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.|
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.|
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.|
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.
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.
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.