Walks and outings 2022

4 May 2022, Staines Moor, by Thelma Caine

There was plenty of bird song as our party of eight crossed the railway bridge at the start of the walk with Robin, Wren, Blue Tit, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Song Thrush, all prominent early on. A number of Starlings were swooping to catch aerial insects over a field and a small group of House Sparrows flitted along the hedgerow. Arriving on the Moor, we soon spotted a male Kestrel perched on a nearby pylon. As we made our way along the bank of the River Colne, a heat haze began to rise over the sedges on the far side. We scanned the tops of the brambles and hawthorn and soon picked out our first male Reed Bunting as well as several Linnets and a Meadow Pipit. A slightly smaller bird then appeared, a superb male Whinchat showing a bright white eye stripe and orange upper breast, a ‘first’ for several of our group. After this, we crossed the bridge, finding more Reed Buntings and Linnets, then a Sedge Warbler burst into song, rising in flight, before landing back on its bramble bush, giving excellent views of its creamy underparts, eye stripe and bright reddish gape. Another small bird suddenly popped up on the edge of a rustic seat, this time a female Wheatear. Here too we saw a Little Egret along the water’s edge, with several more seen during the morning. After the Kestrel, seen early on, the next raptor of the day was a Red Kite circling overhead. As we followed the Colne, a Snipe flew up suddenly, wheeling away in rapid, twisting flight. Soon after this, another wader flew up from the riverbank, this time a Redshank, showing the white trailing edges to its wings. Skylarks rose in song as we crossed the centre of the Moor and a Meadow Pipit landed on a bush top with a beak full of food for its young. As we reached the next meander of the river, another Little Egret was feeding in the shallows. A Greenfinch sang from the hawthorn scrub, and we had more views of Sedge Warbler. At the far end of the Moor, a Buzzard circled in the sky, then we noticed a smaller bird of prey high up over the tree line – this time a Peregrine. We climbed over a stile to find a new boardwalk at the lower end of the footpath which leads towards Hithermoor Road. We could hear a Cuckoo calling as we made our way along the boardwalk and in the field to the right of the path, a distant Reed Warbler sang from a patch of reeds. Several Blackcaps sang in the hawthorn scrub here and we had good views of a female and glimpses of a male.
A Garden Warbler was also singing prominently but appeared only for an instant before disappearing again into cover. Further along the boardwalk, a Cetti’s Warbler was heard. Several Jays crossed the nearby field and as we were watching two Chiffchaffs in the willows, a bird suddenly appeared overhead, flying quite fast and showing a longish tail. At first, we thought it was a bird of prey, but it called once as it flew, then we realised it was the Cuckoo we had heard earlier. Rebecca spotted Lapwings in the field further along the path, then we made our way back on to the Moor. On the return route, Stock Doves flew across the Moor, and we added Green Woodpecker to the list as well as a pair each of Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush. Overhead three Buzzards were circling together and beyond them, two more Red Kites. Small numbers of Swallows were seen during the morning but there was no sign of Swifts. By the end of the morning, our tally was 49 species.

 

