Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds


Monday, 7 June 2021

Out and about

An upturn in the weather has coincided with a late surge of spring migration in Britain, meaning there's been good reason to get out and about during the past week. This has mainly been local, although a couple of trips further afield have added to a dynamic and fun start to June. The weather looks settled for the foreseeable so hopefully an air of normality can resume among breeding birds as well.

Redstart carrying food at Thursley.

Tuesday 1st

It was a lovely, warm early summer morning and, with the wind just hanging in the south-east, it was time for a proper field session. I headed to Thursley where, over four hours and some 11km, I racked up 53 species, which was pretty good for June. The clear highlight came not long after 7 am when a Turtle Dove flew east over Spur Wood and Francis Copse – my first for the site. It seems very likely this bird was a late migrant – high-flying early in the morning – and a light passage of Swallows during the course of the morning backed up the idea that there are still migrants to arrive. No surprise after the wet and cold spring we’ve endured up to this point … 

Pudmore was fairly quiet, save the male Curlew patrolling and four Tufted Duck. A Water Rail called towards Birchy Pond. Young Stonechats and Blue Tits were noted, as was a Willow Warbler carrying food at Francis Copse – a Redstart pair were doing the same near Shrike Hill, too. Woodlarks seemed to be at all stages of breeding – plenty of singing males (presumably on second broods), a family party near Circklestones and one bird building a nest! Unseasonal Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls cruised over and, by the time I was wrapping things up, a few Common Lizards were basking in the sunshine.

Wednesday 2nd

With the wind still in the south-east I opted for Thursley again, undertaking a similar route but this time tallying 55 species. Notable bits that weren’t seen yesterday included a singing Snipe on West Bog – perhaps enough evidence this species is breeding here – and a Crossbill over Ockley Common, as well as Hobby and Little Grebe. A Water Rail was at Pudmore.

The Redstart pair were again busy feeding young. While looking unsuccessfully for their nest I inadvertently located a Dunnock brood, low to the ground and being fed by adults. A Canada Goose pair had four goslings on Pylon Pool – I can’t actually remember this species breeding here successfully before.

Female Redstart.

In the evening I spent a bit of time with a reeling male Grasshopper Warbler. This bird, present a few weeks now, is seemingly unpaired and is singing frequently and at all hours of the day. A shame, as this breeding site – the only one in the vice-county – has produced young in each of the past two years. Hopefully he finds a mate …


Thursday 3rd

I finished work a little early so decided to have an amble around Thorncombe Street. At Snowdenham Mill Pond, the Mute Swan pair still had all six cygnets and were keeping close to them at the south end. Four each of Mandarin and Tufted Duck were present, along with one Coot with six small chicks and another sitting on a nest.

I then headed down to the south end and enjoyed an immensely peaceful amble up and down the lane along Great Brook and Selhurst Common. I’d love to live in one of the cottages here – there were birds everywhere, many singing or carrying food to hungry youngsters. This site has been super reliable for Spotted Flycatcher ever since I started patching Thorncombe Street in 2014, but last year the main wisteria was cut down and they became tricky. So, it was a nice surprise to locate at least one bird (but probably two) in more or less the same area, singing occasionally and flitting from tree to tree.

Spotted Flycatcher.

A Firecrest was singing, a couple of Siskins flew over and a Marsh Tit was carrying food. A brief bit of Cuckoo song was heard to the north and two Red-legged Partridges were about, while an adult Treecreeper was seen with a recent fledgling. A Grey Wagtail was a little further along the lane towards Goose Green. A fine summer stroll indeed.

Marsh Tit.

Friday 4th

Typically it was raining on my day off, so I had a lazy start and decided to head down to Pagham mid-morning. Given the precipitation, I staked out Church Norton from the hide for a few hours, where I saw not a soul. For the most part it was quiet – three Sanderlings, a Whimbrel, four Dunlin, seven Turnstone and a drake Gadwall were noted, as well as the usual Little and Sandwich Terns. A Mediterranean Gull – one of 72 counted – was sitting with a chick on Tern Island and a Lesser Whitethroat sang from a thicket beside the hide. Two Shelduck pairs brought their youngsters up onto the footpath before quickly retreating to the water when they saw me.

