A freakishly mild period has brought October to a close, continuing the long, balmy year we're experiencing. Temperatures and conditions have at times been akin to late August – you can't help but feel slightly perturbed by T-shirt weather, pub gardens, regular butterfly sightings and a national Pallid Swift influx when November is round the corner ... Unsurprisingly the birding has been slow, with autumn feeling like it may not truly appear this year.
An enjoyable morning walk amid splendid autumnal scenery at the Devil's Punch Bowl. My main target was Ring Ouzel and I eventually achieved this with a fleeting first-winter in rowans near the café. Annoyingly it flew west with Blackbird and Redwing amigos and wasn't seen again.
Redwings were everywhere – at least 520 moved south-west and there was a similar number of grounded birds. More than 50 Fieldfares and some 25 Blackbirds – including a few continental types – made for a 'thrushy' morning indeed.
No fewer than nine finch species included a south-westerly push of 100 or more Chaffinches, but the highlight was three Hawfinches: two east over my Sugar Loaf Hill vis-mig watchpoint and another north-east over the café (by which point I was armed with a deserved Flat White).
Two Bramblings and a Lesser Redpoll were also logged, and other bits included six Marsh Tits, two Sparrowhawks and a Firecrest.
A morning check of a few waterbodies was a washout, but with the rain easing off for a brief period I walked Shackleford. Peter had found two Black Redstarts here yesterday and both were still present, showing well by the hay barn – the exact same spot I had two on 29 March.
It was otherwise quiet, though three Lesser Redpolls in a Goldfinch flock at Cuckoo Corner were my first at the Love Shack this year.
The sun was out by midday and an early afternoon stroll around Painshill Farm, Dunsfold, was pleasant, with two each of Yellowhammer and Raven, three Sparrowhawks (including a displaying male) and a calling Little Owl highlighting.
A clear and still morning circuit of Frensham Little Pond was fairly quiet, although a flyover Yellowhammer was a surprise – it's a sad state of affairs that this former Frensham breeder is now notable here. I later found out from Shaun that it was in fact the first record since 2015 ...
A drake Pochard and at least five noisy Water Rails were also noted, along with a calling Firecrest near the sluice.
It was no surprise that Thursley was very quiet in this morning's mild, blustery southerly, so a Hawfinch over the tumulus was most unexpected – only the third site record since the Millennium. The last couple of weeks have been a bumper period for the species locally. A Greenfinch over Shrike Hill was notable as well.
I walked the river from Godalming to Unstead this morning, which was unseasonably mild. 57 species was a tidy innings, but quality levels were somewhat low: two female Teal, six Snipe and a Lesser Redpoll highlighted on the Lammas Lands, while Unstead Water Meadows held Skylark, Blackcap, Water Rail, Kingfisher, 40 Siskins and 12 Snipe.
I met up with Joe H afterwards and a breezy stroll around Shackleford was livened up by a female-type Black Redstart near the hay barn. The two from the weekend haven't been seen since Sunday (despite people looking) so you'd fancy this to be a new bird …
Two Peregrines – an adult and a juvenile, perhaps both females – had a bit of a scrap and afforded great views while doing so. Some 140 Goldfinches and three Stonechats were also seen.
It was another oddly mild morning at Winkworth Arboretum, which was was looking resplendent as it always does at this time of year. Some familiar species were on offer, including three Firecrests between the boat house and Badger's Bowl, a Kingfisher at Rowe's Flashe and a Marsh Tit pair – the male in full song, befitting the spring-like conditions – at Phillimore. Other bits included Lesser Redpoll and Mandarin.
A quick check of Snowdenham Mill Pond afterwards produced five Gadwall and a Red-crested Pochard x Mallard hybrid.
|Gadwall and Red-crested Pochard x Mallard.|