Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds

Monday, 3 December 2018

All the ings

The last few days have delivered an enjoyable mix of ‘ings’, with a smörgåsbord of patching, twitching, searching and gulling. On Friday good fortune meant I had a couple of hours free in the morning and the forecast was on my side too, with blue skies that make all the difference at this time of year. With a Shag up the road at Stoke Lake – a county tick in waiting – I decided to check out The Ridge from pre-dawn and wait on news.

Woodpigeons, The Ridge, 30/11/2018.

I wanted to see if the winter finch and bunting flock had improved at all (it hadn’t), but was interrupted by a pretty unexpected movement of Woodpigeons. I suppose the gentle westerly and clear sky could have foretold this but it was the last day of November after all, and vis-mig wasn’t on my radar. Anyway, in an hour from 07:30 I enjoyed 2,020 birds thundering east, including several flocks of 100+ birds. A nice surprise, as though autumn, having gone out a while ago, had to pop back quickly because it had forgotten its wallet … a Brambling, two typically entertaining Ravens and a healthy number of winter thrushes made for a short and sweet session.

A message from Steve –  finder of the Stoke Lake Shag – came just in time to make the excursion to Guildford and back before work beckoned. Abel and I made good time and it didn’t take long to find the juvenile bird on the west side of the lake, rather aimlessly swimming around. It showed nicely in the morning sun, before moving over to the reed-fringed east side to feed. We also logged a Kingfisher and a vocal Chiffchaff on what was my first visit to the site in over four years.

Shag, Stoke Lake, 30/11/2018.

The bird was a Surrey first for me, and it seems to be one of those winter species that is far rarer these days. Indeed, in Wheatley’s 2007 Birds of Surrey tome he considers Shag: “far less common that Cormorant, though a few are seen in most years”. This isn’t the case now – the last Surrey record was at Longside Lake, near Thorpe, from 4-9 January 2014, found by Kevin D. Indeed, in this part of the county they are almost a bit mega: Stoke boasts four previous records (three from its 1990s glory years), but in Waverley there have been as few as seven birds, the most recent of which was at Unstead Sewage Farm in October 1996.

Shag, Stoke Lake, 30/11/2018.
Shag, Stoke Lake, 30/11/2018.

As it happened, the Shag was my 200th bird in Surrey. This is a satisfying haul, particularly as I only casually county list. The notion of Surrey listing really appeals, however, but sadly it seems I'm a generation or two late for being part of any serious county competition. Unfortunately, there are only remnants of what was – at least seemingly – a thriving and competitive Surrey scene that continued until perhaps a decade or so ago.

I guess the reasons for this are multiple, and probably merit a blog post in themselves. In short, the departure of a key Surrey listing figure, no access to key sites (Walton and Beddington) and the devaluation of county context (perhaps triggered by the excitement of birding further afield that social media/instant news constantly refreshes) are probably key, along with debated Surrey boundaries and a stark lack of young birders in the county (as far as I can tell less than five under the age of 30). Perhaps I’m overthinking it though.

Great Northern Diver, Frensham Great Pond, 1/12/2018.

Saturday’s forecast looked rancid, so I planned to quickly check the patch water bodies for my own blown-inland-seabird, then head to Sussex for some gulling. As it happened, news broke late afternoon on Friday of a probable Black-throated Diver at Frensham Great Pond. Another rare opportunity to add to my Surrey list without going far, so after a whizz through Thorncombe Street it was off to the southwest of the county.

Great Northern Diver, Frensham Great Pond, 1/12/2018.

Parking at the hotel I spotted a birder with his scope locked onto something. It turned out this was Kevin D – aforementioned Longside Lake Shag finder – and he had the distant diver in his scope. I got onto the bird and we both swiftly agreed it looked like a Great Northern Diver. I headed to the main car park for better views, and indeed a bumpy forehead, heavy bill and well-marked scaling on the upperparts confirmed it was a juvenile of this species.

In pretty grim weather the bird floated close to the beach, allowing really fantastic views and photograph opportunities. It was happily feeding on crustaceans of some sort, oblivious to us on the shore. Eventually it drifted back out to the middle of the lake, where I understand it has spent most of its time since. It was still there today …

Great Northern Diver, Frensham Great Pond, 1/12/2018.

The last Great Northern Diver at Frensham was as long ago as 1964 and, incredibly, that was the only Waverley record since 1900, until this weekend. In outer Surrey they’re seriously rare – there was a popular bird at Papercourt in 2013 and one at Stoke Lake in the early 1990s (that place was on fire then!) – but that’s it. I’d have preferred Black-throated, but it was still a nice encounter, and only my second in Surrey.

