Beach can be rewarding. If (maybe move this to below) you’re lucky, close views of petrels and skuas can be had, but anything may turn up – including a Fregetta petrel in 2009. Wildfowl such as Shelduck, Wigeon, Mallard and Teal are common as are Black-tailed Godwit. Black Redstart can be found among the built-up coast and flocks of common passerines such as Skylark, Rock Pipit and Linnet use the salt-marsh and rocky shores and may include Water Pipit.

The old motorway service station at Aust has shown itself to be a good point from which to observe visible migration, particularly in October, when there is a chance of scarce species such as Hawfinch amongst large numbers of common species. Among the waders, rare species have been found including Black-winged Stilt, Kentish Plover and White-rumped and Pectoral Sandpipers. Short-eared Owl, Merlin and Peregrine are all found in winter, although not in large numbers. The estuary sees a regular spring passage of Common and Arctic Terns, with Whimbrel and Bar-tailed Godwit also moving through in good numbers; overcast days with north-easterly winds produce the best results. Seabird movements in the estuary can be good in most seasons, given the right weather conditions. Pomarine Skua and Leach’s Petrel are the Severn Beach specialities, and more common species such as Fulmar, Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Kittiwake, Great and Arctic Skuas and auks are annual. North of the original Severn Bridge, Oldbury Power Station (decommissioned) has industrial, semi-natural and managed habitats that attract important passage and wintering birds.

In the north of the county the hedgerow-bounded grazing meadows give way in the north-east to the complex of mixed and coppiced woodlands at Lower Woods. There are good numbers of winter Woodcock and year-round woodland birds, while Spotted Flycatcher is present throughout the passage and summer periods. The woodland adjoins an area of extensive common land stretching southwards to Chipping Sodbury Common which attracts a good range of migrant chats and other passerines. Common migrants such as Redstart, Whinchat and Wheatear are present daily in autumn and Red-backed and Woodchat Shrike have both stopped in this area (in spring and autumn respectively).

Southwards from the Cotswold Edge along the Wiltshire border is a mixed agricultural area of higher ground straddling the M4 motorway surrounding the villages of Marshfield and Tormarton. This is a stronghold for farmland species in decline elsewhere in the country. Corn Bunting can occur in three-figure flocks in winter, as can Yellowhammer, with Red-legged Partridge being common. This is the county’s best location for Quail in summer, while Golden Plover is found on the high grounds in winter. The area is well watched and the discovery of rarities including Dotterel, Red-backed Shrike and Red-flanked Bluetail here suggests that similar coverage of other parts of the county could bring rewards.

On the north-east outskirts of Bath, Batheaston Meadows Nature Reserve is made up of eight hectares of damp meadows, an artificially created oxbow lake with small reed beds, hedgerows and a scattering of mature trees. Bird species of damp and open water are attracted, typically involving Little Grebe, Water Rail and Snipe in winter with common warblers and finches staying on to breed. The city of Bath has a long-standing breeding pair of Peregrines in St. John’s church right in the city centre. On the west side of Bath lies the village of Newton St. Loe and its surroundings of wooded farmland and a nature reserve with a lake at Newton Park which has a heronry. Many common and transient species occur here in pleasant surroundings including Tawny and Little Owl, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail and Yellowhammer, with wintering Wigeon and Goosander, and Spotted Flycatcher in summer.

The city of Bristol has plenty to offer with waterways, mature parks and gardens providing plenty of linked habitat; specific sites include the River Frome valley from Frenchay’s Snuff Mills to Eastville Park: this is productive for woodland and freshwater birds with Kingfisher, Dipper and Grey Wagtail all breeding. Very similar are the Kingsweston and Blaise Estates on the River Trym in the west of the city, where Firecrest has recently been seen regularly. Ashton Court in the south-west of Bristol is a mature parkland with specimen trees and open grassland that supports a healthy population of Skylark and many more common species. Brandon Hill, home of the Avon Wildlife Trust’s HQ, is right in the city centre and has an AWT nature reserve with a meadow. This bushy tump attracts common passerines along with Firecrest and winter thrushes. The jewel in Bristol’s crown is the Peregrine breeding site at the Avon Gorge. Though other pairs breed in the city it is this high profile must-visit location that makes the connection between the general public and the natural world. Avon Gorge Peregrines can be seen at eye level as they swoop and glide in the gorge while onlookers view from 75m above the River Avon. Peregrines can also be seen around the city centre and docks, while Buzzard and Raven are also city breeders and now quite a common sight in all areas of Avon.

