Saturday 6th December 2014
Led and reported by Ralph and Brenda Todd.
On a frosty but sunny morning, a peregrine falcon watched from the Thames Water incinerator chimney as 16 Friends of Crossness, joined by 10 Bexley RSPB members gathered to join us and reserve warden Karen Sutton for what has become an annual winter bird watching walk at this fabulous local reserve. A little grebe made a grab for a fish just below us but soon disappeared into the dyke side vegetation and a one of up to 3 Cetti’s Warbler burst into song every so often but was never seen.
With introductions over and the tide rising we made for the River straight away, having quick glances at chaffinches, blackbird and robin on the way. The sun was behind us and made for some wonderful views for the many teal, mallard, wigeon, gadwall, shoveler and shelduck assembled immediately in front of us. We were soon sorting out the various waders feeding along the muddy edges – a dozen or more redshank, six dunlin (with at least two flocks of 30+ flying up river), two black tailed godwit, a single curlew, 30+ lapwing and 4-5 snipe sleeping in amongst the rocks, so well camouflaged almost impossible to see without a telescope.
Wandering along to the “outfall” more ducks, especially gadwall and shelduck, 100’s of black-headed gulls and a single common sandpiper actively feeding, were seen close by. Some were lucky enough to see the over-wintering greenshank otherwise just a couple of lesser-black backed gulls and cormorants flying to and fro or drying wings concluded this part of the walk – we’d already spent nearly 90 minutes here. The peregrine was showing even better now and the light was superb.
Returning to the marshes, the West Paddock was still partly frozen and with just 3-4 grey herons resting we continued on past the Lagoon Field to the Great Breach Lagoon though not much here either – a couple of tufted ducks, coots and plenty of moorhen feeding on the adjacent grassland.
Whilst Karen explained some of the recent management work and discussions about the pressures on the marshes from current and proposed developments, we had good views of a pair of stonechats and a few reed buntings (male and female) flying around, some goldfinches fed on nearby teasels. At this point we also noticed that the pair of peregrines were now sitting on the chimney giving fantastic views and size comparison – at least until one decided to move out of sight.
By 12 noon hunger pangs were beginning to determine the next move so we made our way back to the Protected area and the hide where Karen had very kindly provided some snacks and drinks. We saw little egret over the West Paddock and a flock of c50 stock doves flying up over the settling beds. One or two grey wagtails flew over, and for just a few there was glimpse of a kingfisher landing briefly on a perch in front of the hide – before no doubt hearing us all chatting it decided to move to a quieter area of the reserve.
With fabulous weather, 39 bird species recorded, loads of interest from those attending and superb refreshments, this once again proved to be a great morning at a lovely reserve. Thanks to Karen for hosting the event and providing said refreshments.
Birds seen: Little Grebe, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Mallard, Teal, Gadwall, Wigeon, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Shelduck, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Snipe, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Greenshank, Dunlin, Lesser-black Backed Gull, Black Headed Gull, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Kingfisher, Skylark, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Wren, Blackbird, Stonechat, Robin, Cetti’s Warbler (heard only), Grey Wagtail, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Reed Bunting.