Farlington Marshes 9 October 2021

Nine members met under a clear blue sky to walk around Farlington Marsh on land reclaimed in the 1700s. Though the tide was low we headed for the lake to try for bearded reedlings at their most active. The strategy paid off as we enjoyed good views of five swaying at the top of the tall reeds, the soft browns and blues highlighted in the sunshine. Formerly called bearded tits the reedling is actually a sister to the larks.  A water rail located at the back of the lake and threading its way stealthily through the reeds was another great sighting. Loud bursts of song came from a nearby Cetti’s warbler hidden in the rushes.

We then took the path diagonally through the western corner of the reserve and by one of the water-filled bomb craters (the area was used to burn fires during World War II to decoy bombers away from nearby Portsmouth) we found an active collection of blackcaps, Cetti’s warblers and chiffchaffs.  A sparrowhawk glided over our heads. Approaching the Deeps we saw many little egrets, at which point an eagle-eyed member saw the head of a glossy ibis and focused us on the area. After a minute’s anticipation we saw a purple head, then a long curved beak and a few minutes later the whole bird as it climbed out of a ditch on to he bank. The dark purple colour stood out in the bright sun. A peregrine flew over high and straight, the bulky body, tapered wings and continuous flight contrasting with the earlier sparrowhawk.

Having finished the circumnavigation of the reserve, we returned to the main lake before high tide. As well as the usual waders and ducks we were aware that a curlew sandpiper had been reported. Trying to locate it among the 20+ dunlins that were running round the legs of black-tailed godwits and a few ringed plovers proved very difficult. However we eventually succeeded in finding the target bird despite the marginal differences in size, bill length and shape from the dunlins but fortunately the good light enabled us to note the peachy wash of a juvenile as well as its slightly longer legs and different running style.

The walk proved both enjoyable and productive with 47 species identified, with some scarce birds seen in excellent viewing conditions.

The Burgh 30 September 2021

Six hardy members braved murky and blustery morning to walk along the South Downs to The Burgh and were fortunate to avoid precipitation from the dark clouds that loomed constantly. Immediately large numbers of pheasant were obvious no doubt much relieved about fewer shooting parties during lockdown. A sparrowhawk flew over while another numerous species was soon spotted, red kites elegantly gliding over the hillsides; at least sixteen were counted usually with a buzzard or two on hand. Then a raven or two cronked into view among the many carrion crows. At the summit several skylarks rose with a couple of meadow pipits below them. Small groups of linnets kept passing and two yellowhammers showed themselves briefly. Migrating swallow with a few house martins in their company kept passing over while a flock of well over a hundred goldfinches put in regular appearances. Down in the valley a marsh harrier was sighted patrolling the meadows and reappeared for further views later in the walk. Partridges though were the primary target but proved elusive in the generous, overgrown field margins. Eventually a group of red-legged partridges was identified crossing an opening in the vegetation. Grey partridges were easier to find but far more difficult to view. The sightings were all of plump, brown packages disappearing over the nearest hedgerow, a photographer’s nightmare! 22 species were identified the limited number compensated by the quality of some sightings and the sheer numbers of the rest.

Titchfield Haven 26 September 2021

Ten members met in the Sailing Club car park on an initially murky morning. The low tide gave an excellent opportunity to watch birds feeding on the shore. There were good numbers of ringed plovers, oystercatchers and the turnstones that are such a notable feature of this location. Among the flock were little egrets and a couple of sanderlings while half a dozen Brent geese provided an early portent of autumn. The star sighting though was a fresh-plumaged drake eider swam swimming on the Solent. The viewpoint over the Meon river was similarly productive. The low water prompted a water rail to emerge from the reedbed and forage in the mud allowing a close and extended view. Gadwall, a grey heron, a couple of redshanks and a great crested grebe were also on display. The sun then came out to enhance the viewing experience. The west side scrapes were much reduced in size because of recent lack of rain and the dried mud was extensive. Nevertheless there was a decent array of waders on show. Lapwings and black-tailed godwits were numerous. Common snipe were in the open, their plumage a treat for the eyes in the sunlight. The highlights were a handsome ruff close to the hide and for a fortunate few a jack snipe making a brief foray into the open while a rock pipit perched obligingly. The ducks present (many still in eclipse ) comprised numerous teal, gadwall, shovelers and mallards. Many swallows and a few sand martins flew through, heading south on migration. Later from the east side some distant house martins were seen. Overall it was a most enjoyable experience with some excellent sightings; species identified totalled 49.

