Stour Valley

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Stour Valley January Sightings 2016

Please send your sightings and any pictures taken within the valley  to Martyn Wilson at 

List to date 100

January 31st

Well what a last day to the month! With Sue Chiddy and Bernie at different parts of the recording area noting some good birds Starting with a Tawny Owl calling for an age near the car park at Stodmarsh from 06.30. Bernie and I watched the Harriers out from behind Tower hide while Chiddy had a Bittern on his approach to Marsh hide. At least 4 Water Rails were very vocal, 1200+ Fieldfares were passing over to feast in the orchards, the first off 11 Marsh Harriers took to the sky and again 5 Hen Harriers left roost with 2 grey males and a 1st winter male. A Little Egret showed briefly but the lake had a poor return with just 6 Gadwall, 1 Pochard, 2 Tufted Duck and 4 Great-crested Grebes plus a few Mallard and Shoveler. The Short-eared Owl was seen well hunting in front of Marsh hide out towards the Oxbow as were 2 of today’s 3 Barn Owls, the third was hunting near Newbons farm. Chiddy picked out an adult Kittiwake flying over the fishing lakes toward Stodmarsh lake and Sue added Water Pipit at Grove. There were 2 Kestrels, 5 Grey Herons, 2 Mistle Thrushes, 12 Siskin, 2 Common Buzzards and 1 each of Green and Great-spotted Woodpeckers. Chiddy, now at Fordwich/Trenleypark noted at least 15 Bullfinches and 8+ Goldcrests plus a single Firecrest plus 2 Lesser-spotted Woodpeckers chasing each other. Also at Fordwich there was a flock of 25+ Lesser Redpolls and with these there was 1 possibly 2 Mealy Redpolls, big brutish birds. Finally at Collard’s the Tundra Bean Goose was still with Greylag Geese (219 of them) and in the Gull roost there were 103 Great Black-backed Gulls, 2 Common Gulls, 267 Herring Gulls, 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (1 adult and 2 juveniles) and Chiddy’s sharp eye pulled out 2 1st winter Caspian Gulls among the roost. On the way out there were 13 Corn Buntings and 5 Yellowhammers by the cow sheds in Stodmarsh village. Oddest thing today was some sort of hybrid Duck in the Alder Wood that was similar in size to a Teal but looked more like a Shoveler but without the spatula bill, pictures below???

Hybrid Duck 31-01-16 b kosHybrid Duck 31-01-16 a kos

Strange ‘small’ Hybrid Duck, Shoveler x Mallard perhaps!!

January 30th

A bit of a damp and windy start this morning with a couple of Water Rails calling in the reed beds, only about 4 Cetti’s Warblers in song and a 250+ Fieldfares heading towards the orchards. A female Sparrowhawk landed on a fence not 15 yards away giving stunning views through the binoculars at 07.15 and at 07.18 the first of 5 Hen Harriers got up with a close ringtail (2 grey males were seen and two more ringtails), 10 Marsh Harriers left roost and 2 barn Owls were hunting in front of Marsh hide. The lake was near on empty with just a pair of Wigeon, 2 Tufted Ducks, 3 Great-crested Grebes and a few Mallard and Shoveler. From the Grove end there were 2 Kestrels, 1 Short-eared Owl, 4 more Tufted Ducks, 12 Gadwall, 220 Teal, 360 Lapwings, 34 Mute Swans, 84 Greylag Geese, 2 Water Pipits and a Green Woodpecker. Chiddy had a Kingfisher from Reed bed hide an the best of the rest as 2 Common Buzzards, 1 Redwing, 2 Skylarks and 4 Mistle Thrushes. The rest of the day was ruined by by some Butlin’s clowns on horseback chasing a defenseless animal with a large pack of dogs!

January 29th

I watched the reserve from the Grove bend this afternoon between 1515 and 1640 hrs. I saw ( Marsh Harriers (4m), 5 Hen harriers (2m and probably at least one of the small ringtails), I Bittern, 2 Little Egrets. Fieldfare nos. up on recent weeks, at least 1000 coming in to roost.

