Field Meeting Reports

RSPB Rainham Marshes Nature Reserve – Sunday 4th February 2024

A new venue for the 2024 calendar and, with the introduction of car-sharing, we were able to get 17 members and guests to the Reserve as sustainably as we could – a feature of the field outings going forward. With the weather mild, overcast, but breezy our expectation was for a decent morning of birding – we were not let down.

Starting in an anti-clockwise direction, we scanned the nearby pools from the Visitor Centre path noting a good array of wildfowl with Mallard, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon, Little Grebe and 3 Pintails (including an exquisite male in the main channel). Both Canada and Greylag Geese were prevalent across the reserve.

A female Kestrel was seen on a distant bush (great spot!) as we made our way to the Ken Barrett Hide, noting Redwings, Blue & Great Tits,and a singing Song Thrush and Dunnock. At this extensive hide, where we all got a seat (including some cushions!) we got excellent views of the key wildfowl, with a smart male Pochard stealing the show. Far away a female / immature Marsh Harrier was seen quartering the field near the wind turbines – one of at least 5 seen during our walk.

A long straight walk to the next hide gave us time to scan both the reed beds and the marsh / pools along this route. A singing Cetti’s Warbler, seemingly only feet from the path, characteristically did not give itself up despite 17 pairs of eyes looking intensely. Again good numbers of wildfowl to be seen together with a very active flock of Lapwing supported by a couple of Curlew, a group of Starlings and a few Fieldfares.

At the next hide, which was stunning with windows in all directions, we were able to scan all points picking up a number of Marsh Harriers including a handsome male, and eventually 3 Common Snipe were located skulking at the edge of reed fringe. As we made our way up to the Thames path, we had excellent views of a pair of Stonechat and two Meadow Pipits on the wire fencing.

A wild walk back to the car park in a strong westerly wind was worth the effort picking up 2 Rock Pipits, 4 Reed Buntings including 2 males, 5 Redshanks and on the south side of the Thames amongst the gulls, 5 feeding Avocets.

A thoroughly enjoyable morning at an impressive London reserve with some excellent sightings and equally excellent company. An excellent morning’s birding with 52 species being seen or heard (h)

Greylag GooseCommon WoodpigeonGreat CormorantSong Thrush (h)
Canada GooseCollared DoveRedwingWestern Marsh Harrier
Common ShelduckCommon MoorhenCommon KestrelEurasian Blackbird
Northern ShovelerEurasian CootCommon MagpieFieldfare
GadwallPied AvocetEurasian JackdawEuropean Robin (h)
Eurasian WigeonNorthern LapwingCarrion CrowStonechat
MallardEurasian CurlewEurasian Blue TitDunnock
Northern PintailCommon SnipeGreat TitHouse Sparrow
Eurasian TealCommon RedshankEurasian SkylarkPied Wagtail
Common PochardBlack-headed GullCetti’s Warbler (h)Meadow Pipit
Tufted DuckHerring GullLong-tailed TitRock Pipit
Little GrebeGreat Black-backed GullEurasian Wren (h)European Goldfinch
Stock DoveLesser Black-backed GullCommon StarlingCommon Reed Bunting

Andy Harding

WWT London Wetlands Centre – Sunday 7th January 2024

As is traditional, the first field outing of the year was to the London Wetlands Centre.

37 members and guests were keen to start their birding year with an excellent opportunity to see a good number of species in close proximity of the pathways and hides.  Of particular note was the anticipation of seeing the reported Eurasian Bittern and male Bearded Tit – so we collectively decided to visit the Wildside first, giving us all the best opportunity of seeing these birds – we were not disappointed!

Walking through the captive collection, we passed through the gate into The Wildside and started out at the Headley Discovery Hide. A good selection of waterbirds was immediately identified including the usual wildfowl (Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Egyptian & Greylag Goose) along with a 10+ Lapwings on a shingle island – with the light as it was, we were able to see their impressive wispy crests. The sight of a pair of Shelduck, in the sun, was also good to see.

Continuing to the Wildside Hide, we were immediately rewarded with the sight of the Bittern within the reeds on the opposite bank. Initially difficult to pick it out, it showed reasonably well for about 5 minutes before disappearing into the reedbed. As quickly as the Bittern disappeared, a shout of “Bearded Tit” had us, en masse, moving to the other side of the hide. For some, they got good views of the moustached head markings of the male bird. Unfortunately it did not stay around long enough for everyone to get a view despite us hanging around the reedbed channel for a while.

Heading back to the Visitor Centre, we had superb views of a dozen Siskins, who were feeding in the alders.

Walking the South Route we stopped off at the feeding station and got good views of Chaffinch, Dunnock, Great & Blue Tit (and a Brown Rat). On a tour round the Sheltered Lagoon, we had both Great Crested Grebe and Pochard, together with three very obliging Kestrels who “followed” us from ahead.

