Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

28th-31st May

Another muggy day, with few periods of sunshine. Pretty quiet, lots of warbler song and more young birds appearing being the main source of interest, with spring migration very much reaching its end. May has been decent, with a 82 species recorded in total, not including a very interesting sighting today.
Little Owl this morning

In a lengthy vigil from Junction Field, the lack of movement was clear, but at 13:12 my attention was drawn to a chirpy trill to the south. The call didn't click straight away, and was reminiscent of Redpoll, but after several seconds I was strongly reminded of Tree Sparrow. There was a total of 3 small, finch/sparrow/bunting shaped birds, and I noted only brown upperparts before losing them in the distance towards Blackheath.

Such a record could, at best, be considered extremely unlikely, but I have really struggled to make the call anything other than Tree Sparrow. I would have picked out Redpoll - a moderately numerous winter visitor - and it would be a lot more feasible to have this species passing over at the end of May than Tree Sparrow. For what it's worth, the birds sounded just like this and this. As far as I know there are no healthy populations in Surrey, Sussex or Hampshire, with the Dungeness birds the closest (may be wrong).

The likeliness would be higher if it was the height of migration, but even so this species doesn't move too much, even though (historically) Surrey-ringed birds have been found over 100km away. I will tussle with it more, but realistically I can't be sure they were Tree Sparrows. If I was at Beddington a couple of years ago, or in Poland a few weeks back I'd have no doubt. If anyone reading this has any suggestions, please let me know!

Elsewhere, as mentioned, there was little of note. Mandarin breeding has been very successful this year, and today there were 17 ducklings from 5 broods across the site. The Little Owl pair are very prominent at present, seemingly with hungry young to feed, and there were good numbers of both Whitethroats and Garden Warblers. Highlights as follows, and below that a quick summary of the 28th-30th:

07:40-09:10; 10:20-14:00

Mill Pond: 3 Mandarins (♂♀♀ + 10 ducklings), 2 Grey Herons and 2 Mute Swans.

Thorncombe Street: 1 Little Owl, 1 Grey Wagtail, 4 Red-legged Partridges, 12 Swallows and 1 Blackcap.

Winkworth Arboretum: 1 Greylag Goose, 1 Tufted Duck (♂), 4 Mandarins (♂♀♀♀ + 7 ducklings), 1 Grey Heron, 1 Little Grebe (+ 1 chick), 1 Grey Wagtail, 2 Chiffchaffs and 5 Blackcaps.

Bonhurst Farm: 12 House Martins, 2 Linnets, 8 Swallows and 1 Blackcap.

Great Brook to New Barn loop: 3 Garden Warblers, 4 Whitethroats, 1 Skylark, 1 Marsh Tit, 1 Buzzard, 1 Sparrowhawk (♂), 1 Linnet, 2 Chiffchaffs and 6 Blackcaps.

Junction Field (10:55-13:50): 1 Herring Gull (NE at 12:14), 1 Whitethroat, 1 Red-legged Partridge, 2 Linnets, 14 Buzzards, 1 Kestrel (♂), 2 Blackcaps and 1 Chiffchaff. 

30th: a Common Tern was again over Bramley Park Lake, with local breeding now suspected. A Spotted Flycatcher was at Selhurst Common, and a Marsh Tit was at Winkworth, along with a family party of 4 Ravens.

29th: 3 Gadwall (2 drakes) were on Mill Pond.

28th: a Common Tern was at Bramley Park Lake, and a pair of Gadwall were on Mill Pond.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

27th May

A wayward forecast today, with cloud and a fair south-west wind instead of morning showers and afternoon sunshine. Most of the time on patch was a sky-watch from Junction Field with Matt. Late Swifts and House Martins were coming through on the breeze, and presumably the same Cormorant was noted circling before heading east, twice. Probably only a few days for any late spring migrants to come in, but you never know. Highlights as follows:

09:15-09:45; 10:40-13:15

Mill Pond: 2 Mute Swans and 1 Tufted Duck (♂).

Gatestreet Farm: 21 Greylag Geese, 2 Red-legged Partridges, 1 Blackcap and 1 Chiffchaff.

Bonhurst Farm: 1 Kestrel (♀) and 12+ House Martins.

Junction Field (10:50-12:30): 1 Whitethroat, 1 Cormorant (E 11:53 & E 12:11), 7 Swifts N/E, 10 Swallows, 11 House Martins, 9 Buzzards, 1 Chiffchaff and 2 Blackcaps.

Allden's Hill: 2 Swifts NE, 1 Kestrel (♂), 3 Greylag Geese, 7 House Martins and 3 Swallows.

Friday, 26 May 2017

26th May

Very warm and a virtually cloudless sky, with temperatures reaching 25 celsius. There was however a pleasant south-east wind, which made for a comfortable sky-watch, the highlights from which included the latest Black-headed Gulls ever recorded on patch. This species is very rare between April and September, and the latest previous record (also the only beyond April) was on 1st May 2016. The journey of the 3 adults drifting very high south at 11:42 intrigues. There was also a flock of 7 Herring Gulls west, a couple of flyover Cormorants and good numbers of raptors.

Elsewhere, the Gadwall pair were on Mill Pond, and, in London bus style, the second confirmed Egyptian Goose breeding success occurred one day after the first. Highlights as follows:

07:30-08:30; 09:45-14:45

Mill Pond: 2 Gadwall (♂♀), 1 Mandarin (♂), 2 Mute Swans and 1 Blackcap.

Thorncombe Street: 1 Little Owl, 2 Grey Herons, 4 Red-legged Partridges, 10 Swallows, 1 Chiffchaff and 1 Blackcap.

Winkworth Arboretum: 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Mandarin (♀ with 3 ducklings), 4 Tufted Ducks (♂♀♂♀), 1 Little Grebe, 4 Blackcaps and 3 Chiffchaffs.

Tilsey Farm: 1 Buzzard, 10+ Swallows and 1 Blackcap.

Gatestreet Farm: 10+ Greylag Geese and 2 Red-legged Partridges.

Bonhurst Farm: 2 Linnets, 12+ House Martins, 1 Buzzard, 1 Chiffchaff and 2 Blackcaps.

Wintershall: 2 Egyptian Geese (+ 6 goslings) and 1 Blackcap.

Junction Field (10:00-14:35): 3 Black-headed Gulls (S 11:42), 7 Herring Gulls (W 12:26), 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Whitethroat, 2 Cormorants (1 SE 10:20, 1 E 12:55), 4 Swifts, 2 Linnets, 2 Kestrels (♂♀), 1 Sparrowhawk (♂), 17 Buzzards, 8 House Martins, 15+ Swallows, 2 Grey Herons, 1 Chiffchaff and 2 Blackcaps.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

25th May

Very hot, with a pleasant south-easterly, and little cloud cover. Good for raptors, but I seemed to miss any of the apparent Red Kite movement that's been happening on the south coast (33 over Seaton, Devon today, and 30 over Sandwich Bay yesterday). A long-anticipated breeding first was proven, in the shape of 4 Egyptian Geese goslings, at Scrubbin's Pond. This species has tried and failed before, and I imagine there are a couple more pairs lurking in the estates. It also means 3 Goose species have bred at Scrubbin's this year. Elsewhere, not loads, though a couple of Spotted Flycatchers at Goose Green were good to see. Highlights as follows:

07:30-08:50; 12:00-14:45

Mill Pond: 2 Egyptian Geese, 4 Tufted Ducks (♂♀♂♀), 2 Mute Swans and 2 Little Grebes.

Winkworth Arboretum: 2 Mandarins (♀♀, both with 3 ducklings), 1 Little Grebe, 1 Buzzard, 2 Blackcaps and 1 Chiffchaff.

Goose Green: 2 Egyptian Geese (+ 4 goslings), 2 Spotted Flycatchers, 1 Skylark, 1 Grey Heron, 11 Greylag Geese (+ 5 goslings) and 2 Blackcaps.

Gatestreet Farm: 17 Greylag Geese, 2 Red-legged Partridges, 4 Swallows and 1 Blackcap.

Bonhurst Farm: 2 Whitethroats, 3 Linnets, 10+ House Martins, 3 Blackcaps and 1 Chiffchaff.

Junction Field (12:25-14:25): 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Whitethroat, 1 Raven, 1 Sparrowhawk (♂), 1 Kestrel (♂), 12 Buzzards, 7 Swallows, 2 House Martins, 2 Chiffchaffs and 2 Blackcaps.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

24th May

Much quieter today, which was very warm, with the pretty much non-existent northerly doing nothing to cool things down. Two Common Terns were present at Bramley Park Lake in the morning, just the second record this year. It's likely they were the same pair as earlier this month, and courtship behaviour was witnessed. I still can't work out where they're based, and they soon departed west. Elsewhere, as mentioned, there wasn't much, though I managed to catch up with Steve C for a couple of hours. The winds look slightly more favourable in the coming days, and I'm tempted to head out tonight for some nocturnal migration listening (or lack of). Highlights as follows:

07:00-12:20

Bramley Park Lake: 2 Common Terns (07:05-07:10, flew W), 1 Grey Heron and 1 Chiffchaff.

Mill Pond: 3 Mandarins (♂♂♂), 2 Tufted Ducks (♂♀), 1 Blackcap and 1 Chiffchaff.

Thorncombe Street: 1 Little Owl, 4 Swallows and 2 Red-legged Partridges.

