15 August, Titchfield Haven by Mike White
Our group of four assembled by Hill Head Sailing Club and with the tide at its lowest point we started with a look over the foreshore. The Common Tern flock contained approximately 300 birds but despite several scans we were unable to locate any of their rarer relatives. On the tideline a small number of Sanderling were running around, and on the exposed shingle Turnstones were doing what Turnstones do, later in the day we counted nearly 100 birds in this flock. Ringed Plovers were also present and gradually as we watched they came closer until we had some stunning views. Unfortunately, the wind was blowing at 20mph with 30mph gusts and gradually increased during the day, resulting in only one species of small passerine being seen during the day, namely several Goldfinches. From the Suffern Hide a small flock of Gadwall were on the River Meon and Lesser Black-backed Gulls were post perching. As we left the hide a Sparrowhawk gave the briefest of views as it skimmed over our heads. Moving on to the Meadow Hide a Cormorant flew past and a flock of Canada Geese flew onto the area called the Frying Pan, a distant perched Kestrel was also seen. Small numbers of Swifts and Little Egrets were noted during the day. Moving to the western side of the reserve and from the Meon Shore Hide Oystercatchers, Redshank, Lapwing, Teal and Avocets were observed. A Common Sandpiper was along the far shore. The flock of Black-tailed Godwits contained birds in various stages of plumage, allowing for comparison between nearly full summer to complete winter. Two Dunlin were also present. Our final stop was the Spurgin Hide where the only addition to the list was a single Shoveler.
8 August 2021, Denbies Hillside by John Barkham
The weather forecast was very poor; heavy rain, cold temperatures and wind, with little prospect of seeing birds or butterflies. However, 9 members donned wet weather gear and ventured onto the Denbies Hillside nature trail. Fortunately, the weather proved better than the forecast and we faced only the occasional shower during our walk. We first took in the panoramic views from the hillside, looking across the valley to Dorking and Leith Hill Tower in the distance. We admired the numerous wildflowers as we walked down the hillside, including an oak sculpture depicting the life cycle of the Adonis Blue butterfly. We scanned the valley hedgerows for birdlife and Jim and Robert spotted a Yellowhammer. Our return walk uphill proved fairly steep, but we paced ourselves and eventually returned to level ground. We eventually found numerous Chalkhill Blue butterflies at rest in the grassy hillside. A few of the group who left early and missed the butterflies did have a close encounter with a Skylark. We completed our walk with a coffee from a mobile coffee van, a vintage Citroen H Van.
21 July 2021, Thames Towpath and Home Park by Mike White
To Noel Cowards’ “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”, you can now add “and also members of SDBWS”. With a near cloudless sky and the temperature rapidly climbing towards 30 degrees locating any avian activity was going to be difficult, and so it proved.
We started our walk noting the usual large numbers of Ring-necked Parakeets, Jackdaws and a group of Black-headed Gulls loafing in the car park. The area around an alga covered Diana Fountain held the usual waterfowl and singles of Grey Heron and Pied Wagtail. Two Swallows flying over were the only ones seen during the walk. The Lion Gate access to Hampton Court was closed so we walked along the front of the Palace to the foot of Hampton Court Bridge. Canada and Egyptian Geese were on the far bank and close to the bridge a Great Crested Grebe parent was attempting to ignore the begging of an almost independent youngster.
High above two Sparrowhawks were involved in a game of tag and even higher a flock of Swifts were wheeling around. A few yards further on a female Tufted Duck appeared with a flotilla of 6 youngsters, moving swiftly to avoid the approaching Turks River boat. The grass area along the towpath has been allowed to grow unchecked and large numbers of butterflies were attracted to the meadow flowers. We saw nine species including, Marbled White, Red Admiral, Small Copper, Small Skipper, Peacock and Gatekeeper.
Along the towpath birdlife was almost non-existent, but Wren, Robin and Stock Dove were noted. Over the river 2 Common Terns were fishing and a pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls flew through. Whilst watching butterfly activity a Wren popped out from the tangle of growth. At the Surbiton Passage entrance to Home Park, we stopped and watched the Sand Martins entering their nests on Raven’s Ait, and a Pied Wagtail was searching the surrounding fence for insects. Entering the passage, a Chiffchaff was seen, and the “wheezing” call of a Greenfinch was heard. Those members that entered the park first were lucky enough to get close views of a Kestrel.
