Trip reports

Bexley Bird Report - January - June 2013

Friday, 24 January 2014

Bexley Bird Report - January - June 2013

(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)

This past winter seemed to go forever - any early nesting birds had a shock and probably failed. The weather also seems to have affected arrival dates of many summer migrants with many arriving 2 or 3 weeks later than usual - as I write in mid-June Swifts are still arriving in small numbers. The highlights of this report go to waxwings and wildfowl (ferruginous duck and green-winged teal being recorded in this period). January 21st saw a cold weather movement of birds, e.g. fieldfare 70 north, 150 south west over Horsham Road, 110+ over York Avenue (YA) and lapwing - 27 over FCM, 11 over Albany Park, 9 and 60sw over Horsham Road, 23 west over YA. April 15th seems to have been the most significant date for migrants with an unprecedented 15 willow warbler at FCM where a redstart was also seen - this also represented one of the best or earliest days for black-tailed godwit, swallows, wheatear, whitethroat, blackcap, chiffchaff along with the last fieldfare and redwing.

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 4 or 5 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. Records from Crayford Marshes ceased after 6th May so whilst early May is often last reported date for CM that doesn't necessarily reflect actual occurrences.

January - June 2013

Up to nine little grebe at FCM and 6 GL were maximum counts and bred CM/CX. Great crested grebe present on Thames each month (max 6) and pairs noted DP and Southmere Lake, a pair were seen at GL on 20th March but didn't stay. A single Slavonian grebe was on the Thames off CM on 24th January.

Despite extreme weather only one record of bittern - from TRW on 11th January.

Twenty two Bewick swans flew over Longlands Road Sidcup on 19th January, possibly same birds seen flying over Walthamstow 35 minutes later? Two whooper swans flew over CM on 11th January. The male of a pair of mute swans at DP was sadly killed in the early nesting season but a new male arrived and breeding has taken place, also breeding CX/CM. Egyptian geese have bred GL and DP though appear to have lost most of their young. Only winter geese were dark-bellied brent at CX on 4 dates in January and a flock of 65 on 9th March. Shelduck were present on the Thames each month peaking at 140 on 20th March CX. Highlights for wintering duck - a drake wigeon inland at GL off and on between 17th January -1st March otherwise maximum of 16th on Thames at CM 8th February last being recorded there 7th April. Highest mallard count was 126 DP on 25th Jan. Gadwall numbers continue to be of national importance at CX being present each month but peaking at 370 on 24th February, 12+ at FCM on 25th January was highest inland count, though 3 on 20th March and a pair on 25th April at GL were good records. Teal numbers on the Thames at CX are also impressive with 630 on 24th February and 935 on 3rd March being highest; by mid March numbers had declined here but up to 30 were still present nearby at CM. The six that hung around at TRW for a while from 24th January were a nice addition to this sites list.

One of two "rarities" for the Borough was a green-winged teal (a fine drake) found 12th April by Richard Bonser, it stayed around until 28th before venturing across the Thames to Rainham Marshes where it stayed for just a couple of days before departing altogether not being seen again (and not at all by me!).

Pintail is not a common duck and usually only found in winter so a small flock staying around for 10 days in January at CX, 4 arriving on 16th and peaking at 22 on 22nd was very nice - the odd pair did appear throughout February and March not seen after 21st. The last shoveler was seen CM 19th April where only occasional records of up to 40 birds were recorded. Inland, 14 at DP on 25th Jan. then a drake and two female were present at FCM on 27th January and two drakes on 20th February.

Pochard continue to be an elusive species given the amount of water in/around the Borough, one drake FCM on 7th January, increasing to 2 pairs on 14th and peak of 20 Southmere Lake 16th and 20 DP on 25th. It was whilst counting the pochard (16) on 31st January that I noticed something different - a female ferruginous duck - presumably it wasn't present on 30th when John Turner did his weekly count, but it was only seen until lunchtime on the 1st February and was disturbed (along with the pochard and tufted duck) by boats and was not seen again. Tufted duck peaked at 28 Southmere Lake 2nd February, 14 GL 4th, 24 FCM 13th and 35 DP 27th March.

