Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

18th-25th April

Since Bank Holiday Monday, arguably the best spring day so far this year, things have been really slow on the patch. The continued north wind hasn't helped - today was particularly chilly, and there were next to no signs of migration. It's also been astonishingly dry, making it even harder for a fall of passerines or the lowering of migrating Waders, Terns etc to occur. Despite this, 70 species have been recorded in the last week, the most pleasing being the first Wheatear of the year that was briefly present on the Ridge yesterday. The bird, a male, flew from the north facing crop into a tree (watching it perched up there a rather odd sight) not long after dawn, before disappearing. Later in the day a singing Whitethroat, rather late this year, became the 100th Thorncombe Street bird of 2017, and my 99th.
The Wheatear yesterday

Also notable yesterday was a small movement of Gulls, just ahead of some seriously dark cloud that looked certain to produce rain, but didn't. An adult Great Black-backed was the 4th of the year, and 5 Herrings and a single Lesser Black-backed also moved through. 3 of the latter drifted over the Tilsey Farm area on the 19th, and a couple of Yellowhammers were heard, pleasing given the time of year. It seems this species if breeding just beyond the southern boundary of the recording area. A farm worker also told me of a couple of Barn Owl records from January, likely one of the Smithbrook/Whipley birds. The area looks good for Barn Owls, and I had a couple of failed attempts at seeing them here in the winter. The valley Cuckoo is now singing daily, from various locations, and the local Swallows and Willow Warblers are back on territory.

Away from the patch, I managed a morning catch up with David Campbell at Canons Farm on Wednesday, and on the 23rd enjoyed Tree Pipits, Reed Warblers, Woodlarks and Common Terns at Frensham. Hopefully, the weather will change, though the short-term forecast isn't fantastic, potentially delaying the arrival of the later migrants (Hobby, Spotted Flycatcher etc). I will be spending the next few days in north-east Poland, and hope to return to warm southerlies and Mediterranean overshoots!

Monday, 17 April 2017

17th April

A fantastic, 10.5 hour spring session on the patch today. The migrants finally came (and in numbers), and a sensational flock of about 70  unconfirmed wader species flew over, as the 'Hascombe Gap' delivered in style this afternoon. I could write a long post about today, but I will try and keep it short.

Sam Jones and I planned a big day on the patch, and as soon as I got out the car just before dawn the welcome sound of a Cuckoo greeted me, as what was presumably the returning valley bird sang from Allden's Hill. Remarkably, we had 3 more birds before we called it a day at 16:00. A lengthy vis-mig from the Ridge was largely a catch up, as we exchanged stories about our recent trips to Morocco, but 4 House Martins north represented year tick number two of the morning. A Willow Warbler sang from Furze Field, and we went on to hear 6 more, quite an increase on recent days. A couple of 3rd-year Lesser Black-backed Gulls drifted north, and a Tufted Duck pair west was a Ridge tick.

We weaved through the patch, picking up Garden Warbler, Meadow Pipits and more Hirundines. A Blackcap at New Barn, uttering a remarkable and varied mimicry selection, threw us for a while. We then set up shop for a sky-watch inside the Hascombe Gap, and we were to be rewarded, as low cloud sent a nice selection of migrants through. Matt Phelps joined us at 12:15, by which point we'd racked up 5 raptor species, and it wasn't long after his arrival when I picked up a distant, very big flock of birds flying north-east. What seemed like a skein of Geese were travelling at some height, and as the others got on them we were stumped as to their ID. We began to veer away from Geese, as Matt noted the lack of elongated necks in his scope, and then the group of around 70 individuals 'whiffled' down, and it seemed apparent these were large waders.

Unfortuantely, we lost them in the cloud. Upon reflection, and a long look at different plates and photos, I reckon they were Godwits, and very likely Bar-tailed. We will never be certain, but a flock of that size is a colossal Surrey record, whether they were Black or Bar-tailed. Slightly frustrating, but the spectacle of a group that big, clearly migrating over a load of fields and woods on my patch, was simply fantastic. Not long before we set off, a single Sand Martin came through with some more House Martins, part of a steady northerly Hirundine movement during the watch. These are not easy patch birds, and it took me to 97 for the year. Unusually for mid-April here, Gulls too were moving, with numbers of Herring and Lesser Black-backed's, as well as a sole Black-headed, going the same direction as the Godwits. As we headed back to the car, another Cuckoo flew over Nore Hanger, and we had 2 more near Mill Pond. 