I knew the strong southerly winds and generally unpleasant weather would push gulls onto the south coast, so I checked out my usual spots from Emsworth in the west to Rustington in the east. At Selsey a big flock of large gulls was feeding in the surf, 200 at least, but there was nothing too unusual about. That said, a particularly eye-catching 3rd-winter bird had me scratching my head for a while.

Possible Caspian x Herring Gull, Selsey, 1/12/2018.

My own conclusion, which was seconded by a couple of others, is that it was a Herring Gull with some amount of Cachinnans in its genes. It’s expression certainly recalled Caspian, but a big, Herring-like eye and fairly stubby bill felt weird, even though the tone was OK for Casp, as was the neck streaking. However, the wing pattern was all wrong, with no deep tongues or any mirrors on P9 or 10. I suppose there’s a chance it was just an odd Herring, but I certainly feel there was some Caspian in there. Perhaps it was from a German mixed colony.

Sunday allowed for just a brief patch visit in the morning. Not much stood out for most of the session, bar the female Red-crested Pochard, until I was treated to by far my best patch views of Water Rail. It seems this species is having a really good winter in Phillimore, with as many as five birds present. One individual fed out in the open in a small pool in the southern section, right by the footpath, giving magnificent views.

Water Rail, Winkworth Arboretum, 2/12/2018.
Water Rail, Winkworth Arboretum, 2/12/2018.
Having typed all this out I realise I've droned on a bit ... I’ll save comment on the not-yet-returned Arun Valley Bewick’s Swans and an interesting (to some!) gull at Bonhurst Farm for another time.

Monday, 26 November 2018

Through the gloom

Limited birding this weekend, seemingly well-timed given the miserable gloom that hanged in the air on both days. Those types of days are the worst – poor visibility from dawn till dusk, damp and dull. I had time to briefly do the water bodies on Saturday (nada), before observing my first feeding Common Gull flock of the winter at Bonhurst Farm. Distant, but just about visible through the murk, was a single first-winter with ten adults, one of which seemed a touch bigger with darker upperparts and more extensive black in the wingtips. But no, I’m not going to try and dig out a (pretty much non-existent) key to the Heinei Pandora’s Box.

Common Gulls, Bonhurst Farm, 24/11/2018.

Patch time was again at a premium on Sunday. I visited The Ridge for the first time in a while: dreary weather, few birds and incessant gunfire had me descending faster than you can say Russian Common Gull. The female Red-crested Pochard (and hybrid offspring) were on Mill Pond but the day’s highlight was a notable count of Egyptian Geese throughout. Seven, to be precise, and clear evidence of a very quiet weekend.

In the afternoon – as we were passing – I stopped fleetingly at Tice’s Meadow. According to my notes it was my first visit since 8 September 2016. A lot has changed there and wading through the Blackwater before scrambling up the mound was no longer in order – a smart footbridge and path system, with an excellent shelter on Horton’s Mound, were all new to me. Much credit must go to the Tice’s crew for their persistent work; unfortunately, I dipped them all during my half-hour vigil.

I couldn’t pick out the Little Stint that’s been present since last week but a nice selection of gulls – including a brutish second-winter Yellow-legged – made up for that, as did a big flock of Lapwings and several whistling Wigeon. The view from Horton’s Mound looks over a seriously impressive wetland habitat. You get the feeling that, in a Surrey sense, a really big one is due there.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Thrush hour

Finally, with less than six weeks until Christmas, a lengthy run of proper easterlies arrived last Wednesday. It was no surprise that a large – and possibly final – push of thrushes would occur at the first opportunity, and I duly put the microphone out on the evening of Wednesday 14. An absolute minimum 269 Redwings flew over (333 calls) by sunrise, doubtless a tiny percentage of the total numbers that took the opportunity to head south or west that night. The following day saw the thrush action continue; a relatively showy Ring Ouzel was at Tilsey Farm while a new site record count of Fieldfares passed through.

Ring Ouzel, Tilsey Farm, 15/11/2018.

A rare chance to bird midweek fortuitously coincided with this window of opportunity for patiently waiting thrushes and, given once the rush was over that’d realistically be it for vis-mig for some time, I was at Tilsey Farm before dawn. It was far from spectacular and aside from the thrushes the watch probably fell into the quiet category, but 244 Redwings and 218 Fieldfares piling west – sometimes in large flocks – meant it was an entertaining session. The previous high count of Fieldfares interestingly comes from mid-November, last year – perhaps this delayed passage is a sign of our warming climate?

