Old Lodge NR, Ashdown Forest, East Sussex ... 20th May 2011

Three and a quarter very enjoyable hours spent at Old Lodge Nature Reserve produced a few decent birds.

The White Park Cattle on the reserve are very approachable.

Nine Common Redstarts, including five males, were spread around the reserve but proved elusive to digiscope, never keeping still for more than a few seconds.

Quite a few warblers were about with at least six Chiffchaffs, six Willow Warblers and five Common Whitethroats making their presence known.

Only three Tree Pipits seemed to be on the reserve, one of them causing me to look twice as it fed on the ground. Its behaviour and stance seemed very un-Tree Pipit like, but I am sure that is what it was.

As we descended the slope to Keeches Bridge, Sue noticed two RAVENS flying just above the tree line and a bit further on we found three WOODLARKS hiding in the grass. A Cuckoo was heard calling during our entire circuit of the reserve, but never came close enough to see.

Four Common Buzzards were in the air together, one drifted off to the west whilst the others indulged in display flight. The only other raptor noted was a male Kestrel over the MOD land.

Five Stonechats around the reserve gave plenty of photo opportunities.

Other birds noted included a Nuthatch, a Great Spotted Woodpecker feeding young at a nest hole in a dead tree, one Green Woodpecker, just one Lesser Redpoll, several Coal Tits, one Skylark and three male Pheasants. Several Goldcrests were singing but remained out of sight.

Graham & Sue James

Arlington Reservoir & Old Lodge NR, East Sussex and Felbridge, Surrey

Sue and I arrived at Arlington Reservoir mid-morning and it wasn’t long before Sue heard a Turtle Dove purring in scrub a few hundred yards from the car park. We heard another bird purring not far from the bird hide but neither gave themselves up for viewing. The same area produced a Lesser Whitethroat rattling out its song from deep cover.

Heading out towards Arlington Church and along the path that runs parallel to the River Cuckmere, several Swallows were hawking over the grass but not much else was present. As we passed the sewage works and approach the road, I noticed a dragonfly land in the grass. I realised it was not one that I had seen before, so took a couple of photos. I believe that it was a Scarce Chaser, but I am sure someone will put me right if I have got the ID wrong.

(Have heard since from Dr. Patrick Roper that my ID was correct and from Penny Green of the Sussex Dragonfly Society, who confirmed this as the eighth record of this species at Arlington Reservoir.)

Heading on round the reservoir and towards the car park we heard a Reed and several Sedge Warblers singing from the reedbed but, as with most of the birds today at Arlington, they were keeping their heads down in the stiff south-westerly wind. Other birds we did note on our circular route included 16 Chiffchaffs, 3 Willow Warblers, 7 Common Whitehroats, 2 Blackcaps, c20 Rooks, 12 Swallows, 2 House Martins, 3 Bullfinches, 2 Pheasants, a female Kestrel and a couple of Linnets.

The darkening cloud cover made us decide to head on to Old Lodge NR on the Ashdown Forest, a wise decision as a heavy downpour occurred five minutes into our drive.

Arriving at Old Lodge at 1.40 p.m. we soon picked out two Tree Pipits in song and a photographer alerted us to two Hobbies in the boggy valley.

Three males and a female Common Redstarts were seen in a small area at the top of the valley to Keeches Brook and two Common Buzzards were in the same area.

We didn’t venture further as my joints were playing up and so retraced our steps back towards the car park. As we approached the area where we had previously seen the Hobbies, one bird flew from the telegraph wires and off into the distance.
Two Ravens passed low overhead calling with that distinct deep ‘cronk’ and presumably one these birds passed us again at the top of the valley. Two Kestrels circled overhead as we approached the car park but, apart from a few Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, a couple of Pheasants, a Common Whitethroat and a Goldcrest, not much else of note was seen.


A report of two Spotted Flycatchers at Felbridge, at the same site they frequented last year, meant a visit was in order.
Both birds were on show and I managed to get a video clip of one of them.


Dungeness ... Thursday 5th May 2011

I started the day with a very productive seawatch from 6.20 a.m. to 9.30 a.m. at Dungeness Point.
The highlights were 15 POMARINE SKUAS (13 pale- and two dark-phased), a dark-phased Arctic Skua, two summer-plumaged BLACK-THROATED DIVERS, two Black Terns, 200+ Common Terns, an Arctic Tern, four Sandwich Terns, 14 Little Terns, four Little Gulls, 18 Kittiwakes, 25+ Gannets, 12 Whimbrel, a Guillemot, three Razorbills, 88 Common Scoters, four Swallows and two geese that were too distant to identify.


I then moved to the Old Lighthouse and the area around the observatory where just a single Wheatear and at least 10 Common Whitethroats were on show.


On to the fishing boats where I soon picked out the long-staying second-year GLAUCOUS GULL and another two summer-plumaged BLACK-THROATED DIVERS passed over the sea. Six Great Crested Grebes and another distant unidentified goose were the best of the rest.


I then drove round to Dengemarsh in the hope of seeing the Purple Heron, but it didn’t appear whilst I was there. I did see a pair of Marsh Harriers and heard a BITTERN booming and there were also four Sedge Warblers on show.


Another short drive and I was at the ARC Pit where a pair of Marsh Harriers, three Greenshanks, at least four Sedge Warblers, a Little Ringed Plover, three Ringed Plovers and 15 Bar-tailed Godwits were present.

I finished the day at the RSPB reserve where two Hobbies were putting on a aerial spectacular and many Common Whitethroats, Sedge Warblers, Reed Warblers and five Cetti’s Warbler were singing. Three Common Terns were seen and a BITTERN was heard booming from the ramp at Hookers Pit.


