The Burgh 7 April 2024

This most scenic of the group walks was favoured with an attendance of sixteen, a surprising number in view of the strong winds arising from the coat tails of Storm Kathleen. A female Yellowhammer and a charm of Goldfinches in the car park were a good start. During the walk west along the South Downs Way Skylarks were much in evidence and remained so throughout the day; the wind kept them low to the ground and the close views of them were excellent. The conditions seemed to have caused many birds to shelter in the the copse at the first junction. Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were in good voice while tits and Chaffinches were attending the feeder. A Firecrest was singing in an ivy-clad tree but could not be located but consolation came when a more cooperative Treecreeper came into view. During the descent to the valley some Linnets and more Yellowhammers appeared while raptors were represented by two Buzzards, three Red Kites and a Kestrel. A Slow Worm on the edge of the path was an unexpected treat. Large flocks of Stock Doves were seen both in the air and feeding in the fields. Two partridges were also seen that later proved to be Red-legged. At the first rest stop some mobbing crows and an alarmed Lapwing briefly pinpointed a ringtail Hen Harrier that all too soon concealed itself behind a hedgerow. At various points a total of seven Brown Hares were browsing in the meadows. The return to the car park was less productive until the final stage when a single Grey Partridge appeared in the open close to a field margin before flying off. Finally a Raven and a Swallow completed the avian count for the day bringing the total to 33.

Wey Navigation 7 March 2024

A cloudy morning with a cold edge, thanks to the easterly wind, greeted the fourteen members who assembled at the green in Ripley for on a walk to the Walsham weir and along the canal, returning though Wisley golf course and the woods. Little rain meant that, unlike a few days earlier, paths were not flooded and the mud was manageable. Around the parking area the usual large number of Jackdaws were chasing each other while birdsong from Robins, Blackbirds, Wrens and Blue Tits rang out in celebration of the new spring. At the start of the path two Great Spotted Woodpeckers landed in the trees outside Dunsborough Farm. Further along, in Walsham Meadows, there were two Mistle Thrushes, several Pied Wagtails, Meadow Pipits and a Lapwing. A Red Fox was also spotted. At the weir the water was very high and the noise deafening. Along the towpath sightings were limited. A Kestrel hovered over the meadow and a family of Mute Swans swam gracefully past. A Chaffinch flew into the trees while two birds perched high up presented a challenge until their eye stripes revealed them to be Redwings. Across the restored bridge a noisy pump on the golf club pond meant that the only birds there were Tufted Ducks, Coots and a Cormorant while out of cover two Buzzards took to the air. Other birds seen on the later part of the walk included Goldcrests, Long-tailed Tits and a Nuthatch. The closing treat was a Treecreeper in the woods near the Green. Species identified reached 41.

Farlington Marshes 25 February 2024

The unpromising forecast limited attendance to eight members. Their rewards were the absence of the expected rain and despite a buffeting wind an excellent morning’s birding. In a variation of the usual routine the anti-clockwise route was taken. On the way to the hut Greenfinches, a Cetti’s Warbler and a Wren could be heard in the bushes. In the pond behind the hut were Teal, Gadwall and some handsome Pintails. Low in the reeds a male Kingfisher had found a perch and cooperatively stayed stationary to allow superb views. In contrast two Snipe could barely be glimpsed nearby. Suddenly there was a flurry of raptors, a hovering Kestrel, three Buzzards and over the reedbeds a patrolling Marsh Harrier. Across the path was a veritable covey of Coots and the first of the hundreds of Brent Geese on the marsh. A wader flew in and was identified a Greenshank while a female Reed Bunting was spotted on a tree. At the sea wall the tide was approaching full and initially, apart from geese, the only birds in view were a Redshank, a Great Crested Grebe and Cormorants. Then a small flock of Grey Plovers appeared over the water. On the marsh a white goose signalled the presence of its constant companion, the regular Barnacle Goose while large numbers of Wigeon and Shelducks could be seen. Near the channels there was a sudden eruption of birds, mainly Brent Geese and Lapwings, that had to signify a Peregrine; and sure enough one was quickly found perched on the ground. The Deeps had clearly had a makeover with beautifully profiled shingle banks and new tern breeding platforms. Around were numerous ducks including Shovelers and Mallards to add to the list, and at last good numbers of waders. They included numerous Dunlins and Oystercatchers with a sprinkling of Grey Plovers and Curlews. Among them were also a few Ringed Plovers and a single, limping Bar-tailed Godwit. Along the sea wall a Meadow Pipit crept ahead and a Rock Pipit was found nearby. The main lake proved to be so flooded that all the reeds were standing in water; consequently the usual array of waders was absent, the exceptions being roosting Redshanks and about forty Avocets. Most striking though were the numerous Pintails at the water edge. Singles of Little Grebe, Common Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull plus a few Tufted Ducks boosted the sightings. The final treat was three Red-breasted Mergansers on the high water of the harbour. A most unpromising day delivered some excellent birds and an impressive species list of 54.

