Trip reports

Bexley Bird Report - January - June 2014 - Author Ralph Todd

Monday, 7 July 2014

Bexley Bird Report January - June 2014
(Key to some of most frequently mentioned sites - BPW = Bexley Park Woods,
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, SL = Southmere Lake, TRW = Thames Road Wetland - Barnes Cray, UCF = Upper College Farm, YA = York Avenue)

Thank you to those who notified me of roosting sites. There do seem to be a good number of house sparrow roosts. Hedges in the following are just a few examples -Northumberland Heath recreation park, Russell Park Nursery Road, Perry Street farm area, Ramsden Road/Avenue Road, Longlands Road/Old Farm Avenue recreation ground and Waring Park. As previously stated, it is worth keeping an eye on such hedgerows which are often cut/removed in the name of tidying up but well worth holding on to for the sparrows if nothing else.

The following report is once again based on the records I receive directly or gather from the London Birders daily sightings page. I am always indebted to the three or four keen birders (they know who they are) who regularly watch the Thames marshes and the report is clearly biased that way as those records far outnumber those I receive from inland sites within the Borough and if it wasn't for Ian Stewart and John Turner they would be even fewer. However, I remain committed to trying to put together as comprehensive a report as I am able and thank all those who do keep me informed of their sightings. Any errors are completely my responsibility and my apologies if I have incorrectly reported any records. Thanks to Mike Robinson for the use of his images.

Birds in Bexley January -June 2014
The early part of the year was dominated by lots of rain and flooded meadows but mostly mild conditions, resulting in much lower numbers of birds visiting garden and winter visitors from the continent. Looking at the duck counts it is interesting to note how important the Crossness (CX) outfall is when comparing many wintering species with Crayford Marshes (CM). Spring migration was slower and more drawn out than previous years and this is again reflected in the number of records reported.

Wildfowl/Wetland Birds:
Little grebe peaked eight at FCM 13th February then seemingly disappeared, 10 seen CX 5th March where they almost certainly bred and a pair were displaying SL 14th March; 1 at DP 31st May and another GL 12th June were late records. Six great crested grebes on Thames at CX on 11th January was highest count, a single at GL on 1st February was unusual. Otherwise recorded at all usual sites with breeding confirmed at SL and DP. Little egret continue to show around the Borough and four over my garden in Horsham Road at 7.40am on 6th May were probably post roost birds and 16 at CM on 22nd June was an unprecedented number.
Up to 12 grey heron nests appeared to be occupied at the Thamesmead heronry and one nest was established at Danson Park.
There were no winter wild swans but mute swans have bred DP, FCM, CM, CX, GL and SL where numbers peaked at 30 on 28th May. Egyptian geese bred once again at DP, SL (seven young) and GL with a lone juvenile at FCM on 24th February and up to three around the now closed Thamesmead golf course in January. There were only two records of dark-bellied Brent geese - one at CM 17th and four flying south on 31st January. A barnacle goose (presumed escape and same bird seen before Christmas) was at Thamesmead Golf course 15th, Hall Place 16th and GL 21st January and 2nd February. Shelduck numbers peak at 120 at CX on 13th February. 20+ remained into the breeding season with one or two pairs breeding at the same site.
Wigeon remained on the Thames until April 12th when the pair that had been hanging out together was last seen. Otherwise the peak count for Thames at CX was 43 on 11th January and eight at CM on 27th January and 29th March. Gadwall continue in impressive numbers especially at the CX outfall with in excess of 100 well into March and a peak count of 310 on 7th February. Numbers had dropped to 30 by 13th April but a few pairs were noted on the reserve throughout with a peak count at CM of 50 on 27th January but usually there were only single figure counts here. Gadwall were much reduced at FCM where only single figure counts were made with a pair last being seen on 6th April, another pair were at GL on 4th April and in DP until 21st May.
Teal numbers fluctuated on the Thames at CX - 400 1st January, 750 6th February, 600 5th March, 355 1st April then rapidly declining during the month with none seen after the 18 on 27th April until two showed up on 5th June rising to nine on 22nd. The peak count for CM was 40+ on 26th February. Two showed well at TRW 9th February and three drakes/two duck appeared on a pool by the River Wansunt, Maiden Lane on 4th March. A drake on 20th January at DP was the only inland record. There was only one pintail record, a male on 19th February at CM. There were no inland shoveler records. Five at CM on 8th and 25 at CX on 22nd January were the highest Thames counts and two at CX 5th April were the last recorded. A female garganey stayed around the CX outfall from 9th to 22nd March and was the only spring record.
Of the diving ducks, 27 tufted duck at FCM on14th January was the highest count though they, along with other ducks, temporarily relocated during the period when the Five Arches were flooded. 12 at CX on 14th May was the highest count there, up to 25 at SL during March and up to six at GL where they probably bred. A pair remained at DP where there were never more than five, until end of May. Pochard remains an elusive species in Bexley. 17 at DP on 21st Jan was an exceptio at SL on 16th January and a male there on 31st March. Most surprising was the arrival of three at CX on 28th April with one staying until 25th May. A common scoter flew along the Thames on 21st April.
Water Rail are becoming more difficult to find with a maximum of four at FCM on 1st January and one seen on four occasions at DP between 15th January-11th March. TRW is becoming a regular site with up to three seen/heard between 25th January - 13th March.