Winkworth Arboretum: 1 Mandarin (♀, with 3 ducklings), 2 Tufted Ducks (♂♀), 1 Little Grebe, 2 Blackcaps and 1 Chiffchaff.

Scotsland Farm to Juniper Hill to Nore Hanger: 1 Garden Warbler, 5 Blackcaps and 2 Chiffchaffs.

New Barn: 1 Garden Warbler, 3 Whitethroats, 2 Red-legged Partridges, 3 Buzzards, 3 Blackcaps and 1 Chiffchaff.

Hive Field (09:55-12:00): 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Whitethroat, 1 Skylark, 1 Sparrowhawk (♂), 10+ Buzzards, 3 House Martins, 10 Swallows, 3 Blackcaps and 2 Chiffchaffs.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

23rd May

Despite June not being very far away, spring migration is seemingly still in full swing, and I reaped the benefits of this this morning by unblocking a true patch mega. It certainly wasn't what I expected when I made a first visit to Winkworth for a while, but a sub-singing Reed Warbler in bamboo in the southern end of Phillimore represented only the second ever record of this species in the recording area!
Common Blue in Hive Field

I managed some video, but the bird was rather quiet and very hard to see, and is only just audible in the clip that's linked. Despite this, I was pretty delighted to add another patch lifer this spring, bringing my personal total to 132. It's also a mighty fine bird for the year list, and continues a hot streak these past 5 days, with 3 year ticks bagged, as well as the third ever Curlew on Sunday.

Elsewhere, on a muggy, largely cloudy day with an occasional welcoming westerly, it seemed a late fall of warblers had occurred, with a much larger than normal tally of Whitethroats throughout (sadly no Lesser, a bird that still eludes me on patch...). Both a Herring Gull and Cormorant flew over Hive Field, as did 4 raptor species. The Surrey Wildlife Trust have begun to move into Bonhurst Farm, and sadly one of their first actions was to mow the lush grass meadows that had benefited from a sheep-less spring. Full highlights:

07:15-08:40; 09:45-12:20

Mill Pond: 2 Tufted Ducks (♂♂), 5 Mute Swans, 1 Mandarin (), 1 Little Grebe, 1 Blackcap, 1 Chiffchaff and 1 Grey Heron.

Winkworth Arboretum: 1 REED WARBLER (sub-singing in S end of Phillimore, 07:35-07:50 at least), 1 Cuckoo, 1 Marsh Tit, 1 Little Grebe, 1 Tufted Duck (♂), 7 Blackcaps and 2 Chiffchaffs.

Gatestreet Farm: 19 Greylag Geese, 2 Red-legged Partridges and Blackcap.

Bonhurst Farm: 1 Whitethroat, 5 Greylag Geese, 2 Red-legged Partridges, 3 Linnets and 1 Blackcap.

Scotsland Brook to New Barn: 1 Garden Warbler, 2 Whitethroats, 1 Marsh Tit, 2 Chiffchaffs and 2 Blackcaps.

Hive Field (10:25-12:00): 1 Herring Gull (N at 11:27), 2 Whitethroats, 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Skylark, 5+ Swifts, 1 Cormorant (N), 1 Sparrowhawk (♂), 5+ House Martins, 8 Swallows, 2 Red-legged Partridges, 10+ Buzzards, 4 Chiffchaffs and 3 Blackcaps.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

21st May

A very lengthy and enjoyable session on patch today, with a number of standout birds, in largely sunny and hot conditions. The highlight was probably a Curlew that flew SE over Hive Field at 09:45. The bird was less than 100 feet up, and certainly not on a set mission anywhere. Indeed, I actually suspect it was scouting out potential breeding areas - there is a large patchwork of hay meadows here, and it was probably drawn in by the Machair-esque landscape! Whatever its intentions, this is just the 3rd record of Curlew here, after one in April 2015 and an individual over Allden's Hill in February this year.
Just like North Uist

Other notable birds during the sky-watch (that lasted nearly 5 hours, a couple of which were spent in the company of Matt P) at Hive Field included 7 Herring Gulls S/E, 2 singing Skylarks, 1 Cuckoo and 5 species of raptor on the wing. Away from Hive, 2 Marsh Tits and a Spotted Flycatcher were at Scotsland Brook, and 2 Siskins were heard over Juniper Hill.

Yesterday, a brief look before competing in the Mole Valley bird race yielded the usual fare, and thus I've refrained from doing a log for that day. As for the race, my team Linnet To Win It retained our crown with a surprisingly comfortable 93 species (second-place had 86). It was great to bird with Wes A again, an extremely knowledgeable birder, who's found heaps of good stuff in the Capel area. The bird of the day was a somewhat late Sandwich Tern at Buckland sand pit - a typically fine David C find.

Highlights from today as follows:

08:45-14:50

Mill Pond: 5 Mute Swans, 2 Little Grebes and 4 Mandarins (♂♂♂♀, plus 4 ducklings).