Warnham 15 February 2024

Spring weather appearing suddenly after a dreary spell tempted sixteen members to this small but perfectly formed reserve near Horsham. There was immediately birdsong in the car park as Great and Blue Tits, Robins and Wrens celebrated the imminent change of season while atop a tall tree two Great Spotted Woodpeckers seemed to be preparing for the breeding season. From the modern hide the view across the millpond offered numerous Tufted Ducks, Mallards, Gadwall and in the distance three Pochards. On the water there were also Black-headed and Herring Gulls, Coots, Moorhens, a Great Crested Grebe, Cormorants and four Egyptian Geese making far more noise than their more numerous Canadian cousins. In the reedbeds four Reed Bunting were grazing while a Grey Wagtail perched in a nearby tree. The Bullfinch Hide was monopolised by Blue and Great Tits with a Dunnock and a Chaffinch barely getting a look in. The Woodpecker Hide initially seemed little different but things soon warmed up. A few Goldfinches came to the feeders and were joined by some Long-tailed Tits while two timorous Marsh Tits darted back and forth and a handsome cock Pheasant stalked beneath them. The walk along the boardwalk and into the woods was less productive but that seemed of little consequence as the warmth of the sun was felt. Additional sightings included Grey Herons, a Teal, a Nuthatch and a Jay. A Song Thrush on a log provided a photo opportunity. A Stock Dove and a Redwing were heard and a Toad was seen crawling across the path. Return visits to the hides were marked by a male Sparrowhawk flashing through and a single Siskin on a feeder. A pleasant morning produced a species list of 41.

Oare Marshes 3 February 2024

A mild morning chilled by a breeze greeted the five members who made the journey into East Kent. The tide was low and the Swale mud held numerous waders, mainly Redshanks interspersed with Oystercatchers and Dunlins with the odd Grey Plover and Curlew. The gulls included three Great Black-backed and a Common while some Brent Geese flew up the Swale and a Buzzard circled. On the sea wall two Rock Pipits appeared and were joined by a Meadow Pipit while among the reeds Stonechats and a Reed Bunting were perched. Close to the sea hide flocks of 100 Avocets and 70 Black-tailed Godwits had gathered before taking to the air in an impressive spectacle. There were a few Great Crested Grebes on the water and common seals were hauled up on the beaches. A couple of Turnstones flew in close. Close to the sluice gates a solitary Greenshank patrolled the mud on the Flood while a variety of ducks could be viewed including Teal, Shovelers, Gadwall, Pintails, Mallards and Shelducks. A visit to the marsh hide proved productive when a Spotted Redshank appeared in close attendance on the Greenshank. Shortly afterwards a Spoonbill landed and put on quite a performance in washing its plumage and then feeding directly in front of the Great Egret. For a final flourish a Sparrowhawk streaked alongside the road pursued by mobbing Crows. The time spent at the reserve yielded a species list of sixty. 

Next, four of the group decided to visit RSBP Blean Woods following reports of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers there. Sadly no LSW could be found but numerous woodland species were seen and heard, especially continuously vocal Blue Tits. At the end two redpolls were spotted feeding on seeds. One had mainly dark brown plumage and was obviously a Lesser Redpoll. The other was much paler. Photographs of it were sent for expert examination, the result of which determined it to be the much scarcer Common (sometimes called Mealy) Redpoll, a welcome consolation for the absence of the target species. Seventeen species were identified at the location.  

