8 December 2019, Isle of Sheppey by Stephen Waters.
The trip to the Isle of Sheppey started with nine members plus one guest. High winds kept the bird count down but moving to Harte Church next to the ferry, Merlin and a Ringtail were spotted over the marsh.and White Fronted Geese were spotted and a move to see a Rough-legged buzzard coming into roost finished the day.
17 November 2019, Arne RSPB by Rebecca Dunne
Whether you went to Arne to “See avocets,” to tick off birds, to familiarise yourself with a few new species, to “Get back into birding” to enjoy a reserve that’s just a bit too far for a day trip or just to have a wander around a beautiful new reserve, everyone seemed to enjoy their visit. The weather could not have been better for November, despite forecasts earlier in the week of cloud, cold and showers. Most people had not visited since the Visitors’ Centre had been built and welcomed the improvement in facilities at Arne, many of them using the café and shop at the end of the day. It had plenty of well sighted and well used bird feeders to watch whilst having a cuppa. All 52 tickets for the trip were sold but after 3 cancellations the trip comprised 49 people (29 R&T RSPB, 16 SDBWS and 4 non- members).
The journey there and back was smooth apart from a very tight squeeze getting the coach in and out of the reserve. However, the slow speed enabled us to see birds including mistle thrush as we crossed the heathland. We were greeted by Roz from the RSPB who gave us information about the reserve, recent sightings and the best routes to take but she kept it short because she realised we were all keen to be off! The Shipstal trails spread out north from the car park and the Coombe Heath and winter Raptor trails led south. There was also the new Hyde’s Heath trail. Most of us started around the red route Shipstal trail and the rest of my report will largely describe what my mixed group of SDBWS and R&T RSPB members saw.
Even before we left the car park, we saw robin, coal tit, nuthatch, dunnock, chaffinch, great tit, blue tit, house sparrow, great–spotted woodpecker and goldfinch on the feeders. Not far along the trail we stopped to look over the gorse covered slope for Dartford warblers but added, wren, distant shelduck and distant great–crested grebe instead. Roz had told us that 70 pairs of Dartfords bred at Arne this year but they proved very elusive for us. Along the path, movement in a holly tree eventually materialised into several blackbird and redwing feeding on the berries. A field of cows gave us 10+ meadow pipit, a pied wagtail, starlings and crows while the surrounding oak trees held a flock of long–tailed tit, a couple of goldcrest, coal tit, nuthatch and treecreeper.
Shortly after this the path reached the coast and we spotted curlew, little egret and redshank feeding in the saltmarsh and brent geese loafing along the edge of the water. On the spit opposite oystercatcher were waiting for the tide to go out along with cormorant and herring gull. Way out in front of Brownsea Island we shared telescopes to pick out very distant red– breasted mergansers and to compare their elegant diving behaviour with the surrounding great–crested grebes and cormorants.
From Shipstal beach we went to the double decker hide for lunch, passing heathland and saltmarsh with acidic pools. Those who had lunch on the beach probably had the better idea! Around here a lucky few saw a fleeting Dartford warbler in the gorse. A late staying common tern over Poole Harbour was a surprise sighting for one couple here. The rest of us had sikka deer, wigeon, magpie, redshank, a buzzard on a flat-topped pine, crow, mallard and teal. From the rather cosy conditions in the hide we watched shoveler, teal, curlew, redshank, a grey heron, mallard, wigeon and more brent geese. Just before our arrival one of our non-members claimed a bittern.
It was now 13.45 and we headed directly back to the car park in order to fit in a walk around Coombe Heath. However, we still had time to watch a flock of a dozen fieldfare tour the area along with overflying redwing, starling and woodpigeon. A song thrush feeding on sloe berries near Arne Farm was a pleasing sight. Many others saw and/or heard raven in this area. Arne Farm was where Spring/Autumn Watch was based one season.
Coombe Heath was a real treat to finish the day. Flocks of waders and ducks, atmospheric misty views of Corfe Castle and the setting sun across Middlebere at low tide. We kept a sharp eye out for Dartford warblers and after the false alarm of a coal tit we were rewarded with a bird perched up on the gorse. It then flitted in and out of the heather mounds and pine saplings, but you had to be quick to see it. Flocks of linnet and meadow pipit were also seen here.
By 15.00 Most of the coach party seemed to be gathered at the viewpoints over Middlebere Lake. Two stonechat flitted about behind us. A female marsh harrier flew over in the distance but the highlight was a flock of up to 400 avocet feeding along with many black–tailed godwit, curlew, wigeon and teal. Shelduck fed in the deeper water. In the fields on the opposite bank rook and lapwing were added to our list. Heading back to the coach we finished off with a green woodpecker and a male sparrowhawk, distinguished by its small size. As the sun set the temperature dropped rapidly and very few people missed the chance of hot drinks, and perhaps cake, before we left at 16.30. Leaving the reserve proved even harder than arriving but the driver showed great skill threading his coach between ivy clad walls and hedges.
