|Common Sandpiper, Winkworth Arboretum, 24/4/2019.|
Common Sandpipers are always nice to see, but probably don’t mean much to many birders. For me, however, it has long been the number one species on the Thorncombe Street Area list that has eluded me. To make matters worse, birding friends – some who’ve only visited a handful of times – had even seen the species here: Jeremy in the late 1980s with the first site record at Winkworth, then Sam at Bramley Park Lake in 2005 before Matt had two records involving no fewer than five birds in late April 2015.
So, between mid-April and mid-May (and again in autumn) ever since, I’ve paid many, many visits to the few appropriate water bodies in vain. None more so, however, than Winkworth. This morning the alarm went ever so early. Knowing I was out for the football later, I was close to hitting snooze, but I yanked myself out of bed and was at the arboretum not long later. Upon approaching the east shore I heard a familiar chattery whistle – Common Sandpiper!
|Common Sandpiper, Winkworth Arboretum, 24/4/2019.|
The little wader fluttered over to the west side and alighted on a tree stump, before bobbing away. I watched it for 20 minutes or so as it quietly surveyed its temporary place of rest on its journey to some flowing stream somewhere north of here. The local Coots seemed to take a disliking to it and it eventually headed to the buoys at the south end. I left it in peace. All those hundreds of visits to Rowes Flashe – which has delivered no better than Pochard before – were vindicated in one little sandy-brown spring bundle.
The Bank Holiday weekend had started well on Thursday, when a trio of new arrivals were logged on the regular loop from Great Brook, through New Barn to Tilsey Farm. First up was Whitethroat at New Barn, followed by a Cuckoo towards Curry Field. The icing on the cake was a Garden Warbler at Coldbourne Copse.
|Garden Warbler, New Barn, 21/4/2019.|
Spring has been good so far, with most species arriving at a usual time. My widening of coverage has doubtless helped (for my sanity if nothing else); a smart male Wheatear at Unstead later in the day on 18th a real delight to chance upon with Janet. Normally I’d be pulling my hair out at having not found one at Thorncombe Street … other spring arrivals at Unstead over the weekend included Reed Warbler (19th, bit of a surprise given the habitat), Sedge and Willow Warbler (22nd) and Whitethroat (18th).
|Wheatear, Unstead SF, 18/4/2019.|
|Sedge Warbler, Unstead SF, 18/4/2019.|
Friday 19th was warm and sunny. It wasn’t looking great for migrants, but with a breezy northerly increasing as the day went on migrating hirundines became a possibility. I positioned myself on Broomy Down and a small passage took place, including my first patch House Martins of the year as well as three Sand Martins – less than annual in spring here.
|Red Kite, Broomy Down, 19/4/2019.|
Given the weather, I was amazed to find a flock of 19 Fieldfare at Tilsey Farm that evening. There have been a few stragglers this year; Mark D had a few at Chadhurst Farm near Dorking the same day, and today Steve G had a few at Canons Farm, Banstead. At dusk I twitched Kit’s Gropper at Shalford (more of them to come).
|Sand Martin, Broomy Down, 19/4/2019.|
|Fieldfares, Tilsey Farm, 19/4/2019.|
Saturday was taken up by football, but I did see a Barn Owl quartering the Lammas Lands at Godalming at dawn. On 21st I paid a visit to Pagham Harbour before visiting my parents, completing a five-mile loop from the North Wall to Sidlesham and back. The farmland and scrub in this area looks absolutely prime for rare and, regardless of any of that stuff, the usual species here and general ambience of the place makes it one of my favourites.
Notable was a count of eight Lesser Whitethroats, but best of all was a reeling Grasshopper Warbler near Beggars Lane. Unaware of the species’ status on the Selsey peninsula/Pagham Harbour at the time I posted a message in the local WhatsApp group, soon to be inundated with messages and calls from locals – it turned out this was only the third record of Gropper in the last seven years. Not quite the Subalpine discovery I had in my mind but pleasing to chance upon nonetheless, and one of 10 warbler species logged.
|Lesser Whitethroat, Pagham Harbour, 21/4/2019.|
|Black-tailed Godwits and Teal, Pagham Harbour, 21/4/2019.|
Back late that night, while putting the microphone up on Allden’s Hill, a flock of Teal called as they passed overhead. Sunday was relatively quiet in the continued fine weather, though some real excitement came at Tilsey Farm. A male Yellowhammer had been singing there for a few weeks, but the species doesn’t breed on patch (it does so not far away). So, I was absolutely chuffed when I saw him with a female inspecting a suitable looking hedge for nesting this morning. Fingers and toes crossed that they stick about. Towards sundown, a poke about The Hurtwood was somewhat productive, in that Cuckoo, Firecrest and Garden Warbler were all seen.
|Yellowhammers, Tilsey Farm, 22/4/2019.|
|Mallards, Winkworth Arboretum, 19/4/2019.|
|Jackdaw, Bonhurst Farm, 22/4/2019.|
There’s been no real rarities in April, but a more than satisfactory migration period and the odd local scarce and patch mega thrown in for good measure. Hopefully the good form can continue through the last week of the month and into May, a month when the real once-in-a-lifetime prizes can be found.