Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds


Thursday, 26 January 2017

26th January

I have enjoyed some good individual records on my patch during the last few years, but there does seem to be a 'London Bus' day every now and again, when more than one good species occurs. October 24th 2015, May 7th and September 8th 2016 spring to mind, and it seems January 26th 2017 became one today. When I last blogged, I spoke of the spring-like feel to the air, with the sun shining and the birds singing. Today was very different - it was cold, really cold, with a biting south-easterly making it feel several more degrees below zero than it actually was. Few birds were singing, and the sun certainly wasn't out.
Absolute scenes at Mill Pond - LBB Gull and
 female Wigeon in the same frame!

I started the day with half an eye on the Pine Bunting that had recently been found in Kent, but thought I would check Mill Pond not long after dawn. Despite the recent cold spell conditions this small body of water remained unfrozen, though the amount that wasn't had become small. Teal and Mandarin numbers have shot up in correlation with the temperatures, but the larger dabblers remained in low numbers. This morning was different. Shovelers had clearly moved in, with the final count 10, and a drake Gadwall (likely the bird seen on the 13th) was also present. A few Tufted Ducks were about, but it was the increased Mallard numbers that caught my attention. Whenever 2016's Red-crested Pochard's were seen, there were good numbers of Mallards present, and they often associated with them. To my delight, she was back today, after a month and two days absence. A great year tick. I would love to know where these guys all go when they aren't on Mill Pond.

I decided to head up to the Ridge, but it was simply desolate up there. Not a single Reed Bunting was in the crops, and Red-legged Partridges were only encountered on the walk back - it seemed only Corvids were braving the temperatures. The wind up here was bitter, and after sheltering in Furze Field for a bit, I decided to head back. Whilst scanning the Corvid flock (which included two Ravens) a familiar trill came from not far above my head. I looked up, to the Starling-like silhouette of a Waxwing! Amazing! Sure, there has been one hell of an influx of these gems this winter, but until today it was a species off the Thorncombe Street list, and Waxwing thus becomes the 143rd bird recorded here, and my 128th. I followed it through my bins as it flew over Thorncombe Park and away. I guess it wasn't such a surprise, given the number around, but my patch is almost too rural for them, and there are few rowan berries and such.

The idea of staking out a rarity in Kent had massively lost it's appeal by now, and I thought I'd try and continue my fortune on the patch. Arriving at Bonhurst Farm, another surprise awaited me - 5 Lapwings in the sheep fields. This, a sure sign of cold recent weather movement, is only my third record of them on the deck here, with the second only coming last weekend. Would I find another first for the area via a Golden Plover? No, but 93 Common Gulls was a big number (140+ throughout, not far off the record count), and there were plentiful winter thrushes too. In all, a fantastic morning, enough to make a winter here. With the day ahead free, I chose to indulge in my favourite species. With a fantastic 10 Smew seen at Wraysbury yesterday I headed that way, finding only 7, but the 2 males were stunning, and I have never seen so many of this bird.

4 of the 5 Lapwings at Bonhurst today
The day surely couldn't have got better, but, it did. Figuring it'd be rude not to stop in at Mill Pond on the way home, I was amazed to find an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull on the ice with the Commons. I have never seen one on the deck here! I have always retained the hope that the big wintering Common flock will bring something down from the reservoirs with them (Ring-billed!), but as of yet, they haven't. This Lesser Black-backed is a good sign. Anyway, whilst I was 'scoping this bird, my jaw dropped further as I saw a duck with rich chestnut tones floating in the background. I adjusted my lens, and there was a female Wigeon! Absolutely incredible. This is another super rare here, with 4 previous records. It was truly bonkers - on this small water body, largely frozen, were 8 species of duck. I marvelled through my 'scope, watching the Gull and the Wigeon in the same view for a few minutes, before the latter disappeared into the vegetation.

All this madness leaves me on 79 for the year, a figure for the last 3 years that I haven't reached until mid-March. My goal of 120 for the year is ambitious, but it's birds like Waxwing and Wigeon that will make the difference. Looking at my chart, I still need Peregrine, Kingfisher, Brambling and Pochard for the less-difficult remaining year ticks, though none of these are easy. Best get birding...