Walks and Outings Reports 2019

5 May 2019, Tice’s Meadow and Crooksbury Common, by Thelma Caine

Twelve members joined the trip to Tice’s Meadow- a new venue for the club. First of all we explored the woodland and scrub which produced good views of Greenfinch, Blackcap, Whitethroat and Chiffchaff. We also heard several Garden Warblers singing in the Hawthorn scrub and got fleeting glimpses of them in the foliage. The Tice’s Meadow group have set up a feeding station in the wood and there was much activity here with Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinch, Nuthatch, Robin, Dunnock, Blue and Great Tits, Blackbird and Collared Doves all vying for a share of the food.
Rebecca was lucky enough to see a pair of Bullfinches here which arrived just after the rest of the group had moved on! On the approach to the flooded meadow, we scanned the fields, finding a Brent Goose among the Canada Geese and both Red Kite and Buzzards overhead. Our visit coincided with the ‘BioBlitz’ event at this site and on reaching Horton’s mound, there were various tents with displays from the Surrey Bird Club, BTO, and other local wildlife groups. On the water were Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, Pochard and Great Crested Grebes. Mallards and Canada Geese had broods of young and the islands held a colony of breeding Black-headed Gulls together with Common Terns. Around the edges of the islands and the main lake were several Lapwing and various migrant waders including Common Sandpiper, 2 Dunlins, Little Ringed and Ringed Plover and a Black-tailed Godwit. A Sandwich Tern flew over the field calling and later we had good views of a Little Egret in flight. We also had excellent views of a male Reed Bunting and the ringing group, who were providing demonstrations during the morning, showed us a female Reed Bunting in the hand. Moving on to the reedbed, we heard singing Reed Warblers and many hirundines were feeding over the water including Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins with Swifts overhead.
We lunched on arrival at Crooksbury Common, with a few lucky enough to spot a female Redstart in the conifers. After lunch we had excellent views of a pair of Dartford Warblers, Stonechats and a singing Tree Pipit. Things quietened down after that with Green Woodpecker heard and Jay, Goldcrest, Blue, Great and Coal Tits seen and distant views of several Buzzards. A pair of Partridges were flushed twice by dogs and seemed from the rusty brown plumage in flight to be more like Grey Partridge than Red-legged but we were unable to confirm the species with certainty. The undoubted highlight of the day came as we finished the walk when a large bird of prey flew low in front of us and over our heads showing features of powerful build, broad wings, longish tail and flap, flap glide flight pattern. After a few moments, taking in all the features, we realised it was a Goshawk-probably a female from the large size! A fantastic end to a successful day which produced 68 species.


28  April 2019 – Pulborough Brooks by Mike White.

In bright but breezy conditions we began the walk by visiting the viewpoint over-looking the heathland. Three Buzzards were seen in the distance. In front of us a pair of Shelduck circled before dropping on to the heath and investigating a potential nest site. Continuing towards Black Pond a Pheasant, Coal Tit, and Stock Dove were heard and Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Blue Tit and Great Tit seen. A lone Mallard was on the pond.
Continuing through Black Wood towards Hales View we saw Nuthatch and Blackbird. From the view point a Common Whitethroat (the first of many) and a Kestrel gave excellent views perched in the bare tree. On the South Brooks were Lapwings, Little Egret, Mallard, Teal and Redshanks whilst a Marsh Harrier quartered the area.
Retracing our steps and passing through the visitor centre we watched House Sparrow and Greenfinch on the feeders. Walking down the zig-zag we heard and eventually located the first of several Lesser Whitethroat, seen or heard during the day. In Fattengates courtyard a Song Thrush was in full voice and a Cuckoo was heard, before it flew overhead, at the same time as a Swift. Approaching West Mead hide we located four Whimbrel, which were then spooked by a Red Kite. Swallows and Sand Martins were also passing through. From the hide itself we saw Mute Swan, Cormorant, Greylag Goose with close views of Redshank and Lapwing. From Winpenny hide Coot, Sand Martin, Gadwall and a distant Stonechat were seen.
Leaving the hide the first Nightingale was heard, then seen by some members of the group, another or the same bird was then heard along Adder Alley. From the Hanger view point, Wigeon, Shoveler and Tufted Duck were added and from Netleys Hide, House Martin and Little Ringed Plover. On our return walk another Nightingale was calling from the Fattengates courtyard area.
In total 65 species were seen/heard, with thanks to all.


