Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds


Friday, 31 July 2020

The calm before the storm

After the unexpectedly busy mid-July period, the last week or so has been a bit steadier, although there have been signs of the excitement and big seasonal shift that August brings. Most of these subtle indications tend to involve dispersing, relatively local breeders at this time of the year and I've enjoyed a few examples this week.

A few juvenile Willow Warblers are now on the
move, with this one trapped and ringed at
Bonhurst Farm on Thursday.

A juvenile Dartford Warbler at Shackleford (perhaps from Puttenham?) was a wonderful surprise and site first, while a Spotted Flycatcher at Unstead SF yesterday was my first there since August 2003! In the last few days, perfect, lemony juvenile Willow Warblers have revealed themselves at a few sites, either by call, colouration or capture – I’ve logged them at Unstead, Thorncombe Street and Tuesley.

Tuesley has been quiet, after the crazy two-week period prior. Apparently superb weather for waders failed to deliver anything on Saturday for Sam and I, though we were most surprised when a juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull wafted over – bizarrely the first juvenile large gull I’ve had all year and a very rare sight locally.  Otherwise, a steady trickle of Common Sandpipers was only bettered by a surprise duo on 28th – a rather early male Yellow Wagtail and a flyover Crossbill.

It was nice to get off the juvenile Yellow-legged Gull mark at the weekend.

I’ve also had Crossbills at Thursley (which too has been quiet) and, this morning, over a wonderful new World Land Trust site near Elstead called Weyburn Meadows. There were plenty of warblers here, including a calling Reed Warbler – another sign of the seasons.

As well as this, I finally got a bit of Yellow-legged Gull action on the south coast over the weekend. It's been a fairly poor July for them, with the relentless westerlies doubtless the reason. While not looking for one, I got my best views of two near my parents' house on Saturday, before Sam and I chalked up six at two sites the following day. Like my last post, I’ll run with a photo diary.

I'll get the gulls out the way first. This juvenile Yellow-legged at Felpham
was one of two on the beach. This individual was nice and easy to pick up
(thankfully, as I didn't have my bins). The full suite of features can be
seen: tertial pattern, scalloped scapulars, eye mask, small window in the
 inner primaries, pale body colour and bright white tail with a tapering
black band.

This juvenile Lesser Black-backed was a real surprise through Tuesley.
The dark plumage, weak head and bill, tail pattern and primary window
quickly dashed any hopes of it being a YLG. It was almost skua-like and
the terns didn't take kindly to it.

This moulting adult Common Gull shortly after the LBB was similarly
surprising – the first time I'd seen four gull species in south-west Surrey in July.

    My second Sussex search for YLGs was OK. My favoured spot of Chidham
held five (three adults, a first-summer and juvenile), 10 fewer than on the
same date last year.

There were plenty of juveniles among the 150+ Mediterranean Gulls
tallied. Greenshank and a few Whimbrel were also logged.

Another juvenile YLG was at Church Norton, where Little Tern and
Grey Plover were also seen. Other bits included eight Common Scoter
offshore, Common Sandpiper and Willow Warbler.

From the North Wall, we had 13 Cattle Egrets (some Littles in this photo),
including three juveniles.

Back in Surrey, and on the patch, there was plenty to see while I joined
Steve for some of his ringing session. As well as the above Little Owl and
Kestrel (a family party of the latter), we also saw a food-carrying Hobby
and two Sparrowhawks.

It looks like two Sparrowhawk pairs have nested close to each other at
Winkworth Arboretum. Check out some vocalisations I recorded here.

This Little Grebe, its sibling and parents were new for me at Shackleford,
on a tiny reservoir on the polo pitch that I never check. These, the
Dartford Warbler and Coal Tit (!) were all site firsts, meaning I've
seen 96 species there since I first visited last March.

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Feels like August

It’s been an action-packed week and a bit since my last post. As seems to be the vibe nationally among local and patch birders, autumn seems to be arriving early and many visits have both felt like and delivered birds more in keeping with August. The weather must be something to do with it – otherwise, I suppose it’s either been a particularly good or bad breeding season. 

What can only be described as scenes in this part of Surrey ... three of
five Dunlin (including one that seemed to be missing an eye!) that
dropped by during excellent wader conditions on Sunday.

Waders have been the real theme, with the private site near Milford delivering a veritable bounty of shorebirds these past nine days (although sadly no south-west Surrey year ticks). With things a bit busy at the moment, this post will be more of a photo diary than a blog, but I’ll try and fit everything in …

Whimbrel is a mighty hard bird on the deck around here ...

... as is Oystercatcher. Both were present at dawn on different days this
week, in seemingly sub-optimum wader conditions. Neither lingered.

This juvenile Little Ringed Plover was the 13th wader species I've had at
the site and the 9th this year. I wonder how far away it was born?

Persistent drizzle, poor visibility and a breezy northerly wind did the
business on Sunday – this Greenshank that shot straight through was
part of an excellent haul, including the five Dunlin, two Redshank,
Common Gull and four Common Sandpipers.

Some of the other aforementioned birds from Sunday ...

... And a Redshank from earlier in the week. Amazingly, I've had four
there this month, making it five in total this year.

It's not only been about waders this week, though. This juvenile Goshawk
is just the latest proof that this fearsome Accipiter is thriving in outer Surrey.

Another juvenile of an elusive and hard-to-see
species: Grasshopper Warbler.

My first proper autumn passerine came this morning in the shape of
this juvenile Whinchat at Shackleford – the fourth the site has hosted this
year. I also had my first Shackleford Spotted Flycatchers.

Two strictly non-breeding season species have been back at Shackleford,
too, with a few Stonechats and this family of Ring-necked Parakeets my
  first for the site since early April.

Pleasingly, Teal have been proven to have bred at Thursley Common
this year, with a family of four on Pudmore at present (although elusive).
Dave suspected there was a pair nesting at Birchy Pond back in May.

Some other bits from Thursley visits. The Kingfisher at Forked Pond was,
 along with Great Crested Grebe, a Thursley tick for me on Monday.

Some non-native delights from the patch, at Bonhurst Farm. The Little
Owl is part of the regular pair, but it's the first time I've actually laid eyes on
 the species anywhere since February.

And now for something completely different ... Josh and I visited
Salisbury Plain to interview the Bustard Project guys yesterday. The
rather extraordinary sight of two female Great Bustards with chicks,
in Spanish-like open grassland, was quite unexpected. It's quite
fascinating down there – I'll be writing a piece on it in an upcoming
Birdwatch edition.