Walks and outings 2023

2 July 2023, Tolworth Court Farm, by Catriona Coull

A handful of club members met up with Elliot Newton in the old barn, home to a pair of Kestrels, at Tolworth Court Farm site of the old moated manner . He told us of the vision for rewilding which involved his ‘lawn mower of choice’, Sussex bullocks, which make light work of the tougher growth, while carefully sidestepping the ancient yellow ant mounds, their hoofprints leaving bare soil for seeds to increase the biodiversity. We took a peek from inside the straw lined bird hide before crossing the A240 to walk through the open grassy meadows peppered with butterflies, (marbled white, comma, meadow brown, small skipper) and the shady paths under trees bordering the Hogsmill and Bonesgate Rivers, and the North side of the Nature Reserve. Birds seen and heard include Kestrel carrying prey, Swifts overhead, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Greenfinch, Dunnock and Wren, Blue and Long Tailed Tit, Greater Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch. Future management of the site may involve rootling Tamworth pigs to open up the ground, increase the wildflower numbers and in time, to see a return of glow worms to brighten up the nights.


25 June 2023, Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, by Thelma Caine

As last year, we had another warm day for this visit. Geoff Bunce joined me for the trip, and we set off from the car park around 9.45, finding Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Dunnock, Whitethroat and Wren in the scrub bordering the car park, Collared Doves on the overhead wires and House Martins and Swifts flying over the nearby houses. At the first hide along harbour road, we had great views of breeding Black-headed Gulls, Common Terns, Avocets, Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers, with their chicks at various stages of development, some finding their own food, other still being fed by their parents. Other waders on the first pool included Redshanks and Curlew. We also had excellent views of a male Reed Bunting perched up on a nearby bush, resplendent with its black head, white collar and moustachial stipe. From here, we made our way along the beach road admiring wildflowers along the path including Vipers Bugloss, Yellow-horned Poppy and Sea Kale.
It was a very good day for Skylarks with many singing in display flight, then perching on posts giving a great opportunity for photos. Looking out to sea, Common Terns were fishing, bringing back food for their young. A grating ‘Kwee- rick’ call alerted us to two Sandwich Terns flying over, and scanning the beach on the receding tide we were delighted to find two Little Terns perched together on the sand. From the hide at the far end of the first pool, we added both Great Crested and Little Grebe to our list and various ducks including Shelduck, Mallard and Tufted Duck, all with young. Several Little Egrets were probing on the far side in the mud. On Ternery Pool, as well as Common Terns, there were over 50 Sandwich Terns gathered together in a colony and several more with young close to the hide. Here we added a summerplumaged Dunlin to the list and a single Bar-tailed Godwit, as well as Great Black-backed Gulls and breeding Herring Gulls. The next lagoon held Mute Swans and numerous Coot as well as more Tufted Ducks, Pochard and a few Great Crested Grebes, including juveniles. Linnets flitted up everywhere in small groups and small numbers of Stock Doves were seen in flight.
As we made our way alongside the reed beds, heading towards the barns, we heard singing Whitethroats and eventually had a clear view of one perched up on a bush. We also had more good views of Reed Bunting and heard several Cetti’s Warblers. We then made our way inland towards Castle Water and located a singing Chiffchaff on the bare branch of a tree. Blackcaps were also heard singing but remained well-hidden in the foliage. The first of several Marsh Harriers glided low over the ground and another was seen in the distance over the marsh. Arriving at the hide on Castle Water, there was a substantial colony of nesting Cormorants on a wooded island with young in the nest. Lapwings were feeding on the mud and we good views of Teal as well as Gadwall and Moorhens. We added Egyptian and Greylag Geese to our list and Reed Warblers were heard singing here in the reedbed. From Castle Water, we headed across the fields which held Rooks as well as a Pied Wagtails. Before we reached the road, a small group of Long-tailed Tits flitted through the overhanging branches, bringing the day’s tally to 60 species.


6 June 2023, Farnham Heath RSPB by Rebecca Dunne

8 of us had a pleasant walk around Farnham Heath RSPB reserve on a warm, sunny morning with a NE breeze. We followed the orange trail through a mosaic of restored heathland and then through part of the green trail which gave more expansive views over the heathland with its isolated clumps of Scot’s Pine. We returned through sheltered woodland behind the Rural Life Centre which was bordered by a strip of conifers.
Nuthatch on the feeders by the entrance gate.
• This is a good place for Redstarts. Thelma heard them as she waited for us in the car park, but we didn’t see any until we were nearly back there and then we saw 2 pairs. One pair were visiting a nest in the back of a silver birch stump. The other pair could be seen from the top of the car park in the Rural Life Centre around buildings, fences and the miniature railway line. Their nest was in a tree close to one of the buildings. They had quite a physical fight, disappearing under a shed but then both continued to collect food and visit the nest, pausing in the building’s gutter.
There was an almost constant backdrop of Willow Warbler song and calls especially in the young silver birch groves. Plenty of Chiffchaffs as well.
Linnet families – one pair were feeding 4 youngsters in the base of a clump conifer trees. • Coal Tit, Great Tit and Long-tailed Tit families.
• Singing Goldcrests and one eventually seen flitting high up in pines. • Dartford Warblers – although not as many as in previous years. Our best views were of a couple of pairs, including a handsome, red-breasted male, in an area of heath entirely fenced off from people and dogs • Cuckoo seen but not heard.
Tree Pipit probably heard but only faintly.
• A Woodlark in song flight then perching obligingly in a tall Scot’s Pine. Others fed on the path by the Nightjar viewpoint. Linnets and Redstart were also feeding on the wide sandy paths, maybe eating the many ants that we saw.
Stonechat families feeding youngsters on the tops of the heather and again collecting food on the sandy paths.
• A Green Woodpecker ascending the side of a tree and a fly over Great Spotted Woodpecker.
• A Buzzard, a Red Kite, a Kestrel and one Hobby. We only spotted 2 dragonflies, and these were over the small pond which is now fenced off from dogs after their flea treatments were found to be killing off invertebrates in the water. Signs asking people to keep their dogs on leads and out of the pond were often ignored as I saw myself last year.
Chaffinch everywhere singing, calling and flying showing their white wing patches.
• Amongst other things Treecreeper, Greenfinch, Dunnock, Blackcap, Wren, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Goldfinch, Robin, Whitethroat.
Farnham is certainly a reserve worth a return visit especially if the Rural Life Centre café is open. It wasn’t this time so we had to make do with Squires Garden Centre café a few yards up the road.


