6 December 2020, WWT London Wetland Centre by Jonathan Hannam
Although the LWC website said that the reserve was sold out, it was surprisingly quiet when our small group of seven arrived at 09:30. Perhaps it was the weather, which was grey and chilly, perhaps it was the fact that a lot of the people who had booked online were families that were more interested in visiting Santa in the Lodge or perhaps people were put off by the fact that the Peacock hide was closed. Whatever was the reason, my worry that the other hides that were open would be difficult to get into was thankfully unfounded.
We all went into the big observatory by the entrance courtyard and saw Mallard, Tufted Duck, a few Pochard and a close view of Great Crested Grebe. Amongst a host of Black-headed Gulls, we picked out one Common Gull.
We then split into two covid-compliant parties, with Thelma taking two members on the southern route first, followed by the western route whilst I took the remaining three members doing the opposite. We all saw Wigeon, Shelduck, Gadwall and Teal, but Thelma’s party managed to discover the female Goldeneye as well. Her group were also lucky to see a Bittern from the Dulverton Hide, but it had tucked itself away by the time my group arrived. The only wader seen was Lapwing.
Away from the water, notable sightings for both groups were a family of Long-tailed Tits and Redwing, which were feeding off the berries just outside the Visitor Centre. Cetti’s Warbler was heard and briefly glimpsed by some in my group and we also saw a solitary Chiffchaff and a couple of Goldcrests. Meanwhile, Thelma’s group had a good view of a Great-spotted Woodpecker. In all, each group saw 43 species, but the combined total for both groups was 54 species.
25 October 2020, Wallasea Island RSPB Reserve by Peter Knight
Serenaded by Skylarks
As I packed the car the sky to the west was jet black including the sound of thunder with an oncoming downpour soon to arrive. It rained as I drove into and through London, but by the time I arrived at Wallasea Island car park the rain had nearly stopped. Here I met with three members of the club.
After getting our kit sorted and we studied the site map and set off. We soon had some good close views of Reed Bunting and sound of singing Skylark which accompanied us all day long. We moved into the reserve arriving at a spot where we could observe some of the scrapes. Here we found lots of ducks and a few Golden Plover which soon turned into a few hundred as something flushed them into the sky. We also had views of both male and female Marsh Harriers. At this point we an unexpected sighting of up to six distant Swallows. We carried on around the southern border of the site, spotting a Hare en route to a viewing point over the river Roach. Here we found a small group of Avocets and some Redshank, the most common wader we had all day. As we moved onward the rain returned, but not too heavily. We suddenly picked up the sound of Corn Bunting, eventually getting some good views. Arriving at a second viewpoint, which had an interesting viewing screen which provided shelter from the rain and wind, we decided to have lunch as it was still raining. Sizable flocks of Canada Geese and Greylag Geese were found. The star sightings where Great White Egret found by Rebecca and an overflight by a Peregrine.
After lunch we continued around the raised dyke until we found another good place to view the reserve. Rebecca came up trumps again finding a ring-tailed Hen Harrier which gave fantastic telescope views as it quartered the site. Soon we arrived at a point where we could either follow the dyke back to the car park or head out along a spit to another viewing screen overlooking the junction of the rivers Roach and the Crouch. We decided to take the spit option which turned out to be a good choice.
More Avocets were seen, and a good size flock of Ring Plovers with a few Turnstone mixed in. While scanning the salt marsh two birds of prey were seen on the ground. The first quickly took off and we identified it as a ring-tailed Hen Harrier. The second bird was preening and after watching it for what felt like an age it turned out to be a second ring-tailed Hen Harrier. So, this was possibly a third Hen Harrier for the day.
We retraced our way back along the dyke towards the car park checking the scrapes either side. These scrapes were created using spoil from the Crossrail excavation in London. Once we got close to the car park, we spent time scanning unsuccessfully for Short Eared Owls, but did have beautiful sunset.
