Trip reports

Bexley Bird Report - July - December 2012

Friday, 24 January 2014

Bexley Bird Report - July - December 2012
(Key - CW = Chalk Wood, CX = Crossness, CM = Crayford Marshes, DP = Danson Park, EWOS = East Wickham Open Space, FCM = Foots Cray Meadows, GL = The Glade/Lamorbey Park, TRW (Thames Road Wetland - Barnes Cray), UCF = Upper College Farm), YA = York Avenue

The appalling weather of 2012 and the effects on breeding birds has been well documented. This report does not record the success or otherwise of breeding birds in the Borough - something we might wish to improve in future. I continue to receive occasional records from a number of members from across the Borough for which I am very grateful and of course the 6 or 7 members who seem to be out and about almost every day provide the bulk of data reflected in this latest report and my thanks go to them.
Chris Rose, in addition to being the volunteer warden at the Thames Road Wetland providing many ad hoc records, has also carried out some detailed research into tawny owl, house martin and swift distribution/breeding in the Borough. For more information please contact me. It would be very useful if more members could help with this - even negative reports from suitable sites are useful.

July-December
8 little grebes at FCM 16th November was the highest count of the winter.

A great white egret was seen well flying over Albany Park/Hurst Road on 10th November - a first for the Borough. Little egret, now recorded regularly from various wetland sites, peaked at 10 CM 6th August and 7th September. Shelduck and gadwall bred at CX where winter numbers of the latter peaked at 180 on 30th December. 2 pairs of shelduck bred on the Thames at Erith - seen from a member's window. First gadwall record for FCM was 14th October peaking at 11. A female pochard arrived FCM 12th September followed by a tufted duck on 21st, the latter (2 prs.) might have bred GL. 9 pochard at DP on 1st October was highest count. A hybrid shelduck/ruddy shelduck made infrequent appearances at CX during August and returned on the 31st December. 10 wigeon at CX on 30th October was first significant number. 2 pairs of shoveler DP 1st October. Mallard peaked at 111 DP on 26th December. The first Brent geese were noted along the Thames at CM on 24th October, max. 28 on 26th. 13 Egyptian geese DP on 10th August, 1 GL 8th September with 2 present at end of year. Maximum teal counts were c400 CX 13th October, 23rd November, 31st December with 500 on Boxing day, 2 drakes DP 18th November was unusual. 29 shoveler CX on 29th September was highest count there. 14 common scoter flew down river off CM, 24th September with 2 males present 25th October. Only red-breasted merganser, a male, CM 5th November.

A marsh harrier over CX on 11th August was only record for that site though occasional sightings (mostly juveniles) were made at CM each month except December with 2 on 27th September. Buzzard made at least one appearance each of the last 5 months around the marshes, a pair over YA 18th July and 4 over CW 9th August were of particular interest. Occasional sightings from YA and others from CW, Veroan Road and Horsham Road suggest possible residency in the area. Red kite over YA 20th July and another over my garden on 7th August were only records but a black kite being mobbed by a peregrine CM 23rd August was undoubtedly the raptor highlight of this report. Kestrel is becoming the rarest "common" bird of prey with only one sighting from the marshes (CX 5th November) with occasional records from The Warren and FCM though there was 1 confirmed breeding from DP with 5 young being seen on one occasion. Up to 4 hobby seen CW and YA during August but the last was recorded 30th and 31st October CM. Peregrine is now regular over the marshes and in the heart of Sidcup where a pair seem to have taken up residence.