Top Sites
  • Avon Gorge

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    The muddy tidal river Avon flows from the city of Bristol through the gorge and into the Severn estuary at Avonmouth, a distance of about 13kms. Though this is not a hotspot for many bird species the Avon Gorge is best known for the Peregrine Falcons which breed on the rocky cliff ledges each year. The Bristol Ornithological Club has run a Peregrine Watch at the edge of the Avon Gorge since 1991. Initially, it ran seven days a week for the security of the birds, but is now focused on one or two weekends as an opportunity to share views of the birds with the wider public. Sessions are timed to coincide with the period of maximum activity near the nest-fledging and nursery flights, and the location means that the birds frequently pass at eye level. The best vantage points to see the Peregrines are along Circular Road (known locally as 'the sea wall') which runs along the top of the gorge from the Clifton Zoo area to Stoke Bishop. The birds, of course, can decide to nest anywhere along this stretch from year to year but our watch records have shown that the gorge viewpoint closest to the zoo is normally the most productive. Earlier in the year Raven also breeds here and with birders' extensive breeding season coverage, many other species have frequently been seen, notably Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel plus occasional sightings of Red Kite, Osprey and Goshawk. Redshank, Common and Green Sandpipers also occur on the river banks along with various gulls.
  • Blagdon Lake

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    Blagdon Lake is also well-known nationally. This reservoir has a mile of public footpath along the southeast side from the east tip near the village of Ubley. Permit holders have access to private paths and two hides. [Permits can be obtained from Bristol Water, Woodford Lodge, Chew Stoke, BS18 8SH. The permit covers Blagdon, Chew and Barrow Gurney reservoirs. As of January 2018 permits cost £30 per year or £5 for the day]
  • Chew Valley Lake

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    This nationally well-known reservoir is roughly 4km long and 2.4km wide. Apart from a few short stretches including the dam at the northern end most of the perimeter is naturally vegetated with large reed beds at the southern end. This is by far the area's most important reservoir for birds and holds internationally important numbers of Shoveler and Gadwall as well as around 400 Great Crested Grebe in autumn. It is recommended to obtain a permit to enter the reservoir enclosures and four hides, though good viewing at Chew is possible from the road at Heron's Green and Herriott's Bridge as well as from the hide accessed along the trail from the eastern shore's southern picnic site. [Permits can be obtained from Bristol Water, Woodford Lodge, Chew Stoke, BS18 8SH. The permit covers Chew, Blagdon and Barrow Gurney reservoirs. As of January 2018 permits cost £30 per year or £5 for the day]
  • Clevedon Coast

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    The Clevedon and Portishead site extends from Portbury Wharf at the mouth of the river Avon at Royal Portbury Dock, southwards through Portishead and Clevedon town seafronts and ends at the Yeo Estuary, north of St Thomas' Head and Sand Point. The total distance is some 20kms though only about 8kms of these are likely to be of interest to the birder. The main vantage points are located at Portbury Wharf, Portishead seafront, Wain's Hill at Clevedon and Channel View farm at Kingston Seymour, although access here is restricted to permit holders for the Avon Wildlife Trust Reserve of Blake's Pools. The shoreline regularly attracts many species of waders and ducks though most of these are concentrated and best seen along the stretch from Wain's Hill southwards to the Yeo Estuary. This stretch also incorporates the small outfalls at the Blind Yeo and Kenn rivers. The coastal fields and scrub also hold many migrant birds on passage through the area. The Wain's Hill headland at the south end of Clevedon town is particularly good for seeing migrant passerines, especially at migration times and also during periods of bad weather when many birds become grounded. Sea-watching is best undertaken from Ladye Bay at the northern end of Clevedon town but the estuary is fairly wide here and a telescope is essential.
  • Gordano Valley National Nature Reserve - Weston Moor

