Thursday, 15 September 2016

Shalford patch diary, Autumn so far

Phew, well it really has been a while since I last posted on here, partly due to other commitments and not wanting to spend fine evenings sat at a computer, but also because it's been a rather quiet few weeks on the local patch. Nonetheless I've been plugging away making regular visits to the meadows in the hope of some autumnal magic. On 22nd August a Lesser Whitethroat in Broom Meadow gave me my only patch year tick (105) of August and offered some reassurance that the migration season was underway. This was followed by two together in the same area on the 26th. I didn't manage any photos of them unfortunately but the Common Whitethroats have been rather more obliging.
Common Whitethroat
Phylloscopus warblers have remained present in good numbers through recent weeks, my most thorough count of the whole recording area on 13th August yielding a conservative estimate of 50 Chiffchaffs and 5 Willow Warblers. By early September many of the Chiffchaffs were giving their distinctive two-note song once more, albeit rather more half-heartedly than in the spring. On the 3rd I also heard a Blackcap singing weakly along the Railway Line Walk. Also on the same morning there was a Sedge Warbler with the Whitethroats in Broom Meadow; the first I've seen here for a while so quite likely a migrant. Another species notable by its absence or at least silence of late has been Reed Warbler so I was surprised to stumble across a family group by St Catherine's Pool on 25th August. Aside from the juvenile during the summer the first returning Stonechat of autumn was present in Broadford Meadow from 22nd August while the first (and so far only) returning Spotted Flycatcher was flycatching from Hawthorns near Broadford Marsh on the 26th. 
Spotted Flycatcher
Early on 8th September while walking the footpath across the now very dry Broadford Marsh I heard the unmistakeable call of a Yellow Wagtail and looked up to see one flying south overhead - 'Great', I thought, 'the first of Autumn'. Just a few minutes later another four went over heading the same way and these were then followed in dribs and drabs by a further 17 over the course of the next hour or so! One of my highest totals of this species in a single sitting, certainly in Surrey anyway, and bolstered I'm sure by the presence of cattle in some areas of the water meadows. Clearly an excellent day for movement of this species with flyover records coming from at least half a dozen sites across Surrey including 7 seen by Ed Stubbs over the Thorncombe Street Ridge just a couple of miles south of Shalford later in the morning. Interestingly there were also notably boosted numbers along the Sussex coast the following day, with 80+ at Medmerry alone. Hirundine numbers are now typically swelling, with over 300, mostly House Martins, drifting west/north-west early on the 9th of this month. The last Swift of the year meanwhile was among a mixed hirundine flock over Broadford Marsh on 31st August. Gull numbers are increasing now, with the Black-headeds in particular noticeably resuming their winter commuting route south-west early morning then back north-east in the evening. Fingers crossed they bring in something a bit rarer in the coming weeks. Teal numbers were growing fairly steadily until most of the pools in the recording area finally dried up at the end of August. My highest count before the drought was 11 on 26th August, while the first Shoveler returned on 4th September.
Lesser Black-backed Gulls

 The lack of rain has rather scuppered my hopes of getting a wader dropping in, although my second Curlew of the year was a nice surprise on 21st August, flying south-west mid-morning. Raptors have been largely represented by the usual trio of Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel, although singles of Hobby were seen on 13th August and 12th September, and Peregrines on 22nd and 26th August, while on 14th August there were six Red Kites in the patch airspace, with one north closely followed by five circling together in the direction of Loseley Park; my highest count to date of this species here.  It was also nice recently to stumble across a Buzzard nest in an area of the meadows were I had suspected breeding earlier in the year.

Buzzard nest
Buzzard feathers beneath the nest

A few more photos from recent weeks:

Nodding Bur-marigold

Dewy dawn in Broom Meadow

Painted Lady

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