News archive

June 2019

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Cuckoo perched in tree

Neighbourhood Birdwatch - Saturday 10th May 1997

Simon Harris and I met up with Ian Wiltshire in Shirley and heard a Tawny Owl calling at 04:10. As 3 of our team of 4 were present that counted as the first species. In fact Ian had been hearing 2 calling just before we picked him up, although he had been questioned by the police as he was hanging around in the street! 10 minutes later we joined up with David Malins and our now complete team entered Selsdon Wood to the accompaniment of singing Song Thrush and Blackbird. Shortly afterwards Robin went on the list and we all heard another Tawny Owl. Canada Goose was heard flying over. Then at 04:40 Cuckoo went on the list. After picking up on a few more common species we ended our stay here with Marsh Tit at 05:13, making 17 species so far. 4 more species were added as we made our way to South Norwood CP. We arrived there at 05:57 and were greeted by a singing Blackcap. We were soon finding the wetland birds including Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Reed Bunting and Heron as well as Kestrel, Whitethroat, Stock Dove and Linnet. At 06:23 our first hirundine was a Sand Martin followed a quarter of an hour later by a Swallow. A Garden Warbler at 06:59 was an unexpected bonus. The first wader was a Common Sandpiper at 07:26 and a briefly seen wagtail warranted being followed up. This turned out to be a Blue-headed Wagtail; totally unexpected and the best bird of the day. Heading back towards the entrance we had a flock of Swifts and several House Martins before finding a Grey Wagtail as we were getting into the car at 08:13.
We had intended to stop at South Norwood Lake next, but the gates were still locked so we went up to Beaulieu Heights Wood adding a few common woodland birds before returning to the Lake for Great Crested Grebe and Lesser Whitethroat, although the hoped for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker failed to appear. Waddon Ponds produced the expected breeding Mute Swans and Little Grebes.
Then at 10:40 we went off piste at Beddington SF. Most of the species added here are unlikely to be found these days purely within Croydon's boundaries. Lapwing, Shelduck, Tree Sparrow, Redshank and Teal do not normally occur in Croydon at this time of year and Ruddy Duck has effectively been exterminated in the UK. Greenshank and Hobby are possibilities, but depend on a bit of luck. By the time we got to Beddington Park we had our lunch in pouring rain. Although we added Mistle Thrush and Chaffinch here, these could also be expected in Croydon. We had originally intended to head down towards Titsey next, but the weather dictated a change of plans and we stopped at Riddlesdown instead. We had Skylark at Beddington SF, but put them on the Croydon list at Riddlesdown where we had the expected Jackdaws, Willow Warbler and Yellowhammer. (Willow Warbler is now only a migrant in Croydon and Yellowhammers no longer occur at Riddlesdown). We then went over to Coulsdon Common. No new species were added here, but we spent time appreciating the antics of nesting Treecreepers (and giving Simon, our driver, a chance to rest for a while).
And so on to Lloyd Park where we had intelligence to add a special bird to our list. At 18:08 we were watching a pair of Ring-necked Parakeets at their nest!!! Addington Hills again failed to produce any new species and we ended the day back where we had started at Selsdon Woods with a Bullfinch at 19:16 and finally a pair of Nuthatches visiting a nest at 19:37.
We ended up with a total of 73 species for the day, having failed to see a Sparrowhawk. The final comment in my log for that day was 'Would we do it again? - Probably.' And do it again we have, although never with the same combination of people. Over the past few years I have gone out with Simon several times and we hold the current record of 69 species in a day sticking entirely to the borough of Croydon. Some of the species we had in 1997 are unlikely to turn up these days, but on the other hand we no longer have to stake out the parakeets and other species such as Peregrine, Buzzard and Red Kite are now all potential species to go on the list.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Venue change for November midweek outing

Fuller details for the November midweek outing will be announced nearer the time on our website, but for now please note that instead of visiting Cliffe Pools we will now be going to the Wetland Centre at Barnes. Our leader for the day will be Gill Flinn.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Praying for a Dry Day's Big Day

