Trip reports

Oxey Marsh and Pennington

Oxey Marsh and Pennington
Chris Robinson

Thursday, 13 September 2018

A good turnout of 19 people met at Maiden Lane on a sunny morning for our planned field trip around Oxey Marsh. Some interesting birds, including a spotted crake, had been spotted recently on Butts Lagoon, which we sometimes reach from Oxey if the group moves quickly. The group therefore quickly agreed that rather than taking the usual route around Oxey Marsh, we would take a quicker route to Butts and return on the sea-wall. Behind Salterns Sailing Club, we stopped for a mixed flock of small birds that included great tit, nuthatch and willow warbler. While looking at a collared dove on a telegraph pole, a flock of long-tailed tits moved through. On Lower Woodside, we stopped at a gate to view a large group of curlew in a field but were unable to spot any yellow wagtail around the cattle. A little further on a robin was in full song from with a conifer and a kestrel was seen.

A couple of distant curlew raised some interest for a while on the thought that they might be whimbrel on passage, but the conclusion was that they were curlew. Stopping at the sharp bend in Lower Pennington Lane, there were several lapwings in the field, a probable greenfinch sitting on a tussock, a few busy meadow pipits and a flock of linnets. Stopping on higher ground just through the gate by the car park, we were able to look back towards the new pond where great crested grebe and Canada geese were swimming. On the bank, there was a small group of barnacle geese and a very large flock of coot. Whitethroat could be heard singing in bushes near-by and from further away along the "ancient highway". A sparrowhawk disturbed some wood pigeon from trees along the side of the lake, then drifted right across the water. Looking up, a hobby shot up through a flock of swallows and house martins occasionally giving chase to one, before gaining height and pushing the hirundine flock even higher. We were able to watch the hobby for several minutes. Just when things were calming down, the sparrowhawk returned with its iconic flap-flap-glide approach before catching a thermal and circling slowly upwards to where the swallows had been.

Dragging ourselves away to continue towards Butts, we stopped to check a herd of cows in the field on the west of the path. This time, we were rewarded with a flock of yellow wagtails feeding around the hooves and muzzles of the cattle. A Cetti's warbler gave a blast of song from the gorse bushes and a Dartford warbler was briefly spotted. A little further on we were able to see over Fishtail Lagoon where black-tailed godwits were probing in the shallows, a group of ringed plover were active on the mud and several mallard and gulls were swimming around.

The water level on Butts Lagoon was very low and there were a number of "twitchers" gathered for a sighting of the spotted crake. Several redshanks were active in the shallow water and a couple of common sandpipers flew past. A peregrine falcon was sitting out on a concrete structure behind us, a grey heron was on the saltmarsh and out to sea there were cormorants and singles of eider and common scoter. Although the crake and water rail had been seen shortly before we arrived, they did not appear while we were there and time was beginning to press. Walking along the sea-wall flock of oystercatcher, dunlin and ringed plovers flew west over the sea. On the next lagoon, there were teal, snipe, godwits and redshanks. Just past the "jetty", a group of turnstones were sitting out on the old iron-work and a single goldfinch flew along the bank.

On the lagoon side there were some juvenile black-headed gull and a wader reclined on a muddy bank caught our attention. From the unusual posture, it was difficult to identify the bird at first, but when it moved the orange legs identified it as another redshank. Before it moved, features like its striped tail had caught our attention, something you might not notice when a redshank is in a more usual position. A single knot was also seen quite close to the path. A group of around 15 eider ducks were on the sea just beyond a sand-bar and another kestrel flew past.

As time was getting on, we took a short cut across the marsh to Moses dock and back past Salterns boating lake, where several little grebe were feeding. Although we dipped on the star bird, it was a thoroughly absorbing walk on a beautiful day.

Species list:
mute swan, Canada goose, barnacle goose, shelduck, teal, mallard, eider, common scoter, cormorant, little egret, grey heron, little grebe, great crested grebe, sparrowhawk, buzzard, kestrel, hobby, peregrine falcon, moorhen, coot, oystercatcher, ringed plover, lapwing, knot, dunlin, snipe, black-tailed godwit, curlew, common sandpiper, redshank, turnstone, black-headed gull, herring gull, wood pigeon, collared dove, magpie, jay, carrion crow, raven, blue tit, great tit, swallow, house martin, Cetti's warbler (H), long-tailed tit, willow warbler, whitethroat, Dartford warbler, nuthatch, starling, blackbird, robin, yellow wagtail, pied wagtail, meadow pipit, greenfinch, goldfinch, linnet, wheatear

Also: red admiral, common blue, small white, black-tailed skimmer and common darter