Trip reports

Bexley Bird Report January - June 2011

Friday, 24 January 2014

Bexley Bird Report - January - June 2011

(Key - Cx = Crossness, CM = Crayford Marshes, DP = Danson Park, FCM = Foots Cray Meadows, TRW (Thames Road Wetland - Barnes Cray), UCF = Upper College Farm)

Two features dominate the early part of the year - snow and waxwings, the latter occurring on at least 23 dates at 10 different locations. The January snow didn't seem to bring in the same variety of birds as the November/December fall but the following report suggests how good the bird watching can be if you are prepared to venture out and about in the Borough.

Once again the report is dominated by sightings from the Thames Marshes and Danson Park but it is good to note there are 2 or 3 new regulars filing reports from other locations onto the London Birders web-site (, though the Group's own site is less well supported. Of particular note are those records from Ian Stewart from his garden and local patches, amazing just what can be seen when recording on a regular basis and particularly if looking up!

Great crested grebe has bred at DP, Southmere Lake and The Glade and little grebe seen with young at TRW on 19th May. Highest count of cormorant was 16 at DP on 19th January declining to just 2 or 3 into February. Mute swan failed to breed at DP, The Glade and TRW where pairs were present, the pair at FCM produced 5 young. Geese were represented by 60 pink-footed on the 1st January, and a single dark-bellied brent on both 14th and 30th (CM); at Cx 6 white-fronts flew south-east on the 21st, a red-breasted goose with a yellow ring, undoubtedly an escape turned up at Cx on 28th March and was relocated on 7th May where it was still being seen at time of writing. A pair of Egyptian geese have been regular at DP but once again failed to breed, whether this is the same pair that did raise 6 young at The Glade (3rd-6th April) is unclear - on the 3rd the family were joined by a third adult.

Maximum high numbers for ducks included 130 wigeon 18th January, 20 teal, 270 gadwall on 5th February (all Cx) and 50 shoveler (DP) 4th Jan. Pintail remain scarce with only 2 sightings (max.2) both in January from CM. At DP pochard made a comeback in January with 11 on 19th but none in other months, tufted duck peaked at 17 on 4th Jan. Unusual records include a marbled duck on the Thames by Belvedere incinerator (10th Jan.), mandarin duck (Cx 7th May) and a pair of wood duck (DP 5th June) (none were ringed and appeared to be wild birds though origin cannot be confirmed). A single drake goosander (DP 31st Jan).

Red kites continue to excite the observers with singles over the marshes in March, April and May, one over Welling 26th march and one over the same Sidcup garden on 26th April and 21st May - lucky observer. Another was over York Avenue on 21st April. A male marsh harrier at CM on 5th Jan. was followed by another on 2 dates in April when a female/imm. was also seen. A ringtail hen harrier also turned up (CM) in January (24th) and another hung around for the last few days of March. Common buzzard occurred on 6 dates (CM) in March (2 on 23rd) and 2 more on 8th April other inland records included up to 3 over York Avenue 24th/25th March and two over Horsham Road on 30th May. A female merlin made one appearance (CM) in each of first 3 months and the first hobbys were seen on the 20th April followed by 3 more sightings that month (CM and Cx) plus five dates in May and 2 in June (CM), one over Chalk Wood (28th April) and Longlands Road Sidcup 11th May. Most peregrine sightings - including occasional pairs - come from the marshes (8 days in Feb. 6 in March (all CM)) though one was seen on Marlow House Sidcup on 12th January and occasional dates in March over York Avenue. The great news is that peregrine has bred in the borough (possibly for the very first time) with two young and parents first seen on June 18th. The only osprey record was from Cx on 22nd April. Kestrels appear to be breeding around Crayford Marshes, UCF, Cx, FCM and possibly The Warren, Bexleyheath.

Wintering water rails remain elusive but up to 3 recorded from CM, one at DP and possibly 2 FCM, a late calling bird from TRW suggests possible breeding - a rare occurrence if confirmed.

Avocet is always a pleasure to record and 1-3 were regular on the foreshore at CM during first 3 months with 11 being highest number (20th Feb). A single on 5th May was latest record.

First little ringed plovers were seen on 13th March (2 at CM) with maximum of 14 on 5th April - most seen near the landfill site. Peak winter number for following were: Ringed plover CM (18 2nd Feb), Golden Plover CM (31 3rd March), Grey Plover Cx (20 30th Jan), Lapwing CM (c500 27th Jan) a single knot CM (7th March), Dunlin CM (c1200 8th Jan) and Cx (c700 18th Jan). A single ruff seen on 10 dates (CM Jan-April.), snipe is surely an under recorded bird - only 2 seen on two dates (CM 21st Feb. and 30th March) though jack snipe only recorded once on 21st Jan (CM). Black-tailed godwit remains only a winter visitor with max. of 155 on 14th Jan (CM) dropping to max. of five in March. Bar-tailed godwit however is a spring migrant with first being seen (16 on 28th and 31 on 29th April CM) and 24 at Cx on 30th April, a few hung on into May. Curlew peaks in winter (up to six in Jan/Feb with 13 on 27th March CM) but the first Whimbrel was seen on