The tick sheet handed around on the way home showed a combined total of 71 birds. Birds not already mentioned were as follows (birds in brackets not yet corroborated):- bar–tailed godwit, black–headed gull, (bullfinch heard), gadwall, greenfinch, jackdaw, jay, kestrel, (knot), lesser black–backed gull, (lesser-spotted woodpecker), pheasant, pochard, (red crested pochard), siskin, spotted redshank, (whimbrel heard).
3 November 2019, Rainham Marshes RSPB by Jonathan Hannam
Ten members from Surbiton were joined by Ruth and Julie from Hertfordshire for a gentle day of bird watching. The weather was kind, with gentle breezes, some sunshine and no rain until the very end. As the tide was low in the morning, we opted to walk along the riverbank to start with, looking for Rock Pipit. We enjoyed distant views of Avocet and Redshank and slightly closer views of Teal and Wigeon, but the pipits proved elusive for all but the few who took the lower path along the shore. Heading back towards the Visitor Centre we heard (and some even saw) Cetti’s Warbler.
After a welcome coffee break, we started our walk around the reserve, heading anti-clockwise as usual. Almost immediately we spotted a Snipe on the Purfleet scrape and then another one and then more until eventually we had counted at least twelve. Carrying onwards towards the woodland area, there were House Sparrow and Starling in the bushes, plus a few Redwing, Long-tailed Tit and Goldcrest.
Looking up, we saw Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. On the far side of the reserve, we stopped to see that the Barn Owl was in its box and then checked the pools, where there were good views of Lapwing, Shoveler, more Teal, Gadwall and Pintail. Lunch was taken in the Shooting Butts Hide, where in addition to the species seen already, we enjoyed views of a couple of nearby Water Pipit and a distant pair of Marsh Harrier. On the return journey, we heard and then briefly saw Bearded Tit amongst the reeds and had good views of Stonechat. From the Purfleet Hide, we had views of Curlew as they were coming in ahead of the rising tide. Altogether, the group saw 60 species.
20 October 2019, Selsey Peninsula (Pagham Harbour) by Mike White.
A bright day, but with a chill northerly wind, greeted the group as we assembled at the Pagham Harbour visitor centre, the feeders of which were busy with House Sparrow, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Chaffinch. A female Pheasant picked up the fallen seed below. We set off around the tramway circuit in a clockwise direction, our first stop being Yeomans Field, the bushes of which were fairly quiet, but Chiffchaff, Goldfinch, Blackbird and Linnet were recorded. The soft piping of Bullfinch was heard, and the bird located. Birds flying over at this point included Pied Wagtail, Redwing, Skylark and some late House Martin. Returning to the tramway we soon added Dunnock, Song Thrush, Greenfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Meadow Pipit and Reed Bunting. Completing the circuit, we stopped and looked over the Ferry Pool where Teal, Shelduck, Lapwing, Shoveler and Snipe were present.
A Buzzard was perched on the surrounding bushes, Stonechat were flitting about at the back of the pool, and a Sparrowhawk flew through. With a report of a Yellow-browed Warbler in the area of the adjacent footpath to Medmerry, we decided to go and see if we could locate the bird. Unfortunately, our twenty minutes did not produce the goods. Retracing our steps, we headed for Church Norton along the west side of the harbour. The surrounding bushes and farmland were again quiet, but the harbour held Curlew, Redshank, Wigeon, Avocet, Shelduck and Oystercatcher. Lunch was taken at the hide whilst watching Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Grey Plover, Knot and a single Bar-tailed Godwit. In the channels were Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe and nearly fifty Pintail.
Further over towards the North Wall, Great Blackbacked Gulls were at their usual roost site with a small flock of Brent Geese closer to the harbour entrance. Moving the short distance to the beach, we commenced a short sea watch. A huge flock of feeding gulls were too distant for identification, but we could clearly see a few attendant Gannets. Just prior to leaving the beach a pair of Redbreasted Mergansers were located. Turning along the beach towards The Severals it soon became apparent that there were many Stonechat in the area. We eventually counted eleven in sight at one time, but no doubt this was an underestimate. A couple of Roe Deer were seen grazing here. We then returned to the west side, via the churchyard where a Goldcrest gave brief views. The tide was, by now, well and truly in. The farm fields held good numbers of Red-legged Partridge on our return walk. A total of 70 species recorded for the day.