We had a great day seeing 51 species of birds and we walked about seven and half miles. The RSPB is actively developing the site, building a hide in the middle of the reserve.
9-11 October 2020, Suffolk Weekend by Thelma Caine
Within the Covid guidelines, we were able to proceed with this weekend. Twelve members travelled to Suffolk on Friday with Rainham Marshes a first stop-off point for some. Wildfowl were present in good numbers here, including Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Pintail, Shoveler, Pochard and Tufted Duck. There were also good views of waders including Avocet, Lapwing, Ruff and Snipe as well as Little Egret. Birds of prey were in evidence including Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel, while notable among the passerines were Bearded Tits (9 in total) as well as Skylark, Swallow, Grey Wagtail, Stonechat, Cetti’s Warbler and Chiffchaff. Abberton Reservoir was also a popular venue on route. There was a wider selection of wildfowl here, highlights being Goldeneye, Goosander and Red-crested Pochard. Both Little and Great White Egret were seen here as well as Grey Heron. It was a good day for raptors at Abberton with sightings of Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard and Kestrel. Among the waders were Lapwing, Dunlin, Ruff, and Black-tailed Godwit.
There was a good selection of smaller birds too including Kingfisher, Skylark, Swallow, Meadow Pipit, Stonechat, Wheatear, Chiffchaff and Yellowhammer. Visits on Friday also included the Stour Estuary RSBP reserve, where trails led through mixed woodland to Copperas Bay. Woodland birds here included, Jay, Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, while on the estuary were good numbers of Brent Geese, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Curlew and Redshank and smaller numbers of Shelduck, Pintail, Great Crested Grebe, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin, Turnstone and Little Egrets. A Marsh Harrier flew across the saltmarsh and settled on the ground here giving excellent close views. Raptors here also included Buzzard and Kestrel. These three venues together produced 81 species, a good start to the weekend.
Saturday dawned bright and keen members of the group were up early for a pre-breakfast birdwatch in the hotel grounds. Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow and Magpie were all feeding on the short turf of the golf course. Rooks called from the trees bordering the car park and perched on wires overhead. Along the trail, Woodpigeon, Starling, Dunnock, Robin, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Blackbird and a small flock of Goldfinches were all seen early on. Several Pied Wagtails strutted on roof tops. Further along, there was much activity among a group of trees and bushes with sightings of Stock Dove, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker and House Sparrow. By this time, we had a good appetite for breakfast.
After breakfast we headed for Snape RSPB reserve, parking at Snape Maltings and walking over the bridge across the Alde River with Rebecca leading one group of 6 and myself leading the other. The first section of the walk gave views across the reed-fringed river to the right and damp pasture to the left before opening out into the broad expanse of the Alde estuary. Feeding in the shallows were Little Egrets and a number of graceful Avocets, sweeping their bills from side to side. Curlews, Redshanks and Black-tailed Godwits probed in the mud and a Little Grebe dived and re-surfaced close to the reeds. Among the wildfowl were Mute Swan, Teal, Mallard and Shelduck. Meadow Pipits and a Skylark flew up from the pasture and one or two Reed Buntings flitted through the reeds. The trail led on through mixed woodland where Jay and Stock Dove were added to the list and a Treecreeper was heard calling. Beyond the wood, the path led up on to heathland of Snape Warren from where we had a scenic view across the estuary. A Kestrel was seen hovering over the trees, then a Marsh Harrier swept by flapped languidly, rising above the tree line before dropping down to hunt over the reeds. The first heavy shower of