9 December 2018 – Farlington Marshes by John Barkham
Peter Knox, Rebecca Dunne and Steve Waters met me on a sunny morning for a gentle walk around Farlington Marshes. We were all greatly impressed by the vast numbers of waders, ducks and geese, either feeding on the mud of Langstone Harbour or grazing on the marsh. The waders were being gradually pushed off the rocks as the tide rose. As a result, there were large flocks of birds, mainly Dunlin, flying in tight formation and wheeling together across the sky in front of us. Waders included Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, Avocet, Redshank and Ringed and Grey Plovers. A couple of pairs of Red-breasted Mergansers were seen in a corner of the Harbour and a fly-over Raven was also spotted. Whilst eating a sandwich, Steve Waters picked out a distant diver in his scope. We tracked its flight coming towards us, gradually getting near and near, before giving us a close view of what turned out to be a Black-throated Diver.
After lunch we decided to relocate to Pulborough Brooks and try to see the reported Whiterumped Sandpiper. We gathered in Winpenny Hide and focused on the distant spot where the bird was last seen. Whilst some movement in the reeds was detected, it was insufficient for any positive identification. We walked backed to the Visitors Centre and enjoyed a cup of tea and cake before making our way home.
25 November 2018 – Welney WWT by Thelma Caine
A full coach load made the trip to Welney for this joint outing with the Richmond & Twickenham RSPB group. On arrival we watched a small flock of Tree Sparrows on the feeders outside the Visitor Centre, vying for position with House Sparrows, Goldfinches, Blue Tits and Great Tits. Moving on to the Main Observatory, the pools were full of wildfowl. Close to the hide were a large flock of Pochard, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Coot, several Moorhen, Whooper and Mute Swans, Black-headed Gulls a few Common Gulls and a group of Black-tailed Godwits. Scanning the muddy edges and several islands, we also picked out Wigeon, Teal, Lapwing, a number of Ruff, several Dunlin, Redshank and one or two Snipe lurking in the grass. A male Ringed Teal was also pointed out, with grey flanks, distinctive chestnut and black wings and a white patch near the tail. The arrival of a Marsh Harrier suddenly put birds to flight, among them a small flock of Golden Plover. Out on the fields geese included Canadas, Greylags and Pinkfeet. Moving on to the Reedbed Hide, we added several species of duck including Shoveler, Shelduck, Gadwall and Pintail. A Sparrowhawk flashed by overhead and several Marsh Harriers were quartering the fields putting to flight more birds including several Stock Doves. Further birds of prey included Buzzard and several sightings of Kestrel. Among the smaller birds were small groups of Fieldfares seen in flight, a flock of Linnets, Stonechat, Reed Bunting, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Wren, Dunnock and Pied Wagtail. Several members of the group also picked out at least one Water Pipit.
Making our way along the series of hides and scanning across the pools and fields, we added Great Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron and Curlew. From Friend’s Hide, we spotted a pair of Egyptian Geese and a single Barnacle Goose feeding with a flock of Canadas. By the end of a successful day, 57 species had been recorded altogether.
18 November 2018 – Capel Fleet & Harty Ferry by Chris Turner
Nine of us met up bright and early(ish) at the car park at the Shellness National Nature Reserve for a bit of winter birding on Sheppey. We were perhaps a little late for the high tide roost as the waders were beginning to disperse by the time we had reached the beach. That said we enjoyed excellent views of all the expected waders including Knot, Sanderling, Dunlin and Grey Plover. The salt marsh itself was perhaps more worthwhile with a handful of Marsh Harriers and excellent views of a ring-tail Hen Harrier. Best of all was a Merlin sitting out in the open for 15 minutes or so.
With a stiff north-westerly wind we thought it would be worth putting some time in for an hour’s sea-watching. Although not spectacular we did get views of Little Gull, Red-throated Diver, Red-breasted Merganser, lots of Gannets, a Razorbill as well as a couple of Bonxies. With time moving on we relocated to the raptor watchpoint at Capel Fleet. Over the next couple of hours we must have seen close on two dozen Marsh Harriers, another Hen Harrier as well as a smattering of Common Buzzards, although the highlight was a Short Eared Owl hunting over the rough pasture by the side of the road.
This area is also good for Corn Bunting, and as expected we had views of these increasingly scare birds on the wires and nearby bushes. Rather easier to spot were the mixed flock of Lapwing and Golden Plover. Although less spectacular a Green Sandpiper was perhaps more of a surprise. A thoroughly worthwhile day.
