8 July 2018 – Box Hill (Butterflies and Orchids) by Paul Spencer
After completing the Claygate 5 mile country run in the morning, on behalf of the Fircroft Trust, in a very slow time of 73 minutes and forty seconds , I ‘’hot footed’’ it by 465 bus to Burford Bridge at the bottom of Box Hill. I arrived 20 minutes late from the 2pm start accompanied by Simon, who had also missed the earlier bus. Sadly it did not matter as we were the only two on the walk. My suggestion of walking poles due to the ‘’Kilimanjaro’’ steepness and the scorching hotness had probably put people off! Simon was very good at botany, identifying Wild Marjoram, Lady’s Bedstraw, Rose Bay Willowherb, Field Scabious and St John’s Wort. A deep purple orchid might have been a southern marsh orchid! I managed to get Simon on to some excellent views of Marbled White, Holly Blue and Deep Green Fritillary (Sic) butterflies at rest on purple clover and bramble. We did not see many birds (10 species) – the highlight being some baby crests feeding in a yew tree!
10 June 2018 – Staines Moor by Thelma Caine
Four members joined me on this fine, sunny morning. On entering the moor, we explored the marshy areas alongside the River Colne. Reed Warbler was heard singing here and several popped up to give good views. We also had a brief glimpse of a Sedge Warbler, its eye-stripe clearly visible. Across the river, several male Reed Buntings sang and obligingly sat on top of bushes. We had numerous sightings of hunting Kestrels throughout the morning and several views of Peregrine. It was a good morning for birds of prey as we also saw a number of Buzzards and had excellent views of Red Kite. Along the river were Mute Swans, Mallard, Moorhen and Coot. Grey Herons and several Little Egrets were feeding in the marshy areas and in the shallow stretches of the river. Later in the morning, a pair of Shelducks flew over, heading for King George VI Res. This is an excellent habitat for breeding Skylarks and Meadow Pipits and we had numerous views of birds rising in song flight. Groups of Linnets were active too and we had several sightings of Stock Doves in flight. We explored an overgrown path at the far end hearing Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Garden Warbler and Cetti’s Warbler. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over and a lone Lapwing was observed in a probable breeding site. After a coffee break, we explored the scrub at the far end, finding Whitethroat, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Green Woodpecker and Long-tailed Tit, bringing the morning’s tally to 47 species.
20 May 2018 – Dungeness RSPB by Mike White
We arrived at the ARC Pits to find many more vehicles than usual in the car park. The reason soon became obvious when local birders told us that a Bee-eater had been seen in the area early morning (not reported again during the day) and also that a Kentish Plover was showing well on the main reserve. At this point my “Plan A” went out of the window and “Plan B?” whatever that was, became operative. Whilst awaiting the rest of the group a Cetti’s Warbler gave several bursts of song and then showed briefly, also a Cuckoo was heard. With the group assembled we made straight for the Dennis Hide on the main reserve, the hide was full and a small queue was forming. Eventually everybody had a turn in the hide and were able to see the Kentish Plover, a cracking little bird. We then left for a sea watch at “The Patch” unfortunately conditions were poor with visibility reduced, we did however manage to see Common Scoter, Gannets, Sandwich Tern and a flock of 50+ Common Tern. Close scrutiny of the gulls present failed to turn up anything unusual. We then returned to the ARC Pits, walking to the hide, Common Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Reed, Sedge and Cetti’s Warblers were seen or heard, with Swallows, Swifts and House Martin overhead. From the hide many of the common wildfowl species were present, at least two Bitterns were seen in flight and a Marsh Harrier drifted past, soon followed by a dashing Hobby. Exiting the hide the only Chiffchaff of the day was heard, and another Bittern was seen. We drove around to the back of the reserve at Dengemarsh to search for the Hoopoe. Yellow Wagtail and Great White Egret were seen whilst waiting, after a slight repositioning the group were all able to see the Hoopoe which was tucked down behind gorse, out of the stiff breeze. We then returned to the main reserve, stopping briefly at the entrance gate to check for Tree Sparrow, one of which duly obliged. A passing warden told us that their numbers were well down this year. The Kentish Plover was still present and had been joined by a Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Sanderling. At the next hide Turnstone and Greenshank were seen and then a Little Gull which gave excellent flight views. Also in view were 3 Common Scoter, 2 males and a female. It was good to get close views of this sea duck instead of the more usual distant fly past. We then walked the loop of the reserve which was alive with warblers and perhaps most numerous of all were Reed Bunting. Linnet were collecting nesting material and at one of the viewpoints we had our only sighting of Cuckoo. Some members remained for an evening sea watch and added Kittiwake and Mediterranean Gull to the total. Many thanks to all for an excellent days birding with a total of 89 species seen/heard.
