Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds

Sunday, 13 November 2016

13th November

As I've mentioned in previous posts, the beauty of patch birding for me is the unpredictability of it. Of course, most days patching in Surrey are pretty much the same. Monthly high counts and local movement can often be the highlight of a session, and largely I head out in hope over any real expectation. Today was one of those days. Indeed, I wasn't really heading out, I just had the opportunity to quickly drive through the west side of the patch and check out Mill Pond before work.

Best of a bad batch of photos of the Red-crested Pochard,
which was skulky and hard to view
In my last post I mentioned my visit to Buckinghamshire for an inland Velvet Scoter, and after chatting to leading Surrey lister Dave Harris last night I learnt of a female Goosander present for it's 3rd day less than a mile north of my patch, in Wonersh. Thus, ducks were on my mind this morning, and I decided to check out Bramley Park Lake as well as Mill Pond for a change. I don't visit Bramley Park Lake enough. It's owned by the Godalming Angling Society, and whilst popular with Tufted Ducks and Little Grebes, has never held too much (bar a Common Sandpiper that Sam Jones had a few years ago). The limited viewing area and awkward parking further puts me off, but I had visions of a Goosander of my own this morning, and headed down the muddy track at about 07:50.

The lake was misty, and 7 Cormorants up in the surrounding trees immediately caught my eye - a large count for my patch. Through the mist, which was heavy, I could see a large, brown-ish duck towards the south side. I got my bins on it, and couldn't believe I was looking at a female Red-crested Pochard! She was acting much like the numerous wild ones I saw in southern Spain in April did, skulking in and out of the waterside vegetation at the south end. This behaviour, coupled with being beyond the middle islands, made it hard to get prolonged views of her, and I managed just a couple of awful pictures through the mist.

The last Red-crested record - my first-ever bird log book,
documenting the drake at Winkworth in 1999!
Red-crested Pochards have an interesting history in my patch. The last known record was in September 1999, by myself, at Winkworth Arboretum. A pair actually bred on Rowe's Flashe for a few years in the mid-90's, with the last known success in 1997 (a brood of 6 on 21st May). My 1999 bird was a drake, and I am sure birds hung on there into the 2000's, but I can't find any records. Whatever their fate, my bird today was a total surprise, and seemingly a short-stayer as she wasn't seen again today despite 2 further searches.

Matt Phelps had been doing his WeBS count at Winkworth this morning, managing the first Water Rail of this winter back in Phillimore, and he stopped by Bramley Park Lake at about 08:50 but couldn't find the Red-crested Pochard. After work I had another lookm but also failed to find her. A number of fishermen were present though, and she may well have been flushed. At this time of year, clearly these secluded and seldom checked water bodies are worth a look. I still hope for my Goosander, but today's bird was enough of a treat.