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.

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