Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds

Thursday, 22 June 2017

14th-22nd June

I've had less time on patch recently, often either a pretty brief early morning or late evening session. The general trend is one of quiet summer, and the heatwave this week has meant most of the hay fields in the south have been cut early, ending the optimistic Quail dream of recent weeks. With a very warm (31 celsius) Summer Solstice yesterday, my mind has tentatively begun to think towards return migration, and the last few July's here have produced some very good stuff.
Spotted Flycatcher, Selhurst Common, 14/6/2017

As mentioned, it's been quiet, and perhaps the best bird of the last 9 days was a Common Tern over Bramley Park Lake on the 15th, the 5th record this year. Given the Tuesley Farm birds spend their days fishing at Enton or Marsh Farm, the nest site of my birds is completely unknown.

Another notable record recently is the appearance of 1 (at least) female Red-crested Pochard x Mallard hybrid, present on Bramley Park Lake on a couple of dates, including today. Presumably, Florence has hooked up with a Mallard, not totally surprising given her fondness for hanging around with this species. The hybrid is told by its more rusty plumage, and a stripe in the crown. Florence is still about, and was seen with a drake Mallard on Mill Pond on the 20th.

Sticking with ducks, a staggering roost count of 96 Mandarins was made at Mill Pond on the 18th, unsurprisingly a site record. Females seem to be using the safe and predator-proof pond as a post-breeding creche for their young, and many eclipse males have also pitched up, explaining the high count. 76 were present on the 19th, and the number has slowly dropped down since.

Gadwall, Mill Pond, 14/6/2017
Another extremely out of season Shoveler was present on the 20th, Gadwalls have been about on and off, and the first Tufted Duck young of the year were seen on the 19th, a pair looking after 9 ducklings. Today 4 Little Grebes, including 1 chick, were on the water.

A late night listen for Tawny Owls on the 16th produced 6 birds. A rare sight on the 21st was one seen in the day, flushed from its roost in Ridings Brook. The Wintershall gamekeeper has, somewhat remarkably, reported a pair of Barn Owls at Combe Farm. I'll investigate in the coming days, and it would represent a fine record if proven.

With things quiet on patch, I've taken the opportunity, on a couple of dates, to check out the state of the farmland birds around the Hambledon area. This completely un-watched neck of the woods has great potential, but I have (so far) failed in my attempts to locate any Quails, Lesser Whitethroats or Turtle Doves, despite perfect looking habitat. I was confident of finding the latter species when I stumbled across a feeding flock of about 400 Woodpigeons at Burgate Farm, but I failed to make out even a Stock Dove among the frenzy.
Little Owl, Thorncombe Park, 21/6/2017

Despite not finding any Lessers, plenty of Common Whitethroats seem to be kicking about here, along with Skylarks, Red-legged Partridges and, in the wooded areas, Spotted Flycatchers. Most pleasing, however, is the number of Yellowhammers. On Tuesday I had at least 3 singing males, including 2 at Burgate.

A few years ago, I chose to patch Thorncombe Street over this area. I wonder what I would have found if I had spent the same amount of time scouring the seemingly endless fields? There's so much land in Surrey that gets no attention from birders - I'm sure thing like Turtle Doves, Quails and Corn Buntings are out there, somewhere...