Raptors and Game Birds
Red kites make occasional appearances mostly during migration time with the first seen over YA on 5th April, four in May, one seen over Sidcup Place and Bexley Woods on 4th and another seen twice on 14th over YA. There were another two sightings in June (11th and 25th), one was over CM on 5th and three over Red House Lane, Bexleyheath on 20th June. A male marsh harrier showed on five January days at CM followed on the 25th by a female. There was another female at CM on 12th March and a male there on 5th and 24th June with a single bird at CX 16th May. Common buzzard is an occasional sighting but is now almost certainly breeding in a woodland site on the edge of the Borough with three birds seen on occasions and display seen between two birds. Singles from Veroan Road are the only other records. Sparrowhawks remain the most commonly reported raptor in the Borough but kestrels seem to be present at FCM, CM, CX, The Warren, CW, Crayford Rough and DP. Peregrine are regularly seen over the marshes and GL and have once again successfully bred (with 3 young) in the Borough at the same site as last year. There was a record of a female merlin at CM on January 13th. There were very few records of hobby this year, the 1st of spring being seen over CX on 28th April another at CM on the 29th. Otherwise there were records from each of these sites; one over FCM on 2nd, over SL on 11th , The Drive Bexley on 18th and Veroan Road on 15th May. Two were seen interacting over Iron Mill Lane Crayford on 6th June.
Not many years ago pheasant would have been almost unheard of but in recent years they have seemingly become resident on the marshes (a peak of five at CM on 29th May) with other, sometimes unusual sightings, like the one on Clare Way Bexleyheath on 14th February, one at Kelsey's Farm Bexley on 1st January and at FCM on 29th March.