Spending a good amount of time in the Peacock Hide, there were a lot of birds to identify – Egyptian Goose, Wigeon, Shoveler, Grey Heron together with the opportunity to study the difference between the numerous Black-headed and Common Gulls.

A very observant member of the group managed to find and identify a pair of Stonechats flitting in the scrub on the Wader Scrape. And an equally observant Surrey birder caught sight of the local Peregrine hunting over the Reserve, causing havoc for many of the birds – we had some great views.

Wandering back after a good morning’s visit, we were treated to the sight of three Reed Buntings – first heard and then seen in the reeds bordering the pathway.

Many thanks to Steve Paveley for his superb photographs.

A very enjoyable walk with 42 species being seen.

Greylag GooseTufted DuckGrey HeronLong-tailed Tit
Canada GooseGreat Crested GrebeCommon KestrelCommon Starling
Mute SwanFeral PigeonPeregrine FalconEurasian Blackbird
Egyptian GooseCommon WoodpigeonRing-necked ParakeetEuropean Robin
Common ShelduckCommon MoorhenCommon MagpieStonechat
Northern ShovelerEurasian CootEurasian JackdawDunnock
GadwallNorthern LapwingCarrion CrowEuropean Greenfinch
Eurasian WigeonBlack-headed GullEurasian Blue TitEurasian Siskin
MallardCommon GullGreat TitCommon Reed Bunting
Eurasian TealGreat CormorantBearded Tit 
Common PochardGreat BitternCetti’s Warbler 

Andy Harding

Watermeads Nature Reserve – Sunday 10th December 2023

It is always a real eye-opener when visiting this small reserve, located within an ultra-urban location, with housing, a sports club, an industrial estate and water treatment plant to the Reserve’s boundary, all influencing the immediate environment. Despite the micro-location, it delivers some fantastic bird sightings, with the birds being very close and accessible.

12 eager birders walked the 2 mile route along the River Wandle with target birds of wintering Chiffchaff (potentially Siberian), Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Cetti’s Warbler and a good selection of waterbirds.

Starting from the London Road end, we made our way along the river path and almost immediately had a hunting Sparrowhawk appear from almost over our heads and crashed through the undergrowth, not to be seen again!

Good amount of birdsong was heard with the notable explosive song of a Cetti’s Warbler emanating from the deep scrub, although were fortunate to get some views of a further bird low-down in an overhanging willow later in the walk.

Also not seen but we heard the hoarse, trumpeting call of an Egyptian Goose, which are common here, along with the usual song birds of Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Wren, together with Blue, Great and Coal Tits.

At the start of the route the usual water birds of Coot, Moorhen, Mallard are commonplace, but further along the river a greater variety is usually found – this walk produced Gadwall (male), Teal and Little Grebe (2).

A characteristic of this Reserve is that as you walk through Watermeads and continue through Poulter Park, the surrounding riverside vegetation seems to attract an increasing variety of passerines – we were not disappointed, connecting with 2 Common Chiffchaffs giving great views, along with Goldcrest (4), Goldfinches and four very obliging and photogenic Grey Wagtails.

As we walked back, a Grey Heron flew down river and landed on the bank, and a Kingfisher was heard but not seen, which was a shame as would have been a fitting end to a very enjoyable field outing.

Many thanks to Louise Kahan for her wonderful photographs.

In total 35 species were seen or heard:

Egyptian GooseBlack-headed GullCommon MagpieEurasian Wren
GadwallHerring GullCarrion CrowSong Thrush
MallardGreat CormorantCoal TitEurasian Blackbird
Eurasian TealGrey HeronEurasian Blue TitEuropean Robin
Little GrebeEurasian SparrowhawkGreat TitDunnock
Feral PigeonCommon KingfisherCommon ChiffchaffGrey Wagtail
Common WoodpigeonGreat Spotted WoodpeckerCetti’s WarblerCommon Chaffinch
Common MoorhenRing-necked ParakeetLong-tailed TitEuropean Goldfinch
Eurasian CootEurasian JayGoldcrest 

Andy Harding

Tice’s Meadow – Sunday  5 November 2023

8 of us gathered at the entrance to Tice’s Meadow Nature Reserve, where we were met by Mark Elsoffer. It was a bright and sunny autumn morning which made a pleasant change to previous rainy visits.

Mark gave us a short history of the site and update as to where things are now. Then we set off through the woods to our first stop looking over the meadow. We saw the resident pair of Kestrels hunting over the field, and heard that Short Eared Owls have also been seen here.                                                                                  

We walked on through the woods to the hide on Horton’s Mound overlooking the fields and lakes. From here we were able to see Greylag and Egyptian Geese, Stonechats, Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails.   A sharp-eyed member spotted a Peregrine falcon perched on one of the distant fence posts, and another got good views of 2 Green Sandpiper on one of the far shores of the lake. 