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    Fen meadows, reed-fringed pools and ditches are the richest habitats on this reserve. Lapwing and Snipe are attracted to breed while Skylark, Sedge and Reed Warblers and Reed Bunting are dependent upon the scrubby reed areas as nesting sites. A wet woodland has breeding Tawny Owl. Buzzard is numerous and Little Owl occur all year with finch flocks benefiting from the valuable winter food sources. There are rare aquatic plants such as greater bladderwort and an impressive number of insects including the hairy dragonfly. The meadows have many scarce plants such as lesser butterfly orchid along with masses of meadowsweet.
  • Marshfield to Tormarton, east of the county

    Marshfield village is situated approximately 20 km east of Bristol centre within the boundary of South Gloucestershire. The area is the highest point in South Gloucestershire and is mainly upland arable farmland with many crop fields bounded by dry stonewalls and quiet countryside lanes. The limited variety of habitat around the area means that Marshfield does not attract such a wide range of bird species as are found at the coastal sites but it does hold a number of species which are uncommon elsewhere around the wider Bristol area. The Marshfield area is our local stronghold for (summer) Quail, Corn Bunting and Yellowhammer but Grey Partridge are only just hanging on these days. Corn Bunting can flock in numbers of over 100 in winter. Many other species are present including wintering Golden Plover with Red Kite, harriers, Short-eared Owl and Merlin frequent visitors.
  • Portbury Wharf

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    This area of 46 hectares (113 acres) was originally set up as a nature reserve to offset the building of 2,500 homes around a disused industrial site. It was originally managed by the Avon Wildlife Trust but in 2015 the management was switched at the behest of North Somerset Council, who are now responsible for its upkeep. The damp fields, scrubby margins and reed beds hold species that prefer cover such as Water Rail, breeding Sedge and Reed Warblers, and Reed Bunting. The open pools with low-level islands attract wildfowl, waders and gulls, with Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Oystercatcher and Little Ringed Plover breeding. The scrub and hedgerows have matured to form small fragments of succession woodland and this is good for Sylvia warblers and finches. The rough open fields offer good hunting for Barn Owl, Kestrel, Hirundines and Stonechat, with Buzzard common and Little Owl likely. A nature trail with three hides makes the most of what the site has to offer and beyond the sea wall flooded salt grasslands form the coastal habitat. The reserve's location benefits from being at the northern end of the Gordano Valley and adjacent to an SAC and Ramsar section of the coast.
  • Sand Point

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    The Weston site extends from Sand Point, southwards through Sand Bay and Weston-super-Mare seafront to the river Axe estuary near Brean Down, a distance of about 12km. The main vantage points are located at Sand Point headland, including the nearby Middle Hope nature reserve, Weston sewage treatment works and the nearby river Axe estuary. Sand Point is a rocky limestone headland which juts out into the Bristol Channel and is one of our best sites for seeing spring and autumn migrants. During strong south-westerly winds, it is also one of our best sea-watching sites too.
  • Severnside

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    Severnside is a general reference to the shoreline extending from Aust Wharf southwards to Chittening Wharf close to Avonmouth, a total distance of about 8km. The main vantage points are located at New Passage (including Northwick Oaze) and Severn Beach (including Chittening Wharf). The recently created Pilning Wetlands at New Passage has increased the species list and made several species, particularly waders, more viewable and longer staying. Severnside is arguably our best coastal site for seeing a wide variety and numbers of birds at any given time of year. The shoreline regularly attracts many species of ducks and waders and the coastal fields and scrub also hold many migrant birds on passage through the area. On its day, sea-watching off Severn Beach during strong south-westerly winds can be truly breath-taking with seabirds milling around low over the water before regaining their bearings and flying back down river. Extremely close views are often possible. Don't overlook Aust Wharf which attracts Short-eared Owl and Merlin in winter.
  • Uphill and Bleadon Levels