Holmethorpe Sand Pits ... April 2011

April got off to a good start with two Red Kite sightings, a Peregrine and a Little Egret on the 1st.


The Little Egret remain on the 2nd, when a first-summer male Wheatear appeared at The Moors NR.


The Wheatear and Little Egret were still around on the morning of the 3rd and the first Common Sandpiper of the year dropped in. On the same morning, Gordon Hay saw a Tawny Owl being mobbed by Blackbirds and eventually flushed from bushes on the edge of the Holmethorpe recording area and Richard Bartlett saw a Peregrine flying north over Nutfield Ridge.
Matt Farmer found a drake Red-crested Pochard at the Water Colour Lagoons on the morning of the 4th and Paul and I were surprised by a Curlew that flew from a pool at Nutfield Ridge later the same morning. The Little Egret put in another appearance and Gordon found a White Wagtail at Mercers Farm in the afternoon, also another Common Sandpiper was at Mercers West Pit.
The 5th turned up a Peregrine, the Little Egret, a male Wheatear and, best of all, a female or immature BLACK REDSTART was found by Gordon in the late afternoon along the hedge between Mercers Country Park and Mercers Farm.
The Black Redstart remained throughout the 6th and Matt Farmer relocated the White Wagtail at Mercers Farm. Yet again, the Little Egret appeared at The Moors NR. A big count of 12 Willow Warblers passing through – we are lucky these days if more than a couple of pairs stay to breed – and two Green Sandpipers were the best of the rest.


It was fairly quiet until the 9th when Gordon located a male RING OUZEL at the horse paddocks at Mercers Farm and also had a fly-over Yellow Wagtail. Unfortunately, the Ring Ouzel didn’t hang around long enough for any of the other local birders to add it to their year lists. The only other notable bird was a Red Kite heading south-west at 6.40 a.m.
The 10th produced a male Wheatear at The Moors NR and Des Ball had two Yellow Wagtails at the sewage works.
A Sedge Warbler was at the reedbed at Spynes Mere on the 11th and Neil Randon located a male Wheatear in the early afternoon. Later on, Richard Bartlett heard the first local Cuckoo of the year at Nutfield Ridge.


The 12th was pretty uneventful, except for a Red Kite low over Mercers Farm at 7.55 a.m.


The 13th saw the first Reed Warbler for the year at Holmethorpe and four Wheatears were noted.


On the 14th, three Wheatears were at Mercers Farm and I had the strange sight of a Barnacle Goose with two small Canada Geese at Spynes Mere, photos were taken and, after close inspection, it appeared that the ‘Lesser’ Canadas were in fact Canada x Barnacle hybrids and even the Barnacle Goose didn’t look quite right – all fairly obvious escapes.


The 15th saw me find a local scarcity – a Red-legged Partridge at Mercers Farm. It is surprising that we don’t see more of them as they are present in good numbers at South Nutfield, only a couple of miles away. Paul found the first Lesser Whitethroat for the year and five Wheatears were at the farm. In the evening he spotted two Little Egrets heading south-west.


Three Wheatears were present on the morning of the 16th, the number rising to five by the evening. In the afternoon, Gordon rang me with the news that he had just had a glimpse of a Common Redstart at the edge of The Moors. I joined him but, despite a long wait for the bird to reappear, it failed to do so.
The 17th proved a red-letter day for my wife Sue and I when we decided to have a stroll around the perimeter path of The Moors NR in the afternoon. Sue has the ability to pick out scarce birds that I often miss and, on this occasion, commented that the crow she had just seen flying off looked massive. I soon got onto it and it began ‘cronking’ as it disappeared into the distance. The first RAVEN for Holmethorpe! The following day, I received an email from Tom Cahalane to say he had spotted the Raven between Redhill and Reigate not long after we had seen it. Earlier on the 17th, Gordon Hay and Ian Kehl had seen a Red Kite drifting north-west and two Wheatears had been present at Mercers Farm.
The 18th proved almost as good as the previous day, when I had a ringtail HEN HARRIER fly from the direction of Mercers Lake and then head north over South Merstham – only the third site record. Two Wheatears were at Mercers Farm on the same date.
On the 19th, I saw a Peregrine take a Woodpigeon at Nutfield Ridge.
The 20th produced a summer-plumaged Dunlin at Mercers West Pit and the first local Garden Warbler for the year. Matt Farmer had a Peregrine fly over the M23 and over Spynes Mere on his way to work in the morning and Gordon Hay logged the first two Hobbies of the year locally.
The 21st proved yet another red-letter day with Paul and I finding a TURTLE DOVE at Spynes Mere in the morning. Unfortunately, it didn’t stay long enough for other birders to locate it. The first local Common Tern appeared at Mercers Lake on the same day.



Two Greenshanks appeared at Mercers West Pit on the 22nd and a Curlew flew over later in the morning. Also, a Peregrine was over the landfill site. In the evening, Gordon saw a Cuckoo in flight.


The 24th saw Gordon logging the first local Swift for the year and he also found a Ringed Plover on Spynes Mere sandspit.
The 25th was our annual Holmethorpe Bird Race day. This year, I couldn’t attend due to other commitments and, unfortunately, it turned out to be a non-event with only Gordon Hay, Ian Kehl and David ‘Devil Birder’ Campbell from Canons Farm at Banstead turning up. Normally, the bird race turns up a few special birds but this time only a couple of Hobbies and a Red Kite (seen by David) were really notable.


The 26th produced another Little Egret.
The 27th had my head spinning as I had another TURTLE DOVE fly overhead heading north-north-east at Spynes Mere at 7.33 a.m.
Not much else of note was reported during the last few days of the month.
April out of the way and my favourite birding month ahead.