Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds


Saturday, 30 April 2022

Whimbrel week

April has gone by in a flash, as it often does. As with my last post, migration action has been fairly limited – not usually the case at this exciting time of year. A marked passage of Whimbrel has highlighted but in truth there's been little else to shout about in scarce terms, with the persistent and dry north-easterly airflow not exactly helping to shuffle the pack. Perhaps May will deliver a few more local goodies.

It's been a week for Whimbrel in the local area.

Saturday 23rd

With breezy north-easterlies and heavy cloud forecast a Tuesley stakeout was the order of the day, and it started brilliantly with two roosting Whimbrel. The birds, presumably in overnight, were content for a good hour-and-a-half despite the odd bit of grief from the gulls. Then, unprompted, they flew north at 07:37. Quality stuff, and particularly so after a blank year locally in 2021.

Whimbrel action (including one slipping on the rubber!).

A male Little Ringed Plover dropped in for a while before disappearing high north-west. Weirdly, it – or another – was back about nearly 90 minutes after it flew off and remained settled. Another lovely species to encounter locally. 

The prolonged watch meant a few other bits were noted, including two flyover Yellow Wagtails, five Sand Martins, a couple of House Martins (only my second record of the year!), Green Sandpiper, five Common Terns and a Cuckoo singing to the south. A quality session was capped off at 08:43 when a further three Whimbrel flew silently north.

Whimbrel flock.

An influx of inland Little Gulls prompted me to check Frensham and Enton mid-afternoon, but both sites were very quiet, save two Gadwall at the latter site.

Sunday 24th

Another breezy morning but bright and warm. I headed to the Dunsfold area with Lesser Whitethroat – that trickiest of south-west Surrey species – on my radar. An hour-and-a-half at Painshill Farm failed to produce, although two each of Nightingale, Yellowhammer and Skylark, a male Cuckoo, a singing Garden Warbler and few Red-legged Partridges were a fine consolation cast.

I then tried Barrihurst Farm over the road. I'm lucky to have access to the private site – and what an extraordinary place it is. I'd confidently say there is nowhere like it in Surrey; it feels very much like Knepp or somewhere in Eastern Europe, with endless bramble thickets and towering blackthorn hedges. The video below doesn't do it justice ...

Anyway, a wonderful session here produced several good bits, with the clear highlight a Turtle Dove that flew through before being lost in the scrubby jungle (and not relocated). Jeremy had this species here until a few years ago so it's possible they hang on, and this is certainly an encouraging record. 

Six singing Nightingales was a great count, a Barn Owl was flushed from an oak, a Kestrel zipped about, a male Cuckoo sang, a Long-tailed Tit pair were seen taking food to a nest and lots of Whitethroats and Blackcaps were in voice. Magic!

Observations during a mid-afternoon bike ride included Marsh Tit along the river, Raven at Shackleford and Ring-necked Parakeet at Peper Harow.

Monday 25th

It was cold and grey this morning. A fleeting Whimbrel was a treat at Tuesley, even if it vanished minutes after I first espied it on the northern shore. Yellow Wagtail and Green Sandpiper were also noted.

Whimbrel at dawn.

A Ring-necked Parakeet was an unusual sight in Milford on the way to Frensham Great Pond, where a quiet session produced my belated first Reed Warblers of the year, along with Firecrest and Redstart

While passing through Tilford on the way home I noted a drake Gadwall on the Wey – almost as incongruous as the two Helmeted Guineafowl on the nearby village green!

Tuesday 26th

Another morning, another Whimbrel at Tuesley, this one perhaps the most unexpected given the cold, clear conditions. What a few days for this species ... having had none in the local area last year I've now seen seven in the last four days.


I then walked the river before work, where I was very pleased to note a Marsh Tit carrying food at Eashing Marsh. Singles of Garden Warbler and Whitethroat were also present.

Marsh Tit with food.

A recently fledged Mistle Thrush was in the garden in the afternoon – likely from the presumed nest a few hundred metres away by the river.

After work I cycled to Thursley, where a few bits of note were around. Best of all were three Lapwings on Pudmore, including a displaying male. Hopefully a pair can nest successfully this year after the failure in 2021 … a singing Meadow Pipit at South Bog was a real surprise (and something to keep tabs on), a Curlew was heard, a Lesser Redpoll flew over Ockley and a male Wheatear was at the bottom of Shrike Hill.