4 June 2023, Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve, by Rebecca Dunne

8 of us met in the Stour Valley near Canterbury at the largest reedbed in SE England. A chilly NE wind dogged us all day and kept many birds well-hidden. Despite this it warmed up a bit when the sun came out and we enjoyed the walk through the reed beds to Grove Ferry and then back along the riverside path. John Barkham led the walk, and I drew the short straw of writing the report. We had high hopes of a Great Reed Warbler but if it was there, no one heard it. Likewise, we had no sight of a Red-backed Shrike that had been in the area. On a more positive note, these were the highlights: –
Hobbies hunting dragonflies although the wind kept their prey well hidden. One sitting in the middle of a distant ploughed field gave us an ID challenge between Hobby and Peregrine until it took flight and showed its red trousers.
• Hearing Cuckoo then spotting one on spindly bushes in the reed beds. Garden Warblers heard and 1 briefly seen in the woods near the car park. Blackcaps were easier to spot throughout the day.
• We had an early lunch at Marsh Hide, justified by an early start from home, and watched 3 Greenshank, 9 Redshank, Lapwing, Shoveler and Gadwall. This was one of the few places where there were muddy edges for waders to feed as the water level was generally high across the reserve. 2 Hobbies passed very close by. Reed Buntings and Skylark could be heard although the strong cold wind coming through the hide windows made them hard to hear.
• Pairs of Marsh Harriers across the reserve obviously nesting in the reedbeds. Food passes between 2 pairs of Marsh Harriers followed by the females disappearing into the reeds near The Ramp and near Marsh Hide were clear indications of nests.
• Large numbers of Swifts in the first half of the walk were joined by many Sand Martins up towards Grove Ferry along with the occasional Swallow and House Martin. From David Feast Hide we watched Sand Martins dipping down onto the water surface; perhaps drinking clumsily as shown on Springwatch on Wednesday 7th or picking off Mosquitos as shown with Swallows on 6th June. We initially thought bathing or drinking and saw one land on the reeds to preen. I’m sure they do all 3! Also, from David Feast Hide a family of Mute Swans with 5 cygnets, one of which was a pure white ‘Polish’ bird. “Flamingo” shouted one late arrival to this hide but later realised that it was an upending Swan! A Great White Egret in breeding plumage, catching fish, seen from ‘The Ramp’ with its yellow based black bill and yellow tinged legs. John was determined not to leave this spot until he’d also seen a Bittern and we didn’t until he’d glimpsed one flying over the top of the reeds.
• Just past The Ramp, in the Paddocks, we heard one purr from a Turtle Dove and a snatch of Nightingale song but frustratingly, nothing more.
Lesser Whitethroat heard as we started along the Riverside Path and were passing undisturbed dense scrub. Common Whitethroat were more obvious performing song flights from their bush top perches plus a Sedge Warbler doing the same thing after we left Marsh Hide.
• 10 Lapwing on one of the other few areas of drying out mud but they were hard to pick out unless you had Mike’s patience!
Another highlight was ice-creams at Grove Ferry before the return leg along the river. 2 of our group stopped here and birded/dozed until they were collected on the way home. The rest of us walked back to the start enjoying the river but eventually it began to feel as if our target, the Tower Hide, would never reappear. Once reached, we climbed up for a look at the lake. 10 Mute Swans were about the only thing of interest but we knew that the car park was just the other side of the lake. Lots of comparison of ‘steps’ on our phones put the walk between 5 and 7 miles! It is a beautiful reserve however and well worth the walk with 61 species seen.


28 May 2023, Tice’s Meadow & Crooksbury Common, by Thelma Caine

Starting out on a fine morning, many birds were in full song including Song Thrush, Blackbird, Robin, Wren, Dunnock and Blackcap. As we made our way along the path, a Whitethroat rose in song flight and landed a short distance away, giving good views and a Chiffchaff sang in the tree canopy. Long-tailed Tits flitted through the trees and several Jays flew across the path. A Little Egret appeared overhead briefly as we made our way to the first viewpoint. Swifts were active overhead and we saw at least one bird entering the Swift nest box which has been erected in the field. Moving on to Horton’s Mound, there was plenty of activity on the main gravel pit with water birds including Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Greylags and a few Egyptian Geese, several pairs of Great Crested Grebes, Mallard, Gadwall, Coot and Moorhens. A Little Egret was probing at the edge of the water and two Grey Herons were seen in the fringing marsh. Scanning along the far shore, there were small numbers of Lapwings, a few Pied Wagtails and lots of Starlings rushing about collecting food. A Little Ringed Plover showed briefly before taking flight and disappearing from view. Common Terns hunted over the water and Black-headed Gulls were nesting on the floating islands, while posts in the water were a favoured perching post for Cormorants and Herring Gulls. Overhead several Red Kites and Buzzards were circling. A Kestrel was pursued by Crows and later a Sparrowhawk flew through. We took the path towards the reedbeds, getting good views of Reed Buntings in the willow scrub. A number of Reed Warblers were singing and were joined by the loud notes of Cetti’s Warbler. As we neared the hide, the ground was flooded and impassable, so we retraced our steps and returned along the woodland path. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew across before we reached the feeders, where we added Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Collared Dove and Great Tit. A Bullfinch was heard calling nearby and we also heard the territorial call of Stock Doves. We recorded 50 species of birds at Tice’s Meadow before heading off to Crooksbury Common.
At Crooksbury, Song Thrush, Robins and Blackcaps were all in evidence around the car park and a Great Spotted Woodpecker called from the trees. We lunched up on the slope beyond the car park overlooking the heath, gaining a vantage point to look for birds of prey and soon picked out several Red Kites, and later, Buzzards and a Kestrel. On the edge of the heath, a Willow Warbler sang in the low trees fringing the path, and a Chiffchaff landed on a small birch. As we walked along the sandy track bordering the heath, another songster started up – a handsome male Redstart which we located on a holly bush, giving great views. As we progressed up the path, we came across a pair of Stonechats on the fence line, then realised there was a family, with several young ones flitting up on the heather. Knowing that Dartford Warblers often associate with Stonechats, we spent some time scanning the heather and low trees on both sides of the path. After a few minutes we spotted one which landed on a small birch tree. As we watched, another one joined it, followed by another two, seemingly therefore, a family group of Dartfords. As we progressed up the path, a pair of Ravens appeared overhead, tumbling in mid-air and giving their characteristic cronking calls. Very soon afterwards, a falcon shot through and disappeared behind the trees. When it re-emerged, we saw it was Hobby and had a fantastic view as it flew low, directly over our heads, showing its strongly streaked breast and distinctive head pattern. In the woodland on the far side of the heath, several Chaffinches were singing and both Coal Tits and Goldcrest were calling high up in the foliage. Skirting the edge of the heath, we heard the distinctive song of a Tree Pipit and located the bird on top of a small tree. We took a cross path and as we returned along the sandy track towards the slope with scattered pine trees. A Cuckoo called, sounding quite close, and suddenly flew up and landed on a short branch before flying on. Altogether we recorded 34 species at Crooksbury with 61 species overall for the day.


