26 November 2017 – Farmoor Reservor and Otmoor RSPB by Paul Spencer
I left Surbiton at ten past eight with Peter Knox driving. We stopped for ten minutes to tick off the local mega at Staines Reservoir, the probable American Shorelark ( aka Horned Lark). It was feeding voraciously on the west bank of the north basin and we were lucky to be offered telescope views. The most obvious feature I saw was the arctic white rather than lemon yellow forehead and eye-stripe. It had a dark crown and dark upper parts, a lighter ’’egg custard’’ yellow throat and rufous wispy flank bits. We both would have liked to have stopped longer but I had a field trip to lead. We dragged ourselves away.
Arriving at Farmoor at 9.45am we quickly joined Mike White, Stephen Walters, John Barkham ( known collectively as “the Bookham boys”) and Rebecca Dunne. Everyone was wrapped up well to face a cold but sunny day. There were plenty of Pied Wagtail and Grey Wagtails feeding for insects on the causeway between the two reservoir basins. Most of the action was on Farmoor 1 which had perhaps 200 + Tufted Duck, 30 + Great Crested Grebe , Cormorant and Coot. The best duck found here were Goldeneye which totalled 7 females and 2 males, although there was a dirty flanked Aytha hybrid amongst the Tufted which has been identified as either a Scaup/ Lesser Scaup cross or a Scaup/ Tufted cross.
We did a short circuit of water meadows by the Thames having the first official Society snack in the Shrike hide at 11.30!. We saw Redwing, Fieldfare and a few Bullfinches including a female which appeared lame due to a possible fungal growth on its legs.
There were not may gulls but our attention on our return was drawn to an adult Herring Gull struggling with a large fish in the bank tide. A closer look through Mike’s scope produced yellow rather than pink legs so the bird we were looking at was a Yellow Legged Gull.
After a brief unsuccessful stop at Barnards Gate to look for Hawfinch we arrived at Otmoor about 1.30. On the first feeders we saw lots of Blue Tits and Great Tits and a male Great Spotted Woodpecker. From the Wetland watch hide we saw lots of Reed Buntings and Linnets . A pair of Stonechat and a Cetti’s Warbler were noted on the reedy fringes of the meadows. Peter heard a Raven gronk but it was not seen. A Buzzard overlooked a field containing Teal, Grey Lag and Canada Geese. Several Snipe flew over.
We had absolutely brilliant views of Red Kites overhead which normally would have been the outing standout but I am afraid the Starling murmuration was to blow everything else out of the water. By the end of the day the question on everything one’s lips was ‘’ Where is Ben Saha’’? (Ben is the Society’s biggest Starling fan). We walked up to the screen which overlooks the main reedbeds. Shovelers swam in the shallow lagoon whilst two Marsh Harriers quartered the reedbeds. By 3.35 pm we had only seen a few small starling flocks but in the next half hour before the sunset we were treated to a spectacular aerial display as wave upon wave upon wave of Starlings arrived from all directions to form amazing swirling dense clouds . Some of the forms actually resembled giant whales in their fluidity!! In the end it was estimated that there was 80,000 Starlings. A couple of Sparrowhawks were seen chasing the Starlings and a Kingfisher zoomed across as the light faded. The Starlings disappeared into the reed beds to roost appearing to be sucked in by an unseen giant hoover. It was a wonderful end to a really good day’s birding – 63 species recorded.
Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Grey Lag Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Coot, Moorhen, Water Rail (Heard) Pheasant, Herring Gull, Yellow Legged Gull, Common Gull, Greater Black Backed Gull, Black Headed Gull, Snipe, Redshank, Woodpigeon, Stock Dove, Green Woodpecker (Heard), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Kestrel, Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Red Kite, Sparrowhawk, Kingfisher, Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Wren, Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Redwing, Fieldfare, Stonechat, Cetti’s Warbler (Heard), Blue Tit, Great tit, Long Tailed Tit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Bullfinch, Linnet, Reed Bunting, Siskin (Heard) Crow, Magpie, Jay, Jackdaw, Raven (Heard), Rook, Starling
29 October 2017 – Papercourt Gravel Pits & Pyrford by Paul Spencer
The morning’s walk was delayed by about 25 minutes as six members who met at the PaperCourt Meadows car park waited patiently for the arrival of the leader and one other who had to get there by train, replacement bus service and taxi! The Leader thought he heard Siskin calling in the car park as he rushed to find the rest of the group who had already notched up Grey Wagtail on the banks of the River Wey plus half a dozen resting Egyptian Geese.
Scanning some low scrub adjacent to the river we got good view of two pairs of Stonechats, one of which was being followed by a Dartford Warbler which also gave several good brief views. The Dartford was the top bird of the walk and followed other recent sightings of this species away from surrey heaths in Richmond Park, Hogsmill Nature Reserve and Tice’s Meadows. From the same area we had excellent views of a Grey Heron, a perched male Sparrowhawk, the first of maybe three male Kestrels and a few Meadow Pipits. Several Jackdaw flocks took to the air.
We walked up to PaperCourt Lock to view meadows on the other side of the river. Here we got even better views of another pair of Stonechats and a Kestrel being mobbed. There were several Blackbirds in the hedgerows and a Mistle Thrush was scoped. A Buzzard was heard mewing once.
On the Papercourt lake, the boating activity meant bird activity was mainly at one end . We had nice views of Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, Coot, Moorhen and Common Gull on the water, a Robin posturing on the grotty Ripley Brownies hut, a calling Skylark high in the sky and a fleeting glimpse of a Goldcrest amongst a party of Long Tailed Tits . Five Rooks were feeding in a grass field as we returned to the carpark. A flock of 50-60 Redwings overhead was a welcome sight.