David C, on his way back down to West Sussex, joined me at about 09:00. He’s had a tough debut season at his new coastal patch of Goring and we chewed the fat on this and various other topics for an hour-and-a-half or so when, at about 10:15, he spotted a Ring Ouzel hopping about on the main track. While there was clearly a big movement of thrushes going on it was still a bit of a surprise, being just the second bird of 2018, and a somewhat late record.

Ring Ouzel, Tilsey Farm, 15/11/2018.

Ring Ouzel sketch.

We spent the next half hour or so watching it as it fed on bare ground opposite the barn, often in the company of one or two continental Blackbirds. Every so often it would be spooked by a farm worker, flying up into the small hedge by the car park, before returning again. Based on its strong black tones and well-marked appearance it was a male. We left it in peace, but somewhat surprisingly there was no further sign, despite a couple of birders turning up to twitch it.

After this relative excitement (for here!) the weekend was far quieter, with a real feel of winter in the air. Vis-mig was a non-starter – it’s safe to say that, barring any freak cold weather movement from the continent, that’s it for a few months. Six Crossbills over Tilsey on Sunday were likely local and with the gripping Goosander photo still fresh in my mind I spent more time checking the water bodies.

Long-tailed Tit, Winkworth Arboretum, 17/11/2018.

No joy in terms of anything unusual (the female Red-crested Pochard was present both weekend days) despite a veritable fall of waterbirds in Surrey on Saturday: Slavonian and Black-necked Grebes, Goldeneye and Goosander (!) all at Hedgecourt Lake, both the aforementioned grebe species at Frensham Great Pond and Red-breasted Mergansers, Greater Scaups, black-necked Grebes and Brent Goose at Walton!

I spent a few hours around the Walton area on Saturday, mainly in an effort to locate Dave H’s long-staying Caspian Gull on the Thames and entice it in with some bread. I checked out Sunbury Lock and Hurst Park but there was no sign (despite Dave kindly booting it off Bessborough!) and only a handful of large gulls, though one of those was an adult Yellow-legged Gull that flew downriver. At Hurst Park there were plenty of Black-headed Gulls and a few Commons, including the below 2nd-winter bird, a plumage very rarely seen at Thorncombe Street despite the large winter flocks of this species.

Common Gull, Hurst Park, 17/11/2018.

Having completed a quiet couple of hours on patch on Sunday morning I found myself lured back to The Burgh. I really love this site. It’s peaceful, you feel like you have it to yourself at times and there are always birds to see. In a two-hour walk seven raptor species were noted, including one of the ringtail Hen Harriers that’s been around for a few weeks, a male Marsh Harrier and a Merlin that obligingly sat up in a hedgerow for a few minutes.

A few Grey Partridges were seen, but only one Corn Bunting made it into the notebook. Hopefully the wintering Bewick’s Swan herd will be back in the Arun valley soon, giving me another reason to head down. The weekend ended with Harry Kane diverting the ball home with five minutes remaining to send England to the Nations League finals next summer – happy days all-round.

Merlin, The Burgh, 18/11/2018.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Rails, redheads and rings

Water Rail is a species that’s become increasingly difficult to connect with at Thorncombe Street. As recently as the 1990s they bred at Winkworth Arboretum, in Phillimore, the only notable stretch of vegetated wetland in the entire area. Nowadays they are strictly a winter visitor, when one can normally be heard squealing from Phillimore at either side of the day. However, in 2017 numbers were well down, with only a handful of records, and this year was the first time I’d failed to connect with any during the first winter period.

Blurry Water Rail, Phillimore (Winkworth Arboretum), 10/11/2018.

Thankfully their continued winter presence was confirmed on Saturday with no less than three in the north end of Phillimore at dawn. Two were heard-only, but one actually showed itself – a very rare sight here – though sadly the camera focus failed me in the early morning gloom. After two noc-mig birds in spring, it was nice to know this habitat can still hold them. Indeed, with the National Trust planning to improve Phillimore in 2019, perhaps they can return as breeders one day

Aside from the rails, and a Hawfinch at Tilsey Farm later that morning, the weekend was quiet, though today Gillian S saw a Little Egret at Bramley Park Lake and a possible Lesser Spotted Woodpecker at Winkworth. The unseasonable mild weather and strong southeast winds made it feel most unlike November, and there was little to write home about, leaving me to remain thoroughly gripped by a patch first midweek.