13 May 2018 – Newhaven and Seaford by John Barkham
Six members met at the seafront and we walked down the beach to the cliffs at Seaford Point. We watched a large colony of breeding Kittiwakes perched on cliff edges and taking to the air. Several Fulmars were also seen in flight, with their stiff wings barely moving as they glided to and Newsletter 340 – July 2018 8 fro. There was little activity on the sea with an occasional Gannet or Sandwich Tern fly-by, plus a couple of Sanderlings, a flock of Common Scoter as well as the local gulls. After coffee at the beach café, we relocated to the top of Seaford Head. A gentle walk along the cliff edge bought us to picture-postcard views of the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head. We spied two peregrines on one of the cliffs and taking to the air. Scope views over the river mouth of Cuckmere Haven revealed several Shelduck but no waders. A sheltered valley (Hope Bottom) gave us Linnet, Blackcap, Common and Lesser Whitethroat. After our sandwich lunch, we made a stop for ice cream at McDonalds where we added a lone Swallow while enjoying our McFlurrys. Next was Newhaven Tide Mills and a walk through the abandoned Victorian village to the beach and onto Newhaven East Pier. There were numerous Skylarks, more Whitethroat and Linnet, plus Stonechat with young. One of the beach pools had several Dunlins feeding, plus a Ring Plover. Our final unscheduled stop was in the town centre of Lewes for views of the chalk cliffs at the Cuilfail Tunnel. Here there were 3 young Raven, plus an adult, at rest on the cliff and occasionally in flight, giving us close intimate views. In all 50 species were seen.
5 May 2018 – Horton Country Park by Paul Spencer
I had a leisurely morning stroll round the park with Liz O’Brien who becomes our new membership secretary in June. I gave her a masterclass in the songs and calls of Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Common Whitethroat and by the end she had nailed Chiifchaff!, the teck teck of Blackcap and the buzz scold of Whitethroat. Alas no Lesser Whitethroat or Willow Warbler, which were present a week, before and the Peregrines must have been on the nest on the West Park Hospital tower. We did have a poor view of a Kestrel taking flight from an electricity pylon and a good if distant view of a Common Buzzard soaring above Chessington. Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Ring Necked Parakeet and Grey Heron gave nice views and we had a flight view of a pair of Bullfinches. Twenty six species recorded.
29 April 2018 – Pagham Harbour by Mike White
On a bitterly cold day with the wind gusting at force 5-6 from the North East it was no surprise I was joined by only two other members for the walk around the harbour. Many of the commoner finch and tit species were around the feeders at the visitor centre and the Kestrel was in its nest box.
We then walked around the Tramway towards the new Ferry Hide, encountering Blackcaps, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Whitethroats. A Cuckoo was heard and then seen briefly along the path. Shortly afterwards this or another bird flew across the lower harbour and perched in bushes adjacent to the Long Pool, giving much better views. The Ferry Pool held Black tailed Godwits, several in near full summer plumage, Avocets, Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal, two Common Sandpipers and a lone Spotted Redshank just short of its full black breeding plumage. Two Redlegged Partridge were hunkered down at the back of the pool and Cetti’s and Sedge Warblers were calling from the surrounding area. Amongst the gulls we picked out several Mediterranean and Common Gull. Walking up the side of the Long Pool Reed and Sedge Warblers were heard and eventually a Sedge Warbler gave a “parachute” display flight. Little Grebe and Tufted Duck were on the pool with Swifts and Swallows overhead. A Buzzard drifted overhead and a Skylark was heard. We then moved to Church Norton where the only waders were Oystercatcher, Whimbrel, Turnstone and a lone Bar-tailed Godwit. Sandwich and Little Terns were roosting on Tern Island and the female Peregrine was on “there island.” The circular walk along The Severals and back via Greenlease Farm was very quiet and added very few birds. Returning to Church Norton car park we took lunch, being joined at this stage by four other members who had arrived at various times through the morning. One person had seen a Great White Egret. We then drove to Selsey Bill for a very brief seawatch. The only movement on/over the sea provided by Gannets moving through. Returning to Church Norton we had another look at the harbour adding a Ringed Plover to the days total of 70 species.