11-13 October 2019, Norfolk Residential Weekend by Thelma Caine
18 members joined the weekend in Norfolk. On Friday, most of the group stopped at Welney on route, where the Visitor Centre produced views of Tree Sparrows on the feeders together with Goldfinches. From the comfort of the main hide, we watched wildfowl feeding on the pools including Whooper and Mute Swans, Wigeon, Teal and smaller numbers of Gadwall, Shoveler and a few Pintail. We also had good views of Black-tailed Godwits, Lapwing, Ruff, Redshank and several Snipe. Some of the group also reported Dunlin and Common Sandpiper. Out on the fields were flocks of Geese, including Greylag, Canada and a few Egyptian Geese as well as Little Egret, two Cattle Egrets and a Great White Egret. On the hunt for prey, were Marsh Harrier, Buzzard and several Kestrels.
Those visiting Snettisham on route reported amongst others, Pink-footed Geese, Shelduck, Pintail, Great White Egret, Oystercatcher, Knot, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Curlew, Turnstone, Kestrel, Peregrine, Chiffchaff and superb views of a Short-eared Owl. Highlights elsewhere included Ruff, two Jack Snipe, Greenshank, Barn Owl and Yellow-browed Warbler at Holme and a Grey Phalarope at Thornham. A great start to the weekend.
On Saturday, most of the group set off at dawn for an early morning birdwatch at Holme. Large skeins of Pink-footed Geese were making their way from their roost sites along the coast to the Wash-an impressive sight. Several Marsh Harriers hunted over the fields and as the tide receded, feeding on the pools were Curlew, Redshank, Little Egret, Mallard and a Little Grebe. A small flock of Longtailed Tits came close, flitting amongst the Sea Buckthorn bushes. Barn Owl was seen, and a Tawny Owl heard, before we arrived back at the hotel.
After a hearty breakfast, we headed for the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and Norfolk Ornithology Association reserves at Holme. The feeders behind the NWT centre were a good place to start, with Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Great Spotted Woodpecker all vying for a share of the food. Out on the fields we spotted several Barnacle Geese among a flock of Canada Geese. Marsh Harriers were active again and on route to the NOA observatory, the freshwater pools held Lapwing, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall and Shoveler.
We were invited into the ringing station at the NOA reserve to see Coal tits, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Greenfinch and Chaffinch amongst others, as they were weighed, measured and sexed and all aspects recorded before being released. Following this, a brief sea watch produced Gannets, Great Crested Grebe and a passing flock of Common Scoter. The tide was well out, so we went on to the beach to see the birds feeding on the wet sand, including Shelduck, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlew, Redshank, Dunlin, Sanderling, Turnstone and Brent Geese. In the pine wood Goldcrest was heard. We headed for the hides to have lunch, highlights here being Little Egret, Great White Egret, Garganey, Reed Bunting and a flock of Linnets. Marsh Harriers, Buzzard and Kestrels were active over the fields. Cetti’s Warbler and a Bullfinch were heard and both Swallow and Skylark recorded overhead.
After lunch, we moved to Titchwell RSPB Reserve where we had news that a male Hooded Merganser had flown in, considered to be a migrant from America as it was full-winged and had no ring. The bird was reported to be on Patsy’s Pool, visible from the hide there. This superb bird was watched swimming and diving in the presence of various other duck before eventually taking flight but was picked up again and seen at close quarters on the Reedbed pool. Undoubtedly this was the highlight of the weekend. As usual, we had great views of many species at Titchwell. Outside the shop, Nuthatch joined Tits, Chaffinch and Goldfinch on the feeders. Chiffchaff was seen along the wooded path, a Cetti’s Warbler called, and a Stonechat popped up on the scrub. As well as Pochard, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Gadwall and Shoveler on Patsy’s Pool, there were Wigeon, Teal and Shelduck on the main pools. Little Egret fed in the channels and small numbers of Avocet were seen on the freshwater marsh together with Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Lapwing, Dunlin and Redshank. Water Rail and Snipe appeared from the edge of the reeds and we had some excellent views of Bearded Tits, including a very active female feeding near the ground. Those making it to the shoreline saw Brent Geese, Oystercatcher, Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Turnstone and a Grey Phalarope feeding. Marsh Harrier, Buzzard and Kestrel were all hunting over the marsh and a distant Red Kite was spotted gliding over the tidal marsh. As the tide rose in late afternoon, flights of Pink-feet returned from their feeding grounds and as the light faded, a Tawny Owl was heard calling.
Sunday’s visit was to Cley Marshes. We were again lucky with the weather as the rain held off until lunchtime. Most of the group headed off for the central hides with several Cetti’s Warblers heard singing from the boardwalk. Pat’s Pool, was populated by duck, including Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall, and Shelduck. A flock of Black-tailed Godwit were actively feeding, together with Lapwings, several Ruff and Redshank. Those visiting the eastern side of the reserve reported Jack Snipe in one of the pools, Grey Wagtail, Siskin in the trees and a Chiffchaff. Skylark and a few Redwing were also seen in flight, bringing the overall total for the weekend to 109 species. Those staying in the area for longer also reported Little Gull and Guillemot off the coast at Cley, Yellow-browed Warbler heard at Walsey Hills, a male Hen Harrier and Spoonbill at Stiffkey, 6 Little Egrets, two Great White Egrets and another Yellowbrowed Warbler at Holkham.