A Common Tern was fishing on the boating pond. On the Longwater a pair of Mute Swan has seven well grown youngsters and a pair of Great Crested Grebe had three very small young. The “brown” Coot, a leucistic or diluted bird was present apparently happy to mix with regularly coloured birds. A juvenile Green Woodpecker flew across and near the exit gate a family of Jays were seen. Given the conditions a very respectable total of 33 species were seen.
18 July 2021, Oare Marshes by Chris Turner
The trip to Oare Marshes on the Swale was not one for the faint-hearted with temperatures forecast to reach 29 degrees. And boy was it hot.
The first target was the Bonaparte’s Gull which had returned to North Kent for its seventh year just the day before. Some had the bird on the fields behind the floods early doors but it had moved off by the time the rest of us had arrived. However, after 45 minutes or so scanning the retreating waterline the bird showed well, if not point blank, at the edge of the mud. A real treat in its summer finery.
Perhaps not the wader fest that we had hoped for, with most of the Godwits and smaller waders being very distant on the north side of the estuary. However, we did enjoy distant views of a hunting Hobby before heading along the sea wall to work the reserve. Again, rather quiet which we suspected was due to a combination of a falling tide and high water levels on the floods. Black-tailed Godwits the only waders of note.
Better though were the views of a purring Turtle Dove (perhaps two) on wires and trees near the cottages. Looked like they may have been feeding young. Sad that this is such a rare occurrence now, and I suspect will be the only Turtle Doves I see all year. Back to the car park and a Reed Warbler was observed hunting through the only tree in the vicinity.
As we felt that we had “done” Oare so quickly most of us thought a detour to see the long staying Spoonbill at RSPB Cliff Marshes would be worthwhile. It was still hot, but the heat haze wasn’t too bad. We caught up with the Spoonbill straight away, but perhaps more memorable was a distant Marsh Harrier as well as a scattering of passage waders. We started with a Common Sandpiper before catching up with a couple of Whimbrel, a rather lonely looking Golden Plover and three Greenshank.
A thoroughly worthwhile day for the seven members who made it.
27 June 2021, Norbury Park by Mike White
Our group of seven departed the meeting point under a leaden grey sky but with a warm breeze blowing. A juvenile Coal Tit was in an adjacent fir tree and a cock Linnet with bright red breast was in the field hedge line. The fields held a selection of corvids and Stock Dove, Wood Pigeon and Pied Wagtails were around the horses (which were sporting a range of colourful headgear). The set-a-side in the field at the bottom of Bookham Wood held a very active family of Whitethroats, also Wren and Blackcap. A sudden burst of noise from the corvids alerted us to a Red Kite passing overhead and Swifts were also noted. Unusually the kite was the only raptor seen during the walk. Continuing towards Crabtree Lane the field held many singing Skylark.
Approaching the viewpoint above the A.24 the white rump of a Jay was seen disappearing into the wood. A very vocal Chiffchaff was eventually located and gave good views, not so a Little Egret that was flying along the River Mole just on the treeline. Herring Gulls passed up the valley and a family party of Long-tail Tits flew out from a tree. Refreshed by liquids from the mobile “Wild Coffee” stall we started our return. The only Song Thrush of the day was seen and a mixed flock of approximately thirty birds (nearly all Blue Tits but with the odd Blackcap and Great Tit) flew across the path.
Approaching our departure point the Swallows with nests in the stables at Roaring House Farm gave superb flying displays as they collected insects from under the treeline before making a sharp turn above our heads and returning to the stables. In the unsuitable conditions butterfly numbers were very low with singles of Ringlet, Common Blue, and Red Admiral and less than a handful of Meadow Brown seen.
