The second half of June has been typical of the quiet high summer period, amid a mixed spell of very warm conditions and more unsettled, westerly-led weather. A few faint hints of autumn have been detected in recent days, however, as the seemingly never-ending migration cycles trundle on. Breeding action is peaking too, with young birds everywhere at this time of year.
|A Swift against a summer sky.|
At the end of a hot day I joined Dave for a dusk walk of Thursley. In total we counted 10 Nightjars – eight churring males and two calling females – across a small part of the site. A Woodcock was roding over Will Reeds (where a female Tawny Owl was calling), a Snipe was singing on South Bog and the Curlew pair were still anxiously tending to their young.
The highlight came at Pudmore, however: a nervous Teal pair with 10 tiny ducklings. This is the third year in a row breeding has been confirmed here but only the fifth time since the Millennium (five of the eight Teal breeding records in Surrey since 2000 have been at Thursley). Very cool.
|Teal family (taken in the dark pretty much!).|
A warm midsummer evening saw me venture into West Sussex, where I was treated to wonderful views of a juvenile Long-eared Owl at dusk. A second youngster called nearby, while an adult was seen briefly in flight. A special encounter. Hobby and Lesser Whitethroat were also noted.
This morning's WeBS count at the Bramley waterbodies was quiet, though three young Ravens were noted just down the road at Thorncombe Street.
On the morning of the Summer Solstice I was up early and headed to Thursley, which unfortunately was misty and rather cool. The Curlew pair were still collecting food in the vicinity of Pine Island / West Bog and were in constant communication. A Snipe briefly displaying and a surprise Muntjac was at Truxford.
It was warm and sunny by the time I finished work, and a late afternoon stroll along the river produced both Garden Warbler and Grey Wagtail taking food into nests.
Another subsinging Reed Warbler at Shackleford was a surprise this morning – only the third ever here, but my second this month (and exactly two years to the day of the only other occurrence). Also noted was a single Little Owl, two Red-legged Partridges and the Stonechat pair – the latter without their young, perhaps now dispersed.
What will surely be my last singing Cuckoo of the year was heard at The Hurtwood this morning, where a gentle westerly breeze was blowing through. Garden Warbler and Siskin were also noted. Unfortunately I saw no Woodlarks, Tree Pipits or Dartford Warblers and I suspect these species are gone from here now (having only colonised in 2019) – such is the brevity of forestry plantation clear-fell habitat.
A small flock of Swifts and hirundines were zipping over Tuesley this morning in the breezy south-westerly, with two juvenile Sand Martins among them. This species doesn’t breed anywhere locally and these individuals felt like my first subtle hint of autumn so far this year … I counted 23 juvenile Black-headed Gulls too.
|Swift and Sand Martin.|
A much larger hirundine and Swift build-up was noted at Frensham Great Pond afterwards, where I counted 93 Coots.
At the Lammas Lands this morning a juvenile Sedge Warbler on Catteshall Meadow was welcome confirmation that breeding had successfully occurred – the first time it's been documented here since 1976! The male was back in full song and perhaps they'll try for a second brood.
Two Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a Kestrel flew over, while Reed Buntings, Linnets and Whitethroats were busy feeding young.
A grey and drizzly morning produced the first wader of the wader of the autumn at Tuesley – a female Little Ringed Plover, sat incongruously amid a group of wagtails (no fewer than 35 Pied and nine Grey were counted). The plover, presumably a failed or non-breeder, marks a decent year so far for the species here with this being the fourth record.
|Little Ringed Plover.|
Unfortunately this was overshadowed by a dead juvenile Black-headed Gull. I've been dreading the arrival of avian flu here and, so far, there's been no sign of it. Hopefully this death isn't related …
It felt like early autumn at Thursley this morning – a light mist, heavy dew underfoot and spider webs barricading footpaths. The seasonal flavour was enhanced at Pudmore when the familiar call of a Redshank was heard, followed by nice flight views of a bird still in full breeding regalia as it disappeared east into the murk. I can't think of many wader species more skittish than Redshank … still, a welcome site tick for me and my first of the year in south-west Surrey.
I was very pleased to see the female Teal through the gloom as well, with seven ducklings still in tow. This seems like a not so bad return with only three lost – hopefully most will fledge. A Snipe briefly displayed but there was no sight nor sound of the Curlews. Hopefully they're just lying low …
|Foggy Teal family.|
Other bits included a vocalising Spotted Flycatcher behind tumuli and lots of juvenile birds, including my first young Redstart of the year and heaps of Stonechats.