Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds


Friday, 30 September 2022

In limbo

The feeling of being in limbo has continued during the last 10 days, though there have been flashes of excitement . Perhaps the highlight was two Marsh Harriers close to home, though a second local Garganey record of the year was significant. Stonechat passage has peaked, the first trickle of Redwings have gone through and a steady exodus of hirundines has taken place as well. Throw in some waterbody 'patch gold' surprises and a locally rare Lesser Whitethroat, then it's not been too bad.

Marsh Harrier.

Wednesday 21st

It felt like a waterbody kind of morning, following a calm and clear night, so I did a local sweep. I started at Eashing Farm where patch gold greeted me on the reservoir: not one, but two Little Grebes

Little Grebes.

Save a Mallard pair back in April these grebes are the only birds I've ever seen on the new reservoir here, thus representing a great 1 km year tick. There's one previous Eashing area Little Grebe record that I can find: a bird on the Wey that Peter had back in 1990. A true mega.

I headed to Frensham Great Pond afterwards. As I walked down to one of the swims I noticed a small Tufted Duck flock not far from the shore. A quick scan revealed, to my surprise, a female-type Garganey tagging along with them. The flock immediately flushed, before I could even put my 'scope down.

The Garganey separated and headed to the east end, quickly vanishing into the reeds – and it didn't reappear in the next half-hour. It was a bit frustrating not to get prolonged views or a photo but still a nice surprise, following a bumper year for Garganey nationally. It could easily be several years before I see another in south-west Surrey.

There was a nice variety of wildfowl today: my first Pochard of the autumn (a juvenile) was with a different group of tufties, a moulting drake Shoveler was at the north-west end and two Teal were one of few records I've had at the Great Pond. Little Egret and Kingfisher were noted as well.


Thursday 22nd

A drake Pochard was most unexpected in the mist at Tuesley this morning. A site first for me, strangely it was one of just two ducks present. Tuesley has had a poor autumn and never does well for wildfowl, so this was a particularly notable record …


I checked Eashing Farm on the way back and was rewarded with a heard-only flyover Snipe, which may have been flushed from the stubble field. Another 1 km year tick ...

Friday 23rd

No birding.

Saturday 24th

A rather cold northerly was blowing during a big morning walk around Shackleford and Puttenham. Impressive numbers of passage Stonechats were at Lydling Farm – at least 16, including a single group of 10. A Tree Pipit flew south, a covey of Red-legged Partridges hid in the maize and decent numbers of Goldfinch (120) and Skylark (35) were counted.

Stonechats and Red-legged Partridge.

Over the road, a Lesser Whitethroat was a real surprise in hawthorns by the wildfowling pond. A local rare, the bird was vocal albeit always distant. Amazingly only my third autumn passage lesserthroat in south-west Surrey!

Lesser Whitethroat.

By the time I got to Puttenham Common the sun was out and it was predictably busy. Two Woodlarks and a Siskin highlighted – the latter species notable by their absence so far this autumn. Two Kingfishers and a Mandarin were at Cutt Mill.

As it was such a nice day I took an innocuous stroll along the river mid-afternoon. Upon getting to Greenways Farm I spotted two raptors drifting slowly south. I raised my bins and was astonished to see the first bird was a juvenile Marsh Harrier. So, imagine my shock when I panned to the other individual and it too was a Marsh Harrier!

Juvenile female and immature male Marsh Harriers.

I watched the birds for a few minutes as they cruised over my head. What a bonkers sighting – a single Marsh Harrier is cause for celebration around here, but two migrating together is nuts. I reckon the second bird was a second-year male, adding to the craziness of the record (it'd seem slightly more normal if they were both juveniles). I'd love to know what sort of journey they were on …  Amazing scenes for a few hundred metres from home – number 99 for my 1 km year list. 

The rest of the walk was fairly quiet, though a Firecrest was calling in Milton Wood.

Sunday 25th

It felt wintry at Painshill Farm this morning, a feeling enhanced by a flyover Redwing: my first of the autumn. Three Yellowhammers and a Raven were about and a female Stonechat was a site first for me here. 


The ongoing Stonechat passage was in evidence at Eashing Fields late afternoon, with at least six dotted around, along with a Whinchat.

Monday 26th

Almost no time in the field today, but I couldn't resist an afternoon twitch to Oxfordshire for the Common Nighthawk (see here). An incredible and ridiculous record …


Tuesday 27th

A pleasant morning walk around the Lammas Lands produced 41 species, with the highlight a fairly late first-winter Reed Warbler poking around in Hell Ditch on Catteshall Meadow. A female Teal downriver was only my second site record and a flock of five Redwings tseep-ed north-west. 

Reed Warbler and Redwings.

Some 35 Meadow Pipits were present as well, but I only saw two Stonechats and no Snipe.

Wednesday 28th

Thursley looked magnificent in the autumn sunshine this morning, but it was quiet on the bird front. A late Tree Pipit was around the tumulus, two Redwings flew west and three noisy Ravens were about.

Tree Pipit and Ravens.

Thursday 29th

No birding.

Friday 30th

A fun hour and a half at Eashing Fields this morning produced 45 species – a new record for me here. Not bad for what's basically a couple of dog-walking fields! The clear highlight was a female-type Yellowhammer that dropped into the hedgerow between The Meadow and Bottom Field, before seeming to fly off south-west. However, I saw presumably the same bird again an hour later.


Increasingly tricky locally, Yellowhammer is a new Eashing area bird for me, bringing me to the mighty 100 for the year in my 1 km. I'm quite pleased with this tally, having targeted 90 when I moved in January. It was especially nice that one of my favourite species brought up the magic number as well …

Other bits included 13 Redwings south (including a group of five), eight Stonechats, seven Reed Buntings, an increase in Skylarks and only my second Eashing Fields record of Treecreeper

Skylark and Stonechat.

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