Other unusual wildfowl sightings - female goosander CM 13th January, pair of common scoter CX 24th March and a male CM 27th April - 8th May. The first and only garganey appeared on 1st April at CX and was seen for one day only. A fine drake Mandarin duck was at GL between 25th-27th January.

Marsh harrier (male/female or immature) made four appearances over the Thames marshes between 4th Jan. and 20th April but not a single hen harrier. Common buzzard, in keeping with its spread across south and eastern England again mostly over the marshes with 2 CM on 22nd April but also inland, one DP 6th May but is increasingly seen over members' gardens, 16 further sightings reported over the six month period - notably one on a pylon at TRW 24th January, 3 over Chalk Wood 28th March

Kestrel appears to be breeding at FCM and CM otherwise only single birds are being recorded from various locations around the Borough. A male merlin was seen at CM 21st January. The first hobby (in London) was seen at CM on 20th April (very early given the cold spring and potential lack of suitable food). One over Horsham Road 29th April, another over Veroan Road 25th May whilst 2 flew over FCM and Albany Park on 17th May. Only red kite records are of one over YA 19th April and 18th May, the latter probably same bird seen over Love Lane allotments.

Peregrines have been recorded regularly each month both inland and over the Thames marshes and recently a breeding pair received press coverage. Whilst this pair might be in a relatively safe location it is worth remembering the codes of practise for publicising any rare breeding birds.

Pheasant is seemingly making slow increases in sightings with 3 seen Kelsey's farm on10th January, possibly the same birds being seen on the fringes of FCM, 2 at Crossness and a pair at CM plus individuals in a Northumberland Heath garden, 1st April feeding below a feeder, another wandering down Hurst Road Sidcup, 5th April and more naturally, one at Crayford Rough on 24th March and 26th May. A lone red-legged partridge was seen 25th April at CM.

Winter water rail numbers have been consistently low in recent years with just one being recorded at CX, CM, DP and GL in the first quarter. Thames Road Wetland seemed to be most productive with up to 3 calling - at least two well into May. Coot numbers peaked at DP at 121 on 21st January.

Waders, as expected were recorded mostly along the River Thames and marshes. Two or 3 oystercatchers around most weeks peaking at 17 CX 10th March. Avocet occurred on 7 dates mostly on Crayfordness but 3 at CX on 19th February were the highest count. The first little ringed plover was seen CM on 18th March with 3 at CX on 26th where 4 was the highest number on 26th and 28th April. Either ringed plover is under recorded or isn't such a common species - 18 at CM on 10th Jan. was only record for that month with maximum of 4 being recorded on occasional dates into late May. A breeding record of the latter has been confirmed. CM saw the only golden plovers where numbers fluctuated between 113 3rd Jan and the peak of 158 on the last date, 14th March. By contrast, grey plover were in much smaller numbers, first 2 being recorded CM on 17th January and last (2) on 15th March with a peak of 18 on 23rd/24th January a single off Erith Quay on 23rd January was mixing with 3 dunlin and 150 redshank. Wintering lapwing peaked at 500 6th Jan. and 375 24th Feb. at CX; uptown 4 were present during April-June, 27 flew over FCM/Albany park on 21st January - a date that saw quite a movement overhead of many species. Two knot were at CM on 24th Jan and a single sanderling 25th May at CX. Wintering dunlin varied between 700 5th Jan. CM and 200 31st March CX but peaked at CM at c1100 5th February. A single ruff was noted on 8 dates between 3rd January and 3rd March moving between CX and CM with 4 at latter site on 10th April. Only one record of jack snipe, 21st January at CM, and not many for common snipe though 17 CM on 4th January, 2 FCM 22nd and 5 CX 26th being highest counts, similarly with woodcock, just one at CM 20th January and another over YA on 18th. Black-tailed godwit is a common winter visitor along the Thames recorded on many dates through to early May. Numbers peaked in January (70 CM 14th, 62 CX 26th January) declined during February March before picking up, presumably with migrant birds in April (94 CX 15th). Bar-tailed godwit on the other hand is much less common with 7 migrants CM on 7th May being highest number; winter numbers are usually between 1 and 3 along the foreshore. The first migrant whimbrel was at CX 13th April, with an influx of up to 8 at CM from 25th April the last (8) there on 6th May. Curlew over winter with 7 CX on 1st January and 26 CM 6th February - one or two continued until 6th May. For the second winter a spotted redshank spent the winter near Erith Yacht Club, being seen daily until 28th April (in 2012 it departed 6th May). Common redshank numbers peaked at 200 CX 6th and 270 CM 7th January. The first greenshanks (2) arrived CM 21st April with one being present until 1st May. One or two green sandpipers (3 on 10th April) were present CM throughout most of the reporting period until 2nd May, two

