Another fun week of birding has been the icing on a quality August cake. Perhaps my favourite month (vying with March) consistently produces the goods and 2022 has been vintage. It's a wonderful time of year when virtually anywhere will deliver something, and migration can be enjoyed right on your doorstep. September I find to be a far more Jekyll and Hyde month – lets see what it brings this year.
The sun was out by lunchtime following a morning of heavy rain. A quick walk of Eashing Fields produced two smart Whinchats in The Meadow – clearly this is a good site for this species. A juvenile Greylag Goose in Top Field was rather strange.
|Greylag Goose and Whinchats.|
A morning of fog gave way to warm sunshine and I did a walk of Eashing Fields late morning. The Whinchats were still present but today were outshone by a southbound Tree Pipit – a site and 1 km patch first. A scruffy adult Little Egret heading low south was perhaps more unexpected and only my second here.
It was bright and sunny this morning, and a big walk at Witley and Milford Commons began with a surprise: a Hawfinch in flight over the southern end of Witley. The bird was seen on two occasions but disappeared to the south. Always very rare on the heaths around here (and indeed anywhere west of Godalming) this was a peculiar record – and only the third Witley Common sighting in the last 35 years!
Other bits at Witley included Spotted Flycatcher, Firecrest, two Dartford Warblers and a presumably local Tree Pipit. A mighty 13 Bullfinches were counted across both commons.
|Robin and Spotted Flycatcher.|
Milford was heaving with birds but the best I could prize out of the mixed flocks were two Garden Warblers and a Willow Warbler, while a Tree Pipit low south was probably a migrant. I was delighted to see two juvenile Dartford Warblers on the recently opened up heath (see my post from 9 August). This looks like the first breeding record for Milford, presuming they were locally born.
I ended at Mare Hill, where a notable southerly passage of hirundines (including a single Sand Martin) was enjoyed while sipping coffee on the bench. Spotted Flycatcher and Sparrowhawk were seen, too, and a Dartford Warbler was heard – Mare Hill is another site where excellent heathland restoration has resulted in the colonisation of this species.
It was a rather grim start to the Bank Holiday Monday, with a moribund juvenile Yellow-legged Gull at Tuesley. The poor bird either had botulism or avian flu. Whatever the case, it was a sad way to encounter what's a rare bird around these parts.
|Moribund Yellow-legged Gull.|
I then did a big walk, starting on The Hurtwood where things were very quiet – indeed, a calling Willow Warbler was my only discernible migrant during an hour-long session. It was pleasing however to log Dartford Warbler, after no sightings here since January.
It was livelier down towards Hambledon at Little Burgate and Court Farms. There were still no grounded migrants to prize out, but a wonderful flock of finches feeding in a mixed cover crop held my attention for a while. I estimated some 350 Goldfinches (including many juveniles) and 50 or more Linnets. A female Yellowhammer was nearby and hirundine passage was underway high above.
A distant raptor to the north, beyond Hydon's Ball, caught my attention and, despite the considerable range, I was delighted to confirm it as a female-type Marsh Harrier. My first of the year, the bird's cream cap gleamed in the morning sunshine as it battled east into the increasing breeze.
This is the second year in a row I've witnessed Marsh Harriers tracking the Greensand Ridge, and the third successive August in which I've had the luck to encounter this species locally. Amazingly I didn't see a single Buzzard or Red Kite all morning!
A warm and breezy late afternoon stroll around Peper Harow produced a surprise Tree Pipit south over Jackman's Hill. Swallows and House Martins were moving east into the wind, two riotous Ring-necked Parakeets were around the village and two Clouded Yellows were at Norney Farm.
The first Shoveler of the autumn was back on Snowdenham Mill Pond this morning, where a drake Gadwall, the Mute Swan family and a Kingfisher were also noted. A Firecrest was calling nearby.
|Mute Swan and Shoveler.|
At Enton Lakes, a couple of Sand Martins were among the Swallows zipping over Johnson's, a Reed Warbler was calling at Richardson Lake and a young Willow Warbler was fly-catching from a buddleia.
A quick check of Eashing Fields late morning turned out to be a hugely productive – if rather breezy – 35 minutes. Almost as soon as I got to Top Field I picked up a seriously high Osprey heading west. Annoyingly my camera refused to focus, but I settled on distant views as it disappeared from view. A quality 1 km bird and my fourth of the year in south-west Surrey.
The main reason I'd popped out was to try and get Yellow Wagtail on my 1 km list. This duly happened some 20 minutes after the Osprey had gone through, with two birds dropping in briefly before powering off south. A fine end to a quality month locally.