Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds

Monday, 26 March 2018

20th-26th March

Frustrating is probably the appropriate word for the last week on patch, in birding terms. This is largely borne out of the weather – late March (as mentioned previously) is generally my favourite time of year, but the weekends just haven’t aligned with those glorious early spring days this year. Of course, after heavy mist and cloud for most of the day yesterday, today is blue skies and sun…

Hawfinch, Raggetts, 21/3/2018.
Despite this a new bird for the year was recorded on the 21st, though sadly not by myself – a Snipe flushed from Gatestreet Farm represents, perhaps surprisingly, the first record since 18th March 2015. Furthermore, a productive meeting with the National Trust suggests that wildlife is about to be given a real helping hand down at Winkworth.

21st-23rd

I managed a couple of vis-mig sessions from Allden’s Hill, with fairly average results. Both watches offered a tease at Meadow Pipit migration, with counts of over 15 on each session. A few high-flying Cormorants on the 21st were fun, and a Brambling was noted on the 22nd.

Elsewhere, Hawfinches continue to be both regular and showy around Raggetts. Early morning is best, and up to 10 can be heard popping and whistling, and seen sitting up in high trees, from the footpath that runs east from the phone-box.

24th and 25th

In terms of birds, Saturday was quiet. The first singing Chiffchaff of the year offered some relief, but otherwise there wasn’t loads. Indeed, exotics and oddities headed up proceedings – the Black Swan pair at Brookwell Pond, the semi-resident Bar-headed Goose was at Rowe’s Flashe and a couple of Red-crested Pochard x Mallard hybrids (offspring of the elusive female RC Poch) were at Bramley Park Lake. Woodpecker action was good value though.

Common Gull, Bonhurst Farm, 22/3/2018.
The day was largely taken up by meetings, with both the National Trust, and the Wintershall Estate. The former was most productive – in short, Winkworth have been given a budget to restore and enhance Phillimore. Once upon a time this was a lake to rival Rowe’s Flashe, but now it’s in dire condition and Water Rails didn’t winter for the first time in decades.

This prompted me to contact the National Trust, and lead to this meeting. The first plan is to remove the alder and willow, before removing all the gunnera and grass sedges. Once that’s completed, two wader scrapes are to be created, along with a herring bone channel. A reedbed will also be created and managed. Naturally, this is hugely exciting, though it will doubtless take a while. Further down the line, a hide has been discussed, as well as a tern raft on Rowe’s Flashe.

My meeting with the Wintershall Estate too was productive, not least because I learnt of the Snipe that was flushed on the 21st. This species probably does pass through or even hang about in some of the less accessible parts of the patch, but I never manage to find any. Indeed, my only record came back in March 2015, when Matt and I had one on Eastwaters Pond. This brings the species list up to 91 for 2018.

Fieldfares, Allden's Hill, 21/3/2018.
We also discussed the possibility of creating a section of habitat for the benefit of Nightingales and Turtle Doves, in similarity to the Knepp Estate (with which Wintershall have a close relationship). There are also plans to create a monthly nature blog, and to expand on the White Stork area, with the further removal of trees and stumps, and scrape and channel creation.

Yesterday was desperately quiet, bar an arrival of grounded Chiffchaffs (5 in total). After a week-long forecast of sun and light cloud I was looking forward to a big sky-watch, but the reality was mist, cloud and occasional drizzle.

Later in the day, whilst on BirdGuides duty, I was most surprised to hear a Willow Warbler from the flat – comfortably my earliest Surrey record, and for the second year in a row my first of the year has come outside my flat.

The week ahead

Bullfinch, Allden's Hill, 21/3/2018.
I’m making myself not look at the Easter Bank Holiday forecast, because it seems that bad. Temperatures are set to drop, and the winds look inconsistent. Not good for migration, but by next Tuesday I’d be disappointed if I haven’t seen the first Swallow of the year (generally arrive between 30th March-4th April).

Willow Warblers often appear early here too, and at least I’d expect an increase in Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. Firecrests too have been notable by their absence so far, but this’ll doubtless change soon. Generally spring Wheatears arrive later in April, and we’re still a couple of weeks away from Cuckoos, Garden Warblers and House Martins.

We are, however, entering an exciting time of the year, when anything (within the realms of possibility for the dry, inland patch) can happen. An Osprey or Marsh Harrier would be nice, or perhaps a Little or Mediterranean Gull on the move.

Since the Water Pipit, March has disappointed. Perhaps though, it has a late ace up its sleeve?