Trip reports

Bexley Bird Report - January - June 2012

Friday, 24 January 2014

Bexley Bird Report - January - June 2012
(Key - Cx = Crossness, CM = Crayford Marshes, DP = Danson Park, EWOS = East Wickham Open Space, FCM = Foots Cray Meadows, TRW (Thames Road Wetland - Barnes Cray), UCF = Upper College Farm), YA = York Avenue

With the increasing number of records from across the Borough this report is in danger of becoming too long for the Newsletter, I am indebted to John Turner who edits it but who also places my original draft onto the group's web-site where more detailed information is available.
In addition to those who contact me directly I must thank those who post records on the Bexley RSPB web-site, and the London Birders web-site (

This winter didn't suffer the long harsh, snow cover and freezing weather of the previous two and as we moved into Spring, dry, warm drought conditions prevailed until the hose pipe ban was introduced in early April since when it has hardly stopped raining (and continues to do so along with cool conditions into mid June). Highlights of the first six months are as follows:

No divers but 3 Slavonian grebes on the Thames at CM on 8th February, 8 little grebe at FCM on the 7th. Great crested grebe would appear to have bred at Southmere Lake, Danson Park and The Glade (nest flooded). Little egret seem to have taken up residence along the Cray and Shuttle in Bexley with up to 2 FCM 9th January to 7th April and one as late at 1st June. A single shag CM 30th March. Coinciding with the low pressure and bad weather in June 2 storm petrels were seen of CM on 12th.

Winter geese were thin on the ground just two dark-bellied brents at Cx 1st/2nd Jan. with a couple of groups of 14 &16 over CX 16th January/7th Feb. Eleven tundra bean geese flew over Cx on 15th January Egyptian geese have also taken up residence in the borough with 2 Southmere Lake and 4 Danson Park 27th February and regularly seen at FCM and The Glade.

Wintering duck also hard to find, peak numbers came from Cx with 40 shelduck on 27th February, 30 wigeon on1st March, 300 teal and 230 gadwall on 23rd February. Gadwall peaked at 25 FCM on 6th February. Shoveler - 8 FCM 6th January and 68 at DP on 5th February were the highest counts. Fourteen pintail at CM for a week from 7th February provided quite a sight. The cold spell also saw teal arrive at FCM on 4 dates peaking 6 on the 9th February. At Southmere Lake tufted duck increased from 12 to over 100 in the first two weeks of January and at DP pochard increased from 9 to 34 between 11th-15th February. In February 5 goldeneye at Cx on the 5th, a goosander moving between sites along the Thames on the 8th, at CM a pair of red-breasted merganser on 24th April and 2 drake and 1 duck common scoter on 17th May. The first garganey of the spring was at Cx on 1st May and another at CM on the 6th. Over one hundred shelduck gather on the Thames at Cx by 19th June and two ruddy/hybrid shelduck also present.

Red kite following the Thames at Belvedere on 26th March was the first of the year, another at Cx on 8th April then a relatively large movement across the south east England in May was reflected with with two over York Ave. (19th), one each over Lewis Road Sidcup (13th) CM (15th) and Cx (21st). A male, female and immature Marsh Harrier occurred on five winter dates at CM and a male has been present 15th-21st June, common buzzard continue to put in regular appearances over the marshes, York Ave, Horsham Road, Church Wood with occasional sightings elsewhere, including EWOS, and is almost certainly breeding in the Borough as is kestrel, peregrine and hobby the first of which turned up on the 14th April at Cx and 27th York Avenue then a further 8 dates in May and 4 in June. An osprey drifted over York Avenue on 16th May and was the first recorded in London this year - another went over on the 19th May.

Twenty four species of wader occurred: Avocet seen most months peaked at 6 in January. First Little Ringed Plover arrived West Paddock Cx on 29th March. Plenty of Golden Plover during January at CM peaking at 182 on 24th January, Dunlin peaked at1800 Cx on 7th Jan. and c800 CM 13th January. Snipe is often a difficult species to find as it skulks in the grass or reed edge so 24 at Cx on 8th January. was an impressive count but just one at Thames Road Wetland on 15th March was a nice record for the finder, also occurred FCM on 3 dates in February. An in-flight woodcock briefly seen in fading light at EWOS where a single lapwing was also recorded in February. Lapwing peaked around 100 Cx 5th January. Black-tailed Godwit was present each month but peaked at 568 CM on 19th January. with 460 on 4th and 425 at Cx on 31st March with almost as high numbers into April. Bar-tailed Godwit is much less common with singles in January and April peaking at 6 CM on 29th April though migrating birds increased to 56 at CM on 3rd May. Single Spotted Redshank a most unusual becoming an almost winter resident frequenting the shoreline near Erith Yacht Club from 4th January to 6th May when it was almost in full summer plumage. I'm sure Redshank is under-recorded as there are always plenty around but 62 CM on 3rd Jan. and c100 Cx 29th March are fairly representative. First Greenshank of spring arrived CM 1st May peaking at 3 at Cx on the 4th. Green and Common Sandpipers both over-wintered along the marshes - Green peaking at 4 on CM on 13th January and end of March with last one being seen on 23rd April, one was present FCM 7th February to 13th April. Probable early autumn birds occurred on 21st June with 4 at CM. Common Sandpiper numbers increased with spring migration with one around DP lake on 21st April and 4 at CM on 3rd and 4th May. Six sanderling at Cx 2nd and 3 knot CM 10th June.