24 April 2022, RSPB Otmoor and Farmoor, by Paul Spencer

I was feeling very excited about going birding in Oxfordshire when Thelma picked me up at Chessington North station at 7.10am . Last year I was supposed to lead the trip but because of Covid restrictions meaning I could not be a passenger Thelma had to lead instead. It felt like a visit to old friends. I counted 18 Red Kites drifting down and across the M40 and A40 on the journey down plus a rookery.
We were joined by old friends Robert Muller, Mike White, Rebecca Dunne and Tony Quinn at the carpark at Otmoor at 8.45 am. As soon as we got out the cars we could hear lots of birdsong including Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Willow Warbler. However out attention was drawn to a Grasshopper Warbler reeling somewhere in the scrubby car park field. We got to the reserve entrance gate and eventually had 10 seconds of the Gropper perched singing out in the open. In the next stretch of footpath we had quick views of Bullfinch, heard the first of three Lesser Whitethroat and saw the first of several Sedge Warbler seen doing its parachute jump song flight. Thelma’s keen ears picked up a Garden Warbler and I got an out of focus view of a Cetti’s Warbler as it zoomed into cover before exploding into its song.
Grey Lag Goose, Lapwing and Snipe were spotted in adjacent wet meadow.
We found a male Reed Bunting perched on cattle enclosure on the main RSPB flooded field but the breezy nippy conditions meant the small birds were keeping their head down with Reed Warbler heard but not seen from the reedbed ditches. An unseen Cuckoo was heard in nearby woods and a Curlew called from the MOD ranges.
As the temperature rose butterflies flitted past- Small White. Speckled Wood, Peacock, Comma, Brimstone, Orange Tip and Small Tortoiseshell were noted.
For one moment we thought we had found a couple of Cattle Egrets amongst some cattle but it turned out to be a sleeping cow- although later we did have a Little Egret.
The wet meadow known as Big Otmoor was full of wildfowl and waders some distant some near some obscured by vegetation and terrain. Great views of Shoveler in flight and the Mallard and Gadwall looked really smart but lousy views of, Teal, Pintail, Wigeon and Shelduck and no hoped for Garganey. Were there a couple of Barnacle amongst the Canada? They looked hybridised to me but I may have not got on the right birds. Telescoped views identified Ruff, Oystercatcher and Dunlin (still in winter plumage) whilst Redshank piped up somewhere. Lesser Black Backed Gulls looked mean and were probably looking out for Lapwing chicks or Greylag Goose Goslings or Mallard ducklings. Meanwhile the warming thermals held several Red Kites and Common Buzzard soaring higher and higher. A pair of Kestrel tussled and another Gropper reeled. A splendid Hobby put in the first of several brilliant appearances flashing his red trousers and zooming low and high for insects.
Our late elevenses/early lunch was held in the Wetland watch hide. Here we got close views of Redshank, Grey Heron and Curlew on the flooded meadow and had Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer and Linnet feeding on seed on the ground and in the hedgerow. However, the best bird here were two magnificent Common Crane which appeared and disappeared in the tussocky grass. Mike also got a good view of another Cetti’s Warbler.
After lunch we walked to the first reed bed screen hide. On our way we had fleeting views of a Lesser Whitethroat and on the way back Rebecca had a great view of another Gropper.
From the reed bed hide there were about 45 Gadwall, a Great Crested Grebe and a leucitic male Pochard and some people saw a tricoloured male Marsh Harrier. The harrier later gave itself up to everyone on the return route when it quartered the RSPB field. Yours truly heard a Bittern booming softly thrice, (it sounds like blowing over the mouth of an empty beer bottle) but it remained sedentary to the dense reed beds and no one else heard it.
Mid-afternoon we travelled to Farmoor reservoirs. At first the breezy conditions and water activities looked like we were going to have a slightly disappointing visit. Tony Quinn left us after we had stonking views of a pale lemony Yellow Wagtail plus two Common Terns on buoys. There was no, sign of any Little Gulls or Sand Martin flocks which had been around the days before and although Cormorant and Great Crested Grebe numbered a score a piece it looked quiet with only half a dozen Swallow flying over. The walk to the causeway hide produced some pristine adult Pied Wagtail and another flyover Yellow Wag. Two flighty Common Sandpiper were scoped alternating between the Cormorant and Black Headed Gull platforms and a Grey Wagtail completed the wagtail set.
However, the best bird of the day was eventually found after a persistent search. We had to walk halfway round the southerly reservoir basin to find it as it was hidden by a floating platform and the greyness of the basin wall and reflections off the water did not help. Had we found it, a Great Crested Grebe in flight in the vicinity cast doubt in my mind, but then there it was. The bird in question, a superb immature Great Northern Diver was only about 20 yards from the wall. It was happy snorkelling, head down in water and floating serenely low in the water head up, giving excellent. photo opportunities for both Robert and Mike. It was a bit of hefty beast with its dagger-like grey/white bill, long half collared neck, bumpy head, ‘’Game of Thrones’’ attire and huge feet which occasionally were seen out of the water. It probably gave the closest ever and best views of this species for all present.
At least 73 bird species recorded.

 

13 April 2022, Ockham Common, by John Barkham

12 members met for a morning’s outing at Ockham Common and Wisley Airfield. We walked though tall pinewoods before continuing onto the sandy heathland paths. We soon spotted Coal Tit, Chaffinch and Chiffchaff, which were all singing in full voice. Following the treeline, we picked up Linnet, Song Thrush, a pair of Nuthatch and a very active Green Woodpecker. A Red Kite was frequently seen patrolling the common and was occasionally mobbed by Carrion Crows. The purple heather was in flower and most managed views of a Dartford Warbler, alas only briefly.
We passed the Semaphore Tower at the top of the heath and returned to the car park for a brief stop before continuing to Boldermere Lake. Moorhen, Coot, Pochard, Mallard and Greylag Geese were all seen, plus a Great Crested Grebe. We walked on through the pinewoods and then on to the abandoned runway of the airfield. Numerous Skylark were seen in newly ploughed fields and also in display flight. A narrow strip of undisturbed ground between the ploughed field and the airstrip concrete displayed several spring flowers.
Jim spotted our key target species, Wheatear. We all enjoyed views of 2 males and 1 female. On the return to the car park, Mike and Rebecca picked out a newly arrived Willow Warbler at rest deep in a bush. In all 43 species were seen.

