Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds


Wednesday 7 February 2024

A flat start to February

The first week of February picked up where January left off, with grey, mild and windy weather dominating. Hardly the most inspiring conditions for local birding, it's safe to say things have been pretty quiet so far this month, though the gradual increase in suggestions of spring you get at this time of year have been welcome.

Drake Teal.

Thursday 1st

It was a fairly bright, cool morning, and I had a quick look at Frensham Great Pond before work. Pochard numbers were down a bit, with only 14 counted. A Shoveler pair were also present and I enjoyed the first Great Crested Grebe courtship display of the season, too.

At the end of the day, a calling Chiffchaff a few gardens along was a surprise – I've not had a winter record in the Eashing area before.

Friday 2nd

A spring-like atmosphere among certain species belied the grey, dull conditions at the Lammas Lands this morning, where a breezy westerly was blowing through. Like last Friday, I enjoyed a fun session, with no fewer than 12 species in song. 


This included my first singing Reed Bunting of the year and clearly an arrival has occurred here in the last week, with at least five counted across both Overgone and Catteshall Meadows. A Stonechat pair on Overgone were my first here since November and too were perhaps a sign of the times – maybe a prospective breeding pair back. 


An even greater prize was lurking on Overgone, though, in the shape of a female Shoveler with a flock of Mallards on the pool. This species has always been rare here but used to be slightly more regular (i.e. I had three records in the winter of 2014-15). This bird was my first for nine years, though, so felt a smart prize.


Curiously, Andrew L and Dave B went on to see the Shoveler actually on the Wey here in subsequent days ... 'Mark' the Tufted Duck was also amid this wildfowl assemblage, incongruously diving in the small pool at times, but soon moved to the river. 

Tufted Duck.

Other bits of note included two Jack Snipe on Catteshall Meadow (13 Common Snipe across both meadows) and two Greylag Geese over – not an especially easy Lammas Lands bird!

Saturday 3rd

Another grey, gloomy morning led me to Thursley Common, where I met up with Dave for a big walk. As mentioned following my last visit here on 20 January, this site has had a desperately quiet winter – and today was a truly mundane session.

Thursley Common.

Highlights were limited as a result, with Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail at Forked Pond of note, plus a few Woodlarks occasionally in song. Passerine numbers were very low indeed, though a male Stonechat at Pine Island was a faint whiff of spring.

It was then west, from bird-less Surrey to the bird-filled Somerset Levels, namely Greylake RSPB reserve. This brilliant, impressive site had a major target for me: a drake Baikal Teal, which has been here on and off since late December. It was quite elusive, but on occasion showed nicely amid the thousands of Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler. A cracking bird.

Baikal Teal.

A drake Green-winged Teal, found in January, was lurking distantly, too, though was often asleep. Only my third in Britain …

Green-winged Teal.

The supporting cast was pretty awesome too – three Cranes, two Marsh Harriers, 100 or so Golden Plovers (amid thousands of Lapwings), triple-figures of Snipe, three each of Great Egret and Water Rail, Kingfisher and 25 Pintail

Teal, Shoveler, Wigeon, Pintail, Great Egret, Marsh Harrier, Cranes, Snipe and Lapwings.

Passerine action included a few vocal Cetti's Warblers, a Kingfisher and a Chiffchaff by the car park. A quality site, and one I could have spent all day at ...

Greyake RSPB.

Before heading home, a quick look at nearby Ham Wall produced a wintering group of seven Scaup on Long Drove – a fine count for Somerset. Also noted here were 50 or so Cattle Egrets in nearby fields, plus two Pochard and a few more Great Egrets and Water Rails.

Cattle Egrets and Scaup.

Sunday 4th

Once again it was a moody, mild and breezy day, this time with occasional light drizzle. Shackleford was the choice of site this morning but I popped my head in at Eashing Farm first, where a Tufted Duck pair on the reservoir were a nice surprise – a rare 1-km beast and only my second Eashing area record since moving here.

Despite the rather squally conditions, Skylarks were full of life at Shackleford. Annually at this site, in the early part of the year, a Skylark switch seems to flip – one visit will be the last of them being quite unobtrusive, and gathered in winter feeding flocks, before the next sees the sky filled with their song. Almost like two different species … Today, at least nine males were in voice, with plenty of territorial chasing going on as well.

Otherwise, though, there was little going on, as the quiet winter here continues. Impressive Fieldfare numbers were still about – a minimum of 200, but possibly more – and an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was amid a modest larid gathering on the polo pitch. 


Other bits included two Stonechat pairs, a male Sparrowhawk, three Red-legged Partridges and, on the farm pond, a Little Grebe.


Monday 5th

I visited Unstead SF for the first time in a few months, meeting up with Janet on yet another mild, grey and breezy morning. She wanted to talk about some of the changes taking place here and birding was fairly limited, though we did have a Raven west – never regular here and a year tick for Unstead patch-watcher extraordinaire Janet!

Other bits included five Gadwall, two Shoveler and a Teal amid low waterbird numbers, two Water Rails and a Cetti's Warbler in Dry Lagoon and a couple of Chiffchaffs in Works Field.

Some 15 Mandarin at Snowdenham Mill Pond afterwards included a few displaying drakes.

Snowdenham Mill Pond.

Tuesday 6th

The wind had picked up today, but it was still overcast and mild. I headed to Frensham Great Pond early on, where a female Goosander was one of the first birds I saw along the south side. Pochard numbers were well up on 1st – some 41 in total. 

Pochard and Tufted Duck.

On the way back, it was a real shame to note a dead Barn Owl beside the A3 at Rodborough Common – the second I've seen in four days after passing one in Wiltshire on Saturday.

I walked Eashing Fields before heading home. Three Skylarks chasing each other around in The Meadow were welcome, as I'd not had any here this year. There's no denying the number of dog walkers visiting the site has steadily increased since I moved to Eashing …

Wednesday 7th

No birding.

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