Holmethorpe 16 September 2021

Five members assembled on a beautiful, sunny morning at the Aquasports car park. We headed first to a meadow behind Mercers Farm in search of yellowhammers but the large flock seen earlier in the year was not in the vicinity with only one glimpsed. Instead we had to content ourselves with a perched skylark and a kestrel. More birds were present on Spynes Mere including lapwings, little grebes, gadwall and one wigeon. Sadly the hedgerows had greatly thickened in the past year and views were possible from just a single point though we could see part of the magnificent sand martin bank newly built at the far end. We tried our hand at Mercers West but the view was more restricted than ever and we could see little more than cormorants and hundreds of loafing gulls. Back at Mercers Lake there was little bird activity with views of a few great crested grebes and mute swans plus a flyover by five Egyptian geese. We then drove to the Holmethorpe Lagoons but again the height of untended hedges limited our view and new sightings were limited to a pied wagtail and a lesser black-backed gull.

Church Norton 12 September 2021

The weather for our walk from the visitor centre at RSPB Pagham Harbour to Church Norton and back was superb.

Ten attended and saw at least 44 species.

Top sightings were:

  • ·         Spotted Redshanks in the channel opposite the Ferry Pool (with common redshanks for comparison)
  • ·         Cattle Egrets (x2)
  • ·         Clouds of Swallows and House Martins swooping low over the reeds
  • ·         Stonechats, Wheatears and a Whinchat atop scrub
  • ·         Roosting young Sandwich Terns among the loafing BH Gulls
  • ·         Kestrels, Buzzards and a hunting Peregrine (that gave a great fly-past)
  •         a hungry Osprey over the harbour allowing excellent, lengthy views.

Interestingly, we also saw quite a range of butterfly species today: Small White, Red Admiral, Peacock, Comma, Holly Blue, Small Copper, Speckled Wood and three Painted Ladies.

After a splendid walk some had sufficient energy to head off to the North Wall to look for the the Red-backed Shrike that had been residing there for the past week. Their quest was rewarded by splendid views evidenced by some superb photographs circulated subsequently on Chat.

Pulborough Brooks 4 September 2021

Sixteen members met a cool and overcast morning.  It was initially quiet birdwise around the visitors centre and the zig zag path.  The new feeding station provided some interest with Blue Tit, Great Tit, Robin, Dunnock, Greenfinch and Nuthatch.  In Fattengates Courtyard a Blackcap was seen along with Chiffchaffs calling while a small flock of Long-tailed Tits flew over.

Making our way around to West Mead Hide we disturbed a Redshank from one of the new ponds and it flew around making its distinctive alarm call.  Two Green Woodpeckers were displaying to each other on a fence post, which was interesting to watch.

Once in West Mead hide we were entertained by a couple of Snipe out in the open and around six Winchats in all actively flying around foraging.  A couple of Greenshank appeared and there were quite a few Teal and some Mallard on the water.  A Marsh Harrier took to the air as did a couple of Grey Heron.  Moving to Winpenny Hide we saw a Green Sandpiper and had some closer views of a Greenshank.  A couple of Chiffchaffs and a Whitethroat showed well close by in some blackberry bushes and a distant Wheatear was seen.

We saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker and some Goldfinches as we walked further round the trail.  Moving round to Little Hanger and Nettley’s Hides and the viewpoints, the group had good views of Black Tailed Godwits, Avocets, Lapwings, Teal, Mallard, and Greylag and Canada geese out on the Brooks.  At times small numbers of Swallows and House Martins were in the air.  Kestrel were seen hovering from time to time and three Buzzards were evident, two perched on fence posts and one circling around high up in the air. Treecreepers and Goldcrests were spotted in the woodland.

On the return two Stoats were seen on the path by some of the group.  The sun had finally come out and there were more butterflies out on the wing.  By the end of the walk a total of fifty species of birds had been counted.