Shelduck action.

I was about to head off when, to my surprise, I picked up a Roseate Tern, distantly on the exposed mud south-east of Tern Island. As soon as I went for the camera it flew – typical, I thought. Thankfully though I relocated it and it was with a second bird! Very nice and, despite the distance, the pale plumage, all-dark bill and bright red legs could be seen.

Distant Roseate Terns.

This isn’t a species I see often (only my third record, ever) and once I put the news out a few folks arrived to see them. Reward for patience, I thought, and for persevering in the rain … also my ninth tern species on the Selsey Peninsula!

I headed to the Ferry area next which was quiet, save a few Avocet on Ferry Pool and a single Curlew in Ferry Channel. It was a bit livelier at North Wall, where two smart Cattle Egrets were flying in and out of Owl Copse. I remember when Pagham was the place to go for Little Egret, but nowadays it’s their peachy congeners who steal the show. A Cuckoo sang nearby, Reed Warblers far outnumbered Sedges and a Hobby flew low east over the fields. Some 70 species in all and a decent half-day out.

Peaches and cream.

Saturday 5th

A quick look at Snowdenham Mill Pond in the morning revealed that the Mute Swan pair still had all six cygnets. A Gadwall pair, the drake in heavy moult, were also about, along with one of the Red-crested Pochard x Mallard hybrids and three Tufted Duck. Later, a Reed Warbler was rather incongruously singing in a bush at Tongham services. 

In the afternoon in Felpham, at my parents’, a Painted Lady visited the garden briefly. Two Mediterranean Gulls flew east and a Blackbird pair were tending to a well-developed youngster.

Painted Lady.

Sunday 6th

A long but memorable day out. It started early, and two male Tawny Owls were audible from my drive when Matt picked me up not long after 3.45 am. With Abel and Sam in tow, we got to our destination – Ham Wall in Somerset – about an hour after first light. And we were soon enjoying the spectacular sight and sound of the male River Warbler that has been holding fort here since 4th.

River Warbler action.

It’s been more than a decade since a twitchable bird was on the mainland and the setting and experience for a lifer was perfect – it was absolutely going for it with it’s bizarre song and sitting out on willow brush at close range. As we watched, several Great Egrets and Marsh Harriers flew over, with other songsters including Bittern, Water Rail and Cetti’s, Reed and Sedge Warblers. We eventually peeled away, checking out other parts of the reserve where two Pochard broods were noted, along with a late drake Wigeon. We’d managed some 51 species by the time we left.

Next up was a site where, after a bit of patience and scanning, we were treated to an incredible encounter with a male Montagu’s Harrier – one of a tiny handful in Britain this summer. This species is on the verge of extinction from our isles, so to see it twisting and turning as it displayed above our heads was a breath-taking moment that left us all in awe, even if it was a little distant. One of my favourite species without a doubt …

Monty's on patrol and in display.

We then headed to an area on Salisbury Plain where the Great Bustard reintroduction project is taking place. Here, we counted seven birds, including a couple of males in full, spectacular display. Around us Yellow Wagtails busily fed youngsters, 25 or more Corn Buntings sang and Lapwings mobbed anything that flew over. We also noted both Grey and Red-legged Partridge, singing Meadow Pipit and Wall Brown.

With news that Britain’s eighth Red-necked Stint was still in Northumberland coming through early in the morning, a plan had already been hatched to take the long journey north. Car observations included Peregrine and some 35 Lapwings near Basingstoke, and a flock of 16 Golden Plovers near Leeming in North Yorkshire. Arrival time at Blyth Estuary was just after 6 pm, having gone through the trauma of news of the bird flying off about 45 minutes beforehand!

Thankfully the Red-necked Stint had returned and, while initially distant, it eventually flew over the river and landed on the south shore, allowing for great – albeit not the closest – ‘scope views of a truly stunning little wader, all the way from East Asia. The brick red face and upperparts glowed in the warm evening light as it fed busily with a flock of Ringed Plovers and Dunlin. My photos were poor so included is a link to a shot my colleague Josh took earlier in the day, when he and several others enjoyed it down to a few metres …

Distant stint action.

