Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds


Monday, 2 April 2018

27th March-2nd April

I was hoping to be writing about the first Swallow of the year in this post, but sadly the mixed and largely dire Easter weekend weather put paid to that. However, there have certainly been some avian highlights during the past few days, most of which occurred yesterday (the only fully dry day).
Firecrest, Eastwaters, 2/4/2018

Peregrine finally joined the year list, and a pre-dawn Barn Owl was only the second 2018 record of this locally elusive species. A wonderful north-east push of Meadow Pipits also occurred, though all of the above was nearly eclipsed by a probable Osprey over Mill Pond, sadly not nailed to 100% ID.

For what it's worth, all the latest sightings are now published (daily) on this page.


Nothing major, though Abel had a couple of Bramblings on the Ridge on the 29th, and it seems they've since moved out. On the 30th I tried hard for a birthday year tick but in pretty wet conditions, unsurprisingly fell short - 3 Gadwall on Mill Pond was the highlight.

Cormorants, Broomy Down, 31/3/2018.
The 31st was slightly drier, though still murky with drizzly showers. The south-west wind was favourable, and having failed to secure any Meadow Pipit migration this year, I decided to give a sky-watch from Broomy Down ago.

Early spring Mipit movement really is one of my highlights of the year - a fore-bearer of warmer times and 'real' spring migrants, I can sit on a fine, late March day counting their calls for hours. As it happened, I managed 55 in 2 hours and 20 minutes - nothing special at all!


With a gentle north-west wind and no rain (!) forecast, the plan was to squeeze as much as I could out the patch. It got off to a flier - on the way to Broomy Down before dawn, a Barn Owl was quartering roadside, west of the A281 at Brookwell/Rooks Hill.

Very distant Peregrine, Broomy Down, 1/4/2018.
This species is hard to see here, with pairs present in the area around the patch, but not actually in it. After Matt's record just further south on the A281 in February, it seems this is the best area for catching up with Barn Owl here.

I was up on Broomy Down at sunrise, and about half an hour in picked up a Peregrine flying north-east. Never common here, 2018 has been particularly poor for this falcon - this was the first record of the year. The bird picked up speed and disappeared towards Bramley. Given the species habit of hunting early, this individual may not have come from so far away.

Shortly after I was joined by Steve C, and he accompanied me for the majority of the 3 hour and 20 minute watch. Movement was at a premium, with an early push of Meadow Pipits fizzling out (though 69 still wasn't bad). A late Redwing, Yellowhammer, 4 Hawfinches and a Great Black-backed Gull were the other highlights.

Abel ventured out in the middle of the day, and had what was surely an Osprey over Mill Pond at 12:30. A monster record, plenty were on the move nationally yesterday, and it's very likely this was this species he saw. However, the height of the bird meant key features couldn't be secured, and unfortunately 100% certainty not clinched. A shame - this would have been just the 3rd record here.

Skylark, Tilsey Farm, 1/4/2018.
This was enough to get me back out, and I took up position at Tilsey Farm. It was then that the Meadow Pipit push I'd waited for finally happened, and how! Between 13:40 and 15:10, 155 pushed north-east in a near constant stream, from single birds to flocks of 18. 155 in itself is a new spring record, so the day total of 224 smashed it.

That this movement was happening now suggests to me that, thanks to the weather, this spring has been pushed back by a week or so - normally Mipit movement happens around the 23rd/24th March. A couple of Skylarks were vocal here, and loads of raptors were up, but sadly no Osprey.


Back to rain, rain and more rain. Sam and I bravely/stupidly decided to head up to the Ridge and back, and unsurprising we saw nothing of note here, bar a Hawfinch at Slades Farm and 3 Reed Buntings on the Ridge. The rain eased off later, and two singing Firecrests at Eastwaters were finally a suggestion that spring is coming.

Migrating Meadow Pipits, Tilsey Farm, 1/4/2018
The week ahead

It's hard to get massively excited, despite a run of southerly winds. Rain looks set to continue for the next couple of days, and then after an OK end of the week, it seems that next weekend an easterly element will bring more rain. Grim.

Hopefully, despite all this, I'll scrape a Swallow or maybe a Willow Warbler. Given I haven't even heard a Blackcap sing this year though, I'm not optimistic. Beyond the week ahead the forecast is a lot more optimistic however, and it's looking more and more likely that we'll have a concentrated push of migrants mid-month, which could be fun.

I think the dry days at the end of this week may be a good time to debut my new noc-mig gear...