20 June 2021, Knepp Wildlands by John Barkham
17 trippers met at the Knepp Estate in West Sussex for a circular walk through the ‘rewilded’ landscape of grassland, scrub, and woods. The cold, late spring meant no appearance yet of Purple Emperor butterfly, but we enjoyed multiple sightings of White Storks in flight. We viewed 3 stork nests with young during our walk, including an accompanying soundtrack of stork bill-clattering. The Visitor Centre reported there were a total of 15 chicks across 6 nests on the estate. Yellowhammer was frequently heard and occasionally seen, plus Linnet and numerous Common Whitethroat. Blackcaps were plentiful and Thelma helped us identify several singing Garden Warblers. There was a brief view of a flying Turtle Dove, before Rebecca found one perched on a wire and we all enjoyed excellent telescope views of the bird.
We negotiated the free-roaming Longhorn Cattle and Tamworth Pigs before arriving at our picnic spot, where we sat on a convenient pile of logs.
Later in the afternoon, we heard the song of a Nightingale, before eventually seeing the bird emerge several times from the dense scrub. There was a Great Crested Grebe nest on Hammer Pond and close views of a Goldcrest on the approach. Before returning to the Visitor Centre and a coffee, a Little Owl was seen working one of the nearby fields. The sun finally came out and a few trippers took a late-afternoon walk to the bird hide at the Knepp Castle Lake. Treecreeper, Reed Warbler, House Martin and Sparrowhawk were added to our list. In all, more than 50 birds were seen.
16 June 2021, Molesey Heath by Thelma Caine
Starting out on this sunny warm morning, we made our way across the lower section of the Heath towards the River Mole. A group of House Sparrows were active in the scrub early on, together with Whitethroats. In the trees and bushes alongside the Dead River, Goldfinches were active, and the songs of Wren, Blackbird, Song Thrush and Blackcap were all prominent. On arrival at the Mole, we soon heard the song of a Cetti’s Warbler from the far bank and a Moorhen was visible among the waterside vegetation, together with several Mallards. The wooded section along the Mole held singing Chiffchaff, Blackcaps, Robin, Wren, and calling Stock Doves, Collared Dove, Jay, Ring-necked Parakeets and Magpies. Emerging from the trees, we continued along the Mole, where another Cetti’s Warbler sang as we passed ‘the pipe’ and several Dunnocks were singing in the bramble scrub.
We made our way from here to Fieldcommon Gravel Pit, where we found a pair of Coot, a family of Long-tailed Tits flitting through the trees and Broad-bodied Chaser dragonflies, darting around at the water’s edge. There were more dragonflies of several species as well as butterflies, especially Meadow Brown, as we continued from here across the grassy area of the Brett estate land. A family of three Great Spotted Woodpeckers flew over, followed soon afterwards by a Green Woodpecker as we made our way to Molesey Gravel Pit. There were Coot here with young, Moorhens and a male Mute Swan with a family of cygnets. A local resident informed us that the female Swan had an injured leg and had been recently collected by someone from the Swan Sanctuary for treatment. It looked as though the male was coping on his own, especially as the local people feed the swans daily. From here we returned to the upper part of the heath, where a Greenfinch was singing as well as Whitethroat and Blackcaps and we had good views of a male Kestrel hovering overhead. We also located two Garden Warblers singing from cover and to our surprise a Reed Warbler was singing from the depths of a hawthorn close to the path, which brought our tally for the morning to 37 species.
While we were listening to the Reed Warbler, to our dismay, a tractor came into view mowing down the vegetation alongside the path. We dreaded to think how many creatures and wildflowers were being destroyed by this activity at a peak time for wildlife and raised the matter subsequently with Dave Page of Elmbridge Council who said in reply that they aim to cut paths once a year and start in mid-June, giving time for a second bloom later in the year and that they have to balance the demands of recreation with the needs of wildlife and this is their regime that achieves it.
12 June 2021, Evening Nightjar Walk by Stephen Waters
12 members and some guests arrived at Ockham common at 9.00. At first, we saw Woodcock flying and calling overhead. A little while later the Nightjars began calling. We got good views of one seen perched on a dead tree. The group stuck it out, despite the attention of mosquitos, and the evening ended at about 11.