14 April 2019, Otmoor, Farmoor and Aston Rowant, by Paul Spencer

A cool, dry, sometimes gelid, spring day attracted 6 other stalwarts and one newcomer on what turned out to be an excellent day in the county of Oxfordshire.
On the way to RSPB Otmoor the score, spotted from the car, was Red Kites 12, Buzzards 4. Red Kites were seen at every stage of the day twisting magnificently in the air. A Yellowhammer was seen by Rebecca Dunne perched on a dung heap along the lane going down to Otmoor. Although the first of several Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were quickly ticked off in the car park, the Grasshopper Warbler reported reeling in nearby scrub remained silent. A gaudy male Pheasant with a harem of six female pheasant fed under feeders full of Great Tit and Chaffinches. A female Muntjac deer watched her new baby in some scrub. The sound of a Curlew calling from the Ministry of Defence range carried in the air, along with Skylark song, Lapwing peeviting and Redshank pipping. A zoom past from a Green Sandpiper, spotted by Peter Knox, was too fast for the leader. A distant male Kestrel hovered.
The official snack was held in the Wetland wash Hide. We watched a flock of 40 Linnets and 5 or more male Reed Buntings feeding on seed and had close views of Redshank, Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Grey Heron. Two Brown Hares raced across a field. Another wet meadow contained lots of Canada Geese and Grey Lag Geese , 2 Barnacle Geese, 25 Wigeon plus Shoveler, Mallard, Gadwall and Teal. Moving to the screen overlooking the reedbeds we watched two pairs of Marsh Harriers quartering back and forth. One male was seen carrying a long branch in one talon! A selection of ducks on the water included a leucistic Pochard with a pale orange head. A Sedge Warbler sang intermittently from the reeds, Bullfinches softly called. from hedges. There was a short burst of boom boom from a Bittern, and a Water Rail screamed nearby. A few migrating Swallows flew over.
Our second location was the Thames Water reservoirs at Farmoor. Here we set up scopes on the bank of the F2 basin to look for reported Little Gulls. We found six birds, 4 adults and 2 juveniles, achieving distant but satisfying views. There was also a number of Common Terns whizzing about. Hundreds of Sand Martins flew low over the water feeding on the fresh hatch of flies with one or two Swallows and House Martins. Stephen Walters spotted a male Peregrine perched half way up an electricity pylon. Walking along the causeway which separates both basins we had lovely views of 5 “utterly butterly” Yellow Wagtails, together with Pied, Grey and 2 White Wagtails feeding for insects. On F1 there were 84 Great Crested Grebe and approximately 25 Cormorants, however all eyes were on a male Sparrowhawk sitting imperiously on the bank under the causeway. Here it crouched, waiting, oblivious to humans walking past or taking photos. Suddenly it back flipped over the causeway and swooped on a passing unexpecting Sand Martin. Mike White surmised that the last words of the victim were ‘’ Oh sod it, got all the way from Africa and..’’ The Sparrowhawk, its eyes intent like Clint Eastwood, returned to its ambush position to pluck and feed on its victim. Our last site was at Linky Down at Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve close to the Bucks border. Here we had absolutely fantastic views of 5 male ( snow white gourget) and 1 female Ring Ouzel ( dirty cream gourget) , a brilliant way to end the day. Ouzelicious. 77 Species recorded.