Easily one of the best birds I’ve seen in Britain and a Western Palearctic mega to boot. This is the first Red-necked Stint to grace the UK since 2010, and the first twitchable one since 2001. It’s also the first time a spring adult has turned up ...

It was hard to take your eyes off the Red-necked Stint, but other bits included a Little Stint (which was side-by-side with the Red-necked briefly), a female Eider with four ducklings, a Curlew, a singing Meadow Pipit, 12 redhead Goosander feeding in the river mouth and a Common Tern patrolling the water. A knackering but superb day out …

Goosander on the Blyth.

Monday 7th

A Bullfinch was calling in the garden at lunchtime.

Monday, 31 May 2021

All quiet on the south-western front

I haven’t got loads to report from the last three weeks, during what’s been a quiet May in south-west Surrey (and indeed nationally). What an odd spring this has been – an exceptionally dry and frosty April followed by what must be one of the wettest Mays on record. Unfortunately I suspect it’ll be a summer of poor breeding success, which sadly has already been evidenced in some species. However, what with various activities – not least socialising! – being back on the cards since the latest lifting of restrictions, a lull in bird activity has actually been quite timely. And the weather has picked up during the last few days, so hopefully the start of June will be decent.

A hunting Hobby.

Tuesday 11th

A walk around Painshill Farm in mild and bright conditions felt birdy, with six species of warbler on offer, including a surprise Reed Warbler. It seems I encounter this species in a whacky location just about annually, and to hear one singing away from a dense hawthorn hedge, far from any water, was most unexpected.

A silent, late migrant Willow Warbler was also about and a Garden Warbler pair included a displaying male (not something I’ve seen in this species before; a rather begging juvenile-like fluttering of wings) but there was no Lesser Whitethroat – after a suite of spring records in 2020, this species has reverted to being a difficult south-west Surrey bird, it seems. Other bits included three Red-legged Partridges, two Nightingales and singles of Cuckoo and Yellowhammer.

Red-legged Partridges in rapeseed.

A quick look at Snowdenham Mill Pond on the way home produced two drake Gadwall and seven Mandarin, including a female with ducklings. A drake Tufted Duck was about as well.

Wednesday 12th

Lesser Black-backed Gull and Bullfinch were notable observations from the kitchen window during the day.

Thursday 13th

It was mild with light rain during a brief look at Tuesley early on, where two Common Sandpipers were present, along with a Lesser Black-backed Gull and six Common Terns.

Friday 14th

A Kestrel flew over the garden mid-morning.

Saturday 15th

A 45-minute stakeout at Tuesley in promising conditions (rain and a south-east wind) flattered to deceive. A Yellow Wagtail over was of note – my latest spring bird in Surrey by six days – but was probably more symptomatic of this cold and slow spring than anything else. A Lesser Black-backed Gull dropped in and a couple of Swallows went through but it was otherwise quiet.

Sunday 16th

Heavy rain in the afternoon was enough to tempt me to Tuesley, where I was rewarded with a smart summer-plumaged Dunlin. It hugged the west shore in foul weather and appeared to be missing an eye, exactly like one I had here on 19 July last year. The same? Quite possibly – and amazing if so. The wonders of migration …

Dunlin action.

The rain had eased by the time I got to Frensham Great Pond for a walk with some friends. Five Hobbies hunting close to the south shore were good entertainment and a Little Egret and two Lesser Black-backed Gulls went over. Some 15 Great Crested Grebes was rather a high count count and the Mute Swan pair were keeping a close eye on their newly-fledged cygnets.

Hobbies and Little Egret.

Monday 17th

I felt for the Farncombe Swifts (of which numbers are still low) during the day as they zipped around miserably in the on and off rain and wind. 

