Tuesday 23rd February
Buoyed by a great morning at Leith Hill, I headed out again for an afternoon session on the patch. Right from the start there were lots of gulls moving overhead, with the usual several hundred Black-heads rivalled only in number by Common Gull, of which at least 150 flew north during my visit. Clearly at least some of these birds are the ones that spend the day down in the fields around Thorncombe Park and Wintershall, but where are they all going to roost? There were also at least 25 Herring Gulls heading the same way, plus a single Lesser Black-backed which flew east. There have been quite a few Med Gulls around the county recently and I'm hoping one will turn up in one of these flocks one of these days, or perhaps something even rarer, particularly with spring now just around the corner.
St Catherine's Pool was rather empty, with just a couple of Teal of note, while there were five on the railway pool. Raptors were represented by Sparrowhawk, Peregrine, a pair of displaying Kestrels and two single Red Kites which both flew north-west. There was a lone female Stonechat in the meadow beside St Catherine's Lock.
|Stonechat (female) - Richard Waters|
|Teal on Railway Pool|
Thursday 25th February
Another gloriously sunny late winter (is it too early to say early spring?) day and another afternoon visit to the patch. St Catherine's Pool was a little more lively today with at least six Teal and a Little Grebe present. The usual pair of Kestrels were again displaying near St Catherine's Lock, with a third bird also frequenting the area, while a single Buzzard soared overhead. Not quite as much in the way of gull movement tonight - 'only' 50 Common Gulls north amongst the usual Black-heads. Also a single Cormorant north-west.
|Common Alder catkins|
Friday 26th February
An early morning visit before a day's local birding with Ed Stubbs and, after Saturday's first singing Reed Bunting of the season, this morning there was something of a schoeniclus symphony going on out in the meadows! There were at least seven singing males in the area, most of them congregated quite close together in Broom Meadow near St Catherine's Lock.
Teal were also present in better numbers than of late, with eight on St Catherine's Pool and at least eighteen on the railway pool. Up in the sky both Kestrels and Sparrowhawks were displaying,
Richard Waters paid the meadows an evening visit and got some nice shots of Mandarin and Kingfisher, the latter of which I have still yet to see on this new patch - not that I'm jealous!
|Mandarin - Richard Waters|
|Kingfisher - Richard Waters|
Monday 29th February
It was good to meet up with Rob Craig, the NT lengthsman for this area, after work who showed me some of the rather more hidden corners of the Shalford/Broadford area and gave me a potted history of the area and his bird sightings from over the years as we walked around. The bird highlights of our stroll were a pair of Shoveler, a drake Teal, and a Woodcock which flew up from near the railway line.
Wednesday 2nd March
The first patch visit of meteorological spring, although you wouldn't think it going by the weather. After a day of sleet and hail showers there was still a stiff north-westerly blowing when I got to the meadows and it proved to be the first time I have actually felt properly cold out there this year. Suffice to say I didn't stand still for long! Black-headed Gulls were streaming north as usual, many now wearing their summer heads, although it was interesting to note the odd group moving south - some signs of seasonal movement rather than birds heading to roost sites perhaps? Common Gulls were still firmly heading north though; at least 65 in the 90 minutes I was present. Another sign of spring was provided by the local pair of Kestrels mating, while a third bird again remained in the area. On St Catherine's Pool there were three Teal, two pairs of Shoveler, two Grey Herons and a Little Grebe, while further downstream Robin Stride reported a Little Egret just south of Guildford Rowing Club.
|Common Gulls gathering above Shalford|
Sunday 6th March
Another bracing morning out in the water meadows, but little sign of it affecting the spring feelings amongst the local birdlife, with at least two Reed Buntings singing, four Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming and two male Kestrels displaying. Other highlights included a Little Egret which briefly dropped in on the Artington side of the railway line before flying off north over St Catherine's Hill. Five Buzzards were up and soaring by mid-morning plus a Red Kite which drifted in from the south-east. There were still at least two Stonechats in the vicinity of St Catherine's Lock, plus a third male just south of Broadford Bridge. Wildfowl were represented by Teal (fifteen on Railway Pool, four on St Catherine's Pool and a pair on Broadford Marsh), Shoveler (two pairs on St Catherine's Pool) and a pair of Mandarin on St Catherine's Pool. I had one Little Grebe on the river by St Catherine's Pool while Richard Waters later noted two on the navigation by the lock. Gull numbers were fairly low with just a few sum-plum Black-headeds north, one adult Lesser Black-backed north and a first winter Herring Gull west.
It's now been over two weeks since I had a patch tick, with my year list well and truly stalled on 76 species (81 points for Patchwork Challenge) - bring on the spring migrants!
Here's a few more pictures from the past couple of weeks.
|Stonechat (male) - Richard Waters|
|Kestrel (female) - Richard Waters|