I then headed to Tuesley and was greeted by a lovely early evening trio – my first Common Sandpiper of the year, a male Little Ringed Plover and a glorious male Yellow Wagtail.

Yellow Wagtail, Little Ringed Plover and Common Sandpiper.

Wednesday 27th

A relatively lively inland day in the South-East tempted me to Enton and Tuesley at lunch, where all three hirundine species were present at both sites and in fairly good numbers too. Tuesley also held a new Little Ringed Plover – joining yesterday's bird – and the Common Sandpiper.


Thursday 28th

No birding.

Friday 29th

An atmospheric mist hung over the Lammas Lands this morning, where I was surprised to find a second Sedge Warbler was holding fort on Catteshall Meadow – quite an occurrence given this species' scarcity in south-west Surrey. Perhaps a late migrant? The original bird was still by the old carping pond and has now been here for 10 days …

A female Reed Bunting was carrying food nearby but it was generally quiet, with a similarly steady state of affairs at Unstead Water Meadows afterwards. Here a singing Reed Warbler back on territory highlighted, along with the two Sedge Warblers.

I then walked Shackleford, where a bright male Greenland Wheatear posed on the model airfield. Another was at the other end of the farm, but there was little else of note save an excellent number of Skylarks, many busy carrying food.

Saturday 30th

A lazy start, and the uninspiring conditions prompted me to go for somewhere a bit different, namely Hindhead Common. It proved to be an enjoyable hike around the site which is perhaps south-west Surrey's most poorly birded locale. It's a spectacular place and one can't help but imagine what it was like here in the 1800s and beyond, when Black Grouse roamed around what would have been a very wild landscape …

More recently Wood Warbler has been lost from this area but there was still plenty to see today, with action in the Devil's Punch Bowl including four Redstarts, three Garden Warblers, Cuckoo, Dartford Warbler, Tree Pipit, two Woodlarks and two Willow Warblers.

A Marsh Tit pair were carrying food at Highcomb Bottom, a Raven cronked somewhere in the distance and a decent count of nine Firecrests was made.

Two recently fledged Woodpigeons and a Kestrel visited the garden in the evening.

Friday, 22 April 2022

Dry April

Another week has passed in this rather dry April. Like the last two years there's been very little rainfall this month, something that's usually a hallmark of the season. It's been fairly dry on the bird front too, with migration action somewhat limited during the clear and often bright run of weather. There's still been plenty to admire and get stuck into, though, as there always is in spring. 

Male Dartford Warbler.

Friday 15th

Sadly the female Mute Swan was off the nest at Snowdenham Mill Pond this morning, with the eggs presumably taken by a Fox (which has happened here before … ). Both her and the male were being highly territorial, though, so there's hope for another effort. A late pair of Shoveler were of note, with a drake and female Gadwall and one of the Red-crested Pochard x Mallard hybrids also about.

Shoveler pair and Red-crested Pochard hybrid.

Enton Lakes afterwards was fairly quiet, with two each of Gadwall and Common Tern highlighting. The feral female Goldeneye duo were also knocking about.

Common Tern and Gadwall.

Saturday 16th

Another sunny, clear morning, and a walk around The Hurtwood produced two Willow Warblers, a Firecrest and three Lesser Redpolls. However, there was a distinct lack of Woodlark, Dartford Warbler or Tree Pipit, with many of the previously suitable clear-fell areas now sporting young birch.

I headed onto Court Farm but it was rather quiet there, save three Yellowhammers and a Kestrel.

Sunday 17th

No birding.

Monday 18th

A male Whinchat was good value at Shackleford this morning, and something of a surprise given it was another clear day. He was kept very occupied by the copious amount of insect prey on offer and must have been pleased to find this most perfect of stop-off locations. A few more Whitethroats were in and the Little Owl was seen, but it was otherwise quiet.

Whinchat and Little Owl.

Tuesday 19th

Conditions were similar this morning although it was a touch colder, and a walk around Puttenham Common was low-key. Three singing Tree Pipits were noted, while two each of Redstart and Woodlark were in voice. A pair of Linnets were collecting nesting material by the top car park.

Tree Pipit.

