I haven’t got loads to report from the last three weeks, during what’s been a quiet May in south-west Surrey (and indeed nationally). What an odd spring this has been – an exceptionally dry and frosty April followed by what must be one of the wettest Mays on record. Unfortunately I suspect it’ll be a summer of poor breeding success, which sadly has already been evidenced in some species. However, what with various activities – not least socialising! – being back on the cards since the latest lifting of restrictions, a lull in bird activity has actually been quite timely. And the weather has picked up during the last few days, so hopefully the start of June will be decent.
|A hunting Hobby.|
A walk around Painshill Farm in mild and bright conditions felt birdy, with six species of warbler on offer, including a surprise Reed Warbler. It seems I encounter this species in a whacky location just about annually, and to hear one singing away from a dense hawthorn hedge, far from any water, was most unexpected.
A silent, late migrant Willow Warbler was also about and a Garden Warbler pair included a displaying male (not something I’ve seen in this species before; a rather begging juvenile-like fluttering of wings) but there was no Lesser Whitethroat – after a suite of spring records in 2020, this species has reverted to being a difficult south-west Surrey bird, it seems. Other bits included three Red-legged Partridges, two Nightingales and singles of Cuckoo and Yellowhammer.
|Red-legged Partridges in rapeseed.|
A quick look at Snowdenham Mill Pond on the way home produced two drake Gadwall and seven Mandarin, including a female with ducklings. A drake Tufted Duck was about as well.
Lesser Black-backed Gull and Bullfinch were notable observations from the kitchen window during the day.
It was mild with light rain during a brief look at Tuesley early on, where two Common Sandpipers were present, along with a Lesser Black-backed Gull and six Common Terns.
A Kestrel flew over the garden mid-morning.
A 45-minute stakeout at Tuesley in promising conditions (rain and a south-east wind) flattered to deceive. A Yellow Wagtail over was of note – my latest spring bird in Surrey by six days – but was probably more symptomatic of this cold and slow spring than anything else. A Lesser Black-backed Gull dropped in and a couple of Swallows went through but it was otherwise quiet.
Heavy rain in the afternoon was enough to tempt me to Tuesley, where I was rewarded with a smart summer-plumaged Dunlin. It hugged the west shore in foul weather and appeared to be missing an eye, exactly like one I had here on 19 July last year. The same? Quite possibly – and amazing if so. The wonders of migration …
The rain had eased by the time I got to Frensham Great Pond for a walk with some friends. Five Hobbies hunting close to the south shore were good entertainment and a Little Egret and two Lesser Black-backed Gulls went over. Some 15 Great Crested Grebes was rather a high count count and the Mute Swan pair were keeping a close eye on their newly-fledged cygnets.
|Hobbies and Little Egret.|
I felt for the Farncombe Swifts (of which numbers are still low) during the day as they zipped around miserably in the on and off rain and wind.
I met with Ken and Linda S (of Woodpecker Network fame), as well as Gerry and Graham, mid-morning for a check of some local Lesser Spotted Woodpecker nests. Results were mixed – two had been abandoned, with one apparently flooded out. However, one of the more settled pairs I’ve been watching for several weeks were in the process of laying, and Ken’s camera revealed two eggs in a recently tidied excavation.
These birds have been perfecting this particular hole for a while now and, although this is a very late laying date, it can be explained by the cold, wet and slow spring that seems to have pushed many birds back a few weeks. Fingers crossed – it would be nice to see months of fieldwork pay off with fledged young …
|Pecker action (top photo taken in April).|
A Sparrowhawk flew over Surrey Sports Park in the evening.
It was cool and grey at The Hurtwood early morning. Disappointingly I drew blanks on all three recent colonists – Dartford Warbler, Tree Pipit and Woodlark. All three have been recorded earlier in the season so perhaps the early April-like conditions were keeping them quiet …
Two Cuckoos, including one particularly keen individual, were roving around and there was an excellent number of Garden Warblers and Whitethroats (as can be heard in the background of the below Cuckoo recording). A couple of Willow Warblers were also in voice. I heard two Bullfinches, seven Crossbills included a group of five heading west and a Siskin flew over.
|Happy Mute Swan family.|