Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds


Thursday, 25 July 2019

The flat list

The bedroom windows are wide open all day and night at present, during this particularly roasting heatwave. Early this morning, I was most surprised to be woken up by the sharp, penetrative whistle of a Kingfisher. In my bleary-eyed semi-consciousness, I would have normally let it go as a Dunnock, but it kept calling and indeed sounded like there was more than one bird. Unsurprisingly a flat tick – number 70 – though with the River Wey some 600 metres away, maybe not so illogical …

Everyone keeps a house/garden (or in my case flat) list. They’re great fun, especially if you have a garden, particularly one with decent habitat and a bit of sky. I know I miss my old one (here’s a homage to it from a few years ago) – the shared slither of green at my current place is pleasant, but I look forward hugely to having one that’s ‘mine’.

The view looking north to Guildford and beyond.

That said, nestled close to the River Wey, in leafy suburbia between Godalming and Farncombe, it’s on the fringes of actual countryside and thus enjoys a decent blend of standard garden fare and slightly more interesting bits. For example, the scrub along the nearby railway holds breeding Blackcaps and migrant Willow Warblers. The healthy Farncombe colony of Swifts include a pair breeding in my roof – doubtless one of the avian highlights here.

Easily the best asset the flat offers, though, is a splendid vista north over Farncombe all the way to the North Downs a Compton east to Merrow. With the Wey running north to south also in this view, it’d doubtless make a mighty vis-mig spot – unfortunately the window layouts prevent easy scanning, though I’ve still neglected it over the three years I’ve been here.

When I sit and lay out all the species I’ve logged here, however, it’s actually quite impressive. Most house/garden sightings often don’t feel like proper birding memories – nine times out of ten said moment was achieved inadvertently. Birds heard through the window, normally at night or early morning (such as the Kingfisher), are one such example. Indeed, it’d probably be a more productive noc-mig site than Thorncombe Street, due to the river lure and far greater artificial lighting. I’ve had two Oystercatchers (including one last Friday), as well as singles of Curlew, Greenshank and Moorhen.

Peregrine, Farncombe, 23/7/2019.

In August 2017, I was awoken by a Mediterranean Gull drifting south. This is not so surprising, given the daily gull commute that follows the Wey to and from the north Surrey/London reservoirs, as well as the many that use the playing fields locally. The river serves as a navigator for all of them. I’ve had the five common species, plus the Med, with Black-headed and Herring nearly resident nowadays (quite amazingly, the latter species looked like breeding nearby this year).

The closeness to water (bearing in mind Broadwater Lake is nearby) accounts for the handful of records each of Little Egret and Common Tern. The kitchen vista is great for raptors. Impressively, on Tuesday, I managed no fewer than six different species, including Hobby and Peregrine. This was only the second Peregrine record, with the first just a few weeks ago.

This year several new birds have made the list – the aforementioned Moorhen and Kingfisher, as well as Sand Martin, Brambling, Linnet and Reed Warbler. The latter sits as one of the best birds here, singing from dense vegetation in a neighbouring garden on 26 May. Indeed, waiting for David C at the time, his imminent pulling up constitutes the first flat twitch …

Other flat list megas not previously mentioned included the famous Ring-necked Parakeet of November 2016, a memorable flock of Hawfinches during the autumn 2017 invasion and two Yellow Wagtails that flew over on 10 September 2017. What’s missing? Well, Jay and Green Woodpecker are the obvious absentees from the list. I haven’t managed to pick up a distant Stock Dove yet, either. I’m sure whenever number 71 comes, it’ll be most unexpected.

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