A fantastic day on the patch. Spring has sprung, and I really believe that there are more surprises to be had in 2017. Bring it on!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

11th- 15th April: The Hascombe Gap and the Shalford Split

Following the excitement of last Sunday, things have gone back to a more gentle pace, with spring still fairly slow to arrive. On the 11th, no fewer than 3 Garden Warblers across the site represented a year tick, coming a day later than the first of 2016. A singing Willow Warbler (2 more today, at New Barn) was part of 61 species that day, but as I write this I still haven't seen either Martins, Wheatear, Cuckoo or Whitethroat. All of these I expect to record in the coming days and weeks, but a flyover Yellow Wagtail this morning was quite a surprise. Normally just 1 or 2 records a year, and almost exclusively in autumn, an early vis-mig session was rewarded today as an individual flew NNE over the Ridge, calling, at 06:48. In fact, despite the continued northerly wind, the first 40 minutes or so were decent, with 5 Swallows, 2 Linnets and a single Meadow Pipit heading north, and 5 Cormorants and an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull east.

2 more Gull species (Black-headed and Herring) were noted elsewhere throughout the morning, the first for a while. It was a Great Black-backed Gull on Thursday that got me thinking, and prompted me to get my maps out, resulting in this post. An adult (the 3rd record of the year) drifted over Scotsland Brook, quite out of place, at around 16:35. It soon struck me - within about a half kilometre from here to the west, I had seen Kittiwake, Great Black-backed Gull and 2 Cattle Egrets, all flying north, in the last 3 weeks. There surely had to be some reason behind this remarkable run, and below is a possible theory I have come up with.

The Hascombe Gap

Hascombe Gap map
The River Arun joins the English Channel at Littlehampton, and if one follows it north, it passes through such birding hotspots as Arundel WWT, Pulborough Brooks (where the river splits) and Climping Gap. At Loxwood, it splits. The Arun continues east, towards Horsham, and the Wey & Arun Canal goes north and west towards Surrey. Near Dunsfold, there is another, smaller split. The Wey & Arun Canal continues north and east, skirting the east of my patch near Cranleigh, eventually joining with the Wey at Shalford. To the north and west, a series of unnamed tributaries run for a short distance before they all stop around Loxhill, just before Hascombe.

The gap just beyond this collective stop, between Loxhill and Hascombe, is where the aforementioned sightings have come from. It seems possible that any birds following the Arun from the coast (should they not deviate at Pulborough/Loxwood) will find themselves here, at the end of the thinning streams, and will perhaps drop down to reorientate. It takes some favourable decision making, and maybe is a little ambitious, but it's just about possible. On a larger level, the gap extends from Loxhill in the west to Smithbrook/Rowly in the east, where the Wey & Arun canal is found continuing north, so this whole area could turn up something. Given the gap is most likely to effect birds moving up, spring is likely the best season for wayward bits and pieces.

It would seem any bird that has ended up here, should it wish to carry on following water, would have little choice but to continue north, through and just past the top of the patch, where the Wey & Arun meets the Wey at Shalford. The Thorncombe valley provides a natural funnel for this short journey, and would go someway to explaining the occurrence of species like White-fronted & Brent Goose, (presumed) Bewick's Swan, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel and a plethora of Raptors and Passerines all heading north/south over the last few years.

On the contrary, birds turn up at any place, and at any time, and maybe it's all just freak fortune!

The Shalford Split

Shalford Split map
This flyway theory was raised many years ago by Unstead Sewage Farm regulars. The river splits at Shalford, with the Wey & Arun Canal going south and west, and the Wey east. Unstead sits directly to the south of this split, with my patch a little further down. In theory this is two flyways meeting, and there is much evidence of birds using them and switching between the two in the last few decades.

Long-tailed Skua, a host of Gulls (including Sabine's and a flock of c.60 Kittiwakes), and a myriad of Waders/Raptors/Herons etc have all been recorded at Unstead. I am likely to miss any birds that are successfully following either river, perhaps being a bit far south of the split, but anything reorientating could/has passed over.

This, also, could be pie in the sky. Some theories suggest flyways don't really exist. Perhaps this is all overthought. Personally, I think there could be some logic behind it, and I will certainly be keeping it all in mind during the coming weeks.