Six of the party very briefly visited the Sandy Lane fields at Pyrford. Alas no stubble fields and one set of trees cut, the winter wheat crop devoid of wildlife apart from one lonely female Chaffinch.
Around 40 species recorded by group
13-15 October 2017 – Norfolk Residential Weekend by Thelma Caine
22 joined the weekend visit to Norfolk. On Friday, most of the group visited Welney on route, where the Visitor Centre produced excellent views of Tree Sparrows on the feeders together with Goldfinches. Out on the reserve we were excited to see a large flock of over 30 Cranes which stayed until late afternoon before flying off. The pools in front of the main hides were full of wildfowl including Whooper and Mute Swans, Wigeon, Teal and smaller numbers of Gadwall and Shoveler. There were a good variety of waders on the reserve too including Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Snipe, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper, Lapwing and a large flock of Golden Plover. Several Marsh Harriers were quartering the fields, we also saw Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Buzzard and a juvenile Peregrine hunting over the main pool.
Those visiting Snettisham on route reported Pink-footed Geese, Shelduck, Pintail, Little Egret, Avocet, Oystercatcher, Knot, Grey Plover, Little Stint, Curlew, Redshank, Turnstone, Wheatear and Stonechat. Highlights at Kelling included Curlew Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank and a Red-necked Phalarope. Also a Grey Phalarope was reported from Titchwell. A very good start to the weekend!
Around half the group joined the early morning birdwatch at Holme beach before returning for a hearty breakfast. We then headed for the main reserve where large flocks of Greylag and Pink-footed Geese were feeding in the fields. The pools here were well populated with duck including Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler, several Pochard and Tufted Duck. A Little Egret probed in the shallows and there were a good variety of waders including Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Snipe, Redshank and Curlew. A single Red-legged Partridge was spotted with its head just above the vegetation. We also had good views of Marsh Harriers hunting over the fields and various other birds of prey during the morning including Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Buzzard. The weather conditions were unsuitable for ringing at the Observatory but a walk through the NOA reserve produced Goldfinch, Siskin, newly arrived Redwing and Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush, Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker and various tits including Coal Tit. A Chiffchaff was seen flitting through the branches and the loud song of a Cetti’s Warbler was heard. Along the beach, Oystercatchers and Sanderlings were feeding while a breezy seawatch produced Brent Geese, Common Scoters and Gannets.
After lunch, we moved to Titchwell for the afternoon where among the smaller birds we had excellent views of Bearded Tits in the reeds close to the path. The Freshwater Marsh was full of waders and duck. Highlights were Black-tailed Godwits, several Avocets, Ruff, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Little Stint, Snipe and Golden Plover. Moving on to the Brackish Marsh, Grey Plovers and both Black-tailed and a Bar-Tailed Godwit were probing in the mud. Feeding in the smaller pools on the saltmarsh on the opposite side of the path were Little Egret, Redshank and Curlew. Those that made it to the beach reported Oystercatcher, Knot and Turnstone. Several Cranes were seen in flight and there were frequent views of Marsh Harriers. Later in the afternoon, a large group of gulls gathered on the Freshwater Marsh, among them Mediterranean Gull, and a Greenshank which flew off calling. As the light faded a Water Rail emerged from the reeds near the Island Hide giving excellent views and skeins of Pink-footed Geese headed for their roosting grounds along the coast in the sunset. For several of the group, a return visit to Holme in the evening brought sightings of a hunting Barn Owl, and a Tawny Owl was heard calling from the hotel car park. A further sighting of a Barn Owl came the following morning reported by Paul from fields near the hotel.
There was news of a Cattle Egret at Stiffkey, so most of the group stopped off here on route to Cley on Sunday and had excellent views of the bird in a field, stepping among a group of cattle and standing on their backs, picking off insects. Several of the group also had a Red Kite soaring overhead here. Many had also stopped earlier along the A149 where a large flock of geese were gathered in fields including many Pink-feet and a few Greenland White-fronts.
At Cley, several Cetti’s Warblers were heard singing from the boardwalk, one in a tree with a male Stonechat eventually emerged giving excellent views. Pat’s Pool, was full of duck including Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall, and Shelduck. A flock of Black-tailed Godwit were actively feeding, together with several Avocets, Lapwings, Ruff, Dunlins and a few Little Stints. Flocks of Golden Plover wheeled in the sky and many Greylags and Pink-footed Geese were feeding in the fields as well as a few Egyptian Geese. A Red Kite flew over while we lunched at the Visitor Centre and we once again had good views of Marsh Harriers as well as Buzzard and Kestrel. Some of the group then headed for the beach where a sea watch produced Brent Geese, Arctic Skua, Kittiwake, Guillemot, excellent views of Gannets and incoming flocks of migrant Chaffinches.
A superb male Hen Harrier was seen by John Barkham flying over fields at Stiffkey before sunset and Rebecca reported a Great White Egret the next day at Holme, bringing the overall total for the weekend to 115 species.
1 October 2017 – Langstone Harbour and Hayling Island by John Barkham
7 members rendezvoused at the Ship Inn and we crossed the bridge onto Hayling Island to park at the Oyster beds. We watched waders on the shoreline, including Grey Plover, Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits and Little Stint. A distant flock of Pintail was also seen in flight over the Harbour. We then drove to Sandy Point Nature Reserve at the south-east corner of the island.
The walk along the beach and past the lifeboat station added Northern Wheatear to our list. Brent Geese had recently arrived in large numbers for the winter and we watched them and Sandwich Terns from the beach by the Sailing Club. A check on the latest weather forecast warned us of imminent rain showers and so we agreed to relocate to Pagham Harbour and its hides. Arriving at Pagham, we had lunch and a coffee at the visitors centre and then decided check the Ferry Pool: this proved to be a wise decision. On entering the hide, an Osprey was immediately spotted perched on a post overlooking the pool. We enjoyed excellent views of the bird in the scopes before it took to the air, pushed on by the local Carrion Crows. A walk around the harbour added six Spoonbills seen in flight and at rest, plus more waders including Whimbrel. We ended the day at Church Norton, having been spared any rain. In all 55 species were seen.
