Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds

Monday, 29 January 2018

24th-29th January

A mixed weekend on patch, with a couple of year ticks and decent birds for the site mixed in with a hugely frustrating encounter with a probable Merlin on Saturday. The year ticks came in the shape of Lesser Black-backed Gull and Crossbill, and the continued presence of Hawfinches throughout the site was pleasing.

female Reed Bunting, the Ridge, 27/1/2018
Saturday 27th 

Ridge 08:50-10:30 

1 Mealy Redpoll, 1 Falco sp. (south-west c.09:40), 4 Bramblings, 2 Yellowhammers, 2 Egyptian Geese (east), 30+ Lesser Redpolls, 40+ Linnets, 1 Sparrowhawk, 10+ Reed Buntings, 60+ Common Gulls, 3 Fieldfares (east), 10+ Redwings, 1 Red-legged Partridge, 2 Ravens, 6 Red Kites, 10 Greylag Geese (north) and 3 Buzzards.

A lengthy spell on the Ridge, with lots going on. On the walk up a Hawfinch sat up nicely in a tree in the garden of Raggetts. Once on the top, the finch/bunting flock was very much in evidence, and it didn’t take too long to pick up the Redpoll group, this time feeding in the north crop. After a little while a few flew into the hedgerow on the east side, and here the Mealy revealed itself, showing very well and at close range for an all too brief period of time.

Lesser Redpolls, the Ridge, 27/1/2018
It was seen twice more, both in flight, when it’s massive white rump could be seen. A little later about half the flock flew up into the trees on the edge of Furze Field, and a particularly weird looking Lesser had me head scratching for a bit, as I pondered if it was another Mealy. As can be seen from the photos (left-hand bird), it had next to no streaking on a very pale breast/underparts, a pale-ish rump and, most oddly, a striking white wing patch (that seemed more than extreme fade, perhaps more some form of melanism?).

Presumably this is just a very worn individual, and Wes A suggested it was a 1st-winter female type. At this time of year Redpolls begin to wear and become paler in some places, and the red develops around the head and breast. In all, this makes them even harder to ID!

A real moment of frustration came when I was watching the Mealy in flight. Having lost it, I turned around, and to the west, over the south crop, I saw the silhouette of a small and slender falcon disappear over the hedgerow and towards Slades, mobbed by a Carrion Crow as it went. The jizz screamed Merlin, and it probably was, but I just didn’t see it long enough.

I raced down to the top of Slades but couldn’t see the bird, and indeed it didn’t reappear in the next 45 minutes. Very annoying. Not quite classic Merlin habitat here, but with the Ridge teeming with birds as it currently is one could easily drop in, much like the Hen Harrier in December.

female Kestrel (bearing two metal rings), Unknown Farm,
28/1/2017
Sunday 29th

Ridge 07:50-08:30

1+ Bramblings, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd-winter south 08:11), 5+ Reed Buntings, 30+ Linnets+, 25+ Lesser Redpolls, 11 Red Kites, 4 Buzzards, 11 Herring Gulls (south) and 33 Common Gulls.

Another attempt to connect with and ideally photograph the Mealy, but in blustery conditions and low light I soon gave up. A gentle southerly trail of gulls included the first Lesser Black-backed of the year, in with several Herrings, and this movement continued throughout the morning.

Scotsland Brook to Tilsey Farm 09:00-10:35

20 Hawfinch (18 south over Hive Field 09:05 and 2 west over Juniper Hill 10:25), 2+ Crossbills (south over Coldbourne Copse 09:17), 1 Firecrest (Scotsland Brook), 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (adult and 1st-winter south over Hive Field c.09:00), 5 Herring Gulls (south), 2 Meadow Pipits, 2 Kestrels, 1 Red-legged Partridge, 4 Buzzards and 6 Red Kites. 

Hawfinch, Raggetts, 27/1/2017
A nice stroll on a favoured circuit of mine, not done for a few weeks. A single flock of 18 Hawfinches was a surprise – it seems birds are flocking together locally, presumably as food sources diminish. If any hang around to breed on my patch, it’ll be in this area. A further 2 Lesser Black-backs moved south, with some more Herrings, and a Firecrest was singing at Scotsland Brook.

The birds of the day were the 2 Crossbills that were initially picked up on call, flying south over Coldboune Copse. There’s been no records since March, in what’s been a poor winter for them, but there’s possibly a few knocking about in Hascombe Hill. During the day a site record 18 Red Kites was tallied, surely indicative of a local roost.