Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds

Thursday, 18 August 2016

18th August

A brilliant, full day on site rewarded me with yet another patch tick, and a very decent local record these days, in the form of a WOOD WARBLER. The valley was dripping with Warblers, a clear arrival having taken place, and I ended the day with 6 species as well as a pretty decent support cast, particularly given it's mid-August.

The Silver Birch & Holly that hosted the Wood Warbler
I started at Rowe Barn Farm/Slade's Farm and Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were seemingly in every hedge and tree. I scanned the Paddock hedge and picked up an extremely weird Warbler - plain grey, a clear white arse, head-stripe and tail flicking tendencies. It completely threw me, but I settled on it being an extremely pale Willow or Chiffchaff. The Ridge was fairly quiet, bar a few Sylvia's, so I headed to Allden's Hill for a sky-watch.

As I walked past the plantation on the left at about 11:00 my attention was drawn to a mournful like call from the trees flanking the path ahead of me, and I immediately knew it was something interesting. I dropped my bag and moved forward, the bird continuing to call as I glimpsed it twice among a big flock of Blue, Great, Coal and a single Marsh Tit (juvenile, nice!), with a few Goldcrests also present. I am not overly familiar with a Wood Warbler call, unlike the song, and I won't lie - I played both Icterine and Melodious calls on my app before Wood! Nothing wrong with ambition eh? However, as soon as I played Wood the bird instantly responded, and with a few pishes it dropped into view in a Silver Birch. The face was strikingly citrus, with pale underparts and a very light bill. Only a few feet from me, the bird was on the move constantly, and after a few minutes, with the rest of the flock, it disappeared south, calling as it went.

A young Chiffchaff, one of 30+ around today
The call was the clincher, and this is another fine Warbler record in the last week. I did always anticipate getting a Wood but always thought it'd be a singing spring male. Wood Warblers bred on my patch until the 1980's, and Jeremy Gates had a few most years on passage whilst working at Winkworth in the 1990's. All in all, a great bird for my 125th Thorncombe Street. The sky-watch was fairly quiet, though a south-flying Swift will surely be my last of the year, and alter than the last bird of 2015.

I went on to check out the New Barn area after that, for the hope of a new Warbler treble via a Lesser Whitethroat but it wasn't to be. There were however a few Garden Warblers here, making it 6 Warbler species for the day. What else is autumn going to bring? Final Warbler tally below -

Wood Warbler - 1 (c.11:02-11:07 in mixed Tit/Crest flock on Allden's Hill, calling)
Willow - 6
Chiffchaff - 30+
Blackcap - 18+
Garden - 3 (all New Barn area)
Whitethroat - 5 (1 adult male)

Monday, 15 August 2016

15th August

A gorgeous August day encouraged me to get on Allden's Hill after work for a few hours sky-watch, with my imaginiation stuffed with Osprey and Bee-eater filled skies. It was, however, the dark under-stories of trees on the north line of vegetation on the top of the Allden's Hill watch point that produced a big surprise and patch lifer - a Sedge Warbler!

A Red Kite over Allden's Hill today
As I approached from the west at roughly 16:08 I was stopped in my tracks by a fairly obvious Sedge, seemingly singing a few feet away from me. However, this was no where near water, it was mid-August and I was looking into a broad-leafed tree on top of a hill! I tried to convince myself it was something else mimicking, and the bird went silent for about 7 minutes before it sub-sang again. This time, it hopped into view straight after finishing its outburst, and the bold eye-stripe confirmed my suspicions. After brief and obscured views it seemed to drop down into the bushes further down the slope, and following about 10 minutes of nothing I went to take up my seat on the hill.

About quarter of an hour into my sky-watch, the bird piped up again, but that was it, and I didn't hear it again until my departure at about 18:15. I was chuffed though - I had my 106th patch bird of the year, and only my second tick in the last 2 1/2 months. Sedge Warblers are probably rare enough for a patch mega - it is my first one at Thorncombe Street, bringing my life list up to 124, 1 off a milestone 125. Matt Phelps had one pass through Winkworth in April last year, and I imagine if I spent more time there I would have perhaps had this species before. Still, it's unlikely discovery today emphasised the perennial element of surprise in birding, so often the most fulfilling part of patching.

The rest of the day was quiet. I had 5 raptor species, including big numbers of Red Kites and Buzzards, as well as a hunting Hobby. Selhurst Common is looking very interesting at the moment. I had a couple of Willow Warblers there again today, along with at least 10 Chiffchaffs and a Spotted Flycatcher. There, along with the Paddock, seem like my best places for Passerine migrants in the next few weeks.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

11th August

Juvenile Buzzard today
Autumn is fast approaching. Gathering hirundines, trimmed hay and a distinct quietness thorughout the patch today highlighted this. The incessant chiff-chaffs have turned in huet's, seemingly today from every hedge or tree, as Warbler numbers build up as birds pass through or prepare to leave. Aside from the double-digit counts of Chiffchaffs, I however could only find 2 other species, with a handful of Blackcaps and at least 2 citrus coloured Willow Warblers around. It would be nice to find something a bit rarer in these coming weeks.

Yesterday an early male Wheatear was in the horse fields at Slade's Farm, just a day after one was at the other end of the county in Capel, with a family of Spotted Flycatcher's also nearby. Today was distinctly quiet, with the aforementioned Warblers accompanied by 4 Red-legged Partridges and a solo Hobby over the Ridge, presumably one of the pair. Juvenile raptors were very much in evidence, with at least 2 young Red Kites and many more Buzzards about, the latter species particularly vocal at this time of year.

Spotted Flycatcher near Selhurst Common on the 30th
A young Raven was also making itself heard, one of around 3 seen today. Junction Field was being cut down for hay, and a big flock of around 20 Stock Doves were feeding on it this afternoon. I scanned unsuccessfully for a Turtle Dove - it seems my time is running out for pinning one of those elusive birds down this summer. The last few weeks have largely been in keeping with today; quiet. A possibly Honey-buzzard flew very high SE over Allden's Hill on the 4th - it had a notably long tail, thin wings and was stripped underneath. Even pale wing patches were seemingly notable but the bird was too high, and with so many young Buzzards around at the moment it was impossible to get remotely close to confirmation.

Common Tern over the Ridge on the 29th
On the 29th 2 Common Terns flew W over the Ridge, separately, and both taking fish, presumably to young at Enton Lakes or Marsh Farm. Only my third record here, and all have come this year. Plenty of Spotted Flycatchers have been around this summer and I believe at least 3 pairs have bred. One have even taken up residence in the ivy-clad wall of a house near Selhurst Common, and I watched them taking insects to their young for several minutes on the 30th.

With autumn coming more migrants will be passing through, and it's now when I hope to catch something slightly rarer. Last autumn Whinchat, Redstart, Hen Harrier and Little Bunting were all added to the year list, and I am still due a Ring Ouzel in 2016.