22 October 2019, Two Tree Island and Canvey Point by Ruth Shinebaum
Four members ignored the weather forecast, ventured to the Two Tree Island reserve in Essex and were rewarded with a rain-free though overcast day. We started on the east side of this small reserve, noting as we left the car park a slow trickle of hirundines, mostly Swallows but with at least one House Martin heading west. The area near the feeders had a few small birds, Goldfinch, Blue and Great Tits on the feeders and Long-tailed Tits, Robins, Dunnock and Goldcrest in the trees nearby. But we’d come to look at the marsh and mud flats and there was plenty of that. Unfortunately, low tide was around noon, so the birds were mostly distant, but we saw a few waders including Curlew, Lapwing and Grey Plovers, some still in summer plumage, plenty of Oystercatchers, and a tide line packed with large numbers of Wigeon. Black-headed, Common, Lesser Black-backed and Greater Black-backed Gulls were observed. But it was the numbers of Brent Geese which provided the spectacle, around 3000 having come in during the week. Over 50 Little Egret could be seen dotted around the large expanse of mud, out numbering the two or three Grey Heron.
We headed back to the causeway and over to the west part of the reserve. It was there we found a roving tit flock which included a Blackcap and Rebecca spotted the only Redwing of the trip. Mallard and Pochard moved nervously away up the channel ahead of us. We stopped at the scrape for lunch. The hide has gone (burnt to the ground) but there’s a convenient bench and a couple of chairs. Here we added Shoveler and Teal to our list of ducks but the only waders there was Redshank and a secretive Common Snipe with the rest probably out on the mud. We made our way back to the cars spotting Kestrel, our sole raptor for the day. We dropped into the golf driving range for a loo stop, tea and cake, and considered where might be best to watch the tide.
Canvey Point seemed a likely spot, about 25 minutes’ drive away and a very easy place to sea watch from, and we added House Sparrow and Collared Dove en route. We settled down on the benches along the sea wall for a couple of hours, adding Dunlin, Knot, good views of Turnstone, and a single Bar-tailed Godwit to our wader list. The sea watching was quiet with only a single Common Scoter and a small group of Sandwich Terns passing through. However, the leader was happy to introduce the club to this interesting watch point 58 species listed, including 3 heard.
22 September 2019, Dungeness by Mike White
The grim weather forecast did not bode well for our trip, and on the journey down we experienced heavy rain, brilliant sunshine and everything in between. On arrival at Dungeness we were greeted with relatively dry conditions and (for Dungeness) a fairly warm south-westerly breeze. We started with a sea watch at the “fishing boats” soon noting a lot of Gannets moving through and Sandwich Terns fishing. A passing flock of Common Scoter were checked for any Velvets but to no avail. It soon became apparent that there was a steady movement of hirundines leaving into the wind, mainly Swallow but with some Sand and House Martins also, many passed very close and low, this movement lasted for much of the day. We then picked up an Arctic Skua, the first of two or three seen, one of which chased a Sandwich Tern. A line of birds flying fast and low to the water appeared to be another scoter flock but revealed themselves to be Gadwall. A Diver sp. (probably Blackthroated) went east and incoming from this direction was a large bird, soon identified as a Great Skua or Bonxie. Auks were scarce but singles of Razorbill and Guillemot were eventually recorded.
A trio of birds picked up flying away from the beach contained two Brent Geese and a noticeably larger, apparently “all black” bird which remained unidentified. A Grey Heron was noted flying out to sea and not seen to return. During all this there was a constant movement of cetaceans, most likely harbour porpoises. We then moved to “The Patch” area, among the large flock of gulls feeding in the outlet waters a juvenile Mediterranean Gull was identified. Scoping the filter beds of the power station produced Meadow Pipits, Linnets, Chaffinch and for a few lucky observers, a very brief Black Redstart. Trying to relocate the redstart the leader was confused by a very out of place (that’s my excuse!) Dunnock flitting about on the buildings.
Lunch break was approaching so we relocated to the ARC Pit which was well populated with a large variety of birds. Golden Plover, Black-tailed Godwit and Lapwing were the biggest flocks, but Greenshank, Dunlin, Ruff and Snipe were also present. Strangely we did not see a Common Redshank all day. A Marsh Harrier drifted slowly past and a Sparrowhawk passed by somewhat quicker. Many Pied Wagtail were present, and a single Grey Wagtail noted when the Marsh Harrier disturbed the flocks. Most of the common duck were seen, but it was nice to see the first few returning Pintail all be it in eclipse plumage.
