Trip reports

Bexley Bird Review - July - December 2010

Friday, 24 January 2014

What's been around between July - December 2010

Since I last wrote around 140 species have been seen on the Erith/Crayford Marshes and some 67 in Danson Park. This again suggests what great bird watching can be enjoyed without having to travel too far and just how valuable some habitats are within the Borough. I am grateful to those who watch and submit their records directly to me, via the Group's web-site or to In an attempt to try and reduce the length of this report (7 months to cover) I have tried to summarise key species or numbers and direct you to the web sites for the detail.

Whilst outside the area the co-ordinated ring-necked parakeet roost count on 10th October resulted in 5,800 birds at Hither Green Cemetery and 26,000 in South London - no wonder more people are recording them in their gardens.

On the subject of roosts I do have a request. Does anyone know where the woodpigeons roost - each morning I see 100's flying south/south-westerly over The Warren, Bexleyheath and I wonder where they've spent the night? What about other roosts - are there any starling, house sparrow, pied wagtail, corvid, gull or other roosts in the Borough? I'd like to hear if there are please.

(Key - Cx = Crossness, CM = Crayford Marshes, DP = Danson Park and FCM = Foots Cray Meadows)

I am pleased to report that my earlier pessimism about lack of breeding great crested grebe was overturned by reports of successes at Danson Park, The Glade and Southmere Lake. Black-necked grebe off Crayfordness on 28th August was the first record since 1997. Ironically a second occurred on the Thames on 27th December.

Little egrets were recorded each month peeking at 6 on CM in June, August and October but were also seen along the Rivers Cray (FCM) and Shuttle (the Hollies and Bexley). An immature spoonbill at Cx on 24th October coincided with a movement of this species around the South East.

280 greylag geese on 11th September on CM is a particularly high number. The first dark-bellied brent geese (10) were recorded at CM on 29th September with between 1 and 9 on the Marshes on 10 other dates. A pair of Egyptian geese (presumably those seen in DP in the Spring) continued their wanderings being seen at Southmere Lake, CM, DP, The Glade and FCM at least once a month. The 27 Bewick swans that appeared on CM on 3rd December were the 3rd record and the first since 1996. The December snow saw an amazing movement of geese along the Thames/marshes with 16/12 tundra bean on 19th/21st respectively, 3 Barnacle, 8 pink-feet and c28 white-fronted on the 20th.

A single Manx shearwater made a couple of appearances on the Thames (15th September and 2nd October). An adult gannet flying west along the Thames on 30th December was an amazingly late and unusual record (first record since 2006).

A ruddy shelduck was seen from Cx in July and August. First wigeon (4) on 29th September (CM) with highest count since (same site) of c180 on 29th November. A lone male was at FCM on 9th December. Gadwall have been present each month with 140 at Cx on 28th September, 6 in DP on 16th November and 30 at Five Arches on 19th December. 690 teal at Cx on 27th November indicated their winter build up. Last garganey seen at Cx on 26th July. 28 common scoter flew east along the Thames on 27th July seen from Cx and CM and a female was seen on 3 dates in August and another on 13th October. An exceptional count of 110 shoveler, including 30 drakes at DP on 6th December dwarfed the earlier high count of 29 on 28th November, however numbers continued to increase/fluctuate between 190 15th, 160 23rd and 52 on 24th December. Two scaup at Cx on 19th December were followed by 3 on the Thames 29th.

John Turner reflects that a large number of ducklings/goslings are disappearing from DP - presumably predated.

Red-breasted merganser and goosander were seen occasionally on the Thames. Two at FCM on 4th November and a female on 9th December (after the snow) were a first for this site since January 1997.

Raptors were once again well represented - the last hobby seen at CM 26th and Cx (2) on 28th August. Red kite recorded over Bexley Woods 27th July, over the Thames marshes on 17th September on Christmas Day over Erith and Boxing Day over York Avenue. Buzzard, like peregrine, is becoming a regular feature over the marshes. Other sightings included Joydens Wood, Veroan Road (September) and Hall Place in December. A male hen harrier at CM on 9th November made a pleasant change from the occasional sightings of marsh harrier hunting the marshes in all months except October. A single osprey on 2 dates in September.

Water rails have returned to the regular sites - up to 3 on CM, two at FCM (from 27th September) and one at the Bog Garden DP from late November. 23 species of wader seen during the period under review: of note were Wood Sandpiper on 14th August at Cx, Spotted Redshank at CM on 1st December and Avocet seen in each month from CM. Recent harsh weather has brought snipe, jack snipe and green sandpiper back to FCM and a few flocks of lapwing were seen flying over residential areas. Exceptional counts were in November - 300+ Lapwing CX 18th, 26 snipe CM 27th, 230 black-tailed godwit 17th, and in December from CM, 20 grey plover 29th, c1500 dunlin 16th. Both green and common sandpiper seem to be wintering at CM.