19th April (2 at CM) with continuing records through to mid May (4 on the 5th CM). Redshank peaked at 88 on 5th Feb (CM) and first greenshank seen at Cx on 19th April though CM had the highest number, (6 on 6th May). Green Sandpiper is a winter visitor with birds being present throughout each month peaking at 6 on the 21st February (CM). First of 3 wood sandpiper at Cx was on 12th April with the first at CM on 22nd April and two together on 29th. Common Sandpiper is also hanging around in winter with at least one, sometimes two throughout January (CM) and two at Cx on 22nd Jan. One or two (CM and Cx) up to 13th May. Only inland record was of singles at DP on 4th March where spring birds we noted on 4th and 10th May. A couple of turnstone were seen at CM and Cx during first four months. Sanderlings only arrived in May (CM) with 6 on the 12th, possibly same birds at Cx on 18th and four seen between the two sites on 28th/29th - last one seen CM 8th June.

The Thames and close-by landfill on Crayford Marshes attract a good variety of gulls with between 1-4 Mediterranean, yellow-legged and Caspian being seen in each month. An adult kittiwake on 15th Jan and 28th Feb. was unexpected along the Thames as were 2 adult little gulls at Cx on 20th/21st Jan. Highest count of c200 black-headed gulls and 100+ common gull on the 12th January were at CM. A juvenile Iceland gull was seen at Cx on 26th March. The earliest tern was a Sandwich tern on 10th April (Cx) with only two other sightings of two each (CM 19th April and Cx 4th May) Two common terns were first seen at Cx 3rd April peaking at 150+ CM on 30th - smaller numbers continued to be seen through to early June. Arctic tern occurred in much smaller numbers, 1 each at Cx (25th April) and CM (28th) - three further dates in May with max. 5 on 4th at CM. The now very scarce little tern made just four appearances - first being 1 on 30th April (Cx) and last when six passed CM on 18th May. Nine black terns occurred at Cx on 30th April and six at CM on 4th May.

The little owls appear to be breeding at CM and one was seen flying over Rectory lane FCM on 8th March, same observer heard Tawny Owl near York Avenue on 18th March. The great news is that the Barn owls are back at Cx though breeding has not been confirmed. These are the only owl records for the period.

Kingfishers may have suffered in the bad weather with just very rare sightings of a single from CM (Jan-Feb) and even fewer from FCM, none from DP and one from River Wansunt on 2nd March. Both green and great spotted woodpecker are becoming more widespread and regularly reported from private gardens but also in DP, Hall Place, East Wickham Open Space, The Glade, Lesnes Abbey Woods, Chalk wood, Martens Grove, Bursted Woods, breeding of Great Spotted confirmed from the latter two. Only one record of Lesser Spotted, heard at Chalk Wood on 28th March. The only turtle dove record was of one at Cx on 30th April though same observer had a turtle dove type species flying away from him on 15th January - an extraordinary date but the news of an Oriental Turtle Dove in Oxfordshire which stayed for many weeks adds intrigue to the sighting. The national concern for cuckoo is reflected in the scarcity of records during spring migration with two being seen on 19th April and 10th June (CM) and 2 at Cx on 30th April. Five woodlark were reported from FCM on 21st February along with a single at CM on 1st January this contrasts with the 24 skylarks recorded at the same location on 6th January. The marshes remain the stronghold for this latter species as a breeding record though four singing birds at UCM on 10th May was encouraging and this seems to be the only inland site for this lovely songbird.

The first waxwings (9) of the year turned up in the Russell Close garden of Crossness regular, Ian Miller on 9th January, they returned with additional friends on the 13th February (11), 28 on the 14th and 21 on the 24th. A single bird was recorded flying over CM on 27th January with another 8 turning up to feed on the 13th April these being the last of the winter. The most interesting and prolific site was around Bourne Road/London Road Crayford between the Citroen Garage and the Ghandi Restaurant where between 8th February (39 birds) and 29th March (17 birds) any number up to 160 birds (12th February) were seen on 13 dates. Other locations included - Sutherland Avenue (40 on 3rd Feb), Lydon Ave, Sidcup (20 on 10th and 25 on 24th/25th Feb), Tenby Road (60 on 28th Feb/1st Mar), Stevens Park Welling (40 on 1st March), Oakhampton Crescent (20 on 2nd March), Princes Road Crayford (18 on 3rd March), 15 over Black Prince A2 (7th March) and 2 by the A2/Upton Road junction on 22nd March. Riverside pumping Station Albany Park - 16-40 on 26th March. If you missed waxwiings you must have been out of the borough!