Gatestreet Farm: 17 Greylag Geese and 2 Blackcaps.

Bonhurst Farm: 7 Greylag Geese, 12+ House Martins, 2 Linnets and 1 Blackcap.

Scotsland Brook to New Barn: 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Marsh Tits, 1 Garden Warbler, 2 Siskins, 2 Red-legged Partridges, 4 Blackcaps, 2 Chiffchaffs and 4 Buzzards.

Hive Field (09:45-14:35): 1 CURLEW (SE at 09:45), 1 Cuckoo, 7 Herring Gulls (1 E 10:14, 2 S 12:20 & 4 SE 13:04), 2 Skylarks, 1 Garden Warbler, 4+ Swifts, 2 House Martins, 7 Swallows, 12+ Buzzards, 1 Sparrowhawk (♂), 2 Linnets, 4 Blackcaps and 2 Chiffchaffs.

Tilsey Farm: 1 Skylark, 1 Grey Wagtail (♂, Nobody's Pond), 1 Sparrowhawk (♂), 2 Linnets, 2 Blackcaps, 1 Chiffchaff, 5 House Martins and 20+ Swallows.

Friday, 19 May 2017

16th-19th May

Dotterel at Balemore, North Uist
Back after a few days in the Highlands. The main objective was to get Pied-billed Grebe and Black Duck on my Western Palearctic list, both of which were achieved, the latter a bit harder than expected with a couple of hybrid birds thrown into the mix. Clearly the drake's been enjoying himself, and it took some care to find the right guy. Up that far, it seemed rude not to pop over to North Uist, where the density of breeding waders, stunning Machair landscape and numerous Corncrakes made for a pleasant visit. Skua passage was disappointing - the winds were all wrong, and in 5 and a 1/2 hours I managed just 3 Long-tailed and 2 Pomarine, as well as a few unidentified birds that were miles out. A male Dotterel made up for the lack of Skuas, and other good birds on the trip included Golden Eagle, Puffins, Manx Shearwaters, 'Scottish' Crossbills and Short-eared Owls.

Anyway, today it was back to the patch in the cloud and rain. I had a long list of things to do so only a short-ish visit was managed, but the persisting joy of patching, that being the perennial hope that encourages one to look, struck. I had spent most mornings from mid-February to the end of March checking Rowe's Flashe for Pochards, and remarkably drew a blank (this species is normally annual at that time of year). Anyway, this morning, one of the first birds clocked on Mill Pond was a dapper pair of Pochard, on the far north side. Excellent. I had written this bird off after failing during the optimum period, so this was fantastic, and I now sit on 104 for the year.

The Pochard pair today
These birds are very rare on Mill Pond, and all previous records have been drakes after the breeding period. The fact this is a pair is interesting, though I'll be surprised if they stick. Mill Pond was actually quite busy - 2 Grey Herons were fishing, the 4 Mandarin ducklings remain with their mum and the drake Gadwall was about. Elsewhere, a Garden Warbler was at New Barn, the male Little Owl was hunting at Bonhurst and the first Great Spotted Woodpecker chicks were heard begging from a nest near Wintershall.

A small footnote - previously, I listed schedule 1 species in the sightings log when they were not close to breeding sites (my patch is very big). From now, this will cease, and no schedule 1 birds will be put on the blog. Furthermore, any schedule 1 species that are yet to be noted this year will also be omitted, unless they are clearly not breeding here or nearby. Highlights from today as follows:

11:40-13:15

Mill Pond: 2 Pochards (♂♀), 1 Gadwall (♂), 1 Little Grebe, 4 Tufted Ducks (♂♀♂♀), 3 Mandarins ♂♂♀, plus 4 ducklings), 2 Grey Herons, 5 Mute Swans and 2 Blackcaps.

Combe Farm: 1 Buzzard, 3 Red-legged Partridges and 1 Chiffchaff.

Thorncombe Street: 3 Buzzards, 2 Swifts, 1 Swallow, 1 Chiffchaff and 1 Blackcap.

Scotsland Brook - Hive Field: 1 Garden Warbler, 2 Buzzards, 2 Swifts, 2 Blackcaps and 1 Chiffchaff.

Bonhurst Farm: 1 Little Owl, 3 Greylag Geese, 2 Linnets and 1 Blackcap.

Monday, 15 May 2017

15th May

A very early and brief visit, in drizzly and murky weather, before a long journey north. Highlights included another pair of Egyptian Geese, this time at Wintershall Ponds, with the species seemingly increasing here. This isn't totally surprising, given the huge amounts at nearby Busbridge. Indeed, I have always found it odd that they are traditionally infrequent here. Neither the Mute Swans or Gadwall were at Mill Pond.