27 October 2018 – Morning walk in Richmond Park by Rebecca Dunne
A Great White Egret, excellent close views of Kestrels hunting and a Little Owl sitting in a ridiculously large hole just about sums up our morning’s walk around the centre of Richmond Park. If you add a strong northerly wind, the first frost of the autumn and bright sunshine, to start with at least, you get the picture. These weather conditions kept many birds, that were seen the previous morning in the drizzle, out of sight. A walk around the park without seeing a Stonechat is unusual but that’s what happened. Nevertheless, the 5 of us enjoyed our stroll and someone commented that we had been to parts of the park they had not visited before… much like Heineken. We started at the Pen Ponds and admired the GWE that had stayed since the previous weekend having arrived with 2 others that were quickly disturbed by a drone. 2 Little Grebes skulked near the reeds and 8 Great Crested Grebes swam out in the open lake. 2 Common Gulls sat with many Black Headed Gulls on the fallen branches. A large group of Pochard were present and a female Teal hid amongst the roots on the edge of the central island where 30+ Cormorant sat in the trees. We watched the pair of Mute Swans and the 4 cygnets (out of the initial 6) that they had managed to raise, despite several dog attacks. Lower Pen Pond had the ubiquitous pair of Egyptian Geese. A Kestrel perched on its favourite broken branch at the start of the Causeway having given us beautiful close views of it hunting over Lawn Field. Just above the treeline of Sidmouth Wood a pair of Buzzards were spotted, maybe the pair which bred in the park this year. Nothing stirred on Sidmouth Slope so we headed over to Pond Slade, on the way catching sight of a Great Spotted Woodpecker disappearing into the trees. Much to my relief at Pond Slade we saw 2 Meadow Pipits and Mike spotted the aforementioned Little Owl. Walking across to the main entrance of the Isabella Plantation we saw little except more Kestrels. The Plantation provided the welcome distraction of beautiful autumn colour on the wide variety of trees and shrubs that have recently been added where dense thickets of rhododendron have been cleared. Some time was spent deciding that the ‘pigeon’ silhouetted on a tall tree was indeed a Stock Dove. Just as we were about to leave through the Broomfield Hill Gate we found a Treecreeper and heard a Nuthatch. Outside the gate another Buzzard was seen being mobbed by Crows over our last stop Prince Charles Spinney. This proved equally quiet although while some of us were looking at a Coal Tit and 2 Blue Tits others picked out a Sparrowhawk shooting above the canopy. We attempted to follow this outside the Spinney but decided that the bird here was another Kestrel being bothered by crows. As we returned to the car park it was becoming very grey and nothing stirred apart from a wren calling from the bracken
12 -14 October 2018 – Somerset Weekend by Thelma Caine
Twenty-four members took part in this weekend which was a new venue for the club. Langford Lakes was among the sites visited on route and produced some excellent sightings including Great Crested Grebe, Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler and unusually, a Ruddy Shelduck among the wildfowl. Other species here included Yellow-legged Gull, Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Cetti’s Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Skyark and a Red Kite flying over, so this was good start! Several of the group went to Catcott Lows, one of the reserves in the Avalon Marshes, where there were reports of Cattle Egrets. After a search of the area over 50 were located in a field, a remarkable number bearing in mind this is a scarce bird elsewhere in the UK! Little Egret, Buzzard, Kestrel and Grey Heron were also among the birds seen here. After a wet start on Saturday, the skies cleared to give a sunny but very windy day. We headed for Steart Marshes WWT Reserve at Bridgwater Bay. From the Quantock hide, one of the first birds of the day was a Spoonbill feeding in a small muddy pool, together with a Grey Heron and later joined by a Little Egret. A flock of Golden Plover flew in, joining Lapwings, Dunlins, a small group of Black-tailed Godwits and numerous wildfowl including Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal and Gadwall. A neighbouring pool held Greenshank, Little Stint, Ruff, Snipe, Ringed Plover and a Knot. Every now and then, birds were put to flight by Marsh Harriers hunting for food. Moving across to Mendip hide we added several species to the list including Curlew. Some of the group lunched in the sun outside Mendip hide while others headed off to Stockland Marsh. Along the way, we had excellent views of more Marsh Harriers, as well as Buzzard, Kestrel and a Hobby catching insects in flight, while small birds included Stonechat, Wheatear and a flock of Goldfinches. On arrival at the viewing platford at Stockland Marsh it wasn’t long before we located our ‘star bird’, a Glossy Ibis feeding avidly among the clumps of sedges at the far left edge of the pool in the company of a group of Cattle Egrets. It tantalized us by creeping behind the sedge clumps disappearing then re-appearing as it probed the ground for invertebrates. For many of the group this was a new species for their UK list! Another highlight here was a group of three Spotted Redshanks which fed in the shallows. We left mid-afternoon for Shapwick Heath. Most of the group made it there without any problem but for 6 of the group (jncluding the leader!) a tree had blown down in the strong winds just before they got there, blocking the access road, so this group went to the nearby Westhay Moor reserve instead. The group at Shapwick had superb views of Bittern in flight at Noah’s Lake, as well as elegant Great White Egrets and Little Egret. Both Shapwick and Westhay Moor held numerous wildfowl including Great Crested Grebe, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall and Shoveler. A Water Rail was heard at Shapwick and smaller birds here included Goldcrest, Stonechat and Reed Bunting. Several of the group visited the viewing platform at Ham Wall before sunset and were rewarded with a spectacular murmuration of some 20,000 Starlings, wheeling in flight. Sunday dawned wet, and the rain continued all morning. Undeterred, we set off to explore the Ham Wall RSPB reserve. This is a stronghold for Great White Egrets and we had good views of a number and many of the wildfowl we had seen on previous days, adding Little Grebe to the list. As well as Marsh Harriers which were much in evidence, Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk were all seen here. The three-storey Avalon hide produced excellent views of duck plus Lapwing and Snipe. Bearded Tit were heard and glimpsed in flight, a Kingfisher flashed by while the wooded areas held Great Spotted Woodpecker, Redpoll and Bullfinch. In the afternoon, Paul and Tom visited Wookey Hole finding Dipper and Grey Wagtail. Rebecca also did well spotting two Barn Owls on the way back to the hotel in the evening. She stopped at Chew Valley Lake before heading home the following day, adding Black-necked Grebes to the Somerset list which produced 89 species overall.