(Richard Collins)

January 24th

On a very windy damp and grey day it was less productive than yesterday and starting at the Grove end meant Harrier numbers were less and no Hens seen at all! A Barn Owl flew across the road at 05.55 and landed on the sign just before the Ash turn off but not countable so far outside the valley. From the Ramp there was 1 Shelduck and a Woodcock flew close past us towards the Paddocks while a Barn Owl flew over the Ramp towards the Boat House. Two or Three Snipe were calling in the dark and the first of only 4 Cetti’s Warblers made themselves heard. Only 7 Marsh Harriers counted out while 57 Mute Swans left in the direction of Chislet. There were 2 Kestrels, 453 Lapwing, a second Barn Owl hunting around the Oxbow, 196 Teal, 11 Tufted Ducks, 17 Gadwall, 2 Water Pipits and 1 Grey Heron. We only managed 2 Stonechats today and 4 Siskins, 1 Water Rail and 1 Little Egret. There were 14 Pochards, 3 Great-crested Grebes, 5 Stock Doves, 4 Bullfinches, and at 11.35 a Barn Owl and a Short-eared Owl in a bit of a Tussle as they both hunted Harrison’s Drove/Oxbow areas. Two Ring-necked Parakeets were near the entrance gate and a Sparrowhawk was gliding over the Pub. Checking all the usual places around the valley I could not locate any Linnets but did manage to see 32 Pied Wagtails at Cow Corner and a Buzzard on a post, 8 Corn Buntings and 7 Yellowhammers (3 males) in Stodmarsh village by the cow sheds and, the Tundra Bean Goose with 233 Greylag Geese in the field beside Collard’s with 2 calling Common Buzzards overhead while a Single Coal Tit and 5 Mistle Thrushes were also noted.

Common Buzzard 24-01-16 b kos Great Black-backed Gull 24-01-16 a kos Tundra Bean Goose 24-01-16 a kos

Common Buzzard con a post at Cow Corner, some of the 113 Great Black-backed Gulls and the Tundra Bean Goose (honestly) sat in the center with Greylags


January 23rd

A very rewarding day in the Valley today with Sue Morton, Dave Sutton and Mark Chidwick. Starting at 06.30 with a Tawny Owl calling very close to the car park. Watching from the Lampen Wall just behind Tower hide we counted 13 Marsh Harriers out of roost an a male Hen Harrier while Chiddy had a Barn Owl and 2 ringtail Hen Harriers from Marsh hide. Two Little Egrets passed overhead and a 3rd was seen at Grove later while 400+ Fieldfares passed though towards the orchards. Not much on the Duck front with just 7 Tufted Duck, 2 Pochards, 7 Gadwall, 120 Shoveler and 2 Great-crested Grebes. In The Alder Wood there was a flock of 20+ Siskins that contained 1 Lesser Redpoll and a Little Owl was at Undertrees Farm. Mark had a very Showy Bittern at Marsh hide and a flyover Great-white Egret, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Peregrine Falcon plus 3 of today’s 7 Stonechats. At the Grove end there were 2 Short-eared Owls, quite possibly 3!, 5 Water Pipits, 1 Common Buzzard, the first Skylark of the year that gave a short snatch of song along Harrison’s Drove while watching the Short-eared Owls, 4 Kestrels, 5+ Bearded Tits, 2 Mistle Thrushes and 2 Ring-necked Parakeets. At Collards lake there were 5 Goldeneye 3 being males and on the adjacent field there was 1 Tundra Bean Goose with 200 Greylag Geese, 123 Great,black-backed Gulls and a flyover Corn Bunting. A male Yellowhammer was in the village by the Cow sheds and a Green Sandpiper was flushed from a dyke as a male Marsh Harrier flew its length and Chris Gibbard had 1 Woodcock out of roost at 17.08 this evening.

Bittern kosCommon Buzzard 23-01-16 ckos Marsh Harrier 23-01-16 b kos Marsh Harrier 23-01-16 d kos

Bittern by Mark Chidwick  plus Common Buzzard and Marsh Harrier

January 21st

I went over to Grove Ferry yesterday afternoon hoping to see Hen Harriers and Owls. Didn’t see any of them but did see a Jack Snipe “bobbing” at the rear of the pool in front of the Feast Hide at around 2 pm. Record shot attached.
(Pete Maton)
Jack Snipe by Pete Maton

January 20th

A Firecrest at the entrance to Grove Ferry was added to the year list by Mark Chidwick this afternoon.

January 19th

This afternoon a Great-white Egret was seen in flight over the Oxbow by Sue Morton and Mark Chidwick. Also toady were a drake Yellowhammer, 3 Short-eared Owls and 2 Barn Owls and the rarest (at present) 2 Snipe were also seen.