17 September 2017 – Cliffe Pools by Steven Waters
A great time lots of good birds seen
3 September 2017 – Dungeness by Chris Turner
A good turnout of twelve members enjoyed an excellent days birding down at Dungeness. The ARC pit seems to be going from strength to strength with the water level just right. Not a huge number of waders, but an excellent selection, with an American Pectoral Sandpiper alongside a Little Stint , a single Knot, three Greenshank, a couple of Common Sandpipers and 20 odd Black Tailed Godwits. Amongst the more expected wildfowl we had a couple of Pintail, with a sharp-eyed Paul finding us one of three Garganey. No such skill was required for an extraordinary view of a lingering Osprey which flew over the pit towards us, hovered and then floated right over the hide. Magical.
A jaunt down to the sea was rewarded by views of a young Black Tern as well a good numbers of Sandwich and Common Terns and of and a party of Common Scoter heading west. Perhaps the most fun was had was with the Harbour Purposes, which seem to be going past the point in good numbers at the moment. A fly over Yellow Wagtail as well as a couple of Northern Wheatears showed that passerine migration was also underway.
The main RSPB reserve usually delivers, and today was no exception. Most of the group “enjoyed” very brief views of a two Cattle Egrets amongst the cows at the entrance to the reserve. More impressive were the five (I think) Great White Egrets and a couple of Spoonbill. Along with the half a dozen Little Egrets it was rather like being in the Med. More evidence of wader passage came in the form of another Little Stint, two Avocet, two Ruff, a Ringed and a Little Ringer Plover. Perhaps more expected were the couple of hundred Golden Plover, a glimpse of a family of Bearded Tits, good numbers of Marsh Harriers and a group of some six Yellow Wagtail.
A nice surprise were the two swift amongst the many Sand Martins, probably the last of the year for many of us.
A final look at the sea produced three Artic Skua as well as more Harbour Purposes. (Eighty-nine species for the day.)
6 August 2017 – Oare Marshes by John Barkham
13 trippers made the outing to the Kent Wildlife Trust nature reserve at Oare Marshes on a bright and sunny morning. Having parked the cars, we were soon greeted by a flock of young Bearded Tits in flight across the reed beds. We then started our circular walk on the sea wall overlooking the river Swale. A distant bird in the mud attracted our attention, which we carefully checked in the scopes before deciding it was a Whimbrel rather than a young Curlew. A group of birders from RSPB East Grinstead put us onto a distant Turtle Dove. Walking the sea wall, we soon added Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Reed Bunting. Unfortunately there was no sign of the Bonaparte’s Gull on the shoreline where it was usually seen in the mornings. Waders at rest on the East Flood included several hundred Black-tailed Godwits, as well as good numbers of Golden Plover, Lapwing, Avocet and several Ruff. Peter Knox picked out 2 Spotted Redshank and, more amazingly on the far side of the Reserve, a Little Stint feeding among the Dunlin. We later managed to get really close views of the Little Stint when we returned to the road which cuts through the middle of the Reserve. Lunch in a hide was forsaken for lunch on a bench overlooking a female Garganey. We then decided to walk west along the Swale and duly found a small party of Yellow Wagtail taking a bath in one of the overnight pools of rain. Marsh Harrier was seen over the Isle of Sheppey on the far side of the river. Returning to the reserve, a call from Mel alerted us to the Bonaparte’s Gull which had returned to feed on the newly exposed river mud. At close-to the short black bill and pink legs were distinctive. However, on moving away, the bird proved tricky to identify amongst the Black-headed Gulls when we tried to judge its smaller size and more attenuated rear end. Having seen our target bird and made a Shinebaum by exceeding the required 50 by 6, we decided to head home.
24 June 2017 – Chobham Common Nightjars by Thelma Caine
As soon our group of 10 had arrived at the meeting point, the heavens opened, so we waited 30 mins for the downpour to abate, before setting off across the heath. Several birds were heard early on. A Blackcap sang briefly in the woodland and soon after, a Green Woodpecker ‘yaffled’ in flight. Among the other songsters was a prominent Song Thrush and one or two thought they may have heard distant Redstart and Tree Pipit but these were unconfirmed. As we neared the pylon line, ‘chack’ calls alerted us to the presence of several Stonechats flitting about on low pine trees, including a handsome adult male. Birdlife was generally quiet after that but we encountered a group of several Linnets before sunset. On the return route, as the skies began to darken, the rapid scratchy warble of a Dartford Warbler was heard from a clump of gorse. It sang constantly for around 10 minutes, as we scanned the area and nearby birch trees, but try as we might, we could not locate it. By 9.45pm, the first Nightjar began to churr some distance behind us, then another bird began churring loudly from birch trees beside the path. Sharp-eyed members of the group located the bird perched on a branch. It then made a short flight over the vegetation showing the typical white spots in the wings and tail. The bird then settled and called again and another Nightjar further on, joined in the chorus. After a while, the first bird flew again giving the ‘gwick’ flight call and most of the group had good views as it rose above the skyline. After that we headed back, using torches to light our way. We were almost back to where the cars were parked when another Nightjar started churring to our right. Several stragglers heard the bird give the flight call, then in the semi-darkness, two birds flew up together over the path and seemed to settle in a nearby birch tree, giving the lucky few an unexpected bonus at the end of the walk.
