Trip reports

Bexley Bird Report - January - June 2015

Monday, 24 August 2015

Bexley Bird Report - January - June 2015
Key to some of most frequently mentioned sites - BP = Braeburn Park, 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, HP - Hall Place, LAW = Lesnes Abbey Woods, MG = Martens Grove, SL = Southmere Lake, SP = Sidcup Place, TRW = Thames Road Wetland - Barnes Cray, UCF = Upper College Farm, YA = York Avenue.

Once again I am indebted to everyone who sends records to me directly or reports to but I would like to note special thanks to those who regularly supply me with written, emailed or texted records: John Archer, Steve Carter, Phil Cliffe, Stephen Gatley, Mike Robinson, Chris Rose, Ian Stewart and John Turner. As I think I've said before, the report is only as detailed and comprehensive as the records received allow - it is not exhaustive or intended to cover every species. Of course I do hear anecdotally or second hand some very interesting records but cannot include them if full details aren't known which is a great shame so I would encourage you to please either report to GiGL, BTO BirdTrack or directly to me via text 07947 855054 or email Any errors are completely my responsibility and my apologies if I have missed or incorrectly reported any records or not mentioned you by name.

Late last year and early this (until about March) a few of us received phone calls reporting the Council contractors seemed to be having a blitz on vegetation - wiping out complete areas of scrub much of which was used by roosting and breeding birds in addition to other wildlife. Of course there isn't much we can do after the events but enquiries did elicit such responses as "the contractors are using funds while they have them - there might be none left with budget cuts" - questionable but typical of the ignorance of the importance of such areas for wildlife. It would be useful to know in advance of any areas that are important for roosting/breeding birds and through facebook page a list is being compiled with the intention to let the Council know in advance of such important places. Of course that doesn't guarantee protection but proactivity is better than complaining afterwards. We would welcome news of any such places.

Wildfowl and Wetland Birds
There are usually 3-4 great crested grebes feeding off CX outfall with 1 or 2 off CM. Best places to watch them are DP and SL where pairs bred. One was seen GL on 1st January. Little grebe can be difficult to find in the breeding season but they did breed CX and DP. They are mostly recorded as winter visitors - 12 FCM 5th January, 14 DP 2nd February (an extraordinary count by group member Peter Kite) and 8 CM 1st January.
Gadwall are found along the Thames and inland water bodies and can be seen all months. Peak counts were January - 106 CX 1st January, 13 FCM 5th, and 20 CM 18th February.
Pochard is another uncommon duck being mostly a winter visitor. Found mainly at CX where 3 pairs on the 14th April looked promising and breeding was confirmed at this site. Other records were 2 DP on 1st January and 8th February and 4 SL 3rd April.
The last significant count of teal was of c150 from CX on 24th April. Some ducks (like some waders) clearly prefer different stretches of the Thames and for teal it is CX where peak counts of 500 during February weren't unusual with 735 on 7th January being the highest whereas counts never exceeded 100 at CM. One at DP 1st January was only record away from the marshes.
Shoveler favour the Thames foreshore at CX over CM with the majority of records and highest counts coming from CX with peak of 85 on 23rd January. There were 5 records from CM mostly of 2 or 3 birds apart from 10 on 7th January. 13 were at DP on the 1st January with the last record of 7 on 11th February. There was a female at FCM on 1st January and another at GL on the same day until the 3rd.
Wintering wigeon hung on until 10th April, 2 CM and 3 CX with peak numbers at each site being 20 CM 5th and 43 CX 7th January and 18th March respectively.
Whilst a sea-duck common scoter occasionally find themselves well up the Thames - this year being no exception with 4 male/1 female off CM on 24th March followed by 2 pairs on 3rd April.
Mute Swans bred at FCM. DP, Howbury Moat CM and CX but if it is numbers you want to see then SL is the place - peaking at 58 on 19th June.
Egyptian Geese continued to thrive at SL, DP and GL with occasional sightings at CX/CM.
Coots are common around most bodies of water and in winter show in impressive numbers - January counts of 172 DP 1st, 260 SL 9th, 25 FCM 18th.
Grey heron can be seen all year round and the small heronry in Thamesmead is thriving. At least 8 occupied nests seen on 5th May.
Little egrets are now established as resident in the Borough with most records coming from the marshes and rivers Cray and Shuttle. Seeing 2 together is not uncommon. 5 at CM on 11th March. 4 FCM on 22nd May could be an optimistic sign for future breeding in Bexley?