7 October 2018 – Keyhaven & Pennington Marshes by Mike White
On a chilly autumnal morning our small group departed from the Keyhaven car park to begin our circular walk of the marshes. Our first stop was at the area of freshwater behind the sea wall, previously known as The Pans. This area is now looked after by the Milford Conservation Volunteers and after the installation of a small hide (members only) it goes by the somewhat grand name of The Pans and Avon Water Bird Observatory. Whilst a certain person (me) returned to the cars to collect his binoculars the rest of the group saw Mallard, Little Egret, Lapwing, Coal Tit, Collared Dove and Goldfinch. We then continued out along the seawall towards the lagoons, adding Mute Swan, Black-tailed Godwit, Stonechat, Turnstone, Cormorant and Curlew to the list. Despite it being just before high tide the lagoons held very few birds, and unfortunately low numbers were to prove the order of the day. We did gradually increase the number of sightings and added Great Black-backed Gull, Redshank, Shelduck, Greenshank, Ringed Plover, Little Grebe, Wigeon, Spotted Redshank, Teal, Shoveler and Snipe. A small group of Swallows flew through and over the marshes Kestrel, Buzzard, Linnet and a lone Wheatear were seen. On the seaward side were Eider Duck, Brent Goose and Great Crested Grebe, and on a spit Oystercatcher and Grey Plover. One of the plover appeared to be trying to sit out the high tide and despite being nearly up to his neck in water, and at times under water, did not retreat. Very strange behaviour. Also on the spit were a pair of Peregrines. Lunch was taken between Butts and Pennington Lagoons where the large flocks of Starling feasting on blackberries attracted the attention of a Sparrowhawk. We continued past Oxey Lagoon towards Oxey Marsh to start the inland return leg, it had been my intention to use the footpath across the marsh. However a local walker kindly informed us that one of the bulls was none to friendly, having recently chased a jogger, so we took a somewhat safer route towards the track known as the Ancient Highway. It has to be said that this track which runs back to Keyhaven. Behind the lagoons was virtually birdless, the lakes at either end did allow us to add Gadwall, Pintail, Pheasant and a small number of feral Barnacle Geese. Having completed the circuit a few of us continued towards Sturt Pond at Milford and saw Golden Plover and Rock Pipit. A total of 70 species seen/heard, with thanks to all participants.
15 September 2018 – Cissbury Ring by Thelma Caine
Ten members joined this walk on a bright but rather breezy day. Early on, the first birds of note were, Chaffinch, Jay, several Blackcaps flitting through low bushes and a Chiffchaff/Willow warbler in trees overhead. As the path opened out to give views across open fields, we spotted Stock Doves feeding and Buzzards circling over the tree line. Further along, four Mistle Thrushes perched on the boundary fence. More Buzzards drifted up on thermals, followed by a distant Red Kite and we watched a Sparrowhawk being persistently mobbed by Crows. There was a steady movement overhead of passage Swallows and House Martins. Other small birds were hard to find in the breezy conditions but we managed Goldfinch and Whitethroat before finding a patch of low scrub with an active group of several Stonechats. We lunched looking out towards the sea, in the company of half a dozen horses who came to join us, hoping for share of the food. After lunch we headed toward Lychpole along a path carpeted with flowers including harebells, scabious, toadflax and gentians. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over and in the fields below, a large group of Yellow Wagtails were popping up everywhere among a group of grazing cattle. The afternoon was notable for birds of prey. Several Kestrels were very active, one perched on the ground, others actively hunting overhead and one which was briefly chased by a Sparrowhawk. We had excellent views of a hunting Peregrine which stooped several times before climbing high and drifting out of sight and there were numerous sightings of Buzzards. A Green Woodpecker yaffled in flight and a highlight on the homeward route, was a Spotted Flycatcher feeding from the top of a Hawthorn, bringing the day’s tally to 33 species.