rain arrived around midday and we returned to the wood to take shelter before taking the return route to the car park. We lunched at Snape Maltings then set off for our next destination of Boyton Marsh. In the fields by the RSPB car park were a flock of Curlew and Greylag Geese. A short distance further on, a patch of hedgerow was a hive of activity with Blue Tit, Great Tit, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Linnet all flitting about in the foliage. Two highlights here were a Lesser Redpoll and Yellowhammer, both seen by Rebecca’s group. On the scrape, which was a pool of water after the rain of recent weeks, Mute Swan, Teal, Mallard and Wigeon were all feeding and on the grass nearby were a group of Canada Geese and a solitary Barnacle Goose. An Oystercatcher flew over calling and a Snipe spiralled down and landed on the edge of the scrape. Rebecca’s group which had arrived first had Little Egret, Grey Heron, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Kestrel and Marsh Harrier. After my group visited the scrape, the next shower of rain arrived, and we took shelter in the bushes. The sky looked very threatening and rumbles of thunder indicated we were in for a downpour. We headed back hurriedly and reached the cars just in time to avoid being totally drenched. Rebecca’s group by this time had made it to Hollesley and were equally lucky in avoiding the worst of the rain. The reserve at Hollesley produced sightings of Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Redshank, Turnstone, Little Egret, Stonechat and Wheatear with Swallows and House Martins feeding overhead. Moving on to coastal stretch at Shingle Street, the bushes were full of activity with Wren, Dunnock, Blackbird, Cetti’s Warbler, Chiffchaff and Goldcrest all recorded here as well as Redwings. The undoubted highlight however was a superb Short-eared Owl which flew across in front of the group providing opportunities for photos. A Tawny Owl was also heard calling before the group headed back to the hotel.
At first light on Sunday morning there was an impressive passage of Redwings flying inland over the hotel grounds, with over 350 counted by Paul. After breakfast we made our way to Minsmere, where all but two of the hides were open. Rebecca’s group set off first to view the scrapes and observe seabird passage and Thelma’s group headed off to the Bittern hide. A Great White Egret, showing its yellow bill was feeding in a pool in front of the hide. Little Egret and Grey Heron were also seen here, and a Marsh Harrier swept by low over the reeds. On our return route from the hide, we had great views of several Hobbies overhead catching dragonflies. On the scrapes there was a good variety of duck including Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, several Pintails, Tufted Duck and Shelduck. With water levels high, waders were scarce but Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Sanderling and Common Sandpiper were all seen, and several Snipe emerged from the reeds in the afternoon as did a Water Rail. Several Cetti’s Warblers were heard, and Bearded Tits showed well in the reeds. Further sightings included Kingfisher, Reed Bunting, Stonechat and Linnets. Rebecca’s group continued to Dunwich cliffs for a seawatch which produced a Red-throated Diver, Gannets, and an unidentified Auk. Greylags and a few Barnacle Geese fed in the fields. A visit to the Island Mere hide in the afternoon produced good sightings of two Bitterns which flew up from the reeds and more views of Hobbies hunting insects. Birds of prey also included Buzzard and Kestrel and among the woodland birds were Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tit and Goldfinch. There was much activity on the feeders at the Visitor Centre with several Pheasants joining Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit and Chaffinch for a share of the food but the highlight here was a Marsh Tit, spotted by Tom and Paul. 66 species were seen at Minsmere and altogether we recorded 104 species during the weekend. All the planning involved to ensure the weekend could proceed under the Covid requirements, was well worth the effort.
