Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

8-14th March

It's been a mixed week since my last post, with a couple of year ticks and fantastic moments with certain species balanced out by a few frustrating moments. The 2017 additions came on the same day, the 11th, when I managed to chalk up Blackcap and Great Black-backed Gull, taking me to 87. The former was an early singing bird near Rowe Barn Farm, over 2 weeks before the first of 2016, which Sam Jones and I had on March 28th of last year. The Gulls came shortly after on the Ridge, with a 2nd-winter and an adult south and south-east at 16:41 and 16:52 respectively.
Drake Mandarin checking trees for possible nest sites

For the Gull, March passage is the best time to see them here, though there were only 2 records during the whole of 2016. This has already been more than doubled this year, with another 3 today, including 2 hefty adults north over Allden's Hill during a 06:40-08:00 vis-mig session that was coordinated with Matt Phelps, who was out on his Shalford patch. He managed to pick up one of the Gulls, but didn't seem to match the first high (ish) tally of Meadow Pipits of the year here - 18 the total by the end of the day, with 10 of those during the vis-mig. Further signs of spring include a marked increase in Chiffchaffs and Firecrests, as well as big numbers of raptors, including the second Peregrine of 2017 (W over Bonhurst today) and at least 30 Buzzards. I also managed a double-digit count of Ravens, including an unkindness of 6 at one point.

Winter Thrushes are vanishing, and since my astonishing count of Redwings last week I have had very few. At a failed Barn Owl recce last night, the aforementioned species and Fieldfares could be heard on their migration back north. Woodpeckers too are becoming harder to find, with a lot less drumming noted. The Lesser Spotted pair seem settled, and a few more Surrey birders were able to enjoy them this week, despite much more elusive behaviour from both the male and female. Skylarks also seem to be content, with singing still taking place in the south of the patch, leaving me hopeful of the first recorded breeding since 2007.

One of the many Ravens today
As I mentioned earlier, these positive moments have been tempered by some frustrating ones. The most strange omission is the lack of any Pochards this year. Whilst never present in big numbers, birds are regular at Winkworth from late February to early April, and often number a few individuals. Indeed, for the past 2 years, the peak yearly counts have taken place on this very date, but I am still yet to see one, despite checking Rowe's Flashe pretty much daily. I will persevere. Kingfisher still eludes me, but I am confident of eventually chancing upon one, and I shall save Brambling until the next winter period.

Another moment that will sit in my mind for a bit was a missed, possible patch mega, or indeed 3 of them, which flew high south over Rowe's Flashe as Matt and I did the WeBS count on Sunday. The birds were big, long-necked ducks, and looked very good for Shelduck. Unfortunately they were miles away, and soon lost to view, but we'd ruled out any Geese species and Mallard before they vanished. There is one record of Shelduck, a bird on Mill Pond in the 1970's or 80's (Bird of Surrey). A sighting reminiscent of our probable Bewick's Swan in 2015, but both encouragement and a reminder that anything is possible here!