2 September 2018 – Thorney Island by Paul Spencer
On a lovely sunny day, our party of nine left the Emsworth Marina carpark around 10.30 after Coffee in the Marina café and watching a Kestrel mob a Sparrowhawk. Emsworth Harbour was at low tide and a vision in green weed, mudflat, colourful boats and blue sea. Waders were not numerous but we quickly ticked off Redshank, Greenshank, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Black Tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Curlew, Grey Plover, Knot and Lapwing before we reached the west side of the MOD estate of Thorney Island. Little Egrets stood tall or fished gracefully. The calls of the waders plus those of Sandwich and Common Terns carried on the warm breeze. Several Buzzards soared and mewed. A huge flock of c.200 Meadow Pipits and 15-20 Yellow Wagtails flew in all directions over a recently mowed field, although our attention was focused on a very obliging Whinchat that sallied back and forth from the top of a bramble bush. The first of 4-5 Wheatears flew along the broken brick/concrete sea wall and a Whimbrel showed well. Whitethroat young and a Chiffchaff were very furtive in the bushes. We saw lots of Swallows and a few high House Martins streaming over. Over the Pitsey Sands, the sea glistened and around twenty lazy harbour Grey Seals sat on the mudflats which were rapidly disappearing as the tide turned. Suddenly a distant Osprey flew over the mouth of Chichester Harbour and landed on the sand. Another Osprey flew off West Wittering on the Selsey Peninsula and a third Osprey was flying over Sandy Point on Hayling Island. All very distant until a fourth bird gave really great flight views between Thorney and Hayling. At lunch we got an even better view of an Osprey over our heads whilst watching Grey Plovers fly off as the tide came in. A secretive Reed Warbler and a Blackcap were glimpsed. Peter Knox was lucky to get his scope on a single Curlew Sandpiper. Near the tiny bird hide we saw a further two Whinchats and at a rest stop we enjoyed listening to wickering Whimbrel and noted several distant Brent Geese. Mike White made a good callout a possible distant Raven flying away from us. Leaving the MOD Estate, we got terrific view of one of the Ospreys perched on one of the military airstrip lights. Through a scope you could see the golden yellow eyes. Another one of the Ospreys was seen flying along the Selsey Peninsula around Dell Quay. We also ticked off 4 Kestrels hunting over the fields. We got back to the car park at 5.30, after 7.3 miles pretty knackered and all Ospreyed out! 63 species recorded.
Birds recorded: Cormorant, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Mallard, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Brent Goose, Coot, Curlew, Whimbrel, Lapwing, Knot, Redshank, Greenshank, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Knot, Black Tailed Godwit, Curlew Sandpiper, Black Headed Gull, Herring Gull, Greater Black Backed Gull, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Kestrel, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk , Osprey, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Stock Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker (H), Swallow, House Martin, Yellow Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Skylark(H), Robin (H), Coal Tit (H), Blue Tit (H) Cetti’s Warbler (H), Reed Warbler, Goldcrest (H) Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Linnet, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Starling, Blackbird, Carrion Crow, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Raven, Whinchat
2 September 2018 – Hogsmill Nature Reserve, Thames Tidefest by Thelma Caine
The SDBWS ran a stall at this event with childrens’ waterlife and bird quizzes, bird books for sale and displays illustrating birds of the Hogsmill Nature Reserve. Members also assisted visitors by identifying birds on the lagoon and surrounds. A day of bright sunshine attracted over 200 people to the event which also featured local arts and crafts, a bat cave run by Alison Fure, a Kingston Biodiversity Network stall run by Elliot Newton, including moth identification, bee-keeping and honey production and face painting. During the day, 32 species of birds were recorded, highlights being two Kingfishers seen together, a Common Sandpiper present all day, Little Grebe, Grey Heron, Stock Dove, Jay, Swallow and Goldfinch plus Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Buzzard seen overhead. 14 members attended the event. Special thanks to Erica & Geoff Gill, David Abrahams, Liz O’Brien, John Gale and Tony Quinn who all helped either running the stall, pointing out birds, or both!