Eight species of gull included regular little gull during late July through September at the Cx outfall with 2 on 3rd December at CM being the latest. Both Yellow-legged and Caspian gull were being picked up amongst the many lesser-black backed and herring gulls. Last dates for terns along the Thames in October were - Arctic 3rd, Sandwich

9th and Common 17th - though 2 common terns seen at DP on 20th were extremely late. The passage of black terns was probably most impressive through late July into September with four on the 28th September and the last one on 2nd October - all along the Thames but mostly from the Cx outfall. An amazing record of juvenile pomarine skua flying west along the Thames on 1st December was exceptional for its rarity (second record) and late date.

Barn owl doesn't appear to have bred this year but one was seen hunting early morning on 27th/28th October over CM where up to two little owls have become a regular sight. A short-eared owl hunted the marshes on 5 dates between September and December. Kingfishers do appear to have suffered during the earlier harsh winter with few sightings from the marshes, the rivers Cray and Shuttle though occasional sightings are heartening. They seem now to be absent from DP.

One or two skylarks hang on at Upper College Farm otherwise the marshes are the best place to see/hear them but an amazing 25 on 31st and 35 on 11th October from Cx and CM respectively might have included migratory birds though c230 on 24th and 80 on 31st December at CM and 20+ at Upper College Farm on 19th were likely harsh weather driven birds. I thought swifts over my garden on 8th September was late but a single over CM on 1st October beat it. Sand martin 18th September, swallow 29th, house martin 15th, yellow wagtail 17th October were other last dates. Sadly there was only one record of turtle dove on the 26th June at Cx.

The first rock and water pipits of the autumn appeared on the marshes on the 11th October and 2nd November respectively. The Erith/Crayford Marshes are certainly the best place to catch up with resident stonechats, which appear to have bred successfully and also whinchat and wheatear, both migratory species and occurring regularly during August/September with the last known dates for them being 27th and 12th October. A male ring ouzel on the 13th October was the last recorded. Winter thrushes were quite abundant - brought further inland by the recent harsh conditions. The earliest dates for Fieldfare were in October - 3 on CM 13th and 12 redwings at Cx on the 9th though a flock of 150 at CM on the 11th was probably more impressive, 15 flew over FCM on the same date. There was an obviously visible movement of fieldfare on 20th October with 100+ passing my garden.

Cetti's Warbler seemed to follow the national trend by doing rather well on the marshes with one or two being present throughout. The common warblers all seemed to have had a reasonable breeding season and migration produced nothing exceptional though a yellow-browed warbler at CM 21st October was, I believe, a first for the Borough. A Dartford Warbler on the10th December on CM was undoubtedly a harsh weather movement. Both spotted and pied flycatcher made appearances during August and September with 3 spotted and one pied being together at Cx on the 22nd of August. A single spotted flycatcher at DP on 27th August was quickly followed by 2 together on 9th September. A Firecrest was ringed by the Dartford Ringing Group at Cx on 12th June and two were reported from Kelsey Park Farm on 19th November, could these be the same 2 at Franks Park on 28th? Goldcrests really did seem to have suffered after last winter's snow so it was good that 3 made a return to DP on 9th November seen again on 28th December. Bearded tits might have taken up residence in the reed bed near Crayford Creek/landfill site as two were observed there on the 15th October and up to six have been seen regularly since. An exciting, though brief spell of visible migration was witnessed from Cx on 12th October with two Lapland bunting, 2 brambling, 6 siskin and 2 redpolls going over.

The rook remains a rare bird for Bexley and the only sightings usually come from CM (or the landfill site) however raven could soon be catching up with this elusive corvid as there have been two recent sightings over FCM the most recent being 5th December and also one from CM (13th September and 30th December).

This has been an exceptional winter for waxwings throughout the north and east of the country (over 1000 at Pegwell Bay (13th December) and c500 in B&Q car park in Folkestone 11th) so the 4 that flew east over CM on 7th December were just a small consolation. However, thanks to Graham Nichols walking his dog, he found 35 in the tiny little park at the end of Upton Road South/Parkhurst Road on Sunday 12th December - this increased to 48 during the afternoon and 15 were still present (irregularly) on the 14th reducing to 2 or 3 by the 16th. Between 10-15 flew over Hurst Road/Halfway Street on Christmas Eve and 4 were in London Road, Crayford on 29th.

An example of not needing to venture far for some interesting birdwatching is demonstrated by one person who took advantage of some garden/sky watching during the period of snow in December so added (amongst other species), 8 goosander, 40+ lapwing, 7 golden plover, woodcock, 8 snipe along with small flocks of finches, thrushes - all from his garden in York Avenue, Sidcup.

Finally, a mammal footnote - 2 harbour porpoise off Cx on 18th August and a grey seal off CM on 27th July.

Thank you to all who submit their records and a Happy New Year and good birdwatching in 2011.

Ralph Todd

January 3rd 2011