 

3 April 2022 – Barnes WWT by Jonathan Hannam

Seven members joined me on a fine but cold day for a walk around the reserve, which we started by taking the southern route to the Peacock Tower. We had heard the loud song of the Cetti’s Warbler even before we started and that was to become a familiar companion on our trip. Very occasionally we even got a glimpse of one. We also spent some time trying to locate a singing Blackcap, but that too was elusive. On the Main Lake, there were Teal, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Pochard and Wigeon, along with Herring Gulls (mostly immature), Black-headed Gulls and a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls. One surprise was the Oystercatcher that flew over whilst we were in the WWF hide. We later learnt that a pair of Oystercatchers had been around for a few days and that they had settled on one of the islands near the Visitor Centre, so the hope was that they might breed there. We also saw solitary Little Egret and Grey Heron as well as a few Lapwing. About half a dozen Sand Martin were zooming around and investigating their dedicated sand bank. Just before entering the Peacock Tower, we had good views of a Reed Bunting. Once in the tower, we picked out at least three Common Snipe, busy feeding on the Grazing Marsh and were also put onto a Little Ringed Plover which was on the mud flats in the Wader Scrape. A pair of Great Crested Grebe were swimming around on the Main Lake, investigating nest sites. On the way back to the Visitor Centre, we saw Greenfinch and Chaffinch and heard our first Chiffchaff.
After a short coffee break, we headed out on the western route to the Wildside. The only new species seen were Grey Wagtail and Gadwall. However, we did hear more Chiffchaffs and finally had a good view of a male Blackcap. There was a Coot chick with its parents on one of the side ponds and we also got closer views of Great Crested Grebes, including a pair on a nest in the Reservoir Lagoon. Altogether, a pleasant morning with 48 species seen in total.
On the way back from the wildside the stragglers in the group got close views of an unusual Moorhen with an all-yellow bill. Robert pointed out this bird which he had seen on a number of previous occasions over the last two years.

 

27 March 2022, Abberton Reservoir, by Ruth Shinebaum

Nine birding stalwarts rose early, losing an hour’s sleep because of the clock change, and drove through the fog and drizzle to arrive at the Layer Breton causeway at Abberton. They were quickly rewarded with a female Marsh Harrier, Water Rail, a Green Sandpiper and a few ducks including good numbers of Shoveler, though the majority of the Tufted Ducks and Pochards have now moved on. The heronry and tree-nesting colony of cormorants were in full swing, though the only ‘white target’ seen was a single Little Egret, with the Spoonbill not showing itself on the day. The drive round to the other causeway was punctuated by a brief stop to wave at the next ‘white target’ – 10 Cattle Egrets on the nearby farm.
We reconvened on the Layer de la Haye causeway after an adventure involving lost cars, closed parking spots, an inadvisable manoeuvre and a couple of policemen (don’t ask!). From here we had great views of two recently arrived Little Ringed Plovers on the concrete edge of the reservoir and some distant Snipe. We then moved to the Essex Wildlife Trust Visitor Centre to pay our dues, use the loos, and buy any goodies that were deemed necessary.
Responding to recent reports suggesting that the Abberton Church viewing point would enable us to see birds not visible from the visitor centre side of the reservoir, we drove round to the village of Abberton. Almost immediately we could see 4 grebes more or less together, 2 each of two different sizes, 2 Red-Necked Grebes and 2 Slavonian Grebes. Along with a lovely male Scaup, a couple of Goosander and some Goldeneye it showed that not all the wintering wildfowl had yet left. For good measure a Yellowhammer sang and showed itself near the car park. By now it was warm and sunny, and we were on a roll.
Lunch time meant going back to the reserve to eat in the hides and walk the reserve itself, notching up tits, finches and the inevitable singing Chiffchaff. Next was the now open car park at Billets Farm from where we walked to Wigborough Bay at the east end of the reservoir. We found our second summer migrant, a brilliant yellow, Yellow Wagtail in a field which included not only Pied but also some White Wagtails. And then Rebecca won the prize for finding our third summer migrant, the most hidden Garganey ever. A few Ruff from the Billets Farm blind added to our very meagre wader count.
After a much-needed cup of tea at the centre we looked at the small, wooded section at the entrance, which may or may not have given a brief view of Bullfinch. Mike drew our attention to a distant moving white post which turned out to be the neck of a Great White Egret. Here we spotted our only butterfly, a Comma freshly emerged from hibernation. We re-did both causeways to see if anything new had turned up, adding a Peregrine from one and finishing the day with a nice Mediterranean Gull at the other. In total we saw 72 species, or 73 if you count the white/pied wagtail sub-species as two and heard 2 others.