12th August 2018 – Rye Harbour Nature Reserve by Thelma Caine
Ten members joined the walk on a day of warm sunshine. On the way to the Quarry Pit, Grey Heron, Little Egrets and several Whimbrels were observed feeding and small flocks of Goldfinches were active on the bushtops. Birds were plentiful at Quarry Pit. Among the waders here were Dunlins including some adults still in breeding plumage showing black bellies, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Redshank, several Ruffs and Ringed Plovers. We had good views here of both Sandwich and Common Terns while passerines included Yellow Wagtails, several Wheatears, Linnets and Meadow Pipit. We lunched at the Ternery Pool as the tide rose bringing more waders and wildfowl on to the pits including Common Sandpiper, Greenshank and Spotted Redshank as well as a flock of Greylag Geese and a few Canadas. Wildfowl here included Shelduck, Mallard, Wigeon, Teal and Tufted Duck. A seawatch was somewhat unproductive. On such a warm day with little wind, seabird movements were minimal. Apart from Gulls and Cormorants, several Gannets were worthy of note, a seal surfaced several times offshore and small flocks of Ringed Plovers mixed with Dunlin flew by along the beach. The next set of pools produced Mute Swan, a Little Grebe on its nest, numerous Great Crested Grebes and Gadwall. A Green Sandpiper was spotted on the opposite pit and a sizeable gull roost held Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. A Kingfisher was heard and the thick hedges bordering the pits produced glimpses of Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and Reed Bunting. We headed for Castle Water hearing Skylark and Green Woodpecker along the way. Swallows, several Sand Martins, House Martin and a hunting Kestrel were active overhead. Castle Water produced excellent views of several Little Ringed Plovers, Snipe, Dunlin, Ruff, Lapwing, Egyptian Geese, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler and a Pochard to name a few. We continued the full circuit of the reserve, adding Mandarin to the list. Overall 75 species were seen during an excellent day’s birding.
7 August 2018 – Bat Walk by Alison Fure
Unfortunately it rained heavily from the start of the walk, which negatively impacts bat activity as insects do not fly during rain. We sheltered under trees and discussed bat ecology, which was not fully appreciated by all, until the older children learnt of the wonders of the white ring of bristles present around the penis of the Nathusius’s pipistrelle – one of the chief identification features of the male of this species along with a particular venation pattern in the wings. From there it became much more interesting, and thankfully the rain abated and we were able to watch the bats by the portal of the bridge over the Hogsmill river by the main road, indicating that these both common and soprano pipistrelle bats were waiting very close by to take advantage of the rise of insects.
8 July 2018 – Box Hill (Butterflies and Orchids) by Paul Spencer
After completing the Claygate 5 mile country run in the morning, on behalf of the Fircroft Trust, in a very slow time of 73 minutes and forty seconds , I ‘’hot footed’’ it by 465 bus to Burford Bridge at the bottom of Box Hill. I arrived 20 minutes late from the 2pm start accompanied by Simon, who had also missed the earlier bus. Sadly it did not matter as we were the only two on the walk. My suggestion of walking poles due to the ‘’Kilimanjaro’’ steepness and the scorching hotness had probably put people off! Simon was very good at botany, identifying Wild Marjoram, Lady’s Bedstraw, Rose Bay Willowherb, Field Scabious and St John’s Wort. A deep purple orchid might have been a southern marsh orchid! I managed to get Simon on to some excellent views of Marbled White, Holly Blue and Deep Green Fritillary (Sic) butterflies at rest on purple clover and bramble. We did not see many birds (10 species) – the highlight being some baby crests feeding in a yew tree!
10 June 2018 – Staines Moor by Thelma Caine
Four members joined me on this fine, sunny morning. On entering the moor, we explored the marshy areas alongside the River Colne. Reed Warbler was heard singing here and several popped up to give good views. We also had a brief glimpse of a Sedge Warbler, its eye-stripe clearly visible. Across the river, several male Reed Buntings sang and obligingly sat on top of bushes. We had numerous sightings of hunting Kestrels throughout the morning and several views of Peregrine. It was a good morning for birds of prey as we also saw a number of Buzzards and had excellent views of Red Kite. Along the river were Mute Swans, Mallard, Moorhen and Coot. Grey Herons and several Little Egrets were feeding in the marshy areas and in the shallow stretches of the river. Later in the morning, a pair of Shelducks flew over, heading for King George VI Res. This is an excellent habitat for breeding Skylarks and Meadow Pipits and we had numerous views of birds rising in song flight. Groups of Linnets were active too and we had several sightings of Stock Doves in flight. We explored an overgrown path at the far end hearing Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Garden Warbler and Cetti’s Warbler. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over and a lone Lapwing was observed in a probable breeding site. After a coffee break, we explored the scrub at the far end, finding Whitethroat, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Green Woodpecker and Long-tailed Tit, bringing the morning’s tally to 47 species.