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    Uphill, at the southern tip of the Avon coast, looks across the River Axe to Brean Down in Somerset. On high tides the waders tend to roost on the Somerset side but cross over to Avon as the tide drops exposing the long muddy beaches of Weston-super-Mare. Dunlin and Redshank numbers are significant in winter with a good variety of other waders occurring regularly. Shelduck and Wigeon counts reach three figures during the winter when Short-eared Owls can sometimes be found, and Little Egrets are always around. There is a walk southwards along the beach or inland on the cycle path to Bleadon Levels past a high cliff that attracts Black Redstart, to a viewpoint on the hill overlooking the levels and the river down to Weston Sewage Treatment Works (STW) a mile away. There are several pleasant paths through the levels where the bushes attract warblers and thrushes, and the estuary brings in passing migrants such as terns, Hirundines and Wheatear. Merlin, Peregrine and Raven occur on both sides of the river.
  • Mike Jackson

    | mikejackson6@blueyonder.co.uk

County Recorder
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 345

    County Bird - Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps
    […as its logo because it was established in the late sixties around the time when one or two PBGBs overwintered at Chew Valley Lake].
  • Birds in Avon - An annotated checklist

    This project started as ‘Rare Birds in Avon’, essentially a list of all the sightings of rare species over the years, but it has now evolved into a checklist of all the species recorded in the Avon recording area, with details as to how their status has changed over time, albeit still with a bias towards the rare and unusual. This first edition covers up to the end of 2017.
Useful Reading

  • Avon Atlas 2007-11

    | By Richard L Bland & M Dadds | Bristol Naturalists' Society | 2012 | Paperback | 197 pages, b/w illustrations, b/w distribution maps, tables | ISBN: Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Avon Bird Report 2022

    | By Avon Ornithological Group (AOG) | Bristol Ornithological Club| 2023 | paperback | 208 pages, colour photos, b/w illustrations, tables | ISBN: Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Birding in the Bristol Region

    | A Celebration: 50 Years of the Bristol Ornithological Club | by William Earp | BOC | 2017 | Paperback | 96 pages, colour photos, colour & b/w illustrations | ISBN: 9781527205062 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Where to Watch Birds in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire

    | By Ken Hall & John Govett | Christopher Helm | 2019 | Edition 4 | Paperback | 314 pages, b/w illustrations, b/w maps | ISBN: 9781472912381 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Useful Information
  • Avon Bird Report

    Copies of the current report and for most preceding years are available. For details contact Dr H E Rose via email at bktlgodwit@gmail.com.
  • BTO Regional Representative

    Gordon Youdale 36 Quedgeley, Yate, BS37 4JJ Dave Stoddard 23 Claremont Avenue, Bishopston, Bristol, BS7 8JD
  • Bristol Ornithological Club

    Ornithology in Avon is well-served by Bristol Ornithological Club, the county's main bird study group. The Club covers the former County of Avon, centered on Bristol, but including South Gloucestershire, Bath and North East Somerset and North Somerset, including Weston-super-Mare. We are lucky too to have the Forest of Dean, Slimbridge WWT and the Somerset Levels within easy reach. The Club issued its first monthly bulletin in January 1967 and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017. Since then it has evolved its methods and it now benefits from its own website (bristolornithologicalclub.co.uk) and Daily Blog, Avon Birds (bocbirds@gmail.com). The Club can be found on Facebook and Twitter. Club membership is currently (2018) around 580 with many members participating in BTO surveys (BBS, CES, WeBS, Atlases) as well as locally-organised census work, such as long-running surveys on heronries and Rooks. Significant studies have also been undertaken by individual members, for example Buzzard (Robin Prytherch), urban Gulls (Peter Rock), Reed Warblers (David Warden) and House Sparrows (John Tully and Richard Bland). There is also an active team of BTO surveyors, managed by Gordon Youdale and Dave Stoddard who also runs the Breeding Bird (BBS) for the BTO. The annual Avon Bird Report is produced jointly by Bristol Ornithological Club and Bristol Naturalists' Society, under the name of Avon Ornithological Group. For further information contact the report's editor, Harvey Rose.
  • Bristol's Peregrines