21 May 2023, Horton Country Park, by Paul Spencer

I was joined by seven people on a morning which ranged from clear blue skies to overcast with fresh breeze which meant at times the bird song got subdued by the conditions. There was still a lot to hear and we soon ticked off the first Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Wren and Robin by song as we walked through Butcher’s Grove and Castle Hill woods. The first bird of note was a Lesser Whitethroat singing deep from a dense hedgerow just south of the Meadow Pond. I then heard a one call Cuckoo near the Orchard which thankfully became a very vocal Cuckoo which everyone enjoyed. I was half expecting the Cuckoo as one had been recorded a couple of days before and we had one last year. Jim Harvey was spooked by two foxes chasing each other in the orchard with their Heron-like bark and we admired a beetle which was either a Scarlet Lilly Beetle or a Cardinal Beetle. A flitting Holly Blue butterfly was nice to see, and a Common Whitethroat performed its song flight as Thelma explained the differences between Common and Lesser. A smart adult Pied Wagtail strutted its stuff down the Polo centre.
The star bird of the trip however was Peregrine Falcon which has nested for several years on a Water Tower just outside the park. A distant view through Thelma ‘s scope showed an adult on a ledge and from a nearer position was saw a bird hunting around the tower before flying towards Park Farm. Our last close view revealed the proud female perched imperiously on the outer ledge watching over three small fluffy chicks huddled inside the inner ledge- a very cute image. Our total species list was 40.


14 May 2023, Staines Moor, by Thelma Caine

As we made our way along the footpath over the railway bridge, there was plenty of bird song with Wren, Robin, Dunnock, Chiffchaff, Blackbird, Blackcap and Song Thrush, all heard early on. From the vantage point at the top of the bridge, we spotted several Stock Doves on the telegraph wires. Further along the path, a singing Whitethroat popped up from the hedgerow. Arriving on the Moor, we heard a Cuckoo calling briefly from the treeline. We made our way along the bank of the River Colne finding Mute Swans, Coot, Moorhen and Mallards. There was a Grey Heron feeding in the marsh and a Little Egret flew across on the far side of the Moor. It was surprisingly cool and cloudy for the first hour, but Sedge Warblers were very prominent, sitting on bush tops, some rising in song flight, and we had good views of several Reed Buntings.
As the sun came out, the bird activity increased. Skylarks rose in song, and we spotted several Meadow Pipits. Linnets too flitted along the banks of the river and on to nearby bushes. Several Lapwings flew up, while overhead, birds of prey were circling, including Red Kites, Buzzards and a Kestrel. As the temperatures rose, we were fascinated to watch newly hatched Mayflies emerging from the river and taking their first flight. We had more good views of male Reed Buntings in the bushes beside the river, while a Little Egret and Moorhens fed in the shallows. At the far end of the Moor, we climbed over a stile on to the boardwalk and had good views of Blackcaps in the trees overhead. A family of Long-tailed Tits moved through the trees, a Chiffchaff was active in the overhanging branches and Cetti’s Warbler sang from the willow scrub.
Further along, where there was a gap in the hedge, we spotted Canada Geese with Black-headed Gulls in a field bedside the path. Returning to the Moor, we crossed the river and scanned the scrub on the far bank finding Jay, Goldfinches, Greenfinch and a Green Woodpecker which called in flight.
As we made our way back, a Kingfisher flew up suddenly and shot off across the moor and we were delighted to find several Hobbies swooping low to catch the emerging Mayflies over the river, giving great views and they were soon joined by a Red Kite circling overhead. 47 species were seen during the morning.


11 May 2023, Dungeness and surrounding area, by Peter Knox

A day with Hobbies and Turtle Doves with an encore of Nightingales.
Five members arrived at the sea watching hide on bright sunny but cool morning. Unfortunately, the sea was incredibly quiet, but we spent some time hoping for more than just Gulls and a few Terns and Gannets. Eventually we decide to go for a coffee to warm up after spending time in the cool wind. Next, we headed for the ARC pits to have lunch. On arrival we had our first Hobby over the car park. From the hide we had more Hobbies and Marsh Harriers. The pit had a very high-water level which meant there where only two islands. On one we found a Ring Plover. After lunch we headed back to the car park and found a Lesser Whitethroat along the path. We headed on to the reserve and driving down to the centre we had a second Lesser Whitethroat. The main pits were noticeably quiet, so we headed towards the Denge marsh hide on route we had a third Lesser Whitethroat. The Hayfields provide a number of waders including Avocets, Oystercatcher, Lapwings and Redshanks. We decided to follow the public footpath towards the Denge marsh road and heard Bearded Tits pinging. The Water-level in the pit was remarkably high and so there was little action except Hobbies and Marsh Harriers. Our next stop was the Hooker pits and on route we heard our first Cuckoo which we did get views of it. Our next find was a nice bright Yellow Wagtail. We now headed back to the centre and from there we decide to go to the railway crossing near Kenardington. This is good place to see Turtle Doves and it did not disappoint. We had about five birds including incredibly good views of one bird perched on a dead tree. From here we moved on to the crossing over the Military Canal, and we had another Cuckoo. From here we then headed for Birchett Wood near Hamstreet were we found a Garden Warbler and were serenaded by a couple of Nightingales a nice end to the day. The day had produced a count of seventy-one species which was a good count for what felt like a quiet day.


3 May 2023, Pulborough Brooks, by Mike White

On one of the warmest days of the year so far, I was joined by just four members for the walk around this beautiful reserve. Whilst gathering in the car park Mistle Thrush, House Sparrow, Starling and Goldfinch started our list. Our first stop was the feeders at the top of the zig-zag path, here were Greenfinch, Longtailed Tit and a Nuthatch, whilst the first of a near continuous chorus of Chiffchaff was heard. Approaching Fattengates Courtyard a Hobby flew over and the first notes of Nightingale were heard, eventually the bird showed well in the top of a Holly bush. Towards West Mead hide a pair of Treecreepers gave good views and we also stopped to admire the wonderful blooms of Water Crowsfoot covering the adjacent pond, further along the scratchy song of a Common Whitethroat alerted us to the bird in a nearby hedgerow.
The water body outside West  Mead  was populated by Canada Geese, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, a small number of Avocet and a Lapwing with youngsters. We then continued  to Winpenny hide from which Ruff, Greenshank, Egyptian Geese and Little Egret were visible. We were searching for the reported Wood Sandpiper and eventually spied a distant small wader tucked in behind some grass, much discussion then ensued with all the watchers in the hide as to the birds’ identity, opinion divided, it was the one that got away. Leaving the hide and walking towards Adder Alley Wren, Dunnock and Stonechat were seen and another Nightingale showed fairly well. Linnet and Rook were also noted as we approached Little Hanger hide and once inside, we commented on the lack of raptor activity on Almost immediately a large raptor flew over the hide, the unmistakeable shape of White-tailed Eagle. After circling several times with an entourage of very unhappy corvids it landed out on the brooks. The bird then jumped into one of the many ditches and emerged carrying a fair-sized fish with which it flew off. Lunch was then taken with a view looking out over the South Downs. On towards Netleys Hide the or another White-tailed Eagle flew out on to the brooks and landed, from the hide Gadwall were added to the list and good views of Sedge Warbler were had. Surprisingly, given the warm conditions, there were only very small numbers of hirundines seen. From the path above Netleys’ a small flock of Stock Dove were seen and as we returned to the Visitor Centre further Nightingale song was heard. After a coffee I returned to try and get some Nightingale photos, but despite briefly seeing two of the birds I was unsuccessful, I did however add Bullfinch to the list.