Waders
Up to 10 Oystercatchers have been seen regularly along the Thames (CX to CM) from mid-February where two pairs bred. There were just two sightings of avocet both from CM, one on 10th January and two on 28th February. Two little ringed plovers turned up at CX on 28th March with four at CM on 16th May. Breeding took place in at least two sites though one nest was known to have been abandoned. Ringed Plover bred at CX raising two young but are not a common wader, with a peak of 10 at CM and 16 at CX in January with a small population of up 18 favouring an area of foreshore near Crabtree Manorway Belvedere. A good flock of golden plover showed well at Crayfordness (CM) during January with a peak of 61 on 5th and a flock of 63 on 11th February after which they weren't seen again. Grey plover is a rare species this far up the Thames so one at CM on 30th January and 25th March and six on 26th February were worthy of note. Lapwing is still mostly a winter visitor with numbers fluctuating between 20-c400 at CX and 4-c600 at CM in January with numbers maintained along the CM foreshore in February peaking at 850 on the 11th but declining towards CX with 200 on 5th being peak - by March numbers had dropped to mostly single figures. Three knot at CM on 6th May and a single sanderling reported on the Crayford foreshore by birders on the Rainham side of the river in May were rare records. Dunlin is another winter visitor with numbers at their highest in January/February. It is always difficult to know how much movement along the Thames there is but on 22nd January c500 were recorded at CX with c880 at CM though between 300-500 at both sites is more usual. Numbers were declining by the first week in March after which just odd birds were seen. A single ruff hung around CM throughout January/February and was last seen on the 28th. There were passage birds during March with three on 15th.
There was just one jack snipe record - a single at CX on 25th January. Snipe are almost as elusive though 10 at CM on 14th February was by far the highest count with two or three being the norm, particularly at CX where the outfall is often the favoured location. There were no inland records or any for woodcock.
Surprisingly few black-tailed godwits were seen with two at CM on 24th January and none again until singles at CM on 2nd and 8th March. A pair of the continental race were seen at CX on 16th May and a small movement of up to three between 9th-12th April at CX. There was just a single bar-tailed godwit seen at CM on 12th January then two on 5th/6th April plus one at CX on 9th, two at CM on 6th and another at CM on 29th April. One was at CX on 7th and possibly three on 8th May between the golf course and the outfall.
Whimbrel is another passage bird. A single was first noted at CM on the 3rd with five on 5th,four on 6th and one on 21st May and a longer staying single between 21st-29th April. Curlew were present throughout January-March, peaking at four at CM on 20th/21st January, one on the Thames by the golf course on three dates in January, eight at CM and seven at CX on 24th February, 10 at CM on 25th March, six at CM on 1st April with two or three at CX/CM until 19th and then just occasional sightings with the last on 19th June at CX. Once again a spotted redshank decided to overwinter on the Thames, usually between Erith Yacht club and Crayford Ness - being seen most days until 16th April. Redshank numbers peaked at Erith pier with c250 on 5th January, 238 at CM on 18th January, 210 on 24th February and c100 on 24th March. Numbers were generally lower at the CX end with a peak of 70 on 1st February and the mid-20's into March. All records come from the foreshore so there no evidence of breeding - a single bird seen at CX 19th June was a probable early autumn migrant. Like the spotted redshank, a greenshank chose to spend most of the winter on the Thames, on this occasion by the outfall at CX being seen regularly until 13th April. There were two passage birds at CM on 3rd, one on the 6th and 21st May.
Green Sandpiper is another wintering wader, mostly seen on the grazing marshes at CX from March - mid-April where up to six were recorded on 17th/18th March and at CM where up to three were recorded from 2nd January to 11th April. Common sandpiper on the other hand is a more unusual winter visitor but one was often present at CM (usually along the River Darent) from 2nd January. A passage bird was at CX (outfall area) from 6th - 19th May. Two were found at DP on 5th May with perhaps one of those still there on the 13th.
Skuas, Gulls, Terns and Auks
