15 December 2021, London Wetland Centre by Johnathan Hannam
On a grey day, a handful of members joined me for a mid-week walk around the Barnes site. We started off on the South route and were soon scanning the Main Lake from the Dulverton hide. There were lots of Black-headed Gulls and amongst them we picked out a few Common Gulls plus the odd Herring, Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed Gulls. There was a small flock of Lapwing on one of the islands and Tufted Duck and Gadwall on the water. On our way to the WWF hide, we looked at the feeders and picked up Blue Tit, Great Tit, Greenfinch and Chaffinch. The hide gave us closer views of the water species that we had already seen, plus a Jay that landed on the closest island. The next stop was the Peacock hide, where we added Teal, Shoveler and Wigeon and Rebecca’s very diligent scanning of the Grazing Marsh produced an elusive Jack Snipe. Trying to direct other people to precisely which lump of reeds she was looking at was difficult, but a few of us saw the Jack Snipe through her scope before it was spooked by a Crow and scuttled off out of sight. Common Snipe proved marginally easier to see for everybody. A Stonechat was flitting around the fence line, Cetti’s Warbler was heard and there were two distant Pochard at the far end of the Main Lake. On the way back to the Visitor Centre, we saw a flock of about eight or nine Siskin, feeding on the Alder trees.
After a coffee stop, some people had to leave but the rest of us headed off to the West route. The guide in the Headley hide told us that no Bittern had been seen recently, but that the resident female Goldeneye (which they have named Gloria, apparently) had been at this end of the Main Lake all morning but wasn’t visible just now. Pressing on, we saw a Chiffchaff in the wooded section and a solitary Redwing at the top of a tree, alongside a Song Thrush. The Wildside hide provided good views of four Little Grebe, birds that we had glimpsed from afar earlier in the day. On the way out, we popped into the Observatory and were finally rewarded with a sighting of Gloria. Altogether, 52 species were recorded during the trip.
12 December 2021 Rainham Marshes RSPB report, by Rebecca Dunne
I’m finishing this report after New Year so if your memory of the day is totally different you will probably be correct!
Eleven people gathered in the car park and rapidly left layers of clothing in their cars when they realised that it really was 13°C, as forecast, instead of the 4°C on the previous day. The noisy flock of House Sparrows that thrive on the reserve greeted us from the dense bushes and bird feeders. On warden Howard Vaughan’s advice, we did the Riverside Walk first and, as he predicted, the Dartford Warbler was up by the small car park. It was accompanied by Stonechats, as is so often the way. His predicted “very mobile flock of 30+ Fieldfare” and lots of Redwings were seen enroute flying between the many berry-laden bushes. A female Kestrel sat on the side of a bush staring into the tangled undergrowth. Meadow Pipit flew over and we thought we spotted two overflying Rock Pipits but they disappeared into the shoreline vegetation before we could confirm this. At Aveley Bay the tide was falling and amongst the gulls and Wigeon, we looked out on 27 Avocet, 23 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Curlew, Redshank and Lapwing feeding on the revealed mud.
We could have spent longer on the Riverside Walk but were aware that it was already 11.30and we hadn’t even set foot on the main reserve. A lot of the reserve is visible from the path so you could get most birds from there. We saw the first of least 3 hunting Marsh Harriers that were spotted during the day from the riverside path; two females, one paler than the other, and a handsome male.
Finally entering the reserve, we set off in a clockwise direction around the 2.4mile circular walk, stopping for lunch at Shooting Butts Hide which overlooks Target Pools to the west and Butt’s Scrape to the east. Highlights of the reserve route were as follows: –
– glimpses and sounds of Bearded Tit on the reed covered Dragonfly pool. The accompanying Reed Buntings were easier to see.
– 2 Ruff on Target Pools amongst the Lapwing.
– a Water Pipit on Butts Scrape which flew in to pick its way along a pool edge.
– at least 50 Common Snipe, mainly clustered together on one small spit of land on Butt’s Scrape.
– a Peregrine on the top horizontal strut of one of the many tall pylons which explained why the lapwing and ducks kept flying up in a panic.
– a hard to spot Sparrowhawk in the far distance, in front of one the concrete pillars of the flyover.
– a Kingfisher shooting over the Cordite Store with its orange belly and distinctive flight.
– Pochard and Tufted duck mainly absent until we came round to Aveley Pools, where the water depth was obviously more to their liking.
– Raven flying over the grazing marsh although these may have been seen from the riverside?
– Chiffchaff heard in the woodland.
-2 Little Egret seen flying plus just a head poking over the top of a ditch
– Water Rail heard by Dragonfly Pool and later as we entered the woodland.
The walk finished with plenty of time for hot drinks in the café. Howard came over to find out which birds we’d missed and tried to find Yellow-Legged Gull for us on the other side of the Thames but the setting sun was reflecting too strongly off the mud. We’ll have to look more carefully next time!
68 species: Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Mute Swan, Shelduck, Shoveler, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Pintail, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Pheasant, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Water Rail,
Moorhen, Coot, Avocet, Lapwing, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Snipe, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Cormorant, Little Egret, Sparrowhawk, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kingfisher, Green Woodpecker, Kestrel, Peregrine, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Raven, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Bearded Tit, Cetti’s Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Chiffchaff, Dartford Warbler, Goldcrest, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Redwing, Song Thrush, Robin, Stonechat, House Sparrow, Dunnock, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Rock Pipit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting.
28 November 2021, Pulborough Brooks by John Barkham
11 members attended RSPB Pulborough Brooks on a cold, icy but sunny morning. We walked the heathland trail and through Black Wood, spotting woodland birds and some hungry squirrels before arriving at Hail’s View looking over the South Brooks. Upon returning to the Visitor Centre, we headed out on the main trail and down the zig-zag path, before arriving at West Mead hide. There were the usual wintering ducks, and a young Peregrine was seen at rest on the ground. Our circular walk continued and lunch was taken in Winpenny Hide. From Hanger View, the North Brooks were surprisingly free of waders – apparently flushed by a Marsh Harrier earlier in the day. We watch the Marsh Harrier later quartering the South Brooks. After a coffee on returning to the Visitors Centre, we drove the short distance to Rackham Viewport.
The viewpoint provided far reaching views over Amberley Wildbrooks, which were unusually dry given the time of year. A number of dark-form Fallow Deer were grazing quietly. Wildfowl were fewer in number than in recent years, with only a few raptors seen, but no owls. The weather stayed dry and sunny throughout the day and we all thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful Sussex countryside.
24 November 2021, Bushy Park by Mike White
My previous walk that began from the Diana Fountain car park earlier in the year took part on one of the hottest days of the year with temperatures nudging 30 degrees. In complete contrast, todays walk began with a thermometer reading zero, poor visibility and a chill breeze. The one thing these conditions have in common is that they are not ideal for birding, and so it proved once again.
