Godalming area birds

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Monday, 9 May 2022

A sarnie amid the steadiness

The first week or two of May always through up some excitement locally. This has been the case this year, although in general things have been rather steady, lacking somewhat in both dynamism and numbers of migrants – much like spring 2022 as a whole. But, as always at this season, there's been loads to see and enjoy, and I can't turn my nose up at a period that produced a local lifer.

Sandwich Tern: my first south-west Surrey lifer in seven months.

Sunday 1st

On 1 May last year Dave and I broke the Thursley big day record with 76 species, so I thought I'd head out there today and see how many I could tally up today. Some five hours, 16 km and 20,000 steps later and I managed 75 – not bad at all. The highlight was a Little Ringed Plover over Pudmore early on, which was a welcome site first for me. A Yellow Wagtail followed overhead shortly afterwards.

Curlew, Snipe and Meadow Pipit were all in song on Ockley, with the latter presumably the same male I had at South Bog on 26 April. It'll be amazing if he pairs up and breeds. The three Lapwings were also around with both the males displaying. A Hobby over High Ground was a year first and I'm sure it was taking more than a passing interest in the light northward passage of hirundines that was taking place and involving all three species.



Lapwing action.

Excellent numbers of Woodlark included a family party of five birds near Crossbill Corner. Several presumed second brood males were in voice again too. Four Garden and 12 Willow Warblers were singing, as well as a decent five Tree Pipits. The biggest omission of the morning was Treecreeper! 

I checked Tuesley late afternoon. A striking Lesser Black-backed Gull caught my eye and seemed to fit intermedius. It was smaller than graellsii birds nearby and, most notably, had much darker upperparts. Dark enough to rule out a Dutch intergrade? I'm not sure. Intermedius is very rare locally and I've only ever seen one before in south-west Surrey …

Intermedius-type LBB (right-hand bird).

Two Hobbies flew east as well, spooking the gathered hirundines as they went.

Monday 2nd

A Whimbrel heading north over the garden was a real surprise this morning and a welcome 1 km (and garden) tick. It's been a great spring for inland passage of this species …

Later on I walked Shackleford, where a quiet but pleasant hour-and-a-half stroll produced a male Greenland Wheatear, two Ravens, a distant singing Cuckoo and a Little Owl.


Little Owl and Wheatear.

Observations during an afternoon bike ride included two Nightingales, Siskin and Garden Warbler at Milford Common, Yellowhammer, Redstart and Willow Warbler at Witley Common and Kingfisher, two Common Terns, two Firecrests and a Reed Warbler at Enton Lakes.

Kingfisher.

Tuesday 3rd

A strange morning at Tuesley. The remains of a Whimbrel were a grim early discovery and looked to be the work of a fox. A sad end for a bird on a long journey … four Little Egrets over was a whacky May record indeed – I wonder what they were up to?

Three Yellow Wagtails went over before the session was capped off by two very much alive Whimbrel that circled before heading south. What a bonkers spring for this species – I've now had 11 individuals locally (zero last year; usually one or two annually).


Whimbrel and ex-Whimbrel.

My first Swift of the year was in a mixed flock of some 100 hirundines at Frensham Great Pond in the evening.

Wednesday 4th

A promising forecast coupled with a big movement of birds up the Severn yesterday meant I was staking out Tuesley from first light. It started well, too, with two Whimbrel going north at 05:33. I appreciate I'm repeating myself a bit now, but what a totally nuts spring for this species, something noticed by other patch-watchers in the South-East.

More Whimbrel ...

Unfortunately the promised rain never came, and my vigil was pretty quiet save a light passage of Swallows and Sand Martins, a Yellow Wagtail and my fourth Tuesley Kingfisher. I was packing my stuff up at 07:25 when a familiar call came from overhead: Sandwich Tern!

I picked the bird up heading steadily south – I had to unpack my camera and thus only got poor record shots. I presumed it had gone, but about a minute later it reappeared, this time flying low north, treating me to sensational views. It disappeared to the north – a brilliant encounter over in minutes.



Sandwich Tern.

Only my second Surrey record, and a first for me in south-west Surrey (number 185), this marked a very pleasing find after the relative slog of the last few weeks. The last south-west Surrey record came at Unstead SF in May 2015 – there have only been six records in the 21st century and the nature of this species' brevity when passing through inland counties makes this morning feel especially fortunate.

Thursday 5th

I was back in the Dunsfold area today, visiting Painshill Farm again. This time I did score Lesser Whitethroat – a rather mobile and skulking male that was occasionally giving some song. A second bird may have been present too. Thanks to Graham for the tip-off. 



Lesser Whitethroat.

It really is mad how rare and localised this species is in south-west Surrey, with two adjacent sites in the Dunsfold area the only places they're reliably found (and even then they can be tricky). In fact, a look through my records suggests this was only the 11th time I've seen Lesser Whitethroat in south-west Surrey – crazy!

Two each of Nightingale and Garden Warbler and singles of Cuckoo, Yellowhammer and Skylark were in song as well, while a Raven cronked away to the south-east.

Friday 6th

Both Sedge Warblers were still going for it on the Lammas Lands this morning, where a breeding-plumage Little Egret dropped into Hell Ditch and a Grey Wagtail was taking food into a nest.

Little Egret.

Saturday 7th

The Surrey 5km bird race challenge today saw Sam and I (joined in part by Dave and Matt) conduct a massive 15-hour session in the field. A separate post about our efforts can be read here.

Sunday 8th

No observations of note.

Monday 9th

No birding today.

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