    Since around 1990 peregrine falcons have bred in the Avon Gorge. The Bristol Ornithological Club along with members of the RSPB and the Hawk and Owl Trust have kept a watch and public information engagement at the nest site every year since 1991. Though this started as a round the clock nest watch it has moved to a two-weekend summer event that engages the public with the Peregrines, thus encouraging an educational connection to the birds.
Museums & Universities
  • Bristol Museum

    Zoology Collection
    British Birds and Mammals Gallery - Many birds and mammals found in the South West Region are displayed in this gallery and can be viewed with accompanying information on their ecology and behaviour…
  • University of Bristol - School of Biological Sciences

    Ecology courses
  • Avon Wildlife Trust

    The Avon Wildlife Trust, the local charity working to protect wildlife, manages 36 nature reserves over 1,100 hectares. The trust provides environmental education learning activities for children through its junior branch as well as life-long learning and wellbeing; protects the best areas for wildlife in the region and campaigns on wild places under threat; and encourages everyone to enjoy and care for local wildlife.
  • Bristol Naturalists' Society

    The promotion of education and research into natural history, including geology, with special reference to the Bristol district and the promotion of the conservation of the British fauna and flora and the protection of geological and physiographical sites
  • Bristol Ornithological Club

    The Bristol Ornithological Club was founded to promote, encourage and co-ordinate the scientific study of ornithology in all its branches in the Bristol area. Whatever your level of birdwatching - as a beginner, just interested with no claim to any special knowledge, or keen with special interests - the BOC can help to increase your knowledge and enjoyment of birds. With regular indoor meetings, featuring expert guest speakers, outdoor trips, to a whole variety of birding sites in the South-west, club holidays in Britain and abroad, and the annual Peregrine watch public engagement events. The club actively encourages participation in surveys organised by the British Trust for Ornithology. There is a daily Blog (Avon Birds), monthly newsletter (Bird News - with all the latest bird sightings) and a periodic journal (Bristol Ornithology). Take a look around our website and find out about the top places to birdwatch around Bristol or how to join our club and find out about our forthcoming trips and meetings.
  • Cam Valley Wildlife Group

    Cam Valley Wildlife Group is an independent, volunteer-run, wildlife group based around Midsomer Norton and Radstock. The area covers the towns and villages of Cameley, Camerton, Carlingcott, Chelwood, Chewton Mendip, Chilcompton, Clapton, Clutton, Coleford, Combe Hay, Dunkerton, Emborough, Farmborough, Farrington Gurney, Faulkland, Foxcote, Hallatrow, Haydon, High Littleton, Hinton Blewett, Hinton Charterhouse, Holcombe, Kilmersdon, Litton, Midford, Midsomer Norton, Norton St Philip, Paulton, Peasedown St John, Priston, Radford, Radstock, Shoscombe, Southstoke, Ston Easton, Stratton-on-the-Fosse, Temple Cloud, Timsbury, Tunley, Welton, Westfield, Wellow and Writhlington….
  • RSPB - Bath & District Local Group

    We are a group of 250 members from around the Bath area. We hold indoor meetings at 7.30 pm on the third Wednesday of the month from September to April at St Andrew's Community Church, Hawthorne Grove, Combe Down, BA2 5QA where you can hear illustrated talks given by ornithologists, photographers and other professional speakers. We also have an annual programme of field trips by car or coach to a variety of sites including RSPB reserves, some aimed particularly at beginners. Details of Indoor and Outdoor meetings can be found on the RSPB website under Bath and District RSPB Local Group along with contact details for enquiries.
  • Severnside Birds

    The area covered is an eight kilometre coastal strip from the old Severn Bridge, south to the southern end of Chittening Wharf. The eastern boundary is formed mainly by the A403, Aust to Avonmouth coast road. The patch is centred on the village of Severn Beach and dominated by the structure of the Second Severn Crossing and a huge tidal range.