As we left the hide, a Red Kite was seen circling and gliding overhead, as we walked towards the next main hide , over-looking the lake.  Little Egret, Heron, Lapwing, Great Crested Grebe and Shoveller were on the water, and nearby the Peregrine was seen being mobbed by a Kestrel. Later we had good views of the Peregrine and Red Kite flying overhead. 

 Moving on, we reached the eastern end of the reserve and were able to access another area behind a gate, containing a lake surrounded by woods and scrubby areas.    As we approached, a flock of around 100 Gadwall took off from the water.

From here we made our way back along the muddy path, passing the stream and feeding posts to our right; Goldfinches and tits were feeding and a Grey Wagtail was on the path ahead. As we approached the end of the walk , alarm calls were heard from the bushes to our left and a Sparrow Hawk launched itself into the sky.

Overall, we had a very enjoyable  morning and we thank Mark for showing us around.

The total number of species identified was 54:

Blue TitGreat TitLong-tailed TitRobin
WrenDunnockHouse SparrowStarling
BlackbirdSong ThrushRedwingGoldfinch
Feral PigeonWood PigeonCollared DoveStock Dove
JackdawCarrion CrowMagpieJay
Pied WagtailGrey WagtailGreat Spotted WoodpeckerReed Bunting
Cetti’s WarblerChiffchaffStonechatMeadow Pipit
KestrelSparrowhawkBuzzardRed Kite
PeregrineMute SwanCanada GooseGreylag Goose
Egyptian GooseCormorantGrey HeronLittle Egret
MoorhenCootMallardTufted Duck
ShovelerGadwallTealLittle Grebe
Great Crested GrebeLapwingLesser Black-backed GullGreen Sandpiper
Black-headed GullHerring Gull        TICE’S MEADOW

Ed Hilton

Farlington Marshes – Sunday 1 October 2023

11 of us gathered for the start of our regular walk around this excellent nature reserve in Portsmouth; we were greeted by Dudley Cox (our local expert and leader), and set off along the coastal path that circumnavigates the reserve.

Passing the scrubby area to our left and with the sea to our right, we came to the first large inland body of water , surrounded by read beds, and containing a wide variety of waders and ducks. Highlights included a trio of Curlew Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Black and Bar-tailed Godwit, Snipe, Ruff and Water Rail (sculking in the background).  There were glimpses of bearded tit and the sound of Cetti’s warbler was heard throughout the morning.

At one point the flocks were spooked by a Buzzard which was seen watching from a fence post behind the lake. Soon after, the local ‘odd-couple’ arrived (a Barnacle Goose paired with a white one) in amongst a small flock of Canada geese. We had an excellent vantage point on the raised path and several scopes to share amongst the group.

After spending some time here enjoying the views, we moved on into the harbour, seeing stonechat and meadow pipits along the way. Looking into the bay itself, we could see Oystercatcher, Curlew, Turnstone and Common Sandpiper. Much as we tried , we were unable spot the elusive whimbrel. As we rounded the end of the reserve, we stopped and looked out to sea where there are some long, low landed areas, covered in waders. Numerous curlew and oystercatchers stood on the shallow shore with dunlin in other areas; standing on the far end, away from the crowds, a Peregrine Falcon was seen standing and watching. At one point a flock of brent geese flew low across the water, and we were treated to a solitary Sandwich Tern drifting by, close in front of us.

We continued along the path around the reserve, and looked east towards Langstone. Sadly the ospreys which have been seen here, had recently left, but we had nice views of some Grey Plover, in one of their favourite spots. A lively discussion was had regarding the identity of the smaller waders amongst them: were they Sanderling or Dunlin?……and the conclusion was Dunlin.

We turned off the raised pathway and walked inland between some fields, looking for Cattle Egret and Wheatear but were not lucky this time. Reaching the lake to the left towards the end of the walk there were a variety of waders , including Godwit, Lapwing, Little Grebe and Shoveler.

Here some people left and others stayed to revisit the first waterbody that had yielded so much on the way out.  Overall a very enjoyable and informative morning , with a total of 62 species seen. We thank Dudley for his company and leadership.

Carrion CrowBlack- tailed GodwitBlack- headed GullSnipe
Lesser Black- backed GullBearded TitHerring GullRinged Plover
StarlingGrey PloverLapwingWater Rail
MagpieGreenshankLittle EgretTurnstone
CurlewOystercatcherWrenGreen Sandpiper
KestrelBarnacle GooseLinnetGreat-crested Grebe
Meadow PipitWood PigeonStonechatPeregrine Falcon
BuzzardSandwich TernShelduckGreylag Goose
Curlew SandpiperLittle GrebeTealPheasant
ShovelerBar- tailed GodwitRedshankGreenfinch
MoorhenLong- tailed TitCanada GooseRobin
Brent GooseSkylarkCootAvocet
MallardGrey HeronPintailCommon Sandpiper
(Cetti’s Warbler – heard)Great Tit FARLINGTON MARSHES

Ed Hilton

Beddington Farmlands – Sunday 3rd September 2023

A much-anticipated trip to visit Beddington Farmlands from within the perimeter fence was no disappointment, allowing everyone to see first-hand the amazing potential of this ultra urban reserve.

24 Surrey Bird Club members joined Zach Pannifer, who expertly led the Group around the Reserve.

Starting at Mile Road Gate, almost immediately a Great Egret was seen in the reed fringes of South Lake. What a start!

Making our way clockwise round the newly-created path, we spent some time viewing South Lake from a different perspective (normally via the hide from the perimeter path). The number of Grey Herons was noticeable with many first year birds the result of a successful breeding season. Tufted Duck, Coot, Northern Shoveler, Mallard and over-flying groups of noisy Gadwall made for a good start as we continued round to Phase III (an area of islands, scrapes, open water and ditches).

This is always a very productive area, which did not disappoint with Little Ringed Plover, Greenshank and Green and Common Sandpiper. Plenty of gulls were also present mainly Black-headed and Herring, but two Great Black-backed Gulls were within the flock.

There was plenty of passerine movement with Yellow Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Linnets and Goldfinches calling overhead. A good array of warblers were also seen including Reed, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, Blackcap and “heard but not seen” Cetti’s.

Heading back into the centre of the Reserve, over The Mound, we were treated to a real raptor-fest with up to 7 Common Buzzards taking to the thermals, with a supporting cast of two Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk, and as we went further north towards the Phase I Grasslands, two Peregrines (which reside around the Incinerator and pylons) took to the skies and displayed beautifully. To add to the excitement Zach called out a hawking Hobby over the Grasslands to make for a special 20 minutes.

Stopping off at North Lake, many of the usual wildfowl were in good numbers along with a Shelduck and Lapwing.

A tremendous morning with a superb array of birds. Our thanks to Zach for leading and Charlie Owens (Reserve Warden) who arranged the visit for SBC. In total, 52 species were seen:

Canada GooseEurasian CootEurasian SparrowhawkCommon Reed Warbler
Mute SwanLittle Ringed PloverCommon BuzzardCommon Chiffchaff
Common ShelduckNorthern LapwingCommon KingfisherCetti’s Warbler
Northern ShovelerCommon SandpiperGreat SpottedWoodpeckerEurasian Blackcap
GadwallGreen SandpiperCommon KestrelCommon Whitethroat
MallardCommon GreenshankEurasian HobbyEurasian Wren
Eurasian TealBlack-headed GullPeregrine FalconCommon Starling
Tufted DuckHerring GullRing-necked ParakeetEuropean Robin
Little GrebeGreat Black-backed GullEurasian JayWestern Yellow Wagtail
Feral PigeonGreat CormorantCommon MagpiePied Wagtail
Stock DoveLittle EgretEurasian JackdawMeadow Pipit
Common WoodpigeonGreat EgretCarrion CrowCommon Linnet
Common MoorhenGrey HeronGreat TitEuropean Goldfinch

Andy Harding

Hersham Ringing Demonstration – Saturday, 19th August 2023

8 of us were warmly greeted by Tony Beasley at the entrance to the Thames Water owned land which is the base site for the Hersham Ringing Group.

We were pleased to note that parking was available in the site itself, given that roadworks were all around the main entrance. Tony and his colleagues had kindly kept for us some choice species of birds that they had been ringing earlier that day and we were shown the birds one by one as they were taken from the capture bags and released. These included Sedge, Willow and Reed Warblers, Black Cap, Lesser and Common Whitethroats. It was astonishing to see these ‘LBJ’s up close in all their glory, and we were struck by how small they appear in the hand, compared to when seen in the field through binoculars.

We were given a demonstration of the ringing process and shown around the office with its maps and records, going back to the 1960’s. Records and measurements of birds are made by hand and then transferred to a computer and uploaded onto the national BTO database. The sheer number of birds coming into the office was surprising to me, as ringers came back from their regular trips out to nets on site.

We were guided around the site (which includes a small wetland and reedbed, scrub, a canal and some wooded areas), and taken to the various nets that are strategically placed around it. A few birds were collected from the nets and we made our way back to the ringing office.

When we got back, other birds were being processed, including a juvenile green woodpecker, long tailed and blue tits, and 2 garden warblers. The blue tits are feisty and made their presence known to the ringers with vigorous pecking, whereas the woodpeckers’ strong and sharp claws make them tricky handling.  

The office is very close to some steps that lead up to a viewing platform over Queen Mary Reservoir which was a pleasant end to the morning. A large group of 30-40 Great Crested Grebes was seen on the water, along with Tufted Ducks and 3 Common Sandpipers were on the narrow shoreline. As we were about to leave a Red Kite lazily flew not far over our heads.

