Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds

Sunday, 4 June 2017

4th June

Pallas's Sandgrouse, Alpine Accentor, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Rose-coloured Starling, Great Reed Warbler, Green-winged Teal, 19 raptors (including 3 Eagle species), 4 Auks and all 5 European Rails/Crakes...
Spotted Crake, Unstead, September 2010 (KG)

No, not a productive sky-watch from the Ridge, but a selection of some of the more mouth-watering of the 255 species that have been recorded in the Godalming area. Area definition? A 3.5 kilometre radius of the town centre, which incorporates a surprising mosaic of different habitats and well-watched patches. Assembled largely for fun, I was thinking the list would hit 200, but never expected the figure to be quite so high. I reckon there are 3 main factors behind the big tally, which are explained below.

1. There's a big variety of habitats in the 3.5 km circle. You have heathland, woods and copses at different elevations, big lakes, a river and adjacent meadows, marshland and pools, farmland etc. None of the sites are particularly premier, but the area does seem to be a microcosm of the wider county. Think Witley Common as a poor mans Thursley, Enton Lakes the little brother of Frensham, and Unstead a tiny slither of Beddington, for example.

2. The coverage during the last few decades (arguably the last half-century) has been very high. Chiefly, this is down to two stalwarts, Brian Milton at Unstead and Eric Soden in the Milford/Enton/Tuesley area. These two sites have turned up pretty much all the modern-day rares, and a lot of them have been found by the two aforementioned gentlemen. 

3. A lot of people shot/killed stuff in the Godalming area pre-1900. This accounts for a fair few of the more exotic records (such as the Sandgrouse, Accentor and two of the Eagles), and it certainly seems birds 'collected' in the Godalming area back in the day is much better documented than other parts of the county.

The famous Hydestile Red-footed Falcon (& friend), seen
twice at Unstead after its release at Thursley in 1998 (DMH)
Unfortunately, there's a bit of an elephant in the room in regard to the list, and that's Unstead and the Surrey Bird Club rarity committee's non-existent relationship. It's a long story (that began with a Sabine's Gull in July 2000) but, in short, for the last 17 years Unstead records simply never got submitted. This means a number of birds that only feature on the Godalming list because of one-time records from Unstead have a certain awkward feel about them - Long-tailed Skua, Short-toed Eagle, Black Kite and Icterine Warbler are some examples.

Anyway, back to the patch and today, when a brief visit yielded no additions the Godalming area list. Indeed it was quiet - a 'sweeo-ing' Chiffchaff was taking food to a nest at Junction Field, the drake (though currently looking like a female) Gadwall at Mill Pond was present and a Garden Warbler was heard. Highlights as follows:

08:10-10:00

Mill Pond: 1 Gadwall (♂), 3 Mandarins (♂♀♀ + 3 ducklings), 1 Grey Heron, 5 Tufted Ducks (♂♂♂♀♀), 2 Mute Swans and 1 Blackcap.

Thorncombe Street: 2 Red-legged Partridges, 3 Swallows, 1 Buzzard and 1 Blackcap.

Junction Field: 1 Garden Warbler, 7 Swifts, 6 House Martins, 2 Buzzards, 5 Chiffchaffs and 4 Blackcaps.

Bonhurst Farm: 15+ House Martins, 2 Linnets and 1 Blackcap.