Pett Level and Pannel Valley – 26/09/15

Shaun, Alan, Al and Sue met at Toot Rock, Pett in bright sunshine. Shaun and Alan saw a peregrine at Cliff End; Sue and Al had been slightly delayed by the spectacle of many warblers in berry-laden hawthorns and brambles near the sewage farm , where lots of blackcaps and chiffchaffs, with a few whitethroats, were feasting.

Setting out from Toot Rock, we again saw many chiffchaffs, a fieldfare, and a jay, and heard the first of several redpolls and siskins flying over. A small flock of meadow pipits was also seen from here. A young common buzzard was calling from the trees on the old cliff line, and soon we saw it flying with another buzzard, previously seen perched on a gate post. There were probably four of these birds seen during the course of the walk.

It’s a good walk out to Pannel Valley from the Pett end, but we were rewarded with some nice birds, including three kestrels, a hobby, several Cetti’s warblers, reed buntings and swallows. More siskins and redpolls were heard, as was a very brief song from a skylark. Alan saw a kingfisher as we approached the screen hide – sadly, the reeds completely block any view from it now.

We were glad to reach the main hide at Pannel for a chance to sit and eat our lunch. There were few birds here, other than teal, a few shoveler, and mallards, though we did see one greylag goose and a stonechat or two. But things got better when a buzzard perched on the roof of the hide opposite, from which it made a few forays before returning several times. Best of all, a hobby made repeated passes in front of the hide, giving us really good views. A marsh harrier, obviously hunting, appeared several times, too.

The two other hides produced little of note, save for a couple of very handsome stags which appeared before vanishing again into the reeds. Had they escaped from the main herds? We shall never know.

It seemed a very long walk back to the cars, (though two male stonechats showed well) so once there, we decided to drive back to Pett and try a sea watch again, as by now the tide was on the way out. Little egrets were seen, and many oystercatchers, but Shaun found bird of the day – a razorbill. Further scanning produced some Sandwich terns, and Al picked out a greater black backed gull from the many gulls on the shore.

Our combined total number of birds seen was 66.

Broadwater Warren – 25-07-15

Shaun, Alan and Maureen, Martin and Carol, Bob and Judy, Bob H and Sue, and Bob P and Sue P met Alan Loweth, who had very kindly agreed to lead us on a guided tour of the Reserve. Alan was an excellent guide, being both expert and enthusiastic. It was interesting to hear of the continuing restoration work which has so transformed the area, which now consists of approximately 450 acres split almost fifty/fifty between woodland and heathland, having previously been largely given over to conifer forest.

Alan explained that there were approximately 50+ dormice resident in the Warren, which make use of some of the many dormice boxes provided, and that the Warren was the only U.K. reserve with such a number.

We had hoped to see adders and grass snakes, but despite Alan checking nearly all the refuges, none were seen.
It wasn’t an ideal day or time of year for birds, but avian highlights were buzzard, kestrel, treecreeper, stonechat, whitethroat, goldfinch, goldcrest, chiffchaff carrying food, grey wagtail and spotted flycatcher. The restored heathland provides ideal conditions for, e.g., nightjars, wood larks and tree pipits.

There were plenty of butterflies about, including green veined white, silver washed fritillary, small blue, red admiral, gatekeeper, small copper, speckled wood, and many meadow browns. Other interesting insect species noted included a spider with its funnel web, a long horned beetle believed to be Strangalia maculata, and a handsome Dor beetle. Dragonflies seen included a fine male Emperor.

Another interesting area once entirely hidden by rhododendron is an old sandstone quarry. The apparent rock face is in fact now just sand; it does offer the possibility of a sand martin bank in the future, once further tree felling and clearance has taken place.

Many thanks to Alan for sharing his time and knowledge so generously.

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Bird Group Outing to Pulborough Brooks RSPB on 12th April 2015

Seven members set off at 9:30AM on a bright sunny but breezy day with previousnightingalely reported Scarce (Yellow Legged)Tortoiseshell butterfly and Nightingales being high on the “to look for” list.

The rare butterfly was not reported that day, but Peacock, Comma, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral and Brimstone were seen. Some of the party only stayed until lunch time, and up to that point the Nightingales Continue reading

Bird Group Outing To Hope Gap And Arlington Reservoir – 07-09-14

Alan and Maureen, Shaun, Alan N, Martin J, Chris M, Jeremy, Deirdre and Sue met at the Barn CP on a warm and windless morning, and headed down towards the Gap. The scrub on either side of the path held many whitethroats, a redstart, a goldcrest, willow warblers, lots of chiffchaffs, blackcap and the other usual suspects. A sparrowhawk provided good views overhead. We found a wheatear on the cliff edge, but missed out on whinchat and stonechat. Rock pipit was conspicuous by its absence, though we did hear and see meadow pipits later in the morning.

There were few birds offshore, though a couple of fulmars glided past; a lone duck gave distant views, and our best guestimate was that it was a scaup. Little egret, oystercatcher, herring gulls and cormorants were seen, and a tern was heard calling offshore as we walked up the hill towards Cuckmere Haven. More little egrets were seen as we scanned the Haven, but it took us a while to find a buzzard. A kestrel flew over as we walked on.

By now it was very warm, and lunchtime seemed overdue. Chris M had to leave us here, with chauffeur duties calling. After sandwiches and coffee, the rest of us made a brief foray up towards what had been the dung heap, and heard and saw yellow wagtails overflying. There were more linnets here, and we did see and hear a lone skylark. A weasel was patrolling the track in search of a meal. Fortunately, a spotted flycatcher was seen on the top of the adjoining hedgerow, and we all had good views of it. Three wheatears (at least) were on the field edge.

It was agreed that rather than joining the throngs of twitchers at Shooters Bottom, we would have a stroll round Arlington Reservoir. This enabled us to increase our bird list – though coot remained absent, as did pheasant – with black headed gulls, lesser and greater black backed gulls, moorhen, three common sandpipers, Canada and Egyptian Geese. The only ducks we found were mallard and teal, but there were the usual great crested grebes on the water. At the farm, there were large numbers of swallows and house martins landing on the telephone wires and a pine tree before whirling round again. We did have close views of juvenile house martins, begging for food, which was very pleasing. A grey wagtail was on the roof of the house, and a few more were heard calling. There were the usual house sparrows here, too. Two common sandpipers were on the dam edge, and a few pied wagtails. (The best view we had of common sandpiper was the one on the opposite edge of the reservoir as we headed back). Green and great spotted woodpecker were heard, and a jay was seen foraging on the ground near the woodland.

The total number of species seen/heard was 57 – not bad for a busy Sunday!

Thanks to those gallant men carrying the telescopes, and to one and all for finding the birds. Shame about that seal, though…

Trip Report – Dungeness, 31st May 2014

Bob P, Al, Martin and Sue met at the Reserve car park, to be greeted by a pair of very noisy common gulls on the roof of the Centre, behaving in a natural, if unseemly, manner. We were lucky to see a tree sparrow and a recently fledged young bird on the feeders, and while we drank our first cup of coffee, a Mediterranean gull flew over, calling. We’d seen lesser and greater black-backed gulls at Scotney Continue reading

Buchan Park & Warnham NR – 13th April 2014

Shaun, Alan and Maureen, Martin, Carol and Rebecca, and Bob P and Sue met Alastair on a warm(ish) sunny day for a walk around Buchan Park, which five of us had never visited before. Alastair very kindly led us, and we were soon picking up most of the woodland species (robins and blue tits being very much in evidence), including blackcap, goldcrest, willow warbler and chiffchaff. As we approached the first lake, a pair of grey wagtails showed very well. A couple of us had a brief view of a buzzard; later on, at Warnham, we saw a pair displaying.

As it was a fine weekend, there were very many dog walkers – but they were universally affable, including the dogs!

Alastair left us after a couple of hours, intending to do a patch walk. He reported later on Facebook that he’d seen plenty of birds, including a nice redstart – so virtue was rewarded once again.

Warnham proved to be another very pleasant venue, particularly as it provided a good cafe and loos. From the first hide, we saw a common tern – first of the year for many of us. Another grey wagtail was showing well here, too. Ducks seen were mandarin, mallard, and tufted, with a couple of great crested grebes. Grey herons (probably half a dozen or more) were flying about over the trees, doubtless agitated by an overflying buzzard. Later, as mentioned above, a pair of buzzards displayed over the woodland.