Monday, 10 April 2017

10th April

Since my return from a trip to Spain and Morocco (which was packed full of birds, including some really special Western Palearctic stuff) it's been quiet on the patch. In the 10 days since I've been back, the only passerine year ticks I've managed are Swallow on the 4th (pretty much daily since, with 34 through on the 6th) and Willow Warbler, with a tired sounding bird heard on the Ridge on the 8th. Whenever I come back from a trip the low density of birds compared to where I've been hits me. Surrey is relatively poor even within a national context, so compared to somewhere like Spain it can seem pretty bleak. And thus, during a spell of glorious weather, on Saturday I tweeted about yet another quiet shift on patch, with the fine conditions seemingly too good for migrants to pitch down. This lull would be turned on its head, however.
Red Kite over the Ridge on Sunday (DC)

It is remarkable how a number of tiny decisions and moments can culminate in being somewhere at a certain time. It was Sunday morning. Relatively hungover, the girlfriend and I were up early, and I wasn't too sure if I'd check the patch before work, particularly given the recent quiet spell. With the sun shining I figured it'd be rude not to, so off we set, stopping first at Mill Pond where I spent slightly longer than normal to enjoy a singing Reed Bunting, a first here, and the drake Gadwall that's trying to pair up with a Mallard. A quick check of Slade's didn't produce the hoped for Wheatear, and on the way back I bumped into Dave Carlsson, who was aiming to get some decent pictures up on the Ridge. As you can see, he got some amazing shots, and we chatted for a bit before I set off through Thorncombe Street, in the direction of Bonhurst. As we approached the Scotsland lay-by I, for some reason, thought it wise to stop. For the first time this year it was dry enough to park, and I asked my girlfriend if she wanted to walk Great Brook or Leg-of-Mutton Copse. The latter site I don't visit often - my last session here was March 16th, but she fancied it, in the hope of some Bluebell photography.

There wasn't a great deal of birdsong, and as we weaved through the deciduous part of the wood I pondered the chance of a Pied Flycatcher here later in the spring. We came to the felled area at the south of Juniper Hill, which looks out south towards Hascombe, and my attention was immediately drawn to 2 gleaming white birds flying high north. It didn't take long to figure there were Egrets, and the slightly jerky flight and dumpy appearance strongly suggested Cattle. Panic ensued, and as I got the bins on them the shorter legs and wings were noted, and the dumpy and rounded appearance was made clearer - it was quite apparent these were two Cattle Egrets! Given the many times I've seen this species, the ID was perhaps easier that one might imagine, and happy with what I saw I raced to get a shot before they disappeared over the canopy. I managed one poor effort (they were seriously high), and only after they'd left did I register that Cattle Egret is still very much a mega in Surrey. There are only 2 previous records, one of them coming only last December, via Steve Gale.
A crap record shot of the 2 Cattle Egrets moving
N over Leg-of-Mutton Copse on Sunday 9th April

I put the news out as soon as I had signal. Sadly Dave didn't have them over the Ridge (they would have gone that way surely), and Brian Milton didn't at Unstead. These birds were clearly on the move, no doubt using the southerly airflow to migrate. I was reminded of a snippet from Peter Alfrey's wonderful Non-stop Birding blog which he'd posted the day before in one of his weather forecast pieces - "Spring overshoot weather today and tomorrow- a southerly airflow drawing from Southern Europe which could bring southern scarcities such as Black-winged Stilts, Southern Herons, Quail etc.". As bonkers as it was, as completely unexpected as it seemed and in a place I would never have guessed, it was Cattle Egret that became the 145th Thorncombe Street area bird, and my 130th! Surely in a decade or two this species will become as regular as Little. After breeding success, colonisation was delayed following some severe winters around 2009, but this year saw record numbers in the UK, and I presume my 2 were movers from the wintering population. I expect another Surrey record before 2018.

So, with Spring slow to get going, and after some very quiet sessions, patience and perseverance was rewarded in style. My adoration for my patch was reaffirmed, and perhaps these two Egrets were a close to a chapter here. My working life is set to change hugely in the coming weeks, and with it my time birding will inevitably be cut down. Whatever the future holds though, April 9th 2017 will always remind me that you can never lose faith with the patch.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

23rd March

Today represented a last opportunity to bag an early spring migrant, or finally nail Pochard this year, before I head off for a week's birthday holiday in Spain and Morocco. What was a rather quiet session ended with a massive surprise, in the shape of a Kittiwake, a new bird for the recording area and the fulfillment of my long-time dream of finding a seabird on patch (see here and here). An astonishing sight, as it journeyed north over the mixed woods at the extreme south of the area, the species becomes the 144th bird recorded here, my 129th, and number 89 for 2017, which is proving very fruitful thus far.