Chobham Common 8 July 2021

Fourteen members met at the Jubilee Mount car park on a cloudy, drizzly morning. The paths were wet and boggy after recent rains and the birds were subdued. Warblers were fortunately in fine voice and we heard good numbers of chiffchaffs, blackcaps and whitethroats as we progressed. Wrens and a song thrush made their presence felt while a couple of linnets perched in view. The tree tops held a number of stonechats flycatching, some of them juveniles. Two great spotted woodpeckers swooped over our heads. Then there was a brief glimpse of a Dartford warbler, followed by a snatch of song and later an excellent view of a one perched close to us while waiting for the opportunity of taking the food it was carrying to its nest. Later a few swifts streaked over the heath and a small flock of tits comprising blue, great, coal and long-tailed was encountered. The butterflies we saw were confined to a large skipper, a few small heaths and a fair number of silver-studded blues. We also found a single emperor dragonfly and several common blue damselflies. A list of 22 bird species reflected the conditio

Frensham Little Pond 26 June 2021

On a fine sunny morning our first bird was a male Reed Bunting showing well and singing next to the café.  Common Terns were flying gracefully over the water.  We stopped to watch for Reed Warblers and with some patience managed to get reasonable if fleeting views.  Swallows flew overhead from time to time.  We could hear Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Willow Warbler singing but were not able to see them.

Emerging onto the heath a male Chaffinch was looking splendid in the sunshine from his vantage point.  We then began to see Woodlarks and Stonechats as we walked through the heather towards Kings Ridge.  A small party of Goldfinch and Linnet flew over and then perched for extended views.  Most of the group saw a Dartford Warbler at this point as well.  Up on the ridge things were fairly quiet but we paused to admire the views over towards the Great Pond as it was such a lovely day.  A distant Buzzard circling high in the sky was a bonus bird.

We descended from the ridge back towards the pond and stopped to admire a beautiful male Dartford Warbler singing from a prominent perch and posing in the sunshine.  As we did, we were also treated to a flypast from the Red Arrows – possibly a unique sighting for one of our walks. 

Reaching the beach we were entertained by a Great Crested Grebe fishing in the shallow water close in and successfully catching one or two.  A group of House Martins skimmed over the surface of the pond. Sadly we did not see any of the Redstarts or Spotted Flycatchers that used to be seen around the Warden’s house but with a total of 28 species seen and 6 heard it had been a very pleasant walk.

Whitmoor Common 6 June 2021

Sixteen members attended this walk aimed at newcomers on a cloudy, unsettled conditions. We first visited the private feeders near the car park to the accompaniment of an invisible blackcap in full song. There we were treated to the sight of a juvenile great spotted woodpecker being fed by a parent. The woods were relatively quiet but keen eyes picked out a singing chiffchaff at the top of a tall tree. As we entered the heath a Dartford warbler flashed across the boardwalk in front of us a couple of times. In the middle of the heather we had our first sightings of linnets perched on the gorse while a distant stonechat put in an appearance. By this time rain had started and we hurried for shelter across the railway. There we found more linnets and a whitethroat while a song thrush sang in view. As conditions improved sightings became more frequent. In the distance four red kites, the only raptors of the morning, cruised in the air. Back at the start of the boardwalk we had a choice of very good views of stonechats and linnets perched on the gorse and of a Dartford warbler posing low in a silver birch.

Wey Navigation 20 May 2021

Ten members assembled at Ripley Green in overcast and unseasonably windy conditions and enjoyed a surprisingly good morning’s birding. The walk to the river was relatively quiet with the songs of blackcaps and a mistle thrush predominant. In the paddock both a song thrush and a mistle thrush were feeding with a mixed flock of geese behind them. A whitethroat also showed while the first of the few chiffchaffs that we encountered sang. At the lock the work in progress on the eel passage was so extensive that it seemed to have inhibited the local grey wagtails and after checking for them we decided to proceed clockwise for a change. Along the river blackcaps were very numerous and the count of them reached seventeen for the morning. We also watched nesting nuthatches and as we left the river heard goldcrests in a patch of conifers. The golf course lake held the usual waterfowl, mallards, tufted ducks ands swans. A couple of little grebes also kept popping up close to us. The residential road leading to the farm meadows was full of house sparrows while on the track onto which we emerged we were treated to the songs and sight of several skylarks. The most surprising find though was a pair of wheatears. Having rounded the church we surveyed the marshes by Newark Priory and found three lapwings. Swirling around them were at least thirty swifts accompanied by a handful of swallows and two house martins. The final stretch along the river yielded a few more species including long-tailed tits and a reed bunting. Species identified totalled an unexpected fifty.