Wednesday 20th

It was grey and a touch chilly at Thursley this morning, where a steady session produced 50 species. My first Cuckoo of the year was in song towards Parish Field and good numbers of Willow Warbler and Redstart (eight singing males apiece) were noted. I didn't log a single Tree Pipit, however; this species seems to be on a real slide at this site. 

Other bits included the Curlew pair, two separate Woodlarks carrying food, a female Mallard with six ducklings, singles of Meadow Pipit, Snipe and Water Rail and a male Kestrel hunting successfully over South Bog. 

After work I walked Eashing Fields, where the Stonechat pair were busy carrying food around and generally being agitated – surely young will be evident soon.

Thursday 21st

This morning I walked along the river up to Unstead Water Meadows, noting 53 species by the time I was home. A Lammas Lands first greeted me at Catteshall Meadow – a male Sedge Warbler singing by the old carping pond. Found by Neil on 19th, the bird is seemingly holding fort. Hopefully it finds a mate … other bits included two Stonechats, eight Linnets and five Reed Buntings.

Unstead Water Meadows was fairly quiet, with a second male Sedge Warbler now in the reedbed there. Two late Snipe were flushed, a pair of Stonechats were by Bunkers Hill Farm and a recently fledged Robin was hopping around.

Heading back home along the Eashing stretch produced a Ring-necked Parakeet over Milton Wood, a decent count of five Bullfinches and, best of all, my first Garden Warbler of the year, which was singing on and off in a bramble thicket by Eashing Marsh.

A singing Whitethroat was a nice garden tick at lunchtime.

Friday 22nd

A waterbody sweep began well at Tuesley on this grey and breezy morning with a Ringed Plover through. The bird was very vocal but clearly on a mission and chose not to drop in … two Common Terns were at Enton, while Frensham Great Pond produced a small flock of Sand Martins and a singing Firecrest.

I then walked Thursley, which was livelier than Wednesday despite the increasing wind. A female Cuckoo bubbling away over Will Reeds was a nice start – a male was later in song towards Elstead. A Yellow Wagtail over Pudmore was a year first for me, a Little Egret dropped into West Bog, a Raven was seen distantly to the west and a lingering Meadow Pipit was heard. A super tame Dartford Warbler capped off a decent visit.

Dartford Warbler.

A mid-afternoon cycle to Eashing Farm produced Whitethroat and Swallow.

Thursday, 14 April 2022

When you're ready

It took its time to get going but April has finally clicked into gear, with summer migrants arriving as the southerly floodgates eventually opened. The first two weeks of the month have contrasted greatly – the opening seven days were typically quiet with uninspiring weather, but the past week has been much improved. Spring is officially here!

Female Wheatear at Thursley Common.

Friday 1st

A morning visit to Frensham Great Pond produced a drake Pochard and a squealing Water Rail.

Saturday 2nd

No birding.

Sunday 3rd

A lazy start and only time for a quick check of Tuesley, though it proved fruitful despite the clear skies and hard frost. A female White Wagtail was a nice treat, with good views enjoyed in the sunshine as it fed up around the reservoir. As much of a surprise was two female Goldeneye – presumably two of the birds of captive origin that appeared last summer, before disappearing in mid-December. Perhaps Goldeneye will be a summer visitor to this area now!

White Wagtail and Goldeneye.

The visit was capped off by two noisy Mediterranean Gulls than flew in from the Enton Lakes area, calling profusely. They did a couple of circuits before disappearing off to the east … interestingly small groups were also recorded over Crooksbury and Frensham this morning.

Mediterranean Gulls.

Monday 4th

No birding today.

Tuesday 5th

A grey and breezy session at Shackleford was quiet, despite a light northward passage of Meadow Pipits (at last!) hinting at some movement. The Stonechat pair were furtively nest-building in the alfalfa, a flock of Redwings flew over and two Blackcaps were in song.

Wednesday 6th

No birding.

Thursday 7th

A bright and breezy morning began at Snowdenham Mill Pond, where I was surprised to see the female Red-crested Pochard knocking about – my first sighting of her since January 2021. The female Mute Swan was still sitting on her nest and a drake Mandarin was also present.

I then walked Unstead Water Meadows, where I've been fortunate enough to be given access to the private fields. Six Snipe hinted at how many must get in here unnoticed during the winter. A few Reed Buntings were dotted about, a Water Rail called from a reedy ditch and a Willow Warbler gently and fittingly sub-sang from a willow.

