|Raven, Broomy Down, 23/2/2019.|
With the weather as fine as it was it was hard to not be outside relishing in it, and I decided to cover as much ground as possible while monitoring the locals. Plenty of species are now in full song with some even on nests (Grey Heron) or building them (Magpie and Mistle Thrush two such examples). One of the highlights of the weekend was a pair of Woodlarks at Brookwell which I inadvertently flushed up early on Sunday morning.
I had a singing individual here last year and Peter O has informed me of a bird holding territory over the A281 ‘border’ on a young Christmas tree plantation in recent weeks, so I guess there’s a chance they could stick around and breed, though the habitat is both marginal and small. Trees at the suspected breeding location last year at Selhurst Common (also a Christmas tree plantation) are now too tall to entice this species back.
|Woodlark, Brookwell, 24/2/2019.|
On Saturday I was joined by Sam J for a lengthy spell on site. Annoyingly, heavy fog wrote off the first couple of hours though it did eventually clear and we were treated to a neat set of raptors (including another Peregrine) and two new butterflies for the year – Brimstone and Peacock. Our three-hour vigil from Broomy Down was mainly spent scheming trips and big days for the year ahead, though Sam inadvertently wracked up a site record count of 71 Stock Doves moving through the Cranleigh Gap.
|Treecreeper, Northbrook Copse, 23/2/2019.|
Recently, the seed-eater line-up on Broomy Down has changed dramatically. Just two weeks ago at least 30 Yellowhammers were up there but, presumably encouraged back to breeding grounds by the warm weather, only a couple were noted on Sunday. This has gone hand-in-hand with the return of chattering, live-wire Linnets, that breed here profusely. I didn’t get up on Broomy until a couple of hours after sunrise on Sunday and missed most of the mega finch movement Wes enjoyed at Leith Hill, though the height at which my trickle of Chaffinches and Goldfinches were moving was pretty impressive.
On Friday, Abel and I covered the water bodies before work and scored big time at the death at Bramley Park Lake: the ever-elusive and unpredictable female Red-crested Pochard put in her first appearance of the year, hanging with a flock of Mallards, as per. The previous day, with Steve C, we both enjoyed the first ringing session of the year on Broomy Down.
|Herring Gulls, Broomy Down, 24/2/2019.|
It was a little quiet though Long-tailed Tit (two) and Nuthatch were new captures for the site. A single flock of 33 Lesser Redpoll was quite the surprise, particularly given the dearth of records this winter. On the way back from ringing Abel and I stopped to check the first big Common Gull flock of the winter (March is traditionally the peak) at Lower Combe Farm. We tallied 162, including a red-ringed bird from the North Thames Gull Group, from whom I’m waiting on further details.
|Nuthatch, Broomy Down, 21/2/2019.|
|Common Gull '2AAX', Lower Combe Farm, 21/2/2019.|
All of this spring-like weather is of course lovely. Any long-time readers of this blog will know how much I adore the first sunny and fine days in late February and March. However, this prolonged spell, and the temperatures that have come with it (20 Celsius in Wales yesterday!), doesn’t sit well – it’s just not right to have such conditions this early and I’m struggling to revel in the abundance of first reports of Swallows, martins, Wheatears and so on that have occurred during the last week. You get the feeling our planet is trying to tell us something. In 20 years’ time, will February hirundines be the norm?