Great Crested Grebe

These articles are written for the CR6 magazine and reproduced here with the permission of the author, Brian Hobley (01883 625404). If you would like to reproduce them in your magazine, it would be courteous to ask him. 

A mixed group of the East Surrey and the East Grinstead RSPB groups went on the annual coach trip to the famous East Coast wetland reserve at Minsmer,e Suffolk on Sunday 12th May.
It was a glorious sunny day with fair weather cumulous and a breeze from the NW. Highlights included our best ever views of bitterns both flying close by or feeding directly below us as we looked on only feet away from the reedbed hides - a truly magical experience for all. The reserve has a host of other iconic species which were all seen very well including the magnificent and beautifully plumaged marsh harriers, hobby , avocets, water rail and bearded tit.
Another unforgettable experience was watching the superbly plumaged adult dartford warblers feeding their young at the bottom of a gorse bush on the beach - a first for many of the group. One member reported a sighting of the rare little bunting and it will be interesting if the site staff manage to relocate the bird to confirm its identity. For some senior members however, they reflected on the huge drop in numbers of birds, both woodland (no nightingales were seen or heard) and swallows and martins were only a fraction of their former numbers, indicative of this was having only a single sighting of a swift and that at Godstone on departure!
Nevertheless a great day, and good to finish off with a lovely cream tea in the Reserve's excellent cafe..
. (Photos are on our Gallery page)

The weather has not been very helpful to the incoming summer migrants - swallows and sand martins are just trickling - on 15th of April I saw my 1st local Swallow on the 13th. Two ring ouzels locally were the local highlight and about three weeks late!
A field trip to Rye Harbour on the 14th produced a few more swallows, a few sand martins, the first wheatear of the year, a white wagtail (the continental race of pied wagtail), sandwich terns, Med gulls, avocets, ringed and grey plovers - very quiet.
Going round to the back of Dungeness RSPB reserve we found a common crane and 2 cattle egrets - both birds which have come back to breed recently with the help of climate change. Going back through Camber we found a glossy ibis at the end of the golf driving range.

This month has been extremely quiet most certainly because March roared in like a lion - hopefully it will go out like a lamb. We have been busy doing other things: on  Wednesday 20th Feb we went to Knights Nursery to promote National Bird Box Week, and on Saturday 9th March we were at Warlingham Hobbies Event where it was good to meet you!
Brian Thomas braved the inclement weather on 20th March to walk round our local patch where he saw a flock of approximately 800 pigeons 70/20/10%  of wood pigeons, stock doves and feral pigeons, plus 120-strong flock of passerines (perching birds) mainly linnets and chaffinches.
On 17th our local group had a trip to Rainham Marshes RSPB reserve in Essex where they saw a barn owl, lots of winter ducks and waders including spotted redshank and ruff. Summer migrants should be arriving about now but are few and far between due to the strong northerly winds.
Some of you may have read the news that Natural England, the department supposed to protect our wildlife, has issued licences to kill 17,0000 protected species of birds, from cormorants to robins!
“The government’s conservation watchdog has issued licences to destroy 170,000 wild birds, eggs and nests, including rare and declining species such as curlews and swifts, in the past five years.
Natural England has given permission to kill birds of more than 70 species, or have their nests and eggs destroyed. These include peregrine falcons, barn owls, buzzards and red kites, alongside garden favourites such as robins, blackbirds and blue tits. A licence was even issued to destroy a wrens’ nest to “preserve public safety” in South Yorkshire.”
The Guardian, February 2019

There have been some good birds locally. A glaucous gull an Arctic breeding bird) and another northern speciality, a black throated diver - both at Mercer's Park Lake, Redhill. The diver was the first record at the site since 1983 and they are a particularly rare visitor to inland waters.
At Bough Beech Reservoir, Kent,Ifound goosanders and two barn owls. A field trip to a National Nature Reserve on Sheppey produced high numbers of knot, grey plover, lapwing and a good variety of wildfowl. Returning back to Functon Creek, which I wrote about last month, gave good views of an assortment of waders, marsh harrier, buzzards, a male sparrow hawk, 2 rough-legged buzzards and a raven. Keep looking and feeding!

Don't forget the BIG GARDEN BIRD WATCH: 26th 28th of January!
January 2019 is the 35th year since East Surrey RSPB local group was formed, with myself as the last remaining member of the original committee still involved. To celebrate, three of us decided to go to Functon Creek in North Kent to start off the New year and look for the ROUGH LEGGED BUZZARD that had been reported - an Arctic species that has not been in the area for about 5 years.
As well as a distant view of the R.L.buzzard we saw good numbers of common buzzard, marsh harriers, a single hen harrier and a very confiding kestrel on the way home a male merlin flew over the car. Other highlights were a flock of a 1000+ Golden Plover wheeling round in a tight ball to escape a bird of prey with the sun on them golden backs contrasting with white undersides a magical sight.
300+avocets, 100+ knot, lapwing, redshanks, curlew. Good numbers of ducks: pintail in the 100's, wigeon, teal, shelduck and Brent geese.
A very good day despite the strong wind which seemed to have a chill factor of about -5! Back for the evening talk with cake and a glass of wine to celebrate!