Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds


Tuesday, 7 March 2017

7th March

An excellent, early spring session on the patch today, with a mighty fine year tick, a spectacular migration movement and a good catch up with Robin Stride. I was on Allden's Hill at dawn (passing a Little Owl and 2 Egyptian Geese in Thorncombe Park en route), but passerine activity was pretty dead for the first hour or so, with 2 separate Meadow Pipits north the only movement. A few Herring Gulls and a sole Lesser Black-backed Gull, were moving south and west, but this average activity was dramatically overshadowed at about 07:30.
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker on the 2nd (M Elsoffer)

Looking almost over my shoulder to the south-west, I noted what initially had the feel of a big skein of Geese moving north-east. Raising bins to them, it became apparent they were Thrushes, in fact Redwings (with a sole Woodpigeon!), moving in a tight flock much like flushed waders or a Starling murmuration. Despite having never seen Thrushes in flocks like this, the most remarkable aspect was the number of birds - from above my head all the way to the horizon was a dark stream of Redwings, certainly a few thousand. It was simply incredible, and one of the most remarkable bird movements I have witnessed. At the time, I used the Steve Gale don't-be-too-conservative count theory, and guessed 5,000+. Upon reflection, the number may not have been that high, but with hindsight I would still say anything from 4,000-5500 birds were in this single flock. My conclusion was that these Redwings had been moving at night, pushing towards their breeding grounds in Northern Europe, and by some stroke of fortune I managed to catch them*.

I met up with Robin at about 8, and we headed to the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers. Rob hadn't seen any in the county for many years, and so we were delighted to pin down the male, who showed moderately well. The female was heard, but not seen. I have shown a small group of birding friends this pair in the past week, and Mark Elsoffer and Steve Minhinnick enjoyed particularly good views on the 2nd. There wasn't loads else here, though a few Cormorants flew overhead, and by the end of today 16 were tallied (6 seen by Robin), surpassing the site record of 13.

The view from Allden's Hill this afternoon
From here, we checked out Bonhurst, before the increasingly pleasant weather lead us to do some sky-watching. This proved very productive, with raptors everywhere, as well as my first 2 singing Skylarks of 2017. At least 20 Buzzards were up and many displaying, with several Red Kites and a few Sparrowhawks also about. 4 Ravens were doing their thing too, but the highlight, and surprise (despite me calling it to Robin earlier in the day!) was a Goshawk at 10:10, that gave brief initial views, though it's range allowed both of us to be happy with ID. What was probably the same bird was seen again at 11:00. Many Redpoll were also about, and after waiting an hour or so for the Gos to reappear without joy, we parted company.

I stopped at Allden's Hill for an hour or so afterwards, enjoying the now glorious weather, before heading home. I returned late in the day in an attempt to get either Kingfisher or Pochard for the year at the water bodies, managing neither, though nice views of a Firecrest were obtained near Bramley Park Lake.

* Following this post, I had an interesting chat with the aforementioned Steve Gale. He thinks the birds could have just left a roost, which is something I hadn't thought of, and seems likely.