CX 15th April with one at DP 26th May. A single wood sandpiper occurred on migration on CM for just two days, 23rd/24th April. There were no overwintering common sandpipers with the first migrant at CX on 15th April, there was then a succession of single birds at CX/CM until 6th May, two were at DP on 6th May and were seen flying over DP lake on 17th May and were possibly the same two seen at FCM on the 23rd.

Up to 8 yellow-legged gulls were present CM throughout January, decreasing to one or two during February through June. Just single Mediterranean gulls of various ages were noted each month except April and May. An Iceland gull was seen CM 8th January and again 12th March. A single little gull was seen off CX on 14th April. Black-headed gulls peaked DP at 250+ on 4th March. A first winter kittiwake off CX on 27th January was followed by an adult 9th March/7th April and 4 adults off CM on the 11th March. A single sandwich tern off CM on 11th April was the earliest and only record, the first common tern for London was at Thamesmead on 7th April and first at CX was12th April followed a day later by 4 Arctic terns (recorded on only five dates). Common tern as also recorded less than usual peaking at 30+ at CX on 23rd and 13 CM on 26th April when 6 black terns also occurred here.

Stock doves are worth looking out for at almost any open space - 25 at CX on 13th January was the highest count. A "record" 27 collared doves were recorded on 9th March in a Thirlmere Road garden. Just two records of a single turtle dove - CM 29th April and CX 2nd May probably reflects the serious decline of this delightful summer visitor. Of perhaps equal concern is no records of cuckoo!

By contrast ring-necked parakeets continue to grab peoples attention, you seem to love 'em or hate 'em - 255 were counted leaving pre-roost in DP on 3rd January, c440 from GL on 14th and 300 DP on 18th April

Little owl continues to show well at CM and one was also heard near FCM on 10th February. Our pursuit of tawny owl continues to provide just occasional, but interesting records - the following were heard only - YA 9th January, close to Hillview Cemetery Welling 10th January, 3 possibly 4 at 4.55am YA and a good view in Shenstone Park 24th March. A short-eared owl was present at CM on 27th April -1st May.

Swifts have been late arriving this year though the first was very early - CM 17th April followed by another on 26th however it was mid May before significant numbers were being reported with 12 at DP the first dates for there. It is good to report that the new Council Offices (formerly Woolwich building) will be fitted with swift boxes and a few private dwellings have introduced them - it is hoped this will encourage this struggling bird to more successful breeding.

Kingfishers continue be seen regularly at CM/CX/FCM and this winter in the GL - attempted breeding has occurred along the River Shuttle but success has not been confirmed.

Whilst green and great spotted woodpecker are doing well in all suitable habitats including gardens, 6, possibly 8 of latter being noted at GL 18th March, 4 Lesnes Abbey Woods, 27th February and 8 Chalk Wood 21st March, not a single record of lesser spotted - both trends reflect what is happening nationally.

