Unsurprisingly, birding has been rather steady since my last post, with any outings limited to within the lockdown rules. Keeping super local isn't proving quite as much fun as it did last spring, but there's still been plenty to see and – like during the first lockdown – I've been reminded of how lucky I am to have such a selection of decent birding sites so close to home.
|This male Blackcap has kept me entertained from my kitchen window during lockdown.|
I got to Thursley a little later than expected and made my way down to the south end. It was murky and cold so few birds were making themselves known, though one of the first I saw was the Great Grey Shrike. Typically, it was a distant blob, sat upon a small tree atop Shrike Hill. I got a bit closer, but it was still far away when it flew down in a northward direction, not to be seen again. Having disappeared at the end of December, it seems this bird is back again now ...
|Great Grey Shrike turning its back on me.|
A long pedal and pace around the rest of the common produced little: singles of Crossbill, Bullfinch and Sparrowhawk, along with a few Lesser Redpolls and the pleasure of a chat with Doug and Penny B. I avoided the bunting area. Forked Pond held a couple of Kingfishers but no Goosander. While returning home I passed through Rodborough Common, but it was quiet here, save a couple of Ravens and Treecreepers and singles of Bullfinch and Lesser Redpoll.
|Treecreeper at Rodborough Common.|
A walk from home late afternoon passed through a busy Broadwater Lake, where a Kingfisher flew over and a Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed. I headed on to Unstead Water Meadows with dusk fast approaching. A steady stream of hundreds of Jackdaws were heading north to their Unstead SF roost, while up to 60 Meadows Pipits dropped into the rough meadow to bed down.
With the light fading, two Little Egrets flew north, an Egyptian Goose pair whizzed south, a couple of Water Rails called from the ditches along the Bunkers Hill Farm track and a Tawny Owl male hooted to the east. A single Snipe bombed over before the star of the show appeared, a Woodcock, which flew low over the track in near darkness and appeared to land in the water meadow to the north.
There were lots of large gulls swirling over Shackleford first thing, including four Lesser Black-backed Gulls. A Lapwing dropped into the alfalfa, where an impressive 150 or more Fieldfares were feeding. Otherwise it was fairly quiet, with a male Sparrowhawk, two Lesser Redpolls and a Grey Wagtail of note. The female Red-crested Pochard and the dark hybrid were at Snowdenham Mill Pond, along with three each of Gadwall and Mute Swan.
A wet but thankfully brief walk to the Lammas Lands proved worthwhile, with two Jack Snipe flushed, including one at very close range. My highest count of Common Snipe, 20 or more, was also achieved, and a bonus Water Rail flew from an area of rushes. Three Grey Wagtails went over, along with a Red Kite, and an enthusiastic male Reed Bunting was singing. Another unseasonal songster caught my attention while working from home, and a short investigation from the kitchen window soon resulted in brief views of a male Blackcap – a very nice encounter on this grey and gloomy day.
Another damp and murky day was illuminated by the continued presence of the Blackcap, which significantly distracted me from work during the morning as he occasionally burst into song outside my window and flitted around the garden. I also heard a Bullfinch.
|The garden Blackcap.|
A switch to a northerly wind meant there was no Blackcap to be heard at home today. A Red Kite flew over at dusk.
A Lesser Black-backed Gull was the best observation from the kitchen window today.
Once the sun came out in the afternoon, a cycle to and around the Low Weald countryside south of Loxhill and Hascombe was pleasant. A sunflower field at Markwick Farm held a few bits, with at least 55 Stock Doves, eight Yellowhammers, a Reed Bunting and 20 or more Linnets present. In Great Godalming Copse, two Marsh Tits included a singing male and eight Crossbills landed in a pine. A hefty female Peregrine flew over, too. However, the most notable birds during the journey were thrushes – hundreds, in fact, including at least 400 Redwings and 50 or more Fieldfares, dotted around the fields and copses. Perhaps they’d been displaced by snow further north?
|Big female Peregrine.|
Unstead SF was quiet, as it has been for most of this winter, though I was very pleased to eventually locate a Cetti’s Warbler as one uttered its grating call from the lagoon reedbed – my first here since late November. Two Chiffchaffs, a Lesser Redpoll, a Reed Bunting and a Bullfinch were nearby. In the South Meadow, males of Kestrel and Stonechat were seen, and two Little Egrets were in Flooded Field. Shackleford was quiet, save impressive Fieldfare numbers and an apparent north-east movement of Woodpigeons.
|Fieldfare flock at Shackleford.|