27 September 2020, Farlington Marsh and Langstone Harbour by Thelma Caine
Eight members joined this trip on a bright and breezy day, forming two groups of four with Thelma leading one group and Rebecca the other. On arrival, the tide was high, and several Sandwich Terns were fishing in the bay. Thelma’s group headed for the lake, which was populated with flocks of Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, several Pintail, a pair of Gadwall, Moorhen, and a Great Crested Grebe. A large group of Black-tailed Godwits were gathered on the lake shore together with Redshanks, Lapwing, and a Ruff. After the lake, the trail through the bushes was fairly quiet, but we found Linnet and Stock Dove here. Kestrel was seen hunting over the marsh and Rebecca’s group had a Sparrowhawk. Birds of prey during the day also included Buzzard and a brief view of Peregrine. In addition to Wigeon and Teal, the stream held Little Grebe, Shoveler, and several Little Egrets. A Kingfisher was seen here, and a Water Rail called from the reeds. Just past the Wildlife Trust hut, we had close views of a Great White Egret in flight and in the fields on the east side of the marsh Yellow Wagtails were feeding around the cattle together with Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits. Two Wheatears were feeding here on top of the anthills and several Stonechats were seen on bush tops. The Deeps produced one of the highlights of the day for both groups, with close views of a Grey Phalarope swimming in the shallow water close to the reeds. As the tide receded, Curlews, Redshank and Oystercatcher probed on the mud and Ringed Plover were seen off The Point. On the return route past the lake, several Snipe emerged from the reeds. Rebecca’s group stayed on at Langstone Harbour in the afternoon to look for the American Golden Plover which had been reported the previous day. With the help of local birders, the bird was located on the mud beyond the grassy island to the east of Farlington, an adult moulting into winter plumage, slightly smaller than the European species. The bird showed a pale crown stripe which extended down the neck – an exciting ‘first’ for the group! A Turnstone was also seen in this area and dozens of Brent Geese were feeding in the harbour. Thelma’s group moved on to Warblington, east of Hayling Island in the afternoon and explored the harbour from there finding Curlew, Oystercatcher, Greenshank, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Shelduck, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Sandwich Tern and several House Martins overhead. Altogether 64 species were seen during the day.
13 September 2020, Rainham RSPB by Rebecca Dunne
Thirteen of us enjoyed a hot, still and sunny day at Rainham on the day before the ‘Rule of Six’ came in. Three early birders went up onto the Thames riverbank to scan the opposite bank. Robert spotted a Spoonbill in amongst the Little Egrets which promptly took off and flew onto Crayford Marshes. Stephen and I just watched its rear view flying away. A spoonbill has been around the area for several weeks and had just been seen leaving Aveley Bay. The mouth of the Darent River and Crayford Marshes, which are opposite Rainham, are where it has been spending much of its time.
Once everyone had gathered our entry was delayed by contact tracing and bees. The bees live in the roof of the visitors’ centre and had chosen that day to swarm over the temporary entrance. RSPB restrictions meant that we had to walk round the reserve in a clockwise direction and wear masks in the two hides that were open; Shooting Butts hide and the Ken Barrett hide. Because of this we stopped for lunch on the platforms along the Northern boardwalk instead of our traditional stop in the Shooting Butts hide. Most of the reserve was open but some woodland sections were closed because no maintenance had been able to happen, for example the Cordite Store.
The beautiful weather conditions meant that it was relatively quiet bird wise but the raptors kept us amused. At least two hobbies were spotted in the distance as soon as we walked onto the reserve and they remained feeding overhead all day giving everyone great views. They were joined by at least two kestrels and a couple of sparrowhawks throughout our visit. We also had a peregrine sitting on the grass so close by that we were confused as to its identity. One of the resident barn owls was obligingly sitting in the entrance of its nest box behind the Cordite Store but, as usual, some people took a bit of persuading that the white blob seen through a telescope was an owl.
Waders were in very short supply. Purfleet Scrape and Butts Scrape were almost deserted. An RSPB volunteer’s theory was that because the very hot summer had dried up the scrapes the micro-organisms and invertebrates etc had been killed off so that, although the scrapes had refilled in the heavy rain, there was no food for the birds yet. Watching the David Attenborough’s ‘Extinction’ programme later that day made this seem even more depressing. However, looking over Target Pools from the Shooting Butts hide there were some muddy edges and 3 Ruff and a Snipe were spotted in amongst the Lapwings, Great Black-Backed Gulls and geese.