Praying for a Dry Day's Big Day

I was up at 03.00 and ready for Simon to pick me up around 03.45. As I was getting my bits into Simon's car at 03.55 we could hear a robin singing. Nothing special, but at least we had started the day's list. A brief stop at Sanderstead Pond failed to bring a repeat of last year's Heron, but Canada goose and mallard gave a running total of 3 species before 04.00.
King's Wood was the first proper stop and the sky was just beginning to lighten as we quickly added blackbird, woodpigeon, carrion crow and song thrush. A badger running away continued our run of finding this species here. The first (of at least 5) goldcrests singing was added at 04.29 and blackcap soon after. But, as ever, we were beginning to worry that tawny owl would evade us this year when one called at 04.40. We wandered around the various rides searching for more species, including several singing treecreepers. Just after 05.00 we could hear a buzzard-like mewing in a treetop. My scepticism was justified when two jays emerged and the mewing stopped! Shortly after this we were listening to a garden warbler singing its cotton socks off. Eventually we located another of our target species here with a marsh tit singing. A detour to try to find a coal tit led to us finding what turned out to be our only nuthatch of the day feeding on the ground. At 05.42 we had a surprise flyover swift before finally coming across a coal tit. Checking the adjacent sports field on our way out added a mistle thrush, a couple of collared doves and a mixed flock of 16+ stock doves, feral pigeons and a woodpigeon. Jackdaw and goldfinch by the entrance gave us a running total of 33 species by 06.10, with all the hoped-for woodland species in the bag.
From King's Wood we headed off to Riddlesdown, picking up another 3 species on the way. The weather had taken a turn for the worse with heavy mist making it cold and damp as we arrived. Despite that we managed to find some of the specialities with skylark, meadow pipit, whitethroat and linnet in quick succession. Luckily the mist cleared quite quickly and we decided to extend our route, working on information received, and picked up on bullfinch and lesser whitethroat near Tandridge Gardens. We left around 08.00 with the total now 46 species after 4 hours in the field.
Moorhens on Bradmore Green Pond kept things ticking before we reached Farthing Downs, where we had our breakfast. After eating, the first new species was a yellowhammer singing at 09.22 (we later heard two at the same time) and then heard a little owl calling at 09.35, thus adding a new species to the list of birds recorded during the Big Garden Bird Watch over the years. Although not new for the day, linnets, lesser whitethroat, a family of coal tits and several swifts were nonetheless good finds. At 10.07 we located two pairs of buzzard flying around in the far distance, with a fifth added a little later. On our way back to the car lesser black-backed gull and kestrel flew through taking the new total to 52 species.
It was time to do some urban birding as we reached New Addington with a couple of specific targets in mind. house sparrows were not one of those targets, but this must be one of the best parts of Croydon to find them, especially at this time of year as they take food back to nests in roof spaces. Our first target also nests on houses, but house martins are declining and we were fortunate to eventually find one flying around near Fieldway at 11.24. The other target entailed going to the Vulcan Way industrial area, but sadly this year we failed to find a single rook despite intensive searching. We did, however, add pied wagtail to the day's tally at 12.12. Over 8 hours gone and we had amassed 54 species (beating the highest count so far this year recorded by another team).
A detour to Hutchinson's Bank was unproductive and now it was time to head north. Lloyd Park had been put onto our list of sites because a red-legged partridge had been seen there in recent days; but it didn't perform for us. We were on our way back to the car when our only swallow of the day obligingly flew over at 14.03.
Larger water bodies hadn't featured high at sites visited so far, so Millers Pond gave us some easy additions to the list with Egyptian goose, coot (with young) and tufted duck. The hybrid Canada goose x greylag doesn't count as a species and there were no mandarins this year.
Our next stop was intended to be South Norwood Country Park, but parking on Elmers End Road was impossible and we went to South Norwood Lake first. That was probably a good move as, while 'scoping around the Upper Norwood mast and looking at high flying swifts, we chanced upon a distant red kite heading into the distance. And the nesting great crested grebes went on our list soon afterwards; our 60th species of the day.
We went back to the country park, using the car park there, and headed to the lake. Yet more Egyptian geese, this time with a youngster, were seen before we found mute swan, little grebe, singing reed warblers and, at last, a grey heron. But we couldn't find the reed bunting. It was now 17.30 and we had recorded 64 species, equalling our lowest score in this event and with more sites to cover.
Waddon Ponds was to have been our guaranteed site for little grebe, so we were glad to have found one earlier as they were a no-show at Waddon today! By way of compensation we did add a greylag for the day and could admire the mute swan family rather than considering them as just another species on the day list. It was now after 18.00 and all hopes of achieving the mythical 70 species in Croydon in a day had long gone. There was, however, time for one last species when we walked to Wandle Park and had a grey wagtail perched on a rock in the river.
At 19.00 we called it a day. We had visited at least 14 sites during the day and recorded a creditable 66 species, especially as nothing was really on the move. Maybe next year we will make 70!
John Birkett