Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

18th January

Today was a sunny, crisp winter's day, and I aimed to head out on the patch for the first lengthy session in a while. Such conditions did leave the slightest taste of Spring in the mouth - some Thrushes were singing, Great Spotted Woodpecker's were drumming and, for the first time in months, notable numbers of raptors were on the wing.

A Nuthatch at Winkworth this morning
Birds of prey do well on my patch. There are vast swathes of suitable breeding habitat for the 5 species that do so, and mixed too, with decent sized tracts of woodland and sheltered copses sitting next to more open hills and valleys. In my time I have seen no less than 11 species of raptor here, with 12 the historical figure (not sure I'll ever get White-tailed Eagle back!). There is a lack of suitable hunting habitat for things like Harriers and Falcons, with very few big, open and overgrown areas. Anyway, with the sun shining today decent numbers of the residents were seen, including a rather high tally of 5 Red Kites from my new-found vantage at New Barn Point.

This included a displaying pair, and they weren't the only species getting in the mood. A rather overdue year tick was Sparrowhawk, and I had a pair from the Ridge, displaying high over St Catherine's Hill. Another male later whizzed over the north facing crop, which was host to at least 1 Yellowhammer among the 20+ strong Reed Bunting flock. A Crossbill was a surprise flyover here, and there were good numbers of Red-legged Partridges around, with around 18 the final total.

Before climbing up the Ridge I'd checked out both Mill Pond and Winkworth, the former in the seemingly more and more fruitless hope of relocating the Red-crested Pochards, last seen on Christmas Eve. Most of the water was frozen, but the large party of Canada Geese were still present, with their tag-along Greylag, as well as the female Mute Swan and one of her young. Duck numbers were good - at least 65 Teal and 40 Mandarin, but there was only 1 Shoveler, and no other species bar the typical Mallards. At Winkworth, 2 Marsh Tits and a squealing Water Rail were of note.

One of the Little Owls today
Post-Ridge, I decided upon visiting Bonhurst as oppose to a full circuit of the patch, and it proved a good decision as I enjoyed 3 more Yellowhammers. Also notable was the apparent rise in Thrush numbers - plenty of Fieldfares and Redwings were actively feeding, and I located the Little Owl pair near the Res. As I headed back through Junction Field, a large and very pale Buzzard caught my eye. The thing was miles up, and travelling north. I stupidly tried to photograph it before actually taking in any ID features, and all I could make out as it got further and further away was a very pale head, breast and tail, and dark carpal patches. Surely a pale-phase Common Buzzard (I have seen one here a few times before) as oppose to a young Rough-legged! An interesting bird, and an interesting conversation with Dave Harris that followed.

After a couple of hours on the Ridge hoping this bird would reappear, I headed to New Barn Point, where movement was minor, though plenty of raptors were enjoying the thermals, including the aforementioned Red Kites. Another Marsh Tit called from near the pond, but not much else was about. One last check of Mill Pond revealed some loafing Gulls, all Black-headed and Common.