A Great White Egret passed in front of the hide before moving to a shingle island where it was joined by a Cattle Egret, giving a nice size comparison. Little Egrets were also eventually seen, making it a three-egret day. Lunch completed we waited for a shower to pass before moving to the reserve proper. A stop at the entrance failed to produce any Tree Sparrows, but did add Goldfinch, Greenfinch, House Sparrow and Blackcap. On the drive to the visitor centre, Wheatear and Stonechat were added to the list and the impressive roost of Great Black-backed Gulls must have totalled 200/300 birds. From the hides overlooking the main Burrowe’s Pit, Common Sandpiper, Little Stint, Oystercatcher and Black-necked Grebe were seen, also a flyby Common Tern. A circuit of the reserve with a stop at Denge Marsh hide added Kestrel, Raven, Kingfisher, Greylag and Canada Geese. A very enjoyable day with a group list of 85 species, with thanks to all participants.
8 September 2019, Langstone Harbour, by Rebecca Dunne
Our small band of 7 met at the Ship Inn carpark, by Langstone Bridge, on a glorious morning which turned into a much warmer day than forecast – layers were shed. It was 2 hours after high tide and plenty of birds were visible on the mud as we followed the sea wall round past Langstone Mill Pond. Curlew, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Herring Gull, Black–headed Gull, Teal, Dunlin, Black–tailed Godwit, 2 Sandwich Tern, a Common Tern, a fleeting Greenshank and a Mediterranean Gull which flew away before everybody saw it. A Buzzard flew distantly and a Great–crested Grebe was out on the water. On the pond were Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, Gadwall and a Little Grebe with House Sparrow and Robin in the surrounding bushes. A heronry in trees behind the pond held 10+ Little Egrets and Grey Heron. Throughout the day we saw at least that number again of egrets around the harbour. We looked in the damp field beyond the pond in the hope of cattle egret (which may have bred here) but found Stock Dove instead. A few Swallow circled around overhead.
Next we drove onto Hayling Island to the Old Oyster Beds reserve. Greenfinch were immediately seen and heard in the dense bushes behind the car park. The exposed shoreline here added Ringed Plover and Turnstone and a better view of 2 Greenshank. Paul searched for spotted flycatchers but found Chiffchaff and Meadow Pipit. Walking on we saw Blackcap, Common Whitethroat, Blue Tit, Goldfinch and practically a mini murmuration of noisy Starling feeding on the blackberries. Another 6 Little Egret were seen including one which had enormous difficulty swallowing a small, eel shaped fish. We carefully scanned the distant harbour and Biness Island for the osprey, which had been around, but nothing was seen. In the process we picked up a few distant Brent Geese, Great Black-backed Gull, more Great–crested Grebe and a Kestrel perched on a sign. We followed the old railway track back to the car park and added Green Woodpecker to our list. Continuing our tour, we drove over to the tiny car park at Northney. A mass of berry bushes on either side of the path held Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Robin and Great Tit. Rook were added flying overhead. It was low tide so the mudflats beyond the bushes and in front of the marina were bare apart from a few Blackheaded Gulls and the only Lapwing of the day which Liz spotted. We stopped for lunch on the beach with a panoramic view of Langstone Harbour and the spire of Chichester Cathedral in the distance. There was a possible Marsh Harrier on the far shore but the heat haze was too strong to confirm this. A couple of Yellow Wagtail were heard flying over but most of us did not see them. Walking back, we found more Common Whitethroat, 2 Green Woodpecker, Pied Wagtail, Swallow, House Martin, and a Yellow Wagtail perched in a tree which everyone did see. Whilst here we were lucky to meet two bird watchers who gave us accurate directions for Northney Paddocks where 10 spotted flycatchers had been seen the previous day. The paddocks turned out to be directly behind the nearby Applegreen petrol station. A stile leads onto the footpath from the back of its forecourt so that’s where we parked.
Fortified by ice creams we searched the paddock fences and hedgerows… a Blackbird, some high-pitched calling in conifers and a hedge full of Blackcap with a few Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler. It was “Blackcap central” according to Mike but no Spotted Flycatchers until Paul glimpsed one on the opposite, sunny side, of the thick hedge from where we were standing, in the shade. Creeping around the corner we saw 3 birds sallying back and forth between the rough, grassy paddock and the barbed wire fence and hedge. They crossed the field and landed even closer to us in the huge mixed hedgerow and were gradually joined by several more. We estimated 10 birds altogether. Our excitement at finding the Flycatchers and blasé reaction to 20+ Little Egrets nicely summed up the dramatic changes seen in bird species in the UK in recent years. By now it was 15.30 and we decided to finish the day at Sandy Point on the south-east corner of Hayling Island. Very little bird life was visible from the path that leads through Sandy Point nature reserve. Behind the beach we added Jay and our second small group of House Sparrow in the bushes along the road. We continued onto the beach behind the sailing club and scanned the mud and creeks as the tide came in. 2 Knot were a new bird for the day and we saw lots more Oystercatcher. 3 Sandwich Tern fished close by and we all heard their distinctive “Derek or Eric” cry, as Paul described it. Total species for the day 59.