Raptors, Owls and Gamebirds
Buzzards continue their expansion across the south east and this is reflected in frequency and numbers seen in Bexley. 32 sightings during this period, mostly singles over CX/CM/YA/BP and FCM. 7 (4 and 3) over YA on 2nd April was exceptional and were probably migrating birds as were 4 over Morrisons Sidcup on 1st. 4 over CX on the 6th and 3 over Veroan Road Bexleyheath on the 8th. 1 over DP on 22nd January whilst counting parakeets was a bonus.
Despite their apparent regular occurrence always worth checking out common buzzaards as Stephen Gatley did on 27th April at FCM to be rewarded with a passing honey buzzard.
First red kite of the year was BPW 11th January followed by 12 other records from CX, FCM, YA, Harland Avenue Sidcup, Bexleyheath, and CM.
Hobby seemed less numerous this year - the first being seen over CX 6th April, 2 over CW on 26th and 3 CM 21st May only suggestion of pairs. Otherwise there were flyovers from YA, Lewis Road Sidcup and Horsham Road Bexleyheath.
Kestrel remains a relatively uncommon raptor in Bexley but breeding took place at CM, CX, FCM (2 pairs) otherwise only occasional sightings from BP, BPW, GL, the Warren and Churchfield Wood.
Peregrine remains a constant feature of the Thames marshes skyline with 3 recorded from CX 11th January and 2 commonly seen CM and CX. They are also seen often around Sidcup area almost certainly due to the pair that bred nearby (probably 2 young).
Marsh harriers seen every month at CX or CM with 2 at both sites 6th , 7th April - a mixture of adults and immature birds.
A single barn owl was seen hunting over CM on 27th February and 17th March and 1 seen at CX on 6th June though no breeding confirmed at this time.
A little owl was seen sitting on a lamp post in Maidstone Road Sidcup on 19th May otherwise the only other records were from the traditional site at CM.
Our intrepid cycling birder is often about early hours of the morning and is the only person seeing/hearing tawny owls with records from such diverse places as FCM (an adult and 2 juveniles on 30th June), The Drive Sidcup, YA, Lansdowne Road and Tarling Close (1 perched on road sign).
Pheasant is another uncommon bird certainly away from the marshes where 3 at CX is the peak seen so an adult male at FCM 22nd April was unusual.
Quail is rarely seen so the 1 almost tripped over by Tim Wilkinson on 9th July at CX was a great sighting.

