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.