North of the border, a Pied-billed Grebe on the rather remote Loch Feorlin was conveniently placed not far from our overnight stop, and I enjoyed distant views of the male, which has seemingly paired up with a Little Grebe. Indeed, the female had about 4 chicks in tow - sadly distance and weather conditions prevented me from getting even slightly good views of the young birds, but the Pied-billed certainly kept a close guard, and was aggressive towards any species coming too near. Highlights from both as follows:

05:40-06:20 (Thorncombe Street)

Mill Pond: 1 Tufted Duck (♂) and 1 Blackcap.

Combe Farm: 1 Buzzard and 4 Red-legged Partridges.

Wintershall ponds: 2 Egyptian Geese and 1 Blackcap.

Bonhurst Farm: 4 Greylag Geese, 2 House Martins, 3 Blackcaps and Linnets.

15:20-17:10 

Loch Feorlin: 1 Pied-billed Grebe (♂), 1 Little Grebe (+ 4, possible hybrid, chicks), 2 Hooded Crows, 1 Raven, 1 Cuckoo, 3 Willow Warblers, 1 Wheatear (♂), 1 Buzzard, 2 Grey Wagtails, 5 Lesser Redpolls, 15+ Skylarks and 30+ Meadow Pipits.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

14th May

A quick look before a busy, non-birding day, in grey conditions. I'm sure the afternoon would have been good for raptors, with the sun coming out. Not much of note - the drake Gadwall had moved to Eastwaters pond, and one of the Bonhurst Little Owls showed well. Matt P reported 5 Mandarin chicks at Rowe's Flashe, the second breeding confirmation in the recording area this year. Highlights:

06:20-07:35

Mill Pond: 6 Mute Swans, 2 Tufted Ducks (♂♀) and 3 Blackcaps.

Thorncombe Street: 1 Gadwall (♂, Eastwaters pond), 3 Blackcaps and 5 Red-legged Partridges.

Winkworth Arboretum: 1 Mandarin, 2 Tufted Ducks (♂♀), 3 Chiffchaffs and 2 Blackcaps.

Bonhurst Farm: 1 Little Owl, 4 Greylag Geese, 2 Linnets, 2 Grey Herons (NE) and 2 Blackcaps.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

13th May

Started off wet, and intermittent showers continued until the middle of the day. A warm south-westerly throughout, with the sun largely breaking through by the late afternoon. In total it was a relatively lengthy session, though nothing striking was seen. 5 Lesser Black-backed Gulls moving high north-east over Hive Field under a dark cloud at 15:17 was a seemingly typical May passage record of this species. Elsewhere, at least 1 Spotted Flycatcher was present in Great Brook, an unseasonable Siskin was near Rowe Barn Farm, 2 Egyptian Geese were in Thorncombe Park and the first Little Grebe young of the year was seen.

At this stage, I've recorded pretty much all the regular, expected patch birds. A couple of species I hope I can still bump into remain (Barn Owl, Brambling etc), and Ring Ouzel is likely in the autumn, but it seems the chance of a bonus spring migrant (e.g. Nightingale, Redstart) has passed, and reaching my previously stated goal of 120 seems pretty ambitious. Still, this place has sprung a few surprises during these last few years, and it's all about being in the POMO (position of maximum opportunity, as drilled into me by many a football coach as a kid!) for the rest of 2017. I'm still undecided on why my POMO is, maybe the Ridge, possibly Allden's Hill or perhaps Hive Field - it's probably best to spread my bets.

I must give a few words to some recent mammalian observations. A Bank Vole at Winkworth this morning became the 13th mammal recorded this year. In the last week I have enjoyed two encounters with a Stoat, in the same place, suggesting local breeding. Bird sightings of interest are as follows:

07:05-10:20; 14:05-17:00

Mill Pond: 1 Gadwall (♂), 1 Cormorant, 1 Grey Heron, 6 Tufted Ducks (♂♀♂♀♂♀), 1 Little Grebe, 1 Mandarin (♀ + 4 young), 6 Mute Swans and 1 Blackcap.

Winkworth Arboretum: 1 Greylag Goose, 4 Tufted Ducks (♂♀♂♀), 1 Little Grebe, 3 Blackcaps and 3 Chiffchaffs.


Thorncombe Street: 2 Egyptian Geese, 4 Red-legged Partridges, 2 Blackcaps, 10 Swallows and 1 Siskin.

Bonhurst Farm: 4 Greylag Geese, 5 Swallows and 1 Blackcap.

Scotsland Farm-Leg-of-Mutton Copse-New Barn: 1+ Spotted Flycatcher (Great Brook), 1 Garden Warbler, 2 Little Grebes (+ 1 chick, on New Barn Pond), 4 Red-legged Partridges, 6 Swallows, 1 Buzzard, 1 Red Kite, 4 Chiffchaffs and 8 Blackcaps.