11 August 2019, Oare Marshes, by John Barkham
14 members plus two guests met at Oare Marshes, the Kent Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve which overlooks the River Swale and the Isle of Sheppey. There were large flocks of assorted waders in a high-tide roost on the East Flood, with the birds very close to our viewing point by the side of the access road. Among the numerous Dunlin, we counted 23 Curlew Sandpipers, a particularly large total for such a scare passage migrant. Another scare migrant ticked was Little Stint, with its white ‘tramlines’ on its back marking it out as a juvenile. Other wading birds seen were Common and Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Avocet, Golden Plover, Turnstone, Whimbrel and Lapwing. We were also duly impressed with the large flocks of Black-tailed Godwits, about 1,000 in total. Peter Knox soon picked out the reported Bonaparte’s Gull, which was resting amongst the Black-headed Gulls before flying off. We reconnected with this North American vagrant later in the day when we saw it feeding on the estuary mud. Also spotted were a pair of Garganey, which presented a more tricky ID challenge in their autumn plumage. A leisurely walk around the Reserve followed, which added Yellow Wagtail and Wheatear, plus a Peregrine perched high on an electricity power mast. There were reports of 3 Turtle Doves and, later in the afternoon, we scanned the dense vegetation along the side of the road, more in hope than expectation of sighting these increasing scare birds. However, Rebecca Dunne impressively sighted 2 distant perched Turtle Doves in a narrow gap between the trees. With grateful thanks to Rebecca, we all enjoyed excellent scope views, provided we stood on the right spot with a line of sight! The trip proved highly successful, with all our target species achieved. Total species 69.
6 August 2019, Hogsmill Bat Walk, by Alison Fure
Alison Fure stood in for a disposed Elliot Newton to lead this Bat Walk outing. Fully equipped with bat detectors, we walked the footpath along the Hogsmill from the bridge at the confluence with the Bonesgate to the Kingston Bypass A240, near Worcester Park Road. The Photograph attached indicates the geo-referenced echo-location of three bat species that we encountered at several spots along the route. We had a good display of Pipistrelle Bats with Leisler’s Bats over Riverhill where we have had them before. The latter are a large tree-dwelling species which probably roost in some of the old oaks around sports fields. We were disappointed not to observe any Daubenton’s Bats.
7 July 2019 – Epsom Common
Several members of SDBWS joined Epsom Common Association for an afternoon butterfly walk on the common led by Alison Gilry. The sun came out just as we set off and the heath and wooded areas were awash with butterflies. We were warned about the abundance of ticks on the common and reminded of early the symptoms of Lyme Disease. We were also made aware of the webs of Oak Processionary Moth caterpillars which have infested a number of trees in the area. Despite these hazards we spent a very satisfactory couple of hours enjoying fauna and flora.
30 June 2019 – Knepp Estate, by John Barkham
Excellent weather and a new venue bought 13 members out for a leisurely walk around the Knepp Estate, just south of Horsham in West Sussex. As we wandered the public footpaths, we were duly impressed with the obvious change from once managed intensively farmed land. The estate is now a ‘rewilded’ landscape comprising a mosaic of habitats from grassland and scrub to wooded pasture. Fencing has been largely removed and farm animals roam freely. Whilst the dense scrub proved ideal for birds, many of our sightings were heard only, including Turtle Dove, Lesser Whitethroat and a calling Nightingale.
Butterflies were plentiful, including Purple Hairstreak, Marbled White, Slivered-washed Fritillary and Admirals. But we were really on the hunt for Purple Emperor, for which Knepp is now home to the UK’s largest colony of this rare and spectacular butterfly. We were soon rewarded with flight views of a male, which then landed in front of us. Later, at one of the many ‘master trees’, a male was seen in flight aggressively chasing rivals, before later perched high in his territory tree. Another was seen at rest in an oak from one of the several tree-top viewing platforms on the estate.
We had multiple sightings of Common Buzzards and a large pond with steam added a very active Kingfisher to our bird list. Bill Ingram impressively picked out the call of a Spotted Flycatcher and we soon located a pair with young in a wooded area. We rounded off the walk with flight views of four White Storks from the reintroduction project. These first-generation birds were truly a majestic sight, soaring high over the Sussex countryside. One of the storks was even seen harassing a local buzzard clearly indicating their huge size. Species count: 59 birds and 15 butterflies.
22 June 2019, Chobham Common, by Stephen Waters
Members gathered on the trail paths on Chobham Common on Saturday evening to look for and listen out for Nightjars. There was some cloud about to create a bit of a sunset scene on this fairly warm evening. The birds started calling and chirring about 9.30 and shortly afterwards we saw two or three bird flying quite close to the path. Our best spot was a Nightjar that perched fairly close chirring and flying off to catch moths returning to the same spot to perch.