June 4 2017 – Rye Harbour by Graham Avison
A lovely hot summer day but very windy on the exposed beach area. Our party of 13 walked down to the Wader Pool area to see Little Egret, quite a few Avocets – several families too, Skylark, Linnet, Ringed Plover and Shelduck along with the ubiquitous Egyptian Goose accompanied by the piping of Oystercatchers. We were fortunate to see a family of Wheatear with great sightings of both adult and young. From these same Wader Pools we also saw a Bar-tailed Godwit, and Little and Common Terns.
A stop on the beach, against a strong wind we observed Cormorant, Sandwich and Common Tern, Gannet and various gulls passing by. The party then stopped at the Ternery Pool hides. From the comfort of these buildings we were able to observe Sandwich Tern in large numbers, two Mediterranean Gulls, a Common Gull, a Black Headed Gull family, a Knot, Redshank and sightings of a Marsh Harrier.
Heading inland to the Long Pit water we were able to see a good number of Lapwing and a Little Ringed Plover. We observed a Sand Martin at the car park, and now into the woodland and grasslands we encountered Swift, House Martin and a few Swallow. In spite of the strong wind we were able to record sounds and in some cases sightings of warblers: Cetti’s, both Common and Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Reed and good views of a Sedge. Along the reed edges of the Long Pit walk we heard and saw Reed Bunting.
We took the wider route to return to border Camber Castle and Castle Water. We were lucky enough to see a great view of a Hare as it tried to hide in open field and then make a run for it! From this area we again saw the Marsh Harrier, the Hobby briefly, a male Cuckoo, two fine Mistle Thrush feeding on the ground and on the final straight a Kestrel over the road. 67 species.
21 May 2017 – Stodmarsh by Peter Knox
Three club members left Surbiton on warm sunny morning while everyone else went direct. We were held up on the M25 due to a trailer losing a wheel. This delayed us by about twenty minutes so on arrival everyone else were waiting for us (my directions had worked). We had a grand total of Fifteen on this outing making a sizable group. The first thing to be noticed was a bee nesting on one of the buildings in the car park. We moved into the wet woodland finding a pair of Treecreepers, there was probably a nest site close by. There was plenty of warbler song including Blackcap and Garden Warbler. Some members had views of a Bullfinch.
As we left the woodland we could hear and had some limited views of Cuckoo and soon afterwards distant views of up to seven Hobby hawking over the reed beds were seen. We also saw both male and female Marsh Harriers. The first port of call was to be the Marsh Hide and on route we saw and heard both Reed Bunting and Reed Warbler. Stephen was also fortunate to see a Water Vole swimming across one of the reedbed channels. The Marsh hide was quiet so we moved on to the Harrison hide. On route we had views of Common Whitethroat and had a Sedge Warbler singing. Some of the group also managed to get excellent views of a Cuckoo in flight. At Harrison Hide we had lunch but there was only a limited amounts of bird life, but we did see some brief views of a Cetti Warbler after hearing them everywhere up to date.
After lunch we moved on to the Feast Hide which also provide little except, outside of it we did get our only encounter with Bearded Tit and this was only brief snatches of them calling. Now we headed to the Grove Ferry ramp and this was also very quiet we did see a sizable group of ducks. In the paddocks behind the ramp there had recently been reported sightings of Turtle Dove so I suggested we did two circuits of them. On the first we had two snatches of song and a good flight view of one bird. When we came to the river on the first circuit we were greeted with a singing Nightingale. The second circuit did not add to what we had seen or heard and so we headed along the river back towards the car park. Not long after we started our return walk we did hear another closer Nightingale but like the first it did not provide any views. More warblers were heard and seen on our way to the Tower Hide which of course included Cetti Warblers. At the Tower hide we saw Common Terns and both Great Crested Grebe and Little Grebe. Some of the group did see a Kingfisher in the channel close to the hide. Near to the end of the walk we all had excellent views of a Cuckoo in a tree overhanging the path.
At the end of the walk some of us did pop into Oare Marshes and saw a few waders.
May 7 2017 – Devil’s Punch Bowl by Paul Spencer
A dull cold morning greeted a party of 12 at the Punch Bowl. Treecreeper, Nuthatch and Bullfinch were seen in the top wood. The chill air subdued the singing Blackcaps, Chiffchaff and Willow Warblers but there were several of the more recently arrived Garden Warblers singing sweetly along the ridge at Highcombe and a distant Cuckoo was heard. We had a great scoped view of a male Redstart singing from the top of a dead fir. Descending into the bowl a mewing Buzzard drew out attention to a Red Kite floating high. We saw two more male Redstarts, one either side of the Keeper’s cottage. Blackbird, Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush were feeding in a grassy field as Stock Doves ‘’fooed’’. Reg Norman was lucky to see a Spotted Flycatcher just before we heard a further sing off between two more Redstarts as we crossed the valley stream. Our lunchtime spot overlooking the bowl provided us with our sixth singing Redstart and a glimpse of a Garden Warbler. By one o’clock the cloud was beginning to disperse and the temperature soared prompting Brimstones to get flighty. A Buzzard soared off Gibbets Hill where we had excellent views of two Woodlarks feeding on the ground and perched in a tree; their contact calls being noted. Moving on to Hindhead Common we added Stonechat, Whitethroat and Tree Pipit on the heath before refreshments at the National Trust café.
A reduced party of seven then moved on to nearby Thursley Common for a walk which went twice round the boardwalk via the well-known raptor mound and Parish fields. The evocative call of a Curlew drew us towards the bog. Off the boardwalk we saw said Curlew and had quite magnificent views of 2-3 Hobbies acrobatically hunting dragonflies. In the island copse a Willow Warbler had Coal Tit wheezes in its song. At least 5 more singing Redstarts and two more Tree Pipits were recorded and there were a few Buzzards soaring and two Kestrels. On the walk to the mound we saw a male Cuckoo chasing a female Cuckoo who was bubbling. The male Cuckoo was likely to have been the ‘’ star’’ bird which had been photographed in the Parish field eating mealworms. There were several people with big lenses seated in the Parish field hoping to capture the event; some had been waiting three and a half hours for the bird to land on a branch over a rabbit hole. Their lack of fieldcraft was amazing. We also had brilliant views of at least five Dartford Warblers on the heath some carrying food in their beaks and some near Stonechat territories.
