Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds


Wednesday, 31 May 2023

Summer's slow arrival

Steady, warm weather finally arrived during the last 12 days of May, following the exceptionally damp spring that preceded it. Vegetation has shot up and breeding birds are in full swing – though an unusual late push of migrants, especially waders, has been taking place too, and it certainly doesn't feel like summer yet. For me personally, it's been something of an underwhelming May, with limited finds or days of lively passage, both of which usually occur during this month. Perhaps June will produce a late surprise or two.


Saturday 20th

No birding.

Sunday 21st

Turtle Doves have become tricky in Chiddingfold Forest during the last couple of summers, so I was pleased with the ease in which I encountered one today – a purring male that was giving it full welly in the warm morning sunshine.

A pleasant stroll in bright conditions also produced a singing Spotted Flycatcher, two each of Garden Warbler and Firecrest and three Nightingales.

Monday 22nd

Two Hobbies were nice to see during a lunchtime walk of Eashing Fields – my first in the 1-km this year.


Tuesday 23rd

I walked the Lammas Lands this morning, which was mild and sunny. The Sedge Warbler was still holding fort on Catteshall Meadow and, at the Phillips Memorial Park, a male Reed Warbler was in song. I was surprised to find a breeding pair here last summer around the small pond – hopefully there will be further success in 2023.

Other bits of note included singles of Little Egret and Stonechat, four Reed Buntings and a male Kestrel busily taking rodent prey to a nest box.

Some wader action was being reported on various airwaves during the day so I headed to Tuesley after work, where I was rewarded with my first local Common Sandpiper of the month. There was nothing else doing, but Kev D messaged with news of a Little Ringed Plover at Waverley Abbey – amazingly the first south-west Surrey record of 2023!

With time on my hands I headed to the Abbey. There was no sign of the plover, but an enjoyable session was had nonetheless. The crazy wet spring means the flood here is still full of water, and a veritable wetland feast was to be had (in local terms at least!): a pair of Shoveler (a very late local date), no fewer than 11 Gadwall, three Little Egrets and two Mandarin were present, along with a Kingfisher carrying food to and from the Wey and a hooting Tawny Owl.

Little Egret and Shoveler.

The Lapwing pair were still around as well, being fiercely aggressive towards any gulls that flew too close. Hopefully they have chicks nearby. 

One of the beauties of local birding is the random and often temporary relevance of 'lesser' sites like this – if there hadn't been all the spring rain, few or none of tonight's birds would have been present …

Wednesday 24th

I visited Unstead SF this morning, racking up a steady list of 41 species which included a singing Garden Warbler, a drake Gadwall (a species that seems to be lingering with intent locally this spring) and a Common Tern

Gadwall and Common Tern.

Up to two terns have been present on and off since 14 May (found by Janet) and, for me, represented a first site record for 19 years! Perhaps it will become a breeding bird here again in the near future.

Thursday 25th

Towards the end of a warm, breezy day, I headed to Tuesley for a quick look. After the late Common Sandpiper here on 23rd, I wasn't expecting to see anymore this spring, so you can imagine my surprise when I counted seven pottering about this evening. My highest ever local count, this species seems to be heading north rather late this year.

Common Sandpipers.

Later in the evening, I teamed up with Abel for a dusk session. I've long been meaning to check out The Hurtwood for Nightjar – following the major tree clearance in 2018 the site attracted Tree Pipit, Dartford Warbler and Woodlark, so Nightjar seemed a likely new colonist, but I’d not yet got round to checking. 

The Hurtwood is another of these more ephemeral south-west Surrey sites, like Waverley Abbey in a way, with the sudden new habitat attracting the aforementioned breeders between 2019-2021. Trees have grown back rapidly and it already seems like Dartford Warbler and Tree Pipit are no more. However, tonight we were indeed treated to a Nightjar showing: at least two churring males, one of which we enjoyed views of.

It was a great encounter, but was eclipsed considerably by truly mega views of two roding Woodcocks. They performed a number of display lights at close range, leaving us both in awe. Such cool birds.

A male Cuckoo singing relentlessly, a Siskin, two Garden Warblers and a Tawny Owl rounded off a fun outing.

Friday 26th

With less than five site records of each, Little Egret and Green Woodpecker were notable sightings at Eashing Fields during a sunny, breezy late morning walk. Red-legged Partridge, Lesser Black-backed Gull and two juvenile Kestrels were also present.

I was actually mid-walk when a message from Mark B came through asking my opinion on a warbler he'd found at Wandle Park, Colliers Wood. Upon listening to it I was amazed to hear the energetic tones of a Marsh Warbler! He then broke the news, and following a surprisingly stress-free trip to south London I was on site by 12.30 pm.

The bird hadn't showed to the assembled crowd for an hour or so, but it eventually got going again, showing briefly and singing (more subsinging to be fair, as you can tell in my wretched recording below) often. A seriously cool find by Mark – kudos to him for birding such urban sites like this – and a welcome 233rd Surrey tick for me.

Saturday 27th

The Devil's Punch Bowl's microclimate was in play this morning, with the site shrouded in fog upon my arrival. Despite conditions akin to late autumn, it was still a decent session, with two Spotted Flycatchers, a Cuckoo, a Siskin and five Garden Warblers highlighting.

Sunday 28th

A rather lazy morning saw me opt for a stroll along the Wey at Eashing, where I was surprised to tally up 42 species – decent going for late May. A singing Cuckoo was a nice surprise near Rush Corner – of the three 1-km records I've had since moving here, this is the first I've heard, and was likely the same Simon A reported at Charterhouse earlier today.

Other bits included a showy and vocal pair of Spotted Flycatchers, a Garden Warbler carrying food around and a male Red-legged Partridge.

Spotted Flycatcher.

My second garden record of Little Egret came in the evening, when one flew west.

Monday 29th

This morning's walk at Shackleford was bright, breezy and quiet, with two Red-legged Partridges and a highly anxious pair of Stonechats among the observations of note.

Tuesday 30th

Almost a day of no birding, but not long after I'd switched my laptop off for the day Shaun called with news of three Black Terns at Frensham Great Pond. I headed down, and in the really quite fresh north-easterly breeze the trio were bouncing around, picking invertebrate prey off the surface.

Black Tern.

My first spring birds in Surrey, they always remained distant, but were a treat to see nonetheless. Furthermore, they perhaps cap off a truly excellent spring for Frensham.

Wednesday 31st

A drake Pochard was a most unseasonal surprise at Tuesley this morning, where it was grey, cool and not at all feeling like the day before June. Two late Common Sandpipers were pottering around as well.

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