In the car park were many Jackdaw, Ring-necked Parakeets, Feral Pigeons, Black-headed Gulls and Magpies. Walking down the side of the Model Boat Pond one of the first birds seen was somewhat incongruously, given the conditions, an Australian Black Swan. This escapee has been present in the park for some-time and appeared to be quite happy associating with the resident Mute Swans. A Grey Heron was also nearby along with the many Coot and Moorhen. Heron Pond held a mix of wildfowl including Mallard, Tufted Duck, Egyptian Geese and Little Grebe. The adjacent bracken held the first of several pairs of Stonechat that were seen during the morning. Turning away from the pond we went through the Oval Plantation where a Green Woodpecker yaffled as it was disturbed. Higher in the trees Blue and Great Tits were noted, as we came away from the wood a Kestrel gave good views and was also seen later perched up. In a garden near Hampton Wick gate the rattling call of a Mistle Thrush alerted us to the bird perched high in a tree also in this area was a Great Spotted Woodpecker. As we skirted Leg of Mutton Pond towards Half Moon Plantation a Little Egret landed in a ditch. We crossed the bridge between Leg of Mutton and Heron Ponds and stopped for a brief snack, closely watched by a number of hungry Corvids. We then walked the path through the middle of the large bracken area to the East of the car park. Our target bird for the day was one of the Dartford Warblers which had been present for several days. Despite locating several more Stonechats the Dartfords remained elusive, no surprise given the conditions.
A flock of fifteen Meadow Pipits flew out of a tree and a Wren was seen in the bracken. Fallow Deer of various complexions were feeding amongst the bracken and Robert spent some time attempting to get both white and dark stags in the same picture frame. Straight ahead of us as we left the bracken was the Diana Fountain. The surrounding grass held Canada Geese and on the water edge were Egyptian Geese, Black-headed Gulls, Common Gulls and singles of Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gull. This enabled a good comparison between the different gulls. Cormorants were drying their wings on the statue whilst a pair of sleeping Gadwall were drifting on the water. As we turned to leave a flyover Pied Wagtail became the final bird of the morning.
14 November 2021, RSPB Cliffe Pools by Peter Knox
Five members and one guest assembled on a grey day. The aim was a circular route around the site to view the majority of the pools as well as the River Thames.
The first stopping point was the viewing mound over the Radar pool. Most of the birds where distant but did see Greenshank and plenty of ducks as well our first Little Grebes. There seemed to be a lot of disturbance with flocks of birds flying around in the distances. The cause of disturbance was a Merlin which we had some brief views of it. We also found a Marsh Harrier perched on one of the islands and second was seen quartering the site. This was good start to the visit. We now move around the east track of the site encountering large flock of Long-Tail Tits moving around the hedges. A few members caught a brief view of a Kingfisher flying across the Radar pool.
Soon we arrived at the Black Barn viewpoint giving us views of some of the other pools on site. We found a group eight Common Snipe showing well and more Little Grebes. Then one our group had a brief view of a Bearded Tit which was followed by their “pinging“call. Then we all had views of five bird in flight flying around us on the mound.
Moving on around the site to the next viewpoint which also provide a different view of the pools and once again a sizeable number of Little Grebes. We now headed towards the Thames but first we came across an area which had some thrush activity and we had good views of three Fieldfare and Mike had a brief view of a Redwing. Once we had given the river shore a good scan on our side of the river, we move to the river viewpoint for lunch, and it allowed us a better view of the other side of the river and good views along the creek on our side of the river. There was a good number of Curlew on the north bank as well many other waders. The creek had Redshank moving around the mud.
After lunch we moved on to the Flamingo pool which provided a wide range of waders including Avocet and of course more Little Grebe. There were distant views of a Sparrowhawk in flight and a perched Common Buzzard. We moved back to the Radar pool finding the same birds which included more Little Grebes. In total we must have around sixty of this species during the day. We finished the day a with a walk up to the Pinnacle viewpoint which gives a good panoramic view of Cliffe. In total we had around 72 species on the site and a good walk, and we had no real rain even though it was a grey day.
28 October 2021, Papercourt Meadows by Thelma Caine
The first birds of the day for our party of five on this bright and breezy morning, were a pair of Mistle Thrushes in the top of a tree near the start of the footpath. This was followed by a Great Spotted Woodpecker seen overhead in undulating flight. We continued over the footbridge of the Wey Canal, spotting several Moorhens. A Jay flew over as we crossed the next bridge over the River Wey and it wasn’t long before we got our first sighting of a Kestrel hunting over the open scrub. A Meadow Pipit flew up and landed on the pylon wires overhead, struggling to balance in the stiff breeze. Further on we spotted another small bird on top of a low tree, the first of several Stonechats. Stock Doves flew over and we heard both Pheasant and a Green Woodpecker as we made our way to a small wood by the banks of the Wey. Wren and Robin were heard and glimpsed in the scrub here and Blue and Great Tits flitted in the bushes. The path took us over a stile and along a meander of the river with an attractive church beyond. A Grey Heron flew up and we had our first view of a Buzzard soaring above the church. We made our way past an old war-time pill box, part of the anti-tank defences which were set up along the River Wey and across Surrey in the 1940s. Just beyond here was a large dead tree where at least four Cormorants were perched, drying their wings. A Redwing flew over and we were tantalised by a small bird making seeping calls from the heart of a bush. From glimpses, it showed a brown back and pale front but couldn’t get a good enough view for an identification -a warbler possibly. We also had a possible Reed Bunting here but it quickly flew and was not relocated. A Red Kite appeared overhead and we had more close views of a female Kestrel and Buzzard. A small footbridge gave views over a large grassy field with pools of standing water, where a flock of around 40 Canada Geese were feeding. Groups of Goldfinches flew across as we reached the banks of the Wey Canal and a Grey Wagtail flitted across the water, landing on a nearby post. We also spotted a Red Admiral butterfly in the herbage. There were two Mute Swan cygnets on the river as we reached the picnic site at the end of the walk, bringing the morning’s tally to 31 species.
22nd-24 October 2021, Norfolk Weekend by Thelma Caine
Most of the group headed for Welney WWT on Friday where as usual, a flock of Tree Sparrows were active on the feeders outside the centre and were joined by House Sparrows and Goldfinches. Scanning the fields at the back of the centre we found at least 6 Cattle Egrets and a Great White Egret. Several Marsh Harriers were hunting over the fields and the small pool outside the café held, Teal, Wigeon and Moorhen. There were many Whooper Swans in the fields on the approach to the Centre and groups of these flew over on to the main part of the reserve. The large lagoon in front of the main hide was full of activity with large numbers of duck including Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, Gadwall and small numbers of Pintail. A flock of Black-tailed Godwit fed in the water in front of the hide and Lapwings were gathered further out. A few Snipe emerged from the grassy margins and a Ruff was located feeding on a patch of mud. In the fields were Mute and Whooper Swans, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Greylag and Canada Geese and among them a few Barnacle Geese. We had more good views of Marsh Harriers as well as Buzzard and several Kestrels. We heard there were a flock of around 30 Cranes in the area, beyond the main reserve on fields, visible from the railway bridge, a few miles down the road and several members made the short trip to see these. Saturday was the day of the ‘Snettisham Spectacular’ and our group were up very early, collecting a packed breakfast before heading off in the dark at 6.15am. The RSPB car park at Snettisham was already fairly full when we arrived 20 minutes later. As we made our way to the watchpoint, flocks of Pink-footed Geese flew in from their feeding grounds in large skeins. As the tide rose, thousands of Knot took to the air, swirling in massed flocks, the sound of their wings reverberating as they switched direction. The action was made more spectacular by the arrival of a Peregrine which chased the swirling flock, looking for breakfast! Oystercatchers were already gathered in a large flock on the mud and the Knot landed in amongst them, packed so close they looked like a huge carpet of grey. There were hundreds of other waders too including Curlew, Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Sanderlings, Turnstone, small numbers of Grey Plover, Avocet, a few Greenshank and a Spotted Redshank. They were joined by Little Egrets, while out on the sea and feeding on the mud were numerous Shelduck. We found Snow Buntings along the beach and the return route took us past lagoons which held Mute Swan, Greylag Geese, a few Egyptian Geese, a variety of duck including Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, and Pintail as well as Little and Great Crested Grebes and Lapwings. Passerines seen along the way included Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Linnet and Reed Bunting. The whole experience was memorable and well worth the effort of getting up before dawn.