Tuesday 18th

I met with Ken and Linda S (of Woodpecker Network fame), as well as Gerry and Graham, mid-morning for a check of some local Lesser Spotted Woodpecker nests. Results were mixed – two had been abandoned, with one apparently flooded out. However, one of the more settled pairs I’ve been watching for several weeks were in the process of laying, and Ken’s camera revealed two eggs in a recently tidied excavation. 

These birds have been perfecting this particular hole for a while now and, although this is a very late laying date, it can be explained by the cold, wet and slow spring that seems to have pushed many birds back a few weeks. Fingers crossed – it would be nice to see months of fieldwork pay off with fledged young …

Pecker action (top photo taken in April).

Wednesday 19th

A Sparrowhawk flew over Surrey Sports Park in the evening.

Thursday 20th

It was cool and grey at The Hurtwood early morning. Disappointingly I drew blanks on all three recent colonists – Dartford Warbler, Tree Pipit and Woodlark. All three have been recorded earlier in the season so perhaps the early April-like conditions were keeping them quiet … 

Two Cuckoos, including one particularly keen individual, were roving around and there was an excellent number of Garden Warblers and Whitethroats (as can be heard in the background of the below Cuckoo recording). A couple of Willow Warblers were also in voice. I heard two Bullfinches, seven Crossbills included a group of five heading west and a Siskin flew over.

Friday 21st

A Swallow flew over the garden during a very wet and windy day.

Saturday 22nd

No observations of note today!

Sunday 23rd

The Mute Swan pair at Snowdenham Mill Pond were swimming around with six cygnets, which must have hatched in the last couple of days. This species has been documented as breeding here since the 1940s but, after a successful 2014, the nest was predated in 2015. The pair then abandoned the site the following year and this is the first nesting effort since, so it’s good to see it’s been a success.

Happy Mute Swan family.

The drake Gadwall, now in rather heavy eclipse moult, was still present. A Grey Wagtail and two Tufted Duck were also about.

Monday 24th

Singles of Chiffchaff and Bullfinch were calling along the railway line near Farncombe station late afternoon.

Tuesday 25th

A very early start for the second batch of consultancy work in Birmingham city centre, with the survey highlights single flyovers of Peregrine (a female) and Grey Wagtail. Later in the day, two Lesser Black-backed Gulls flew over Compton village. 

Wednesday 26th

I visited Shackleford for the first time in a while early on. It was cool – even a bit chilly in the north-westerly – and quiet, though a family group of five Ravens overhead was nice to see. Five Red-legged Partridges were among the vegetation that has shot up since my last visit, no doubt helped by the heavy rainfall in recent times.

Thursday 27th

I was in the Dunsfold area mid-morning, visiting Lower Barrihurst Farm for the first time. I’ve long wanted to walk this site and thankfully access was arranged today – and what a beautiful area it was. Towering hedgerows, acres of bramble scrub and scattered trees to a backdrop of old farm machinery and lively birdsong made me feel like I was in Eastern Europe.

I was pleased to pin down a male Lesser Whitethroat, though it wasn’t singing much and was quite skulking. After a couple of years of this south-west Surrey enigma being relatively easy to locate, it seems to have reverted to type in 2021 and this is the only record I’m aware of locally this spring. Here and the wider area is the one traditional locale – a pair bred to the north at Painshill Farm in 2020 but seemingly aren’t present this year.

Lesser Whitethroat.

A Cuckoo and two Nightingales were also in voice, as well as good numbers of Whitethroat, Garden Warbler and Blackcap. A Bullfinch was also heard. 

Friday 27th

I was enjoying a relaxing raptor watching session mid-morning in rather muggy, warm conditions, which had included a male Honey Buzzard among a suite of commoner species. This tranquil session was interrupted by a series of phone calls followed by killer images of nothing less than a Black Stork taken yesterday at Thursley! 

Honey Buzzard.

A county third – and the first for 31 years – this record becomes the latest in what has become almost the norm at Thursley these days: mega or local rarities captured by unwitting photographers or visitors (Short-toed Eagle from 2014; Sandwich Tern and Hen Harrier from this year etc). Colin the Cuckoo attracts 10-30 people a day, I reckon, so naturally the extra eyes and lenses will pick stuff out. And what an incredibly cool record this was – a national rarity actually touching down, albeit briefly, on the common. A mixture of both excitement and envy for Jon, the lucky observer.

