Just the three patch visits since my previous blog post, these likely to be my last of this month as the shorter daylight hours and other commitments impinge on birding time.
A mid-morning visit with my girlfriend, primarily to carry out this month's WeBS count. I have now taken over the WeBS counting at Shalford and Broadford from Charlotte Gray in addition to the count I've been doing at Winkworth Arboretum for a couple of years.
Winkworth was exceptionally quiet this morning with just three Mandarin Ducks and a calling Water Rail of note. After a failed attempt to twitch Ed Stubbs' Red-crested Pochard at nearby Bramley Park Lake we headed for the patch. The continued lack of water meant wildfowl numbers were still disappointing with fifteen Teal at Broadford Pond the best I could muster, in addition to two at St Catherine's Pool. Away from the water birds, the highlights were a single male Stonechat. two Meadow Pipits, two Kestrels, two Grey Wagtails and one each of Kestrel and Chiffchaff.
A rare week day off saw me spend a very enjoyable five hours on patch notching up a respectable 49 species in the late autumn sunshine. I started the day with a couple of hours sky watching from St Catherine's Hill which produced a scattering of Redwings, 41 Common Gulls south, 110 Herring Gulls (mostly south) and 860 Black-headed Gulls south. Small parties of Siskins passed by but most impressive was the roost flock of at least 70 which exploded from the Alders beneath the hill early morning. Another smaller flock near St Catherine's Lock contained at least two Redpoll but these were unfortunately flushed by a jogger before I could get a proper look at them.
Other highlights from the morning included at least four Chiffchaffs, a pair of Stonechats at St Catherine's Lock and two Snipe which flew up from Broadford Marsh.
Raptors were represented by three Kestrels, at least one Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk which chased a Song Thrush very close past me near Ferry Lane.
Another Friday off and I was able to squeeze in a couple of hours on the patch before heading to Gloucestershire for the weekend. Again the sun shone and produced some wonderful viewing conditions for certain birds, but in other instances the strong light proved a hindrance. At around 9:30 I looked up to see an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull drifting north over Broom Meadow - my only one of the day. As I watched it another bird caught my eye much higher up, flying south. Getting bins on it I could see it was an Egret but it was still very distant and fast disappearing into the glare of the sun. The general impression was of a compact bird with short legs and rather short rounded wings. When it did re-emerge from the sun's glare it was much more distant and flying directly away from me on flicky, rather fast wingbeats. Little Egrets are of course a common sight locally in winter but I couldn't honestly say I got enough on this particular individual to entirely rule out Cattle Egret. That said, there were two Little Egrets at the Lammas Lands in Godalming later in the morning. One that got away.
One noticeable change since my previous visit was the big increase in standing water thanks to some fairly substantial rainfall in the past week. It's good to see some of the long dried-up pools rise from the ashes, as it were. Unfortunately there hasn't as yet been the hoped for increase in water birds, with just six Teal and single drakes of Shoveler and Mandarin of note. The marshy area near Dagley Lane Allotments harboured at least three Grey Wagtails. While I was checking this area a female Ring-necked Parakeet screeched north overhead - such a common sound at my workplace in West Clandon that it took me a moment to realise this was only my second record of this species at Shalford in 2016.
|St Catherine's Pool - topped up but bird-less!|
Other highlights from the morning included three Stonechats in St Catherine's Meadow, a Red Kite which drifted west, six Egyptian Geese north, 120 Starling west, 45+ Fieldfares north/north-east and at least 30 Redwings around.
Away from the patch I notched up my 87th garden tick in the form of a heard-only Brambling over my Chilworth garden in the fog early on the 23rd, following on shortly from a flyover Little Egret and seven Mandarins.
On the 19th I paid another visit to Albury Sandpit with fellow surveyor Dave, where we had a reasonably productive morning in beautiful crisp sunshine. Five Skylarks and at least eighteen Meadow Pipits were feeding on the ridge, favouring the sunny south side, along with a Yellowhammer and at least two Bullfinches. Plenty of gulls passed overhead including an adult Lesser Black-backed which flew north and a 3rd year Great Black-backed which flew south-east.