 

16 March 2022, Kempton Nature Reserve, by Mike White

Despite the grey overcast conditions, on the way from the car park to the Paul Jackson hide, our small group were serenaded by one of the harbingers of spring, a chiff-chaffing Chiffchaff. The first of several seen/heard around the reserve. From the hide Tufted Duck, Pochard, Teal, Coot, Moorhen and Black-headed Gulls were on the water. A small flock of about a dozen Lapwing were dotted around on the various islands, whilst a lone Little Egret was also noted. Diligent searching eventually produced a small number of Snipe tucked away in the foliage. The feeder close to the hide had a constant stream of Blue and Great Tits visiting with Dunnock, Robin and Chaffinch collecting any fallen offerings. Making our way to the next hide we encountered a small flock of Greenfinch, a rare bird locally. Small numbers of Redwing were passing overhead, and the only Blackcap of the morning was located. A selection of tits and the ubiquitous Ring-necked Parakeets were on the feeders.
Making our way along the boardwalk we noted Reed Buntings in the reeds around the feeder. We then continued to the North hide, arriving just before the rain! Scanning from the hide we noted more of the previously seen duck species tucked away in the reeds. Two Lesser Black-backed Gulls arrived and Little Grebe was added to the list. The now steady rain eased slightly and we chose this time to return to the cars.

 

Sunday 13 March 2022 – Farlington Marshes and ‘The Oyster Beds’, by Rebecca Dunne

250+ Mediterranean Gulls, at least a dozen Red-breasted Mergansers, a couple of Black-necked Grebes, a Greenshank, Dunlin, many Shelduck, Curlew, Avocet, Oystercatcher, a Grey Plover, Little Egret, Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Snipe, Pintail, Teal, flocks of Brent Geese, Kestrel and Buzzard; what’s not to like in a day’s bird watching like that? Seven of us made the effort and were well rewarded.
Despite the initially windy and drizzly weather it was well worth the 2.5 mile walk around the seawall of Farlington Marshes and by lunchtime the sun was out. There may not have been any rarities but some good views of birds at this point in the year when the seasons change. All those Brent Geese yapping and grazing on the mudflats and grassy fields will soon be off north and the single Greenshank, seen dashing about in the shallow water, flew off over Portsmouth. The tide was falling and as more mudflats became exposed the number of waders increased, although some were rather distant. Looking over the wet grassland there were many Wigeon, Shelduck and Curlew along with the Brent and Canada Geese. Once the wind dropped the Skylarks could be more easily heard and seen, a couple of Stonechats zipped along a fence and Meadow Pipits perched briefly on anthills and fence posts giving us false hope of Wheatears! Bearded Tits were heard faintly in reed beds near ‘the hut’ but not located. During our morning’s walk we’d seen groups of 5 and 17 Med. Gulls, sitting with Black-headed Gulls, and were pretty pleased with these numbers. How wrong we were.
After Farlington we moved on to the Oyster Beds on Hayling Island in the full sunshine. The Med. Gulls had to be the stars here. Just on the two islands on the lagoons 220+ of these handsome and confident looking birds stalked around with others wheeling and calling all around. Much discussion ensued as to exactly which cat like calls they were making! (Later, back in front of the car park another 70 loafed on the beach while Ringed Plovers, Dunlin, Turnstones and Redshanks skittered around them.) A couple of Little Grebes hugged the edges of the lagoon. The Oyster Beds gave us better views across Langstone Channel and we were able to confirm that the small groups of Red-breasted Merganser glimpsed from Farlington were in fact just that. A couple of Black-necked Grebes were even more cryptic but walking past the Oyster Beds we got close enough to see that they were starting to gain their summer plumage. We took the inland, old Hayling Billy railway line, path back to the car park and in the scrub and woodland were finally able to add Blue Tit, Great Tit and Long Tailed Tit to our day’s list. We’d had plenty of Greenfinches in the scrub at Farlington but strangely not these tits. As we neared the car park no one was in any doubt about what a Song Thrush sounded like as two sang loudly at each other on either side of the track. The day’s species total was about 61 including a Chiffchaff heard after the others had left. However, I will not count the 15+ Cattle Egrets that I saw coming in to roost at Langstone Mill Pond at sunset, but they were worth waiting for!