Little Egret, Bramley Park Lake, 13/11/2018 (G Stokes).

Visiting birder Steve Benton photographed two redhead Goosander at – quite surprisingly – Eastwaters Pond on Tuesday. This sawbill was probably number one on the list of likely next firsts for Thorncombe Street but nevertheless it’s a superb record and find. The secluded ponds in the north section look pretty suitable for the species, and there have been recent records on similar water bodies in Wonersh, just to the north, in recent years.

I searched in vain in atrocious conditions on Wednesday morning before work, and also at the weekend. Unfortunately it seems these birds have moved on, though they may be hiding on one of the private waters; either way I'll be keeping my eyes peeled while scanning the ducks. On that subject its worth mentioning the relative abundance of Shoveler at present, continuing their erratic status here after a poor 2016/17. Goosander is the 163rd species to be recorded in the Thorncombe Street area, and the 131st of 2018.

Goosanders, Eastwaters Pond, 6/11/2018 (S Benton).

Most of Saturday was non-birding, though during this I managed to get among the Littlehampton gulls. Aside from a somewhat shy 1st-winter Yellow-legged Gull it was just Herrings and Black-heads, though a colour-ringed bird of the latter species was present. It turns out this individual was seven-years old, and in December 2016 was ringed at Jakuševec dump in Zagreb, Croatia. I found it pretty fascinating to be honest; the fact that one winter it was in the Balkans, and another in West Sussex, demonstrates the oft-nomadic life of gulls.

Black-headed Gull (S8KC), Littlehampton, 10/11/2018.

Gulls will feature more and more on the weekend menu as we slip into winter although – in keeping with the last few autumns – it seems we’re going to have a late, great gold-rush of northeasterlies from Saturday on. They are forecast to originate in the Baltic states before moving up and west through southern Scandinavia, and given the dearth of winter thrushes and finches so far, vis-mig could be pretty decent, and it’s likely a surprise or two will turn up. Of course, any such surprise is more likely on the east coast than sleepy Surrey, but we can live in hope!

Monday, 5 November 2018

The spice of life

A nice weekend with a variety of sites, taking in some that I’d not visited for a long time, as well as an overdue high-quality vis-mig on patch. With several Great Grey Shrikes appearing at various locations throughout the country during the past week or so I thought I’d visit Thursley Common in an attempt to find one. Thursley is a traditional site for Great Grey Shrike, and has hosted wintering birds for decades. With big winter territories and mobile habits it can be hard enough to find one there even when you know one’s about and, alas, I couldn’t locate one on Saturday morning despite spending a few hours traipsing around.

Dartford Warbler, Thursley Common, 3/11/2018.
I did however manage a nice selection of species including – most surprisingly – a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, which was with a tit and Goldcrest flock at the top of Elstead Common, on the edge of woodland to the south of Pot Common. A pair is thought to still breed near Witley Common but it was one of those brilliant moments when you chance upon a species you’re totally not expecting to see. I also had a flyover Hawfinch, a late House Martin zipping around on the southerly wind, a few Bramblings and nice views of Dartford Warblers.

I do have a fondness of Thursley. I visited lots when I was younger, and also spent some memorable days there in more recent years while reconnecting with the Surrey scene. I feel like a lot gets missed there (I’m unaware of anyone who patches it or even works it regularly), but I’ve always been put off by its popularity; it can be heaving with families and dog-walkers in nice weather, and during the spring and summer an offensive amount of people come to photograph a Cuckoo that’s been tamed by years of meal worm feeding …

Springhead Hill, 3/11/2018.
After a quick glance at Mill Pond it was off to Sussex. With the sun out, a gentle breeze from the south and an apparent influx of Rough-legged Buzzards into the country I decided to have a have a stab at finding one myself. The Burgh (or realistically the whole South Downs network from Arundel up to Amberley and east to Kithurst Hill) is one of my most favourite places. It’s beautiful, with endless far-reaching vistas, and carefully managed farmland habitat with the associated birdlife creates an almost nostalgic feeling when walking the area. I’ve mentioned how much I like the area before, and it’s somewhere that’d be a dream to patch.

Hen Harrier, Wepham Down (The Burgh), 3/11/2018.
The beloved and I looped round from Springhead Hill, down to the Burgh, then back up via Rackham Hill in glorious conditions. There were hardly any other people about, and despite not finding a Rough-legged Buzzard the list of birds was decent (indeed unimaginable if one was in Surrey): a ringtail Hen Harrier, with strikingly rufous underparts that suggested it was a young bird, two coveys of Grey Partridges and a couple of Corn Buntings highlighted, with plenty of Skylarks and Yellowhammers. I reckon I’ll visit again soon.