We stopped off at the hotel to collect packed lunches and were treated to a very welcome hot coffee before making our way to Titchwell, by which time it was bright and rather breezy. On route to the Visitor Centre, Goldcrests and Long-tailed Tits were active in the trees. There was plenty of activity around the feeders too with Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Brambling, Greenfinch, and a Siskin, vying for a share of the seeds. A large flock of Golden Plovers flew up as we approached the first hide, the disturbance caused by three Red Kites flying overhead. Marsh Harriers were also active on both sides of the reserve. In the reeds, several people were lucky enough to see Bearded Tits. A Reed Warbler popped up briefly and Cetti’s Warbler was heard. The first lagoon was full of activity. There were Mute Swans and one Whooper Swan. Among the duck were Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Mallard, Shelduck, Shoveler and Pintail. Waders were plentiful too, including Lapwing, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Ruff, Dunlin, and several Avocets. Greenshank flew over calling and were later seen feeding. The highlight however was a juvenile Grey Phalarope which swam in circles in typical fashion, avidly picking food from the water surface.
Along the shoreline were Oystercatcher, Curlew, Knot, Sanderling, Turnstones, Ringed Plover and Grey Plover amongst others. More Snow Buntings were seen and a seawatch produced Brent Geese, Common Scoter, Guillemot, Red-throated Diver, Red-breasted Merganser and Slavonian Grebe. Later in the afternoon several Snipe and one Jack Snipe were seen at the edge of the freshwater marsh. Towards sunset, birds began flying to roost and those who stayed on at Titchwell reported sizeable gatherings of Marsh Harriers and Little Egrets around Patsy’s Pool, as well as a Great White Egret.
Following a hearty breakfast, Sunday’s visit was to Cley next the Sea. On a sunny morning, the view from Bishop’s hide was excellent. Wigeon and Teal were most numerous among the duck with smaller numbers of Shelduck, Shoveler, Gadwall, and several Pintail. Lapwings and Black-tailed Godwits were gathered on the islands, and we picked out several Ruff, showing their characteristic scaly-looking feathers and small white patch just above the bill. A small group of Dunlins flew in, and the various gulls gave good opportunities for comparing plumage, leg and bill colour with Common Gulls, Herring Gulls and Lesser Black-backs present among the larger number of Black-headed Gulls. Two Marsh Harriers flew up and settled again on the marsh and from the central hides, there were good views of Avocet. Those who went down to the beach to seawatch on arrival had a productive morning seeing Brent Geese, Eider, Great Northern, Red-throated and Black-throated Diver, Common and Velvet Scoter, a Great Skua, Gannets, Guillemot and Razorbills. Snow Buntings and Skylarks were seen along the shore, a Goldeneye was reported. All day, large numbers of Starlings were flying in over the sea as well as smaller numbers of Redwings. Seawatching remained productive in the afternoon with another Red-throated Diver, more Gannets and four Razorbills seen close-in. A female Long-tailed Duck was seen swimming up one of the channels. It flew over the bridge between the group of watchers at shoulder height. Robert reported a Barn Owl at Stiffkey on Sunday evening (also seen by Rebecca on Monday). Overall, 113 species were seen by the group during the weekend. The Caley Hall Hotel was comfortable, the staff well-organised and the food plentiful and very enjoyable, which together with convivial company, contributed to a great weekend!
10 October 2021, Rye Harbour Nature Reserve by Thelma Caine
Our group of seven set off along the footpath beside the River Rother, where one of the first birds of note was a male Reed Bunting perched on a bush top. As we approached the impressive new Visitor Centre, a Great White Egret rose from the marsh and flew overhead. Soon after this, a large flock of Golden Plover took to the sky as a Peregrine appeared. We watched it give chase, but it failed to land any prey. The first hide produced good views of waders including Curlew, Redshank, Dunlin, Lapwings, Grey Plover, Avocet, Ringed Plover and a Common Sandpiper. There were several Little Egrets and a good variety of duck here including Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler and Pintail. There was further disturbance among the feeding birds as a Sparrowhawk dashed through. We continued down the path from the hide and at the mouth of the river, two Turnstones were feeding, and Sandwich Terns dived for fish just offshore. Further along, several Sanderlings scurried along shoreline. As we walked the path along the back of the beach, Skylarks flew over and several Meadow Pipits flitted up from the grass. Buzzard and Kestrel were added to the list and a short seawatch produced Gannets, Brent Geese, Great Crested Grebe, a distant flock of Common Scoter and a seal! We had lunch in the hide overlooking the Ternery pool, where a variety of Gulls and numerous Cormorants were gathered. On the opposite lagoon, many of the birds seen earlier were still present and were joined by a flock of Oystercatchers and Greylag Geese. The next set of lagoons held Mute Swan, Canada Geese, Great Crested and Little Grebe, Pochard and Tufted Duck as well as Coot and Moorhen. We also located a Ruff together with Lapwings. Following a brief view of a Raven, a Grey Heron flew up and dropped among the reeds, a Red Kite appeared overhead and as we headed towards the barns, the surrounding bushes produced sightings of Linnet, Stonechat, Blackcap and Chiffchaff. We decided to do the full circuit to Castle Water. On route, the sheep fields held Pied Wagtails, Mistle Thrushes and Green Woodpecker. Among the highlights on Castle Water were three Black-necked Grebes and there were good views of Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler here too, as well as several Snipe and two Marsh Harriers. In the late afternoon, many Cormorants settled in the trees and it was evident that this was a significant breeding area for this species as we could see the remains of nests in the branches. Before finishing the walk, we scanned the reedbeds hoping for Bearded Tit and managed to locate several, bringing a successful day’s tally to 80 species.
28 September 2021 (evening) Bat Walk, led by Elliot Newton (report by Thelma Caine)
Six members joined Elliott for this evening walk at Elmbridge Meadow in search of bats. Before starting the walk, Elliott gave a very interesting talk about various species of bats, their characteristic features, how they use echolocation to hunt for insects in the dark, and some amazing facts including that they can live for 30 years or more, that a pipistrelle can eat several thousand insects in one night and bats are more closely related to humans than they are to mice! Elliot gave everyone a bat detector and showed us how to set it at different frequencies to pick up the sounds emitted by the different species (a setting of 35 on the dial would detect Daubenton’s bat, 45 for Common Pipistrelle and 55 for Soprano Pipistrelle). Luckily it was a dry evening while we were out walking and we recorded all three species. Early on, we located a number of Common Pipistrelles overhead. The slightly higher pitched Soprano Pipistrelles were the most numerous and we were very excited when Elliot located a Daubenton’s bat over the Hogsmill River, the highlight of the evening!
