Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds

Thursday, 3 March 2016

3rd March

Thorncombe Street

A mild, sunny morning met with increasing levels of birdsong, creating a spring-like synergism throughout the valley today. Having given myself a later than normal start I was expecting raptors, and as I climbed up through Rowe Barn Farm I could already see 4 Buzzards circling above the Ridge.

These birds of prey thrive in this area, with plenty of suitable habitat not just in the valley, but to the north, south, east and west. I counted no less than 31 in roughly 2 hours, an incredible figure, with in excess of 10 displaying birds. Granted, I have the benefit of sky views reaching further than Guildford, beyond Blackheath, Holmbury Hill and Winterfold to the east, and down to Hascombe Hill, but it was still a high count, typical of early spring around here.

A sunny view over Bonhurst this morning
It was genuinely warm, and it wasn't surprising that plenty more raptors had taken to the air. 7 Red Kites were around, mainly over the Ridge but also at Bonhurst Farm, and 1 Sparrowhawk, 3 Kestrels and a Peregrine were noted too, the latter disappearing over Furze Field for my third 2016 record. The usual fare were present - Ravens, Red-legged Partridges and the Finch/Bunting flock on the Ridge. David Campbell had 15+ Bramblings there yesterday, though I could only reach 6 today, with Yellowhammer more plentiful. Pleasing was the amount of this species singing, not just on the Ridge but also at Bonhurst.

Bonhurst has been taking my attention recently. The Little Owl pair were both in voice in the Poplars today, and I do think it looks good for my first Wheatear of 2016. Since I've been watching the area it's perhaps under-produced in terms of birds, the sheep and horse fields adjacent to the damp willow scrub yet to turn up a Stone Curlew or Black Redstart, my two dream birds for this particular bit of my patch. If either will happen, March is possibly the best month. A good number of Common and Black-headed Gulls were on the fields, and the Barnacle Goose was at Birtley House Pond with it's Canadian cousins.

Elsewhere

2 male Reeve's Pheasants at Prestwick Farm today
I made a maiden trip to Holmethorpe Sand Pits later in the day, near Redhill, perhaps the most well known Surrey site I hadn't yet visited. A decent network of lakes, farmland and hedgerows revealed my first singing Chiffchaff of the year, a drake Shelduck on Spyne's Mere and, best of all, a female Scaup with many Tufted Duck on Mercer's West. Unfortunately the latter was distant and in poor light, often sleeping, rendering it very much a 'scope job.

Closer to sundown, back my way, I managed a trip to check out the Reeve's Pheasant at Prestwick Farm, near Grayswood. To my surprise there was 2 males, resplendent with their huge tail feathers, almost directly opposite the farm.

On Tuesday I enjoyed the mysterious sound of a migrating Bittern at Frensham Little Pond, but that tale deserves a post of its own.