Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds


Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Autumn Approaching, Visualize

Late July and early August has become synonymous with waders here, with low cloud, showers and a bit of westerly in the wind always enough to coax me onto one of my vantages for a chance of the dry inland-patchers delight; the flyover shorebird. 27th July in particular is a special day in the Thorncombe Street calendar, with flocks of Whimbrels and Black-tailed Godwits having flown over on this date in recent times.
Mandarin duckling, Mill Pond, 30/7/2018.

The weather played its part again on the 27th this year, with the overbearing hot spell eventually breaking down with thunderstorms, gusty wind and showers of varying intensities. I was tied up for most of the day but managed to head out not long after the first rain fell at about 15:30, and I chose the tried and trusted Ridge for my shot at a passing wader flock.

Unfortunately, my 95-minute vigil didn’t deliver, though there was a notable columba movement taking place in between the rain, with 78 Woodpigeons and 48 Stock Doves tallied up flying north. A Willow Warbler also seemed to drop into the nearby copse after one heavy shower, but aside from that it was quiet.

A wet and windy night followed but hopes of any displaced overhead movers the following morning were unfulfilled, despite a very early start. I did however find a juvenile Cuckoo along the Paddock hedgerow at Slades Farm – always nice to see, and confirmation of local breeding again. Waders haven’t been absent by any stretch of the imagination, and indeed two new additions to the 2018 year list were added on the 21st thanks to nocmig (of course).

The headline grabber was a flock of at least 5 Black-tailed Godwits that passed over at 01:09, representing just the 3rd site record, and the 1st for nocmig. The numbers of islandica Black-tailed Godwits migrating through Surrey in the late summer and early autumn these days seems to correlate with their population increase, so perhaps the record is not as much of a surprise as it once would have been.
Small Heath, New Barn, 29/7/2018.

Indeed, Abel B (Farncombe) and Wes A (Capel) had probable flocks over their houses in the small hours of the 22nd and 24th, a large flock of waders (probably godwits) flew over Shalford water meadows on the 25th and there have been odd birds at Tice’s Meadow and Staines Reservoirs. Despite this, the sound of a flock of chattering godwits interrupting an otherwise quiet night of recording is quite an enchanting one.

The other shorebird addition was a Curlew, again on the 21st, but at 23:00 the following night. One of the more likely species to be recorded here, it’s still only the 4th site record.

Wader opportunity will continue to run for a couple of weeks, but Mill Pond is also becoming interesting, as returning ducks appear. After the earliest returning Teal on the 20th, the first Shoveler have arrived, and Gadwall numbers have increased. Surely the month ahead represents an outside chance of finding a Garganey here (as long as it isn't at the far end!).

In wider birding news, unfortunately, one of the Wintershall Estate White Storks has hopped the fence. This juvenile only arrived last Tuesday but has set up residence a little over 10 miles to the north, at Shalford water meadows, where it has proven quite popular. I have actually seen it from the train to work the last few days, but really this is a sad state of affairs, and I can only hope the poor thing will survive. The estate has expressed their disappointment at the escape, but there are no plans to retrieve the individual. Indeed, 3 more have escaped the enclosure, but they don’t seem to go far.

Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, Pagham Harbour, 22/7/2018.
I also managed a trip to the West Sussex coast last weekend for my annual search for juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls, and I found a few, including birds at the North Wall (Pagham), Littlehampton and Bognor Regis. There was also a nice selection of waders to sift through, but attentions now will stay fixed on the patch, with August a fine month traditionally, and often a productive one for any inland birder.

Last year site firsts recorded in August included Greenshank and Yellow-legged Gull, with a glitzy supporting cast of Honey-buzzard, Wood Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and Whimbrel. Similar goodies this year would do just fine.