Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds

Monday, 23 October 2017

17th-23rd October

I wasn’t too sure what Storm Brian (or Brianstorm to those who have a great taste in bands) would mean for the patch. Ultimately it didn’t really change the anticipated flow of vis-mig species, though there was definitely some gull movement as a result – 36 Common were the first of the season (and an exceptional number to actually move through here), and a 1st-winter Great Black-backed was just the fifth of 2017.

Woodpigeons over New Barn, 22/10/2017
Despite the WSW gusts reaching up to 15mph passerines seemed not bothered, with many firing through south or east. Remarkably, some moved into the wind – it’s always incredible to watch such tiny things do so. Finches were the order of both days, with Hawfinches continuing to pass through. Saturday yielded just one, but on Sunday 6 (including a single flock of 5) went over, and later on there was another over going west Allden’s Hill.

Redpoll numbers were notable with 26 over on Sunday, and single Bramblings were recorded on both days. A remarkably late Swallow moved south yesterday, along with 3 House Martins, and there was a steady flow of the 2 common Wagtails and Meadow Pipits. 5 Skylarks over Allden’s Hill was a good count for here.

Standout singular birds included a Peregrine south over Allden’s Hill on Sunday (4th of 2017), and on Saturday a Lapwing north-west (5th of 2017) and Feral Pigeon high south (rare here, even more so on vis-mig!). The first prolonged Woodpigeon roving of the season took place about 45 minutes into Sundays watch, with 464 the final total. With the westerly winds that have dominated this autumn, Thrush numbers remain low – still no Fieldfare, and less than 200 Redwing over both watches.

A view from New Barn - Leith Hill is on the horizon
Despite the activity in the skies, the best bird came on the deck, on Saturday. Having already watched 12 Mipits go over, my attention was drawn to a group of about 20 birds that were flushed up by a game-keepers buggy from Hive Field. They seemed to settle somewhere near New Barn, but slowly headed back a few minutes later, in dribs and drabs.

At around 08:30, I heard a different Pipit call, being uttered singularly, and I watched one bird drop back into Hive. It sounded wet and squeaky, not as sharp as Mipit and heavier, and it immediately began to recall Water. I headed down for a look, and as soon as I walked (more waded) into Hive I put up about 10 Mipits. They settled a few feet away, and this cat and mouse continued for about 5 minutes, when I flushed up a much larger group of at least 20 birds.

This time it was easy to pick the odd one out - a clearly paler individual, with what seemed bright white underparts. Several times the flock would go up, and what I now was sure was a Water Pipit would call and fly first, always landing out of view. I eventually managed to track its flight until landing, and enjoyed confirmatory views of the pale, less densely streaked, and even Song Thrush recalling bird, with an obvious supercilium.

Pipit sp., Hive Field, 21/10/2017
Inevitably the birds took off when I approached again, but I seemed to pick up the Water Pipit, facing me. In the scramble to take photos, the light emphasising the white breast and prominent super, I was led believe I was looking at the Wipit. However, upon studying the photos (which were all crap), I'm now not sure I got pictures of it - the streaking (particularly on the flanks) in the photo to the right look somewhat Mipit-esque. The strong supercilium is clear, and the bird does look pale (particularly in contrast to the olive glow of the numerous Mipits in the morning sun) and less streaked on top, but ultimately I'm not convinced I photographed the right bird. Opinions are very welcome.

Anyway, there was definitely a Water Pipit in the flock, which were enjoying the extremely damp and boggy condition Hive Field is now in (even looks appealing for Snipe). This lot were clearly on the move - the next morning, there were zero Pipits in Hive at all. All in all though it was a very pleasing find - just the second Wipit here, after one on March 30th 2015. I wonder if autumn has anything else up it's sleeve?