Kittiwake sighting map (click to enlarge)
I woke to rain, and the constant rather forceful north-easterly made for a morning more like Janaury than late March, but the skies began to brighten slightly as I, yet again, did a Winkworth check without any Pochard. I am now relying on chancing upon a bird later in the year, as the optimum time for this species will be gone by the time I am back. Numerous Chiffchaffs were one of few indicators of the season, though a surprising number of raptors were already up, and by the time I'd looped the patch Buzzard, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Red Kite had already been noted. In the wind, Woodpecker activity was at a premium, and I expect it to continue to get harder to locate the Lesser Spotted pair. This was was the case today, despite a brief check by myself and an extensive one by Gerry Hinchon.

With numbers already looking good, and the possibility a northerly headwind sending something extra special over, I set up shop at one of my vantages in the south of the patch. On the way, two Lapwings flew south, only my third birds this year and the first flyovers. The regular Skylark was in occasional voice, despite the wind, and a few Marsh Tits were calling. Raptor numbers were steady, and I notched up a good tally of birds, but in truth little was happening, and there certainly seemed to be no passerine movement (0 Meadow Pipits compared to 31 on Tuesday). After just over an hour I decided to head home, and finish off a few pre-holiday chores.

Not long after I got back on the main footpath that runs from New Barn to Thorncombe Street, I noticed a small, slender gull heading fairly low north. As I was beneath it, I could only note the particularly buoyant and active flight as it made it's way between the footpath and Juniper Hill, always below the canopy. With my views obscured by the hedgerow, and as the flight and structure began to click, I sprinted up a raised bank on my right in order to get a view of this quickly moving individual. As I got back on the bird it had gained a bit of height (it was remarkably low when I first saw it, upon reflection), but it banked to the east, before circling a number of times, gaining height and continuing north. This change of direction offered me good views of the grey upperwings, that faded somewhat towards the typical jet-black primary tips of a Kittiwake! There were no mirrors on the primaries, though the flight style and structure already had me fairly assured. An exceptional moment, and the bird was lost heading north.

Red Kite on the 21st
It would have flown over Wintershall and Bonhurst, probably connecting with the Wey near Shalford. I messaged Gerry, who was on the patch, but unfortunately for him he was deep in a wood (2 Woodcocks flushed his consolation), and couldn't look at any sky. The bird was so out of context I was a little bit stunned at first, and tried to make it a Common Gull, but it clearly wasn't. This species is the most numerous winter Gull here, but their numbers have tailed off in recent weeks, and indeed I've seen none for over a 7 days. As the day went on, a Kittiwake was seen in London, and a conversation with Matt made me realise this was actually more likely than I thought, with the weather and time of year all perfect. Furthermore, Jeremy Gates had an adult go west over Crooksbury Common on Saturday. Right place, right time, and a bird I will be very lucky to see here again!

Brian Milton was among the other people I messaged, and despite Unstead being slightly to the west I desperately hoped he saw it, as it's one of the few species he is yet to see there that's on the historical list. Unfortunately, he hadn't, but when I stopped off briefly we enjoyed both of our first Sand Martins of the year over the works. Interestingly, he had not seen any Gulls all day. Later on at home, I noticed 2 Great Black-backed Gulls battling north. Clearly, there was some kind of seabird movement. I very much doubt I will have another day in Surrey when Great Black-backed and Kittiwake are the only Gulls I see in one day!

Since my last post, a Woodcock flushed in Furze Field on the 15th was only the third bird, and second record, of 2017 (until Gerry's pair today). I finally caught up with Kingfisher for the year on the 16th, with a bird calling in the fog at Winkworth. A second bird was then seen at the same place 3 days later. Also on the 16th were notable numbers of Fieldfare, Lesser Redpoll and Redwing, with a Crossbill present at Juniper Hill. A site record 14 Ravens were also tallied throughout the entire recording area.

I love this time of year, and it's hard to pull myself away from the any-time-soon arrival of Hirundines, the scouring of fields for Wheatears, and monitoring the state of the local breeders, new and old. The local area seems to be on a good run too, with Matt finding a fantastic pair of Garganey at Shalford on Monday, that are still present today. However, Morocco has long been top of my wishlist of places to bird, and this time next week I aim to be celebrating my birthday in the Sahara, hopefully surrounded by Desert Sparrows and Crowned Sandgrouse!

