As every patch birder knows, we have a pastime that is at times very rewarding and at other times very frustrating, and sometimes it feels like there's an awful lot more of the latter - especially in my relatively bird-less neck of the woods! Still, after a little mid-month lull, Shalford Water Meadows has delivered a few goodies for me in the past couple of weeks and, despite the unseasonably chilly weather, I have been taking advantage of the longer days by making increasingly frequent early morning visits which have proved fruitful, and also meant I've been treated to some incredible scenes like this.
Warbler numbers seem to be growing every day, with a noticeable fall of Blackcaps on the 28th (at least eighteen noted during a 90 minute visit) and Whitethroats increasing to at least nineteen today. Chiffchaff numbers seem to have levelled off a bit although there were still at least ten singing males in the area between Broadford and St Catherine's this morning. As of 28th there was still a lone Willow Warbler singing in the Broadford area.
|Chiffchaff - Richard Waters|
Hirundines continue to move through in dribs and drabs, their efforts presumably hampered by the recent spate of northerlies. On the 19th it was nice to see three Sand Martins hawking low over St Catherine's Lock.
The first Swift (92) was seen on the 21st, followed by odd ones and twos this past week, but today saw the first more substantial arrivals, for me anyway, with at least a dozen through during my three hour morning visit - a group of nine were screaming over Dagley Lane as I left.
Although we are now well into spring there have been some lingering reminders of winter with a few Redpolls and Siskins still kicking about, and a Little Egret which flew north on the 29th. Still, the summer migrants are arriving thick and fast now and, in addition to the aforementioned Swifts, I've added three new birds to the patch year list since my last blog post. The first came on the 21st as I approached the Horse Field along the Railway Line Walk to be greeted by a familiar call and one which I'd anticipated hearing in this exact location at some point - Yellow Wagtail (93)! Clearly I had flushed it as I approached the field and it flew off north-east over Broadford Marsh. This was followed by a stonking male on the 23rd which dropped into the field right in front of me as I was scanning the muddy ground for anything of note. Two flyover Yellow Wags were also recorded on the 24th and 1st May. One of my favourite birds (surely few other British birds can so embody summer in the sheer gaudiness of their plumage?); it's great to have caught up with so many so close to home.
Patch year ticks 94 and 95 arrived on the 26th in the form of Common Sandpiper and Sedge Warbler. I had perhaps expected the former to turn up at some point on Broadford Marsh but I definitely wasn't expecting to find one trotting along the towpath just north of Broadford Bridge. I kept my distance but after a while it flew to the other side of the Navigation where I was able to get a couple of photos before a passing cyclist flushed it and it flew off south.
The Sedge Warbler, meanwhile, was singing away by St Catherine's Pool, where it was joined by a second bird on the 29th, and there were at least three around this morning.
Early morning on the 28th it was nice to see a female Redstart hopping back and forth from the fence to the ground in the north-west corner of Horse Field. My second patch record of this species this year but far more obliging than the one the other week.
Wildfowl numbers have dropped right down now with just a handful of late Teal lingering until the 19th, and a few resident Mallards and Mandarins still around. Early on the 29th a pair of Gadwall flew off south-west over St Catherine's Lock.
|Looking east across Broadford Meadow|
There has been much evidence of various species breeding in the area recently. I have noted a Grey Wagtail carrying food in the Broadford Bridge area on several occasions, while I've also seen a Sparrowhawk carrying prey across the river here a couple of times this past week. On the 24th, meanwhile, there was a newly-fledged Moorhen following one of its parents through one of the puddles along the Railway Line Walk, on the west side of Horse Field. I've also been monitoring a Buzzard nest in this area; it's remarkable to think not that long ago this species was still a rarity in this part of the world.
The local Little Owls still appear to be around, although I have only seen one on occasion recently - hopefully this means they're now breeding and haven't been scared off by recent tree works along the railway line.
Another new addition to the patch recently have been the cows which appeared in St Catherine's Meadow and up in the Old Watermeadows near Guildford on the 24th. Cattle Egret anyone?
Lapwings were recorded flying north-east twice last weekend - two on the 23rd and one on the 24th - only my second and third patch records of this species this year, surprisingly.
Skylarks have been rather more evident recently, with one heard singing well west of Horse Field early on the 26th, 28th and 29th, and two which flew up from St Catherine's Meadow on 1st May. I know they breed up on the hills to the north-east and would imagine they're present at Loseley Park to the west, but suspect there is insufficient breeding habitat for them around the water meadows here.
On 1st May I was surprised to stumble across a Firecrest along the Railway Line Walk - my first record of the species here for a number of weeks and seemingly an odd time for one to turn up, although Martin Kettell had one at Stoke Water Meadows just yesterday. A nice end to a good couple of weeks which has taken my Patchwork Challenge total to 95 species/101 points. I'm looking forward to seeing what May has in store!
|Pedunculate Oak in flower|