Sunday, 21 February 2016

Shalford patch diary, weeks six and seven

Wednesday 10th February

A largely uneventful visit in terms of birds, with only a couple of Teal, one each of Reed Bunting and Grey Wagtail, a calling male Tawny Owl, forty-four Pied Wagtails north and seven Egyptian Geese south of any real note. The rain shower that swept in shortly after I arrived at St Catherine's Lock, however, produced a sky that was more than worth the visit alone. 

Sunday 14th February

Another brief after-work visit with my girlfriend produced a similarly impressive sky and rather more in the way of birds. Five each of Common Gull and Cormorant flew north, while fourteen Egyptian Geese flew south-west. By St Catherine's Lock there were two Stonechats, three Grey Herons and two Kestrels


Thursday 18th February

Possibly my most enjoyable visit to the patch so far. It had been a gloriously sunny day, and the sunshine still had some warmth to it when I arrived at the meadows at about 4.20pm. As I walked past the allotments, enjoying the still numerous amount of birds singing, a Buzzard drifted south overhead. Meanwhile, a female Kestrel gave lovely views in the sunshine in an Oak near St Catherine's Lock. 
On St Catherine's Pool there were a Little Grebe and a dozen Teal, the latter of which all flew off before dusk. Other species flying to roost during my visit included Cormorant (one south/two north), thirty-two Pied Wagtails north, plus the usual massed Black-headed Gulls flying north with five Common Gulls and one each of Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull amongst them. As the light was still good and there was hardly a breath of wind I lingered for a while in the very marshy area immediately north-east of the lock where a flushed Snipe set off a squealing Water Rail. It was then that I caught sight of a white shape out of the corner of my eye and over the course of the next few minutes I was treated to my best ever views of Barn Owl at this particular site, as it made several circuits of the area around where I was stood, occasionally getting dive-bombed by a couple of the local Magpies.  
Little Grebe

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

Saturday 20th February

Right from the start this morning, two things were clear: there were lots of birds flying over the patch and lots of bird song. In addition to the usual gulls (of four species) and a high count of eight Cormorants I also recorded five species of raptor over the meadows today, but more on that later. The walk down to the meadows was soundtracked by the ever-present Song Thrush but also cheeping House Sparrows and wheezing Greenfinches, both of the latter increasingly scarce sights and sounds in this part of the world these days, so it's good to see they're still doing reasonably well here - for the time being at least. Passing the lock keeper's and heading out in to the meadows near St Catherine's Lock I heard a familiar sound but one I hadn't until then heard in 2016: a singing Reed Bunting. I think these guys get a bit of a hard time for their supposedly monotonous song. I rather like the lazy, relaxed 'dee-dee...deeeet', and it set the pace for a very pleasant morning on the patch. 
Reed Bunting
Before I'd even made it as far as the lock gates, I'd added the first three raptor species to the day list: Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and a male Peregrine that dashed north low and fast, its black executioners mask catching the light beautifully as it went - but too fast for a photo. I strolled over to check St Catherine's Pool where I found a Little Grebe, a pair of Teal, a pair of Mandarin, a drake Shoveler and two Grey Herons, although another check a little later added another two Teal and a Little Egret - my first one actually 'on the deck' here. Overhead, the first Buzzard of the day was now airborne to the south-west, while a Raven flew high north-east. A pair of Grey Wagtails made their presence very well known, as they called and sang and generally flitted about the various walls and ledges.
Further down the river there were fourteen Teal on the Railway Pool, at least fifteen Pied Wags in what I've named Horse Field (funnily enough it has a lot of horses in it..) and fifty-odd Redwings and two Mistle Thrush in the field immediate east of the railway line. 
Heading back to my car at around 11.30, the last bird of the morning was a Red Kite drifting south. A total of fifty-six species on the patch today - my highest day tally here to date.  
Little Egret
Grey Wagtail

Sunday 21st February

A rather blustery morning on the patch. I decided to wander a bit further south than usual where I found a pair of Stonechats near the bridge over the river just south-west of the Wey and Arun Junction. I hadn't seen any on yesterday's visit so wondered if this was the regular pair which had migrated a little further south. Clearly this wasn't the case, as upon returning to St Catherine's Lock a short time later I found another pair hopping around on the fence here, while further north still Richard Waters photographed a female in the meadow near the rowing club. Richard also photographed a Little Egret up there at almost the same time as I was looking at one tucked in the reeds by St Catherine's Pool, where there were also two Grey Herons but otherwise no birds to be found. Strangely there were also no Teal on the Railway Pool - my first ever Teal-less visit to the patch!
Little Egret - Richard Waters

Female Stonechat - Richard Waters

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