Frensham Great Pond 25 January 2024

A mild but cloudy morning with a damp feel awaited the nine members who attended the walk. Scanning from the car park identified a couple of Great Crested Grebes in middle of the lake and a flock of over forty Pochards in a distant corner. There was also a scattering of Tufted Ducks and Black-headed Gulls on the water and then three Goosanders swam into view. The early stages of the walk began quietly with just the vocalisation of Robins and Blue Tits for company. Further sightings on the banks of the lake included Mallards, Coots and a Moorhen while further out two Cormorants and five more Great Crested Grebes could be observed. Near the hotel two Egyptian and one Canada Geese came into view accompanied by two very peculiar-looking Muscovy Ducks. At the path to the outlet ponds things heated up. Flocks of finches were swirling around in gradually increasing numbers. Skittish at first they began to settle on treetops where they could be identified as Siskins, approaching perhaps 200 in number, a spectacular sight. A hunt for Firecrests then followed. Near the first pond one one called briefly and then another more persistently, finally coming into view as it flitted between hollies. Frustratingly it refused to perch where it could be seen clearly. Meanwhile one member spotted a darting Kingfisher, and both a Grey Heron and a Little Egret flew across the water. Great Tits were engaging in song duels and a Nuthatch was also heard while a Buzzard called eerily as it passed overhead.  In the woods past the hotel a Redwing and a Chaffinch came down to the water for a drink and then another Firecrest appeared. This one was much more obliging and posed on a nearby fence for photographs, a delightful sight.

Further on, the three Goosanders appeared close to the bank and offered excellent views. More treats were waiting on the east side. Another Firecrest appeared in a holly bush in front of a few more Redwings while a Treecreeper called and a small flock of Long-Tailed Tits passed by. Finally towards the end of the walk a small number of Siskins reappeared this time accompanied by a charm of Goldfinches and three Lesser Redpolls. The species list for the morning reached 37, an excellent total for the location.

Papercourt 18 January 2024

A bright but very cold afternoon greeted the eighteen members who gathered at an unusual rendezvous, the Tannery Works. The walk proceeded in an anti-clockwise direction towards Papercourt Marsh. A few species were found in the meadow at the bend in the lane; two Egyptian Geese were accompanied by a couple of Redwings and a Fieldfare while a Jay flew across. Blue Tits, Robins, Goldfinches and a Blackbird were also identified. A quiet period then followed with just a few Dunnocks for company. The Yacht Club end of Papercourt Lake was also unproductive no doubt because of an extensive covering of ice but it soon became clear that the birds were concentrated at the far end. A large flock of gulls quickly came into view, perhaps 300 Black-headed with a sprinkling of Common plus the odd Herring and Lesser-black Backed. A closer view revealed good numbers of Coots, Gadwall and Tufted Ducks accompanied by Mute Swans, Mallards, four Great Crested Grebes and eventually some elusive Pochards. A Grey Wagtail also flew across the water while on the other side of the road a perched Buzzard was viewed distantly. Close to Papercourt Farm Lapwings were spotted in a boggy area with a few attendant winter thrushes but scanning revealed that a couple of Teal and no less than 13 Snipe were also present. A Little Egret crossed the path close to the lock while at the bridge a Kingfisher streaked over the river and perched on the bank to the delight of all. Along the towpath two noisy Ring-necked Parakeets made their presence felt, two Red Kites circled a meadow and a Kestrel was glimpsed over the Water Meadow. By the Tannery bridge the sun finally set and a vigil began. Only the Kestrel and a roosting flock of Starlings were active and the majority of the group opted to depart. The three optimists remaining were eventually rewarded with the appearance of a Barn Owl quartering both sides of the meadow and approaching close before disappearing over the river. A most enjoyable walk ended with a species list of forty.

