Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds


Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Off and underway

2019 has begun. I’ve managed to get in four full sessions on patch and this has yielded a most pleasing haul of 73 species, including some winter specialities and particularly elusive birds: Brambling, Crossbill, Firecrest, Water Rail and Woodcock are all safely on the year list, which began a little before sunrise on 1st with a thumping headache and Pheasant as the first name in the notebook.

Robin, Bonhurst Farm, 1/1/2019.

I’m slightly restructuring my patch approach this year, including the breaking down of the site to five sections (north, east, south, west and central – maps to appear soon). This should lead to more balanced study of what’s a big recording area, with hopefully more thorough looks for certain species in different sections. I’m also going to keep month lists for the first time. I’m not sure exactly what this will bring to the table, but again it should instigate more thorough examination of slightly neglected areas and help encourage levels of effort throughout the year.

As it happened, 2019 actually got off to a fairly inauspicious start – the female Pochard present at Winkworth on 31 December was of course gone by 1st and I failed to boot up any Woodcock in my traditional New Year’s Day stomp of Juniper Hill. The morning was saved by an adult Great Black-backed Gull over Brookwell, only the second-known January sighting of a species that tallies just six or seven records a year here. A late afternoon return saw better quality, with one of the Phillimore Water Rails enticed into squealing and a Kingfisher at Mill Pond.

Yellowhammers, Bonhurst Farm, 4/1/2019.

On 4th I had a few hours free in the morning and with a cold blast from the north overnight I felt optimistic. It was actually milder than predicted, though clearly a few seedeaters were forced to move about and I recorded Brambling, Lesser Redpoll and a flock of six Yellowhammers. This weekend was fairly quiet, though I did eventually get my Woodock at Furze Field (plentiful bramble scratches to go with it), as well as three Crossbills at New Barn and Firecrest at Great Brook.

Crossbill, New Barn, 5/1/2019.

I wonder who the winners and losers of 2019 will be? At this very early stage, two species are notable for their prominence. One is Egyptian Goose. Three or four years ago these were teetering between rare and scarce here, but after the first breeding record in 2017 they’ve increased, and are now being seen on the deck a lot more. A count of six yesterday seemed to involve three pairs.

Egyptian Geese, Lea Pond, 1/1/2019.

Egyptian Geese, Ridings Pools, 6/1/2019.

The other species is Marsh Tit. Wes called it out the other day – there’s definitely more around at the moment. It’s a species that does well here anyway, in the various suitable areas of habitat, but during the last week or so the laser ‘pieuw-pieuw’ seems to be coming from every pocket of woodland. Presumably they had a good 2018. On 31st December I had a minimum of five, including singing birds, at Winkworth, and since then I’ve tallied at least 12 from six different sites.

Raven, Junction Field, 6/1/2019.

It’s hard to say who the losers will be. One likely candidate is Little Owl. As recently as 2017 this species felt almost a daily presence on wires at Thorncombe Park and two other pairs were reliable, but last year they all became very hard to see. The Thorncombe Park pair has moved around a bit before but I wonder if increased corvid and large raptor numbers have made these birds more elusive. The decline of Little Owls is common knowledge, but it seems an unusually sharp drop, particularly given the dearth of hole-nesting competitors here.

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