Abbreviations Key

  • LNR Blake's Pools

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    Over 100 species of bird have been sighted here and shelduck, redshank and lapwing often nest on the reserve. During periods of low tide the expansive areas of mud attract birds such redshank, little grebe and little egret. The two shallower pools attract wading birds, especially green and common sandpipers during spring and autumn. The highlight of winter is the variety of wildfowl that feeds here, including smew, scaup and black-necked grebe. The walk to the reserve can be very good for waders and migrant birds - in winter, thousands of dunlin may be seen along this stretch of coast. Barn owls have also reguarly inhabited the reserve. The reserve is owned by the Environment Agency and leased by the Trust. It forms part of the Severn Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Protection Area and RAMSAR site.
  • LNR Chew Valley Lake

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    Despite the pressures from recreational activities, and sailing in particular, Chew Valley Lake remains excellent for birds and one of the most important sites for waterfowl in south-west England. It is an artificial reservoir covering nearly 500ha and was constructed in the 1950s. Much of the surrounding area is mixed grassland with occasional conifer plantations. There are some reed beds on parts of the shore, particularly in the Avon Wildlife Trust managed southern end. Further afield is mainly farmland with patches of deciduous woodland. More than 270 bird species have been recorded here and it is designated as an SSSI and SPA.
  • LNR Clapton Moor

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    Set within the Gordano Valley, Clapton Moor is characteristic of the North Somerset Levels landscape. Networked with species-rich rhynes (watery ditches), the moor is important for its breeding waders and wintering wildfowl.
  • LNR Cleeve Heronry

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    A small woodland, home to a large heronry, where the herons can be seen flying in and out to their fledglings.
  • LNR Littleton Brick Pits

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    A chain of reed beds close to the Severn Estuary that are an important feeding and resting place for migrating birds
  • LNR Lower Woods

    WebpageSatellite View
    Lower Woods is one of the largest ancient woodlands in the south-west of England and covers three square kilometres. The reserve has 23 woods and coppices whose boundaries have remained unchanged for several centuries.
  • LNR Narroways

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Narroways Hill is a little grassy & wooded ridge dissected by railway lines lying just North of inner-city Bristol. It has always been an open space and as the city has encroached around it, its value as a green sanctuary has increased. When British Rail threatened to sell it to developers in 1997 it caused such a reaction that 800 local people demonstrated to save it, thousands signed petitions & wrote letters and money was raised so it was purchased by Bristol City Council. It became a Millennium Green in the year 2000, with a 999 year lease to keep it free and open to the local people and allow wildlife to thrive. On a warm May day while Slow Worms bask on the railway banks, Marbled White butterflies flit amongst the Knapweed & Scabious and Jays scavenge amongst the treetops. In the evening Pipistrelle Bats emerge…
  • LNR Portbury Wharf (Portishead)

    WebpageSatellite View
    The damp fields, scrubby margins and reed beds hold species that prefer cover such as Water Rail, breeding Sedge and Reed Warblers, and Reed Bunting. The open pools with low-level islands attract wildfowl, waders and gulls, with Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Oystercatcher and Little Ringed Plover breeding. The scrub and hedgerows have matured to form small fragments of succession woodland and this is good for Sylvia warblers and finches. See also Facebook Page
  • LNR Prior's Wood

    WebpageSatellite View
    The woodland cloaks part of the Carboniferous limestone ridge that runs from Clevedon to Failand in the Gordano Valley. Small-leaved lime trees, oak and hazel are abundant, and in places mature sweet chestnut reach high into the canopy. In spring, the woodland floor is a spectacular carpet of bluebells, particularly in the southern and western parts of the wood. Prior's Wood is rich in bird life, including buzzard, garden warbler and chiffchaff. Spotted flycatcher is also recorded in most years.
  • LNR Uphill & Bleadon Levels

    WebpageSatellite View
    Wildfowl are a feature and you can see a range of ducks on the nature reserve from the two bird hides situated at the north side of the lagoon and the south side which has wheelchair access. Waders feed on the marsh and skylarks breed there. Short-eared owls hunt over the open grass and the reeds are used by summer-visiting reed bunting and cetti’s warbler.
  • LNR Weston Big Wood