20 May 2018 – Dungeness RSPB by Mike White
We arrived at the ARC Pits to find many more vehicles than usual in the car park. The reason soon became obvious when local birders told us that a Bee-eater had been seen in the area early morning (not reported again during the day) and also that a Kentish Plover was showing well on the main reserve. At this point my “Plan A” went out of the window and “Plan B?” whatever that was, became operative. Whilst awaiting the rest of the group a Cetti’s Warbler gave several bursts of song and then showed briefly, also a Cuckoo was heard. With the group assembled we made straight for the Dennis Hide on the main reserve, the hide was full and a small queue was forming. Eventually everybody had a turn in the hide and were able to see the Kentish Plover, a cracking little bird. We then left for a sea watch at “The Patch” unfortunately conditions were poor with visibility reduced, we did however manage to see Common Scoter, Gannets, Sandwich Tern and a flock of 50+ Common Tern. Close scrutiny of the gulls present failed to turn up anything unusual. We then returned to the ARC Pits, walking to the hide, Common Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Reed, Sedge and Cetti’s Warblers were seen or heard, with Swallows, Swifts and House Martin overhead. From the hide many of the common wildfowl species were present, at least two Bitterns were seen in flight and a Marsh Harrier drifted past, soon followed by a dashing Hobby. Exiting the hide the only Chiffchaff of the day was heard, and another Bittern was seen. We drove around to the back of the reserve at Dengemarsh to search for the Hoopoe. Yellow Wagtail and Great White Egret were seen whilst waiting, after a slight repositioning the group were all able to see the Hoopoe which was tucked down behind gorse, out of the stiff breeze. We then returned to the main reserve, stopping briefly at the entrance gate to check for Tree Sparrow, one of which duly obliged. A passing warden told us that their numbers were well down this year. The Kentish Plover was still present and had been joined by a Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Sanderling. At the next hide Turnstone and Greenshank were seen and then a Little Gull which gave excellent flight views. Also in view were 3 Common Scoter, 2 males and a female. It was good to get close views of this sea duck instead of the more usual distant fly past. We then walked the loop of the reserve which was alive with warblers and perhaps most numerous of all were Reed Bunting. Linnet were collecting nesting material and at one of the viewpoints we had our only sighting of Cuckoo. Some members remained for an evening sea watch and added Kittiwake and Mediterranean Gull to the total. Many thanks to all for an excellent days birding with a total of 89 species seen/heard.
13 May 2018 – Newhaven and Seaford by John Barkham
Six members met at the seafront and we walked down the beach to the cliffs at Seaford Point. We watched a large colony of breeding Kittiwakes perched on cliff edges and taking to the air. Several Fulmars were also seen in flight, with their stiff wings barely moving as they glided to and Newsletter 340 – July 2018 8 fro. There was little activity on the sea with an occasional Gannet or Sandwich Tern fly-by, plus a couple of Sanderlings, a flock of Common Scoter as well as the local gulls. After coffee at the beach café, we relocated to the top of Seaford Head. A gentle walk along the cliff edge bought us to picture-postcard views of the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head. We spied two peregrines on one of the cliffs and taking to the air. Scope views over the river mouth of Cuckmere Haven revealed several Shelduck but no waders. A sheltered valley (Hope Bottom) gave us Linnet, Blackcap, Common and Lesser Whitethroat. After our sandwich lunch, we made a stop for ice cream at McDonalds where we added a lone Swallow while enjoying our McFlurrys. Next was Newhaven Tide Mills and a walk through the abandoned Victorian village to the beach and onto Newhaven East Pier. There were numerous Skylarks, more Whitethroat and Linnet, plus Stonechat with young. One of the beach pools had several Dunlins feeding, plus a Ring Plover. Our final unscheduled stop was in the town centre of Lewes for views of the chalk cliffs at the Cuilfail Tunnel. Here there were 3 young Raven, plus an adult, at rest on the cliff and occasionally in flight, giving us close intimate views. In all 50 species were seen.
5 May 2018 – Horton Country Park by Paul Spencer
I had a leisurely morning stroll round the park with Liz O’Brien who becomes our new membership secretary in June. I gave her a masterclass in the songs and calls of Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Common Whitethroat and by the end she had nailed Chiifchaff!, the teck teck of Blackcap and the buzz scold of Whitethroat. Alas no Lesser Whitethroat or Willow Warbler, which were present a week, before and the Peregrines must have been on the nest on the West Park Hospital tower. We did have a poor view of a Kestrel taking flight from an electricity pylon and a good if distant view of a Common Buzzard soaring above Chessington. Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Ring Necked Parakeet and Grey Heron gave nice views and we had a flight view of a pair of Bullfinches. Twenty six species recorded.