Three water rail were wandering around on the ice at Thames Road Wetland on 11th January and up to 3 at FCM on 3rd February.

The usual variety of gulls (including Meditterranean, Yellow-legged) were seemingly ever present, Caspian Gulls were less in evidence along the river with occasional singles in January, February and April though a 1st year bird at Danson Park was well found by Graham Nichols on 1st January. There was a big influx of Iceland Gulls around UK this winter and at least one (2nd winter plumage) hung around the Viridor landfill site Crayford from 21st January through to March with a 3rd year bird on 13th March and a full adult Cx on 16th March. In May Richard Bonser (another regular at Crossness/Thamesmead) found the first authenticated London record for Bonaparte's gull on Saturday 19th May, a first year bird that attracted a good gathering of London's premier leagues birders - as the week went by a debate ensued if this bird was developing its adult plumage until two birds were seen along the Thames at the same time (waiting for London buses comes to mind). A short influx of Little Gulls in the first week of February with 8 at CM on 2nd and 6 there and at Cx on 9th. Weather driven Kittiwakes found there way up the Thames early January with a 1st winter at Cx and CM on the 1st through to the 5th then 7 adults turned up on the 9th. Two Common Tern at Cx on 12th March were the first to arrive but not until mid April did they begin to arrive in any numbers peaking at 86 on the 23rd, amongst them were a steady trickle of Arctic Terns with 12 also on the 23rd. Just one record of 2 Sandwich terns at CM 15th June otherwise nr Little Terns recorded and only one Black Tern at CM on 27th April.

The Barn Owl returned to Cx, first being seen on the 22nd January and whilst a pair have been in/around the nest box there is no confirmation of successful breeding. Little Owls probably were more successful at CM being seen almost daily throughout the period under review. Intensive searches for Tawny Owl have generally turned a blank though Ian Stewart did have 3 sightings in February and did hear one from his garden in Sidcup on 20th May. Another was calling at 1pm on 13th April in FCM and another possible record near the Hollies Sidcup. A single Short-eared Owl was at Cx 23rd April and probably same bird at CM on 29th with another at CM 12th June.
A single quail was heard calling at CM on 14th and 15th June.
One of the first local field trips of the Bexley Group was a May 5th visit to Crayford Marshes and when we saw a swift it was the first for the year, not an unusual date back 30 years ago - how things have changed with the first this year at CM on 20th April - there has been a steady passage since with peaks of a 100+ Cx on 11th, 70 DP 14th and 120 CM May 16th.

Kingfishers seem to making something of a comeback with more regular sightings from the Glade, Foots Cray Marshes, one, possibly two pairs breeding along the River Shuttle and occasional sightings from both Cx and CM. Just one record from DP on 15th January.

We've read a lot about the plight of cuckoo and it is a rare species in Bexley though one was present FCM 8th May and another CM 1st June. Two possibly 3 pairs of Skylark are at Cx and 2 pairs UCM and one pair Church Wood.

Early hirundines included first Swallow on 28th March Forestview Stables - Sidcup, 7th April FCM and 8th at both Cx and CM, first sand martin was seen York Avenue 29th March and 2 House Martin Cx on the 9th April, sadly I have no records of breeding for any of these species.

Meadow Pipit is one of those species I suspect we overlook when watching suitable habitats (not many in Bexley) so 30+ at Cx on the 5th Feb. was exceptional. Rock (max.5) and Water Pipits (2) hung around the Thames marshes until mid March when the last were seen. Grey Wagtail appear to be breeding at the Glade, FCM, the Shuttle and Hall Place (2 pairs) and one made a surprise visit to a garden in Park Crescent Erith (18th May). The first Yellow Wagtail arrived at CM on 13th April, a day before the first at Cx, a single Chalk Wood 2nd May and there were 15 at CM on 4th which must have been a lovely sight. 14 pied wagtails together at Danson Park on 26th April is an unusually high number.