30 April 2023, RSPB Otmoor and Farmoor, by Paul Spencer

My small party of five enjoyed the bird song and sights of wonderful Otmoor. Ten warbler species were seen or heard including Grasshopper Warbler, one of which gave a prolonged master class of reeling from the top of a tree, Garden Warbler, Reed Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat. Sedge Warbler were very numerous , gave cracking views and seemed to be singing all along the reed bed line.
Two Wheatear gave very close views near the Cattle pens and there were two pairs of Common Crane in the wet meadows who occasionally were heard trumpeting! A Curlew evocatively called, Lapwings chased marauding Red Kites and two Marsh Harrier drifted back and forth with one food pass noted. Hobby initially distant from the Big Otmoor field became very close when we reached the main reedbed and on the return route, two chasing the Swifts, Swallows and Martins that were whizzing through. We had fantastic views of a pair of Cuckoo excitedly pairing up. A pair of Grey Lag Goose marshalled their eight goslings across a path and a Moorhen had her work cut out with 4 punk chicks. Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, Stonechat, Linnet and Goldfinch also gave good views. Duck numbers were low but we got nice views of Shoveler in flight . Orange Tip Butterfly and a Grass Snake were pleasant extras!
It was a shame to leave Otmoor, particularly as that evening there was a Spotted Crake recorded calling and a Black Crowned Night Heron was seen flying over the reedbeds! Farmoor was very quiet in comparison. At one stage it was looking like a female Mallard with a dozen ducklings was going to be the highlight. However, we eventually saw 3 Common Terns, 3 Oystercatchers and a beautiful buttery Yellow Wagtail and heard another Lesser Whitethroat in the car park . At least 72 species recorded for both reserves. We saw no Kites along the M40 on the outward journey but minimum of 19 on the return journey! A Yellowhammer was spotted on the outward journey flying down a country lane hedgerow.


23 April 2023, Coach Trip to Fingringhoe Wick, Essex by Rebecca Dunne

On the positive side we all experienced surround sound Nightingales and some saw them for the first time in their lives. Fingringhoe hosts 30-40 pairs, or about 1%, of the UK breeding population. The males arrive in mid-April and their singing, especially at night, is at its peak before they’ve attracted a mate. It wasn’t just the Nightingale song which delighted us; there was plenty of other song as birds claimed territory and attracted mates including Chiffchaffs which could be seen everywhere. Another positive was our combined species list of 79 which included such highlights as Marsh Harrier, Whitethroat, Whimbrel and Bullfinch. Fingringhoe Wick is also a beautiful Essex Wildlife Trust reserve on the Colne Estuary with a real sense of peace and quiet. It feels as if you are exploring the 200 acres rather than following the huge, tarmacked paths at some reserves. It also has plenty of cosy little hides and a pleasant visitor centre which are both ideal for escaping the rain. And yes, that is the negative side… it poured nearly all day! A less than ideal service from the new coach company also detracted from my enjoyment of the day. That said, many claimed to have enjoyed the day. There’s a sense of camaraderie in surviving a day that like together but it really is a special place! The Essex coastal marshes are quite different from the usual areas we visit on the south coast.
Undeterred by the weather we split up to explore; some sensibly going in the opposite direction from the majority. Many of us headed towards Margaret Hide to view the estuary at low tide however it wasn’t just closed, as we’d been warned, but the whole area was inaccessible because of flooding. Instead, we clustered around Kingfisher Hide and looked out from there. A brief glimpse of a Spoonbill was the highlight. Throughout the day we saw Black-tailed Godwits and Bar-tailed Godwits in their whole range of plumage from non-breeding to full breeding splendour. The brick red stops at the legs in BL-T G but carries on to the vents in Ba-TG. The odd Redshank, an Avocet, a few Grey Plover and some Dunlin could be seen before the tide came in from this area and all the other viewpoints overlooking the estuary including, the Crawshaw Hide and the new Geedon Bay Hide. From Kingfisher Hide there were also Little Grebes, Teal and Pochard and the sound of Reed Warblers, Reed Bunting and Cetti’s Warbler.
The best route back to the centre from Kingfisher Hide winds through the scrub past several viewpoints and hides. Nightingales singing around the edges of the open patch by the huge concrete wall that remains from the gravel extraction days (they tried to blow it up but failed) was particularly good. Each hide we entered had little groups of our party sheltering and eating sandwiches! Many then stopped at the centre to dry out and for warming drinks. By now it was pouring but some ventured around the west side of the reserve where the Nightingale song is often best. Lake and Thurstable Hides offered dry sanctuaries and views over the lake but Nightingale Hide itself, a screen without a roof, was not a great place to stand.
At this point the 3pm National Warning Siren from our phones surprised many of us even though we knew it would happen! A quick look out over the saltmarsh showed the many Little Egrets and a wet Buzzard in a tree. With an hour and a half left some of us returned to Kingfisher Hide to look out at high tide. Others lingered around their favourite group of Nightingales, 4 singing at once in one small patch, and some just stayed dry in the centre! Needless to say, by the time we had to leave the rain was holding up and a watery sun was trying to force its way through the clouds. Many people have asked for a return visit if we can choose the weather!