29 April 2018 – Pagham Harbour by Mike White
On a bitterly cold day with the wind gusting at force 5-6 from the North East it was no surprise I was joined by only two other members for the walk around the harbour. Many of the commoner finch and tit species were around the feeders at the visitor centre and the Kestrel was in its nest box.
We then walked around the Tramway towards the new Ferry Hide, encountering Blackcaps, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Whitethroats. A Cuckoo was heard and then seen briefly along the path. Shortly afterwards this or another bird flew across the lower harbour and perched in bushes adjacent to the Long Pool, giving much better views. The Ferry Pool held Black tailed Godwits, several in near full summer plumage, Avocets, Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal, two Common Sandpipers and a lone Spotted Redshank just short of its full black breeding plumage. Two Redlegged Partridge were hunkered down at the back of the pool and Cetti’s and Sedge Warblers were calling from the surrounding area. Amongst the gulls we picked out several Mediterranean and Common Gull. Walking up the side of the Long Pool Reed and Sedge Warblers were heard and eventually a Sedge Warbler gave a “parachute” display flight. Little Grebe and Tufted Duck were on the pool with Swifts and Swallows overhead. A Buzzard drifted overhead and a Skylark was heard. We then moved to Church Norton where the only waders were Oystercatcher, Whimbrel, Turnstone and a lone Bar-tailed Godwit. Sandwich and Little Terns were roosting on Tern Island and the female Peregrine was on “there island.” The circular walk along The Severals and back via Greenlease Farm was very quiet and added very few birds. Returning to Church Norton car park we took lunch, being joined at this stage by four other members who had arrived at various times through the morning. One person had seen a Great White Egret. We then drove to Selsey Bill for a very brief seawatch. The only movement on/over the sea provided by Gannets moving through. Returning to Church Norton we had another look at the harbour adding a Ringed Plover to the days total of 70 species.
15 April 2018 – Rainham Marshes RSPB by Jonathan Hannam
A group of ten members gathered at the visitor centre for the start of an interesting walk around the reserve. The weather was overcast with the occasional ray of sunshine but it kept dry. From the visitor centre, we scanned the Purfleet scrape and picked up Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall, Pintail, Tufted Duck and Shelduck, together with a few well hidden Snipe.
There were reports of Grasshopper Warbler by the Marshland Discovery zone and a Black-necked Grebe on the Aveley pools so, having decided that the grebe was more likely to stick around, we set off clockwise around the reserve to see if we could find the warbler. In this we were unsuccessful, though we had better luck with other early migrants, with good views of Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat. We also managed to catch a glimpse of Cetti’s Warbler. Meanwhile, every other bird that we saw turned into a Goldfinch! However, further down the path we were fortunate to see two or three very elusive Bearded Tits and a Short-eared Owl showed up briefly as it quartered the reserve.
After a lunch stop at the Shooting Butts hide, where we watched at least 6 Marsh Harriers flying around, we walked around to the Aveley pools, to find that the Black-necked Grebe was still in good, if rather distant, view and very active. Heading back to the visitor centre, we saw and heard more of the woodland species, such as Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch and Greenfinch, and a few members picked up a short snatch of Lesser Whithroat. As we approached the Purfleet scrape again, a couple of Avocets flew in and a distant hirundine was seen but not positively identified.
After a refreshment break, we walked a little way along the river bank. Some terns had been spotted flying along the far bank, but again were too far away to be positively identified. Nothing new was added, though the intrepid members who walked as far as the Serin mound in search of the reported Great White Egret did add Stonechat to the list. Altogether, a total of 61 species were recorded.
8 April 2018 – Bushy Park Guided Walks by Thelma Caine
Heavy rain was forecast but luckily it had left off by 8.30am and didn’t rain again until the last walk of the morning. Erica & Geoff Gill led the first walk at 9.30, with further walks led by Tony Quinn, Rebecca Dunne and myself. Early highlights were a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, seen and heard in a tree near the entrance gate to the Woodland Gardens and in the same tree, a single Redpoll. We also had good views of Great Spotted and several Green Woodpeckers. Among the wildfowl were Mandarin Duck, several nesting Coots, Moorhen, Egyptian Geese and a male Teal in the company of Mallards. Birds active in the woodland canopy included Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Song Thrush, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Goldcrest, Jay, Stock Doves and Chiffchaff. By the end of the four walks, a total of 35 species had been recorded. 25 people participated of which 9 were club members and 16 visitors, including a number of families. Thanks are due to all those who helped in setting up, leading the walks, assisting at the reception desk and packing up at the end, all of whom contributed to an enjoyable morning.