I held off going for a while but eventually couldn’t resist heading to the common, even though it had almost certainly left the county (Jeremy had a stork species over Frensham some 15 minutes after the bird departed from Thursley in that direction!). I think when you’ve missed a big bird on one of your patches, even if you know it’s gone, you still feel a need to be there. I’m not sure why this is, but in a couple of hours of going through the motions on Shrike Hill and Merlin Mound I picked up the usual fare, including three Hobbies, Crossbill, five Redstarts, Kestrel, Garden Warbler and the male Curlew chasing off a Red Kite.

Later in the day, I had the privilege of watching a Goshawk nest being ringed. I found this site last year and had been keeping a close eye on it this season. Three healthy chicks – two males and a female – were swiftly processed with the adult female watching closely nearby. A truly wonderful experience and perhaps my highlight of the spring – a big thanks to Jeremy for allowing me to attend. A flyover Hawfinch nearby was a surprise as well, and a reminder that this highly elusive species is surely an under-recorded resident of outer Surrey woodland.

Young Goshawks.

Saturday 29th

I noticed a House Martin pair in the early stages of nest building in the eaves of a house in Farncombe early afternoon.

Sunday 30th

No observations of note today.

Monday 31st

A Bullfinch was calling in the garden mid-morning.

Monday, 10 May 2021

Migration at last

Although May started off how April ended, with frosty mornings and a northerly wind, it's picked up markedly during the last few days and it feels like migration proper has finally reached south-west Surrey. I find May can be a fickle month for the patchbirder, though there’s no denying it’s one of the most dynamic periods of the year – and it's safe to say the first 10 days have been decent.

Bound for the High Arctic, this tundrae Ringed Plover stopped off briefly in my little corner of Surrey.

Saturday 1st

I met Dave at Thursley early on, where May welcomed us with a hard frost and the temperature behind zero. Both with time to spare this morning, we decided to try and hit 60 species; if you leave Thursley with 50 it’s generally a very good effort. My personal best is 62 and the big day record – achieved by Dave, Doug and others in the 1990s – is 66. It started well at Pudmore, where a Green Sandpiper was flushed and a Yellow Wagtail went over. The Lapwings were still about and one of the Curlew sang distantly.

We went across Ockley next, picking up Snipe, Tree Pipit and Lesser Redpoll (the latter a bit of a bonus in May). The Birchy Pond area held a couple of Garden Warblers and a Treecreeper pair were attending a nest nearby. We knew we’d need some bonuses at Forked Pond and this proved the case, with Common Tern and Mandarin both unexpected. By now we were in the 50s and it was clear 60 would be easily achieved, so we agreed to try and break the record. Swift and Siskin fell as we hiked across the heath and up to the village.

There, where we had to be on the north side of the road to be in the recording area, we managed a suite of species otherwise hard to connect with at Thursley, including House Sparrow, Starling, Rook and Greenfinch. Mistle Thrush, Firecrest and Pied Wagtail were also added, taking us to 66. We then winded back down to Silkmill Pond where we set a new record with Great Crested Grebe. Raven and Bullfinch were also about, taking us to 69.

The record breaking species ...

We decided to walk Ockley again and were rewarded with Buzzard, Hobby, a late Meadow Pipit and Sand Martin, the latter a good Thursley bird. Elstead Common pools delivered Water Rail, which we’d missed earlier, while six Hobbies circled over Pudmore. A Grey Wagtail at the Moat made it 75 before, finally, a distant Red Kite completed the morning. All good fun and achieved by 11:30, too, with some 18 km covered in the process.

Hobby action.

In the early evening I walked Shackleford again and finally scored my first Whinchat of the year – a showy male at the north end. A Wheatear pair were about too, along with a couple of Red-legged Partridges.

Whinchat and Wheatears.