 

6 March 2022 – Acres Down, by John Barkham

5 members attended our trip to the New Forest on a day of almost ideal weather conditions to view our target species. We took the short walk from the car park to a viewpoint overlooking the New Forest and were soon treated with excellent flight views of Goshawk. A male and female pair were chasing each other for an extended period and later returned to the air to display over the course of the next couple of hours. Another pair, probably 2 juveniles, were in flight as well and frequently locked talons when they met. A couple of Buzzards were also cruising the sky and a pair of Stonechat kept us company while we watched the show.
We later took a circular walk along the valley floor and heard Firecrest and Woodlark. Dog walkers spooked a Roe Deer in a clearing, causing it to run for cover in the Douglas Fir Trees. Another Goshawk was seen in flight directly above us through the trees.
Continuing our walk, we sighted about a dozen Crossbills in the pines along with 2 Brambling and several Chaffinch and Siskin. We watched the Crossbills in the sunshine for about 20 minutes, enjoying excellent telescope views of these colourful birds as they fed on seeds prised out of the pinecones.

 

27 February 2022 – Moor Green Lakes, by Peter Knox. Sunshine and Goosanders

It was a lovely sunny morning when six club members arrived at the site car park. Very quickly we had our first bird a graceful Red Kite came low over the site. This was to be the first of many sightings. We headed down the path towards the first hide adding a Little Egret to our list. The feeders near the hide provide a sprinkling of bird including Reed Bunting. We moved into the hide. The site liaison officers had kindly provide the access code. Once in the hide we quickly found a group of male and female Goosanders as well as a Shelduck there were also plenty of Wigeon. We moved on to the Blackwater River path first heading west which meant we needed to clamber over a fallen tree blocking the path. Little further on we were able to check some of the other lakes but there was nothing new to be seen. We did find a few Siskins and a Kestrel and a couple of Red Kites. Turning around and heading east for the second hide and some more observation points for some of the other lakes. At the observation points we had more views of Goosanders. We arrived at the second hide which provided excellent views of the lake. Here we found Pochard and more views of Goosander. We are sure that we saw more than twenty Goosander on this visit. Our biggest surprise was a flying flock of twenty Barnacles (feral birds) which eventually landed in a field mainly out of sight. Lucky for us there was a path that allow us better views of these birds. We then gradually moved back to the carpark hearing a Little Grebe on route. On arriving at the car park, we could hear a Nuthatch sing nearby.
Three of us decided to pop into Tice’s Meadow before heading home while rest were homeward bound. Tice’s Meadow provided only few extra birds to our list. The best being a male Goldeneye (a probable escape bird).
It was a nice day feeling like spring had arrived and we had species count of 51 for the day.

 