15 April 2018 – Rainham Marshes RSPB by Jonathan Hannam
A group of ten members gathered at the visitor centre for the start of an interesting walk around the reserve. The weather was overcast with the occasional ray of sunshine but it kept dry. From the visitor centre, we scanned the Purfleet scrape and picked up Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall, Pintail, Tufted Duck and Shelduck, together with a few well hidden Snipe.
There were reports of Grasshopper Warbler by the Marshland Discovery zone and a Black-necked Grebe on the Aveley pools so, having decided that the grebe was more likely to stick around, we set off clockwise around the reserve to see if we could find the warbler. In this we were unsuccessful, though we had better luck with other early migrants, with good views of Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat. We also managed to catch a glimpse of Cetti’s Warbler. Meanwhile, every other bird that we saw turned into a Goldfinch! However, further down the path we were fortunate to see two or three very elusive Bearded Tits and a Short-eared Owl showed up briefly as it quartered the reserve.
After a lunch stop at the Shooting Butts hide, where we watched at least 6 Marsh Harriers flying around, we walked around to the Aveley pools, to find that the Black-necked Grebe was still in good, if rather distant, view and very active. Heading back to the visitor centre, we saw and heard more of the woodland species, such as Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch and Greenfinch, and a few members picked up a short snatch of Lesser Whithroat. As we approached the Purfleet scrape again, a couple of Avocets flew in and a distant hirundine was seen but not positively identified.
After a refreshment break, we walked a little way along the river bank. Some terns had been spotted flying along the far bank, but again were too far away to be positively identified. Nothing new was added, though the intrepid members who walked as far as the Serin mound in search of the reported Great White Egret did add Stonechat to the list. Altogether, a total of 61 species were recorded.
8 April 2018 – Bushy Park Guided Walks by Thelma Caine
Heavy rain was forecast but luckily it had left off by 8.30am and didn’t rain again until the last walk of the morning. Erica & Geoff Gill led the first walk at 9.30, with further walks led by Tony Quinn, Rebecca Dunne and myself. Early highlights were a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, seen and heard in a tree near the entrance gate to the Woodland Gardens and in the same tree, a single Redpoll. We also had good views of Great Spotted and several Green Woodpeckers. Among the wildfowl were Mandarin Duck, several nesting Coots, Moorhen, Egyptian Geese and a male Teal in the company of Mallards. Birds active in the woodland canopy included Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Song Thrush, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Goldcrest, Jay, Stock Doves and Chiffchaff. By the end of the four walks, a total of 35 species had been recorded. 25 people participated of which 9 were club members and 16 visitors, including a number of families. Thanks are due to all those who helped in setting up, leading the walks, assisting at the reception desk and packing up at the end, all of whom contributed to an enjoyable morning.
17 February 2018 – Barnes WWT by Jonathan Hannam
On a bright sunny day, eleven members joined the leader on a morning’s stroll around the London Wetland Centre. We started off on the southern route, looking for the Siskins that had been reported to be there. From the Dulverton hide, we enjoyed good view of Pintail, Great Crested Grebe, and a female Goldeneye and more distant views of Common Snipe. We heard but did not see a Cetti’s Warbler and found the Siskins in the alders by the feeders. However, we were soon drawn away by reports of Bittern visible from the WWF hide. A single bird was patrolling along the water’s edge and gave us excellent views. Proceeding to the Peacock hide, we saw distant Stonechats and a view of a second Bittern, along with Wigeon and Teal. Scanning the wader scrape, we were fortunate to spot a single Jack Snipe.