14 April 2023, Beddington Farmlands Nature Reserve by Thelma Caine

Our group of 12 were met at the Mile End Road entrance gate for this guided tour of the Beddington Farmlands Nature Reserve by Warden, Charlie Owens and volunteer helper Zac. The 161-hectare site, situated in the Wandle Valley is undergoing a restoration and rewilding programme to create a mosaic of important habitats for wildlife. It was a notable day for Charlie and his team, as three Sussex cattle were delivered early on to start a grazing trial. We watched as the cattle advanced eagerly along the grassy surround to the lower lake following their release. Charlie told us about planned improvements to the habitat and changes that have taken place to site in recent years.
Several birds were singing in the scrub by the entrance gate, including Chiffchaff, Robin, Greenfinch and Dunnock. As we moved on to the reserve, the first of a number of Cetti’s Warblers was heard. From a vantage point above the Southern Lake, we observed numerous wildfowl. Canada Geese were much in evidence, some breeding on the island. Also seen here were Mute Swans, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Gadwall, Little Grebe, a male Teal, Coot and Moorhen. A Green Sandpiper flew up early on and came to land on the edge of a water channel. Also present among the waders were a small number of Lapwings, feeding along the muddy margins of the lake and on the islands. A Snipe was seen, and several Little Ringed Plovers. We watched several close to the shore, including a pair, with the male displaying to its mate. Swallows and House Martins were also seen here, flying low over the water to catch insects. A number of Pied Wagtails were strutting across the mud and a Grey Wagtail was also seen during the morning.
It was a quite a good morning for birds of prey. A Kestrel was seen hovering early on and we had several other views during the morning. A Sparrowhawk was also spotted, circling high above the nearby town. Charlie pointed out a large incinerator which had been installed at the highest point of the site. Two tall chimneys rose above this and on one of these a Peregrine was perched. It flew off but Charlie advised that it was frequently seen around the incinerator building and thought likely to be attempting to nest on the roof. Later we had a Red Kite, directly overhead.
On the lower section of the southern lake was a small island with several trees, surrounded by reeds. Here a pair of Herons was nesting in the reeds with two further nests visible in the trees.
Along the route, we crossed an area of stony soil where a Skylark was singing. Several Common Terns flew over as we made our way up a slope, where we had a vantage point to look down on another of the pools. Scattered around were pipes to release gas from the soil and a number of small posts. On one of these a Wheatear was perched. The surrounding scrub held small numbers of passerines, among them Linnets and a male Whitethroat. Several of the group saw a Willow Warbler and Blackcap was also heard singing during the morning.
After a few rain showers, we reached the Northern Lake, where we found a pair of Shelduck, Shovelers, and a number of Little Grebe, in addition to Canada Geese, Mute Swans, Mallard, Tufted Duck and Gadwall. An old Sand Martin bank was present at the lower end of the lake but Charlie said it was no longer used by Sand Martins. They hope to restore it or may be convert it for a different use.
We made our way along the outer permissive path bordered on either side by scrub and trees, adding Blue Tit, Great Tit, Song Thrush and Blackbird to the list, and re-entered the site higher up to view the northern side of the North Lake, where Lesser Black-backed Gulls were added to the list. As we made our way back towards the entrance gate, Charlie was hoping to find a Yellowhammer and was delighted when it suddenly flew up and landed in a bush before flying back to the top of a small tree. At the end of a very interesting tour around the reserve, our morning’s tally was 55 species.


5 April 2023, Richmond Park by Rebecca Dunne

Nine of us met at Pembroke Lodge car park and headed off towards the Cattle Enclosure, admiring ‘The Way’ gate on route which frames the protected view of St Pauls Cathedral from King Henry’s Mount. A small Wren in the gate’s leaves is a reference to cathedral architect Sir Christopher Wren. A fox sauntered around behind them on the mown grass track through Sidmouth Wood. I was not very optimistic about what we might see because the park had been rather quiet ,and it was grey and windy. Nevertheless, we had 45 species…if you count the extra 4 that Mike and I saw after lunch. Lots of the walk consisted of hints about what you might see if you came back to particular spots at different times of the day/year e.g. breeding Little Owls, Whinchats and Redstarts.
The Little Owl was, understandably, not sitting out in the chilly wind when we reached the Cattle Enclosure. Next stop Attenborough’s tree as shown in Wild Isles – that would definitely be still there. But first we peered through the recently cut viewpoints in the hedge at the bottom of the Paddocks. Success – a male Wheatear along with a Song Thrush and Rupert (excellent local birder) who told us that all the dogs had disturbed the Wheatear from ‘The Bog’ into the safety of the Paddocks. Next, we admired Attenborough’s Oak tree and marvelled at how they’d avoided filming fences and the nearby road. However, Rupert had just told us that he’d seen the female LSW the previous day so we headed rapidly along Queen’s Ride to the end of Lower Pen Pond. We stood hopefully in the woods and listened but unfortunately heard nothing. It was much easier to find in March. Lynda and Chris knew a good tree for Tawny Owls nearby, and even had photos, but again no luck.
What we did see were a pair of Stonechats in brambles at the edge of Lower Pen Pond and two male Reed Buntings giving their rather plain song. Not much was around on the ponds although a single Swan on one pond and a pair on the other would lead to territorial disputes in the following days. The pair of Egyptian Geese which had started off with 7 goslings the previous week were now down to one, possibly due to all the large Pike in the Pen Ponds. At least one Grey Heron nest on the Upper Pen Pond Island had young, there was a handsome male Pochard and one Sand Martin was spotted high up above the sand martin bank.
A couple of Kestrels and a pair of Buzzards were seen during our walk (see Surbiton Birds Facebook page for some great pictures of Buzzard interaction that Chris Lewis has posted). Our last stop was Isabella Plantation where we managed to find some Mandarin Ducks on Peg’s Pond. A brood of 8 newly hatched, fluffy Mallard ducklings drew most interest however! Having walked back across Pond Slade the majority finished the walk with coffee at the Pembroke Lodge kiosk. Mike and I were drawn back to the Paddocks in the hope of finding the Redstart which others had seen after we left. We were in luck and found it circling a clump of trees; hopping up and down from the fence into the grass with the rabbits. These rabbits were doing exactly what was shown on Wild Isles i.e., spraying urine over each other as part of a mating display! A pair of Pied Wagtails in The Paddocks was another species for the day along with a Skylark singing over The Bog. Our last species of the day was the Little Owl which was now sitting out in the warm sunshine on its usual clump of trees in the Cattle Enclosure!


2 April 2023, Bushy Park Guided Bird Walks by Thelma Caine

We were fortunate to have a dry morning for this series of guided bird walks in the Woodland Gardens. Around 70 people participated including families, with the children enjoying our various quizzes and choosing their prizes.
During the morning we had good views of 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, several Jays, Chaffinch, Goldfinches, a singing Chiffchaff, two Stock Doves, Longtailed Tits, a Goldcrest, two Treecreepers and a Nuthatch. Several Green Woodpeckers yaffled from just beyond the boundary fence and overhead we had both Red Kite and Kestrel. Among the wildfowl were Moorhen, several nesting Coots, Mallard, Egyptian Geese, Canada Geese and a Grey Heron.
By the end of the three walks, a total of 31 species had been recorded. Thanks are due to all those who helped with setting up, leading the walks, assisting at the reception desk, and packing up at the end, all of whom contributed to an enjoyable morning.