The first water rail of the autumn was sighted at FCM on 10th September with no more than 2 being recorded there. 2 also TRW from 11th October. Also seen at CX and CM since 30th October and GL and DP on 13th November
The same members who witnessed breeding shelduck in Erith also had the misfortune to witness 2 pairs of oystercatcher have their young predated same site. Avocet only occurred on 4 dates, CM between 16th July-20th November. 3 little ringed plover at CM on 31st July were the last recorded and 34 ringed plover on 17th August CM, was the highest total for this passage and wintering species. The first golden plover (6) arrived CM 20th September with the highest count being 172 on 3rd December. Grey plover by contrast arrived 27th September, 1 CM with maximum of 13 26th October - also noted on far fewer dates (just 11 and not at all in November). Lapwing were very mobile leaving the area for periods but c150 CX 5th November and c1700 CM 25th December represent peak counts. Knot is a rare bird this far up the Thames so a single at CM 20th July was a good passage record. Dunlin, on the other hand, built up on the shoreline with 4 arriving CM 12th July and peaking between 200-250 CX various dates in November and c1800 CM 18th December. Mild weather was the probable cause of no jack snipe being recorded, only 1woodcock CM 15th November but a peak of 32 snipe CM on 13th December was a good number. Black-tailed godwit continued to put in almost daily appearances along the Thames from 5th July (20 CM) but barely breaking into double figures until late November with 200+ CX 25th and 270 CM 22nd November. By contrast and to illustrate its migratory relationship bar-tailed godwit was only noted on one occasion - 2 at CM 29th August. The first whimbrel passed by CM on 7th July (9 on 31st) and the last on the 7th September. Similarly, greenshank took a little longer to pass through - 2 CM 5th July (7 on 19th) and last on 27th November. Redshank began to build up from mid-September (6 CX 13th) peaking at 300 on 23rd November. The star of the waders though might be the spotted redshank (remember it from last winter) with a first appearance near Erith Yacht Club on 14th October and was seen almost daily until year end. 1 or 2 green sandpipers remained at CM throughout with exceptionally 6 on 27th July and 7 on 17th August CX. Common sandpiper peaked at 8 CX 2nd and18 CM 21st August. A wood sandpiper in the Bog Garden LNR DP on 17th July was possibly the wader highlight of the autumn!

1 arctic skua was seen pursuing a herring gull at CM on 25th September: the only autumn record.

There was the usual mix of gulls including occasional single Mediterranean records from CX (27th August/23rd September) and up to 2 from CM, yellow-legged gull was more frequent, usually off Crayford Ness, peaking at 36 on 2nd and 10 CX 22nd August. An Iceland gull was seen CM 26th October. Only 3 records of a single Caspian gull - all CM 20th November and 5th, 20th December. A Sabine's gull flew up river CM on 24th September (same date as the 14 scoters). A juvenile kittiwake along the Thames on 13th August and a 1st winter 26th October CM were only records for this uncommon gull for the Thames. 12 little gulls flew down the Thames on 25th October. 40 lesser black-backed gulls at GL on 5th November, in excess of 200 black-headed gulls DP from 13th November and 27 common gulls on 6th December were all worthy of note.

24 common terns were the last seen from CM on 10th September - the last at CX being 2 on 13th October with the last 2 Arctic tern. A black tern appeared CM 14th followed by 11 on the 29th August. A single guillemot floated along the Thames at CM 23rd November.

The only records for cuckoo (a species for which there is great concern) were of an adult at CM 9th/10th July and a juvenile same site 26th July.

The little owls remained in residence CM. A short-eared owl Crayford Creek on 29th November. Chris Rose has been surveying suitable sites around the Borough for tawny owls (heard Marten's Grove and Frank's park in 2011), most visits proved negative but this is still valuable information. However there have been individual records of calling birds from the vicinity of Hillview Cemetery 5th November, YA 21st August, 31st October, 14th November, 10th December, GL 23rd October and Martens Grove 27th December - are there more possibilities for this species for those willing to go out after dark?

The last swifts (7) recorded from DP 26th August. Kingfishers remained on the marshes with occasional sightings from both CX and CM, this species seems to be attempting a comeback at FCM possibly 4 seen on 21st August, but disturbance is still a major source of concern. River Shuttle and the lakes at Sidcup golf course and GL are producing more frequent sightings particularly in the later months. Sadly none in DP.