Winter ducks were starting to reappear on the Target Pools and Aveley Pools; a couple of Pintail being the most interesting in amongst Wigeon, Teal and Gadwall plus a few Shoveler and Pochard. The most numerous birds were the Starlings flying noisily in and out of the berry bushes in mini-murmurations. The rest of the sound track on the reserve was mainly provided by Goldfinches, Linnets, Chiffchaff, Cetti’s Warblers and, around the visitors’ centre, House Sparrows. A few Yellow Wagtails were also spotted amongst the cows.
Once we had circumnavigated the reserve, we headed out onto the Thames riverside path as the tide was now well out. On the opposite bank a couple of seals and Shelduck were spotted. We took the lower path in the hope of seeing Wheatear, Whinchat etc but there was nothing about. Instead we looked at the shocking amount of plastic rubbish washed up at high tides, especially bottle tops and blue plastic cotton wool bud sticks. The path led to Aveley Bay where we found lots of Black Headed Gulls, a couple of Avocet, a small flock of Black-tailed Godwit and one Dunlin. Our now reduced group headed on to Serin Mound and looked out over the large section of marshland that is not open to the public. It was again very quiet although we did add Buzzard to our list. All day we had hoped to see Marsh Harriers because 4 pairs were thought to have raised 12 chicks this summer. However, they were not seen until a pair briefly emerged from the drainage ditches as we neared the Visitors’ Centre again. Our total number of species was 56.
9 August 2020, Rye Harbour by Thelma Caine
Nine members joined this trip on a sweltering day with temperatures rising to 30°C. On arrival at the first hide, the scrape held a good scattering of birds including Cormorants, Gulls, Sandwich Tern, Curlew, Oystercatcher, two Avocets, one or two Whimbrel, small groups of Dunlin and Ringed Plover, Redshank, a Greenshank and Little Egrets. Strutting along the waterline were several Yellow Wagtails with Swallows and Sand Martins feeding overhead – a good start to the day.
The shingle beside the Beach Road was full of wildflowers, among them Viper’s Bugloss, Yellowhorned Poppy, Red Valerian, Centaury and Mugwort.
Birds seen along the way included Stock Dove, Meadow Pipit and Skylark. The tide was beginning to rise by the time we reached the second hide. Sheltered here from the sun and with the hide to ourselves, we decided it was a good time for lunch. Quite close to us were four Little Grebes. Flocks of Oystercatchers flew in and settled on the scrape. These were joined by more Dunlins, Ringed Plover, a Knot, two Turnstones (one resplendent in summer plumage) and a wader which caused some debate but was eventually confirmed as a Ruff. After lunch we moved across to the hide overlooking Ternery Pool. This again held gatherings of Cormorants, Gulls and a variety of waders, among them another Greenshank. A Common Sandpiper was spotted on the Tern raft and we then located three others feeding along the water’s edge. There were more Yellow Wagtails here too. After this, we proceeded along the path to explore the bushy area beyond the scrapes. A Wheatear was soon located perched on a fence. Linnets, Goldfinches and several Stonechats flitted amongst the bushes and a Whinchat gave a tantalisingly brief glimpse. We searched for this again and relocated it further along on a bushtop where it obligingly sat giving excellent views. Beyond here, to the right of the path, several Common Terns were seen hunting for fish over the freshwater pools. A quick check of Long Pit produced Great Crested Grebes, Mute Swan, Tufted Duck and several Pochard. From here we headed back to the car park and some the group continued on to Castle Water. From the road, we headed up the footpath. A group of Gadwall and several Little Egrets showed well on the first pool. A party of Long-tailed Tits flitted through the trees and a Green Woodpecker called from the foliage. From the first viewpoint over Castle Water masses of birds were gathered including Cormorants, Gulls, Greylag Geese, Shoveler, Mallard, Teal, Gadwall, Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwits and another Common Sandpiper. Standing tall among these was a Great White Egret with several Grey Herons and Little Egrets close by. Those who made it to the hide (survival of the fittest on this hot day!) were rewarded by seeing a Garganey as well as 7 Snipe, a Green Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover and Egyptian Geese. Several warblers added to the list were Chiffchaff, Reed Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler and Blackcap. The only bird of prey seen was a Sparrowhawk, bringing the day’s tally to 72 species.