6 June 2021, Horton Country Park by Paul Spencer
The highlight of this walk for most people was undoubtedly the Peregrine Falcons in residence on the Noble Estate. The female was perched like a Roman Empire Eagle totem on the ledge of the Water Tower. Rebecca Dunne carried a telescope, so everyone got a great view without getting too close to these magnificent birds.
I am not blasé about having Peregrines on my local patch but, the highlight for this leader were the 4 House Martins flying around the Epsom Polo field as they were a patch year tick.
I was also happy with Thelma’s help in locating a singing Garden Warbler, and picking out a fairly distant Lesser Whitethroat. We heard and saw a fair few Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Common Whitethroat were plentiful, but it was pretty hard to get good views against the green foliage. There was an adult Coot with two chicks on the meadow pond.
The meadow areas were bright with the yellow of buttercups and we spotted a Roe Deer at the edge of one field munching through the blooms.
Mid-morning refreshment was availed from an unusual, motorised café.
41 Bird species were recorded by a party of 11. The botanic highlight was a patch of Common Spotted Orchids on the Meadow. Top insect was a Red Admiral. The Zoo at Hobbledown Adventure Farm Park provided views of Camels and Asian Antelopes. Chessington World of Adventure provided the sound of roaring Lions. All very entertaining.
26 May 2021, Kempton Nature Reserve by Tony Quinn
This site is a part of the Wetlands Bird Survey, which I cover monthly, usually with Mike White. Having done the count three days earlier in cold and changeable weather my personal expectations were not high. Eight members attended and it actually proved to be quite a good day. From the Paul Jackson hide two Shelduck, a Stock Dove and a few Lapwing were on the flats. A distant Buzzard was soaring, and another appeared almost overhead. On the main lake there was Great Crested Grebe, a single drake Gadwall and Little Grebe, the numbers of the latter species having crashed locally during the last couple of years. Moving on, Cetti’s Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat were singing near the gate to the waterworks, the latter giving brief views.
Shortly after a Hobby appeared overhead. Near the South Hide, singing Reed Warbler and Reed Bunting appeared. Three more Reed Warblers were heard in the reedbed where there were also five Pochard (3 drake and 2 duck). The hides were threatened with immediate closure due to the nearby outbreak of the Indian variant of Covid 19, so we had to hurry to the North Hide, where, on the way a Cuckoo was heard, and a Sparrowhawk flew overhead. The only new species from the hide was a Red Kite. A walk down Bunny Lane produced a further singing Lesser Whitethroat, a soaring Buzzard and more prolonged views of the Red Kite.
23 May 2021, Epsom Common by Paul Spencer
There was quite a lot of blue sky early on during this trip but I knew from the weather forecast that there would be a greyer, damper, and breezier outcome before the end of the morning. So before I got to Chessington World of Adventures to meet Francis Hindon, (who is a new member of the Society), I stopped by Chessington Golf course which has naturally rewilded since the Golf course closed a few of years ago. There were 7 fluffy yellow Canada Geese goslings, a Little Grebe in smart summer plumaged, and a Grey Wagtail on the ponds which used to protect the second hole.
I saw a Peacock butterfly sunning itself on the wall of the Bus driver’s hut and saw a Lesser Black Backed Gull flying south. Francis arrived and I pointed out to her the Herring Gulls which are nesting on the Hotel roof, before we embarked on a quick march cross country to meet six other club members, including Cat, Robert, and Liz, who had gathered at the Epsom Common Stew Pond carpark. On route to meet them I showed Francis the Peregrine Falcons on the Noble Estate which were perched imperiously on the Water Tower.
The dense greenery of the trees and increasingly dull light made spotting birds in the foliage quite hard, so we had to rely a lot on our ears. My party soon had ticked off Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Whitethroat but strained to hear Treecreeper. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen briefly. A Grey Heron, a juvenile Cormorant and 4 Swallows were the goodies on the Great Stew Pond together with with Mallard, Canada Goose, Moorhen, and Coot. An unseen Cuckoo was heard nearby. In the High meadows we heard and glimpsed at least 4 Garden Warblers singing from dense scrub, noted a family group of around 50 noisy Starlings, tracked Song Thrushes singing in cover, saw 2 Stock Doves feeding and had a nanosecond view of the white rump of a Bullfinch.
