Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds


Wednesday, 16 May 2018


Time off the intense patch routine during the past week has worked wonders and, ironically, it’s delivered the best (non-nocmig) birds of the spring – two Turtle Doves, which flew over Goose Green this morning. The aforementioned patch break has included a successful Mole Valley Bird Race, an American Bittern twitch and a day-trip to north-west France, but most importantly a birding refresh for myself.
Turtle Dove, Réserve Romelaëre, France 

The Mole Valley Bird Race was the 3rd I’ve taken part in, with Matt P, Stuart C, Wes A and I making up team Linnet To Win It. We managed 89 species, 4 down on 2017 but pretty good going given rain set in for the day from lunchtime. It turned out to be a winning total, with David S’s team coming in 2nd with 83 (another good haul).

Wes is an exceptional birder, and his local knowledge is both invaluable and the key reason we made it a third successive victory. Our best birds were probably Crossbill, Little Ringed Plover and Lesser Whitethroat, though David C had Hawfinch and a dodgy Barnacle Goose, and David S’s team managed a Goshawk. I look forward to next year.

The opportunity of a day’s birding in north-west France was too good to turn down, and so I joined David C, David DL and Magnus A for an early start to catch the Eurotunnel to Calais. Unfortunately, a gusty north wind and heavy cloud blighted the trip somewhat, but fun company and a sprinkling of nice birds made the excursion very worthwhile.

Marsh Warbler, Guines Marsh.
The best species was probably a Marsh Warbler, atypically singing at Guines Marsh and consequently proving a tricky ID until it showed. Other decent bits included singing Bluethroats, 9 Spoonbills, a group of 4 Black Terns, a smart drake Garganey and a male Hen Harrier. Turtle Doves were pleasingly noted at a few different sites. Sadly, I couldn’t tempt the boys to visit the beautiful, plastic-fantastic Reeves’s Pheasant population at Foret d’Hesdin.

My first patch visit after all that wasn’t until this morning, when I teamed up with Abel B. My motivation for strategic site visits has been much diminished over the past few weeks, so I left it to him to pick where we went – he chose well!

After connecting with a/the Woodlark at Selhurst Common (a patch tick for him, and surely evidence that breeding is being attempted), we parked up at Goose Green with a view to walk to Scrubbin’s Pond and back. Whilst halfway across the main field below the pond, I picked up two doves heading south.

The flicky, rapid flight style and evidently dark underwing (taught nicely by David DL in France) was enough to get us excited, and as the birds banked a little the rufous-brown scalloping on the upperparts could be seen, confirming them as Turtle Doves. After watching them for a minute or two they disappeared towards Dunsfold.

Greenfinch, Wintershall Estate, 13/5/2018.
As mentioned before, I think this particularly favourite species of mine hangs on somewhere in outer Surrey. A Turtle Dove was at Tugley Wood, Chiddingfold on Monday, and I’d be delighted to encounter some more locally this year. After 1 sighting in 2015 and 2 in 2016 here, there were none last year. Later on a pair of Collared Doves provided us with a very nice flight comparison.

A little bit of a salvage of this poor spring, and combined with the enjoyable away days, it’s been a recuperating week.