12 July 2020, Knepp Wildlands by John Barkham
Our resumed programme of day outings bought 12 members to the Knepp Estate in West Sussex. We took a circular walk through the ‘rewilded’ landscape of grassland, scrub and woods. A flight of White Storks from the reintroduction project were soon spotted as they soared high over the Sussex Countryside, a truly majestic sight. Our walk bought us to a large oak tree with a stork nest, where one female from the project and a vagrant male from the continent have successfully hatched 3 young. One was walking beneath the tree and taking short flights, whilst the remaining 2 were still on the nest. Our walk continued through scrubby areas where we added Yellowhammer and several Lesser Whitethroats to our bird list. Rebecca and Martin briefly spotted a couple of Turtle Doves in flight.
Butterfly sightings included Marble White, Red Admiral and Silver–washed Fritillary, but alas no Purple Emperor.
Near our picnic spot a Tamworth Pig with 3 piglets were seen foraging and turning over the soil, which is all part of the ‘rewilding’ plan.
Near the end of our walk we sat on a grass embankment that overlooks one of the lakes. Here we watched Great-crested Grebe with their young and Swallows feeding their fledglings. In all, a successful and enjoyable day.
1 March 2020, Dick Focks Common by John Barkham
As many as 15 trippers attended a morning’s outing to Dick Focks Common in the Effingham Forest, near East Horsley in Surrey. The weather conditions were promising to see our target species, with sunny intervals and a moderate wind. We were duly rewarded with several flight views throughout the morning from our viewpoint looking over the Forest. Other birds seen or heard included Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, Red Crossbill, Chaffinch, Siskin, Goldfinch, Goldcrest and Marsh Tit. Later that morning, John Gale and Bill Ingram ventured deeper into the Forest, where they observed Hawfinch at Honeysuckle Bottom and, on their way home, 7 Goosanders at Pennymead Lake, East Horsley. In the afternoon several of the group decided to relocate to Frensham Common, where they enjoyed excellent views of a first-winter Great Grey Shrike. Also the distant call of Woodlark could be heard in the wind.
26 February 2020, Thames Towpath & Home Park by Mike White
On a bright, crisp morning with a substantial wind-chill I was joined by seven hardy souls for this Wednesday wander. The area around the Diana Fountain provided the first birds of the day, in the form of Canada Geese, Jackdaws, Starlings, Black-headed and Common Gulls. Further towards Hampton Court Gate a Treecreeper gave good views and a Green Woodpecker perched atop a brick wall. Walking through the palace grounds a Mistle Thrush was feeding on mistletoe and a Coal Tit was heard.
Joining the towpath, a Mute Swan was under Hampton Court Bridge and Mallards were dabbling on the edge of a murky and fast flowing Thames. At the Thames/Mole confluence a Great Crested Grebe appeared to have found a hunting spot in some slack water. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew across the river. The trees along the Hampton Court boundary and the riverside bushes added Goldfinch, Great Tit, Long-tail Tit, Song Thrush, Goldcrest, Redwing and one member saw the only Fieldfare of the day, whilst Cormorant and Lesser Black-backed Gulls flew over the river. A Canada Goose which flew in and landed on the river, most likely set a new water speed record as it was promptly swept back in the direction from which it had come. Entering Home Park via the towpath gate, a pair of Stock Dove were feeding in an adjacent paddock. Between Rick Pond and the Overflow Pond a Kestrel gave close views as it hovered into the wind and a small flock of Skylark were getting territorial. A pair of Tufted Duck appreciated the shelter of the Overflow Pond. The Longwater was sparsely populated with Coot, including the colour variant bird seen on an earlier visit, a Great Crested Grebe, and a small flock of Tufted Duck.