There were only two records of Mediterranean gull, four flying east on 19th and one east at CX on 28th April. The same site produced an adult little gull on 1st April. The flooded FCM held 200+ black-headed gulls on 1st January and again on 5th February where numbers peaked at over 300 on 13th. There were over 200 by the CX outfall area on 11th January and the summer numbers began to peak again in June with c250 on 7th, c500 on 13th and 400+ on 21st. Over 100 were present at DP into March but numbers peaked in January with 250+ on 8th. Common gull is either remarkably uncommon or under recorded. There were only occasional records from the marshes of ones and twos though 20+ near Crabtree Manorway suggests perhaps we should look a bit closer. One at FCM on 1st January compared to 27 at DP on the 8th suggests under recording. Yellow-legged gull was recorded along the Thames on most days in January and February but then became scarce. A great black-backed gull ringed in Norway was seen at CX on 10th May. A juvenile Iceland gull was by the CM landfill on 25th January and 2nd February.
Kittiwake made only two appearances along the Thames - a juvenile on 1st and an adult on 13th January.
The only tern to be recorded was common tern with the first two at CX on 5th April peaking at c80 at CM on 6th May with between 10-20 being regularly seen at CX and CM until mid-May and then c40 at CX on 26th June.
Doves to Wagtails
Sadly not a single turtle dove was reported during the spring migration. Cuckoo fared a little better but is another summer visitor seemingly in decline with the first seen at CX on 23rd May staying until 26th (this is the first record here for two years). One was heard near the scout hut in Joyden's Wood on 4th May. Could it be the same one at TRW on the 5th? There was also one at CM on 30th May and18th/19th June. A barn owl was seen on 4th January near the CM landfill site and another was first noted at CX on 5th and 19th March then quite regularly from 3rd May. The regular site for little owl at CM was disturbed during the gales making observations difficult but one or two birds were still being seen there along with another site on CM. Tawny owl is another species probably under recorded. One was heard at FCM on 24th January and BPW on 3rd April. A Short-eared owl was at CM on 4th January.
The first swifts were a little later this year with four at CM on 3rd May with larger movements on 6th (100+ at CM and 40 at CX), 8th (100+ at DP) and 9th (c150 at CX). The marshes proved a good place to watch these birds feeding with between 40-60 on most days in the last week of May and into June. Encouragement is being given to the breeding success of this species with provision of nesting boxes (see www.bexleywildlife.org) but I was pleased to hear of nesting under the eaves of a house in Palm Avenue on 3rd June. Any further records would be much appreciated. Both green and great spotted woodpeckers were recorded in good numbers across the Borough but sadly no lesser spotted.
Skylark numbers appear to be holding up with c20 at CM on 7th and 24 on 27th March with four at CW on 31st March. Breeding took place at CX where up to 12 birds were present in June and display/singing was witnessed at UCF and CW into April. The marshes are also the only place meadow pipits are seen regularly with c40 at CM on 24th February and 15 at CX on 19th January being peak numbers. However none were recorded there after 30th March which suggests it is primarily a winter visitor. However one was singing at UCF on 11th April and the only other site is CW where it was recorded on 14th January and 31st March. Up to four rock pipits were regularly recorded, mostly at CM from January into mid-March but water pipit was much scarcer this year with singles only on three dates at CM and two dates at CX. A single tree pipit was at CX on 9th May. The Broadway pied wagtail roost was hanging on well into March with the last count being 90 on 13th. A white wagtail was at CM on 11th March. A yellow wagtail was seen at CM on 3rd, 5th and 6th May.
The first sand martins trickled through in March, one on 7th, 19th and 20th CM then there were no other records until four at CM on 6th and one at CX on 9th May. There was just one house martin at CM on 16th April then no more until 10 on 3rd May and 8 on 24th June. There were 10 at DP on 8th May while eight were regularly recorded at CM during the last week of May with 12 being highest count on 5th June. The first two swallows flew west over CX on 5th April, followed by one at FCM on the 6th then single figure numbers on 11 further dates in the month. May fared little better with two at FCM on 2nd and single figure counts on 10 days, the only exception being the 6th when 110 at CX and 50+ at CM indicated any real movement. 20+at DP on 8th May was the only significant count from there. A red-rumped swallow over Southmere Lake between 9.45and12.10 on Sunday May 11th was a great find for regular Crossness watcher Richard Bonser. I have received no breeding records for hirundines this year.