A single avocet was seen on 2 dates in January (5th and 21st) at CM and 2 at CX on the 6th/7th April.
Oystercatcher is never seen in large numbers but was totally absent in January then odd ones and twos seen throughout the period, with max 5 CX 8th March, 4 CX 21st/24th April, 5 CM 18th June.
Bar-tailed godwit is an unusual visitor this far up the Thames. Only records being of 1 at CM and CX on 3rd May and another at CM on the 12th - possibly the same bird?
By contrast black-tailed godwit was regularly seen, particularly between CX, Crabtree Manorway Belvedere and Corinthian Manorway Erith. Highest count was c250 around the Erith foreshore on 5th January and 195 CX 26th January. By the end of February through March numbers were generally down to single figures except 14th-21st March when 18-21 hung around CX. Last seen were 2 at CX on 17th April.
All lapwing records came unsurprisingly from the Thames Marshes peaking CM c1000 7th and CX 370 both on 7th January - by first week of March numbers had generally declined to single figures with the "autumn" passage resuming end of May (30th) CX with 3 birds and CM 20 on 18th June.
Dunlin were around in reasonable numbers until 20th March, 40 at CX. Ttides make a considerable difference to counts of these small waders - peak counts for CM c500 7th January and CX 600 23rd, and c500 21st February - most high counts during February/March (c300 1st and 10th) come from CX. With the exception of 34 CM 28th April numbers dropped to between 1 and 4 with none after 12th May.
Little ringed plovers arrived at CX 7th and CM 8th April and pair seen with young on 27th June.
Ringed plovers aren't that common but the best place to see them regularly is along the foreshore at Belvedere. Upto 18 (4th January) recorded. Otherwise 4 dates CM, 15 on 7th January and 3 dates CX 15 15th January being peaks.
Golden plover found only on the Thames foreshore at CM with 5 records in January, max 60 on the 1st and 1 March record of 7 on 28th.
Grey plover is even harder to find with only 1 record of 1 bird at Crayfordness on 21st January.
There are 2 records of ruff with 2 birds CM 19th March and a single (possibly 1 of earlier birds) on 28th.
A greenshank over wintered at CX from 1st January to 30th April with 2 on the river Darent CM on 28th April.
2 sandpipers now regularly over-winter with CX and CM hosting at least 1 common sandpiper from the beginning of the year through to 12th May after when none were recorded until 2 returned to CM on 6th July. A single green sandpiper was seen at CX and CM during January/February with 2 at CX on 10th and 2 CM 19th March, 7 at CM on 8th April was the highest count with the last being seen at CX on 16th April.
Redshank are present along the foreshore throughout but by mid-April numbers have declined to single figures. Peak counts for CX and CM were c100 15th January 101 11th March respectively. C180 on 8th January along the foreshore at Erith was the highest count. The regular wintering spotted redshank was last seen CM 17th April - we await to see if it returns this autumn?
Curlews were present along the Thames until 25th April, 1 at CX highest counts were 8 CX 11th January and 7 CM 6th March.
Whimbrel is a passage migrant. First seen CM 17th April (peak 8 on 3rd May) and CX 3rd May - 1 was heard flying over YA 0200 hrs on 3rd July (an early autumn migrant).
Snipe is best seen in winter at CX when numbers are usually higher with 15 on the foreshore 26th January, but by mid-March down to single sightings with last seen at CX on 26th April. There were only 4 records from CM with max 4 on 27th February. The only other sightings were 2 records of a single bird at TRW 1st and 10th April.
There was just 1 record of jack snipe - along the Darent River CM on 17th March.
Woodcock aren't generally seen unless disturbed so 1 sighting at BP on 24th January and 2 CM (along Landfill/River Darent path) on 17th March were notable.

Skuas, Gulls, Terns and Auks
Black-headed gulls are ever present but highest counts are always in winter. 494 DP on 1st January and c1000 CX foreshore on 29th. A number (usually less than 100) of juveniles hung around on the Thames foreshore during spring/early summer with often only single figures at DP.
Only 2 records of Mediterranean gull - Thames foreshore at Belvedere 22nd February and CM 15th April.
Common gull is generally anything but common being mostly a winter visitor. A peak of c100 on 3rd February DP, next highest flock was 20 Sidcup Place on 11th January. Unlike most gulls common gull is mostly found inland but there are always a few to be found along the Thames foreshore. With the exception of DP by early spring that's where the odd 4-5 were found with most of these disappearing by 1st April. The first returning birds of early autumn return to the Thames - 1 at CX on 4th July.
Large gulls (perhaps all gulls) don't generate too much excitement amongst the majority of birdwatchers but a closer look at herring gulls can turn up surprises. At DP 49 were seen on 1st January, 20 at CX on 14th and 5 FCM 16th March, 42 were on the adjacent football pitches on the 3rd May. Look more carefully and you might find some of the rarer large gulls, such as a single Yellow-legged gull at DP on 1st January and 6 Loring Hall/Playing fields FCM on 1st April. Otherwise 1 or 2 from CM and 4 CX were seen 2nd January. Numbers of this species tend to peak in August.
Only 2 records of Caspian gull, both in February, 1 off Thamesmead golf centre CX on 1st and another Corinthian Manorway on the 9th.
Common tern arrived on 10th April, just 1 CM, 40 CX on 12th April peaking at c100 CX on 25th. A few hung around into May with numbers picking up again on 18th June -12 CM and 10 CX 22nd June.
The earliest and only Arctic tern records were of 1 at CX on 16th April followed by 2 more on the 25th. No Sandwich or little tern records.