April 23 2017 – Richmond Park (Inc Holly Lodge) by Rebecca Dunne
Warm sunshine provided pleasant conditions for six of us to meander around the centre of the park. Starting from Pen Ponds car park we heard Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming and a Song Thrush singing in Spankers Hill Wood. Lawn Field produced good views of Wheatear (2m 1f), Reed Bunting, Wren and a Kestrel being mobbed by Jackdaw. A Red Kite lingered over Pen Ponds and a Cormorant and 4 Greylag Geese flew away from the water. The Upper and Lower Pen Ponds added Great Crested Grebe, Pochard, Egyptian Geese, Mandarin, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Moorhen, Coot, Mute Swan and Canada Geese. The telescope gave good views of two of the four Grey Heron nests on the island in Upper Pen Pond and the well grown, grey, punky feathered, youngsters caused some amusement! A small group of Swallows swooped briefly down and Martins (probably Sand) were seen behind the trees. We spent some time looking at ‘Mike’s mystery grey blob’ on the island in Upper Pen Pond which turned out to be a sleeping female Pochard! After crossing the causeway, we saw a pair of Stock Dove and a Treecreeper. We were peering at a Long Tailed Tits’ nest in the undergrowth by the pond when a Common Whitethroat flew up from the brambles. Further along, by the reed bed, we heard Reed Warbler and Blackcap. Next we crossed Pond Slade heading towards Isabella Plantation. Green Woodpecker flew away and we watched a hunting Kestrel. We were looking at an old oak tree where Kestrel have a nest hole when another pair of Common Whitethroat popped up and everyone saw them clearly.
We all enjoyed the spectacular display of azaleas and rhododendrons in the Isabella Plantation, however the number of people doing the same meant that most of the birds were keeping a very low profile, although we did hear Chiffchaff and Nuthatch and watched 8 male Mandarins on Peg’s Pond, flicking their heads and in ‘full sail’ with wings and crests raised, as they pursued 2 females.
Jackdaw and Ring Necked Parakeet were in every wooded area, some of them nesting in tree holes. After the Isabella we headed towards Gibbet Wood and then to Prince Charles Spinney which was rather quiet, although we did glimpse more Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs and saw a pair of Jay. Altogether a total of 42 species were seen during the morning and bacon rolls and coffee at the kiosk rounded off the morning nicely for 3 of us
April 9 2017 – Bushy Park Family Day by Thelma Caine
We were lucky to have a fine day for this series of guided bird walks in the Woodland Gardens. Erica & Geoff Gill led the first walk at 9.30 which produced Goldfinch, Chaffinch, 2 pairs of Great Spotted Woodpeckers, several Green Woodpeckers, Nuthatch, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Blackcap, several Chiffchaffs and various wildfowl including 4 Mandarin Duck, several nesting Coots, Moorhen, Tufted Duck and Egyptian Geese. Mike White, Tony Quinn, Thelma & Gary Caine led further walks during the morning, adding Collared Dove, Stock Dove, nesting Long-tailed Tits, Jay, Treecreeper, Grey Heron, Kestrel and two Buzzards to the list. By the end of the four walks, a total of 37 species had been recorded. Around 70 people participated in the walks of which 22 were club members and 48 were 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 those who helped me pack up at the end, all of whom contributed to a successful and enjoyable morning!
April 2 2017 – Medmerry/Pagham Harbour by Mike White
Fourteen members joined the initial club visit to Medmerry RSPB on a bright and pleasant day. Whilst assembling in the Earnley car park we noted a Buzzard in the adjacent trees. Beginning the walk out to the beach area, the first birds noted were two Corn Buntings, soon joined on the list by Stock Dove, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Yellowhammer and Chiffchaff, from the surrounding farmland, whilst overhead we were alerted to Mediterranean Gulls by their constant meowing calls. Closer to the Stilt Pools, Kestrel, Linnet and Reed Bunting were also seen. On the Stilt Pools were Tufted Duck, c40 Avocet, Canada Geese, Wigeon, Gadwall, Shoveler, up to six Little Ringed Plover, a lone Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Teal, Little Egrets and many Mediterranean and Black-headed Gulls. We then left the Stilt Pools and continued to the beach for a mid-morning break. An elusive Wheatear was seen by some members whilst others noted Common Scoter and Gannet passing at sea. We retraced our steps and relocated to the Pagham visitor centre for lunch. Many of the commoner tits and finches were added to the list via the centre feeders. We had a quick look at the Ferry Pool before relocating once again, this time to Church Norton. In the harbour, the two Peregrines were sitting on “their” island and Dunlin, Grey Plover, Knot, Curlew, Turnstone, Redshank and the resident Whimbrel were on the mud. Two Godwits then caused much discussion, one obviously a Black-tailed Godwit and the other very much smaller and with an apparent slightly upturned beak. Eventually the incoming tide caused the smaller bird to fly and it showed itself to be another Black-tailed Godwit. A lesson learned in the possible size differences of this species. We then walked out to the sea, on the concrete spit another more obliging Wheatear was seen, the sea proved to be very quiet with only a few Great Crested Grebe on the water. A very enjoyable day with 72 species recorded, many thanks to all participants
March 19 2017 – WWT London Wetlands Centre, Barnes by Jonathan Hannam
The weather was not brilliant, being overcast and breezy, but nine members enjoyed a varied morning walking around the Barnes reserve. We started off by taking the south route to the Peacock Hide. Along the way, we saw Pintail, Teal, Gadwall and Wigeon, as well as Great Crested and Little Grebe. We also heard, and then briefly saw, a Cetti’s Warbler and heard a Chiffchaff. From the top floor of the Peacock Hide, we were put onto a very well hidden Jack Snipe that was resting next to a Common Snipe, so that we could appreciate the difference in size. Whilst there, we also had good, if distant, views of a Wheatear and a Peregrine. We also saw a few early Sand Martins that were feeding over the water. On the way back to the cafe for a coffee break, we listened out for a reported Willow Warbler, but were unsuccessful. After coffee, we headed out along the northern route, where we had even better views of a Cetti’s Warbler. Arriving at the Waterside Hide, we looked at the Wheatear from another angle and saw more Common Snipe, this time in the open. At this point, some of the group elected to stay in the hide whilst the rest of us went back to the Visitor Centre. Overall, exactly 50 species were seen.