Relatively good news for skylarks, being recorded from the Thames Marshes and Upper College Farm with breeding confirmed at two sites.

Along with all other summer visitors, hirundines have had a mixed start to the summer first dates being: 2 sand martin 13th April CX (very late), 2 swallow and 1 house martin FCM 11th April. Breeding records all remain thin on the ground though pleased to note house martin nesting in a box in Parkhurst Road Bexley.

Only records for meadows pipit are from CX, 1 on 2nd and 6 on 14th and one over YA on 15th April- are these just migrating birds with none resident? Rock and water pipits once again featured along the Thames foreshore with peak of 5 rock at CM 26th February and 5 CX 27th March, which were the last, recorded. Water pipit was far less common with never more than one seen, last being at CX 20th March. First yellow wagtail was a male at CX 13th April with one or two turning up on the marshes until 11th May. Grey wagtail has remained loyal to normal sites with breeding along the River Cray in a least two sites. An earlier request for roosting sites for pied wagtails elicited no response until this year when c40 were noted leaving an area close to the Broadway shopping centre at 7am on 17th February - is this as big as it gets? Are there other roost sites?

Early 2013 turned out to be another good period for waxwings particularly during the cold spell in early January and again in March, 20 seen at over GL New Year's day, 30+ over Willersley Avenue 2nd January, followed quickly by a small group of between 6 and 15 in Hurst Road Sidcup (3rd and 4th), another 6 opposite Ruxley Manor Garden Centre 6th and 7th; 24 at CM outside Erith Yacht Club on 11th - 50+ near the Citroen garage Crayford Road 2nd -7th February, 15 on TV aerial in Burnell Avenue 7th, 6 Crayford Creek on 18th, 6 Elsa Road Welling on 23rd, 57 in Powerscroft Road 25th, 3 by Horse and Groom Main Road Sidcup 28th and 1st March. There were 62 at CM on 1st and 14 on 7th and 18 on the 8th March. Eighteen flying over York Avenue Sidcup on 5th April were last seen. A great winter for the wonderful Scandinavian species.

The only black redstart record was of one at CX on 6th January, a female common redstart was seen at CX on 15th and 20th April but upstaged by a male on 19th (CX and CM) and another at FCM on same day. Whinchat also arrived on 19th a male at CM, 2 at CX with 2 males at each site until 21st the last being a single male on 4th May CX. A male stonechat was at CX 1st January perhaps same male at CM from 16th-24th January and 11th-13th February. I don't often report on robins but DP has a healthy population seeing numbers increase into March, 16 on the 4th, peaking at 26 on 20th and staying in the 20's until mid May when there were still 19 being recorded. Wheatear are usually an early arrival and so it proved again with the first being seen 23rd March at CM however it was another 3 weeks before numbers began to pick up with 10 at CX and 14 CM on the 15th April peaking at 21 CX 19th and 16 CM 26th - last one seen 15th May CX; two were seen at DP on 25th April - the first records for John Turner who counts there weekly.

Only one record of ring ouzel - a male at CX 13th April. Fieldfare and redwing held on into mid April the last recorded being 1fieldfare and 3 redwing at FCM on the 15th. Two song thrushes singing against each other at EWOS 10th January was something of a surprise.