17 February 2018 – Barnes WWT by Jonathan Hannam
On a bright sunny day, eleven members joined the leader on a morning’s stroll around the London Wetland Centre. We started off on the southern route, looking for the Siskins that had been reported to be there. From the Dulverton hide, we enjoyed good view of Pintail, Great Crested Grebe, and a female Goldeneye and more distant views of Common Snipe. We heard but did not see a Cetti’s Warbler and found the Siskins in the alders by the feeders. However, we were soon drawn away by reports of Bittern visible from the WWF hide. A single bird was patrolling along the water’s edge and gave us excellent views. Proceeding to the Peacock hide, we saw distant Stonechats and a view of a second Bittern, along with Wigeon and Teal. Scanning the wader scrape, we were fortunate to spot a single Jack Snipe.
After a short break for a coffee at the cafe, we headed out along the northern route, but nothing new of note was added, though we did have closer views of the Stonechat. Altogether, 53 species were seen by the group.
4 February 2018 – Blashford Lakes by Peter Knox
The Day of the Finches
Paul and I left Surbiton on a sunny morning and headed south. On route we had three Red Kite circling over us as we drove around Winchester.
Arriving on site in good time we met up with Rebecca initially and then Mike and John. A Lesser Scaup had been reported the day before and early on this day from the Lapwing hide and so we made our way to this hide. As you would expect the hide was quite full but we managed to find some space. The bird had not been seen since the report earlier that morning so we scanned the lake without success. We did find a Green Sandpiper, plenty of Goosander both male and female, two Black-Necked Grebes and Paul pickup two Snipe.
After a good search we moved on to the Goosander hide from here we could see plenty of Pintail both male and female and a couple of Common Buzzards.
Now we moved over to the Woodland hide for a wonderful display of small birds. Here we had great views of Brambling male and female, Siskin of both genders, a single male Redpoll and a couple of Goldcrests just outside the windows of the hide. This is just a sample of the wide range species and spectacle we were given by the birds from this hide. Just after leaving the hide, Paul put us on to a Sparrowhawk flying over.
We now moved on to the Ivy South hide from which saw large number of duck including Wigeon, Common Pochard but only a single Teal.
Next stop was the Ivy North hide which seemed very quiet at first. Then a Little Egret flew south across the lake and then two flew north followed by a Great White Egret which landed in a tree on the other side of the lake in full view which was very nice.
We headed to the centre to use the pop up cafe before heading for the Tern hide. On arriving at the hide it was jammed packed and so did not spend to long here before heading for Backwater arboretum.
On arrival we set ourselves up in the usual spot and waited. Not having to wait to long for the Hawfinches to arrive. They gave plenty of good views and in one case we had four birds at the top of a tree. There were also a pair of Bullfinches and two Treecreepers. We stayed until the light started to fade before we decided to leave collecting 79 species for the day list and having once again some wonderful views of the birds.
7 January 2018 – Dinton Pastures Country Park by Thelma Caine
Six members joined our first walk of the year on a chilly, bright and breezy morning. A singing Mistle Thrush greeted us on arrival and a flock of Fieldfares and several Redwings were seen early on. We had a very enjoyable walk, starting at Black Swan Lake where we had good views of wildfowl including Tufted Duck, Pochard, Goldeneye, several Great Crested Grebes, Mute Swan, Cormorants, Canada & Egyptian Geese, Coot, Moorhen and lots of Gulls. Overhead a Buzzard soared into view, closely followed by the first of several Red Kites and further along, a Grey Heron rose from the reeds. At White Swan Lake there were good numbers of Gadwall and Wigeon and a Sparrowhawk flashed by overhead. We had heard that there were two drake Ferruginous Ducks around and a helpful local birder advised that they were close by at Middle Marsh. Sure enough we quickly located them and had super views of the two birds which were swimming and diving in the company of Tufted Ducks. As well as the dark chestnut head, their gleaming white eyes were a distinctive feature. Apparently they are colour-ringed and originated from Germany where captive bred birds are being re-introduced at Lake Steinhude, near Hamburg. [http://berksbirds.co.uk/archive/2017/11/dintonferruginousducks.asp] We had lunch at Sandford Lake watching more duck including a flock of Shovelers, their colours superb in the sunlight. Overhead a large flock of Lapwings wheeled in the sky, probably disturbed by a bird of prey, and on one of the islands, four Snipe were sheltering in the vegetation. After lunch our path followed through woodland where we found a small flock of mixed Goldfinches and Siskins feeding on Alders, their yellow plumage gleaming in the sun. At Lavells’ Lake there was much activity around the bird feeders, with Chaffinch, Blue and Great Tits, Long-tailed Tits, Robin, Dunnock, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, female Reed Bunting, Moorhen and a female Pheasant all vying for a share of the food. Out on the lake there were Teal along with other ducks, more Snipe and Lapwing, the quick flash of a Kingfisher which flew past the hide and more sightings of Buzzards and Red Kites overhead. It was a great start to the New Year with 52 species seen.