Greylag Goose.

A quick look at Enton after work produced singles of Swallow and Willow Warbler in the windy conditions.

Friday 8th

It was quiet at a grey Thursley Common this morning. Highlights including a few Bramblings near the Moat (with a male in song), squealing Water Rails at Pudmore and Birchy Pond, a Snipe flushed on South Bog, a drake and female Teal and a Willow Warbler near Woodpigeon Wood. The Curlew pair were knocking about though it seems there is no unpaired male on the common this year …

A singing Marsh Tit was heard during a late afternoon stroll along the river.

Saturday 9th

No birding.

Sunday 10th

Six Crossbills were a nice surprise over a Haslemere garden in the early afternoon – only my third local record of 2022.

Monday 11th

There were finally some summer migrants at Thursley Common this morning, with 56 species tallied up before work in pleasantly mild conditions. My first Redstarts (singing males at Woodpigeon Wood and Spur Wood) and Tree Pipit (singing male at Will Reeds) of the year were lovely to see, and an increase in Willow Warbler saw four birds in song. A female Wheatear was flitting around Pine Island first thing as well.

Tree Pipit.

Pudmore held the Curlew pair and a Water Rail, four Redwings flew high north over Shrike Hill, a small Lesser Redpoll flock zipped about and a couple of Bramblings were still around the Moat. A real surprise came at Redstart Corner – a male Yellowhammer bounding low north-east. This is a good bird here these days, averaging a couple of records a year.

The highlight of the morning came out on Ockley Common. In fact, I was treated to a Surrey first – prolonged visuals of a displaying Snipe. This species breeds here and I've heard drumming birds several times before, but it's normally very brief (or after dark). So this really was a moment to cherish …

Drumming Snipe record shots.

At lunchtime, Orange-tip and Holly Blue were on the wing in the garden and a Raven circled overhead.

Tuesday 12th

A birdy day. I staked out Tuesley first thing but the forecast showers never materialised, and it was quiet as a result. My first Common Tern of the year was welcome, however. Presumably it was the same one Dave had over Enton several minutes earlier.

Common Tern.

I then opted for a wander around Puttenham Common. Redstart and Tree Pipit were in song at the northern end of the site, but the star of the show came at the ponds: an Osprey. The bird had presumably roosted overnight and it was seemingly touring the area – it soon disappeared off to the north, where a convenient number of private trout lakes can be found.

Osprey action.

Other bits included a Ring-necked Parakeet calling to the west, a Lesser Redpoll, a Teal pair on Long Pond, a singing Willow Warbler and a couple of vocal Firecrests.

Post-work rounds in the drizzle produced my first House Martins of the year – at least 10 – at Enton Lakes, along with a Sand Martin and two Swallows. On the way home, two male Wheatears were seen hopping around Top Field at Eashing Fields.


Wednesday 13th

There was lots of birdsong at a pleasantly mild Shackleford early on – mornings like this were few and far between last April, so I made sure to appreciate it. A singing Whitethroat was my first of the year, in the same bramble patch I had my first individual in 2021 …


A Willow Warbler in subsong was more of a surprise. The male Stonechat was also giving it some although there was no sign of his mate – perhaps on eggs. The usual cacophony of Skylarks was nearly minus one contributor when a male Sparrowhawk went close to bagging an Alauda breakfast and the Little Owl watched on from its usual tree.

I walked Unstead Water Meadows afterwards and was very pleased to score a Sedge Warbler in the big reedbed. This is a truly localised south-west Surrey bird – there are two or three breeding sites most years – and the meadows here were devoid of this species in 2021. A singing Water Rail was also very notable, with a silent Willow Warbler, seven Snipe, three Swallows and four Reed Bunting also about.

Sedge and Willow Warblers.

Thursday 14th

It was misty but mild at Milford and Witley Commons this morning, where a singing Nightingale was back at the former site, singing occasionally but not going for it. Other bits at Milford included Willow Warbler, two Siskins and an excellent number of Blackcaps.

I was pleased to locate three Dartford Warblers on Witley, where a (the?) male Yellowhammer was singing. Sadly he seems to be the only one holding fort here this year … singles of Woodlark and Redstart, two Willow Warblers and a mixed singing Chiffchaff were also present.

Two Swallows were whizzing about over the garden at lunchtime.