January 17th

Toady was WeBS count day so more ducks than raptors, well sort of. Today’s sightings were, 152 Great Black-backed Gulls roosting on the lake at dawn and, although duck numbers were very small, there were 94 Teal, 21 Gadwall, 12 Tufted Duck, 7 Pochard, 1 Little Grebe, 5 Coots, 26 Shoveler, 40 Mallards, 6 Great-crested Grebes, 16 Mute Swans, 18 Moorhens and 2 Canada Geese. Also 5 Water Rails, 5 Cetti’s Warblers, 4 Grey Herons, 1092 Cormorants, Marsh Harriers, 2 Hen Harriers, 1 Sparrowhawk, 500 Fieldfare, 2 Jays and a pair of Bullfinches. After trying and failing to connect with Little Owl since the start of the year and Bernie not seeing one all last year, Bernie finally spotted one at Undertrees  and whilst watching this one another flew past and landed on the barn. Now, we were watching 2 Little Owls.  Other birds today included 9 Greenfinches, 223 Lapwings, 2 Kestrels, 216 Greylag Geese, 3 Reed Buntings, 1 Short-eared Owl, 1 Coal Tit and 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull. Sue Morton also added 8 White-fronted Geese while doing her WeBS count at Westbere while Chris Gibbard had 3 Woodcock at Grove Ferry in the evening. Just outside the boundary the Tundra Bean Goose was again with Greylags by Seaton but this time not viewable from the reserve boundary and the Great-white Egret was also on the north lake at Seaton.

January 16th

With a chilly north westerly breeze we birded from the corner of the Lampen Wall just past Tower hide again which was sufficiently out of the wind to be very pleasant. From here we had 3 Hen Harriers two of them the brown backed males, 1 Bittern, 11 Marsh Harriers, 1 Peregrine Falcon carrying prey and the first of 2 Barn Owls. The Greylag Geese left their Marsh hide roost and flew past and over the lake, just silhouettes as it was too dark to see detail but one bird did look noticeably smaller! A Snipe and a Lapwing were flushed by a Marsh Harrier, this represented only the second Snipe of the year so far. Where have the Snipe gone? The lake was very uneventful with just 6 Pochards, 9 Tufted Ducks, 4 Gadwall and 30 Shoveler although we did manage to locate a single Little Grebe and a single Great-crested Grebe. Not a lot else of note except 1 male Bearded Tit, 1 male Bullfinch, 20 Siskins, 2 Great-spotted Woodpeckers and 4 Kestrels. The Grove Ferry end was almost dead except for 3 Tufted Ducks, 120 Lapwings, 1 male Stonechat and a flyby Little Egret. Leaving the reserve past Seaton the Greylag flock could be seen from the main road (while still in Valley recording area!) and amongst these was a Tundra Bean Goose.

Stonechat 16-01-16 a kos Stonechat 16-01-16 b kos

January 15th

Sue Morton added drake Goosander and Coal Tit to the species list at Fordwich today.

January 11th

There were 6 Canada Geese on Westbere lake this afternoon which is new for the year.

(Sue Morton)

January 10th

On arrival at the car park this morning the heavens opened and birding looked like a non starter but, half an hour of chatting with Bernie and the rain eased an we made our way to the corner of the Lampen Wall just beyond Tower hide (just in case the rain returned) which was also out of the wind. This morning from this point we had 1 Little Egret, 2 Barn Owls, 10 Marsh Harriers, 5 Hen Harriers (2 grey males), 300 Lapwing, 300+ Fieldfare and 250 Greylag Geese. Whilst watching the first grey male Hen Harrier heading out a Bittern flew past over the reeds dropping between the Lampen Wall and Marsh hide. On the lake along with Shoveler, a few Mallard and Gadwall were 29 Pochards, 5 Tufted Ducks and 2 Great-crested Grebes. The first? Chiffchaff of the year was along the board walk before the Alder Wood but no sign of any Siskin today. Sue came in from the Grove end after 08.00 and had Short-eared Owl and Barn Owl behind the Oxbow and 2 Water Pipits on Baillon’s pool plus 20 Siskins in the Alder Wood!! Bernie and I missed earlier. Also today were 3 Stonechats, 3 Water Rails, 5 Cetti’s Warblers, 10 Long-tailed Tits and 1 Little Grebe. The Green Sandpiper was again on the raft at Feast hide and behind the White House there was a single Dark-bellied Brent Goose. The White House also had 2 Ring-necked Parakeets feeding on crab apples in the garden. Sue also had Treecreeper, and 2 Goldcrests at the Alder Wood.