Two large flocks of gulls roosting across the water behind some trees must have numbered several hundred birds and appeared to be mostly Blackheaded Gulls. As we made our way across to the exit several Skylarks were busy feeding in the close cropped area of grass. Along the road some of the group located the only Pied Wagtail and House Sparrow of the morning.
Confirming comments made by the recorder recently regarding the lack of Chaffinches in our area not a single bird was recorded on the walk. Total species seen/heard was 43.
23 February 2020, Buchen Country Park and Warnham NR by Stephen Waters
Sunday morning was rather overcast with occasional downpours. Despite these conditions, Surbiton birders set out for a day’s outing in West Sussex. This was a first visit (at the third attempt), to a new venue for the club. We started with a circular walk around the lake and through the woods at Buchen Country Park (near Crawley). Redwings and a pair of Bullfinches feeding on the buds of willow bushes were spotted. We waited out a brief rainstorm by eating lunch in the visitor centre. The feeders outside the visitor centre attracted five species of tits and demanded some photography.
Warnham NR is just a short hop towards Horsham and the group moved here for the afternoon birding. There didn’t seem to be a great deal of ducks on the pond, so we walked between the hides around this reserve. Once again there was a great deal of action at the feeders which seem to have been carefully laid out with bird photographers in mind. In the shallows of the ponds common frogs were very evident doing what frogs do at this time of year, laying down much frog spawn.
As the light began to fade, we made our way back to Surbiton agreeing that we had spent a satisfying day out in the country. Another visit again at a different time of year hopefully might attract more, less-hardy club members.
2 February 2020, Blashford Lakes and Blackwater Arboretum by Peter Knox
Three cars left a wet Surbiton heading for Blashford with one obstacle on our way, the closure of the M3 and M27 junction. Some our group manage to navigate this problem better than others, but we all arrived by 09:45. The early arrivals had managed to see two Kingfisher and several other species.
Our group now amounted to eleven club members. So, we slowly headed to the Woodland Hide seeing couple of Goldcrests a single Redwing among other species. In the hide we had most of the usual wood land birds the best being a female Reed Bunting, but we had no Siskin or Redpoll. We then moved on to the Ivy South Hide on route we had good views of a Kingfisher. In the hide we could see a mass of Wigeon on the water with a sprinkling of other ducks and water birds. Then we went on to the Ivy North Hide which provided similar species with the except for some excellent views of a single Cetti Warbler right in front of the hide in the open.
We now headed back to the cars to pick up our lunch before heading to Tern Hide to view Ibsley Water. On route we had the first of our Treecreeper sightings. Arriving at the hide we had an excellent view of a Grey Wagtail close to the front of the hide. Scanning the water, we found that nearly all the birds were on the far side of the water this included many Pintail and a couple of female Goosander. We found the Black-necked Grebe but not the Long-tailed Duck that had been reported. After lunch we made tracks to the Lapwing Hide and on route, we found a sizable flock of Siskin feeding in some Alder trees plus a group of Redwings and the second sighting of a Treecreeper. Further on we heard a Water Rail calling. The Lapwing hide did not provide much extra even though it gave us a fuller view of the water. We did see a Common Buzzard over the far side of the pit. By now it was time to head for Blackwater Arboretum.
We managed to arrive at the arboretum without losing anyone and quickly headed for the usual viewing spot to await the arrival of the Hawfinches. This they did without too much of a wait providing good views even with dull weather. We must have seen between ten to fifteen birds. Sometimes three or four in the same tree. We also had a quick view of a Marsh Tit and Mike White picked up a Brambling which some of our group also managed to see. Another Treecreeeper was also seen. During the whole of our visit at the arboretum we were serenaded by a Song Thrush.
Eventually the light started to fade, and we all headed for home and to navigate around the closed M3/M27 junction. It had been a good day with no rain in Hampshire and we had a day list of 66 species.
