Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds

Monday, 26 February 2018

20th-26th January

I had limited time for patch birding over the weekend, though thankfully the sun is coming up early enough now for pre-work sessions, and the relatively nice (but cold) end to last week allowed me to get out and about. Away from the patch, I was one of many who undertook a journey to Weymouth in order to see a truly stunning adult Ross’s Gull on Saturday, and spending the night at my parents in Sussex allowed for a little coastal birding there too.
Juvenile Red Kite, Thorncombe Street, 25/2/2018.

20th-23rd, patch

A couple of sessions on Wednesday and Friday saw me catch up with several species that are beginning to think about breeding. Many common species are now in full song, Great Spotted Woodpeckers are drumming everywhere and male Red-legged Partridges are squaring off and scrapping roadside.

On Friday I tried, yet again, to dig out a Water Rail at Phillimore, but failed. It really does seem like none are wintering here, and given they’ve done so since the late 1980’s at least, it’s a pretty sad state of affairs. Elsewhere I had a single Hawfinch near Yewtree Nob, and a few Bramblings throughout.

24th, Weymouth and West Wittering

An early start, and freezing stakeout at Ferrybridge, failed to deliver the Arctic gem which at least 200 birders had travelled to see. When news broke of the adult Ross’s Gull reappearing at Lodmoor, there was a bit of a rush there, before it was confirmed it had flown.
Adult Ross's Gull, RSPB Radipole Lake, 24/2/2018.

Not wanting to stand around at Ferrybridge I decided to check out Weymouth Pavillion pier, and Bowleaze Cove (two sites it had been seen at the day before), but with no joy in freezing conditions I deviated to get a coffee, before another unsuccessful look at Radipole Lake.

I gave it one last check of Lodmoor and was about to leave, when news broke of the bird showing well at Radipole. A mad dash over, and there it was – words like beautiful and stunning are certainly overused in birding, but this adult Ross’s Gull truly was, and it felt like a real privilege to enjoy simply outrageous views of it on a shingle island just several feet away.

A long-time dream bird, I concerned myself with soaking up scope views as oppose to try and get a good picture in the scrum, and the image in this post is the best I managed. It’s a wonder as to how this delicate little bird survives in the high Arctic. After about 10 minutes it flew off south, over the town and away, thus preparing the next wave of twitchers for another game of cat and mouse.

Before heading to my parents I checked out the large Brent Goose flock at West Wittering, which must have numbered nearly 1,000 birds. The group was feeding actively, and with the ‘Beast From The East’ hitting us from today, there must be an outside chance of something like a Red-breasted Goose moving away from a frozen continent and joining up with this lot in the coming weeks.

Brent Geese, West Wittering, 24/2/2018.
25th, Felpham and patch

With a northerly component to the wind I didn’t have high hopes for a seawatch from my parents, and unsurprisingly nothing was moving far out. However, what must be a post-roost movement of gulls began long before dawn, moving east close in.

It was clear plenty of Mediterranean Gulls were part of this, and in an hour from 06:40 to 07:40 I tallied no less than 234 birds – that’s 3.9 a minute! Perhaps not of note to locals, it seemed an impressive count to me. This species is clearly still on the increase – flocks of 800+ have been counted in west Dorset in recent weeks.

A little later it was back to Surrey, and a glorious day could have been mistaken for spring if it wasn’t for a bitterly cold north-east wind. I stuck my nose in a few different sections of the patch, and met up with Rich H and Rich S, who were visiting in an attempt to get Red-legged Partridge and Raven on their year lists.

Adult Mediterranean Gull, Felpham, 25/2/2018.
An enjoyable catch up was had for an hour or so, and an enthusiastic local told us of his recent discovery of a pair of Arctic Terns nearby – a truly gripping tale (!). Things were generally quiet, though after both Rich’s left a couple of Hawfinches and Ravens flew over, and a flock of 28 Meadow Pipits were flushed up by a Kestrel.

The week ahead

A lot of talk about this impending cold snap has taken place. Ultimately, these events often flatter to deceive, no least for a dry, inland site! However, it’s fun to imagine, and for me I’ll be chasing three possibilities.

Firstly, vis-mig could be interesting. Already today in Surrey Wes A has had 23 Golden Plovers over Capel (a bird not on the Thorncombe Street list!), and Matt P recorded a few small groups of Lapwings over Clandon. There may be local movements of passerines, and of course that tiny, remote hope (that keeps all patchers going!) of something wondrous like a flock of grey geese.

Wildfowl numbers should increase, after what’s been a poor year locally. Mill Pond often remains unfrozen, and this could prove key in the coming days. Finally, seed-eaters may move about, with food becoming much harder to access. I’ll be sure to keep the Ridge topped up with seed this week, and who knows what might move in?