After a short break for a coffee at the cafe, we headed out along the northern route, but nothing new of note was added, though we did have closer views of the Stonechat. Altogether, 53 species were seen by the group.
4 February 2018 – Blashford Lakes by Peter Knox
The Day of the Finches
Paul and I left Surbiton on a sunny morning and headed south. On route we had three Red Kite circling over us as we drove around Winchester.
Arriving on site in good time we met up with Rebecca initially and then Mike and John. A Lesser Scaup had been reported the day before and early on this day from the Lapwing hide and so we made our way to this hide. As you would expect the hide was quite full but we managed to find some space. The bird had not been seen since the report earlier that morning so we scanned the lake without success. We did find a Green Sandpiper, plenty of Goosander both male and female, two Black-Necked Grebes and Paul pickup two Snipe.
After a good search we moved on to the Goosander hide from here we could see plenty of Pintail both male and female and a couple of Common Buzzards.
Now we moved over to the Woodland hide for a wonderful display of small birds. Here we had great views of Brambling male and female, Siskin of both genders, a single male Redpoll and a couple of Goldcrests just outside the windows of the hide. This is just a sample of the wide range species and spectacle we were given by the birds from this hide. Just after leaving the hide, Paul put us on to a Sparrowhawk flying over.
We now moved on to the Ivy South hide from which saw large number of duck including Wigeon, Common Pochard but only a single Teal.
Next stop was the Ivy North hide which seemed very quiet at first. Then a Little Egret flew south across the lake and then two flew north followed by a Great White Egret which landed in a tree on the other side of the lake in full view which was very nice.
We headed to the centre to use the pop up cafe before heading for the Tern hide. On arriving at the hide it was jammed packed and so did not spend to long here before heading for Backwater arboretum.
On arrival we set ourselves up in the usual spot and waited. Not having to wait to long for the Hawfinches to arrive. They gave plenty of good views and in one case we had four birds at the top of a tree. There were also a pair of Bullfinches and two Treecreepers. We stayed until the light started to fade before we decided to leave collecting 79 species for the day list and having once again some wonderful views of the birds.
7 January 2018 – Dinton Pastures Country Park by Thelma Caine
Six members joined our first walk of the year on a chilly, bright and breezy morning. A singing Mistle Thrush greeted us on arrival and a flock of Fieldfares and several Redwings were seen early on. We had a very enjoyable walk, starting at Black Swan Lake where we had good views of wildfowl including Tufted Duck, Pochard, Goldeneye, several Great Crested Grebes, Mute Swan, Cormorants, Canada & Egyptian Geese, Coot, Moorhen and lots of Gulls. Overhead a Buzzard soared into view, closely followed by the first of several Red Kites and further along, a Grey Heron rose from the reeds. At White Swan Lake there were good numbers of Gadwall and Wigeon and a Sparrowhawk flashed by overhead. We had heard that there were two drake Ferruginous Ducks around and a helpful local birder advised that they were close by at Middle Marsh. Sure enough we quickly located them and had super views of the two birds which were swimming and diving in the company of Tufted Ducks. As well as the dark chestnut head, their gleaming white eyes were a distinctive feature. Apparently they are colour-ringed and originated from Germany where captive bred birds are being re-introduced at Lake Steinhude, near Hamburg. [http://berksbirds.co.uk/archive/2017/11/dintonferruginousducks.asp] We had lunch at Sandford Lake watching more duck including a flock of Shovelers, their colours superb in the sunlight. Overhead a large flock of Lapwings wheeled in the sky, probably disturbed by a bird of prey, and on one of the islands, four Snipe were sheltering in the vegetation. After lunch our path followed through woodland where we found a small flock of mixed Goldfinches and Siskins feeding on Alders, their yellow plumage gleaming in the sun. At Lavells’ Lake there was much activity around the bird feeders, with Chaffinch, Blue and Great Tits, Long-tailed Tits, Robin, Dunnock, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, female Reed Bunting, Moorhen and a female Pheasant all vying for a share of the food. Out on the lake there were Teal along with other ducks, more Snipe and Lapwing, the quick flash of a Kingfisher which flew past the hide and more sightings of Buzzards and Red Kites overhead. It was a great start to the New Year with 52 species seen.