20 February 2022 – Coach Trip to Welney WWT Norfolk, by Rebecca Dunne

Well, that was quite an adventure! Five of us joined Richmond and Twickenham RSPB for their trip to Welney. Thanks must go to our driver who did a tremendous job in such atrocious driving conditions. However, it turned out to be a very enjoyable day, despite the inclement weather, and although it wasn’t an optimal birdwatching trip people did seem to enjoy themselves. Welney is a place where a whole winter’s day could be spent between the café at one end of the footbridge and the enormous heated main observatory at the other. Some people spent a long time in the café but given its excellent views over Lady Fen who could blame them. Curlew, black-tailed godwits, a female marsh harrier, great and little egrets, flocks of golden plover and lapwing whipped along in the wind along with a variety of ducks were seen from here. Wigeon are the most numerous ducks on the Ouse Washes in winter followed by teal and when the Washes are flooded, as they were on our visit, they move to the drier Bank Farm, which is exactly what we could see from the café’s windows. The other thing worth waiting patiently by the windows for (apart from hot drinks and cake) were tree sparrows taking seed from beneath the feeders with house sparrows and reed buntings.  Nearby dense mounds of bramble were alive with sparrow ‘song’ but they were tricky to see until they popped out to feed.
The main observatory gave expansive views over the flooded, 3 mile long, 1000-acre section of the Ouse Washes that the WWT are responsible for. Those who got there quickly saw two pink footed geese and nine tundra bean geese obligingly nearby, but they took some close observation to separate and flew off before the first swan feed. Huge numbers of predominantly male pochard close were some compensation but not so good for people’s year lists! It was fascinating to watch them diving down to snatch the grain that the dabbling mallards could not reach. We’d seen whooper and mute swans from the coach, but from the Observatory we had much better views of a few of them. By this stage in the winter most of the whoopers are out fattening up in the fields before returning to Iceland. Scanning the Washes during both swan feeds we were pleased to add dunlin, oystercatcher, pintail, a male goldeneye and redshank.
From the observatory most of us battled through the winds along the track that leads past Nelson-Lyle and Lyle hides to Friends hide.  A lucky few were amazed to see a hungry barn owl around Nelson-Lyle hide, on one occasion flying close to the water. A snipe was seen from Lyle hide. Bewick swans are sometimes visible from Friends hide but the 2 distant white blobs were unresolvable. Reedbed Hide to the south of the observatory was well worth a visit, although by mid-afternoon it felt and sounded like it was about to leave the ground Wizard of Oz style. There were four more great white egrets on a far bank (12 were counted on the reserve the next day), a variety of ducks, great and lesser black-backed gulls and the male goldeneye.  A few of us braved the new Lady Fen Loop rather than just looking at it from the café. The 1.5km of very exposed track across the fields is a good place to see hares in better weather. In that wind it was a struggle to walk along but I rather enjoyed the wild Norfolk weather. Flocks of lapwing and golden plover being swept past, along with large numbers of pigeons and corvids, were the main thing to see but a stonechat, a meadow pipit, a pair of flying great white egrets and green woodpecker added extra interest. In the only tiny, sheltered and wooded corner of the Loop there were plenty of blue tits, great tits, chaffinches, greenfinches and blackbirds behaving as if they were in a parallel universe to our wild, wet and windy one. Behind them 8 fieldfares pecked about in dips in the middle of a field.
Most of us finished the day with the 15:30  swan feed where we were told that the reserve was closing once we’d left because of the deteriorating weather. It was blowing towards 60mph as we drove away but there was still one more bird to see. From the left-hand side of the coach a cattle egret was spotted.  A three-egret day is always good… even if it hadn’t been a three-swan day. Despite seemingly poor weather for bird watching, we still found 68 species between us. A day enjoyed and survived together which no one will forget in a hurry.
Species reported:  mute swan, whooper swan, greylag goose, tundra bean goose, pink-footed goose, shelduck, wigeon, gadwall, teal, mallard, pintail, shoveler, pochard, tufted duck, goldeneye, pheasant, cormorant, little egret,  cattle egret, great white egret, red kite, marsh harrier, buzzard, kestrel, moorhen, coot, oystercatcher, golden plover, lapwing, dunlin, ruff, snipe, black-tailed godwit, curlew, redshank, black-headed gull, common gull, lesser black-backed gull, herring gull, great-black backed gull, feral pigeon, stock dove, woodpigeon, collared dove, barn owl, green woodpecker, meadow pipit, pied wagtail, wren, dunnock, robin, stonechat, blackbird, fieldfare, Cetti’s warbler, blue tit, great tit, magpie, jackdaw, rook, carrion crow, starling, house sparrow, tree sparrow, chaffinch, greenfinch, goldfinch.

 

16 February 2022 – Bushy Park, by Mike White

Despite a less than promising forecast I was joined by three members and two guests for this walk. Despite a stiff breeze the weather remained dry with even brief glimpses of the sun. We commenced our walk with a look at the Diana Fountain area. The gull roost contained approximately three hundred Black-headed Gulls and thirty Common Gull. Despite a good search we were unable to locate any other gull species. The only ducks on the water were a pair of Shoveler, which after flying a circuit of the fountain came close enough to give good views of their large broad bills. Continuing towards the Woodland Gardens we checked the trees for the Little Owl, which can sometimes be seen in this area, but without success. Entering the Woodland Gardens we soon saw a pair of Mistle Thrush which gave close views. The ubiquitous Jackdaw, Ring-necked Parakeets and Egyptian Geese were present in numbers.
This first section of the gardens is currently under restoration with large amounts of the invasive Rhododendron Ponticum being removed and the water features being improved. The second section of the gardens proved very productive. We had not gone far when we found a small flock of Siskin which were then joined by Long-tailed Tits and a Wren. A Kestrel flew over and a Nuthatch called. The Nuthatch proved very difficult to see as we were facing into the sun. Whilst trying to get better views a Chaffinch was seen and what were probably the birds of the day, a pair of Treecreepers which gave excellent views as they searched a Silver Birch for insects. Moving on to Waterhouse Pond we found a Grey Heron hunting in the reeds and under the over-hanging shrubbery at the rear we located three pairs of Mandarin Duck. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was also seen here. We then walked a short section of the Longford River before cutting through the wooded area where a Green Woodpecker was noted, and a Song Thrush heard. Leaving the gardens, we turned to look over the Brewhouse Fields. The adjoining river held another pair of Mandarin, at this point a small bird flew from behind us and as it turned the sun illuminated its blue back, a Kingfisher. Turning and walking across the rough grassland we watched another Kestrel make two attempts at catching prey, but without success. The last new species of the morning, a pair of Stonechat, were seen perched up on the bracken. A pleasant morning with a total of 39 species seen, but once again no winter thrushes recorded.