26 March 2023, Langstone Harbour and Hayling Island by John Barkham

Seven members rendezvoused at the Ship Inn, overlooking mudflats and the bridge onto Hayling Island. It was raining and the weather forecast had light rain continuing until late morning. So, we decided to relocate to the hides at the Arundel Wetland Centre. This proved to be a good move. At the entrance Rebecca spotted a Peregrine perched high in a distant tree on lookout. Several Marsh Harriers were seen taking off from their reedbed roost on the opposite side of the River Arun. Scape hide had several Mediterranean Gulls and a lone Cattle Egret. A dozen Mallard chicks were bathing in a puddle just outside the Woodland hide. We took coffee in the Visitors Centre and watched a Kingfisher at rest nearby.
The weather slowly improved, and we drove back to Hayling Island. At the oyster beds waders included Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Dunlin and Oystercatcher. There were several Redbreasted Mergansers in the channels and 2 Long-tailed Ducks opposite Budd’s Farm. Another 2 Peregrines were on seen on a distant island.
We decided to move on to Farlington Marshes at the western end of Langstone Harbour, hoping to see the 2 Short-eared Owls that have been wintering on the reserve. We left Steve behind at the Main Lake and walked on to Point Field where the owls are normally seen. After a long wait, we saw Steve waiving at us in the distance: he had spotted a Short-eared Owl right next to him! Walking back to Steve, we saw the owl in flight before it finally came to rest in the open.


15 March 2023, Papercourt Meadows by Thelma Caine

Starting the walk by Tannery House, a Song Thrush was singing early on, and several Starlings were perched in trees in the nearby gardens as well as Ring-necked Parakeets and Woodpigeons. We made our way to the picnic site which gave a good vantage point over the meadows. Several Stonechats were perched on bush tops and along the river were Mallard, Moorhen, Mute Swan and several Black-headed Gulls while the overhanging trees held Blue and Great Tits. Two Jays flew over as we crossed the bridge over the Wey Navigation Canal and the River Wey. We continued along the path finding small group of Linnets among the scattered bushes and perching on the overhead wires and Meadow Pipits flitted up from the ground. We soon spotted the first Buzzard of the day over the tree line and soon afterwards, the first of several Red Kites.
It was a good day for birds of prey, in addition to the Kites and both Sparrowhawk and Kestrel, we must have seen at least eight Buzzards including a group of 3-4 seen together. In the wooded areas beside the river, we added Robin, Wren and a Chiffchaff to the list. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over and a Pheasant called as we walked along the path beside a meander of the River Wey and a Kingfisher suddenly shot across overhead. Further along, we encountered a small group of Long-tailed Tits flitting through the overhanging branches and a Nuthatch called from the trees near St Peter’s Church. On the return route, we crossed the meadow beside a WW2 pill box and in a clump of bushes, spotted several Redwings. Just beyond here, a Dunnock popped up on a small bush and a tall dead tree proved a good perching post for a group of Cormorants. A break in the trees skirting the canal provided a view across a rough field. Close to a hedge, two Fieldfares were feeding on the ground. Several Goldfinches landed in a tree as we made our way towards the bridge over the river. From the bridge we had a better view of the Fieldfares. A group of Canada Geese and one or two Egyptian Geese were also feeding in the field and two Gadwall were resting on the riverbank. A Pied Wagtail flew over as we made our way back along the canal and a male Tufted Duck was feeding here, as well as Mallards and Moorhen. A Grey Heron was seen in flight as we neared the end of the walk, bringing the morning’s tally to 42 species.


5 March 2023, Acres Down by John Barkham

9 members attended our outing to the New Forest on a rain-free but cold and cloudy morning. After a short walk to the raptor watch point, we joined another birding group who were already looking at a Goshawk perched at the top of a distant tree. We were told it was a ‘blob’ rather than a ‘dot’ but nevertheless difficult to see. After a few minutes Rebecca managed to pick it out against the trunk of a tree, and we would occasionally see the head move. Paul then spotted a flying Goshawk and we later saw several Goshawks in flight. We enjoyed sustained telescope views of their distinct shape and flappy wing style. At one point there were 4 birds together and we could see the obvious larger size of a female alongside a smaller male. Later another Goshawk was tracked and it landed at the top of another distant tree where we continued to view it at rest. We saw two Hawfinches briefly in a nearby tree and, on the way back to the car park, Alan spotted a couple of Buzzards beyond a pair of Stonechats. Lunch in the car park included a Firecrest and we ventured out again to enjoy a circular walk on a forest trail. We added 4 Marsh Tit, 6 fly-over Crossbills, Chaffinch, Siskin, Nuthatch and a perched Buzzard and a couple of Raven to our list.


26 February 2023, Abberton Reservoir by Ruth Shinebaum

The Skylarks were singing, the Goldeneye displaying, the blackthorn in blossom and there were buds on the trees. But we knew it was February by the biting wind and the brief but surprising hailstorm. So, 11 people wrapped up warm and did the tour of the various parts of the reserve. We started at the Layer Breton causeway and were quickly rewarded with a female Smew and Green Sandpiper. The usual ducks and geese included a large number of Egyptian Geese. The Grey Herons also thought it was spring, being very active around the nests, and there was a flyover Great White Egret although we didn’t see any other of the ‘white’ birds (cattle egret and spoonbills) which nested there last year. Perhaps it is a bit early for them to have returned.
Over to the Essex Wildlife Trust Visitor Centre where we paid our dues, used the loos, and had coffee stop number 1 to warm us for the reserve circuit. The feeders provided the usual tits, and Goldfinches and the Skylarks showed well on the walk to the hides. The Goosander and Goldeneye were easier to see from here, along with a smattering of waders including Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, quite a few Dunlin, and some Ruff. Some saw a Marsh Harrier flying low, but those who didn’t see it then caught up later in the day. There was also a nice flock of Linnet and some Chaffinches.
With the weather turning we decided to lunch in the centre – stop number 2, before moving to the Layer de La Haye causeway. It was apparent that many of the Tufted Ducks, often close to this causeway, had moved to the far side of the reservoir, and we would have to move elsewhere to sift through for the more unusual Aythya species. We did add a Rock Pipit and spent some time discussing a possible sanderling before settling on a Dunlin, though not everyone was convinced.
Next, we took the cars to Billets Farm and walked to the Wigborough Bay hide, giving us much closer views of Pintail and more distant ones of two Bewick’s swans. A ten-minute drive took us round to Abberton church viewing point, where the ducks were marginally closer and after much difficult staring through telescopes, a couple of Greater Scaup were found but the light was poor, and we couldn’t find any of the more unusual grebes which had been reported. However, the car park gave us a few additional species including Redwing and Red-legged Partridge, making a total of 67 and 1H for the day. One last trip to the centre before it closed at 5.00pm and then it was off home after a good day’s birding.


15 February 2023, Barnes WWT by Jonathan Hannam

Nine members joined me on a pleasant sunny day for a stroll around the reserve, which was busier than we expected because it was a half-term holiday week for the local schools. We started as usual by taking the South Route towards the Peacock Tower. The Dulverton Hide was closed for maintenance, so we moved on to the WWF hide, stopping briefly by the feeders to see if any Brambling were there. No luck with them, though Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Dunnock and Greenfinch were all present.