Sunday was patch day, with the slightest hint of east in a southerly wind enough to tempt me into a pre-dawn vismig start. I was rewarded with comfortably my best watch of the season – 24 species in total, including a seriously high-flying Little Egret moving northeast, 33 Bramblings (including a single flock of 28), 6,369 Woodpigeons, 519 Redwings, 80 Fieldfares, 86 Starlings, two each of Yellowhammer and Skylark and 69 Chaffinches.

Little Egret, Tilsey Farm, 4/11/2018.
It was nice to finally enjoy the type of vismig session I know the patch is capable of. I’ve been starved of sessions the last couple of months, mainly because of work, and it’s meant I’ve needed to reshape my birding quite a bit. As a result, it felt good to be reminded of how enjoyable standing in a field close to home can be. Last week, noc-mig delivered perhaps its final gift of an unbelievably successful first year of sound-recording here, picking up at least one Brent Goose as it purred its way over Allden’s Hill at 00:43 on 31st. This constitutes the third site record.

There is little to expect from the patch for the rest of the year, save the totally unexpected or perhaps an unusual duck. I thought I’d scored big in the latter department when I spotted a lone Eider on a private pond … unfortunately there was more than one, and indeed it transpired a rather extravagant collection is going on!

Pet Eiders (!), southwest Surrey, 4/11/2018.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Tha knows

Limited birding time these days means most weekends are based around a studious look at the weather forecast, and a plan from there, but you just know there’ll be days when you get it wrong, or simply can’t be everywhere. I suppose Sunday was the latter. Having seen mouth-watering seawatch tallies come in on Saturday from the east coast all the way from Scotland to Suffolk, and with the wind switching from a strong northerly to northeast, it was obvious the Thanet should see some action.
Robin, Allden's Hill, 27/10/2018.
I have mixed feelings about seawatching and don’t always enjoy it, but the thought of some late autumn variety and good numbers moving into the Swale/Thames was enough to tempt me. So, having perused Google Maps and historic records, I found a seriously under-watched spot with potential – Herne Bay. Highlights were a Little Auk moving west (picked up at Tankerton minutes later) and two Leach’s Storm Petrels east; I’ve seen neither for years and the former was a nice self-found tick. I was kindly given a heads up for the petrels so can’t claim them.

I also tallied two Pomarine Skuas, four Arctic Skuas, 19 Little Gulls, four Bonxies, 263 Common Scoter, 418 Brent Geese and 66 Kittiwakes. Stuff was initially being blown west and into the estuary, though by late morning many birds were pushing back east. Four Goldcrests cannoned in at shoulder height early on, and a Fieldfare somehow managed to avoid a persistent Peregrine by pulling off an epic shearwater-esque getaway over the waves. Chaffinches and Starlings were arriving in-off, and it was clear passerines were taking advantage of the first northeasterlies for ages to make the crossing.

I’d never normally bunk the patch when a big migration day is on the cards, but I hold my hands up and admit I totally got it wrong on Sunday. I thought the wind (up to force four) would impede movement, and with cold squalls forecast I figured movement would be OK but limited. How wrong I was … Leith Hill had one of their best days with hundreds of finches and thrushes (including 100 Bramblings) in what sounded like a great session. Beddington just about outdid the tower with a whopping 1,300 Starlings, 429 Chaffinches and 263 Skylarks complimenting singles of Short-eared Owl, Brent Goose and Great Egret. Some old school Surrey counts at both sites, and I’ve no doubt Thorncombe Street would have been great.

Saturday was OK on patch to be fair, with an entertaining vismig in the morning. Six Crossbills highlighted along with 1,916 Woodpigeons moving west. Sadly, weather and time mean the big Woodpigeon day this year will likely allude. I was pleased to finally pin down the hard-to-find Grey Partridges in the afternoon, around Tellytubbyland Hill (between Cheyne Row cottages and Nadia’s Hill). Up to six have been seen so presumably they’ve been released locally somewhere, though they could be linked to the breeding birds from 2016.

Woodpigeons, Tilsey Farm, 27/10/2018.

