Saturday, 11 March 2017

Leith Hill, 11th March

After finding Surrey's first Wheatear of 2017 at my work in West Clandon yesterday and with a dry day with a light south-easterly forecast I was optimistic for my second tower watch of the season this morning.
Unfortunately the weather had other ideas and I and the assembled team of David Campbell, Stuart Cossey, Paul Stevenson, David Stubbs, Robin Stride and Phil Wallace were enshrouded in the familiar Leith Hill blanket of fog for much of the morning after our dawn start. Still, the conversation was flowing well and spirits remained high - occasional Redpoll, Meadow Pipit and Crossbill calls in the murk reassuring us that there were at least some birds out there somewhere!
"Guys, I think I can see a bird!" - David Stubbs scans the foggy scene
By the time the fog did eventually begin to clear late morning the occasional Mipit calls had increased to a rather more steady trickle, with a total of at least 30 birds over (some heard only so may have been more than singles) - mostly heading north - the first pronounced movement of this species here this spring. As the sun warmed both the birders and birds the local Buzzards took to the air, with at least 20 thermalling within our field of view at their peak, joined at one point by a Sparrowhawk. A Kestrel gave a fly-by, as did an eleventh hour Red Kite as we began our descent of the hill. Gulls were on the move, with a high altitude V-formation flock of 26 Black-headed Gulls going north the most notable - not a terribly common sight from the tower. A Woodlark was seen distantly over Duke's Warren while some of the guys got on a probable Hawfinch flying over this area before promptly vanishing into the trees.
The scores on the doors
A little influx of Sand Martins and Garganey inspired me to check out my Shalford patch late afternoon which unfortunately produced neither of the aforementioned, although it was good to hear the first singing Chiffchaff in Mill Mead Meadow and to see the pair of Gadwall still present on St Catherine's Pool along with three Little Grebe and four Teal.

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