Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds


Wednesday, 29 August 2018


As alluded to in a previous post, August is reliably productive for the Thorncombe Street area, and for inland sites in general. A mixture of dispersing breeders from places both near and far, as well as the opportunity for occasional drift migrants, means most sessions in the latter half of the month can deliver. Bank Holiday is usually good fun, and 2018 certainly was; over the long weekend a total of 74 species were recorded (no gulls!), including a mighty-fine three year ticks.

Wheatear, Bonhurst Farm, 24/8/2018.
The Black Redstart remained at home at Bonhurst Farm, with a continual stream of visiting birders popping in. The bird has proven popular, despite its oft-flighty and elusive behaviour, and the extra eyes on the site have unearthed some decent records. Most notable was a putative Oystercatcher that Rich S heard calling once yesterday afternoon; sadly he didn’t lay eyes on the bird, so it goes down as a probable, but given the lack of mimicking passerines at Bonhurst, and the two nocmig Oyc records in August so far, it seems likely to have been one.

Gillian S dug out the first Whinchat of the year on Friday afternoon, and I was able to add it to my 2018 list later that evening. Whinchats can be hard to find here, with one or two a year about average, so my thanks go to her for letting me know about the discovery. A Wheatear was also present, and I spent a really enjoyable hour or so with this particularly confiding individual. Sadly, the Black Redstart and Whinchat weren’t so approachable.

Whinchat, Bonhurst Farm, 24/8/2018.
The following day was quieter, with no sign of the Wheatear or Whinchat at Bonhurst, though a Yellow Wagtail flew over just before midday. A juvenile Hobby with its parents confirmed breeding success for the fourth successive year, and five other raptor species noted during the weekend, all of which are thought to have bred on site – an excellent haul. A hangover-induced late start on 26th turned out to work nicely in my favour, with a crazy four or five minute spell at New Barn delivering two patch rares.

Things had seemed fairly quiet, bar a couple of Willow Warblers around New Barn pond, but on the walk back it was clear a mixed flock of passerines had appeared. Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were noted, as well as a few young Robins, before I heard a weird croaking call from within some dense brambles on the west side of the path. It immediately struck me that this may well be a Nightingale (check out this clip). The bird continued to make the calls, with the odd tuck, but was incredibly elusive. I played some tape, to which it clearly reacted, but I was quite keen to get views.

Black Redstart, Bonhurst Farm, 24/8/2018.
After about 20 minutes the bird eventually moved, and then flew, low over the path to the other side – thankfully this confirmed my suspicions, and it was indeed a Nightingale. Only my second here (after a singing bird in 2016), and a species that’s hard to see away from breeding grounds, even if the nearest site (Run Common) is little more than a kilometre away. Anyway, I had little time to stop and dwell as, literally seconds after the Nightingale dived into the vegetation, I caught site of a very red-rumped and tailed bird being chased by a Robin.

ID was a lot easier with this – a female-type Redstart, with the individual very vocal but never showing particularly well. Another year tick, and my first here since 2015; a statistic that’s surely down to my inability to find any on passage, as oppose to a lack of them. Presumably the same bird was present the following morning, further north along the path and right by the lay-by, but again was unusually elusive.

Grey Wagtail, Mill Pond, 26/8/2018.
There was some hirundine action yesterday, with big mixed flocks at Gatestreet Farm (100+) and Bonhurst Farm involving many young birds, presumably preparing to move off. Somewhat inevitably a few Sand Martins were there to be found, with at least four hawking over Rowe’s Flashe, Winkworth, in the morning. Other decent bits over the weekend not previously mentioned included a couple of Spotted Flycatchers, Red-crested Pochard, Firecrests and Shoveler.

There was no time or suitable weather for nocmig over the weekend, but the past couple of weeks have continued to turn up some fascinating records. Tree Pipits had a little peak, which seems to have tailed off, and a few Robins and Spotted Flycatchers have been noted. Waders still steal the show though, with another big flock (calls lasted two minutes!) of Black-tailed Godwits (20th), a loud and clear Oystercatcher (21st) and a Snipe (22nd). With the occasionally blowy westerlies calming down over the next few days, I plan to get the mic out on a few nights.

Raven, The Ridge, 25/8/2018.
It’s nearly September, and time for real passerine movement, vis-mig, and so on. The weather from the weekend and beyond is tentatively encouraging – at the moment a swing to east and north-east winds are forecast, which is really what any autumn patch watcher in this part of the world is after. Hopefully a few more Whinchats, Redstarts and Yellow Wags, maybe a nice Marsh Harrier or Osprey, perhaps a wader somewhere. All would be great. But, of course, a bigger prize is what’s truly sought after at this time of year.

2017 report

With print copies of the 2017 Thorncombe Street Area Bird Report now sold out, free PDF versions can be obtained - contact via twitter or email to get one.

Wheatear, Bonhurst Farm, 24/8/2018.