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

8-14th March

It's been a mixed week since my last post, with a couple of year ticks and fantastic moments with certain species balanced out by a few frustrating moments. The 2017 additions came on the same day, the 11th, when I managed to chalk up Blackcap and Great Black-backed Gull, taking me to 87. The former was an early singing bird near Rowe Barn Farm, over 2 weeks before the first of 2016, which Sam Jones and I had on March 28th of last year. The Gulls came shortly after on the Ridge, with a 2nd-winter and an adult south and south-east at 16:41 and 16:52 respectively.
Drake Mandarin checking trees for possible nest sites

For the Gull, March passage is the best time to see them here, though there were only 2 records during the whole of 2016. This has already been more than doubled this year, with another 3 today, including 2 hefty adults north over Allden's Hill during a 06:40-08:00 vis-mig session that was coordinated with Matt Phelps, who was out on his Shalford patch. He managed to pick up one of the Gulls, but didn't seem to match the first high (ish) tally of Meadow Pipits of the year here - 18 the total by the end of the day, with 10 of those during the vis-mig. Further signs of spring include a marked increase in Chiffchaffs and Firecrests, as well as big numbers of raptors, including the second Peregrine of 2017 (W over Bonhurst today) and at least 30 Buzzards. I also managed a double-digit count of Ravens, including an unkindness of 6 at one point.

Winter Thrushes are vanishing, and since my astonishing count of Redwings last week I have had very few. At a failed Barn Owl recce last night, the aforementioned species and Fieldfares could be heard on their migration back north. Woodpeckers too are becoming harder to find, with a lot less drumming noted. The Lesser Spotted pair seem settled, and a few more Surrey birders were able to enjoy them this week, despite much more elusive behaviour from both the male and female. Skylarks also seem to be content, with singing still taking place in the south of the patch, leaving me hopeful of the first recorded breeding since 2007.

One of the many Ravens today
As I mentioned earlier, these positive moments have been tempered by some frustrating ones. The most strange omission is the lack of any Pochards this year. Whilst never present in big numbers, birds are regular at Winkworth from late February to early April, and often number a few individuals. Indeed, for the past 2 years, the peak yearly counts have taken place on this very date, but I am still yet to see one, despite checking Rowe's Flashe pretty much daily. I will persevere. Kingfisher still eludes me, but I am confident of eventually chancing upon one, and I shall save Brambling until the next winter period.

Another moment that will sit in my mind for a bit was a missed, possible patch mega, or indeed 3 of them, which flew high south over Rowe's Flashe as Matt and I did the WeBS count on Sunday. The birds were big, long-necked ducks, and looked very good for Shelduck. Unfortunately they were miles away, and soon lost to view, but we'd ruled out any Geese species and Mallard before they vanished. There is one record of Shelduck, a bird on Mill Pond in the 1970's or 80's (Bird of Surrey). A sighting reminiscent of our probable Bewick's Swan in 2015, but both encouragement and a reminder that anything is possible here!

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

7th March

An excellent, early spring session on the patch today, with a mighty fine year tick, a spectacular migration movement and a good catch up with Robin Stride. I was on Allden's Hill at dawn (passing a Little Owl and 2 Egyptian Geese in Thorncombe Park en route), but passerine activity was pretty dead for the first hour or so, with 2 separate Meadow Pipits north the only movement. A few Herring Gulls and a sole Lesser Black-backed Gull, were moving south and west, but this average activity was dramatically overshadowed at about 07:30.
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker on the 2nd (M Elsoffer)

Looking almost over my shoulder to the south-west, I noted what initially had the feel of a big skein of Geese moving north-east. Raising bins to them, it became apparent they were Thrushes, in fact Redwings (with a sole Woodpigeon!), moving in a tight flock much like flushed waders or a Starling murmuration. Despite having never seen Thrushes in flocks like this, the most remarkable aspect was the number of birds - from above my head all the way to the horizon was a dark stream of Redwings, certainly a few thousand. It was simply incredible, and one of the most remarkable bird movements I have witnessed. At the time, I used the Steve Gale don't-be-too-conservative count theory, and guessed 5,000+. Upon reflection, the number may not have been that high, but with hindsight I would still say anything from 4,000-5500 birds were in this single flock. My conclusion was that these Redwings had been moving at night, pushing towards their breeding grounds in Northern Europe, and by some stroke of fortune I managed to catch them*.