On entering the hide, we were greeted by a pair of Great Crested Grebes displaying right in front of us. On the Main Lake there were the usual collection of Blackheaded Gulls, along with a few Herring Gulls, Common Gulls and one Great Black-backed Gull, clearly much larger than the others. Not as many ducks, but Tufted Duck, Mallard, Pochard, and Wigeon were present, as were Lapwing, Grey Heron and Cormorant. One pleasant surprise was the Water Pipit that landed on the closest island and gave us good views. Outside, we picked up Goldfinch, Reed Bunting and heard Cetti’s Warbler. Moving on to the Peacock Tower, we soon found a Common Snipe resting up on the nearby bank of the wader scrape, with another Water Pipit running around nearby. We were then put onto a very distant Jack Snipe on the far side of the Grazing Marsh, almost impossible to see until it started moving. In between this excitement, we added Shoveler, Teal and Gadwall to the list and continued our fruitless search for the Dartford Warbler.

Wandering back to the Visitor Centre and a spot of lunch, we scanned the trees looking for Redpoll, but none were found. After lunch we walked down the West Route, sometimes a bit of an anti-climax. However, this time it provided some of the best sights of the day. We had really good views of a couple of Goldcrest by the Lodge and then a little bit further on, John spotted a distant raptor way up in the sky. As it got closer, it became apparent that it was a Marsh Harrier, a first sighting at Barnes as far as I was concerned. Things got even better as we got to the Wildside Hide, as Mike soon spotted a Bittern, head stretched upwards in the reeds. More importantly, it was in an easily identifiable position, so we all got to see it. The bird walked slowly up a reed, launched itself into the air for a few brief seconds before crashing back into the reeds again, where it promptly disappeared from view. We were very lucky to be in the right place at the right time, looking (at least some of us) in the right direction. On the way back, we stopped at the Headley Discovery hide, where a benefit of half-term holidays became apparent. One of the youngsters in the hide suddenly announced that he could see a Peregrine up high. Older eyes, with the aid of expensive binoculars, eventually found and tracked the bird as it flew southwards, always staying high. Resuming our scanning of the water, the resident female Goldeneye was spotted fairly close by. Altogether, a successful trip with 53 species seen in total.


12 February 2023, Warnham Local Nature Reserve by John Barkham

An overcast but mild morning bought 14 members to a local nature reserve in Horsham, West Sussex. We wandered the Discovery Trail following paths and broadwalks that surround the Millpond, which lies at the heart of the reserve. From the new Discovery Hub funded by the European Union, we looked on to the Millpond where there were Black-headed and Herring Gulls, Cormorants, Tufted and Mallard ducks and a Grey Heron. A Grey Wagtail was spotted on the weir and a Kingfisher dashed past. Moving on, we spent time at two viewing screens watching the bird feeders. We saw numerous woodland birds including Great Spotted Woodpecker, a pair of Bullfinches, Reed Bunting and Marsh Tit. We dipped on Brambling, although Lynda and Rebecca ventured out later for another attempt. Several treecreepers were seen at they climbed and flew from tree to tree. We walked to the end of the Reserve, through wet meadows and mixed woodland. Little Egret, Siskin, Redwing and Stock Dove were added to our list. Retracing our steps, we enjoyed a coffee in the Visitors Centre and eat our lunch to round off our morning visit.


5 February 2023, Blashford Lakes and Blackwater Arboretum by Peter Knox

Hawfinches and a plethora of Pintails. Twelve members met at the visitor centre on cool bright sunny morning. On route we had seen Red Kite, Sparrowhawk and Pheasant. We were rewarded straight away from the car park firstly with Redwings and Treecreepers and best of all with good views of a Firecrest. We then moved on to Woodland Hide seeing another Treecreeper. Once in the hide the birds seemed to be missing. Gradually they started to arrive. We had Reed Bunting, Nuthatch and best of all Siskin. Wide range of passerines also accompany these species.
We then headed to South Ivy Hide here we had wide range of duck especially the first of our Pintail. It was then on to North Ivy Hide which provided nothing new, so we headed to the Tern Hide which views Ibsley Lake. On the lake we found our first Goosanders (male and female) as well Goldeneye and a large number of Pintails. Then we moved on to the Lapwing Hide to have lunch seeing another Firecrest on route. From this hide we had some waders including an Oystercatcher, Black tailed Godwit and a Redshank and more Goosanders. Stephen arrived at the hide to tell us he had seen a Great White Egret. Later on, Jonathan mentioned he had seen a Chiffchaff.
After lunch we headed back to the car park and then on to Blackwater Arboretum. On arrival we set ourselves up in the usual place to await the Hawfinches. The first bird to be seen was a female Bullfinch and that was followed by a Marsh Tit. After a while our only Hawfinches arrived and we had excellent views at the top of a tree in full sunlight highlighting there plumage very well. At one point we could hear Ravens and then four of them flew over the arboretum. As the light faded, we all headed home. A good day was had by all with a species count sixty-nine birds.


