Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds

Thursday, 1 June 2017

1st June

A day I certainly wouldn't have predicted when I woke up this morning. Having done the usual rounds at Mill Pond and Winkworth, and parked near Lea Farm ahead of a planned Junction Field sky-watch, my attention was drawn to an odd mixture of calls coming from the field to the east, and it seemed a flock of 5 birds had recently alighted on the wires. A quick scan revealed 4 Linnets, and a pallid and larger bird that seemed almost Corn Bunting-like, with its back to me.
Common Rosefinch at Lea Farm

I got the scope on it, but with the light poor I headed down the track to another gate further along the field. Here, from a better angle, the possibility of a female/1st-summer male Common Rosefinch entered my mind. The initial and obvious features that stood out against the Linnets were the chunkiness of the birds neck and bill (recalling Trumpeter Finch), the very pallid and cold tones to the plumage, and a long tail. Thankfully the birds were staying still, and I scanned along the Linnets to see if my mind was playing tricks with me - it wasn't, and this bird was standing out.

Thankfully I had a few field guides in the car, and after manically thumbing through a couple the reality began to increase. Making mental notes, I got back on the bird and observed two pretty distinct pale wing-bars, at which point things got a bit frantic. My girlfriend was on the bird with the camera, and taking some shots, sadly none of which came out too well. The light didn't help, and the photo here doesn't tell much, bar the thick neck and bill, and pale plumage (obviously super-enhanced by the light!). Subtle streaks on the underparts were noted, mainly concentrated around the breast, and the heaviness was reiterated (I even re-scanned all birds to see if it was an adult Linnet among recently fledged young!).

A tractor then spooked the birds, and they all took off to the west. At this point I was able to pick out the almost Brambling-esque buzz twice, among the Linnet chatter, and became almost certain that I heard that same call as the group came in earlier. My experience with this species is fairly limited, having seen them in Estonia in 2007 and Poland earlier this year, but the guide-to-bird usage and hearing that call are what nailed it for me - I couldn't have been certain without them.

Egyptian Goose at Gatestreet Farm
I quickly phoned a couple of birding mates, and given the flock hadn't looked to have moved far, set off on a mission to re-find it. Sadly, 6 hours exhausting hours later, and having covered some serious ground, I didn't even have a sniff of the flock. The search really was akin to a needle in a haystack job - Linnets move about seemingly endlessly, and as I post this I am heading back out to visit the field again. It's a shame to say the madness of such a bird has been tempered a bit by not re-finding it, for others to enjoy, but you can't have it all!

Elsewhere today, a roosting Barn Owl at Bonhurst (the place I scoured most for the Rosefinch), was a very pleasant surprise, and my first of the year. Also, a Herring Gull flew NW, 2 Gadwall on Mill Pond became the first June record, and 2 Egyptian Geese were at Gatestreet Farm. Full highlights as follows:

07:40-08:30; 09:25-16:05

Mill Pond: 2 Gadwalls (♂♀), 2 Mute Swans, 3 Tufted Ducks (♂♂♀) and 1 Blackcap.

Winkworth Arboretum: 2 Little Grebes, 2 Mandarin Ducks (♀♀ + 7 ducklings), 1 Tufted Duck (♂), 1 Chiffchaff and 1 Blackcap.

Gatestreet Farm: 2 Egyptian Geese, 1 Little Owl, 2 Red-legged Partridges, 2 Linnets, 7 Swallows and 1 Blackcap.

Lea Farm: 1 COMMON ROSEFINCH (♀/ 1st-summer ♂ on wires, 09:43-09:52), 4 Linnets and 1 Blackcap.

Bonhurst Farm: 1 Barn Owl (roosting in Oak by stables), 1 Little Owl, 2 Red-legged Partridges, 1 Kestrel (♀), 5 Linnets, 2 Buzzards, 15+ House Martins, 6 Swallows, 1 Chiffchaff and 3 Blackcaps.

Junction Field: 1 Herring Gull (NE at 11:55), 1 Whitethroat, 4 Buzzards, 4 Swallows, 3 Blackcaps and 2 Chiffchaff.

The Ridge: 2 Red-legged Partridges, 5 Buzzards, 2 Blackcaps and 3 Swallows.