I met up with Robin at about 8, and we headed to the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers. Rob hadn't seen any in the county for many years, and so we were delighted to pin down the male, who showed moderately well. The female was heard, but not seen. I have shown a small group of birding friends this pair in the past week, and Mark Elsoffer and Steve Minhinnick enjoyed particularly good views on the 2nd. There wasn't loads else here, though a few Cormorants flew overhead, and by the end of today 16 were tallied (6 seen by Robin), surpassing the site record of 13.

The view from Allden's Hill this afternoon
From here, we checked out Bonhurst, before the increasingly pleasant weather lead us to do some sky-watching. This proved very productive, with raptors everywhere, as well as my first 2 singing Skylarks of 2017. At least 20 Buzzards were up and many displaying, with several Red Kites and a few Sparrowhawks also about. 4 Ravens were doing their thing too, but the highlight, and surprise (despite me calling it to Robin earlier in the day!) was a Goshawk at 10:10, that gave brief initial views, though it's range allowed both of us to be happy with ID. What was probably the same bird was seen again at 11:00. Many Redpoll were also about, and after waiting an hour or so for the Gos to reappear without joy, we parted company.

I stopped at Allden's Hill for an hour or so afterwards, enjoying the now glorious weather, before heading home. I returned late in the day in an attempt to get either Kingfisher or Pochard for the year at the water bodies, managing neither, though nice views of a Firecrest were obtained near Bramley Park Lake.

* Following this post, I had an interesting chat with the aforementioned Steve Gale. He thinks the birds could have just left a roost, which is something I hadn't thought of, and seems likely.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

26th February

I have 3 'easy' winter targets left for my year list challenge of 120- Brambling, Pochard and Kingfisher. The former is seemingly non-existent this winter, the latter always pretty scarce and the duck is normally relatively straightforward from late February to late March. I managed none this weekend, in what was a largely quiet couple of days. Whilst not especially cold, the weather was fairly miserable, and a rare day off on Saturday was blighted by a rather brisk wind, heavy cloud and patches of drizzle.
The Lesser Spotted Woodpecker today

Despite the forecast, I set out for first light on Saturday, but returned home several hours later with a pretty average list of birds, dotted with a couple of stand-outs and a couple of oddities. The weirdness began at Rowe's Flashe, where a sole Bar-headed Goose was sat on the water, along with the regular species. Evidently it wasn't resting after a long slog over the Himalayas, and more likely a roving escapee. It's coming up to optimum Pochard time here, but 8 Tufted Ducks were the best I could manage. The grey conditions meant birdsong was at a premium, so it was back to the car and onward.

It didn't take long to locate the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker pair, with the male showing moderately well despite the weather. However, at least 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker was also in the area, and it will be interesting to see if they can hold fort for the next few weeks. A vocal Green Woodpecker completed the resident British Woodpecker list in the space of a few minutes. A circuit of the patch, followed by a sprint up the Ridge didn't produce much, although a 1st-winter Lesser Black-backed Gull among a flock of 60+ Herring Gulls flying north-east was a third record of 2017.

With none of my targets seen at their likely sites, I decided I may as well fill the rest of my time exploring the couple of small footpaths I have visited just once or twice, way out in the east of my patch. As anticipated, they delivered nothing mind-blowing, although one private pond held a pair of Black Swans, and 20+ Mandarin, 2 Teal and a couple of Marsh Tits firing their lasers where at another water body nearby (which was more akin to a swamp).
One of the Black Swans from Saturday

On Sunday morning I met up with Matt, for an hour or so before work. In slightly better conditions one of the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers showed well, and we enjoyed prolonged views of the male drumming, with Matt managing some footage. It flew off to the east, but was clearly back in it's usual haunt later in the morning, as Tice's Meadow birder Rich Seargent managed to eventually connect with the bird.

During the week, a thoroughly interesting exchange with Peter Osborn almost added a new bird to the Thorncombe Street area historical list. Peter does the BBS square survey in the middle of my patch, and we discussed the more standout records throughout the data. Goosander was the species that jumped out (a bird I have long anticipated on one of the ponds), but with the date being the 11th June 2003, near some woodland, it seems extremely unlikely. So, I have chosen to leave it off the list. Other interesting stuff includes a Tree Pipit at Wintershall on 24th April 2004, which becomes the first site record (replacing my flyover last September) and the sad decline of Skylarks, which were recorded regally until 2007.