2 June 2019 – Lakenheath RSPB, by Rebecca Dunne
20 members from SDBWS joined 31 members from Richmond and Twickenham RSPB for their coach trip to Lakenheath. The reserve is mix of wetland and woodland and is bordered on the south side by the railway line then Lakenheath RAF base and on the north side by the Little Ouse river which marks the Suffolk/Norfolk border. Since 1995 the RSPB have transformed nearly 400 hectares of arable farmland into wet reedbed, ungrazed fen and wet grassland as they restore Lakenheath Fen’s former biodiversity.
Before we’d even arrived a couple of sharp-eyed people spotted 2 stone curlews from the coach window as we neared the reserve. Apparently one bird flew in and gave away the position of the other. A couple of minutes later, after a lengthy journey, we arrived to find volunteers waiting to park our coach and the warden ready to brief everyone about the best places to see different birds. The weather was hot and humid with hazy sunshine and a bit of a breeze. By 4pm most people were gathered in the cool shade of the visitors’ centre enjoying Ronaldo’s Norfolk ice-creams and wrestling with the coffee machine.
People walked round in small groups but mostly followed the main 3-mile circular trail. This took us out to Joist Fen viewpoint past the poplar woods which used to be where Lakenheath’s fabled golden orioles were found. This was apparently when these woods were managed for matchstick production. On route we stopped at New Fen viewpoint which gave us good views over pools and reedbeds in front and the poplar woods behind. Next was Mere Hide with views over pools. Lakenheath is not however a place for walking from hide to hide. Everywhere you look birds can be found in a wide variety of habitats including Brecks heath, poplar woods with many fallen trees, grazing marsh, reedbeds, pools, dense scrub and bushes and the river. From Joist Fen most of us returned to the visitors’ centre along the riverbank and its grazing marsh stopping at the Washland viewpoint to look at the ducks, geese and waders in the shallow pool behind the far bank.
Highlights for most people would be several flying bitterns, cuckoo heard or seen mainly near the poplar woods and 2 common cranes seen by those who got up to Joist Fen viewpoint early enough! The rest of us just gazed hopefully at distant reedbeds while we ate lunch and contented ourselves with good views of swifts, hobbies and marsh harriers. Kingfishers nesting behind New Fen viewpoint gave brief views but two lucky people had a kingfisher perch on their bench. The same people also had a bittern nest pointed out to them in front of Joist Fen viewpoint. In the woodland area behind the visitors’ centre a tawny owl was seen in a nest box.
Best non bird sighting of the day was definitely an otter seen on the river by Cat, a couple of hundred metres away from Washland viewpoint where many other people were watching intently for otters! Two Daubenton’s bats feeding over the lake in front of the visitors’ centre were also rather a surprise.
Apart from the 10 birds already mentioned we also saw a good range of warblers and finches throughout the reserve including common whitethroats singing on many bushes, reed warblers singing everywhere and darting from reeds on one side of the channels to another (the reserve has hundreds of pairs), sedge warbler, chiffchaff, cetti’s warbler, goldfinch, linnet, a few chaffinches and even fewer greenfinches, lots of singing black caps and a few garden warblers (although these were only heard but not seen). Reed buntings were everywhere.
Waterbirds included mallard, shoveler, tufted duck, coot, moorhen, great crested grebe, little grebe, canada geese, greylag geese, cormorant, gadwall, redshank, lapwing, oystercatcher, grey heron, mute swan and a solitary common tern sitting on a post near Mere Hide. Little egrets were seen along the river and a probable great white egret was seen briefly flying over the main reed bed.
As well as about 6 hobbies and marsh harriers, buzzard, red kite and kestrel were also seen. Hirundine were noticeably absent apart from swift flying high. One swallow was reported. Rooks were the most common corvid because they have a rookery hidden amongst the foliage of the poplar trees. Crow, magpie, jackdaw and jay were also seen along with a raven near New Fen. Members of SDBWS will be pleased to hear that we saw the ‘tricky trio’ of robin, wren and dunnock so named because people often forget about them in their efforts to find something more exciting! Other birds seen were green woodpecker and greater spotted woodpecker, blackbird, starling, blue tit, great tit, long tailed tit, collared dove, stock dove, wood pigeon, feral pigeon, pheasant, black headed gull, herring gull, lesser black backed gull and a pied wagtail at Birch Hanger service station.
69 bird species were seen during the day. It was good to see cooperation between the groups leading to a full coach and a very enjoyable trip.
NB: We bumped into the ‘Bookham Boys’ as they were leaving the reserve. They had arrived much earlier than us by car and the garganey Mike had seen from New Fen viewpoint would bring the day’s total to 70 birds.