The last hour of the morning was spent by me, Francis and Robert on Rushett Farm. As the inclement weather finally arrived from the West, Skylarks were singing lustily overhead. We spotted 7 Lapwings sitting in one of the fields, a couple of Whitethroats in a hedge and some further Swallows.
Overall, 40 plus species were recorded by the party.
16 May 2021, Tice’s Meadow & Crooksbury Common by Thelma Caine
Ten members joined this trip on what turned out to be a very wet day. At Tice’s Meadow, the songs of Blackcap, Wren and Song Thrush were prominent early on, and both Goldfinch and Greenfinch were active in Lisa’s Wood. Arriving at The Meadow, a flock of Canada Geese were gathered on the far side while Swifts, Swallows, several Sand Martins and House Martins wheeled overhead. Continuing along the path, we had good views of a Chiffchaff in the overhanging branches. The rain started almost as soon as we arrived at Hanson’s Hide, which unfortunately did not provide much cover as the rain was coming directly in. We made the best of it, scanning across the gravel pit, where the islands held nesting Black-headed Gulls, with Herring Gulls, Lesser Black-backs and Cormorants also in attendance. Coot, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Mallard, Tufted Duck and Great Crested Grebes were present among the wildfowl, while along the shoreline, we picked out several Lapwings and on the far side, distant views of Little Ringed Plover. Hanson’s Hide gives a good vantage point for birds of prey with Red Kite, Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk all seen overhead. As the rain continued, we carried on along the path beside the gravel pit. Several Reed Buntings were seen and the regular rhythm of the Reed Warbler’s song was heard. The new hide was completely flooded but on posts in the water we had close views of several Common Terns. On the return route, John’s group reported good views of a Garden Warbler in the scrub. Half the group continued on to Crooksbury Common for the afternoon. There was a brief sunny interlude while we had lunch but the clouds soon gathered again. Robin, Dunnock, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and several Goldfinches and Stock Doves were all seen early on and despite the steady drizzle, a Willow Warbler was heard singing and we had good views of several Stonechats and Dartford Warblers on the heath. A male Redstart sang briefly and was located at the top of a tree. Blue Tit, Great Tit and several Coal Tits were in evidence, flitting through the trees but Tree Pipit remained elusive. Goldcrests were located in the main stands of conifers and ‘tee-u’ calls alerted us to a small group of Siskins flying into the canopy. Later, we added Jay and a calling Cuckoo to the list, bringing the day’s tally to 54 species.
9 May 2021, Seaford by Rebecca Dunne
Male Melodious Warbler seen near Belle Tout lighthouse. End of report. That would probably be too brief a report but it was the highlight of the day. The weather was warm with a southerly breeze which had brought in more birds than had been seen in the area recently. One newer member saw five lifers – Kittiwake, Fulmar, Lesser Whitethroat, Corn Bunting and Melodious Warbler and messaged to say “What a wonderful days birding it was. What a friendly bunch Surbiton are.”
Nine of us met at Splash Point, four arriving early for a bit of sea watching. House Sparrows could be heard in the bushes behind the cars. Out at sea a pale morph and a dark morph Arctic Skua were seen along with Common and Sandwich Terns, Common Scoter, Shelduck, Gannet and Great Black-backed Gull. Peter heard Whimbrel and Mediterranean Gull.
Two of our group decided to spend the day on a walk to Cuckmere Haven while six of us headed to the kittiwake colony at the end of the Esplanade. Peter stuck with his sea watch but was able to confirm the sandpiper we saw flying off around the sea wall as a Common Sandpiper. The tide was high and as we stood on the sea wall we discovered why it is called Splash Point. Lots of optics had to be wiped down.
As usual the kittiwake colony was quite a spectacle, numbering over a thousand birds in previous years. It is one of the last remaining in the South East. Male birds tend to return to exactly the same precarious looking spot on the steep chalk cliffs each year. Nest sites had been reclaimed and mating was taking place. Birds flew back and forward carrying fresh seaweed to augment their nest. Behind the next headland Fulmars could be seen gliding in and out on stiff wings. John spotted a Peregrine up against a distant patch of brown chalk. Black Headed and Herring Gulls floated on the sea along with the Kittiwakes and the chalk stack had its usual half a dozen Cormorants. The high tide meant that the resident pair of Rock Pipits came very close on the stony beach, cliff and large concrete blocks at the base of the cliff where they probably nest.