Good to see those reporting from their gardens that both green and great spotted woodpeckers are giving much pleasure - also regular in records from FCM, GL, DP and the Warren. Great excitement in Selwyn Crescent, near DP in August (9th, 23rd and 30th) when a lesser spotted woodpecker visited a member's garden.
Probably not surprising given the fall off of bird song but fewer and fewer records on many of our summer visitors during this period.
A woodlark flew over CX 13th October with 3 seen flying over The Drive Bexley on 7th November.
Hirundines remain, I believe, under recorded - no known breeding sites for sand martin, the last was seen on 25th September over DP. Swallows bred at Honeydale Farm, Ruxley and Forest View Stables nr. Chalk wood, no other confirmed breeding sites with the last being recorded YA - 2nd November though most had gone by end of September with 12 DP 25th, c70 CM 29th and c20 CX on 30th. House martins appear to have bred around Moat Lane, Crayford, Shearwood Crescent Crayford and Chandler's Drive Erith (9 intact nests) - there must be other breeding sites but not recorded? The last seen migrating south was over Bexley Station on 3rd November - most had gone by late September c120 CM 25th and 30+ CX 29th.

A single tree pipit CM on 30th September and 2 on 4th October were the only autumn records. Yellow wagtail migration fared a little better, 1- 3 CM on 7 dates in August and 6 dates in September with 9 birds on 12th. Only 2 records from CX but the 2 on 23rd September were the last of the autumn. 5 grey wagtail FCM on 18th October was a high number and a pair feeding on Sidcup station seemed an unusual location.

This has been another winter of waxwing eruption from Scandinavia and northern Europe though most seem to have passed Bexley by, 2 over YA 8th November, 25 over Albany Park 6th December and singles CM 13th and 24th December and 4 here on 28th, (at the time of writing there have been sightings over GL, in Hurst Road and opposite Ruxley Manor Garden Centre during first week of January).

The first rock pipit of the autumn was at CM 17th October with up to 4 present since. A single water pipit was recorded CM 26th October, the only other being at CX 30th December.

A single juvenile common redstart on 19th/20th July at EWOS caused much excitement; only other record was a female on 3rd/4th September at CM. A female black redstart was in the vicinity of the new incinerator at CX on 16th and 21st December. Whinchat was first seen CM (2 on 17th August) followed by 2 at CX on 30th, in September at CM. They occurred on a further 9 dates with 5 on 12th and last on 20th. Similarly, wheatear, another of our passage migrants, a single at CM on 8th/9th August was the only bird that month, then up to 3 came in on 11 days in September with last on the 21st though 2 at CX on 6th October was quite late.

The first thrushes of the autumn arrived in October - 82 fieldfare CM on 29th were preceded by 8 redwing at Lamorbey Park and 5 Albany Park on the 10th. Again the mild weather
probably affected numbers of these 2 winter visitors with no very large numbers or regular sightings, fieldfare peaking at 250 CM 6th November and redwing at just 50 on 13th same month. 13 mistle thrushes on FCM on 14th August was an unusually high number.

Up to 4 Cetti's warbler were recorded from CM with 1 or 2 from CX.
4 sedge warbler at CX on 10th August were the last for that site and 3 juveniles at CM on 8th seem to have proved breeding there. 3, possibly 4 pairs of reed warbler bred at TRW and a single record from DP 11th July.

With one or two exceptions there is a general lack of observations for garden warbler and blackcap (GL/YA/FCM - have provided breeding records for the latter). Willow warbler, YA 7th and 15th, FCM 9th/10th/21st,Veroan Road 9th August, the last was at GL 4th September. CM continued to turn up 1 or 2 lesser whitethroat until 3rd September and chiffchaff (max.20+ FCM) and blackcaps (15+ FCM 8th August) continued to be recorded across the Borough into December.
Following a plea for records, goldcrest does seem to be present (and breeding) in most suitable locations with 10 GL in December, the same location was home to a firecrest from 14th December and still present at time of writing (10th January). The only other record for this charming bird was from Moat Lane CM on 30th October.