Doves - Wagtails
I happen to think the stock dove is one of the under-rated birds in the Borough and possibly under recorded but it is good to know they are doing well and fairly widely distributed. 70 Coldblow fields 27th March, c60 CX 19th January, up to 10 regularly at DP, 9 FCM 6th April and occasional records from MG, Bursted Woods, UCF, LAW, GL, BP and Churchfield Wood.
Turtle doves are in real trouble as has been well documented - an over-wintering young bird in a garden near JW (just outside the Borough boundary) was worth recording. The householders watched over many weeks as the bird attained full adult plumage. It fed with up to 30 collared doves and was last seen in March. Beyond that, just 1 record of a single bird flying low over the old ammunition works CM on 3rd June.
Kingfisher at FCM throughout period and seen regularly along the Shuttle and occasionally at DP (2 dates in January, 1 in April), similarly GL (3 dates January/2 in March). Sightings from CM and CX are mostly in January-March.
The first cuckoo was heard in LAW on 15th April, perhaps the same bird at CX on 17th and 25th? A good record was 1 at DP on 3rd May otherwise there was just 1 other recorded at CM 16th May - 4th June.
As documented elsewhere DP has now become a permanent roosting site for ring-necked parakeets with 2107 counted by a small team on 22nd January being the highest number.
Meadow pipits are rarely seen away from the marshes and only record for this period was of at least 10 at FCM on 1st April.
Rock pipit is a winter visitor to the Thames foreshore. No more than 2 ever seen mostly at CX/Erith foreshore and singles at CM where the last was seen on 6th March. Only 3 records of water pipit 2 CM on 28th March, 1 17th April and 1 CX 9th April.
Skylarks are still found at CM, mostly over the landfill site. Peak of 6 on 24th/28th March and 21st May. 4 at CX 23rd February, away from the marshes, 1 at CW 4th April and UCF with 2 singing males on 30th May.
Grey wagtail regularly seen at BPW, CM, CX, DP, FCM (3 on 11th June), Hall Place (HP) and along the River Shuttle. I wasn't able to do many counts of the pied wagtail roost in Bexleyheath Market Square this winter but 132 on 18th January was the highest number. Otherwise 12 at CX 25th March and 30 CM 2nd May were of note. Yellow wagtails generally pass through in April. 1 CM 10th and 17th and 2 CX 26th. A white wagtail was at Howbury Farm/CM on 28th April.
Swifts, another species of conservation concern - struggling as a breeding species in Bexley, any records would be very welcome. First arrivals were a single at CX on 26th April with the first sizeable flock of 20 Barnehurst railway station 4th May. The largest group whistling through the air were c100 at CX on 7th May.
First swallows of spring were on 1st April at DP and FCM, highest count being 20 CX 21st May.
House martins have been under much scrutiny this year and subject of articles in the Bexley RSPB Group newsletters ( the first (single) seen flying north over CM on 17th April with the highest count being 12 over Five Arches FCM on 9th May. The only confirmed breeding site reported - Shearwood Cresent Barnehurst though up to 8 collecting mud around Howbury Moat was encouraging but the colony couldn't be located.
Sand martins don't have the history of breeding in Bexley that house martins do so are seen mostly as an early migrant, however sightings for this species is also declining. The first (8) seen at CX on 6th April with odd 2's or 3's on 4 other dates, 5 on 24th, Five Arches at FCM had visits from the odd one on 3rd and 4th May otherwise only other record was of 3 and 2 at CM on 4th and 7th May - perhaps we should be as worried for both martins.