26 September 2021, Pagham Harbour by Mike White
Cloudy, murky conditions greeted us as we arrived at the visitor centre and made our way to the Ferry Pool hide. Birds on the pool included nearly 100 Lapwing, Black-headed Gulls and small numbers of Teal, Black-tailed Godwits and Shelduck. We eventually located all six of the Spotted Redshanks which had been present since early September. In the fields at the rear of the pool were Stonechats and singles of Buzzard and Stock Dove. The power lines across the site held several hundred Starlings. In the feeder area behind the hide were Robin, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Great and Blue Tits. We left the hide and began our circuit of the Tramway. Ferry Channel held upwards of 80 Teal, nearly all still in eclipse plumage, Mallard, Coot and Mute Swan, and in the salt marsh a Little Egret and a Curlew. The surrounding bushes were very quiet with the exception of a few Chiffchaff and Blackcaps. As we turned towards the visitor centre some of the group had a fleeting glimpse of a Kingfisher, whilst a Kestrel was hovering nearby.
We then moved to Church Norton, unusually, a walk through the churchyard was virtually bird-less, the adjacent fields held over twenty Red-legged Partridge and several young Pheasants. We then turned our attention to the harbour where a selection of waders included Oystercatcher, Grey Plover (some still in nearly complete summer plumage), Greenshank, Dunlin, Turnstone, Ringed Plover and low numbers of Whimbrel and Bar-tailed Godwit. The main channels held many Great Crested Grebes and Pintail with Wigeon and Teal also plentiful. As we walked towards the beach small groups of Meadow Pipit were moving west overhead and Sparrowhawk and Buzzard were noted over the Priory and a Green Woodpecker was in the fields behind the beach. Lunch was taken in the lee of a breakwater and we added Sandwich Tern, Gannet, Great Black-backed Gull and two Wheatear to the list. After lunch we returned to the harbour and scanned from the benches, adding Mediterranean Gull to the list. Rebecca commented that there had been a large increase in Pintail since she was there a few days previously. I said, what we really needed was an Osprey to flyover and put the birds up to see how many were obscured in the marsh. Right on cue Rebecca located a large raptor coming in over the North Wall and sure enough our Osprey had appeared. We were then treated to a long period of aerial displays but unfortunately the bird did not dive for any fish. Undoubtedly the bird of the day.
We then relocated a few miles to Fishbourne Creek where the usual Mute Swan herd was gradually increasing in numbers. Among the roosting gulls we eventually located our first Common Gull of the day and the adjacent farmland added Rook, Jackdaw, Jay and Long-tailed Tit to the list.
12 September 2021, Cissbury Ring by Thelma Caine
Seven members joined this walk on a fine morning. Trees around the car park and bordering the path produced the first birds of the day including Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Great Tit and several Chiffchaffs. As we walked along the lower slopes of the Ring, we scanned the first ploughed field, finding a small group of Red-legged Partridges, with several more by the fence line. Scattered trees here produced the first sighting of a Whinchat briefly, and in the same tree, a lovely male Redstart. The Whinchat was relocated in a bush to the right of the path before flitting back to its original tree. At the top of the path, views across the valley produced several soaring Buzzards and a Red Kite. Crossing the top of the Ring, we had superb views across the landscape in all directions. We headed for an area with scattered gorse scrub finding several Stonechats, a group of Linnets and unusually, a Wheatear perched high up on a treetop. We observed a significant passage of hirundines, with many Swallows, House Martins, and smaller numbers of Sand Martins. From a watch point, we scanned surrounding trees finding Great Spotted Woodpecker and Long-tailed Tits. As we reached the south-western edge of the Ring, a small, rather upright brown bird, showing a pale front flitted out from a low bush – a Spotted Flycatcher. This was the first of several seen during the day. We decided to stop here for lunch where we had a good view of scattered bushes and the valley below. This was a very productive spot, producing sightings of Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Whinchat and several more Redstarts. A Green Woodpecker flew across the valley in front of us, yaffling in alarm, closely pursued by a chasing Sparrowhawk. The Woodpecker managed to reach the safety of a tree without being caught. After lunch we descended from the top of the Ring and took a narrow path which would take us to the top of Lychpole Hill. At the start of the path was a lovely array of wildflowers including Devil’s Bit Scabious and numerous butterflies. We soon found the path overgrown with tall Hemp Agrimony and had to push our way through the vegetation. Along the way, the bordering hedge held more Long-tailed Tits and Chiffchaffs. At the top of Lychpole Hill, we located a Yellowhammer and more Buzzards overhead, one an unusually pale bird.
Soon afterwards we watched two Ravens, rising then somersaulting in mid-air as they descended. The return path took us along the upper slopes of the valley below Vineyard Hill, producing sightings of Jay, a hunting Kestrel and a pair of Mistle Thrushes. The bushes bordering the path were full of small migrants producing more views of Redstarts, Whitethroat, Blackcap and Spotted Flycatcher. By the end of a very enjoyable walk, our tally was 44 species
15 August, Titchfield Haven by Mike White
Our group of four assembled by Hill Head Sailing Club and with the tide at its lowest point we started with a look over the foreshore. The Common Tern flock contained approximately 300 birds but despite several scans we were unable to locate any of their rarer relatives. On the tideline a small number of Sanderling were running around, and on the exposed shingle Turnstones were doing what Turnstones do, later in the day we counted nearly 100 birds in this flock. Ringed Plovers were also present and gradually as we watched they came closer until we had some stunning views. Unfortunately, the wind was blowing at 20mph with 30mph gusts and gradually increased during the day, resulting in only one species of small passerine being seen during the day, namely several Goldfinches. From the Suffern Hide a small flock of Gadwall were on the River Meon and Lesser Black-backed Gulls were post perching. As we left the hide a Sparrowhawk gave the briefest of views as it skimmed over our heads. Moving on to the Meadow Hide a Cormorant flew past and a flock of Canada Geese flew onto the area called the Frying Pan, a distant perched Kestrel was also seen. Small numbers of Swifts and Little Egrets were noted during the day. Moving to the western side of the reserve and from the Meon Shore Hide Oystercatchers, Redshank, Lapwing, Teal and Avocets were observed. A Common Sandpiper was along the far shore. The flock of Black-tailed Godwits contained birds in various stages of plumage, allowing for comparison between nearly full summer to complete winter. Two Dunlin were also present. Our final stop was the Spurgin Hide where the only addition to the list was a single Shoveler.
8 August 2021, Denbies Hillside by John Barkham
The weather forecast was very poor; heavy rain, cold temperatures and wind, with little prospect of seeing birds or butterflies. However, 9 members donned wet weather gear and ventured onto the Denbies Hillside nature trail. Fortunately, the weather proved better than the forecast and we faced only the occasional shower during our walk. We first took in the panoramic views from the hillside, looking across the valley to Dorking and Leith Hill Tower in the distance. We admired the numerous wildflowers as we walked down the hillside, including an oak sculpture depicting the life cycle of the Adonis Blue butterfly. We scanned the valley hedgerows for birdlife and Jim and Robert spotted a Yellowhammer. Our return walk uphill proved fairly steep, but we paced ourselves and eventually returned to level ground. We eventually found numerous Chalkhill Blue butterflies at rest in the grassy hillside. A few of the group who left early and missed the butterflies did have a close encounter with a Skylark. We completed our walk with a coffee from a mobile coffee van, a vintage Citroen H Van.
21 July 2021, Thames Towpath and Home Park by Mike White
To Noel Cowards’ “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”, you can now add “and also members of SDBWS”. With a near cloudless sky and the temperature rapidly climbing towards 30 degrees locating any avian activity was going to be difficult, and so it proved.
