Beachy Head, Arlington Reservoir & Old Lodge NR, East Sussex ... 19th April 2011

I started the day at Beachy Head and parked at the lay-by at Shooter's Bottom. The gully itself was full of Common Whitethroats, at least 12 birds but, apart from that, there were just 2 Wheatears and 2 Meadow Pipits on show.

I continued on to the cliff edge and had a rewarding seawatch from 6.40 a.m. - 8.00 a.m.
I logged 14 Fulmars, 245 Common Scoters, 8 VELVET SCOTERS and 6 Gannets.

Heading on to Belle Tout Wood, near Birling Gap, only a Chiffchaff and 2 male Stonechats appeared and so I headed for the Old Trapping Area, where a PEREGRINE was perched on the cliff near the lighthouse, 3 Swallows were seen plus another male Stonechat and a Rook.

I then drove to Arlington Reservoir, arriving at 12.40 p.m. To begin with it was quiet, with just 3 Swallows to entertain but, at 2.30 p.m., an OSPREY flew over the reservoir and then gained extreme height, circling on a thermal. I left at 2.40 p.m. and headed on for the Ashdown Forest.

Arriving at Old Lodge NR at 3.15 p.m., I did two circuits of this picturesque reserve and noted 2 male Common Redstarts, 2 Stonechats, a Cuckoo, a Tree Pipit, 2 Lesser Redpolls, 3 Willow Warblers, 2 Chiffchaffs and 2 Common Whitethroats.

Unfortunately, no Dartford Warblers were heard or seen but, at 7.10 p.m., a RAVEN flew over, which made a good end to an enjoyable and productive day's birding. I headed for home at 7.30 p.m.


Old Lodge NR, Ashdown Forest, East Sussex ... 10th April 2011

A visit to Old Lodge Nature Reserve on the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex today proved well worth the effort. On arriving at the car park we were greeted with two singing WILLOW WARBLERS and counted eleven birds singing around the reserve. Only nine CHIFFCHAFFS were seen and heard but, surprisingly, no other warbler species were noted.

Two pairs of STONECHATS were present and two male COMMON REDSTARTS were a welcomed sight. Many CHAFFINCHES, COAL TITS and several GOLDFINCHES and LINNETS were scattered around the reserve and three male PHEASANTS were heard.


We hadn’t been long at the reserve when we heard a distant CUCKOO and eventually it appeared at the top of a dead tree some distance away. A TREE PIPIT was singing from high in a conifer but was the only one seen.


A WOODLARK was calling from the MOD land to the west of Old Lodge and it took some time to spot it in the scrub, also, several LESSER REDPOLLS buzzed away overhead and a LAPWING flew high to the west. One SKYLARK was also in song-flight over the MOD land.


The deep cronking call of a RAVEN had us looking skywards and soon we spotted one mobbing a COMMON BUZZARD. There was not much difference in size between the two species and the Raven continued to mob the raptor until it very high and drifting south.


The only other notable incident was a hearing a LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER calling at the eastern side of the reserve. We had been told by a couple at the start of our walk that one had been seen on the reserve this morning but, despite our best efforts, we failed to see the bird.

A LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER was calling from this stand of pines.

Disappointingly, we failed to locate any Dartford Warblers, although a few have been seen on the forest since the cold snap ended.

Several of these magnificent beasts (I think they may be White Park Cattle) are now on the reserve.

Sue & Graham James

Oare Marshes NR, North Kent ... 2nd April 2011

Paul made a visit to Oare Marshes NR in North Kent and managed to add 20 species to his year’s tally.

Highlights included two SPOTTED REDSHANKS (photos below), a LITTLE STINT and a SANDWICH TERN. Also a CORN BUNTING and a MERLIN were seen on Sheppey.

Holmethorpe SPs, Surrey …Feb 23rd - 31st Mar 2011

A DUNLIN was present at Spynes Mere on the 23rd Feb and the run of good waders continued when a CURLEW put in an appearance at Mercers West Pit on the 28th Feb.

A drake RED-CRESTED POCHARD of unknown origin dropped in on the 5th Mar and a PEREGRINE flew over Holmethorpe on the 6th Mar. Twenty-two WAXWINGS at The Moors NR on the 7th was a pleasant surprise and three JACK SNIPE and the first CHIFFCHAFF of the year appeared on the 8th Mar.

The 9th was a good day when a RED KITE drifted north over Holmethorpe and a first-winter WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE was present with Greylags near Spynes Mere. A MEDITERRANEAN GULL was also found on Mercers Lake on the 9th, another first for the year locally. The WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE remained on the 10th before departing. On the same date, two JACK SNIPE were seen in flight.

The 11th produced a TAWNY OWL calling near Nutfield Ridge and the 13th saw nine WAXWINGS fly over and another sighting of two JACK SNIPE. A REDSHANK flew from a misty Water Colour Lagoon 1 on the 16th and headed west calling loudly. The drake RED-CRESTED POCHARD was seen again on the 17th when four LITTLE EGRETS were seen, although up to three egrets were present throughout the period. Two DUNLIN dropped in at Spynes Mere on the 18th and a RED KITE and a pair of PEREGRINES were seen on the 19th. The first SAND MARTINS of the year, five birds, were seen on the 20th, when another PEREGRINE put in an appearance.

Excitement on the 21st when Holmethorpe’s second site record of HEN HARRIER, a ringtail, flew north. A PEREGRINE, a male BRAMBLING and the first pair of BLACKCAPS appeared on the 22nd and the following day the first LITTLE RINGED PLOVER of the year dropped in. Two male RED-CRESTED POCHARDS were present on the 24th along with another two BRAMBLINGS. The first SWALLOW and WILLOW WARBLER of the year were seen on the 25th and a RED KITE and the year’s first local HOUSE MARTIN appeared on the 27th.

More excitement was provided on the 29th when two AVOCETS spent the day at Mercers West Pit. The same date provided the first local SEDGE WARBLER of 2011.

April holds the promise of more spring migrants and, hopefully, a spring overshoot will put in an appearance at Holmethorpe Sand Pits.