We followed this with a coffee on the beach, along with a bit more sea watching, before driving up to South Hill Barns on Seaford Head. Rooks, Jackdaws and Crows were feeding on the fields and we saw Chaffinch and Whitethroat in the nearby hedge as we waited for Stephen. Once he had arrived, we headed off down Hope Gap, spotting a Painted Lady butterfly on the way. We watched and heard Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Robin, Linnet and Blackcap in the dense sheltered bushes which border the path and cover the cliff top. On the short turf nearer the cliff edge, we saw more Rock Pipits and a Meadow Pipit. Low flying spitfire planes were another feature of the day and the first one flew over us here.
Another high point of the day was watching soaring Fulmars as they appeared over the cliff edge between here and Coastguard Cottages, which was our lunch stop.
This gave us a good vantage point over Cuckmere Haven where we had a Brent Goose, a Barnacle Goose and a Greylag Goose amongst the Canadas. Little egrets, Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Mallard another Rock Pipit, and Oystercatchers completed the picture.
Once back up at the car park we decided that, rather than going to the Tide Mills at Newhaven, we would try for the male Melodious Warbler which had just been spotted east of Belle Tout Wood, according to our bird apps.
And we found it, thanks to a man waving from the bottom of the slippery slope we had just clambered up. Not lengthy views but still pretty good and it briefly flew to the top of a bush so everyone saw it. Bigger than expected was the general view, and a beautiful brown back contrasted with its yellow underside. Some stayed on by the impenetrable bushes it then disappeared into, but it wasn’t seen again in the next hour up till 5pm. Others walked through Belle Tout Woods and tracked down the Corn Buntings which had been heard over the cars, roaring motorbikes and overflying Spitfires. Robert found some Early Purple Orchids and there were carpets of Cowslips everywhere.
Other birds spotted as we waited for the warbler were Blackcap, Buzzard, Linnet, Lesser whitethroat, Goldfinch, Swallows, Stonechat, Green Woodpecker and Meadow Pipits. Looking back onto the cliffs by the car park there was another Peregrine. Total species 56.
5 May 2021, Staines Moor (midweek walk) by Thelma Caine
Twelve members joined this trip on a fine morning. Virtually the first bird of the day was a male Blackcap seen from the railway bridge. On the other side of the railway, a Red Kite circled in the sky. Seconds later we spotted another bird of prey overhead, this time a Peregrine. Several Crows started to ‘buzz’ this and were joined by a Kestrel. On entering the Moor, we made our way to a patch of sedges and soon found the first of several male Reed Buntings sitting up on a thistle head. Grey Heron, Moorhen, Coot, a pair of Mute Swan and Mallards with a family of well-grown young were all present on the Rive Colne. After crossing the river bridge, we had close views of a group of Linnets near the riverbank, the males resplendent with rosy breasts. A Little Egret flew across and we found more Reed Buntings in the low scrub. Around us, Skylarks and several Meadow Pipits were rising in song flight. On the short turf and among the grassy tussocks were a number of pairs of breeding Lapwings which were constantly flying up and chasing off Crows. In scattered low trees and bramble patches were several Sedge Warblers, their striking eye-stripe clearly visible and pale cream undersides gleaming in the sun. At least one of these was seen taking nesting material into the reeds. We had further excitement when a superb male Whinchat was located on top of another small tree further on. During the morning, more Red Kites and several Buzzards flew overhead as well as a pair of Kestrels. Also among the aerial birds were Swifts and several Swallows. Crossing the boardwalk at the far end of the Moor we found a male Whitethroat, a Cetti’s Warbler sang briefly and a Green Woodpecker yaffled from the trees.