We started our walk noting the usual large numbers of Ring-necked Parakeets, Jackdaws and a group of Black-headed Gulls loafing in the car park. The area around an alga covered Diana Fountain held the usual waterfowl and singles of Grey Heron and Pied Wagtail. Two Swallows flying over were the only ones seen during the walk. The Lion Gate access to Hampton Court was closed so we walked along the front of the Palace to the foot of Hampton Court Bridge. Canada and Egyptian Geese were on the far bank and close to the bridge a Great Crested Grebe parent was attempting to ignore the begging of an almost independent youngster.
High above two Sparrowhawks were involved in a game of tag and even higher a flock of Swifts were wheeling around. A few yards further on a female Tufted Duck appeared with a flotilla of 6 youngsters, moving swiftly to avoid the approaching Turks River boat. The grass area along the towpath has been allowed to grow unchecked and large numbers of butterflies were attracted to the meadow flowers. We saw nine species including, Marbled White, Red Admiral, Small Copper, Small Skipper, Peacock and Gatekeeper.
Along the towpath birdlife was almost non-existent, but Wren, Robin and Stock Dove were noted. Over the river 2 Common Terns were fishing and a pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls flew through. Whilst watching butterfly activity a Wren popped out from the tangle of growth. At the Surbiton Passage entrance to Home Park, we stopped and watched the Sand Martins entering their nests on Raven’s Ait, and a Pied Wagtail was searching the surrounding fence for insects. Entering the passage, a Chiffchaff was seen, and the “wheezing” call of a Greenfinch was heard. Those members that entered the park first were lucky enough to get close views of a Kestrel.
A Common Tern was fishing on the boating pond. On the Longwater a pair of Mute Swan has seven well grown youngsters and a pair of Great Crested Grebe had three very small young. The “brown” Coot, a leucistic or diluted bird was present apparently happy to mix with regularly coloured birds. A juvenile Green Woodpecker flew across and near the exit gate a family of Jays were seen. Given the conditions a very respectable total of 33 species were seen.
18 July 2021, Oare Marshes by Chris Turner
The trip to Oare Marshes on the Swale was not one for the faint-hearted with temperatures forecast to reach 29 degrees. And boy was it hot.
The first target was the Bonaparte’s Gull which had returned to North Kent for its seventh year just the day before. Some had the bird on the fields behind the floods early doors but it had moved off by the time the rest of us had arrived. However, after 45 minutes or so scanning the retreating waterline the bird showed well, if not point blank, at the edge of the mud. A real treat in its summer finery.
Perhaps not the wader fest that we had hoped for, with most of the Godwits and smaller waders being very distant on the north side of the estuary. However, we did enjoy distant views of a hunting Hobby before heading along the sea wall to work the reserve. Again, rather quiet which we suspected was due to a combination of a falling tide and high water levels on the floods. Black-tailed Godwits the only waders of note.
Better though were the views of a purring Turtle Dove (perhaps two) on wires and trees near the cottages. Looked like they may have been feeding young. Sad that this is such a rare occurrence now, and I suspect will be the only Turtle Doves I see all year. Back to the car park and a Reed Warbler was observed hunting through the only tree in the vicinity.
As we felt that we had “done” Oare so quickly most of us thought a detour to see the long staying Spoonbill at RSPB Cliff Marshes would be worthwhile. It was still hot, but the heat haze wasn’t too bad. We caught up with the Spoonbill straight away, but perhaps more memorable was a distant Marsh Harrier as well as a scattering of passage waders. We started with a Common Sandpiper before catching up with a couple of Whimbrel, a rather lonely looking Golden Plover and three Greenshank.
A thoroughly worthwhile day for the seven members who made it.
27 June 2021, Norbury Park by Mike White
Our group of seven departed the meeting point under a leaden grey sky but with a warm breeze blowing. A juvenile Coal Tit was in an adjacent fir tree and a cock Linnet with bright red breast was in the field hedge line. The fields held a selection of corvids and Stock Dove, Wood Pigeon and Pied Wagtails were around the horses (which were sporting a range of colourful headgear). The set-a-side in the field at the bottom of Bookham Wood held a very active family of Whitethroats, also Wren and Blackcap. A sudden burst of noise from the corvids alerted us to a Red Kite passing overhead and Swifts were also noted. Unusually the kite was the only raptor seen during the walk. Continuing towards Crabtree Lane the field held many singing Skylark.
Approaching the viewpoint above the A.24 the white rump of a Jay was seen disappearing into the wood. A very vocal Chiffchaff was eventually located and gave good views, not so a Little Egret that was flying along the River Mole just on the treeline. Herring Gulls passed up the valley and a family party of Long-tail Tits flew out from a tree. Refreshed by liquids from the mobile “Wild Coffee” stall we started our return. The only Song Thrush of the day was seen and a mixed flock of approximately thirty birds (nearly all Blue Tits but with the odd Blackcap and Great Tit) flew across the path.
Approaching our departure point the Swallows with nests in the stables at Roaring House Farm gave superb flying displays as they collected insects from under the treeline before making a sharp turn above our heads and returning to the stables. In the unsuitable conditions butterfly numbers were very low with singles of Ringlet, Common Blue, and Red Admiral and less than a handful of Meadow Brown seen.
20 June 2021, Knepp Wildlands by John Barkham
17 trippers met at the Knepp Estate in West Sussex for a circular walk through the ‘rewilded’ landscape of grassland, scrub, and woods. The cold, late spring meant no appearance yet of Purple Emperor butterfly, but we enjoyed multiple sightings of White Storks in flight. We viewed 3 stork nests with young during our walk, including an accompanying soundtrack of stork bill-clattering. The Visitor Centre reported there were a total of 15 chicks across 6 nests on the estate. Yellowhammer was frequently heard and occasionally seen, plus Linnet and numerous Common Whitethroat. Blackcaps were plentiful and Thelma helped us identify several singing Garden Warblers. There was a brief view of a flying Turtle Dove, before Rebecca found one perched on a wire and we all enjoyed excellent telescope views of the bird.
We negotiated the free-roaming Longhorn Cattle and Tamworth Pigs before arriving at our picnic spot, where we sat on a convenient pile of logs.
Later in the afternoon, we heard the song of a Nightingale, before eventually seeing the bird emerge several times from the dense scrub. There was a Great Crested Grebe nest on Hammer Pond and close views of a Goldcrest on the approach. Before returning to the Visitor Centre and a coffee, a Little Owl was seen working one of the nearby fields. The sun finally came out and a few trippers took a late-afternoon walk to the bird hide at the Knepp Castle Lake. Treecreeper, Reed Warbler, House Martin and Sparrowhawk were added to our list. In all, more than 50 birds were seen.
16 June 2021, Molesey Heath by Thelma Caine
Starting out on this sunny warm morning, we made our way across the lower section of the Heath towards the River Mole. A group of House Sparrows were active in the scrub early on, together with Whitethroats. In the trees and bushes alongside the Dead River, Goldfinches were active, and the songs of Wren, Blackbird, Song Thrush and Blackcap were all prominent. On arrival at the Mole, we soon heard the song of a Cetti’s Warbler from the far bank and a Moorhen was visible among the waterside vegetation, together with several Mallards. The wooded section along the Mole held singing Chiffchaff, Blackcaps, Robin, Wren, and calling Stock Doves, Collared Dove, Jay, Ring-necked Parakeets and Magpies. Emerging from the trees, we continued along the Mole, where another Cetti’s Warbler sang as we passed ‘the pipe’ and several Dunnocks were singing in the bramble scrub.