7 April 2019, Bushy Park Family Day, by Thelma Caine

This was a very successful event with 85 participants in all, of which 24 were children. 20 club members were among the 61 adults who took part. Mike White led the first walk at 9.30, with further walks led by Jonathan Hannam, Rebecca Dunne and Erica & Geoff Gill. It was a lovely surprise to see our former Chairman Ruth Shinebaum who was in our area for the weekend and joined us midmorning. On all the walks, there was plenty of activity among the waterfowl, with noisy Egyptian Geese and Canada Geese (including a pair of Egyptian Geese seen disappearing down a nest hole!) and close views of a pair of Mandarin, nesting Coot, several Moorhen, Tufted Duck, Mallard and Grey Heron. Among the woodland birds, Green Woodpeckers were calling all morning, with good views of one low down on a tree trunk. We also had excellent views of Great Spotted Woodpeckers, at least one of which was heard drumming. It was a good morning for Treecreepers with up to three seen. A Nuthatch was also located in the Waterhouse Plantation. Other woodland highlights included Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, several singing Blackcaps, Stock Dove, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Jay and Mistle Thrush. By the end of the four walks, 33 species had been recorded. It was very pleasing to see so many children at the event who clearly enjoyed seeing the birds, filling out their quiz sheets and collecting their prizes! Thanks are due to all those who helped with setting up, leading the walks, assisting at the reception desk and packing up at the end. A great all round team effort!


17 March 2019 – Barnes WWT, by Jonathan Hannam

Eleven members, including a brand new one, joined me on a fine but blustery day for a walk around the reserve. Whilst standing at the entrance waiting to go in, a young American called Justin attached himself to our group. He was an experienced birder, but new to the UK. We started off by taking the south route to the Peacock Tower and soon had good views of a Chiffchaff that was feeding in the bare trees. From the Dulverton hide, we saw lots of Tufted Duck, Shoveler and Wigeon. There was a full house of the usual Gulls present, Blackheaded, Common, Herring, Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed. A couple of Great-crested Grebes were also spotted. On the way to the WWF hide, we stopped by the feeders and saw Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Dunnock and a solitary Redwing.
We had heard Cetti’s Warbler all around and Mike had a good view of one whilst the rest of us had already gone into the WWF hide, where Gadwall and Teal were added to the list.
We then moved on to the Peacock Tower, adding Reed Bunting on the way. From the top of the Tower, we were put onto a somewhat reclusive Jack Snipe, huddled down in the vegetation on the scrape and found another one for ourselves. We also spotted Common Snipe and Water Pipit, along with a couple of Shelduck and a pair of Pintail.
After a short break for a hot drink at the cafe, we headed out along the northern route to the Wildside Hide, where we stopped for a lunch. We had good views of Little Grebe and we finally, after much searching, we found the female Goldeneye that we’d heard was still on site, along with a female Pochard. As we were leaving the hide a single Swallow flew over, which for most of us was the first of the year.
On the way back, our young American friend turned over a log and found a small colony of Smooth Newts. We also had good views of a Cetti’s Warbler, making up for the one that only Mike had seen earlier. The Discovery hide gave us better views of Common Snipe, but nothing new, so of the birds that we might have expected to see, we had failed to find either Bittern or Sand Martin. The Peregrine was also missing from its usual spot on top of the hospital. However, we did see a total of 52 species, so a good return for a long morning’s walk.


10 March 2019 – Acres Down, by John Barkham

This outing was postponed by a week on account of Storm Freya. Even so, it was a breezy day as six brave members made the walk from the car park to the hill-top viewpoint in The New Forest. Some shelter was found from the worst of the 50mph gusts in the wind and visibility proved excellent. We were soon rewarded with several sightings of flying Goshawk, including two birds at relatively close quarters offering prolonged and excellent views. Also seen were Common Buzzards and Stonechat. Later in the morning we walked the sheltered valley floor and found typical woodland species, including Marsh Tit and Firecrest. After lunch, we relocated to nearby Janesmoor Plain and instantly sighted 2 Wheatears that had been reported earlier. A walk near the Canadian Memorial added Crossbill and we ended the day with a cream tea in Lyndhurst.