22 January 2023, Slimbridge WWT Coach Trip by Rebecca Dunne

A clear, still, but icy day kept the waders away but was excellent for winter wildfowl. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and it was good to see the generous spirit that everyone showed in making sure that the whole group saw as much as possible. 3 hours from Richmond to our destination, with a stop, and 2½ hours home was faster than I’d dared to hope and luckily the fog on the motorway did not follow us to Slimbridge. Thanks must go to our driver, Chris, for his usual calm and well organised journey. Our day’s total of wild species was 74, not counting the 2 bullfinches seen by Paul S. at Membury Services and Red Kite spotted on route. In addition to this there were many more species of exotic wildfowl in the reserve’s collection although I didn’t add Chilean flamingo or South-African Pochard to the list as some people suggested on the tick sheet that was passed around the coach on our way home! The best wild birds spotted in amongst the collection were a Kingfisher taking advantage of an unfrozen pool to fish, wild Goldeneye flying in to land on the Eider’s pool, a Siskin hidden among a flock of Goldfinches in Alder trees and a Black- Headed Gull which many spotted paying close attention to passing visitors. It flew in from behind me, pinched half a Marmite biscuit I was about to eat and, later on, someone removed a small white feather from my cheek! Willow Hide was the first stop and rewarded us with 2 Water Rails feeding nervously with Moorhens under the feeders. Next stop, the roof terrace on Estuary Hide which overlooks the whole reserve and the Seven Estuary. The nearby pools were frozen, like many across the reserve, so were empty of their usual waders which move elsewhere in such conditions. A few Dunlin were seen whizzing past and a couple of people saw a Redshank and 3 Black-tailed Godwit. We had our first beautifully camouflaged 7 Snipe of the day in the grass immediately beneath the hide but later on this increased to 50+, picked out in any wet but unfrozen grassy field. There may not have been many waders but we did see Curlew on the fields and a flock of Linnets, Skylarks and a couple of Meadow Pipits on the pool margins. It was low tide throughout our visit, and we could just about make out a huddled group of Pintail and Wigeon on a sand bar in the estuary plus a few Curlew, a Grey Heron (not a Peregrine!) and Greater and Lesser Black-backed Gulls but otherwise it was rather quiet. Besides, anything else which was out there was far too far away to identify.
It was good to see Cranes on our visit, especially when they were flying, including a more subdued plumaged juvenile staying close to its parents. At least 14 were seen from the top of Estuary Tower. A flock of Russian Whitefronted Geese with Barnacle Geese, Canada Geese, Greylags and Bewick Swans were spotted in the distance but as we progressed across the reserve to Zeiss Hide then Kingfisher Hide everyone got better and better views.
Returning towards the Visitor’s Centre many people scanned the ducks from Rushy Hide and South Lake Discovery Hide for a juvenile male Greater Scaup that had been around recently, but it wasn’t found. However, these hides were good places to eat our sandwiches and admire the ducks… if you didn’t retreat to the warmth of Kingfisher Kitchen. There were brilliant close views of the wildfowl and I was interested to find this list of birds posted on Twitter by the wardens. 22 January South Lake: 194 Teal, 260 Lapwing, 85 Mallard, 149 Black-headed and 18 Common Gull, 113 Greylag, 18 Cormorant, 8 Gadwall, 210 Shoveler, 49 Pochard, 75 Tufted Duck and 4 Bewick Swans.
After lunch many headed for Kingfisher Hide and were pleased to find a very close Treecreeper, Goldcrest and Song Thrush along the path. They were obviously used to people passing the bushes where they were feeding. Kingfisher Hide was a favourite with our group and had great views of the aforementioned geese and Bewick Swans plus Lapwings. 133 White-fronts were counted and hidden amongst them, and the other varieties of geese, was a Dark-bellied Brent Goose…how hard could a black goose be to point out to people? 15+ Snipe were close by and many tits etc visited the bird feeders in the hedge behind. The Brown Rat feeding and peering out of its hole beneath provided much amusement. A more careful scan of the field corner revealed half a dozen Golden Plover, originally mistaken for the Redwing which were also feeding in the area. Few raptors were about during the day, but we did see 2 Buzzards, one very pale, and a Kestrel from here. Those of us who stopped at Zeiss Hide also watched 2 Marsh Harriers quartering the hedgerows along the estuary.
Time was getting on by now, so a quick hot drink was called for before heading for the 4pm Wild Bird Feeding Spectacular on Rushy Lake. From the comfort of the heated Peng Observatory, we listened to the warden’s commentary as he fed huge numbers of wintering wildfowl from his wheelbarrow. The birds knew what to expect and were gathering well before time although a quick whistle and the sight of the barrow drew them closer. Details of the Bewick Swan families were particularly interesting especially their lifelong pairing and the different beak patterns that distinguish one bird from another. Several adults with their juveniles were pointed out plus a bird nicknamed ‘Bendy’ who probably flew into power lines but, unlike many others, survived and seemed untroubled by his deformity. Amongst the feeding frenzy picking out the one male Mandarin was a good game. The reserve closed after this, so it was time to head back to the coach and our journey home. What a perfect way to end our day at Slimbridge.


8 January 2023, Isle of Sheppey, by Chris Turner

With a high tide at 1.30 we had the opportunity for a couple of hours birding the Swale NNR before our appointment with the wader roost at Shellness. Not huge numbers of birds, but we were rewarded with excellent views of the regular wintering flock of (Russian) White Fronted Geese. About 140 in total. Perhaps less authentic, but still a stunning bird, were the 40 or so Barnacle Geese, sporting an assortment of leg and neck rings. Brent Geese flew past in small numbers. A Raven was a good spot, as were the Marsh Harriers quartering the distant grazing mashes.
With the tide being particularly high is seemed that many of the waders roosting at Shellness had either arrived early, or already departed looking for somewhere dryer. That said still pretty spectacular, with a large flock of Oystercatcher and a good mixed flock of Dunlin, Curlew, Knot, and Grey and Ringed Plover.
Then on to the raptor roost at Chapel Fleet. Wonderful views of a Barn Owl in the only sunshine of the day. More expected were the half a dozen Corn Buntings, a bird which is becoming increasingly difficult to see. Again, Marsh harriers were a little down on the usual numbers, I only saw three in the air at any one time. However, three Hen Harriers, two ring tail and an adult male were worth the wait. Not a spectacular species count (just 54 by my estimate) but always a treat to have a day’s birding in the North Kent Marshes. 7 members.


4 January 2023, River Thames & Home Park by Mike White

For the first walk of 2023 I was joined by a very good turnout of twelve members.
Weather conditions were dry, slightly breezy and unseasonably warm. Before setting off we noted the ubiquitous Jackdaws and Ring-necked Parakeets. Several very noisy Egyptian Geese were flying around either prospecting or protecting nest sites. We began with a look at the Diana Fountain, around the edge of which were several hundred gulls. These were mostly Black-headed but included a few Common Gull and a very small number of Herring Gull. Canada Geese, Coot, Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, Cormorant and a lone Great Crested Grebe were also present. Making our way to the exit gate we encountered Magpie, Robin, Wood Pigeon and two Goldfinch which flew down and bathed in a puddle on the footpath. Having crossed the front of the palace and reached the Thames towpath we quickly added Moorhen, Mallard, Blue and Great Tits. Slightly further along a Grey Heron was standing on the opposite bank, a movement slightly further right caught my eye, revealing a Kingfisher. We watched the bird for some-time as it made several dives into the muddy fast flowing river. With the exception of some Mallard and Canada Geese being fed by Thames Ditton Island there were very few birds on or near the river. A Grey Wagtail and Great Spotted Woodpecker were seen by various members of the group whilst everyone had views of a Mistle Thrush. The ivy clad trees along the perimeter of Home Park held many Redwing, with an estimate of 70 seen. A check of the pontoon opposite Raven’s Ait revealed more Black-headed Gulls and a single Lesser Black-backed Gull. Leaving the towpath and entering Home Park via Surbiton Passage a broken section of fence allowed good views of a Stock Dove in the paddock. Skirting Rick Pond, we walked along the edge of the Overflow Pond where a female Pochard was constantly diving and a Kestrel was perched in a pond side Willow. As usual the Longwater held many Coot, several Moorhen, a pair of Great Crested Grebe and at the top end four Tufted Duck and a male Pochard. At this point a small murmuration of Starlings (approximately 200) appeared and joined a large flock of gulls on the opposite side of the water. As we left the park by the Paddock Gate two Mistle Thrush were in the tree above us and at the end of the footpath a Pied Wagtail was seen in the adjacent paddock.