We made our way from here to Fieldcommon Gravel Pit, where we found a pair of Coot, a family of Long-tailed Tits flitting through the trees and Broad-bodied Chaser dragonflies, darting around at the water’s edge. There were more dragonflies of several species as well as butterflies, especially Meadow Brown, as we continued from here across the grassy area of the Brett estate land. A family of three Great Spotted Woodpeckers flew over, followed soon afterwards by a Green Woodpecker as we made our way to Molesey Gravel Pit. There were Coot here with young, Moorhens and a male Mute Swan with a family of cygnets. A local resident informed us that the female Swan had an injured leg and had been recently collected by someone from the Swan Sanctuary for treatment. It looked as though the male was coping on his own, especially as the local people feed the swans daily. From here we returned to the upper part of the heath, where a Greenfinch was singing as well as Whitethroat and Blackcaps and we had good views of a male Kestrel hovering overhead. We also located two Garden Warblers singing from cover and to our surprise a Reed Warbler was singing from the depths of a hawthorn close to the path, which brought our tally for the morning to 37 species.
While we were listening to the Reed Warbler, to our dismay, a tractor came into view mowing down the vegetation alongside the path. We dreaded to think how many creatures and wildflowers were being destroyed by this activity at a peak time for wildlife and raised the matter subsequently with Dave Page of Elmbridge Council who said in reply that they aim to cut paths once a year and start in mid-June, giving time for a second bloom later in the year and that they have to balance the demands of recreation with the needs of wildlife and this is their regime that achieves it.
12 June 2021, Evening Nightjar Walk by Stephen Waters
12 members and some guests arrived at Ockham common at 9.00. At first, we saw Woodcock flying and calling overhead. A little while later the Nightjars began calling. We got good views of one seen perched on a dead tree. The group stuck it out, despite the attention of mosquitos, and the evening ended at about 11.
6 June 2021, Horton Country Park by Paul Spencer
The highlight of this walk for most people was undoubtedly the Peregrine Falcons in residence on the Noble Estate. The female was perched like a Roman Empire Eagle totem on the ledge of the Water Tower. Rebecca Dunne carried a telescope, so everyone got a great view without getting too close to these magnificent birds.
I am not blasé about having Peregrines on my local patch but, the highlight for this leader were the 4 House Martins flying around the Epsom Polo field as they were a patch year tick.
I was also happy with Thelma’s help in locating a singing Garden Warbler, and picking out a fairly distant Lesser Whitethroat. We heard and saw a fair few Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Common Whitethroat were plentiful, but it was pretty hard to get good views against the green foliage. There was an adult Coot with two chicks on the meadow pond.
The meadow areas were bright with the yellow of buttercups and we spotted a Roe Deer at the edge of one field munching through the blooms.
Mid-morning refreshment was availed from an unusual, motorised café.
41 Bird species were recorded by a party of 11. The botanic highlight was a patch of Common Spotted Orchids on the Meadow. Top insect was a Red Admiral. The Zoo at Hobbledown Adventure Farm Park provided views of Camels and Asian Antelopes. Chessington World of Adventure provided the sound of roaring Lions. All very entertaining.
26 May 2021, Kempton Nature Reserve by Tony Quinn
This site is a part of the Wetlands Bird Survey, which I cover monthly, usually with Mike White. Having done the count three days earlier in cold and changeable weather my personal expectations were not high. Eight members attended and it actually proved to be quite a good day. From the Paul Jackson hide two Shelduck, a Stock Dove and a few Lapwing were on the flats. A distant Buzzard was soaring, and another appeared almost overhead. On the main lake there was Great Crested Grebe, a single drake Gadwall and Little Grebe, the numbers of the latter species having crashed locally during the last couple of years. Moving on, Cetti’s Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat were singing near the gate to the waterworks, the latter giving brief views.
Shortly after a Hobby appeared overhead. Near the South Hide, singing Reed Warbler and Reed Bunting appeared. Three more Reed Warblers were heard in the reedbed where there were also five Pochard (3 drake and 2 duck). The hides were threatened with immediate closure due to the nearby outbreak of the Indian variant of Covid 19, so we had to hurry to the North Hide, where, on the way a Cuckoo was heard, and a Sparrowhawk flew overhead. The only new species from the hide was a Red Kite. A walk down Bunny Lane produced a further singing Lesser Whitethroat, a soaring Buzzard and more prolonged views of the Red Kite.
23 May 2021, Epsom Common by Paul Spencer
There was quite a lot of blue sky early on during this trip but I knew from the weather forecast that there would be a greyer, damper, and breezier outcome before the end of the morning. So before I got to Chessington World of Adventures to meet Francis Hindon, (who is a new member of the Society), I stopped by Chessington Golf course which has naturally rewilded since the Golf course closed a few of years ago. There were 7 fluffy yellow Canada Geese goslings, a Little Grebe in smart summer plumaged, and a Grey Wagtail on the ponds which used to protect the second hole.
I saw a Peacock butterfly sunning itself on the wall of the Bus driver’s hut and saw a Lesser Black Backed Gull flying south. Francis arrived and I pointed out to her the Herring Gulls which are nesting on the Hotel roof, before we embarked on a quick march cross country to meet six other club members, including Cat, Robert, and Liz, who had gathered at the Epsom Common Stew Pond carpark. On route to meet them I showed Francis the Peregrine Falcons on the Noble Estate which were perched imperiously on the Water Tower.
The dense greenery of the trees and increasingly dull light made spotting birds in the foliage quite hard, so we had to rely a lot on our ears. My party soon had ticked off Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Whitethroat but strained to hear Treecreeper. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen briefly. A Grey Heron, a juvenile Cormorant and 4 Swallows were the goodies on the Great Stew Pond together with with Mallard, Canada Goose, Moorhen, and Coot. An unseen Cuckoo was heard nearby. In the High meadows we heard and glimpsed at least 4 Garden Warblers singing from dense scrub, noted a family group of around 50 noisy Starlings, tracked Song Thrushes singing in cover, saw 2 Stock Doves feeding and had a nanosecond view of the white rump of a Bullfinch.
The last hour of the morning was spent by me, Francis and Robert on Rushett Farm. As the inclement weather finally arrived from the West, Skylarks were singing lustily overhead. We spotted 7 Lapwings sitting in one of the fields, a couple of Whitethroats in a hedge and some further Swallows.
Overall, 40 plus species were recorded by the party.
16 May 2021, Tice’s Meadow & Crooksbury Common by Thelma Caine
Ten members joined this trip on what turned out to be a very wet day. At Tice’s Meadow, the songs of Blackcap, Wren and Song Thrush were prominent early on, and both Goldfinch and Greenfinch were active in Lisa’s Wood. Arriving at The Meadow, a flock of Canada Geese were gathered on the far side while Swifts, Swallows, several Sand Martins and House Martins wheeled overhead. Continuing along the path, we had good views of a Chiffchaff in the overhanging branches. The rain started almost as soon as we arrived at Hanson’s Hide, which unfortunately did not provide much cover as the rain was coming directly in. We made the best of it, scanning across the gravel pit, where the islands held nesting Black-headed Gulls, with Herring Gulls, Lesser Black-backs and Cormorants also in attendance. Coot, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Mallard, Tufted Duck and Great Crested Grebes were present among the wildfowl, while along the shoreline, we picked out several Lapwings and on the far side, distant views of Little Ringed Plover. Hanson’s Hide gives a good vantage point for birds of prey with Red Kite, Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk all seen overhead. As the rain continued, we carried on along the path beside the gravel pit. Several Reed Buntings were seen and the regular rhythm of the Reed Warbler’s song was heard. The new hide was completely flooded but on posts in the water we had close views of several Common Terns. On the return route, John’s group reported good views of a Garden Warbler in the scrub. Half the group continued on to Crooksbury Common for the afternoon. There was a brief sunny interlude while we had lunch but the clouds soon gathered again. Robin, Dunnock, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and several Goldfinches and Stock Doves were all seen early on and despite the steady drizzle, a Willow Warbler was heard singing and we had good views of several Stonechats and Dartford Warblers on the heath. A male Redstart sang briefly and was located at the top of a tree. Blue Tit, Great Tit and several Coal Tits were in evidence, flitting through the trees but Tree Pipit remained elusive. Goldcrests were located in the main stands of conifers and ‘tee-u’ calls alerted us to a small group of Siskins flying into the canopy. Later, we added Jay and a calling Cuckoo to the list, bringing the day’s tally to 54 species.