Sunday 2nd

I headed out along the river early morning, concentrating on Unstead Water Meadows. Although any signs of migration were limited (and warbler numbers still very low) it was a pleasant stroll. A brief singing Cetti’s Warbler was probably one of the Lammas Lands birds and a Little Egret low south was notable for the time of year. A Kingfisher flew upriver and a Buzzard pair seemed to be getting ready to nest in a big oak. Best of all was a singing Cuckoo – my first along this stretch of the Wey.

I headed to Shackleford next where there was no sign of the Whinchat, though a female Wheatear was knocking about. To my surprise, a (the?) Grey Partridge pair were seen again, on the west side by a bramble bush. Two of their Red-legged congeners were also around. A Cuckoo was in voice too, distantly towards Puttenham, and four Lesser Black-backed Gulls flew north. By the farm ponds, a Greylag Goose pair walked four goslings around.

Grey Partridge pair.

A quick look at Cutt Mill Ponds revealed a drake Gadwall and a Great Crested Grebe sitting on a nest, both on the House Pond. I was home for breakfast with a pleasing 54 species noted during this local circuit.

I met up with Sam later in the day. We were short of ideas so chose to do a circuit of some Low Weald backwaters, which turned out to be quite fun. A stop at Snowdenham Mill Pond first revealed drakes of Mandarin and Gadwall, as well as the sitting female Mute Swan. We headed to Painshill Farm next, where a Garden Warbler was one of the first birds heard, along with two Nightingales.

Other usual fare, such as Skylark, Red-legged Partridge, Bullfinch and Yellowhammer, were detected, before a light shower turned into a rather heavy one. Before our eyes, a male Whinchat appeared and flicked around the brambles and rapeseed fields before disappearing. Shortly after we heard a Tree Pipit, and eventually picked it up as it circled a few times before continuing on. A flyover Yellow Wagtail completed a nice trio of migrants forced down by the rain.

Whinchat and Tree Pipit dropping out the sky at Dunsfold.

A few hirundines were moving through too, including at least six Sand Martins. Eight Lesser Black-backed Gulls cruised overhead, a Raven was knocking about, a female Sparrowhawk flew east and two Cuckoos were singing. 

We moved on, checking a couple of Yellowhammer territories near Chiddingfold before exploring around Bowlhead Green. To our great surprise we picked up a Woodcock feeding on a roadside verge in broad daylight. It soon flew to nearby understory and fed in the open before eventually flushing north – amazing to see in the middle of the day. A short look at Halnaker Copse produced two Yellowhammers, Garden Warbler and Raven, before we called it a day.

Monday 3rd

I headed to Tuesley first thing in pleasantly cool conditions. Upon arrival, I espied a couple of Charadrius plovers on the far shore – LRPs, I presumed. However, a closer look revealed them to be a very dapper pair of tundrae Ringed Plovers, and they were quite relaxed as they fed on the rubber tideline. Although my third record of the species here they are rare at Tuesley, with this being something like the eighth record. A Common Tern was also about and a Grey Heron flew south.

Ringo action.

I walked Chiddingfold Forest next, where Nightingale numbers were poor – I noted only three in voice. Singles of Marsh Tit and Willow Warblers were singing, as were four Garden Warblers, and at least five Bullfinches were roving around. Two different Mistle Thrush pairs were carrying food, too. A circuit of Shackleford afterwards was quiet in the increasing wind, with the almost obligatory Wheatear (one) and Red-legged Partridge (two) of note.

Tuesday 4th

It was windy at Frensham Great Pond, where a mass of hirundines – typical in such weather – had gathered over the water with a few Swifts. Unsurprisingly, a Hobby was lurking nearby. Two Common Sandpipers were flying around the west end and briefly settled near the hotel and a male Sparrowhawk went over.

Wednesday 5th

At least three Swifts were back in the Farncombe colony, observed at different points of the day from the kitchen window.

Thursday 6th

A Little Egret flew south over the garden early morning – the second time I’ve had a flyby seemingly tracking the river in the last four days. It was cold and misty at Tuesley, where two flyover Yellow Wagtails highlighted an otherwise quiet visit.

Friday 7th

A quick look at Snowdenham Mill Pond delivered two drake Gadwall.

