Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds


Monday, 21 October 2019

Flight shots

It’s that time of year where most patching, whether intentionally or not, turns into vis-mig, leading to an array of flight shots. At present, most mornings will deliver some movement of note and I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to get in the field a lot during the last week.

Sparrowhawk, The Ridge, 16/10/2019.

Wednesday was very much the calm after the storm that was Tuesday. I took the rare opportunity to visit in the middle of the day, with raptors on my mind. They were also on the menu – Peregrine (scarce here), Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Buzzard and Red Kite all logged – but alas the harrier or Merlin wasn’t to be. It was otherwise quiet, save a patch record count of some 61 Feral Pigeons at Bonhurst Farm, a technicoloured feast for the eyes.

After a dawn shower, Thursday was rather fine and sunny. As a result, there wasn’t much action in the skies, but after venturing to Sorbus Hill, in the dark depths of the southern end of Winkworth Arboretum, I was rewarded with a chacking Ring Ouzel among a post-roost gathering of thrushes (mainly Redwings).

Buzzard, The Ridge, 16 October 2019.

Kestrel, Bonhurst Farm, 16 October 2019.

Peregrine, The Ridge, 16 October 2019.

Surprisingly, this is a first for the arboretum, though given coverage it’s not such a shock. I really must explore the extremes of the site more and not just stick to the water bodies, which get the bulk of my attention when visiting and indeed a Kingfisher over Rowe’s Flashe on this morning was noteworthy.

On Friday I was pleased to be joined by Abel. The forecast had been mixed so it was satisfying to step out into a gentle south-westerly and some cloud cover. We chose to vis-mig from New Barn and it turned out to be a really fun watch.

Stock Doves, New Barn, 18 October 2019.

A steady southward movement of Stock Doves was entertaining, totalling 54 birds, the second highest vis-mig count here. However, two species stole the show. First up was two Hawfinches, bundling low north at 07:51, with the squeaky flight call shades of autumn 2017. This was the second record of the year.

To most Surrey birders the fact a Ring-necked Parakeet should offer higher rarity value than Hawfinch is ludicrous, but such is the case here with this just about annual Psittacula always tricky to connect with. Bizarrely, two flew high north-east during the watch, at 08:10 and 09:10 respectively.

Ring-necked Parakeet, New Barn, 18 October 2019.

Hawfinches, New Barn, 18 October 2019.

Why this species hasn’t colonised south-west Surrey remains a total mystery (Thursley Common had its first record a few weeks ago) – while fairly common just north of Guildford and regular in the south-east of the county, they are totally absent south of Guildford and west of Cranleigh.

Where these riotous birds were headed or had come from is anyone’s guess – they breed in Crawley and Aldershot, but the flight path of these beasts didn’t fit for those places. The nearest sizeable population to the south-west is Southampton ...

Woodpigeons, Tilsey Farm, 20 October 2019.

As a result of the parakeets, Abel happily cashed in a Thorncombe Street lifer and myself a year tick – I’ve had the same number of Ring-necked Parakeet days here in 2019 as Red-throated Pipit! Two Ravens on the deck was another good observation during an enjoyable couple of hours.

Saturday was quieter, as I completed a four-mile circuit of the central section early doors before the various shooting parties assembled across the area. Clear highlight was three Woodlarks at Brookwell, where the species bred this year.

I haven’t seen any since June, but would bet these birds are either the breeders, their offspring or both. It will be fantastic if this species nests again next year and becomes part of the Thorncombe Street furniture, even if only until the Christmas tree plantation grows up.

Hawfinches, Tilsey Farm, 20 October 2019.

Other bits included a Firecrest at Slades Farm, my first Lesser Redpolls of the season over Junction Field and what will surely be– despite all hirundines departing late this year – my final Swallow of 2019, at Bonhurst Farm.

I didn’t really have high hopes for Sunday, with a fairly strong and bitterly cold northerly forecast. However, this drastic change in wind direction clearly prodded plenty of birds to move and I ended up having a thoroughly entertaining and varied watch.

Great Spotted Woodpecker, Tilsey Farm, 20 October 2019.

Bullfinch, Tilsey Farm, 20 October 2019.

It was foggy early on but that cleared about an hour after sunrise. Finches were the main movers, with no fewer than eight species logged, though none in startling numbers. Five more Hawfinches may well have been local and it makes you wonder how many have lurked in the un-visited woodlands of south Surrey since the 2017 invasion …

Good counts included: 137 Starlings north-west, 12 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (site record count) south-west, five Yellowhammers east and some 1,782 Woodpigeons west once the sun came out. Highlight species were Great Black-backed Gull – only my fifth of the year and first of the season – and, best of all, Golden Plover.

The latter has been recorded on noc-mig a couple of times in 2019 but was a year tick for me, as it plaintively announced itself heading south-west. It’s been an excellent year for me in terms of species diversity – Golden Plover was number 122 of the year, a fine haul for here, and I’m now one bird away from matching my all-time record of 123.

Jackdaws, Tilsey Farm, 20 October 2019.

However, the standout event of the watch was a curious westward movement of Jackdaw flocks, with several 40+ groups of birds silently moving over at quite a height. I’ve not seen (presumed) movement like it before. I counted 202 in total. Perhaps they were of Scandinavian origin, or just from further north?

Anyway, after a fun week it’s back to the office for now and, of course, today has seen en immense thrush movement in the south-east on the back of a nice north-easterly airflow from the Continent. At the time and writing, both Steve G and Wes were racking up thousands of Redwings. Thankfully, there’s plenty more time for good vis-mig before winter strikes, and I certainly can’t complain with my returns so far!

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