9 May 2021, Seaford by Rebecca Dunne
Male Melodious Warbler seen near Belle Tout lighthouse. End of report. That would probably be too brief a report but it was the highlight of the day. The weather was warm with a southerly breeze which had brought in more birds than had been seen in the area recently. One newer member saw five lifers – Kittiwake, Fulmar, Lesser Whitethroat, Corn Bunting and Melodious Warbler and messaged to say “What a wonderful days birding it was. What a friendly bunch Surbiton are.”
Nine of us met at Splash Point, four arriving early for a bit of sea watching. House Sparrows could be heard in the bushes behind the cars. Out at sea a pale morph and a dark morph Arctic Skua were seen along with Common and Sandwich Terns, Common Scoter, Shelduck, Gannet and Great Black-backed Gull. Peter heard Whimbrel and Mediterranean Gull.
Two of our group decided to spend the day on a walk to Cuckmere Haven while six of us headed to the kittiwake colony at the end of the Esplanade. Peter stuck with his sea watch but was able to confirm the sandpiper we saw flying off around the sea wall as a Common Sandpiper. The tide was high and as we stood on the sea wall we discovered why it is called Splash Point. Lots of optics had to be wiped down.
As usual the kittiwake colony was quite a spectacle, numbering over a thousand birds in previous years. It is one of the last remaining in the South East. Male birds tend to return to exactly the same precarious looking spot on the steep chalk cliffs each year. Nest sites had been reclaimed and mating was taking place. Birds flew back and forward carrying fresh seaweed to augment their nest. Behind the next headland Fulmars could be seen gliding in and out on stiff wings. John spotted a Peregrine up against a distant patch of brown chalk. Black Headed and Herring Gulls floated on the sea along with the Kittiwakes and the chalk stack had its usual half a dozen Cormorants. The high tide meant that the resident pair of Rock Pipits came very close on the stony beach, cliff and large concrete blocks at the base of the cliff where they probably nest.
We followed this with a coffee on the beach, along with a bit more sea watching, before driving up to South Hill Barns on Seaford Head. Rooks, Jackdaws and Crows were feeding on the fields and we saw Chaffinch and Whitethroat in the nearby hedge as we waited for Stephen. Once he had arrived, we headed off down Hope Gap, spotting a Painted Lady butterfly on the way. We watched and heard Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Robin, Linnet and Blackcap in the dense sheltered bushes which border the path and cover the cliff top. On the short turf nearer the cliff edge, we saw more Rock Pipits and a Meadow Pipit. Low flying spitfire planes were another feature of the day and the first one flew over us here.
Another high point of the day was watching soaring Fulmars as they appeared over the cliff edge between here and Coastguard Cottages, which was our lunch stop.
This gave us a good vantage point over Cuckmere Haven where we had a Brent Goose, a Barnacle Goose and a Greylag Goose amongst the Canadas. Little egrets, Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Mallard another Rock Pipit, and Oystercatchers completed the picture.
Once back up at the car park we decided that, rather than going to the Tide Mills at Newhaven, we would try for the male Melodious Warbler which had just been spotted east of Belle Tout Wood, according to our bird apps.
And we found it, thanks to a man waving from the bottom of the slippery slope we had just clambered up. Not lengthy views but still pretty good and it briefly flew to the top of a bush so everyone saw it. Bigger than expected was the general view, and a beautiful brown back contrasted with its yellow underside. Some stayed on by the impenetrable bushes it then disappeared into, but it wasn’t seen again in the next hour up till 5pm. Others walked through Belle Tout Woods and tracked down the Corn Buntings which had been heard over the cars, roaring motorbikes and overflying Spitfires. Robert found some Early Purple Orchids and there were carpets of Cowslips everywhere.
Other birds spotted as we waited for the warbler were Blackcap, Buzzard, Linnet, Lesser whitethroat, Goldfinch, Swallows, Stonechat, Green Woodpecker and Meadow Pipits. Looking back onto the cliffs by the car park there was another Peregrine. Total species 56.
5 May 2021, Staines Moor (midweek walk) by Thelma Caine
Twelve members joined this trip on a fine morning. Virtually the first bird of the day was a male Blackcap seen from the railway bridge. On the other side of the railway, a Red Kite circled in the sky. Seconds later we spotted another bird of prey overhead, this time a Peregrine. Several Crows started to ‘buzz’ this and were joined by a Kestrel. On entering the Moor, we made our way to a patch of sedges and soon found the first of several male Reed Buntings sitting up on a thistle head. Grey Heron, Moorhen, Coot, a pair of Mute Swan and Mallards with a family of well-grown young were all present on the Rive Colne. After crossing the river bridge, we had close views of a group of Linnets near the riverbank, the males resplendent with rosy breasts. A Little Egret flew across and we found more Reed Buntings in the low scrub. Around us, Skylarks and several Meadow Pipits were rising in song flight. On the short turf and among the grassy tussocks were a number of pairs of breeding Lapwings which were constantly flying up and chasing off Crows. In scattered low trees and bramble patches were several Sedge Warblers, their striking eye-stripe clearly visible and pale cream undersides gleaming in the sun. At least one of these was seen taking nesting material into the reeds. We had further excitement when a superb male Whinchat was located on top of another small tree further on. During the morning, more Red Kites and several Buzzards flew overhead as well as a pair of Kestrels. Also among the aerial birds were Swifts and several Swallows. Crossing the boardwalk at the far end of the Moor we found a male Whitethroat, a Cetti’s Warbler sang briefly and a Green Woodpecker yaffled from the trees.
We then crossed the next river bridge and entered a patch of scrub with scattered low trees. This was full of activity with more Linnets and Reed Buntings, several more Whitethroats, Goldfinches, Blackbirds, Robins, a singing Greenfinch and flitting through the willows, a Chiffchaff. Beyond this area, on the way to ‘the mound’, a grey bird with a longish tail flew by low in front of us, thought likely to be a Cuckoo from the head shape and flight pattern, rather than a bird of prey, and was seen to land in tussocky grasses some distance away. We reached the mound which gave a vantage point over the small reedbed and soon located a Reed Warbler which emerged and clung to an exposed reed stem. On the ground below, a Song Thrush and a Mistle Thrush were feeding. This area of the Moor is often good for passage Wheatears and before long, we located a male, then as we made our way back across the Moor, found a female and another male. The tally by the end of a very enjoyable walk was 50 species.
25 April 2021, Otmoor RSPB Reserve & Farmoor by Thelma Caine
Ten members attended this trip forming two groups of five with John Barkham co-leading. We headed for the Closes first, finding breeding Canada Geese and Greylag Geese, Lapwing, Mute Swan, Moorhen, Coot, Mallard and the first of many Marsh Harriers overhead. A Sparrowhawk flew low across the field and a Cetti’s Warbler sang loudly from the hedge. We later had good views of one further along and heard many more during the day. The Glossy Ibis, which had been present for several weeks, was feeding on the marsh here but soon took flight, then three Greenshank flew in giving good views. A Cuckoo called and a Grasshopper Warbler was heard reeling in Moorleys field. Whitethroat, Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were all singing here too. A Bullfinch called from the hedge but quickly flew, a male and female Pheasant emerged from the bushes and there was plenty of activity on the feeders, with Chaffinches and Reed Bunting joining Great Tits and Dunnock here. Surprisingly two Cranes were present in the marsh at Greenways seen by John’s group. A Great White Egret also showed well in the reeds and several groups of Shovelers were present on the pools. Sand Martins, Swallows, House Martin and several Swifts were feeding overhead. In the scrub beside the bridleway, the babbling song of a Garden Warbler was heard as well as more Blackcaps. Goldfinches were also seen flitting through bushes.
Skylarks rose in song-flight and close to the path, both Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers sang in the marshy vegetation. As we reached Big Otmoor, another small group of finches flew up – this time Greenfinches which landed in a tree. There was plenty of activity on Big Otmoor with numerous breeding Lapwing on the barer ground, together with several Redshanks on the wetter areas and more Canada, Greylag, and several Barnacle Geese feeding here. Searching the pools, a pair of Garganey were located by John’s group but soon flew off. A Spotted Redshank, resplendent in summer plumage, was also feeding on the pools. An odd-looking Ruff was present here also, sporting a black throat and upper breast, white head and variegated black and white plumage on the back. Four or five Black-tailed Godwit flew in and Curlew was seen in flight. There were more Shovelers on the pools here as well as Teal and a Little Egret was spotted in the reeds. The was plenty of gull activity on the further pools, with breeding Black-headed Gulls and several Herring Gulls and Lesser Black-backs present. Overhead Marsh Harriers, numerous Red Kites and several Buzzards circled above the marsh. Oystercatcher was added to the list at Ashgrave and there was much activity on the footpath here with a mixed flock of Reed Buntings, Linnets, Goldfinches, Chaffinch, Dunnock and both male and female Yellowhammer feeding on the ground. From here we made our way to the viewing screens overlooking the larger pools. On the way a Lesser Whitethroat was heard singing and seen briefly as it flew across the path. The pools held good numbers of Gadwall, several Pochards, Tufted Duck, Great Crested and Little Grebe, Moorhen and Coot. Grey Heron and another Great White Egret were lurking in the reeds, but the highlight here was a passage of Hobbies with at least five or six seen together.
After lunch we header for Farmoor and made our way along the causeway, finding several groups of Yellow Wagtails as well as Grey Wagtails and a few Pied Wagtails. A number of terns were feeding over the water, the stiff breeze and bright sunlight making identification tricky, but we eventually had good views of two birds which settled on a buoy and were able to clearly see the red bill with dark tip confirming they were Common Terns. A few with longer tail streamers were also seen, considered to have been Arctic Terns. Several gulls, behaving like terns and dipping down to the water surface were identified as Little Gulls, the key feature being their dark underwings with a white border. There were more Sand Martins, Swallows and Swifts here and a Hobby flew over. When we reached the far end of the reservoir, three Common Sandpipers were feeding by the water’s edge. As we returned to the cars, the sky was full of Red Kites and Buzzards circling together. 83 species were recorded by the end of a productive day.
14 April 2021, West End Common by Rebecca Dunne
This midweek walk was attended by 5 people including 2 new members. The weather was beautiful, and we had a pleasant wander through the woods and past the various ponds. Highlights were a photogenic Goldfinch pulling nesting material from the fluffy seed head of a bullrush and 4 swallows which had just returned to their nest sites in Garson’s stables. We also noted that, as usual, there was no bird life on the ploughed fields outside the West End Common fence but plenty within the woods and open glades. We speculated that this is because there are no weed seeds or invertebrates for them to feed on following treatment with herbicides and pesticides. Farmland bird species numbers have crashed in recent years and these fields just demonstrate this. Within the woods however bird song was all around us particularly Blackcaps, Chiffchaff, Wrens and Robins.
We had the following 29 species: Blackbird, Blackcap, Buzzard, Canada Goose, Carrion Crow, Chiffchaff, Coot, Cormorant, Dunnock, Egyptian Goose, Goldfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Greylag Goose, Herring Gull, Jay, Long-tailed Tit, Mallard, Mistle Thrush, Pied Wagtail, Ring-necked Parakeet, Robin, Rook, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Stock Dove, 4 Swallows and Wren.
As an add on to the walk Mike, Manish and I then walked around the Ledges. We started on the lower path looking along the banks of the Mole, beneath the steep wooded slopes known as The Ledges. Kingfishers can be seen here but not on this walk. Having huffed and puffed our way up the afore mentioned steep slope we looked over into the distant fields of horses to see the geese, before returning through the woods to West End Common car park.
11 April 2021, Bookham Common by Stephen Waters
The 10 members who turned out for this walk were split between John Barkham and myself in order to be complicit with government Covid 19 restrictions. From the car park at Bookham railway station, we crossed the footbridge and walked north though the common. We first head and then saw a small group of Redpolls, and then a pair of Bullfinch in the abundant Blackthorn bushes. Blackcaps were very vocal, and we had good views of these at various times.
We reached the series of ponds at the north part of the common and from the hide overlooking one of the ponds we watched a Little Grebe fishing and taking small fish to its mate who was calling from a nest hidden in the reeds. At another pond, Grey Herons were sitting on their nests. At a third pond a pair of Mute Swans were nesting close to a pair of Canada Geese on an island. While the females were nest sitting, the male swan constantly chased the male goose round and round the pond pecking at the tail of the goose which stubbornly failed to fly off. It was all very Tom and Jerry.
At Downside we looked for Yellowhammers and found a suitable spot for a coffee break. On the way back to the station we stopped to see a pair of Treecreepers building a nest in a tree stump.
Ockham Common Wednesday 7 April 2021 by John Barkham
14 members met for a mornings walk on Ockham Common and Wisley Airfield. On leaving the car park, we had an unexpected encounter: several noisy Crossbills, who landed above us and started to feed on pine cones. Walking on, we followed the treeline around the heath and spotted Song Thrush, Blackcap, Siskin, Coal Tit and Woodpeckers; Green and Great Spotted. Dartford Warbler was heard singing and one of our groups was treated to close views of a Dartford in the heather. We reached the newly refurbished Semaphore Tower on Chatley Heath, encountering a low-flying Red Kite on route. After returning to the car park, we crossed the road and viewed Bolder Mere Lake. A Coot already had chicks. Moving on to Elm Corner, one of the houses had a concentration of noisy Siskins and also Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Blue and Great Tits. We continued to the disused Wisley Airfield and soon spotted Skylarks, either in song flight or on the ground, plus several flyover Linnets. Rebecca found us a pair of Wheatear: definitely a highlight of the trip! Mike added 2 Red Kites to our list and Common Buzzard. We walked the abandoned runway and returned via woodland onto Ockham Common and the car park.