Dark-bellied Brent Goose 10-01-16 a kos Dark-bellied Brent Goose 10-01-16 b kos Dark-bellied Brent Goose 10-01-16 c kos

Dark-bellied Brent Goose at the southern end of Harrison’s Drove behind the White House

January 9th

A Tawny Owl was calling on arrival at 06.30 this morning somewhere near the car park at Stodmarsh. With Sue and Dave birding commenced on the Lampen Wall behind Tower hide out of the wind and early morning rain. Noted today were 5 Water Rails, 6 Cetti’s Warblers, 9+ Marsh Harriers, a Sparrowhawk that nearly hit Dave in the semi darkness before landing on a fence post to recompose after the shock, 4 Hen Harriers including 2 grey males, 1 1st winter male and a female, 3 Barn Owls (almost) together in front of Marsh hide and 1 Peregrine Falcon. The lake was very quiet except for Shoveler with just 10 Tufted Duck, 5 Pochard and 2 Great-crested Grebes. The only 2 Redwing of the year, so far, were seen near the Alder Wood with the Fieldfare flock, while in the Alder Wood were 20 Siskins. Feeding alongside the Alders were 15 Chaffinches with several Blue and Great Tits with 8 Long-tailed Tits seen and 2 Great-spotted Woodpeckers. At the Grove Ferry end there were 190 Lapwings, 2 Ring-necked Parakeets, 4 Stonechats, 4 Stock Doves, a single Water Pipit on Baillon’s pool and the Green Sandpiper still as well as 4 more Tufted Ducks. A Grey Wagtail, 2 Mistle Thrushes and a Jay were near the Grove Ferry public house. In the field beside Collard’s were 159 Great Black-backed Gulls with 2 Common Gulls and a few Herring Gulls but on the lake the only Duck were 30 Tufted Duck, 1 Pochard and 1 brownhead Goldeneye! Back in Stodmarsh Village a little patience was rewarded with 3+ Corn Buntings and 2 Yellowhammers behind the cow sheds and, a Shelduck flew over from Grove by the White House as i was leaving and relocated on the field by the Blue Bridge.

Green Sandpiper 09-01-16 kos

Green Sandpiper on raft at Feast hide

January 8th

The first Green Sandpiper and Bearded Tits of the year were seen by Mark Chidwick at Grove Ferry today plus 8 Water Pipits at Marsh hide.

January 3rd

A couple of hours out this morning and a drive through the surrounding countryside with clear skies and no wind revealed not one calling Tawny Owl despite, stopping at all the usual listening spots! Meeting Dave Sutton at the car we ventured off towards Marsh hide to watch Harriers by the fishing lakes. A Woodcock whizzed past us heading toward the Alder Wood, Fieldfares were streaming past us and the first of 9 Marsh Harriers came across the reed bed. Two male Hen Harriers took their usual path out (no ringtails today) and a Barn Owl flew straight towards us and passed into Undertrees farm. From Marsh hide a second Barn Owl was hunting between the hide and the Oxbow and another birder, Chris Doyle, had seen the Short-eared Owl there before we arrived. Also seen were 3 Stonechats, 3 Kestrels, 1 Peregrine Falcon, 1 Kingfisher, 1 Little Egret and 90 Lapwings. On the lake, as the rain started, there were 6 Common Gulls with 54 Black-headed Gulls, 62 Pochards, 3 Tufted Ducks, 1 Great-crested Grebe and 5 Wigeon. The field adjacent to the car park once again held 250+ Greylag Geese. While walking her dog Sue had 6 Little Egrets at Westbere at Cow Corner and a Common Gull on the lake.

January 2nd

Birding today with Sue and Bernie produced 1 Barn Owl, 5 Marsh Harriers, 2 Hen Harriers (1 male) 350 Fieldfare, 3 Cetti’s Warblers, 1 Short-eared Owl, 230 Lapwings, 3 Kestrels and a drake Goldeneye was on Collard’s. At 08.40 a flock of 38 Pink-footed Geese flew high over the Marsh hide out to the east calling as they went. There were 8 Stock Doves, 4 Stonechats, 8 Tufted Ducks, 26 Mute Swans, a brief Bittern near the Ramp, 2 Ring-necked Parakeets overhead and 2 Water Pipits on Baillon’s Pool. On the lake were 7 Wigeon, 48 Pochards (34 males) and 6 Great-crested Grebes while the Alders near the Reed bed hide path held 18 Siskins. There were 250 plus Greylag Geese in the field adjacent to the car park and a Mistle Thrush was on wires at Collard’s and 2 Common Buzzards were stood in a field.

January 1st

This morning was very different than of late as it was much as winter should be with 0 degrees temperature and frost on the cars. There was no wind and it became a sunny day. Less of a species count today, more a count of species as is the norm on January 1st. A total of 67 species seen with highlights being 3 Hen Harriers (only 1 male) and 1 Short-eared Owl with a supporting cast of 300 Fieldfare, 9 Marsh Harriers, 5 Little Egrets, 4 Cetti’s Warblers, 4 Goldcrests, 2 Stonechats and a Sparrowhawk. Added to the list were Chiddy having Barn Owl, Snipe, 2 Water Pipits, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Kingfisher. Andy Appleton adding Corn Bunting and Lesser Redpoll and Norman McCanch seeing Siskin and Little Owl. A full list of the species seen today in the link above.