We then crossed the next river bridge and entered a patch of scrub with scattered low trees. This was full of activity with more Linnets and Reed Buntings, several more Whitethroats, Goldfinches, Blackbirds, Robins, a singing Greenfinch and flitting through the willows, a Chiffchaff. Beyond this area, on the way to ‘the mound’, a grey bird with a longish tail flew by low in front of us, thought likely to be a Cuckoo from the head shape and flight pattern, rather than a bird of prey, and was seen to land in tussocky grasses some distance away. We reached the mound which gave a vantage point over the small reedbed and soon located a Reed Warbler which emerged and clung to an exposed reed stem. On the ground below, a Song Thrush and a Mistle Thrush were feeding. This area of the Moor is often good for passage Wheatears and before long, we located a male, then as we made our way back across the Moor, found a female and another male. The tally by the end of a very enjoyable walk was 50 species.
25 April 2021, Otmoor RSPB Reserve & Farmoor by Thelma Caine
Ten members attended this trip forming two groups of five with John Barkham co-leading. We headed for the Closes first, finding breeding Canada Geese and Greylag Geese, Lapwing, Mute Swan, Moorhen, Coot, Mallard and the first of many Marsh Harriers overhead. A Sparrowhawk flew low across the field and a Cetti’s Warbler sang loudly from the hedge. We later had good views of one further along and heard many more during the day. The Glossy Ibis, which had been present for several weeks, was feeding on the marsh here but soon took flight, then three Greenshank flew in giving good views. A Cuckoo called and a Grasshopper Warbler was heard reeling in Moorleys field. Whitethroat, Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were all singing here too. A Bullfinch called from the hedge but quickly flew, a male and female Pheasant emerged from the bushes and there was plenty of activity on the feeders, with Chaffinches and Reed Bunting joining Great Tits and Dunnock here. Surprisingly two Cranes were present in the marsh at Greenways seen by John’s group. A Great White Egret also showed well in the reeds and several groups of Shovelers were present on the pools. Sand Martins, Swallows, House Martin and several Swifts were feeding overhead. In the scrub beside the bridleway, the babbling song of a Garden Warbler was heard as well as more Blackcaps. Goldfinches were also seen flitting through bushes.
Skylarks rose in song-flight and close to the path, both Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers sang in the marshy vegetation. As we reached Big Otmoor, another small group of finches flew up – this time Greenfinches which landed in a tree. There was plenty of activity on Big Otmoor with numerous breeding Lapwing on the barer ground, together with several Redshanks on the wetter areas and more Canada, Greylag, and several Barnacle Geese feeding here. Searching the pools, a pair of Garganey were located by John’s group but soon flew off. A Spotted Redshank, resplendent in summer plumage, was also feeding on the pools. An odd-looking Ruff was present here also, sporting a black throat and upper breast, white head and variegated black and white plumage on the back. Four or five Black-tailed Godwit flew in and Curlew was seen in flight. There were more Shovelers on the pools here as well as Teal and a Little Egret was spotted in the reeds. The was plenty of gull activity on the further pools, with breeding Black-headed Gulls and several Herring Gulls and Lesser Black-backs present. Overhead Marsh Harriers, numerous Red Kites and several Buzzards circled above the marsh. Oystercatcher was added to the list at Ashgrave and there was much activity on the footpath here with a mixed flock of Reed Buntings, Linnets, Goldfinches, Chaffinch, Dunnock and both male and female Yellowhammer feeding on the ground. From here we made our way to the viewing screens overlooking the larger pools. On the way a Lesser Whitethroat was heard singing and seen briefly as it flew across the path. The pools held good numbers of Gadwall, several Pochards, Tufted Duck, Great Crested and Little Grebe, Moorhen and Coot. Grey Heron and another Great White Egret were lurking in the reeds, but the highlight here was a passage of Hobbies with at least five or six seen together.
After lunch we header for Farmoor and made our way along the causeway, finding several groups of Yellow Wagtails as well as Grey Wagtails and a few Pied Wagtails. A number of terns were feeding over the water, the stiff breeze and bright sunlight making identification tricky, but we eventually had good views of two birds which settled on a buoy and were able to clearly see the red bill with dark tip confirming they were Common Terns. A few with longer tail streamers were also seen, considered to have been Arctic Terns. Several gulls, behaving like terns and dipping down to the water surface were identified as Little Gulls, the key feature being their dark underwings with a white border. There were more Sand Martins, Swallows and Swifts here and a Hobby flew over. When we reached the far end of the reservoir, three Common Sandpipers were feeding by the water’s edge. As we returned to the cars, the sky was full of Red Kites and Buzzards circling together. 83 species were recorded by the end of a productive day.