March 5 2017 – Rainham Marshes RSPB by Paul Spencer
A party of nine worked hard for their birds at Rainham RSPB in cold blustery conditions – 55 species noted. Thankfully apart from a couple of brief fierce showers the approaching very dark rainclouds did not release their deluge until after we had left. It did mean that we were not tempted to walk back to the Rifle Butts hide where at dusk a Short Eared Owl was seen quartering.
We did record four raptors, having good views of 3 Marsh Harriers (1 male, 2 females), 2 Kestrels, 1 Buzzard and 1 Peregrine Falcon, which spooked some of the 1500 Lapwing and 300+ Wigeon on site as it zoomed through. The Wigeon were accompanied by c 60 Shoveler c. 50 Teal and c. 40 Pintail.
We spent a lot of time looking for Common Snipe and Jack Snipe. Obviously the Snipe were easier to find and from the Ken Barett Hide we counted 8 in rough vegetation under the Pylon. We eventually did find 2 tiny Jack Snipe from the Purfleet Hide, aided by an enthusiastic kid.
The other highlights were a brilliant view of a Water Pipit ( 2nd of the year on club trips) and the search for a small white wader amongst the wildfowl and lapwings which in the end we nailed as a Dunlin. David Darell-Lambert would have been proud of us!
Full list: Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Grey Heron, Cormorant, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Pintail, Shoveler, Teal, Shelduck, Gadwall, Canada Goose, Grey Lag Goose, Mute Swan, Moorhen, Coot, Snipe, Jack Snipe, Redshank (3), Curlew (2), Lapwing, Black Headed Gull, Herring Gull, Common Gull, Greater Black Backed Gull, Kestrel, Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Peregrine Falcon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Stock Dove, Pied Wagtail, Water Pipit, Rock Pipit (H), Skylark, Pied Wagtail, Robin, Cumnock, Wren, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Starling, Stonechat (1 female), Cetti’s Warbler (H), House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting, Pheasant, Magpie and Carrion Crow
February 19 2017 – Home Park by Thelma Caine
A large group of 19 people came on this walk, with Friends of Bushy & Home Parks joining SDBWS members. We entered the park via the Walled Paddock and quickly encountered several Goldfinches and a small flock of Chaffinches which flew overhead and landed briefly in the trees. Soon afterwards, around 20 Redwings gathered in the treetops and a Nuthatch was heard calling nearby. As we headed up the avenue of trees towards the Stud House, we had excellent views of a Great Spotted Woodpecker which landed on a tree-trunk and a female Kestrel which was perched on a fallen branch and was later seen hunting. A Green Woodpecker called and flew up from the ground in characteristic undulating flight. Near the Stud House, a number of Skylarks serenaded us, rising in song over the tussocky grassland. A Song Thrush was also heard singing from the Stud House garden and several Stock Doves flew out from the trees there. Numerous water birds were on Long Water including Coot, Mallard, Tufted Ducks, Mute Swan, Canada Geese, Egyptian Geese and several Great Crested Grebes. One of the highlights of the morning were excellent views of a male and two female Stonechats which flitted over the vegetation near Long Water and perched close by in low trees. Another male and female were seen further on. The overflow ponds beyond Long Water produced pairs of Gadwall, Mute Swan, Moorhen and a Heron. Another of the morning’s highlights came as we moved on to the boundary fence to check for birds in the Paddocks. A raucous sound was heard overhead and we looked up to see a Buzzard being mobbed by several Crows. After this, our route then took us along the far bank of Long Water and on to Oak Pond where a pair of Shoveler were seen sheltering under a willow and a pair of Teal emerged from the reeds. Alison Fure, who returned via the Stud House, reported a Tawny Owl calling there. By the end of a fine morning’s birding, we had recorded 39 species.
February 5 2017 – Blashford Lakes and Blackwater Arboretum: A day of delights by Peter Knox
Four members left Surbiton on an overcast and misty morning. We passed through some dense misty patches but had an uneventful journey. As we disembarked from the car at Blashford we were greeted by the song of Nuthatch. We quickly met up with the Bookham boys and Rebecca and headed towards the Woodland hide. En-route we could see high in the trees small flocks of Siskin. Paul then called a Water Rail and we were treated to great views of this bird in the open. Not long after we had a Redwing low down. We then headed into the hide to be greeted by a wonderful display of finches, seeing at least three Brambling (male and female), close views of Siskins and all the common woodland species. The only one missing was Redpoll which have been thin on the ground this winter in the south. After we had had our fill we moved the Ivy South hide where we had a display of all the common ducks including a single female Goosander.