24 February 2019 – Berrylands Nature Reserve (Raeburn Open Space) by Thelma Caine

This walk was led by local ecologist Elliot Newton who is founder of the Kingston Biodiversity Network, and was attended by 13 club members and around 25 members of other organisations and local residents. This site was established as a nature reserve in 1992 but had suffered long term neglect. In the last two years a largescale project has been undertaken to enhance the area and engage the local community. Elliot informed the group how he and an enthusiastic group of volunteers had restored the river, removing over 150 tonnes of concrete from the banks, undertaken extensive removal of scrub and enhanced the woodland. A new footbridge and paths had been created as well as a new wildlife pond. During the walk 24 bird species were seen including Stock Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker which was drumming all morning, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tits, Jay, Goldfinch and Blackcap. A Little Egret was seen early on and lucky few who did a more extended walk also saw Kingfisher.


13 February 2019 – a Wednesday wander in Bushy Park, by Mike White

I was joined by ten members for the first mid-week wander in the Woodland Gardens on a bright and breezy day. Many of the expected species were seen around the ponds and streams by the café. Egyptian Geese were everywhere and particularly vocal. One female with half open wings shielding some very young goslings. Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were showing quite well and also a very photogenic Jay. Winter thrushes were in short supply but eventually we located some Redwing. Just before crossing into the second section of gardens a small group of Siskin were found, right in the tree tops. A real neck breaking job to see. In the next section Nuthatch and Treecreeper gave good views. Sadly, the walk along the Longford River proved rather quiet with just Goldcrest, Robin and Blackbird added to the list. Prior to reaching the end of the gardens we found a Kestrel perched, devouring a small mammal and a few members saw a Buzzard. At the end of the gardens we turned and walked through the centre of the wood, encountering a bird watcher who provided anecdotal evidence that Lesser Spotted Woodpecker had bred last year and had also been heard in the area this year. Sadly, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Kingfisher did not make our list which totalled 35 species. With thanks to all participants.


3 February 2019 –  Blashford Lakes and Blackwater Arboretum (Another day with Hawfinches), by Peter Knox

Four members left Surbiton on a cold but sunny morning. The journey was uneventful, and the roads were clear, although when we travelled though the village of Four Marks there was a lot of snow to the extent that the trees had snow plastered up their trunks. But once we hit the M3 the snow was a lot lighter on the surrounding fields. We did see a Kestrel and some Pheasants on route. On arrival at we met up with the boys from Bookham. The Blashford warden suggested we should head for the northly Lapwing hide as there was some unfrozen areas on Ibsley water and all the other pits were frozen. This we did and on arrival we settle down and scan the pit. Our highlights of our scanning were a Water Pipit, Grey Wagtail and a Chiffchaff all very close to the hide. In the distance we found a Common Snipe, and on the water, there were plenty of birds including both male and female Goosander, Goldeneye and good numbers of Little Grebe. Flying over the pit we saw Sparrowhawk, Little Egret and Common Buzzard. We then move on to the Goosander hide but found nothing we had not already seen. On route back to the centre some members of our group saw a Treecreeper and male and female Bullfinch. On the way back Paul decided to do a bit of freelancing and found a Great Egret the rest of us took advantage of the popup café at the centre. Once suitably refreshed we moved on to the South Ivy Hide were some of managed to briefly catch up with the Great Egret. Then we headed to the Woodland hide get good views of Siskin, Nuthatch, Reed Bunting and many other woodland birds. Unfortunately, there were no Redpoll or Brambling. The Ivy North hide did not provide much in the way of bird life. We made the decision to go to Harbridge just north of Blashford. There had been reports of a single Bewick Swan. This bird was found quite quickly mixed with a field full of Mute Swans. We also saw a group of Golden Plover and a few Egyptian Geese. We now headed for Blackwater Arboretum driving across the New Forest seeing very little snow. The conditions at Blackwater were just about perfect with very little wind and plenty of sunshine. It did not take long before the first Hawfinch to arrive. At one point we had four birds in one tree and plenty of views of Hawfinch in the open at the top of the trees in perfect light. In total we may have had up twenty birds, but it was difficult to keep track of the birds. We also had nice views of a Marsh Tit dropping to the ground to pick up food. There was also a couple of good views of male Crossbills. A couple of Bramblings also showed up in the tree tops. Once again, a trip to Blashford and Blackwater provided a great days birding with a species count of 74 birds seen during the day.