    WebpageSatellite View
    Weston Big Wood is one of the most wildlife-rich woodlands in the area. In springtime the ground is covered with wood anemones, violets and masses of bluebells. The wood is very good for birds, including woodpecker, nuthatch and tawny owl.
  • NNR Gordano Valley

    WebpageSatellite View
    Fen meadows and reed-fringed pools and ditches are the richest habitats on the reserve. They have rare aquatic plants such as greater bladderwort and an impressive number of insects including the hairy dragonfly. The meadows have many scarce plants such as lesser butterfly orchid along with masses of meadowsweet. A wet woodland provides valuable winter food for finches and a summer breeding site for tawny owls. Reed and sedge warblers are completely dependent upon the reed areas as nesting sites.
  • NNR Leigh Woods

    InformationSatellite View
    Birds which live in the woods include the raven (Corvus) and peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus). Many butterflies and moths can be seen in summer including the white-letter hairstreak (Satyrium w-album).
  • RSPB West Sedgemoor

    WebpageSatellite View
    West Sedgemoor is closed to visitors to protect the wildlife that lives here. To enjoy the wonderful variety this sprawling place has to offer, wander the public footpaths around the edge for fantastic views and a chance to spot Common Cranes and hedgerow birds and butterflies.
Sightings, News & Forums
  • Avon Birds

    Sightings & News
    Latest bird sightings from Bristol and the old country of Avon. Please send sightings to the Bristol ornithological Club bocbirds@gmail.com
  • BristolBirding

    @bristolbirding retweets and posts on Avonbirds sightings in the old county of Avon giving location and numbers of species. #bristolbirding to join conversation
Other Links
  • Blagdon Lake Birds

    News and information about the Birds & Wildlife of Blagdon Lake in North Somerset, England, UK.
  • Bristol Cameras

    You will find the UK's Cheapest Digital Cameras, Binoculars, Printers, Batteries and other accessory listings from all the major photographic companies on this site. Full accessory lists show that we can supply not just the camera of your choice at the cheapest price but also a full list of accessories
  • Clifton Cameras

    A range of cameras and a limited range of binoculars. Mark Williams Tel 01179 734484 Clifton Cameras 82 Alma Rd Clifton Bristol BS8 2DJ
  • Forest of Avon

    The Forest of Avon will become a unique mix of woodlands, open space, farmland, homes and nature areas - growing more beautiful with the years. The site designated as the Forest of Avon covers an area of 221 square miles. The area stretches north as far as Thornbury and south to Pensford. The eastern boundary takes in Chipping Sodbury; to the west, the Forest reaches the Bristol Channel. At the centre of the Forest of Avon lies the city of Bristol.
  • Lundy Birds

    Welcome to the Lundy Birds website. Lying astride the mouth of the Bristol Channel, Lundy has long proved to be a magnet for migrating birds, with a long list of major rarities to its name, and is nationally important for its breeding seabirds…
  • Avon Birds

    Bird sightings around Bristol, Bath and the old county of Avon. To report anything, e-mail bocbirds@gmail.com . All submissions are passed to the county Recorder.
  • Mya-Rose Craig - Birdgirl

    A blog by a young birder, birdwatcher, twitcher, naturalist, environmentalist & writer about birds, wildlife, nature, conservation & ringing (banding) who is an Ambassador for World Shorebirds Day, See It Her Way and a Charter Champion for The Charter for Woods, Trees and People
  • The Bristol Wildlife blog

    Last updated 2014 - Bristol is a city in southwest England: with a population of half a million, it’s the largest city in the region, but it is also said to be Britain’s greenest city, with more open spaces than any other city, and a wide range of highly important wildlife sites on its doorstep.…
Photographers & Artists
  • Photographer - Lucy Masters

    Twitter Page
    Landscape and wildlife photography
  • Photographer - Sam Hobson

    I’m a professional wildlife photographer, based in Bristol, UK - the heart of natural history television and film.
  • Photographer - Simon Mackie

    This web-site's primary roll is to showcase examples of Simon's work…

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