Hive Field (14:20-16:50): 5 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (high NE 15:17), 2 Swifts, 1 Raven, 1 Sparrowhawk (♂), 8+ Buzzards, 2 Red Kites, 7 Swallows, 3 Blackcaps and 2 Chiffchaffs.

Friday, 12 May 2017

12th May

Today started fairly bright, but showers and grey cloud then dominated as a southerly wind kept things muggy. Rather quiet, though again Sylvia warblers stood out and a flock of House Martins at Bonhurst had seemingly been pushed down by rain, and were probably migrating. The drake Gadwall at Mill Pond has already begun his eclipse moult, and will likely be present throughout the summer - this species has never previously been recorded in the June or July. Highlights as follows:

07:05-09:15

Tilsey Farm: 1 Garden Warbler, 2 Whitethroats, 1 Skylark, 1 Red Kite, 2 Chiffchaffs and 4 Blackcaps.

Winkworth Arboretum: 2 Little Grebes, 1 Grey Wagtail, 4 Blackcaps, 2 Chiffchaffs & 7 Tufted Ducks (♂x5).

Bonhurst Farm: 10+ House Martins, 4 Greylag Geese and 2 Linnets.

Thorncombe Street: 1 Whitethroat, 2 Buzzards, 17 Swallows

Mill Pond: 1 Gadwall (♂), 1 Blackcap and 6 Mute Swans.

Bramley Park Lake: 1 Cormorant, 1 Blackcap, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Grey Wagtail, 2 Tufted Ducks (♂♀).

Thursday, 11 May 2017

11th May

A rather muggy day, with a gentle ESE and some sunny periods, the latter proving popular with the local raptors. I anticipated the first Hobby of the year and duly got it, with a bird thermalling over Thorncombe Park. 2 different singing Skylarks was a nice surprise, though perhaps they are both unpaired, and there were also 2 male Cuckoos across the site. The first Mandarin and Starling young of the year and a notable number of Sylvia warblers were further additions to a decent session. Highlights as follows:

10:30-14:20

Mill Pond: 1 Gadwall (♂), 2 Little Grebes, 6 Mandarins (+ 4 chicks), 2 Tufted Ducks (♂♀), 2 Greylag Geese, 6 Mute Swans, 1 Chiffchaff and 1 Blackcap.

Thorncombe Park: 1 Little Owl & 2 Blackcaps.

Bonhurst Farm: 1 Cuckoo (♂), 2 Linnets and 1 Blackcap.

Ridge (11:35-12:35): 1 Hobby (c.12:00), 1 Cuckoo (♂), 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Whitethroat, 10+ Buzzards, 5 Red-legged Partridges, 1 Red Kite, 1 Sparrowhawk (♂), 12 Swallows (N), 2 Blackcaps, 1 Chiffchaff & 6 Linnets.

Tilsey Farm: 2 Whitethroats, 1 Skylark, 2 Swifts, 4 Swallows, 2 Buzzards, 1 Blackcap and 15+ Starling (+ 2 juveniles).

Goose Green: 1 Skylark, 2 Buzzards and 11 Greylag Geese (+ 6 young).

Bramley Park Lake: 1 Grey Wagtail (♂ carrying food to nest) and 1 Grey Heron.

9th-10th May

With time currently on my hands, I took advantage of some very cheap return flights to Malaga (£27 with Easyjet), primarily to take in the raptor migration of the Straits of Gibraltar, but also to enjoy the sun of the Costa del Sol with my girlfriend. With conditions and wind direction ideal (indeed, possibly perfect), some big tallies were notched up on both (brief) migration sessions, with the Wednesday particularly bonkers. The highlight was an extremely lucky encounter with a 2nd or 3rd-year Rüppell's Vulture, migrating with Griffons, which represented a very welcome Western Palearctic tick for me. The number and views of Honey-buzzards was both enjoyable and useful ahead of the summer in England.
Rüppell's Vulture over Punta Secreta

One of the other bird related activities involved a morning visit to Bolonia, where White-rumped Swift was dipped. This site is no longer considered reliable (an area east of Malaga is the new go-to place), and it was perhaps a bit early in the season. Before the airport, we made a visit to Laguna de Feunte de Piedra, home to the second biggest Greater Flamingo colony in the WP (second only to the Camargue). Here, in windy conditions, the distant flocks of up to 20,000 birds contained my target, and it took a good hour before I finally picked out two Lesser Flamingos, the second lifer of the trip. These birds are thought to be expanding north from sub-Saharan Africa (e.g. there's a small population in Mauritania), and whilst the odd collection escapee has been found in the colony, the consensus is that, like the aforementioned Vulture, this is another species moving up.