The last couple of days have seen a nice spread of scarcities across the southeast (Pete Alfrey dug out a monstrous Surrey record in the shape of a Richard’s Pipit at Beddington on Monday) but unfortunately the forecast for the weekend looks wet with poor winds. Autumn will be on its last legs after the next few days, and it won’t be long until thoughts of gulls, foreign trips and that first Swallow begin.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Vis stim

The autumn has been poor, locally and nationally. Over the weekend I had some decent late October bits – an elusive Ring Ouzel (first of the year) at Raggetts, a couple of Hawfinches and the first steady movement of Woodpigeons over my new favourite vismig vantage at Tilsey Farm. Not bad but not particularly fulfilling either…then again, what more exactly can an inland birder anticipate at this time of year?

Fieldfare, Tilsey Farm, 21/10/2018.

The Hawfinches shouldn’t be sniffed at. Weirdly each individual was moving in different directions, leading me to ponder if they were local, and perhaps bred in some quiet, never-visited woodland somewhere in the birding backwaters of southwest Surrey. It’ll be interesting to see how many more are recorded over the coming weeks; there’s definitely been more Surrey records than normal during the last month. By the way, if you haven’t already, check out Steve Gale’s concise summary of that invasion in Surrey last year here.

The stimulant during these quiet times is vismig. I’ll never tire of counting migrating species as the sun rises, but even this has been pretty average so far. The utter dearth of easterly winds sucks but maybe (as speculated in my last post) we’ll have a late rush of easterlies in November? It happened last year. This coming weekend looks pretty cold and breezy with northerly winds forecast (the first for a while), but on Sunday it looks like they may be arriving a little more from the northeast with a Scandinavian origin; if this sticks I’ll expect a big charge of thrushes and finches. Inevitably for the full-time working birder, however, conditions seem much better on Monday and Tuesday.

During this easterly drought it’s no surprise that the British and Irish showstoppers have almost exclusively arrived from the west to the west. Cape Clear enjoyed a Veery-Scarlet Tanager-Swainson’s Thrush hat-trick, and the UK’s second Grey Catbird near Land’s End has proven particularly popular. Depending on how much time you spend on social media you’ve probably seen loads of photos of the bird, which I was fortunate enough to be able to twitch on Thursday.

Grey Catbird, Trevescan, 18/10/2018.

North American landbirds are not even close to the radar for Surrey birders, but that’s not to say they haven’t occurred. An American Robin in Peckham is the most recent one from memory, but there’s also been Yellow-billed Cuckoo and – perhaps standout – a Common Nighthawk at Barnes Common!

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Back to patch

Having returned from Lewis it was straight back to the grind, and as a result the patch has received little attention. When you visit an area as frequently as I do, a couple of weeks away can feel like a very long time, and it can take a while to generate the same levels of motivation for visiting. This time off from patch duties is the start of a gradual weaning process; various factors mean I simply can't cover Thorncombe Street like I have done these past few years anymore, and near-daily coverage and annual reports will be a thing of the past from next year.

Great Spotted Woodpecker, Allden's Hill, 13/10/2018.

Despite this, it'll always be 'my' place, and a first choice for a bit of birding. Last weekend I was both surprised and pleased to pin down the female Black Redstart at Bonhurst Farm; she's now been present for two months, and the possibility of her wintering looks good. Duck numbers have clearly increased, with a new site record of 22 Gadwall on Mill Pond on Sunday. Later that day three Hawfinches flew over Allden's Hill (possibly local-ish?), and the first Redwings and Bramblings of the season have been jotted down. I look forward to some vismig sessions locally, if only the weather will ever allow it...

It's been a tough autumn for us inland birders, though it's not exactly been raining migrants elsewhere in the country. Easterlies have been at an absolute premium and Surrey – even by it’s own poor (lets be honest!) standards – has had a weak season so far. Walton has scored some decent stuff including Cattle Egret and Wryneck, and the Tice's Meadow crew also found a couple of the former species, which is still rare in the county (though probably not for long). However, aside from Beddington pulling a brief Camargue disguise, and a couple of sharp-eyed observers spotting seabirds, it's been slow-going. The apparent decline of active birders in the county probably doesn't help. Maybe it's just a late autumn though, as seems to be the case increasingly, and I remember last year enjoying a couple of excellent vismig sessions in mid-November. 

On a separate note, if you're reading this then maybe you'd like to read my summary of the Woodpecker Network Lesser Spotted Woodpecker 2018 report. Thorncombe Street is one of 2-4 known remaining breeding sites in Surrey. While the species is declining nationally, the trend is seemingly not as bad as anticipated, and I've no doubt that birds must go undetected in the vast swathes of suitable habitat in the county. So, next February and March, if you have some spare time on a still morning why not walk a stretch of quiet local woodland and try to find some?