13 January 2019 – Rye Harbour & Pett Levels, by Mike White

Our group gathered at the revised meeting point of Rye Harbour. The walk from the car park surrounds to the Gooders Hide saw us with sightings of House Sparrow, Herring Gull, Jackdaw, Redshank, Skylark, Curlew and Shelduck. We arrived at the hide just as the rain started to turn heavy, once settled inside we added most of the expected wildfowl to the list, a single Snipe was seen by some group members. A large number of Golden Plover were present with a few Dunlin. At this point we were joined by the ninth member of the group, who we had left in the car park struggling with a HUGE egg & bacon sandwich. (I wonder who that could have been?) With the rain now ceased we left the hide and continued towards the beach, keeping a careful look out for the reported Twite. A short sea watch added Sanderling, Bar-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Red-throated Diver, Gannet and Oystercatcher to the list. Just as we left the beach a flock of thirty geese flew over, in poor light the identity was a little problematic, but they then circled and flew directly over us, revealing themselves to be Barnacle Geese, (not quite what we were expecting). We continued on to the Quarry and Ternery hides where lunch was taken. We only added Grey Plover, Tufted Duck and Kestrel during the lunch stop. We then retraced our steps to the car park, (with no sighting of the Twite) before relocating the short distance to Pett Levels. The elevation of the sea wall gave excellent views across the levels but the strength of the wind made keeping a scope steady quite challenging. Greylag, Canada and the hoped for White-fronted Geese were all quickly ticked off with the added bonus of a Great White Egret. Raptors present were Buzzard, Marsh Harrier and Peregrine. Turning our attention to the sea, (not easy given the swell) we saw several flocks of Common Scoter and one member managed to pick out a Velvet Scoter when it stretched its wings. Small numbers of Red-throated Diver, Great Crested Grebe, a lone Slavonian Grebe and a single auk species were on the water. Walking further along the wall gave us views over Pett Pools which were fairly quiet with just a few Mallard, Pochard and Little Grebe. Large numbers of Wigeon and between 20-30 Ruff were on the grass around the pools. A total of 63 species seen during the day, with thanks to all participants.


6 January 2019 – Kempton Nature Reserve by Tony Quinn

Sixteen members arrived on this first trip of the new New Year. Unfortunately two very important members were left stranded at the gate for a while as we started a little early. My apologies to them. Viewing from the West Hide produced a group of about 12 Gadwall, 6 Teal, 11 Lapwings and a Green Woodpecker. Some members also saw Long-tailed Tits. Moving on, a distant Mistle Thrush was singing from Kempton Park Racecourse and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was in the grounds of the Water Treatment Works. Reaching the South Hide, a female Reed Bunting was at a nearby feeder and a few more Teal were at the entrance to the channel. A good sighting from the East Hide was a group of about 10 Common Snipe but hiding at some distance. Rather scarce these days, a female Chaffinch was near one of the feeders and a non-member saw two more Reed Buntings there. A walk along Bunny Lane produced a wintering Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Bullfinches were heard but not seen. WeBS counters found Common and Red-crested Pochard and Great Crested Grebe on a nearby site. In all about 35 species were seen or heard. Friends of Kempton. Membership is free to Society members but they should first become members of the Hogsmill STW Friends Scheme. See the link below for full details. http://surbitonbirds.org/?page_id=399