On that note, the surprise of the trip was a Laughing Dove over the C341 near Huertas y Montes. I must confess to being ignorant to their presence here - apparently a small population exists, and yet again seems to be a case of a species moving north. I enjoyed several of these delightful birds in Morocco earlier in the year, and they were a pleasing addition to a final trip list of 76, which also contained decent bits like Western Olivaceous Warbler, Gull-billed Tern and Iberian Green Woodpecker. Highlights from the 3 main birding sessions are as follows:

9th

14:00-16:00

Gibraltar (Upper Rock): 19 Honey-buzzards, 33 Black Kites, 14 Booted Eagles, 17 Griffon Vultures, 1 Egyptian Vulture, 2 Lesser Kestrels, 1 Peregrine, 100+ Yellow-legged Gulls and 5 Sardinian Warblers.
Greater Flamingos at Laguna de Fuente de Piedra

10th

11:10-12:15

Punta Secreta: 1 Rüppell's Vulture (11:28, with 6 Griffons), 41 Honey-buzzards, 44 Black Kites, 24 Booted Eagles, 6 Short-toed Eagles, 68 Griffon Vultures, 1 Egyptian Vulture, 1 Bee-eater, 1 White Stork, 10 Pallid Swifts, 3 Serins and 10 Yellow-legged Gulls.

15:00-18:00

Lagune de Fuente de Piedra: 2 Lesser Flamingos, (approximately) 20,000 Greater Flamingos, 30+ Gull-billed Terns, 2+ Western Olivaceous Warblers, 4 Zitting Cisticolas, 1 Booted Eagle, 1 Marsh Harrier, 1 Montagu's Harrier, 8 Lesser Kestrels, 10 Avocets, 20 Black-winged Stilts, 1 Sanderling, 10 Little Stints, 2 Wood Sandpipiers, 2 Kentish Plovers, 2 Crested Larks, 15 Ringed Plovers & 1 Garganey.

Monday, 8 May 2017

8th May

As a renowned former Surrey birder used to say, every year is different. On the 7th and 8th May 2016, prolonged southerlies and warm weather produced both Montagu's Harrier and Nightingale on the patch, along with good numbers of commoner migrants. Today, the uncomfortable north-easterlies of late switched to a straight north wind, and combined with full grey cloud the recipe for a quiet session was complete. However, eventually some decent stuff was found, though it took 3 separate visits to yield them.
The Turtle Dove at Imbhams Farm, Haslemere

The first Spotted Flycatcher of the year at Selhurst Common was perhaps a reward for a couple of hours of not much else in the first two spells (including a particularly dead sky-watch). This represents a rather early returning bird, and is the 103rd species of 2017. A male Wheatear in the afternoon at Bonhurst Farm was late, and only the 2nd of the year. It showed strong features of the Greenland race Leucorhoa, including very buffy underparts. Elsewhere, the first Coot chicks of the year were noted, the drake Gadwall reappeared, a record high flock of 37 Stock Doves was counted and a couple of Cormorants flew over.

The Flycatcher, back on one of the 3 known territories across the recording area, is a species that, despite national trends, is really thriving here. I have long believed the quiet, unexplored corners of south-west Surrey still hold some of our most threatened or scarce birds, and Spotted Flycatcher is one of a number of examples on my patch alone. Later in the day this belief was reaffirmed further, when Rich Ford found a Turtle Dove at Imbhams Farm, near Haslemere. A favourite of mine, I was quick to twitch it, and eventually enjoyed prolonged views of the bird feeding on the road.

There were a couple of records on my bit last year, and this is another species that surely hangs on locally. I would love to know exactly where, though. Highlights from both the patch and Imbhams Farm respectively are as follows:

08:20-10:05; 11:25-13:00; 17:15-18:20

Mill Pond: 1 Gadwall (♂), 2 Little Grebes, 2 Greylag Geese, 2 Tufted Ducks (♂♀), 2 Coots (+ 2 chicks), 1 Blackcap and 6 Mute Swans.

The presumed Greenland Wheatear at Bonhurst
Winkworth Arboretum: 4 Tufted Ducks (♂♀ ♂♀), 1 Grey Wagtail, 2 Swallows and 2 Chiffchaffs.

Thorncombe Street: 1 Spotted Flycatcher (Selhurst Common) and 1 Whitethroat (♂, just S of Slade's Farm).

Goose Green: 1 Cormorant S, 2 Blackcaps and  15+ Greylag Geese.

Allden's Hill (11:35-12:35): 1 Cormorant N, 2 Red Kites, 5 Buzzards, 2 Swallows, 1 Red-legged Partridge, 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Blackcaps, 1 Kestrel (♂) and 2 Grey Herons S.

Combe Farm: 2 Greylag Geese, 3 Red-legged Partridges, 1 Grey Heron and 37 Stock Doves.

Bonhurst Farm: 1 Wheatear (♂, presumed Greenland Leucorhoa race), 3 Linnet, 2 Greylag Geese and 2 Blackcaps.