Reed buntings were seen on the feeders at the next hide, with the usual flurry of tits, a great spotted woodpecker, male pheasant, etc. Walking further on, we had good views of a treecreeper – always a welcome sight.

We may not have seen any rarities, but it had been another good trip in excellent company.

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Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 30th March 2014

Alan and Maureen, Bob P, Al, Sue and Shaun had an enjoyable walk round the Reserve on a day which started with us all feeling cold, and then having to peel off a few layers at lunchtime! There were plenty of birds about – including our first little ringed plover. A female goldeneye, many tufted duck, a pair of gadwall, some shoveler, mallard and teal were found, as were little and great crested grebe, Continue reading

Rye Harbour – 15th June 2013

Alan and Maureen, Shaun, Bob and Sue met at RHNR and were glad to have brought extra trews, hats and coats, as it was very windy. Dunnock, pied wagtail, house sparrow, herring gull, feral pigeon, chaffinch, jackdaw, blackbird, wood pigeon and collared dove were noted in the car park, and as we began our walk a whitethroat was seen and heard singing. A rock pipit was in full song somewhere on the salt Continue reading

Park Corner & Arlington Reservoir – 4th May

Although the trip had technically been cancelled due to lack of interest some of us decided to go any way. Sue, Shaun, Peter, Bob and Judy met at Park Corner near Laughton just before 9:30am. The weather was overcast, cool (10c) and breezy. We walked down and around to the information boards in the little shelter and noted how quiet it was. A walk down across the main heathland scrub produced Whitethroat, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Song Thrush, Mistle Thush, Blackbird, Wren, Robin and Chaffinch. Some seen but most heard. We then did a series of circuits around the bottom end of the reserve; eventually a Nightingale did sing but it was obvious the cold weather was keeping it quiet. We also ticked off Garden Warbler (that a lucky two actually managed to see) and Bullfinch. Overhead were some Geese, a Common Buzzard and flock of Herring Gulls. Moving back towards the cars we walked around the pond adding Treecreeper, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Woodpigeon and Carrion Crow.

We moved on to Arlington reservoir, arriving at midday, and parked in the main car park. Our target species was Lesser Whitethroat, which we achieved mostly. A couple of returning birders informed us that it was at the end of the bushes no more than 100 yards from the car park, so we walked down and instantly heard that distinctive rattling warble and quiet sub-song. The bird was quite mobile, moving quickly to other bushes or flying across to adjacent trees and bushes. We all heard it and some of us managed to get a glimpse as it continually moved around.

And then it started to rain. So we headed back to the cars and had lunch, 12:30 at this point. We set out again, despite it still raining at around 1pm, fortunately about half-an-hour later it stopped raining. We walked clock-wise around the reservoir stopping at the hide, also along the dam and a few other places on the route around. It was incredibly windy on the dam and now quite a cold wind too (north easterly I believe). To sumarise our walk we had: Mallard, Tufted Duck, Cormorant, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Coot, Great Crested Grebe, Herring Gull, Great Black Backed Gull, Common Sandpiper, commic Tern (prob. Arctic Tern), Swallow, House Martin, Reed Warbler (heard only), Linnet, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Woodpigeon, Jay, Magpie, Rook, Crow, Jackdaw, Starling, Dunnock, Robin, Wren, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Nuthatch, Green Woodpecker, Skylark (heard only), Blackcap (heard only), Chiffchaff (heard only), Whitethroat, Pied Wagtail, prob. White Wagtail and Kestrel.

The Wagtails and Common Sandpipers were along the dam wall, in the wind it was almost impossible to keep still or a telescope still well enough to get views to do proper identification. Annoying as White Wagtail was reported by someone else that day. We were back listening to the Lesser Whitethroat again by about 2:15pm when it started to rain again. At this point we decided to pack up and head for home.

Norfolk Trip Report – Last Day

Brambling [female]This is it, our final day. The last day everyone pretty much does their own thing before heading home and this trip was no exception. For the purposes of this trip report I shall take you through what we did but I will mention that Sue and Bob went to Salthouse again and then to Cley and Holkham Fresh Marsh; Dick, Dot, Martin and Carol spent the afternoon walking out to see the seals on Blakeney Point; Continue reading