The first Swallow of the year in Bexley was seen over Thames Road Wetland at 17.47 yesterday (March 23rd), flying west low over the site as I happened to look up whilst taking some general panoramic photos. British Swallows winter in South Africa and this is one of the first seen in London this spring. The London Bird Club wiki is currently reporting one each at the London Wetland Centre and Walthamstow Reservoirs today, 4 birds at 3 sites (other than TRW) yesterday and 1 on March 20th.
Only seven minutes earlier I had noticed a raptor above the sewer bank horizon line, working hard to gain height over by the easternmost pylon on Stanham Farm, possibly having come off the deck on the farm itself. I had a prolonged view as it did so, and then slowly flap – glided off north towards the marshes. The head profile, long narrowish tail and wings held in a shallow ‘V’ during the glide phase marked it out as a Marsh Harrier.
At lunchtime I had met up with Joe Johnson (‘BW’ species spotlight author) at the Cray River-keeper’s yard after some work in the boat getting otherwise unreachable litter out of the water. This was his first visit to the lower Cray and Wetland site. During our tour round we saw a Snipe, 3 Grey Heron overhead, 2 Teal, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, several Ring-necked Parakeets and a Fox, but unfortunately he had left by the time the above-mentioned highlights put in an appearance. We also looked at the rare plants at the site and discussed the possibility of mammal trapping and trying to get video of Harvest Mice.
I heard my first ever Cetti’s Warbler on the Footpath 106 section of the Cray prior to the river work. It was in vegetation between the Cray and the east end of the industrial estate, pretty much opposite the River-keeper’s yard actually. Later there was one near Maiden Lane, one on Stanham Farm just south of the Sewer Bank and, for the first time, two in the bowl of TRW proper. So in my opinion there are at least 4 calling birds established downstream of Maiden Lane (on the Cray/Stanham Farm/TRW), and now one some way upstream of Maiden Lane near Barnes Cray Road.