13:15-14:00 

Imbhams Farm: 1 Turtle Dove (purring and occasionally feeding on the ground), 1 Garden Warbler, 3 Buzzards, 4 Swallows and 2 Blackcaps.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

6th May

Hazy, and the blustery north-east winds continuing, but a great record of 2 Common Terns at Bramley Park Lake made the relatively early (for a Saturday!) start worthwhile. The birds, presumably a pair, were picked up at 06:48 and left south-west at 06:55, one having caught a fish. This is in fact only the 5th documented record of this species here, though it's very likely many more have flown over. However, it remains a rare patch bird, with about 2 a year average. 5 Cormorants here was notable for the time of year. Elsewhere, a female Cuckoo was a very pleasing (and uncommon) sight, and a few more Swifts moved east. Highlights as follows:

06:30-08:30

Bramley Park Lake: 2 Common Terns c.06:48-06:55, then SW, 5 Cormorants, 1 Blackcap and 1 Grey Heron.

Mill Pond: 6 Mute Swans and 2 Grey Herons.

Thorncombe Street: 1 Whitethroat, 1 Raven and 4 Red-legged Partridges.

Winkworth Arboretum: 6 Tufted Ducks (♂♀♂♀♂♀), 2 Mandarins (♂♂), 3 Blackcaps and 1 Chiffchaff.

Scrubbin's Pond: 10+ Greylag Geese (+ 19 chicks), 3 Blackcaps, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Red Kite, 3 Buzzards and 5 Swifts E.

Palmer's Cross: 1 Cuckoo () and 2 Blackcaps.

Friday, 5 May 2017

5th May

A reasonable session after a slow start, with blustery north-easterly winds and occasional periods of sun resulted in a decent push of Hirundines and Swifts during the middle of the day (the latter becoming the 101st species recorded in 2017). Also, a Peregrine and 3 Lapwing were seen, the 3rd and 4th records of the year for these species respectively. Furthermore, the first Moorhen, Greylag Geese and Canada Geese chicks of the year were noted. Sightings of note are as follows:

07:15-09:20; 11:00-13:30

Mill Pond: 1 Gadwall (♂), 6 Mute Swans and 2 Tufted Ducks (♂♀)

Winkworth Arboretum: 2 Mandarins (♂♂), 4 Tufted Ducks (♂♀♂♀), 2 Red-legged Partridges, 3 Blackcaps and 2 Chiffchaffs.

Slade's Farm - Ridge: 4 Greylag Geese, 2 Blackcaps, 1 Chiffchaff, 3 Red-legged Partridges and 3 Buzzards.

Leg-of-Mutton Copse - Juniper Hill - New Barn: 1 3rd c/y Lesser Black-backed Gull S, 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Whitethroat, 12 Blackcaps and 5 Chiffchaffs.

Hive Field (11:30-13:10): 1 Peregrine E 11:42, 1 2nd c/y Lesser Black-backed Gull NE 12:01, 31 Swifts N/E, 30 Swallows N/E, 14 House Martins N/E, 2 Red Kites, 7 Buzzards and 2 Blackcaps. 2 Mandarins (♂♀) and 2 Moorhens (+ 4 chicks) on Nobody's Pond.

Tilsey Farm: 1 Skylark, 1 Kestrel (♀), 2 Buzzards, 1 Red Kite, 2 Linnets, 3 Blackcaps and 1 Chiffchaff.

A281 (at Rooks Hill): 3 Lapwings fairly low E over the road.

Scrubbin's Pond: 2 Swifts E, 1 Grey Heron, 17 Greylag Geese (+ 20 goslings!) and 2 Canada Geese (+ 4 goslings).

Thursday, 4 May 2017

4th May

A late and fairly brief visit, my first since returning from Poland. A grey and hazy morning produced little of note, until I located a female Red-crested Pochard on Bramley Park Lake, with a small flock of Mallards. Presumably, this is the female who was present on and off from November until February. Her whereabouts in the intervening time is mysterious to say the least. Sightings of note are as follows:

08:45-09:45; 11:15-11:50

Mill Pond: 1 Gadwall (♂), 6 Mute Swans, 2 Grey Wagtails (♂♀) and 4 Tufted Ducks (♂♀♂♀).

Thorncombe Street - Allden's Hill: 1 Cuckoo (♂), 1 Cormorant N, 1 Raven, 2 Red Kites, 1 Buzzard, 5 Red-legged Partridges, 2 Grey Herons, 2 Blackcaps and 1 Chiffchaff.

Birtley House Pond: 2 Egyptian Geese, 2 Blackcaps and 1 Chiffchaff.

Bramley Park Lake: 1 Red-crested Pochard (♀), 2 Tufted Ducks (♂♀) and 1 Grey Wagtail.