Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds


Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Green Sandpiper showing well down memory lane

The last week or so on patch has been somewhat slow for myself, with the uninspiring weather not exactly helping to liven things up. That said I haven’t put in a huge number of hours and indeed have endured that rarest of things, patch grippage! Abel enjoyed Little Egret and Peregrine on Saturday, both year firsts, and species that are not easy to connect with here. On Sunday I had a day birding in Sussex, with a mixed bag of results.

Gadwall, Mill Pond, 12/1/2019.

My humbler patch offerings on Saturday included Brambling, continued Marsh Tit abundance and – best of all – Chiffchaff. The latter was a mild vindication of my new efforts to check neglected areas, with the individual in question in a nondescript copse at Goose Green. Chiffchaff are rare here in winter, or at least hard to come by. Certainly, three birds (including a frustratingly silent Siberian candidate), in Furze Field with Matt in January 2015, stands out as an odd record.

On the subject of Chiffchaffs, I’ve been popping into Unstead Sewage Farm a fair bit recently. I pass it on my way to and from patch and have been giving the wintering birds around the works and lagoons a going through, in case there’s something hidden among them. Nothing of note so far, though a crafty look at the old lagoons on Saturday did yield a Green Sandpiper, along with several Snipe.

Green Sandpiper, Unstead Sewage Farm, 12/1/2019.

Pleasant, but ultimately sad, as any time spent here is these days – had things run differently, or if my visit was on a Saturday a decade or two ago, the site would have been packed with both eager patchers, visitors and – ultimately – birds. The main man Brian doesn't even visit anymore and it really is like a ghost town. Some of my first and richest birding memories came at Unstead and looking at the last remaining speck of suitable habitat gives a feel of stepping back in time. I’ll continue to visit – it’d be fitting for the site to sign off with one last county rarity, like the Red-necked Phalarope, Purple Heron and so many others before …

Purple Sandpiper, Newhaven, 13/1/2019.

For a while David and I have planned to take young Surrey birder Arjun out for a day in the field. We eventually managed to nail a date and on Sunday clocked up more than nine hours traipsing around Sussex. Offshore action let us down a bit and the short winter day meant we ran out of time a little, but we still managed 92 species, eight of which were lifers for Arjun.

Highlights included a previously suppressed, super elusive and very mobile Hume’s Warbler at Newhaven, an in-off flock of Barnacle Geese at Church Norton, a Black Redstart at Medmerry and two distant Pink-footed Geese at Rodmell Brooks. However, for me, nothing could beat the atmospheric pre-dawn start at Arundel – Woodcocks flying around our heads, quartering Barn and calling Little and Tawny Owls and Bewick’s Swans and Marsh Harriers departing from roost, all as the sun comes up … magic.

Black Redstart, Medmerry, 13/1/2019.

Hume's Warbler, Newhaven, 13/1/2019.

Numbers of wildfowl and waders seemed low at Church Norton (we didn’t see any Avocet, godwits, Knot, Pintail or Shoveler). With cold weather set to kick in for a week or two from Thursday, perhaps things will liven up everywhere, including on patch. Certainly, the lack of wildfowl is striking and the seedeater flocks on The Ridge remain small.

No comments: