Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds


Wednesday, 10 April 2019

The Osprey and the Gropper

Aside from two highly notable standout moments*, the last week or so has been quiet. On Saturday, en route to the second patch shift of the day, I was stopped in my tracks by a low-flying Osprey over the south end of Bramley village. Prior to that – on Thursday – an arguably even more surprising record involved a reeling Grasshoppper Warbler at Unstead, perhaps the second earliest date for the county.

Lesser Redpolls and Goldfinch, New Barn, 6/4/2019. 

Although Osprey records have steadily increased in Surrey in recent years, they are brilliant birds to encounter and I’d only seen three in the county prior to Saturday. One of those was on patch (8 September 2016). The scenes were somewhat akin to my recent trip to Florida, where Ospreys are a familiar suburban bird. In the car heading to Bonhurst Farm, a bent-winged, low-flying beast of a raptor immediately triggered a shout of: “Osprey!”. Thankfully an emergency stop on the bus stop was pulled off and we watched the bird lumbering north into the northeast wind, being mobbed by a pair of Jackdaws. Further south, a cloud of a couple of Buzzards and Red Kite were circling, presumably having been roused by the appearance of this visitor. The views were probably the best I’ve had in Surrey, though sadly I didn’t have a chance to get my bins or camera out.

On Thursday, I wasn’t expecting much from a quick trip to Unstead before work. However, upon nearing the lagoons I heard a familiar buzzing sound that recalled Gropper. However, it seemed very strange and an early date – I was sure it was a weird noise coming from the works – but it persisted on and off for several minutes from the east end of the South Meadow. On approach, it could clearly be heard as a reeling Grasshopper Warbler. Having looked into it, it wasn’t actually that// early, with a couple already recorded in Britain and several appearing at inland locations that day and the following. There’s been no further sign, but the jungle of scrub that Unstead currently is could definitely deliver another.

Lesser Redpoll. New Barn, 6/4/2019.

Aside from these two mighty-fine moments, there wasn’t much else going on. On Saturday morning, a big flock of Lesser Redpolls (c.44) at New Barn was a bit of an odd record given the time of year. Heavy scrutiny revealed no interesting ones. Later in the day I surveyed a large area of private land in the north of the patch, which Surrey Wildlife Trust have recently moved into. There wasn’t too much, save a couple of Ravens and a Swallow through. Promising conditions on Sunday disappointed, though three House Martins at Unstead were firsts of the year, and a flock of late Fieldfare and territorial Yellowhammer at Tilsey Farm were good to see.

*By the time of posting this, such measly sightings paled into insignificance, following two finds on Wednesday morning. Firstly, Wes (who’s probably the best birder I’ve spent much time with in the field) had a flyover Black Kite over Capel (his second record there!). Almost at the same time Kit dug out a Spotted Crake at Shalford; a South-West Surrey mega and the icing on his Osprey-Pied Fly cake of the past year or so. A 50/50 split of gripping and inspiring!

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