We now had a quick visit to the Ivy North hide which produced nothing and so we headed back to the centre seeing a couple of Mistle Thrushes. Back at the centre Stephen treated us to a hot drink at the pop-up cafe before we headed to the Tern hide. This hide was not very productive due to a brisk cold North West wind keeping the birds relatively far away, although we did get distant views of a Black necked Grebe. We quickly moved on to the Goosander hide but en-route we had good views of Goldcrest and we bumped into another bird group had just seen a Firecrest. We spent a little time looking for this bird but unsuccessfully. We decide we would have another go on the return journey. The Goosander hide was more productive giving use excellent views of both male and female Goosander at least twenty birds. We now moved on to the Lapwing hide for lunch and we hoped for better views of the bird life. We found the Black necked Grebe which provided better views. We also had better views all the duck species and some distant views of Common Buzzards and best of all we had close views just in front of the hide of a Water Pipit. After lunch we head back to the car on route Paul saw a Great White Egret and we all had good flight views of this bird. We arrived back at the place where the Firecrest had been seen and had a search for this bird; Stephen did manage to see it but no one else. Time was short so we started back to the centre but after only a few yards a Firecrest appeared and everybody had some views of this fast moving bird. Now it was time get a move on for Blackwater Arboretum but for Mike another bird would come his way only as he was just about to leave the centre someone from the cafe saw a Kingfisher in there garden behind the centre and he got a view.
As we arrived at the car park at Blackwater Arboretum and we were greet with at least six Song Thrushes feeding in the leaves by the car park. Once we arrived in the arboretum and had set up our scopes it took less than five minutes to find our first Hawfinch perched high in a tree in the open providing good scope views and this was quickly followed by another. This was possibly the quickest sighting of this species we have ever had and allowed us time to search for other birds. Reg found a Marsh Tit coming to a slightly hidden feeder. A number of us found male and female Bullfinches amounting nearly to a double digit count. Rebecca found a Treecreeper and we all found more Hawfinches in great light and some Siskins. In the process of trying to help some other birders find a Hawfinch we manage to find a single female Crossbill. The light was fading and so it was time to head home. It had been a great day with some excellent birds and a species count of 68 birds
January 22 2017 – Staines Reservoir by Gary Caine
I was alerted very early that Bedfont Lakes was closed for safety reasons so it was a case of early calls to all those who had said they were going direct to let them know of the hasty switch of venue to Staines Reservoir. Staines is always a good back up option because of the easy flat walking between the two basins. Yes it was a very cold start (my car temperature registered -4.5C) but it was radiantly sunny and there was no wind. This meant the water was flat calm, not a ripple anywhere and the light was excellent especially for viewing on the east basin. There were large numbers of Tufted Duck, handsome Pochard and Wigeon, the males resplendent with buff heads and the yellow stripe across the top. There were also resting Gadwall, Mallard at the water fringes and a few Mute Swan. We were delighted to see at least 6 pairs of Goldeneye and they thrilled us with their incomparable courtship display of neck extended and bill pointing skyward. A few Shoveler, a couple of Shelduck and several Teal were also to be found. As we moved towards the far end where the rafts are, several helpful locals drew our attention to a duck with a more greyish back than the group of Tufted Duck it was with and this was a male Scaup, a first year drake. It was a lifer for David Abrahams! On the return walk we added Lapwing, a single Redshank and 2 Black-Necked Grebe, which were on the west basin. Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit and Goldfinch were also located around the margins. It was great to be joined on this walk by 12 members and a visitor and in all we had 31 species on what proved to be a highly enjoyable morning. Thanks to Mike White for supplying the excellent shot of a male Goldeneye (see cover sheet).
January 8 2017 – Lee Valley by Ruth Shinebaum
On a surprisingly warm and bright January day, 5 overdressed birders started at the Bittern Hide at Fisher’s Green, shortly joined by the 6 who had used the wrong car park. We quickly moved on because of the complete lack of bitterns, and made our way slowly towards the Grebe hide. Redwing and Fieldfare were seen in small numbers, a Sparrowhawk flapped and glided overhead and we spent some time scouring the large flock of Chaffinches in the unfulfilled hope of something more unusual. The Grebe Hide produced Grebes (Great Crested), lots of Pochard, 2 Egyptian Geese and a single female Goldeneye, but none of the rarer winter ducks we were hoping for. We then circled back to the Bittern Hide for a late lunch via the specially seeded field which held the Chaffinches we had seen earlier and a similarly sized flock of Linnets. Still no bitterns but a wonderful and extended view of a Water Rail pottering around. We then did a circuit further south to Hall Marsh Scrape and from the Teal Hide (no teal) we added Gadwall and Stonechat to the day list. Unfortunately none of us had thought to check the car park closing times so rushed back through the failing light, adding a final Little Egret en-route, and were pleased to see our cars hadn’t been locked in.
49 species seen or heard:
December 4 2016 – Capel Fleet and Harty Ferry by Peter Knox
Three members left Surbiton on a sunny morning with little wind. We had an uneventful journey meeting up with the boys from Bookham and Rebecca at the raptor mount. They had already had plenty of good birds including Marsh Harrier and a good size flock of Chaffinches. We spend some time seeing more Marsh Harriers, Common Snipe, and plenty of other birds. We also found some Golden Plover and a distance Corn Bunting on the wire. Then in one of the field we found a group of eight Ruff and we caught sight of a large flock of small birds in a stubble field which turned out to be mainly Skylarks and Linnets.
We now move down to the Fleet to view the various ducks and water birds which included a large flock of Coots. Then a Peregrine put up all the birds giving great views of its self. From here we moved on to Shellness because the tide would be in coming which would give us a good chance of good views of any waders. After parking our cars at the start of the rough track to Shellness we slowing made our way along the shore line and we started to get great views of the following birds Dunlin, Knot, Black tailed Godwit, Bar tailed Godwits, Sanderling and many others. We move on to the pillbox seeing our only Ring Plover of the day and then onto the end of the track to see if we could find some recently reported Snow Buntings. Unfortunately we could not find them due likely to a couple of families having an afternoon walk. We moved back to the pillbox to have lunch so we could get out of the wind which had become stronger but still be in the sun. We were able to scan the salt marsh and the beach roost while eating. After lunch we headed back to the cars and had more great views the waders, Mike White was able to get some good photographs.
Our next stop was the Harty church from here we walked to the track that goes down to the salt marsh to have a scan. New member Reg spotted a Ring tailed Hen Harrier flying past which was a good spot. We also found a flock of Avocets down on the Swale. Time was moving on and we wanted to get back to the raptor mount to watch the raptor roost and hopefully an owl or two. Gradually the harriers turn up and one point we had at least twelve Marsh Harriers in the air at same time. The day finished with fantastic sunset and a distant Barn Owl quartering. We had seen or heard 81 species which included 16 waders species.
October 23 2016 – Rainham Marshes by Jonathan Hannam
A group of twelve 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 a chilly easterly wind kept the reported Bearded Tits well out of our sight. Our route took us anti-clockwise around the reserve, which was suffering from the lack of recent rain that meant that most of the scrapes were dry.
The wooded section provided the usual winter selection including Redwing and Reed Bunting. The lack of water meant that waterfowl numbers were low, but we did record Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall, Pintail, Tufted Duck and Mallard. A Kingfisher flashed by as we were viewing the lakes, as did a Sparrowhawk, whilst a Marsh Harrier patrolled the centre of the reserve. There were plenty of Lapwing and few elusive Snipe, but no other waders.
The highlight of the trip came next, with good views of a Cattle Egret. We had heard rumours that there was one (or possibly two) on site as we were walking around, but to not only see it but to get good views as well was a bonus.
Pipit identification proved challenging but, whilst lunching in the Shooting Butts hide, we eventually decided that the little brown job that was scurrying around the edge of the water was indeed a Water Pipit. On the route back to the visitor centre we again missed seeing Bearded Tits. After a refreshment break, we walked a little way along the river bank, and added Redshank, Shelduck, Curlew, Dunlin and one Black-tailed Godwit to the list. Altogether the group saw 61 species, though two others stayed behind and added three more, including Rock Pipit.
October 14-16 2016 – Dorset Weekend by Thelma Caine
Our group of fourteen members travelled to Dorset on Friday, sites visited by members on route including Blashford Lakes, Arne, Poole, Wareham and Studland Bay. Pick of the birds at Blashford included Little Egret, Curlew, Buzzard and a superb Kingfisher, initially seen on Ivy Lake and which later flew to an adjacent lake and perched in full view. Highlights at Arne included Brent Geese, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Raven, Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Sandwich Tern, Stonechat, Dartford Warbler, and newly arrived Redwings. A flight of Common Scoters were seen off Studland Bay but the day’s undoubted ‘star bird’ was seen that morning by Paul Spencer who travelled to meet the group from Portland Bill, and with great excitement, reported having seen a juvenile Red-Eyed Vireo, an American rarity which had landed at the Observatory just before he left.
Around half the group joined the pre-breakfast birdwatch on Saturday, setting off at dawn along the cliff path from Swanage towards Ballard Down. Drizzle eventually gave way to early morning sunshine and birds began to pop up on cliffside bushes and in the wooded gullies. Migrant Song Thrushes were much in evidence, feeding on berries. Other birds seen along the way included Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Bullfinch, Goldfinch, Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, a flock of Pied Wagtails, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Sparrowhawk – a good start to the day! After breakfast our first venue was Durlston Country Park. Two Siskins were seen early on in the woodland near the castle. We then followed the cliff path towards the lighthouse, getting good views of Shags on the rocks below with Gannet, Sandwich Tern, Oystercatcher and Brent Geese all recorded over the sea. On reaching the lighthouse, we headed up to the wooded gully for our coffee break. A Green Woodpecker took off as we approached. This was followed by a Stonechat which popped up on the scrub and a Blackcap emerged from the undergrowth. A larger bird then appeared followed by a second bird close by, thrush-sized, blackish. With some excitement we noted the silvery wing panel, then glimpsed the diagnostic white gourget – two Ring Ouzels! After watching these for several minutes, a harsh call overhead alerted us to the arrival of a Raven, which landed on the upper slope of the gully. The route back produced sightings of both Kestrels and Sparrowhawk. After lunch we explored Studland Heath. We soon located several Stonechats, then a darker bird with a long tail popped up briefly – a Dartford Warbler! This bird continued to tantalize us, showing fleetingly every now and then as it followed the Stonechats around. Another group of Stonechats a short distance further on, were also accompanied by a Dartford Warbler. A female Reed Bunting was also seen here. We then moved on to view Poole Harbor as the rain arrived. Luckily we reached the hide in time and had excellent views of many waders and wildfowl feeding on the mud at low tide. Wigeon and Teal were accompanied by several handsome Pintails. Little Egrets fed in the creeks while waders included flocks of Black-tailed Godwit and smaller numbers of Lapwing, Curlew, Redshank, Dunlin, two Greenshanks, Oystercatcher and three Avocets.
On Sunday we took the ferry across to Brownsea Island, meeting up with Brian and Sue Wilson who joined us from Bridport. Large numbers of waders and wildfowl were present all day on the lagoon giving excellent views, among them over 300 Avocets, a small flock of Spoonbills, Little Egret, Black-tailed Godwits, Lapwings, Dunlins, Redshank, several each of Greenshank, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Snipe and two Knot. Among the duck were sizeable numbers of Wigeon and Teal, together with Gadwall, Shoveler and Shelduck. Kingfisher and several Grey Wagtails were also seen here while the surrounding woodland produced Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, Coal Tit and Goldcrest as well as several close sightings of Red Squirrels. By the end of this enjoyable weekend, we had recorded 97 species.