Waxwings to Treecreepers
The wren, robin and dunnock populations seem to have done well over the mild winter as demonstrated perhaps by nine, four and 12 respectively at FCM on 28th January, nine wren at the Warren on 3rd April and nine throughout April at DP with 10 there on 31st May. Garden records also reflect this and my own garden has had all three breeding for the first time in 35 years. DP recorded 23 robins on 16th and 23rd April.
A male black redstart was found near the Thames path near CX on 27th March. It was heard singing into April and was still present until at least 17th May. A male whinchat was on the Thamesmead golf course on 23rd April but stayed only one day. A pair of stonechat was present at CX from 2nd January until 24th February with a second female on 22nd January. Up to four were at CM from 1st January to 1st March but seemingly disappeared from both sites during the breeding season although a juvenile was seen at CX on 16th/17th May. The first wheatear, a male, arrived at CM on 20th March. No big "falls" were reported with occasional sightings throughout April/May five being the peak at CX on 8th and 23rd April. A male was observed in Lewis Road Sidcup on 21st April and two at SL 7th May. In line with other winter visitors from mainland Europe, thrushes were much reduced in numbers - fieldfare peaking at 35 CX at the southern marsh on 24th February and 54 at CM on 14th March, with only one sighting of six at DP on 21st February. Similarly with redwing, there were just 25 at Thamesmead golf centre on 22nd, 32 at FCM on 28th January and 16 at CM on 13th February. The last dates for each were two fieldfare at CM on 29th March and four redwing at YA on 4th April. Are song thrushes showing something of a revival? There are more records coming in with five at FCM on 28th January, six at CX on 5th March and three at Grasmere allotments on 5th May. This is just a few examples of widespread records.
Crossness regular Mike Robinson was rewarded on 4th April with a male ring ouzel by the CX viewing ramp - the bird was watched over the next 6 days and was relocated by the Iron Mill warehouse on 12th - the bird spent almost all of its time feeding along the foreshore.
Cetti's Warbler have also benefitted from mild winters, with up to six at CX and eight at CM regularly heard each month and one occasionally at TRW. Summer warblers were generally late in arriving the first dates being in April for sedge warbler two at CX on 9th, reed warbler two at CX on 19th, lesser whitethroat one each CX/CM on 10th, common whitethroat CM on 10th and willow warbler one at CX on 9th April.
Sedge warbler seemed to favour CX but rarely exceeded three birds though later in the season up to six were seen/heard at CM on 19th/20th June while one was at DP on 10th/13th May. Reed warblers were far more numerous with a peak of 30 at CM on 21st May and one was heard singing by the River Shuttle in Hollyoak Park on 13th May. In addition to the marshes lesser whitethroat was also seen/heard at Braeburn Park on 15th April, Sidcup Place on 4th and Thamesmead golf course on 7th May. Common whitethroat was generally more widespread and numerous with 36 at CM on 21st May, two at FCM on 17th, 12 at CX on 27th April and 36 on 21st May. It was also recorded at CW on 31st May and YA on 26th June.
Despite singing birds in April, Willow warbler didn't appear to stay to breed in the Borough - 1 at CX on 9th/13th, one at CM on 10th, one at GL on 11th/14th and one at DP on 13th May being the only records. Blackcap and chiffchaff are now over wintering warblers so it is difficult to judge if early singing birds are those or migrants; both are frequent visitors to gardens/open spaces across the Borough well into the breeding season.
Spotted flycatcher is another species almost certainly lost as a breeding bird in Bexley with only one spring record from FCM on 9th May.
Nuthatch was observed in CW, Lesnes Abbey Woods and Martens Grove in the winter and additionally in the early breeding season at BPW, DP and The Warren. I was very excited to catch up with the treecreeper clearly prospecting a nest site in BPW at end of March. This rare (or under recorded species) was also seen at GL with two on 16th January, at DP on 25th February, at CW on 26th February and 31st March and Bursted Wood on 25th March.Jay - Corn Bunting
Jackdaw continued to be seemingly confined to FCM where 20 on 4th June was the highest number recorded. Additional records came from CW with two on 26th February, GL six on 25th March and 10 at Hall Place on 4th April. Rooks and Ravens were just occasional fly overs usually seen over Sidcup by Ian Stewart, though two ravens were over CM on 28th February and one on 15th,17th and 18th May.
Chaffinch and Goldfinch were continuing to be well recorded but greenfinches were clearly struggling in some areas with fewer being generally recorded though some garden populations seemed to be holding up. Siskin with two at CM and CW on 31st March and brambling with four at FCM on 28th January sightings were very much lower. Lesser redpoll fared little better with just ones and twos from the marshes, two at DP on 15th January, two at CW on 14th January and six over Craybrooke Road on 31st March. A crossbill flew west over CM on 31st January. A male bullfinch was seen at FCM on 8th January and 29th April and a pair on 23rd and 29th March. The marshes remain the best place to see linnet with 12 at CX on 14th May and 20+ on 1st February being the highest counts. Other records include 11 at FCM on 8th January, three at UCF on 5th March, one on Longlands Road recreational ground on 18th March was a most unusual record and four at Braeburn Park on 15th April was the only other record.
Reed buntings were recorded each month from CX (four) and CM (two) plus three at UCF on 5th March. Two or three corn buntings were found only at CM though seven on 4th and 7th January and eight on 10th March were exceptional.
Thanks once again to all who submit their records and I would be delighted to receive more, especially from the fabulous array of local inland parks and open spaces.
Ralph Todd June 2014 rbtodd@btinternet.com