 

6 February 2022 – Blashford Lakes and Blackwater Arboretum, by Peter Knox

Eight members made it to Blashford travelling though wet and very windy weather arriving when the rain had just stopped. Once we had sorted out our gear, we headed for the Woodland hide spending a little time checking trees along the path. Finding our first Siskins with Rebecca also finding Treecreeper, Redwing, Marsh Tit, and a brief view of a Redpoll. We moved on to the hide and quickly found both male and female Brambling which provided excellent views as well plenty of other passerines including Reed Bunting. This is always a hide to spend time in. We then headed for the Ivy South hide. Part of the group were waylaid by a Kingfisher. In the hide we had broad selection of ducks as well as a distant pair of Goosander. Our next stopping was to be the Ivy North hide but on route the rest of the group had the chance to see the Kingfisher and we had more excellent views of the Siskins and other members of the group caught sight of the Redpoll but not the best views. At reaching the next hide we had missed seeing the Bittern by moments. So, we headed back to the carpark where we regrouped before heading to the Tern hide on the Ibsley Water pit and as normal the birds were very distant. We increased our duck species count to include Goldeneye and Pintail.
We had our lunch in the hide and then headed for the most northerly hide which is the Lapwing hide. On route we had excellent views of a highly active Firecrest high in a tree but in the open as well as a Goldcrest. As we moved closer to the hide, we saw a small flock of Redwing moving through the trees. On arriving in the hide, we saw mainly the same species of birds. The best new bird was s female/juvenile Marsh Harrier over the far side of the pit.
We now headed back to the car park via the last hide on the pits the Goosander hide disturbing some Goosanders on one of the inlets on Ibsley Water. We had nothing new from the hide and so we headed back to the carpark. Two members of the group decide to stay at Blashford and enjoy the Woodland hide and the rest headed for Blackwater Arboretum.
On arrival it was windy and gloomy, and we headed for regular place hoping for the Hawfinches, but we were not successful. This is the first time they did not arrive maybe we were slightly late for the weather conditions. The best of the bunch of birds we saw where calling Mistle Thrushes and our old friends Siskins.
We had plenty of good birds, even without having the Hawfinches our species count was 62.

 

30 January 2022 – Lee Valley, by Ruth Shinebaum

Eight members successfully met up at the Fisher Green car park, greeted by squawking Ring-necked Parakeets (regular here now, but not so common as in the Surbiton area) along with a flock of maybe 20 Redwings. We set off walking around Seventy Acres Lake in the direction of recent Smew sightings, but couldn’t find any of the, until now, quite showy birds. Between there and the Grebe hide, we ticked off many of the usual duck species – Mallard, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Pochard, and a pair of Goldeneye showing nicely but there was a shortage of some expected species such as Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon and Goosander.
We did have a couple of ducky surprises though – a beautiful but obviously escaped silver morph (Carolina) Wood Duck, and an interesting shoveler/mallard cross with an enormous bill. Two of the party saw a Red Crested Pochard female which quickly hid behind an island. En route we also saw a nice flock of Siskin and some lucky observers watched a Cetti’s Warbler for a while.
After lunch by the weir, we walked back to the new Wildlife Discovery Centre for everyone to have a quick peek. A Water Rail was seen here, and whilst waiting outside, the leader saw the regular Kingfisher. Those who were watching a Black-tailed Godwit being chased by Black-headed Gulls were actually watching a Fisher’s Green rarity, which I have since reported. We then walked up to the farm, starting at the rather under-used hide there, giving great close views of Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits on the feeders and of large flocks of Jackdaws and Carrion Crows on the fields. Walking around the farmland we were rewarded with a flock of Fieldfare and a few Stock Doves. Further along we found our target of Brambling in a mixed flock with Chaffinch. It was a good day for raptors too. Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard and lots of Red Kite, including 6 rising on a single thermal. Good views of Muntjac and Fallow Deer completed the day with 57 bird species seen.

 