19 May 2019 – Devil’s Punchbowl. by Thelma Caine
We had a good start to this walk with Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Siskin recorded before leaving the car park. Early on, our route took us through the upper end of Highcombe Copse, where the songs of Blackcap, Robin, Blackbird and Great Tit were prominent. Excitement was to follow. As we reached a stand of conifers, we heard a high-pitched call, quickly followed by a song, rising in pitch which suggested the possibility of a Firecrest. We located the bird in the branches above and as it dropped lower, we saw the broad white supercilium above the dark eye-stripe which confirmed it as this species. We later saw both Goldcrest and Coal Tit in the pines. As the temperature rose, Buzzards rose in thermals high over the valley. Moving on to more open habitat with heath and scattered conifers, the morning got even better when we heard the first Redstart singing and after a few moments, located it perched on a thin branch of a small tree. This was a superb bird with its smart black plumage, white forehead, orange-red front, and red tail. Further on, a patch of low scrub and woodland produced good views of Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler, both of which were singing. Garden Warblers serenaded us from cover giving brief views.
The wooded path then led downhill to the lower slopes of Highcombe Copse, with Great Spotted Woodpecker and Treecreeper seen along the way. Where the path reached the edge of an open field, we saw another male Redstart, this time on the ground collecting food with a female perched on a fence nearby. The male flew up across the path and into the wood, perched on a branch for a few moments then disappeared into a nest-hole. It reemerged, sat on the branch again and flew back to its feeding spot. Both the male and female then proceeded to make numerous visits to the nest hole while we watched transfixed. The photographers in the group took many shots, trying to get the birds as they flew in or emerged from the hole.
Eventually we moved on, finding Mistle Thrushes at the lower end of the field and a pair of Grey Wagtails feeding near the stream. We crossed the stream over a wooden bridge locating Nuthatch in the trees. A Cuckoo called and several of the group had great views of a Marsh Tit on the edge of the wood. We then had a short, steep climb before reaching our lunch spot and a wellearned rest, with superb views over the Punchbowl below. We had a great vantage point from here seeing more Buzzards and a distant Red Kite. A distant yaffle of a Green Woodpecker was heard.
After lunch, our route took us towards Gibbet Hill, with Linnet and a pair of Stonechats seen along the way.
After admiring the view from Gibbet Hill, we moved on to the heathland on Hindhead Common. Two Tree Pipits serenaded us from the tree-tops, rising in song flight. Another pair of Stonechats were seen close by and we heard the a deep ‘kwok’ call of a Raven overhead. By the end of a very enjoyable walk, our tally for the day was 40 species.
12 May 2019 – Stodmarsh, by Peter Knox. A day with Hobbies and Marsh Frogs
Three members left Surbiton on a bright and sunny morning and, after an uneventful journey to Stodmarsh, met up with Mike White and Robert Muller in the car park. Our first sighting was just a short walk from the car park where we found a singing Garden Warbler high up in a tree. A short distance later we met a photographer who put us on to a Treecreeper which gave us fantastic close views. Just as we left the damp woodland, we heard our first Cuckoo. We then picked up on a male Marsh Harrier quartering the reed beds quite close to us. Soon after this we spotted four Hobbies in the air. Moving out of the woodland we had great views of a Sedge Warbler singing in the open on a dead tree. We continued to the first hide, the Marsh hide, from which we viewed three Common Terns and a Little Egret. The Terns would give Robert a bit of a headache as he tried to photograph them. In this hide a family arrived as we were leaving and mention they had just been watching fifteen Hobbies over the site. We had a scan of the sky and found a minimum of twelve providing a spectacular sight. We gradually moved across the grazing marsh toward Harrison Drove hide for lunch picking up a nice view of a Common Whitethroat. At the hide there was little to see but we were serenaded by a large and very vocal collection of Marsh Frogs.
After lunch we observed a sizeable collection of Greylag gosling just behind the hide. We now moved on to Grove Ferry via Turf Field hide. Once again there was little to see and so we moved on to the ramp at Grove Ferry. We picked up a nice view of a singing Reed Warbler. We had good views of Swifts, Sand Martins, Swallows and House Martins. We made two circuits of the paddocks hoping to find a Turtle Dove without success. We did hear a Lesser Whitethroat and had even better views of a Garden Warbler in the open. Up to this point we had heard numerous Cuckoos but not seen one, but this changed when Mike spotted one which flew in and perched in the open in a tree giving good scope views.
We moved on to the Tower hide to find it was in the process of being refurbished so we could not use it. The hide would have made little difference as the pit seem devoid of bird life. We continued our return journey. Some of our group were lucky to catch a brief view of a Kingfisher as it flew down one of the reedbed channels. We had brief diversion to the Reedbed hide finding a pair of Little Grebes and Great Crested Grebes.
We now headed back to the car park. It had been a good day with fine but windy weather and a species list of 56 birds.
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