Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds


Friday, 18 March 2016

18th March

Cold, grey and slow starting but finally some real migration evidence today. A dawn start at Leith Hill for a tower watch didn't produce too much, though visibility was heavily reduced until about 08:30, when it began to clear. There were few signs of movement, though at least 20 Crossbills were nice, including a large flock that landed next to the tower, somewhat out of place in an oak tree. From there, I headed to Shalford water meadows with Matt, and a number of decent birds were clocked up, namely Firecrest, 3 Little Egrets and a Little Owl. Matt showed me some secluded, marshy habitat off the paths - I'm sure a wader or two will turn up in the coming weeks.
A hindered view from Leith Hill tower this morning

Thorncombe Street

The north-easterly wind had been bitter up the tower, and the overcast skies left me with little anticipation as we headed up the Ridge for a sky watch. Pleasingly, I was to be proven wrong. Mid-March to early April sees obvious Meadow Pipit movement on my patch, as the birds come in off the sea and fly the 30 miles north, just low enough to be seen and heard over the Ridge. I'd yet to have any waves this year, but it seemed some of the first big arrivals were happening on the south coast this morning. The eventual tally at Selsey was 625 (2,000 in an hour over Portland in Dorset!), and as the former site lies just to the west of a straight line from Thorncombe Street to the Sussex coast (Climping, to be precise), I speculated to Matt that we may get some of these Pipits over.

A few minutes on the top, and there they were, 4 squeaking Meadow Pipits flying high north! Truly amazing to be part of the jigsaw that makes up these birds migration. Shortly after another flock of 4 passed over, high and direct. Many more will pass through over Easter. At 12:15 Matt picked up a duck flying very high, and powerfully, south, to the west of us. Having watched 3 Mallards in the air moments earlier it became clear this wasn't another, and we noted a dark head and pale wings. Sadly, it was far too distant, and remains (yet another) patch one that got away. Personally, I think it was a drake Pintail.

Despite this minor frustration a year tick soon followed in the shape of a huge, adult Great Black-backed Gull. The bird was very high up, perhaps 1,000 feet from sea level, and it slowly continued it's journey north. From the English Channel to Scottish or beyond breeding grounds? Who knows. The usual fare was also present, raptors, Ravens and the Finch/Bunting flock, though the latter seems to be dropping in numbers. Only 4 Brambling were noted, though this included 2 singing males.

We descended, but pausing to scan the fields as we did. It would prove to be fortunate - almost out of view, Matt pointed out 5 Lapwings passing directly over where we'd been standing on the Ridge. Another year tick (83) and again more birds on the move - I only get Lapwings during the passage seasons. Migration is beautiful to watch - bring on a change of wind and some summer birds!