There are about 5 bird songs that I enjoy above all others. Blackcap, Nightingale and Blackbird are included, but perhaps top of the pile, just, is that of the Woodlark. Coming from this part of the country renders me fortunate enough to be able to hear their melody every year, with relative ease. From late February onward, a trip in calm weather to Thursley, or any of the other commons nearby, normally includes several of these wonderful songsters pouring forth their vocal magic into the air.
|The southern part of the nursery that held the Woodlark|
Away from their known breeding grounds in the county, Woodlarks are rare visitors, and unsurprisingly there are no historical records from my Thorncombe Street patch (including Winkworth). I have thought that a flyover migrant would not be impossible, but the idea of a singing bird really was very unlikely.
In the far south-east of my patch there is an area called Selhurst Common, not much more than a road, a couple of houses and a signpost. However, decades ago, before trees and hedges took over, this was a 7.84 ha common, no doubt complete with gorse bushes and heather (much like other parts of my site). Indeed, there is a 1902 breeding record of Nightjar, so the habitat must once have been very different. This would be almost impossible to tell now but for a large stretch of conifer plantation just to the east of Selhurst, a tree nursery that reaches up to Grafham, with it's sandy base and low vegetation somewhat giving the impression of a heath.
Viewing is restricted, but I have on occasion stopped and scanned, and my first 2015 flock of Lapwing in early March last year encouraged me to check it out on a flying visit again late in the day yesterday, at the end of a non-birding day. I had been leaning on the metal gate just a couple of minutes when I heard the flutey song of a Woodlark. Surely not? There were 2 Song Thrushes singing nearby, and perhaps they were simply mimicking. This bird did sound much further away though, and sure enough the tumbling tones piped up once more. I still wasn't sure, as it seemed so unlikely, but after a short while at about 17:30 the bird appeared in the air, singing away.
I couldn't believe it. Whilst Thorncombe Street is lacking in ornithological history it is still something to turn up a patch first - a singing Woodlark was totally unexpected! It was a moment that defines patching for me, stumbling across my favourite songster, on a flying visit after a miserable, wet day. Later research told me that they do indeed breed on forestry plantations and tree nurseries - it could conceivably stick, should it pair up. Amazing stuff. Woodlark now becomes the 138th bird on the patch historical list, and I will be back to check out the area tomorrow.
|Reed Bunting on the Ridge today (RW)|
The Ridge continues to attract birders and today Richard Waters visited, taking this photo of a Reed Bunting, with Brambling also present. Elsewhere locally Bitterns are still coming into roost at Frensham Little Pond (post soon!), the Great Grey Shrike was reported at Thursley today and a Firecrest has been showing well at Winkworth.