Sunday, 26 February 2017

Shalford patch diary, 2017 so far

I've got a bit out of the habit of doing my regular patch diary blog posts so am going to attempt to summarise the first seven or so weeks of 2017 in this one with as little waffle as possible! As I write this the patch year list stands on 75, just one behind this time last year and with several 'easy' species still missing, most notably Tawny Owl! One of the best things about patch watching though is it makes otherwise common species more rewarding when they do make an appearance, and it's been interesting to note several species that have been recorded earlier this year than last, and others that have been notable by their absence.

Greylag Goose is the third most commonly seen goose species on the patch and only ever seen in smallish numbers in 2016, so it was quite surprising to see approximately 70 flying NNE from Loseley direction towards Guildford on 28th January. Canada Geese are just as common as ever, with reasonable numbers (20-30) flying in to roost on St Catherine's Pool on all my evening visits recently. As was the case last year Egyptian Goose seems to be largely a flyover species here, so it was a bit of a surprise to see a pair in the dead tree in Broadford Meadows on 5th February, seemingly vying with a gang of Jackdaws over a nest box. Then this weekend a pair seem to have taken a liking to the St Catherine's Pool/Broom Meadow area, having been seen either on the water or in one of the Oaks here the past couple of days.
Egyptian Goose
Moving on to ducks, it took me until the end of March last year to record Wigeon on patch, with the 31st March birds remaining my only Shalford record until 7th January this year when I heard that familiar whistling call somewhere over Broom Meadow at first light, this then followed by two drakes on St Catherine's Pool during my WeBS count on 12th February. Shoveler, on the other hand, have been rather more elusive this winter than last, with the first ones not seen until 30th January. They've since been a fairly regular feature, peaking at 11+ on 12th February.
Wigeon and Shoveler flying off from St Catherine's Pool - great photo, I know

Another duck species that took me until spring last year to add to the patch list was Gadwall so it was nice to find a pair on Broadford Marsh on 12th February, again during my WeBS count. As was the case last winter, Teal is rivalled only by Mallard as the commonest duck on the patch. They tend to be quite scattered around the area though so it's hard to get an accurate count, but numbers of between 15 and 25 are regular, with a high count of 30+ on 15th January. Mandarin Ducks have been around in small numbers, peaking at at least 6 on 19th and 25th February - 4 flew from roost below St Catherine's Hill early on the latter date.

There's been at least one Little Grebe kicking about since the middle of January, mostly on the navigation downstream of St Catherine's Lock although more recently I've had one on St Catherine's Pool on a couple of occasions, where they bred last year. It was particularly unusual seeing one swimming amongst the trees in Mill Mead Meadow after the river burst its banks a few weeks back!
Little Grebe

On to gulls, and it's been the usual palette of Herring, Common and Black-headeds flying over recently, peaking at either end of the day, some of the latter occasionally coming down to check out the river or flying low over Dagley Lane towards the village green. Lesser Black-backeds are rather less common and I've had just one record of Great Black-backed Gull so far: one adult flying high south-west on 21st January.
Three species of wader have made it onto the year list so far, with Lapwing perhaps the most notable. In 2016 I only had a handful of records of this species, mostly in small numbers aside from a flock of 26 over in October. Again it was good to get them on the year list early this year with a flock of c.35 wheeling around towards Loseley on 21st January followed by around 30 flying over the same area on 5th February, then half a dozen north-east on 26th February. Keeping with the theme of record breaking counts, there were at least 18 Snipe towards the northern end of Broom Meadow near St Catherine's Lock on 7th January - by far my highest count here! Still waiting to find that Jack though... I did quite well for Woodcock on the patch last year, with several records in January/February. I was glad then to finally add the species to the 2017 year list when two flew up from Broadford Marsh and right over my head at dusk on 15th February.
Lapwings (you'll have to take my word for it!)

Little Egrets are a frequent sight in this part of the county in winter now and Shalford is no exception, with several records of this species on the patch already in 2017, most recently one which flew up from near St Catherine's Hill on 25th February.
Little Egret
Up until this week Barn Owl was the only Owl species I'd recorded on the patch in 2017 with up to two present at times. Hopefully this species will breed here this year after no proven breeding records in 2016. On the 21st of this month though Barn was joined on the year list by at least one Little Owl calling at dusk - first at the southern end of St Catherine's Meadow (their favoured area last year) then closer to the lock, seemingly in a tree right by the navigation, though it was too dark to see. Whether this was one bird or two I'm not sure but I'll be monitoring them closely as this is my first record of the species here since last June.
Red Kite
Moving onto raptors now and the first patch Red Kite of the year was recorded on 21st January followed by singles on the 4th, 5th, 25th and 26th February. As with Buzzards in this area it's becoming increasingly hard to separate the locals from the movers but it's certainly good to see both these species becoming such a regular sight. Talking of Buzzards, there seems to be a pair hanging around in the same area that they bred last year which is good news. Last year I also suspected Sparrowhawks to have bred in the Broadford area and I've already seen birds displaying around here again on warmer days recently. Last week a male was loitering around in the trees in the same area.

Kestrel remains the most regularly seen raptor on the patch with at least one or two present on all visits. This morning (26th) it was good to see a pair hanging around near one of the nest boxes towards the southern end of the patch. My only Peregrine record of the year so far was one that flew south-west over St Catherine's Lock on 28th January.
Fieldfare have been in rather short supply so far this year but there's a fairly decent Redwing flock kicking around, usually scattered about in the wetter areas of Mill Mead Meadow and Broom Meadow. Stonechats have been a fairly consistent sight so far this year with up to three present on the 7th and 14th January. I hadn't seen one for a week or two until yesterday though when a female was near Broadford Bridge. I'm finding Firecrest rather harder to find this winter than last with my only record so far one in the bank of Holly along the Railway Line Walk on 5th February.
My first skywatch from St Catherine's Hill of the year on 25th February produced the first Raven record of 2017 with two flying west not long after 7am, seemingly coming up from roost in the trees on the north-east side of the hill. This is exciting as all my previous records of this species involved high-flying birds simply passing over the patch.
A very obliging Greenfinch in Broom Meadow
Siskins are an ever present species at this time of year with good numbers around, particularly in the Alders at the top of Broom Meadow, but not quite so many as last winter - c.120 on 15th January my highest count so far, and not a sniff of a Redpoll! Compared to last winter, there are lots more Linnets around and I've noticed they are roosting in the bushes in Broom Meadow -  at least 30 coming into roost on 22nd January.
The same skywatch on 25th February that delivered Raven also yielded the first Crossbill of the year, with one flying in from the direction of the Chantries before turning and flying south. Another species that has made it onto the patch year list earlier that in 2016 - considerably earlier in fact, as it took until October to record one last year. Given the amount of records of possible breeding in the county this year this is not exactly surprising but a very welcome addition nonetheless.
Reed Buntings are now back on the patch in reasonable numbers with at least half a dozen around since early February, and a pair already looking to be checking out nest sites in St Catherine's and Broom Meadows.
Reed Bunting

No comments:

Post a Comment