Waxwing - Treecreepers
Winter thrushes were thin on the ground this year. Very few records of fieldfare, a flock of 30 around CM, on 7th January and 44 3rd/4th March and another of 40 at CW 7th March were only significant counts. Otherwise just 2's and 3's with a maximum 7 across the Borough at DP, CX, CM and SL. The last was a flock of 20 at CW 26th March. Redwings were a little more numerous - significant counts were mostly in January, 15 CM 21st, 20 JW 23rd, 30 GL 13th, 20 Upper Bedon Stream (Upper Belvedere) 4th March and 48 DP on 20th March, last 3 seen FCM 26th March (same relatively early date as fieldfare - different observers and probably reflects the mild early spring). Ring ouzels cause excitement so 2 together at CM on 15th April was a great treat, a female hung around on 16th and 17th and another male on 28th.
A few more records of treecreeper this half year - 12 in fact - with most coming from FCM where up to 2 were recorded, also seen CW/JW(4 on 23rd January) and bred BWP.
The first wheatear of the spring was 9th April at CX southern marsh otherwise some unusual locations being UCF on 10th and Longlands Road Recreation ground 24th April. None were seen on the marshes after the single at CM on 21st May.
Robin doesn't usually get a mention but another species seemingly doing very well with a peak of 30 at DP on 10th and 15th April and 10 Bursted Woods 21st May.
Stonechat is a winter visitor found mostly along the Marshes. 4 CM 7th January and 6th March, last here on 3rd March. Max.of 5 at CX 19th January, last here, 23rd February The only other records, 1 female FCM 5th March and 1 UCF 1st January and 2nd February.
Whinchat records were scarce but did provide one of the biggest surprises of the period: regular DP watcher John Turner found what must be one of the earliest spring records, 10 March, also possibly first for DP - it remained until at least 12th. Otherwise a single from CM 15th April, 3 CX 26th and 1 TRW 9th May.
A winter flock of 6 bearded tits were seen in the reed-bed near Erith Yacht club on 21st January.
Only record of black redstart near the Jolly Farmer, Thames Road, Crayford on 11th April.
Both green and great spotted woodpeckers are widespread and seen in most suitable habitats. FCM, DP, GL, LAW, BPW unsurprisingly were the best locations for both.
Sadly only 1 record of spotted flycatcher - found near the Information Centre FCM on evening of 24th April but not relocated the next day despite much searching.
Garden warblers are often difficult to see which may explain only 5 records, 3 single birds from FCM 14th May and 9th/19th June, another UCF 30th May and a family of 4 CM 3rd June.
Blackcaps were over-wintering in a number of private gardens in addition to FCM and Thamesmead Golf Course with the first notable influx of spring migrants at FCM on 6th April when 5 were seen rising to 8 on the 10th , 10 from the 15th to 27th when 12 were seen, peaking at 19 on 3rd/4th May. Elsewhere there were good numbers across the borough including BP, LAW, DP, GL, Bursted Woods and the marshes. On 16th June c30 were seen at FCM including many juveniles.
Common whitethroat seems to have recovered from its decline a few decades ago and is seen across the borough in suitable habitat. The first was reported CX 14th April, 5 CM and 1 FCM 15th. Highest count was 26 CM on 7th May. First lesser whitethroat recorded BP 22nd April and CX 24th. Away from CX/CM only other records were FCM 14th June, UCF 6th July and Veroan Rd 1st May.
Like blackcap, chiffchaff has also established itself as an overwintering species with CX (up to 4 in January) and FCM (2) being the strongholds (in the absence of any garden records). 3 at FCM on 16th March and probably reflected early summer visitors as 7 were then seen on the 26th and 10 on 6th April. The Siberian Chiffchaff found by Ian Stewart around Christmas remained an attraction into the New Year being seeing mostly on the islands within Five Arches Lake until 26th March. There were only 2 records of willow warbler, 1 each at King George Park Sidcup 14th and FCM 15th April.
First reed warbler recorded CM on 15th April and the first at CX on 20th, highest counts of this breeding warbler were18 CM 7th May and 8 CX 21st. Away from the marshes 2 at DP was an unusual record. Sedge warbler are always less common than reed warbler and most records come from CX - first arrived 10th April and apart from 4 on17th and 2 on 4th June there were only sightings of singles. There were just 5 records of single birds from CM between 28th April and 18th June. A single grasshopper warbler was reeling away near Erith Yacht Club CM on 15th April. Cetti's warbler is now an established resident along the Thames Marshes. There were 5 at CX and 3 CM during January-March. They bred at both sites with up to 8 being recorded CX 21st April, 6 CM 4th May. Outside those sites there were only singles at TRW (2 10th April), Thamesmead Golf course and Corinthian Manorway.
A firecrest at FCM (North Cray Wood) 1st January was seen only once; another was at Dene Wood (Lamorbey) on 12th/13th February. Goldcrest, unlike firecrest, is a resident and quite widely distributed. FCM and GL are probably best places to see them. Peak of 10 at FCM 4th March. 8 GL 3rd January. A flock of 20 JW on 23rd January was an exceptional count. There were 2 at DP throughout along with odd records from gardens.
Coal tit is another fairly scarce species with BPW, DP, FCM and GL seemingly being the strongholds. The majority of records were of single birds in January/February then of odd pairs in April (FCM and DP), none in May and just 1 GL in June (4th).