Saturday 8th

Mild temperatures, strong south-easterlies and heavy rain falling just before dawn on an early May morning – perfect for inland waders. I headed to Tuesley first thing and an initial scan only produced a Common Sandpiper. The second sweep, however, struck gold, with a lump of a Grey Plover sat on the north shore. 

Grey Plover in the gloom.

The bird was nervous and vocal, and immediately started flying around. Indeed, after five minutes it took off to the south, despite the foul conditions. A real treat this – a south-west Surrey lifer for me, only my second ever in the county and the second record for Tuesley (the previous coming in August 2013, which was a flyover). The light was awful and the weather really poor so the photos are shocking, but what a cracking bird (even if it wasn’t a spanking male; perhaps this was a moulting female?). 

More ropey GP shots.

A patient stakeout in the grim conditions didn’t produce anything else, save four hardy Swallows heading north, and I headed home soaked – but very satisfied. After a shower and a coffee it was back out and heading to the South-West. I am a rubbish British lister, in that I don’t go for stuff that I’ve seen in the Western Palearctic (for which I keenly keep a list). This means there are plenty of bits I just won’t travel for, unless it’s local, and so there are some obvious gaps in my national list. With WP plans written off for the second year in a row, I decided I may as well pay a bit of attention to my British list and so at the start of the year set myself a goal of 400 by the end of the year. 

And this is why I was to be spending the afternoon in Dorset. First up was Chesil Beach at Abbotsbury, where a long wait for very underwhelming views of Whiskered Tern were achieved. A low-quality encounter of a species I’ve seen lots of abroad reminded me why I don’t seriously British list! Still, it was nice to see, and singles of Little and Sandwich, and hundreds of Common Terns, meant it was a fun stakeout. A Whimbrel was about, a Wheatear knocked about on the beach.

The next stop at Cogden Beach, 10 minutes up the road, was very different – stunning, untouched Jurassic Coast, with wonderful, sloping fields down to a reedy border that held a flora-adorned pebbly beach beyond it, as big waves crashed against the shore. Lovely stuff. And the Tawny Pipit here was far more obliging, although a bit distant, as it foraged among the vegetation. The dark loral stripe was especially notable in this bird, as was the buttery yellow wash to the face and breast. Dorset is a very scenic county and, coupled with some good birds, made for a welcome away day.

Tawny Pipit at Cogden Beach.

Sunday 9th

A circuit of Shackleford in mild conditions was quiet, with a single female Wheatear in the ploughed field and a Raven passing east overhead. Four Red-legged Partridges were around, too. A quick look at Tuesley produced two Common Sandpipers, three Swifts and, most impressively, a flock of some 130 non-breeding Herring Gulls – quite a sight for this gull-less part of Surrey.

Later in the day I headed to Beddington, after news of a Temminck’s Stint broke. Upon arrival it showed really nicely on the fantastic looking 'Wet Grassland' – perhaps my best-ever views of this species in Britain. The green-yellow legs, eye-ring and dark centres to upperpart feathers were all noted as it moved slowly around islands, occasionally flushed by a Mallard or Coot, but generally settled. A lovely way to add this excellent species to my vice-county list (number 224; hopefully 225 is something special!).

Temminck's Stint at Beddington.

A few other bits were about, not least a first-summer Caspian Gull that flew in and landed in front of me. This bird has been around all winter though apparently it's been AWOL recently. It’s rather a dark bird but is structurally classic, especially the head and bill. A Yellow-legged Gull of the same age was also present, along with singles of Little Ringed Plover, Common Tern and Yellow Wagtail. A Kestrel flew over and both Cetti’s and Reed Warblers were in voice, too.

Casp and LRP.

The area the stint was on is essentially a massive scrape at present. Given the revival in the site’s birding scene, with daily, multi-observer coverage, I’m sure this grand old vice-county locale will produce a few more goodies this year. And the 'Wet Grassland' looks like the place it’ll happen – I can easily see an autumn White-rumped Sandpiper or Lesser Yellowlegs here.

Monday 10th

Swift numbers over Farncombe were up to six today.