On 24th July a juvenile spotted flycatcher was seen at CM, with another 2 on 3rd September, individuals were also at GL 4th and FCM 12th September.

There is still no evidence of bearded tit taking up residence along the reed beds of the marshes but a single juvenile was seen CM 15th/26th and 29th July with single adults on one day a month until 2 on 17th November.

Nuthatch isn't an uncommon bird in suitable habitats but 1 at CM on 10th August and 1 CX on 29th September (only 3rd record for the site) were unusual as was the bird that visited my Horsham Road garden on 25th September, a first and taking my garden total to 64.
Another species I noted being under recorded was treecreeper and I'm pleased to see, unsurprisingly, that 1 was recorded in Joydens Wood on 14th October and since then, regularly seen in GL.

Early autumn was notable for the massive influx of jays into the east of the country - this was reflected by a flock of 21 over CX on 29th September, 8 on 13th October and 10 DP on 10th. A single flock of 33 magpies over my garden were, I think, the largest I've ever seen locally. Chris Rose must have been almost as shocked when he had 15 collared doves in his back garden. I've still yet to see a rook in the Borough but there was the occasional record - 1 over Old Farm Avenue 2nd July and another over YA 8th December - I must look up more.

80 house sparrows around Northumberland Heath Recreation Ground were very encouraging. The first brambling of the winter was recorded in October with 1 YA 15th, 1 FCM 22nd then 3 arrived at CM on 23rd, peaking at 16 on 31st; 2 at UCF/Kelsey's Farm on 6th November were the last of 2012. 28 greenfinch DP on 14th September and 30 GL 30th October were encouraging numbers given recent declines of this once common garden bird; an unusual record of greenfinch from a garden in Belmont Road, Bexleyheath was of a partial albino with a brilliant white head, described beautifully as a flying ping pong ball. 22 chaffinches GL 26th November was also a good winter count. 8 crossbills over FCM on 4th September was an exceptional record. A flock of 12 siskin at CM on 13th September was probably the first signs of the winter arrivals, in addition, CM; GL and FCM (25 on November 12th) have proved good sites for this species in the latter months. 45 linnets at CX on 11th July might represent a post breeding flock, though 100+ on 13th October was an unusually high autumn count. There are many sites in the Borough with alder trees, ideal for feeding flocks of redpoll (and siskin) but once again it is the marshes that tend to turn up the most frequent records. 40+ at CX on 13th October was another site record, redpoll was regularly recorded along the hedgerows of CM though 16 on 23rd October was the highest count. Bullfinch is another rarely recorded bird in Bexley so the 1 heard in Joydens Wood 23rd July was a welcome record, given its reluctance to show itself we wonder if it was on breeding territory? Whilst corn bunting is probably resident at CM with up to 4 being recorded throughout the reporting period there were just 2 records of yellowhammer - a single male CM on 23rd November and another Mount Mascal stables 13th December.
Thank you once again to all who have contributed sightings, I welcome receiving even more in 2013. My own personal total for Bexley this past year was a modest and frustrating 99.
Ralph Todd
January 2013

Ring-necked parakeets
Project Parakeet (www.projectparakeet.co.uk) carried out by Hannah Peck of Imperial College came to an end in December. I shall let you know when results are published. During the summer another student contacted me requesting any information of roosting sites/numbers in the Borough. To my knowledge we don't have a roost site - perhaps pre-roosts but it did leave me hopelessly wrong footed because whilst such a common bird for us that we probably disregard it or consider it a pest - we don't actually have any numbers for the sites this bird frequents. Perhaps a project for anyone who regularly visits such sites. Ian Stewart did make an attempt to count those flying over his house to roost (probably at Lewisham Cemetery - Hither Green) and on 7th August counted over 800 (including one single flock of 500). Please contact me if you would like more information.