Church Norton 14 January 2024

Just six members joined this usually popular walk and enjoyed a dry and not too chilly amble along the shore of Pagham Harbour on a rising tide.  At times, the sun shone brightly from a clear blue sky and gave wonderful views of a profusion of waders and ducks with large skeins of Brent Geese frequently passing overhead. The first port of call was the salt marsh, where the usual Curlews, Redshanks, Little Egrets and Moorhens were present. Then to the Ferry Pool hide with its numerous ducks, Teal, Wigeon, Shovelers, Shelduck and Gadwall sharing the facilities with Lapwings and gulls (Black-headed and Herring).  The feeders in the woodland area held tits (Great, Blue, Long-tailed), House Sparrows and Chaffinches, while Robins, Dunnocks and a Wren searched the surrounding bushes for food. At the start of the harbour-side walk came the thrilling squeal of a Water Rail in the reeds.  A Marsh Harrier flew up the channel while plenty of new wader species began to appear including Grey Plovers, Dunlin, 20+ Avocets and a single Snipe. Three perched Reed Buntings added to the enjoyment.  On the approach to Church Norton the tide was reaching its highest forcing the waders into tight flocks especially the Dunlins, Knot and Grey Plovers.  A few Bar-tailed Godwits were noted settling down to sleep among the roosting Cormorants and Oystercatchers.

On the beach was a group of keen birders from SOS (Sussex Ornithological Society).  Using their powerful telescopes and a wealth of sea-watching experience, they had identified lots of distant specks on and above the water notably a Slavonian Grebe, a Common Scoter, a Great Northern Diver, Gannets, and a Razorbill.  They did their best to assist by pointing out the rough location of the birds, a tricky task on a sea free of landmarks. With this help some were able to pick out some of these birds. On the return from the beach one member spotted and photographed a Sparrowhawk in a tree, while in the harbour Great Crested and Little Grebes and some Turnstones were now showing well. The walk back to the visitor centre added a few more species to the day list including Starling, Stonechat, Yellowhammer and Mute Swan. The final species list reached an impressive total of 61, a just reward for a cracking day’s birdwatching.

Riverside Park 1 January 2024

Twenty people enjoyed the group’s traditional New Year walk, taking advantage of a break in the weather to enjoy some watery sunshine. The towpath was muddy but passable, enabling us to take in the river and nature reserve. The start was slow, with several Robins and numerous Blue Tits, joined after a while by Great Tits, some singing, an active flock of Long-tailed Tits and some noisy Wrens. Nearer Stoke Lock we had good views of an obliging Goldcrest, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Nuthatch across the river. Sadly no Siskins were present but some Redwings were actively feeding on ivy berries. A small flock of Teal showed well in the flooded reed beds, and a highlight was excellent views of a Kingfisher near the outfalls below the lock. A Grey Heron and Moorhen were seen in the wetlands adjacent to the lock and a Pied Wagtail near the lock. On our return the lake was not very productive, with very few gulls (although one Black-headed Gull was almost in breeding plumage), several Tufted ducks, Mallards and a single Great Crested Grebe. The total for the day was a moderate but pleasing 32.

Hayling Island 16 December 2023

Nine members met at the Ship Inn car park under overcast skies.  The tide was out and the harbour mud was fully exposed.  Lots of waders (Dunlin, Redshank, Grey Plover, Curlew, Greenshank, Lapwing and Oystercatcher) and several small gaggles of Brent Geese were taking full advantage.  Along the water’s edge, there were plenty of Shelduck, Teal and a few Wigeon.  Further out, there were Red-breasted Mergansers and Goldeneye.  The Mill Pond held its usual selection of ducks and waterfowl (plus large numbers of Coots & Moorhens).  The field at the end was flooded, and a few minutes were spent enjoying close-up views of a Green Woodpecker and of a displaying male Teal.

At the oyster-beds the incoming tide meant that hundreds of Dunlin, Grey Plovers and Oystercatchers were already jostling for space on the remaining dry land-spits.  At the first lagoon, a real treat was provided by excellent views of a Long-tailed Duck – quite a little poser!  The usual Little Grebes and Mergansers were slightly put in the shade by this star sighting.  Several Rock Pipits generously posed for photos, but the real show-stealer was a Great Northern Diver out on the open water. While lunch was eaten in a spot sheltered from the cool breeze a Marsh Harrier flew over, causing mass panic among the vast flocks of roosting birds, which were now realised to contained a solitary Avocet and a few Turnstones.  By now, a light drizzle was causing problems and a halt was called.  The tally for the walk was 47 avian species plus one Common Seal.