Jay - Corn Bunting
Nuthatch is often difficult to see as it feeds in the tree tops but the call is a give-away. It does however seem to be one of those species doing rather well being recorded regularly from DP, FCM, CW, GL and occasionally from Waring Park, BPW, JW and HP.
Jackdaw seems to be spreading from traditional sites, with the odd 1 now being seen along the Thames marshes. Flock of c100 seen feeding at Coldblow field of stubble, 23rd March and 20 at UCF 30th May and 35 FCM 1st April. There were 5 records of raven, all from CM where 2 were seen together on 5th and 6th March. A pair was also regularly seen at RSPB Rainham Marshes - possibly same 2 birds? 5 records of rook, 4 from CM - 3 birds flying south on 9th February being highest count from there and 1 record from CX - 3 birds flying north west on 8th March.
Starling is another species with mixed fortunes and it would be good to know where these birds roost. c250 (21st May) seen around Howbury Moat CM, with another c200 around Perry Street Farm/Stoneham Park. Otherwise highest counts were all in May 33 Bursted Woods 21st and 70 DP 5th, 60 CX 15th.
Cycling birdwatcher, Ian Stewart, discovered a new area in late winter, Coldblow Field, an area of stubble surrounded by hedges. He was surprised and delighted to find 3 bramblings (a male and 2 female) there on 26th March. 1 remained until 4th April.
Bullfinch is a rather elusive species in Bexley with FCM being the prime site where a maximum of 5 were seen on 5th January though a pair is more likely and a family of 4 were seen here on the 8th July. Other locations for occasional sightings are BP, UCF, JW and CW.
A flock of 30 linnets were around CX throughout January possibly part of same flock of c50 at SL on 15th. Also 33 CM 19th March.
Lesser Redpolls once a common winter visitor (with siskins) in riverside alders. This winter only 4 records, all January, from a garden and Landsdowne Road Sidcup - 4 on 11th, and JW 15 on 23rd and 14 on 31st.
Possibly the biggest shock writing this report there was only 1 record of siskin - just 1 bird in JW 23rd January. Have they deserted garden feeders and the alders/silver birches along the rivers?
Chaffinch may be an under recorded species. A winter flock of up to 40 at CX throughout January was unsurprising but away from the marshes only other sites appear to be DP, max 6 10th April, Martens Grove 3 8th January, 1 Hall Place 11th January, 3 LAW 25th April, 1 The Warren 27th April.
Goldfinch seems to be doing well across the borough. They were seen in most key sites and also gardens - in March in a Veroan Road garden flock of 15 on 17th, 14 at CX on the 16th and 12 FCM 9th, 11 DP 1st January and 16 Crayford rough the 11th.
Greenfinches have suffered decreases in recent years, borne out by lack of records from gardens but in other suitable open areas they appear to be doing well. c10 seen at CM 24th March with nesting in evidence, max of 4 CX throughout April, again breeding suspected, 7 DP on 20th March with 6 on 23rd June including 4 juveniles. 10 were seen in YA garden 12th March, HP and LAW also had up to 4 during that month.
A single reed bunting at UCF on 21st February was only sighting away from CX (max 6 on 5th January) and CM (max 4 on 6th March).
Corn bunting now seems restricted to just CM and the landfill in particular - maximum of 3 seen.
Ralph Todd
August 2015