16 January 2022 – Isle of Sheppey, by Chris Turner

Sunday was a beautiful winters day, cold but hardly a cloud or a breath of wind.
With a couple of hours until the high tide there was no desperate rush to get down to the pill box at Shellness. That meant we could wander down the access track to enjoy 50 or so Brambling which formed part of the large wintering finch flock also including some 500 Linnets and perhaps 100 Chaffinch.
I always find it very difficult to estimate numbers of waders, but I do know that the roost was pretty spectacular. The main “flock” was made up of a couple of thousand Dunlin alongside hundreds of Knot and smaller numbers of Grey Plover. As the tide covered the remaining mud banks these were joined by perhaps hundred Curlew, 300 Bar-tailed Godwit and 100 Black-tailed Gotwit. These were topped up by good numbers of Oystercatcher as well as a handful of Sanderling, Redshank and Ringed Plover. As it was so still the “whooshing” of the flocks as they murmurated (do waders murmurate?) sounded for all the world like the waves breaking on the sand. Highlight though was a pristine male Hen Harrier quartering over the salt marsh. Also good to see were the 200 White-fronted geese picked up over the Swale. I think it has been a very good year for these.
All very lovely, but not a lovely as the thought of the seven Shorelark which had been frequenting the beach a mile or so away at Leysdown. I wasn’t very hopeful as the whole place was teaming with dog walkers, but sure enough there they were, largely oblivious to the “normal” visitors, the birders and the paparazzi. I have never had such views of Shorelark and am a little ashamed to say that I rattled off 2,500 photos before I could drag myself away. Wonderful.
It was then time for the third stop – the raptor roost at Chapel Fleet. Perhaps not as many Marsh Harriers I was expecting with just 8 in total. Another Hen Harrier (this time a ring tail) was a good spot, as was a distant Merlin.
I particularly enjoyed the ID tip from one birder in a rival group to another in the group. How do you know it’s a ring tail? Answer. It’s got a ring tail. There was a good flock of Golden Plover, a dozen Corn Bunting and we ended the day with a view of a Barn owl in the gloom.
Seven members and a very respectable 71 species

 

9 January 2022 – Cannons Farm, by Stephen Waters

A select group of members met at the end of Cannons Lane on a bright but chilly morning. We began the walk using public footpaths overlooking the fields full of stubble. A Buzzard perched in a nearby tree giving good views. At first the fields seemed empty, but flocks of thrushes and finches were apparent feeding in the short cut harvested crop. Redwing and Fieldfare were identified. A Bullfinch posed for a short while in the hedge – too short a time for a decent photograph. We walked along the Reads Rest Lane as far as the edge of Banstead Woods but the footpath in the woods was far too waterlogged for further exploration. We returned to cars enjoying the chatter of House Sparrows and plaintive song of Robins.

 

5 January 2022 – Wraysbury Gravel Pits, by Rebecca Dunne

With Christmas and New Year firmly behind us seven people gathered on a chilly but bright and sunny morning in Feathers Lane, Hythe End. Whilst waiting we heard Blackbird and Song Thrush and a Red Kite circled round or was it several Red Kites? Across the road a hidden, scruffy entrance led to a muddy footpath bordered by Colne Brook on the left and one of the many lakes that make up Wraysbury Country Park on the right. The water bodies were formerly Wraysbury and Hythe End gravel pits. Almost immediately we saw about 8 Goldeneye, Tufted Duck and Great Crested Grebe, all looking beautiful in the bright sun, but the standout bird was a male Goosander, it’s dark bottle-green head and deep red bill contrasting with its white body. As we made our way along the lake we saw more Goldeneye, a Grey Heron flying past, a Red Kite and a couple of pairs of Teal which were tucked under the overhanging branches on the far side. Altogether there were about a dozen Goldeneye with one male was already practising his ‘head tossing’ breeding display. Two of us were lucky enough to catch sight of a Kingfisher. It was a matter luck; glancing in the right gap in the tangled trees at just the moment as it flew from one side of the lake and back again. In those overhanging trees and dense vegetation, we heard and saw a Goldcrest. A Chiffchaff also made its way along the river, crossing from bank to bank of the river, along with Blue Tits, Great Tits and a flock of Long Tailed Tits. Small birds were however thin on the ground throughout the morning.
Next, we crossed the river on the seemingly overly sturdy metal bridge. However, it used to be the route out for gravel when the pits were active. We scanned the river but only found a few Robins and tits. On the other side the track passes through a dense scrub of berry bushes. In some years these have been full of winter thrushes but this year we only saw one thrush type bird. It flew rapidly away from a bush of rose hips. Through the next gate and we were into an area absolutely covered in teasels. It looked picturesque but there wasn’t a single goldfinch or much else to be seen until a Snipe shot out of the dense vegetation, calling as it went. Cutting down a rather muddy path to the Sailing Club Lake we found a few Gadwall with some Tufted Ducks and a Common Gull. The area is apparently Ramsar listed for Gadwall. From this point we retraced our steps, and all was going well until half way along the last lake when there was a loud scream and a commotion. Someone had caught their foot in a bramble and fallen into the lake. Luckily help was on hand from his wife and a new member who hauled him out of the freezing water. He was wet from head to toe but otherwise apparently unhurt so we stopped bird watching and made a quick return to our cars so that he could dry out! It was a timely reminder about taking care on walks, especially if birding alone.
28 species: Gadwall, Mallard, Teal, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Goosander, Moorhen, Great Crested Grebe, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Red Kite, Kingfisher, Ring-necked Parakeet, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Cetti’s Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin, Dunnock.