14 April 2021, West End Common by Rebecca Dunne
This midweek walk was attended by 5 people including 2 new members. The weather was beautiful, and we had a pleasant wander through the woods and past the various ponds. Highlights were a photogenic Goldfinch pulling nesting material from the fluffy seed head of a bullrush and 4 swallows which had just returned to their nest sites in Garson’s stables. We also noted that, as usual, there was no bird life on the ploughed fields outside the West End Common fence but plenty within the woods and open glades. We speculated that this is because there are no weed seeds or invertebrates for them to feed on following treatment with herbicides and pesticides. Farmland bird species numbers have crashed in recent years and these fields just demonstrate this. Within the woods however bird song was all around us particularly Blackcaps, Chiffchaff, Wrens and Robins.
We had the following 29 species: Blackbird, Blackcap, Buzzard, Canada Goose, Carrion Crow, Chiffchaff, Coot, Cormorant, Dunnock, Egyptian Goose, Goldfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Greylag Goose, Herring Gull, Jay, Long-tailed Tit, Mallard, Mistle Thrush, Pied Wagtail, Ring-necked Parakeet, Robin, Rook, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Stock Dove, 4 Swallows and Wren.
As an add on to the walk Mike, Manish and I then walked around the Ledges. We started on the lower path looking along the banks of the Mole, beneath the steep wooded slopes known as The Ledges. Kingfishers can be seen here but not on this walk. Having huffed and puffed our way up the afore mentioned steep slope we looked over into the distant fields of horses to see the geese, before returning through the woods to West End Common car park.
11 April 2021, Bookham Common by Stephen Waters
The 10 members who turned out for this walk were split between John Barkham and myself in order to be complicit with government Covid 19 restrictions. From the car park at Bookham railway station, we crossed the footbridge and walked north though the common. We first head and then saw a small group of Redpolls, and then a pair of Bullfinch in the abundant Blackthorn bushes. Blackcaps were very vocal, and we had good views of these at various times.
We reached the series of ponds at the north part of the common and from the hide overlooking one of the ponds we watched a Little Grebe fishing and taking small fish to its mate who was calling from a nest hidden in the reeds. At another pond, Grey Herons were sitting on their nests. At a third pond a pair of Mute Swans were nesting close to a pair of Canada Geese on an island. While the females were nest sitting, the male swan constantly chased the male goose round and round the pond pecking at the tail of the goose which stubbornly failed to fly off. It was all very Tom and Jerry.
At Downside we looked for Yellowhammers and found a suitable spot for a coffee break. On the way back to the station we stopped to see a pair of Treecreepers building a nest in a tree stump.
Ockham Common Wednesday 7 April 2021 by John Barkham
14 members met for a mornings walk on Ockham Common and Wisley Airfield. On leaving the car park, we had an unexpected encounter: several noisy Crossbills, who landed above us and started to feed on pine cones. Walking on, we followed the treeline around the heath and spotted Song Thrush, Blackcap, Siskin, Coal Tit and Woodpeckers; Green and Great Spotted. Dartford Warbler was heard singing and one of our groups was treated to close views of a Dartford in the heather. We reached the newly refurbished Semaphore Tower on Chatley Heath, encountering a low-flying Red Kite on route. After returning to the car park, we crossed the road and viewed Bolder Mere Lake. A Coot already had chicks. Moving on to Elm Corner, one of the houses had a concentration of noisy Siskins and also Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Blue and Great Tits. We continued to the disused Wisley Airfield and soon spotted Skylarks, either in song flight or on the ground, plus several flyover Linnets. Rebecca found us a pair of Wheatear: definitely a highlight of the trip! Mike added 2 Red Kites to our list and Common Buzzard. We walked the abandoned runway and returned via woodland onto Ockham Common and the car park.