Overall, an interesting and enjoyable morning and we thank The Hersham Ringing Group for their time and generosity.

Table of birds trapped, ringed and released (81) and already ringed “retraps” (19), 100 birds handled:

Ed Hilton

Knepp  Estate,  Saturday 22nd July 2023

After the last few years of trying to find a date for this outing, 31 Surrey Club Members finally got to visit the now famous rewilding project just south of Horsham.

Despite the overcast and increasingly wet morning, we were all treated to some memorable moments as we walked the 4 miles of the White Route. The keys birds to see were, of course, the growing community of White Storks (we were not disappointed) together with Turtle Doves, Nightingales and a variety of warblers. We missed the Nightingales as they were now in nesting mode, but the other birds we saw, albeit that not everyone saw the Turtle Dove. With Colin Barraclough’s excellent map reading skills we were soon on the White Route and immediately we had four White Stork pairs in the distance, nesting in the trees. We all had excellent views of these magnificent birds, looking right at home in the South of England! Later we had a number of flyovers and, as the rain started to set in, a beautiful display by 7 birds as they moved to take cover.

With the need to keep looking-up to see these birds, we also managed to find more birds in flight with 5 Common Buzzards, a Sparrowhawk and Kestrel.

As we continued along the White Route we were treated to 3 beautiful male Yellowhammers within the gorse and scrub – everyone got great views. One very eagle-eyed member of the Group spied a distant dove-sized bird, which once we trained a scope on was identified as an absolute cracking Turtle Dove. Unfortunately it did not stay around long enough for everyone to get a decent view of it. The great thing about the field trips is not only everyone’s great enthusiasm but also the benefits of so many pairs of eyes and ears. One  person picked out the mournful call of a Bullfinch whilst a group of us had a debate about Garden Warbler or Blackcap song, the former then showing itself to confirm the consensus. Difficult birds like Treecreeper can be found with more people looking for movement within the trees.

Characteristic of this year’s summer weather, we finished getting back to the car park in the rain, not though until we had a final excellent view of the White Stork pair by the barns (not sure if we all noted but there was a chick in the nest). What the day lacked in terms of bird species, was made up by the fantastic views of the storks and as always excellent company and good humour.

In total, 28 species were seen:

Stock DoveCommon BuzzardEurasian Blue TitCommon Starling
Common WoodpigeonEurasian Green WoodpeckerGreat TitEurasian Blackbird
European Turtle DoveCommon KestrelCommon ChiffchaffDunnock
Common SwiftEurasian JayEurasian BlackcapCommon Chaffinch
Herring GullCommon MagpieGarden WarblerEurasian Bullfinch
White StorkEurasian JackdawCommon WhitethroatEuropean Goldfinch
Eurasian SparrowhawkCarrion CrowEurasian TreecreeperYellowhammer

Andy Harding

Thursley Common – Friday 16 June 2023

One of the highlights of the field trip calendar, this year’s visit to one of the most iconic nature reserves in the county did not disappoint. An amazing 35 Surrey Bird Club members met in the Moat Car Park at 18.30 on a beautifully warm and still evening. As we  gathered, a male Sparrowhawk flew low above us and crashed into the pine trees presumably after a small passerine

As with last year, a male Redstart was perched conveniently on a bare branch singing at the start of the new boardwalk. Surprisingly there was little immediate bird song other than Goldfinches, Linnets and Coal Tits singing from within the pine tree belt to the right as we walked along the sandy path.

The characteristic sound of the Stonechat then greeted us as we saw male and a juvenile close by. Throughout the walk we had Stonechats at regular points announcing their presence with their characteristic stone clicking call. One of our very keen-eyed group saw a dark bird flitting in amongst the gorse and low silver birches. With some persistence, we all got a view of a Dartford Warbler foraging for food. We were fortunate to see a good number of this warbler throughout the walk with some far better views at the top of Shrike Hill.

A very smart pipit was seen in a tree, to be identified as a Tree Pipit, with another two to be seen later with one displaying its parachute decent onto a perch on a dead tree. Amazingly as we were walking towards the rear of a Shrike Hill, someone spied a brown streaky breasted bird in a low silver birch, no more than 10 yards from the path. Laden with caterpillars a beautiful Woodlark was perched in full view allowing everyone to get excellent views of this heathland species. We were fortunate to see them regularly within the next hour or so, counting at least 10.

The beautiful sounds of the Willow Warbler were heard as we passed an area of mixed scrub with the bird showing extremely well from a high vantage point, with another showing even better a few yards on.

As we made our way to the top of Shrike Hill, we stopped for a while to take in the amazing unique landscape and of course to scan for birds – in a 20 minute stop we had Barn Swallow, Cuckoo, Mistle Thrush, Dartford Warbler, Tree Pipit and Woodlark. We made our way along the new boardwalk through Pine Island to Pudmore Ponds. Looking ideal for some inland waders, sadly none were found, but we did have Pied Wagtail, a pair of Eurasian Teal (unseasonal), 4 Tufted Duck, Mallard and Canada Goose. Sadly no Hobbies but it was probably too late in the day.

Making our way back to the base of Shrike Hill to be in position at 9pm for the hoped-for Nightjar and Woodcock, we almost immediately thought we had the former overhead, only to realise it was a female Kestrel. However we did not have to wait long before the haunting churring of the Nightjar started. Within a few minutes a male took to the skies and showed exceptionally well for everyone with its characteristic white flashes to it’s wingtips. Further churring and some croaking from within the heath continued and within minutes we had another better fly-by. A relieved trip leader and a happy group made their way back to the car park whilst still in the hope for the Woodcock but none emerged. Still a very special evening with a great group of people who all enjoyed the walk, the birds and the excellent company.

In total, 34 species were seen:             

Canada GooseCommon MoorhenGreat TitEurasian Blackbird
MallardEurasian SparrowhawkWoodlarkCommon Redstart
Eurasian TealGreat Spotted WoodpeckerEurasian SkylarkEuropean Stonechat
Tufted DuckCommon KestrelBarn SwallowPied Wagtail
Stock DoveEurasian JayWillow WarblerTree Pipit
Common WoodpigeonCommon MagpieCommon ChiffchaffCommon Linnet
Common CuckooCarrion CrowCommon WhitethroatEuropean Goldfinch
Eurasian NightjarCoal TitDartford Warbler 
Common SwiftEurasian Blue TitMistle Thrush 

Andy Harding

Staines Moor and Reservoirs – 21st May 2023

A beautiful late spring morning greeted 11 birders as we combined the pathways and open expanse of Staines Moor with the more desolate environment of the two basins at Staines Reservoirs.

After a brief introduction to the Merlin app, it was agreed we would see how accurate it was as we started our walk along the side of the Reservoir, with the enticing scrub to the right renowned for a good range of warblers and other passerines. We were not disappointed with Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Garden and Cetti’s Warblers all competing for airtime! We all remarked that some of our more common resident birds have equally good voices with Dunnock, Song Thrush, Greenfinch, Wren and Robin all making themselves known (Merlin was 100% accurate here).

As we made our way through the pathway which becomes enclosed on both sides, we heard, but did not see, a Reed Warbler, later to be compared to the similar song of the Sedge Warbler, which was far more showy, displaying from the entrance to the actual moor. With much birdsong in the air from Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting, and displaying Skylark, it felt quite incongruous that the backdrop to this beautiful spot was the sound of the M25 and planes taking off from nearby Heathrow.

Whilst watching both a Buzzard and two Red Kites interacting, an odd falcon-like bird flew fairly low across the moor towards the bank of trees. A rusty toned bird with a baubling call, it was soon identified as a female Cuckoo. We all remarked that the female was seldom seen unlike the male. As we walked along the River Colne, a Common Tern fished directly next to us giving great views, presumably catching fish for it’s young on the terns rafts on the nearby reservoirs.

Four of the group headed over to the Reservoir, for a brief  scan over the vast expanse of water of the North and South basins. Despite the enjoyable and warm weather earlier in the day, these intrepid birders encountered a brisk cold wind which made for an uncomfortable 30 minutes. However their perseverance was rewarded with some good sightings including Common Tern, Dunlin and a pair of nesting Oystercatchers. Good numbers of wildfowl were about – Tufted Duck, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Coot and Great-crested Grebe, with excellent views of Common Terns overhead. (16 species seen).

Overall we had 57 species (R denoting Reservoir below)

Mute SwanDunlin (R)Eurasian JackdawSong Thrush
Northern Shoveler (R)Black-headed Gull (R)Carrion CrowEurasian Blackbird
Gadwall (R)Herring GullEurasian Blue TitEuropean Robin
Mallard (R)Lesser Black-backed GullGreat TitEuropean Stonechat
Common Pochard (R)Common Tern (R)Eurasian SkylarkDunnock
Tufted Duck (R)Great Cormorant (R)Common Reed WarblerHouse Sparrow
Feral PigeonEurasian SparrowhawkBarn Swallow (R)Pied Wagtail (R)
Stock DoveRed KiteCommon ChiffchaffMeadow Pipit
Common Woodpigeon (R)Common BuzzardCetti’s WarblerEuropean Greenfinch
Collared DoveGreat Spotted WoodpeckerLong-tailed TitCommon Linnet
Common CuckooEurasian Green WoodpeckerEurasian BlackcapEuropean Greenfinch
Common Swift (R)Common KestrelGarden WarblerCommon Reed Bunting
Common MoorhenRing-necked ParakeetCommon Whitethroat 
Eurasian Coot (R)Eurasian JayEurasian Wren 
Eurasian Oystercatcher (R)Common Magpie (R)Common Starling 

Andy Harding

Holmethorpe Nature Reserve, Merstham – 30th April 2023

Having not been to this great Surrey nature reserve in 2022 many people were keen to revisit. As always superbly led by local birders Ian Kehl and Gordon Kay (our thanks to them both), 13 members had a very enjoyable walk around the varied habitats of Holmethorpe Nature Reserve.

