Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds

Thursday, 10 November 2016

10th November

After a productive session last Thursday, the week since has been fairly quiet on the patch. On the 5th, I was on the Ridge after dark to watch the local fireworks with my girlfriend. Unfortunately, there were to be no flyover Geese or Swans - only a Tawny Owl and a couple of Redwings. Earlier in the day the first Common Gull of the winter flew over Allden's Hill, but apart from some Gadwall and Shoveler on Mill Pond, not much has been seen. Today was particularly slow-going, with a few Herring Gulls east and 16 Meadow Pipits south the only movement of note between 08:00-09:30.

Red Kite over the Ridge today
The best part of the morning was the opportunity to catch up with Luke, the Thorncombe Park gamekeeper, who I'd not seen for some months. We discussed what I'd seen recently, and how the scarcer breeders had got on during the summer, before he casually told me about a female Goshawk that he'd seen twice in recent weeks. Remarkably, he saw her plucking the feathers off a recently killed Woodpigeon near the Ridge on 30th October, and speculated as to where she'd come from, based on where he had heard the birds breed locally. I certainly trust Luke's ID skills, for a number of reasons and past moments. When I asked whether it may have been a female Sparrowhawk he chuckled, saying it was definitely a Gos, and when he initially approached the bird he thought it was a Buzzard.

Goshawks do seem to be on the slight increase as breeders in Surrey, and in general throughout the country. I had my first good vice-county views last year at one site, and a male at a different one twice this spring. I wouldn't be surprised if this female came from either location, and hopefully she will show herself again this winter. There is certainly a healthy supply of Woodpigeons and Corvids for her. My only 2 previous sightings on my patch were of birds passing through (including a female in March this year), and on both occasions I had been alerted to them by Matt, who had given me the heads up as they flew over Winkworth.

Drake Velvet Scoter at Dorney Lake, Bucks
With the rest of the patch as quiet as the Ridge had been, I decided to make the 45-minute journey to Buckinghamshire, where a couple of notable records for the county had caught my eye. I think any inland patch birder considers a seabird almost the holy grail of self-finds. Personally, the idea of a lost Skua or Gannet drifting over the Ridge, or a grounded Auk or Petrel on Mill Pond, thrills me, and I touched on this in my last post. Whilst not quite on that level, a Velvet Scoter inland is still a fine record - the last in Surrey was 6 years ago.

Buckinghamshire, remarkably, had it's 5th and 6th record of this sea-duck in the last few days, and the closeness to home and showiness of 1 bird at Dorney Lake, near Windsor, was enough to tempt me. I have seen this species a few times before, but never much more than just about making out a white splodge on a whirring black bird, far out to sea. Thus, it was remarkable to be a few feet from this extremely lost young male bird, looking very out of place among the motley collection of dabbling ducks and Geese in the middle of a rowing lake. It's records like this that help fuel the patch motivation.

2015 report

The 2015 Thorncombe Street & Winkworth Arboretum bird report is available to read, for free, via this hyperlink. Hard copies are still available too.