Cetti's warbler seem to have survived the cold weather with maximum of 6 singing at CX and 3 CM some continuing well into the breeding season also heard TRW 26th May. First sedge warbler was heard CX 17th April with up to 6 CM first week of May - inland one was singing FCM 26th April and another DP 5th/6th and 16th May. Two reed warblers at CX on 19th April were the first recorded and numbers built up over the next 3 weeks peaking at 10 CX 28th and 14 CM on the 3rd May. Other records include one at EWOS 23rd and TRW 29th April, 2nd/3rd and 7th May. At the height of the breeding season 12 were heard at CX 26th May and most interestingly one at FCM during the first week of June. Lesser Whitethroat seen CX 21st April but had generally gone quiet by first week of May, 3 regularly being heard at CM. Whitethroat by contrast more widespread away from the marshes and whilst peaking at CM at 36 on 25th April and 10 CX there were at least 5 territories at Upper College Farm and others at GL and FCM. Only one record of garden warbler, 14th June CX, is disappointing but blackcap are doing very well and widely distributed -9+ singing at FCM into June where 15 were recorded on 15 April, 2 males present GL on the same date, this of course is a bird that now overwinters, a pair in a Marten Grove garden on 18th January and I had only my second garden record on 21st January similarly chiffchaff was recorded from a number of gardens during the winter and the first were heard singing CM 7th March, CX 9th and FCM 13th and GL 8th April. Willow warblers by contrast are relatively scarce (or under recorded) the first recorded on April 11th at GL where 15+ were noted on the "big fall day" of the 15th, 4 at DP on 16th and 7 in song on 19th FCM, the last being heard on 3rd May at CX. Goldcrest is being noted from many gardens and suitable habitats, one at CM on 15th January unusual given the habitat but 6+ at FCM on 22nd and 6 at GL on the 25th being what should be expected, they might well have bred at these two sites. The firecrest that took up residence at GL in December was still present until at least 8th January. Not a single spotted flycatcher record continues the worrying trend for this species.

Up to 4 nuthatch were recorded at the GL - 2nd January with 5 on 18th March at FCM where juveniles were seen on 12th June, two were also present DP 20th March and 25th April. Chalk, Joydens, Bursted and Lesnes Abbey Woods along with Martens Grove all have resident nuthatch Only treecreeper records came from GL 2nd January, Chalk Wood 14th February, Joydens Wood 5th and FCM 11th April.

Rooks are a Bexley rarity with two records, both from CX on 21st and 23rd April, YA 8th January, 7th February, 13th March and 3 south east over Slade Green Station 24th January were all fly over's. Raven records are also flyovers with 4 dates for this corvid - first over YA 11th January, one made an appearance over Hall Place on RSPB Garden Birdwatch Saturday (26th January) and 2 CM on 6th April and 3rd May.

Jackdaw is mostly associated with FCM and Hall Place so a single record from DP on 26th May was, to our knowledge a first for this site as was one on the chimney in YA.

Good to see house sparrow numbers holding up at Northumberland Heath Recreation ground - stunning 173 10th January, 94 2nd and 79 14th February; 53 in a hedge at Erith School 28th February, lovely to hear them chirruping in my own garden again. Only brambling was a late record of a single at CM on 18th April. Goldfinches continue to seemingly broaden their range and numbers with regular records from across the Borough - 20 GL 28th January, 25+ FCM 25th February plus assorted gardens. 35 greenfinch in Erith Cemetery on 7th February was a great count and included the white headed bird we reported from a Belmont Road garden last autumn. Best days for siskin were January 7th, 100+ over FCM, 24th 20+ at GL and 30+ FCM. A single hawfinch was heard/seen flying over FCM on 15th April.

Linnet has a fairly restricted range in Bexley with 8 CX on 7th April and 40 CM 8th June being highest counts. Redpolls were reported regularly from CM throughout January and occasionally from CX, 10 on 9th March, 3 along Shuttlemead, Bexley on 16th January and FCM, 4 on 7th April, 2 at TRW on 24th January was a site record. A pair of bullfinch at FCM on 25th January was an unusual sighting, followed by another pair at fcm on 4th March and 15th April. Only yellowhammer sighting was of 1 from CM on 3rd May. Surely reed bunting is under recorded from the Marshes with the first two on 27th February at CX with two other reported sightings from same location in April plus a singing male TRW 16th April. Corn bunting fared a little better with one or two at CM January through May with maximum of 4 on 19th and 29th April.

Other wildlife of interest - 2 Harbour porpoise seen off CX on 23rd April and a green hairstreak butterfly near Thamesmead golf course 17th June.