A pair of Stonechat were present at CM through January but sadly not seen since with only occasional singles - this should be a breeding species on the Marshes? In May single whinchats migrated through Chalk Wood 2nd and Cx/CM on 6th/7th respectively but Wheatear were far more abundant - the first arriving Cx 12th and 3 at CM 16th April with 16 being peak here on 7th May - inland sites included The Glade (28th April), FCM 5th May and EWOS. A black redstart in Woolwich Road garden 19th May was an unusual location. A migrant male redstart was at FCM 11th April. The first and only Ring Ouzel arrived at CM on 11th April, six days after the last winter thrush departed when 3 Fieldfare were recorded at the same site. Both Fieldfare and Redwing were fairly scarce during the early part of the year, the former peaking at 110 on 16th March at CM and only one record of 4 Redwing same site on 6th the last inland record was on the 3rd April YA. Many people noted a peak of redwing in February, 100+ FCM 8th, 250 around Horsham Road and upto 300 Knoll Road Bexley on the 10th and last at DP 14 on 28th.
At the time of writing, rather bizarrely I still haven't seen a Sedge Warbler despite the first arriving at Cx on the 14th April though never more than 3 being recorded here or at CM. Cetti's Warbler seem to have established themselves as resident and a breeding species, up to 1-4 present on the marshes during winter and up to 5 singing males in during breeding season. Other migrant warblers first dates are reed warbler Cx 13th, CM 19th April (max. 10 on 2nd/20 on 30th May respectively); the elusive lesser whitethroat CM 24th April (max only 3 early May). Whitethroat seem to be doing very well, an extraordinarily unusual winter record at CM with one on 6th January, the first migrant was on 13th April peaking at 32 on 8th and 30th May, 6th and17th June, peak count Cx 10+ 1st May a pair seen mating at EWOS 7th May.

Only inland records of garden warbler were Lamorbey Park 27th April and FCM 8th May. Blackcap are common - an occasional overwintering species (including in the tiny University Gardens Bexley 3rd Feb). First singing birds were 3 Cx on 12th and one CM 19th March - peak numbers 10 Cx and 6 CM 14th and 16th April respectively. Chiffchaff also overwinters in very small numbers and commonly seen in suitable habitats one singing by River Shuttle, Bexley on 9th March. Willow warbler however is less well known in the Borough, first at Cx 12th March others not arriving until 10th April CM peaking at 5 on 13th one singing YA 12th/13th, one the Glade 21st and one DP 24th April. Just one record of spotted flycatcher from CM 8th and Cx 11th May. Many reports of goldcrest from residential gardens along with one from the Old English garden DM on 19th January.

Bearded tits were scarce this year 2 at CM (reedbeds near landfill) on 6th and 11th January then 4 near yacht club on 12th March, a single occurred Cx from 1st to 13th April.

A relatively rare find in Bexley is Treecreeper so it is pleasing to have received records from the Glade, North Cray Wood, FCM and Bexley Woods (a pair) this year. Nuthatches are more widespread (or easier to see/hear) with records (and probably breeding) from Burstead, Bexley, Church and Joydens Woods, Martens Grove, FCM, Franks Park and Lesnes Abbey, where 4 were seen on 12th March, six were noted on a walk between the Hollies and Lamorbey Park on 20th April. As an aside both great spotted and green woodpeckers are showing healthy populations at these sites with great spotted reported to be breeding in or near many gardens including one in Maiden Lane Crayford. Only one single lesser-spotted woodpecker was recorded at FCM on 29th March.

Only one Waxwing record, a single bird joining a group of redwing on 14th February Longlands Road Sidcup. Unusual to report a negative but no brambling this winter? Occasional records of crossbill is encouraging, one over 18th Jan. and 3 west 9th March CM with a colourful male Joydens Wood on 14th.
Starlings might be scarce in some parts of the Borough but there have been many reports of small numbers in some gardens so 167 in Perry Street, 90 in poplars at Thames Road Wetland and 190 at Stanham Farm proves there are still plenty around. Is there a local roost? We don't usually report magpie but 27 together at Parish Wood on 9th March is worthy of note.

A hedgerow with122 house sparrows at Erith School 20th January is the highest count for the period.
Ten linnets at Cx on 23rd February is a good number as is 20 from UCF, the marshes seem to be the only site for reed bunting and only one record of yellowhammer - a single CM on 12th January however corn bunting continue to hang on with at least one present CM throughout with maximum of 3 singing during May. 30 Goldfinches Haddon Grove-Parish Wood on 10th February is indicative of wide spread reports of this species with 22 in Martens Grove 20th and 14 Erith Cemetery 23rd January. Greenfinch is another species having a tough time so 18 in Christchurch Cemetery Bexleyheath 10th January was a good record. Peaks for lesser redpoll were 37at UCM 15th Jan and 30 Chalk Wood 26th March where two mealy redpoll were amongst them however the one that appeared in my garden on 10th February along with a male blackcap was my garden highlight for a very long while.
This is just a summary of the many 100's of records posted, thanks to all those who do submit records, this report wouldn't be possible without you.

Ralph Todd
June 2012