Meeting at Mercers Country Park, Tufted Duck, Great Crested Grebe, Mallard and Eurasian Coots were seen on Mercers Lake, with various tits and finches seen flitting around the surrounding woodland. As with 2021, as we headed over to Spynes Mere, Gordon yet again found a very well-camouflaged Little Owl in one of the mature oaks. With the use of the scopes everyone managed to get excellent views of this resident species – ever present, but ridiculously difficult to locate.

Skylarks were high up singing with Greenfinches making their wheezing call from the boundary hedges. With  the extreme amount of rainfall over the previous month, the water levels at Spynes Mere meant there was little mud exposed for potential migrant waders to stop by, but we were fortunate to find a feeding Common Sandpiper on the recently created new shingle island. Plenty of Sand and a few House Martins fed avidly, with four Common Swifts joining in.

An abundance of warbler song made for interesting discussions as to Common Blackcap versus Garden Warbler, but listening carefully to the more structured song of the Blackcap versus the longer song with flutey and scratchy tones of the Garden Warbler, we all managed to distinguish the two songsters. We did manage to see a number of Blackcaps during the morning, but only caught a fleeting view of the Garden Warbler. Chiffchaffs, Cetti’s Warblers, Common and Lesser Whitethroats were all singing and calling in the surrounding scrub.

Overhead we had Red Kite, Common Buzzard, Kestrel and then a superb Eurasian Hobby, with a further two hunting hirundines as we made our way back close to Mercers Lake. Of note was a distressed young Roe Deer getting caught out between us and a cyclists which caused it to panic, hitting the hedge on its way – thankfully seemingly unhurt.

As we walked back towards Mercers Farm and across the road passed the cricket club we heard the melancholy notes of a Bullfinch. Sadly no Yellowhammers in their regular field. Heading towards The Moors, we picked up a host of more regular birds with Goldcrest, Eurasian Wren, Common Starling, Song Thrush, House Sparrow and Common Chiffchaff, together with a good number of corvids across the fields of Chilmead Farm.

Unfortunately, the path around the Moors was flooded; so having checked for any birds on the flooded fields, we headed back to the Watercolour Lakes 1&2. A Great Crested Grebe was on a nest, two male Reed Buntings were calling from prominent perches in the reeds as were at least four Common Reed Warblers. This rounded off a really enjoyable morning’s walk, with an excellent tally of 54 species seen or heard (h).

Greylag GooseCommon SandpiperCarrion CrowGoldcrest
Canada GooseHerring GullEurasian Blue TitEurasian Wren
Mute SwanGreat CormorantGreat TitCommon Starling
Egyptian GooseGrey HeronEurasian SkylarkSong Thrush
MallardRed KiteCommon Reed WarblerEurasian Blackbird
Tufted DuckCommon BuzzardSand MartinEuropean Robin
Common PheasantLittle OwlCommon House MartinHouse Sparrow
Great Crested GrebeEurasian Green WoodpeckerCommon ChiffchaffCommon Chaffinch
Feral PigeonCommon KestrelCetti’s Warbler (h)Eurasian Bullfinch (h)
Stock DoveEurasian HobbyLong-tailed TitEuropean Greenfinch
Common WoodpigeonRing-necked ParakeetEurasian BlackcapEuropean Goldfinch
Common SwiftEurasian JayGarden WarblerCommon Reed Bunting
Common MoorhenCommon MagpieLesser Whitethroat (h) 
Eurasian CootEurasian JackdawCommon Whitethroat 

Andy Harding

RSPB Pagham Harbour – 18 March 2023

Ignoring the challenging weather forecast, 15 SBC members travelled south to the famous RSPB Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve with expectations for a great morning’s / day’s birding. We were not disappointed! The day was split into three venues :an early morning sea watch at Selsey Bill, a full walk along the West side of the Harbour from the Visitor Centre and an afternoon sortie along the main path at RSPB Medmerry.

Selsey Bill sea watch (07.00 – 08.45) – drizzling on arrival the rain soon stopped and in a light south easterly, 4 birders experienced the delights and frustrations of sea watching with a steady stream of birds at distance (difficult to identify) but with some birds coming closer in, affording good views of a variety of birds. The first sighting of note was a Harbour Seal which showed for only a few minutes before disappearing. A pair of Red-breasted Mergansers flew east close-in giving great views, soon followed by the first small flock of 5 Common Scoters again going east. During the session a total of 26 were seen. A steady flow of adult Gannets, were travelling west, mainly further out to sea, with a total of 11 Red-throated Divers all heading east, but at some distance from the shore. The first 5 Sandwich Terns of the year were seen fishing offshore. Other birds of note were a solitary Great Crested Grebe on the sea, 15 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, the local Ruddy Turnstones moving up and down the shoreline whilst Oystercatchers speedily moving west low just above the sea.

Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve – we met at The Ferry Pool hide and set up scopes to look over Sidlesham Ferry – always a good place to start with both wildfowl and a selection of waders to enjoy. Of note were 5 Avocets feeding with a group of Black-tailed Godwits, a single Green Sandpiper, along with a variety of ducks – Shoveler, Shelduck, Gadwall, Eurasian Teal, Mallard and Eurasian Wigeon. The feeders behind the hide and at the Centre had Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Blue and Great Tit, Robin and Blackbird.

Heading up the west path towards Church Norton, we could hear the continual explosive calls of the Cetti’s Warbler (with some of the group getting a couple of glimpses). Reed Buntings were very active with males starting to call whilst Skylarks filled the air with their beautiful song at altitude. Stopping to get a closer view of the main channel, we managed some excellent views of Grey Plover, Redshank, Curlew (of which there were many on the Reserve), a decent number of ducks including a smart male Pintail. Of note was a feeding Common Sandpiper on the far bank. As we moved away someone shouted “raptor” as we all turned to watch a large female Sparrowhawk hunt low down the channel (a very smart male was also later seen).

With so many birds to stop and see we did well to get to the shingle viewpoint in the Harbour in good time allowing us all plenty of time to scour the Harbour at low tide. Of note was the large mixed flock of both Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls (most in summer plumage – see photo) and were able to contrast the dark brown head of the Black-headed to the very smart black hood of the Mediterranean. In amongst these gulls were up to 20 Sandwich Terns. Plenty of the regular waders were also easily seen and identified.

Spending limited time at the sea we headed back via Church Norton to see up to 8 Chiffchaffs feeding avidly around the Moat. More of the same was on show on the way back but we were very fortunate to see a superb flock of c.100 Golden Plovers gathering height from an adjoining field. Finally we were relieved to find the long-staying Spotted Redshank in the channel behind the hide. Feeding next to a Common Redshank, the differences in greater size, longer leg length, greyer plumage and the distinct white supercilium were all very self-evident in the Spotted Redshank.

RSPB Medmerry – 6 of the group decided to stay on to visit the relatively new reserve on the west of the peninsula. A decent walk to the sea via farmland, gorse hedges, wetlands and sea, this Reserve is not to be underestimated for birding, especially in winter for raptors. Of special note was the sight of two Barn Owls out in full sunshine hunting at 15.30, affording fantastic views as they seemed undisturbed by our presence. Fantastic birds! In addition, we had excellent views of 3 male Yellowhammers in full yellow breeding finery – incredible colours against the sunshine.

The walk to the sea and the Stilt Ponds is fairly long but we were rewarded by picking out a Common Ringed Plover together with a pair of Little Ringed Plovers – the latter’s yellow longer legs, slighter build and yellow orbital eye ring were diagnostic.

In total we had 66 species at Pagham Harbour, 18 at Selsey Bill and 44 at RSPB Medmerry, listed below. In addition, birds only seen at Selsey Bill were Common Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Gull, Red-throated Diver and Northern Gannet. Seen only at RSPB Medmerrywere Common Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover (2), Barn Owl (2), Stonechat and Yellowhammer (2).

Brent GooseCollared DoveMediterranean GullCommon Chiffchaff
Canada GooseCommon MoorhenHerring GullCetti’s Warbler
Mute SwanEurasian CootGreat Black-backed GullLong-tailed Tit
Common ShelduckPied AvocetSandwich TernEurasian Wren
Northern ShovelerEurasian OystercatcherGreat CormorantCommon Starling
GadwallGrey PloverGrey HeronEurasian Blackbird
Eurasian WigeonEuropean Golden PloverLittle EgretEuropean Robin
MallardNorthern LapwingEurasian SparrowhawkDunnock
Northern PintailEurasian CurlewCommon BuzzardHouse Sparrow
Eurasian TealBlack-tailed GodwitGreat Spotted Woodpecker(h)Meadow Pipit
Tufted DuckRuddy TurnstoneGreen Woodpecker(h)Common Chaffinch
Common PheasantDunlinCommon MagpieEuropean Greenfinch
Little GrebeCommon SandpiperEurasian JackdawCommon Linnet
Great Crested GrebeGreen SandpiperCarrion CrowEuropean Goldfinch
Feral PigeonSpotted RedshankEurasian Blue TitCommon Reed Bunting
Stock DoveCommon RedshankGreat Tit 
Common WoodpigeonBlack-headed GullEurasian Skylark 

Andy Harding