Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds

Monday, 12 February 2018

5th-12th February

It’s been a decent past week on patch, with a few new additions to the year list, as well as a mixed supporting cast of local scarcities. The showstopper was no doubt a singing Woodlark at Brookwell yesterday, just the third site record, and a particularly dreamy encounter in fine pre-dawn sunshine. A Barn Owl found by Matt P was a rare moment of grippage here, and a great record given how hard to see this species is around Thorncombe Street. Other highlights included a drake Pochard, a flock of Crossbills and a few ever so subtle suggestions of spring.

Drake Pochard, Rowe's Flashe, 7/2/2018.
5th-8th February

With the days growing longer, brief pre-work visits are once again possible, and I managed to fit a couple in last week. The cold spell has seen wildfowl numbers typically increase, and February through to late March is always a prime time for Aythya movements and influxes.

With a Ferruginous Duck turning up at a private site not far from here in January, and a Pochard x Fudge hybrid present at Beddington even more recently, this species was (ambitiously as ever) on my radar. In the end I had to settle for a smart drake Pochard on Rowe’s Flashe on the 7th, (2nd 2018 record) and a rising number of Tufted Ducks (which peaked at 13 on Saturday). 44 Teal at Mill Pond on the 8th is also a year high.

9th February

Having gone out for food on Friday night, a clear sky resulted in a slight deviation on the way home, and a better late than never hunt for a 2018 Tawny Owl. The end result was at least 3 calling around the Juniper Hill/Great Brook area, and one low over the road near Nadia’s Hill. Sadly there was to be no Barn Owl though Matt P, who was driving through the site later in the evening, managed a bird flying north at Palmer’s Cross, in the far south-east of the recording area.

Fieldfare, Bonhurst Farm, 10/2/2018.
This species is very elusive here, and whilst word among the gamekeepers suggests a pair have taken up residence near Combe Farm it seems likely that Barn Owls remain visitors, with pairs at various places outside the patch boundary (Hascombe and Smithbrook Kilns). I haven’t missed a patch year tick since 2015, so I better track one down soon! The species is Matt’s 114th here, a fine haul.

10th February

Fairly grim weather was forecast, so I targeted the dry but cold morning window for a casual session. There wasn’t loads to report, and the Ridge was in fact pretty disappointing – no sign of the Mealy Redpoll (only 5 Lessers seen), 0 Bramblings and just a handful of Linnets and Reed Buntings.

Some consolation came via a small group of Crossbills, seemingly flushed up from somewhere within Thorncombe Park. The first two were individuals, calling like crazy as they flew over my head and to Furze Field. Then, at around 08:30, another 4 exploded up from somewhere and flew west. Crossbills are scarce here, and in what’s been a quiet winter nationally for the species it’s certainly a surprise that this is the third record of 2018 already – the same total as the whole of last year.

11th February
Common Buzzard, Wintershall, 10/2/2018.

Despite a notable hangover I was up with the lark on Sunday (literally), and on patch before sunrise (!). A Christmas tree plantation between Brookwell and the A281 has been set-aside for a couple of years, and is an ideal, scrubby area that’s lacking elsewhere here. Sadly, access isn’t easy, so I rarely bother to check it out.

For some reason I decided that this was a good morning to, and this proved to be an excellent call as the distant, flutey notes of a Woodlark were heard almost immediately. This is one of my favourite songsters, and I eventually found the individual sat up on a telephone wire quite some distance from the path. With the sun coming up over Winterfold to the east, the lark was bathed in a glorious, golden-amber dawn glow as it let rip its beautiful melody.

Even if this species was regular here I’d always take the time to appreciate it’s song, so the fact this was only the third site record (following birds in 2016 and 2017) made for an even more special moment. Certainly, enough to make a weekend, and a real pointer to spring.

Woodlark, Brookwell, 11/2/2018.
The sense that the seasons are switching up soon was heightened post-breakfast, with the sun continuing to shine, and in fact often getting the better of an occasionally bitter west/north-west wind. A sky-watch was on the cards, and several raptors were up, to the backdrop of singing Skylarks and a Yellowhammer at Tilsey Farm. An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull drifted high north over Hascombe Hill too – maybe it wasn’t on its daily winter commute the reservoirs of south London, and was on its way to breeding grounds further north?

A productive weekend leaves the year list at 83, a very good total and in fact one ahead of this time last year (though I'm on 82 having missed the Barn Owl). A couple of bits should be ticked off in the next one or two weeks (Water Rail a notable year list absentee), and woodpeckers too are high on the agenda, before March and it’s many hopes and joyous offerings commence.