The first swifts were recorded on 25th April (2 at CM) and visible migration of 25 over my house in Horsham Road on the 3rd May was exciting. 3 swallows and 2 sand martins at CM on 25th March were the earliest

record with only 12 swallows and 6 sand martins being the highest numbers from this site on 26th and 27th April respectively. First inland swallows were 2 on 29th March at the Glade house martins faired even worse, the first arrival being 2 on 6th April (CM) and a maximum of 12 being the highest number from six other dates in May. Stonechats seemed to have taken a battering in the harsh winter with none recorded from Cx to date and probably only one pair on CM. Three Whinchat at Cx on 8th May and a female at CM on 10th

Wrens seem to have not suffered in the cold winter with 17 singing on 23rd April at DP being fairly typical. Wintering fieldfares peaked at 140 on 26th March (CM) with redwings peaking at 60 27th/28th Jan. (CM). Cetti's warbler stuck it out during the winter with 1 or 2 present on CM throughout peaking at five during April and 4 still present in May that looked good for breeding. At least 2 also present at Cx into April. A female black redstart was seen at CM (20th Feb).

Spring migration continued with the first arrival of yellow wagtail on 28th March, 2 at Cx and 1 CM on 22nd April with singles on 3 and 2 dates in May at Cx and CM respectively. The first wheatear arrived on the 26th March (CM) followed by 2 at Cx on 3rd April. They occurred on a further 14 dates in April and 24 days in May with peak number being an incredible 26 on the 6th April. Tree pipit occurred on only 1 day - 1 each at Cx/CM on 22nd April and only 1 borough record for nightingale (CM 14th April) and ring ouzel (a male CM 9th April). A male common redstart turned up on CM 6th April and a female on 8th May. Grey wagtail seem to have bred at Cx, Hall Place, FCM and along the River Shuttle in Sidcup. A white wagtail was seen CM on 4th April.

Warblers began arriving from the end of March - the first Sedge warbler on 10th April (Cx) then CM on 18th April followed by records of up to 3 on most days into June, a single bird on 2nd May at DP was an exciting find for John Turner. First reed warblers seen on 10th April (at Cx and CM) then seen/heard most days peaking at 18 on 29th April and 24th May and 25 o n 8th June (all CM), a single was reported from DP on 4th May by Peter Newmark, 12 were reported from the TRW on 27th May. Dartford ringing group report a reed warbler, first ringed as an adult at Cx in June 2003 was recaptured on 17th April this year (in addition to 2004,2007 and 2010) - making it probably 9 years old, it is estimated it might have travelled some 79,000kms (49,000 miles) between UK and West Africa (18 times). Whitethroats, by far the most numerous warbler, seen first at CM on 7th April with peaks of 38 on 22nd April and 31 on 10th May. These birds were also in good song and numbers at East Wickham Open Space and UCF (in May). Lesser whitethroat is much more elusive (and scarce) with 2 seen on 14th April (CM) peaking at only 4 at same site though seen/heard most days into June. Also recorded UCF on 10th May. Three garden warblers on 22nd April at FCM was the highest count of this confiding bird which was seemingly in much reduced numbers this year in contrast to blackcap that was well represented across the borough with first male singing CM (14th March) peaking at 20 on 10th April, 4 were seen in York Road on 5th March where a pair were noted on 15th; highest borough count was 25 FCM on 22nd April. Chiffchaff (like blackcap) is now an uncommon winter visitor with 1 noted at CM on 4th January becoming regular during March and peaking at 10 on 7th April, peak count at FCM was 15 on 22nd April. Only 2 records of willow warbler at CM (27th March and 12th May) and 6 at the Glade on 5th April. Spotted Flycatcher continues to give cause for concern with only 1 sighting from Cx on the 8th and 18th May. Goldcrest and Treecreeper are under recorded (or uncommon) species so the pair of the former in York Avenue (March-April) and up to 4 in the Glade and occasional sightings FCM is encouraging. The only treecreeper records were of 2 in Chalk Wood (23rd March), 2 in Joydens Wood 7th June and singles York Avenue 25th March and Bursted Woods 8th June.

Hopes were raised at CM in January when bearded tits were seen on 3 dates (max 4 on 4th) and 2 on 3rd February but no records since, these were followed by a single penduline tit at the same location on the 17th February.

Earlier observations that rook was scarce have been followed up with more regular sightings from CM most months with 6 on 9th February and 14th June however, raven is now becoming the latest must see corvid with 2 seen on 14th June (CM). 19 chaffinches in Norman Road Belvedere on 23rd January was an unusually high count. Buntings of note - a single snow bunting (CM) on 1st January and same month/location an incredible 10 yellowhammer on 24th (7 on 21st and 6 on 19th). Corn bunting probably bred (CM).

My enquiry about roosts produced no direct response but Chris Rose noted 150 starlings gathering in Perry Street Farm on 23rd February and Ian Stewart noted around 150 pied wagtails in March roosting in Tesco Car park (though this is marginally outside the borough).

Thanks again to all those who have submitted records for the period under review.

Ralph Todd June 2011