Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds


Monday, 19 March 2018

5th-19th March

It’s been a solid if unspectacular last fortnight on patch, with rather sporadic visits by myself and occasionally frustrating weather keeping things low-key. Still, two new birds for the year have been added, bringing the 2018 total to 90, and my personal tally 89. Blackcap, as predicted in my last post, was the first addition, with the mysterious, semi-resident Red-crested Pochard making its maiden appearance of the year on Saturday.

Pochards, Mill Pond, 16/3/2018.

I was in Finland last weekend (sadly not birding), and I managed just a couple of brief and uneventful visits in the week before. I teamed up with Abel early doors on the 6th, and showed him some of the more interesting local birds, allowing him to add to his quickly growing Thorncombe Street area list!

He had a drake Pochard on Mill Pond in the afternoon, and on the 8th managed an adult Great Black-backed Gull south over the Ridge – March is always so reliable for this species here, and his sighting was the 5th record of what's been an exceptional Great Black-backed year so far. Robin reported 4 Hawfinches and another Great Black-backed Gull later in the day. On the 9th, Abel had 4 Hawfinches near Slades Farm.

Woodpigeons, Allden's Hill, 13/3/2018.

With the first Wheatears and Sand Martins appearing on various timelines and apps I decided a bit of vis-mig would be worth a go last week, and I enjoyed a particularly productive watch on the 13th. With a gentle WNW I tallied 16 species on the move, with the most striking observation a huge, single flock of 600 Redwings heading east – very much a throwback (on a much smaller scale) to the madness of last March.

The first double-digit Meadow Pipit (21) count of the season was notable, and a large number of Woodpigeons and Stock Doves moved north and east – full details can be found here. The following day, with a fairly strong south-east breeze and mist, was disappointing, and a Friday watch also failed to provide much, aside from 13 Hawfinches and 17 Siskins north.

Herring & Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Allden's Hill, 13/3/2018.
Elsewhere in the week up to 4 Pochards (2 pairs, with drakes displaying) were present on Mill Pond, most welcome after the single record in 2017. Hawfinches were seen regularly throughout, with birds showing particularly well between Slades Farm and Rowe Barn Farm. A sprinkling of Chiffchaffs at places like Winkworth and Bonhurst Farm were the only hints to spring on the deck.


Any visions of a fine, early spring day watching raptors and searching for migrants this weekend was rudely interrupted by the grossly unnecessary ‘Beast From The East 2’, which brought snow and a piercing north-east wind.

Hawfinches, Raggetts, 16/3/2018.
Unsurprisingly there was little to report, though the female Red-crested Pochard was a welcome turn up on Saturday morning, hanging out with 5 Mallards on Bramley Park Lake. Her last appearance on the patch was in November, and her interim location(s) are a real mystery.

On Sunday a few gulls were moving overhead, including at least 3 Great Black-backed, but snow had blanketed the site and there was little to see on the ground. Abel managed 4 Hawfinches over Allden’s Hill later in the day, but I struggled to piece any hard weather movement together, despite a brave, hungover effort.

It seems in other parts of the country there was some serious action – at nearby Fleet Pond 2060 Redwings and 47 Snipe moved over, and a whopping 24,000 Fieldfares (!), 16,000 Redwings and 7,000 Starlings flew west over Bridport, Dorset. If I’d had stuck it out, maybe I’d have managed to grab a slice of this action…

Red Kite, Bonhurst Farm, 18/3/2018.
The week ahead

It seems like the north-east freeze will slow down from tomorrow, with a much more appealing westerly element kicking in on Tuesday and Wednesday. Whisper it, but what seems to be a tasty looking south/south-west run from Thursday to the following week could finally liven things up, and it definitely seems promising for vis-mig.

Realistically it’s still a bit early for any proper migrants here, though eyes will naturally be peeled. However, the annual late March Mipit movement could well begin to kick in – there’s normally at least one ‘big day’ (though not last year), and this is always one of my favourite elements of the patch year. Generally a gentle breeze with a bit of westerly in it, and some cloud, is the magic combination.

Otherwise, I can only hope for a warm day and some raptor watching, and of course there’s always that 1-in-a-million chance of a magic, late March stoppage-time winner – a Black Redstart, Little Gull or Stone Curlew would be just great.