19 January 2020, Pagham Harbour by Mike White.
Arriving at the Pagham Harbour visitor centre we were greeted by a dry, clear and very chilly morning with a strange yellow object in the sky, which stayed with us all day. Whilst getting suited and booted we were able to watch the Chaffinches, Dunnocks, Pheasants, House Sparrows, Blue and Great Tits around the feeders. We then headed off around the Tramway circuit. Approaching Yeomans Field, Jackdaw and Curlew were seen in an adjacent stubble field. Yeomans itself was very quiet with just Blackbird, Longtailed Tit and a flyover Lapwing. Returning to the Tramway we arrived at the bottom of the harbour and looking out over the salt marsh we could see a large flock of Golden Plover, a flock of about thirty Avocet and numerous Wigeon, Teal, Redshank and Pintail. Continuing the circuit, we added Redwing, Little Egret, Mallard, Coot and Moorhen before reaching the Ferry Hide. The Ferry Pool and surrounding farmland added Shoveler, Buzzard, Kestrel, Stock Dove and Greenfinch.
We then relocated to Church Norton where lunch was taken whilst adding Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, Peregrine, Mediterranean Gull and Great Crested Grebe. Despite much searching we were unable to find the wintering Whimbrel. On the sea distant Great Northern Diver, Red-breasted Merganser and Slavonian Grebe were seen, whilst Turnstone were doing what Turnstone do along the tide line. We then walked along to the Severals before turning inland and completing the circuit through Greenlease Farm and back to the Church Norton car park. This area was very quiet adding only Stonechat, Green Woodpecker, Chiffchaff, Song Thrush and Goldcrest.
With plenty of daylight left, we then moved a little way west to Fishbourne Creek, a new site for some of the party. The creek held many of the species previously seen but additions were a large flock of Black-tailed Godwit, and small numbers of Spotted Redshank, Greenshank and Knot. Several hundred Brent Geese were feeding in fields the other side of the creek, occasionally rising into the air and wheeling round when disturbed.
Many hundreds of gulls were loafing on the mud and a Great Black-backed next to a Black-headed gave a nice size comparison and showed just what a brute these large gulls are. Retracing our steps, we saw Yellowhammers and then a small flock of Linnets completed the day. Species total was 68, with thanks to all participants.
5 January 2020, Home Park by Jonathan Hannam
The trip actually started in the Diana Fountain car park in Bushy Park, as that is the nearest place to leave a car. Eight members joined me there and we took the opportunity to scan the pond for the resident Red-crested Pochard, before walking down to Lion Gate and joining up with another member who had come by public transport. With the notable exception of Treecreeper and Goldcrest, all the birds that were seen on the way down to Lion Gate were seen again in Home Park. Just as we were turning into Home Park at the Paddock Gate, a Sparrowhawk was briefly seen by those at the back of the group. A small group of Redwing was feeding on the ground in the paddock and then a much larger group flew into the surrounding trees. A couple of Mistle Thrush and a Nuthatch were also in the area. On the Long Water, there were lots of Coot, Black-headed Gull and Tufted Duck, as well as a few Gadwall and a solitary Great Crested Grebe. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen on the opposite side, giving good views in the scope. Also giving good scope views were a couple of Grey Heron in the cedars in the Formal Gardens. We continued our walk past the Stud House and on to the other end of the Long Water, picking up Kestrel and Green Woodpecker, before pausing for a coffee stop by the Overflow Pond, where more Gadwall were seen. We then walked down to the Kingston Gate via the Dew Pond (another Grey Heron), stopping to examine a small flock of finches on the way. These turned out to be Goldfinch with one Chaffinch amongst them. Returning homewards passed Wick Pond, two Wrens flitted about in the reeds. Our return route took us along Kingston Avenue where we passed a large flock of gulls (about 500) most of which were bBlack headed headed but there were a few Common Gull amongst them. Finally, a small flock of Long-tailed Tits entertained us as we left the park. Altogether, 41 species were recorded by the group.