Monday, 17 April 2017

Shalford patch diary, April so far

After a frustrating medically enforced absence from the patch at the beginning of the month it's been good to get back into the swing of things in recent days and see spring starting to get into gear in this little corner of Surrey, although the persistent north/north-westerly winds are clearly holding a lot of stuff back as I've only added three species to the patch list since my previous round-up post.

The Garganey pair appear to have departed now after staying for at least two weeks - the last confirmed sighting via John Austin on 3rd April. Wildfowl numbers in general have tailed off now, as one would expect for the time of year, with the winter ducks all absent this week and just the local Mallard and Mandarins remaining. Eleven Mallard ducklings on St Catherine's Pool on the 12th were my first here this year.
Garganey - Richard Waters

Garganey - Richard Waters

Following Kit Britten's Swallow on 28th March I finally caught up with this species on patch on the 14th of this month with one flying north followed by four the next day. Kit also had the first patch Sand Martins of the year with two on the 30th. On the 15th there were four of them whizzing around over St Catherine's Hill, occasionally ducking down towards the railway cutting; the highlights of an otherwise pretty uneventful two hour skywatch. I had suspected local breeding last year and have since discovered from Steve Chastell that they've bred in this area in the past, so perhaps they're looking to do so again this year. Fingers crossed.
Sand Martin over St Catherine's
The full set of hirundines was at last completed this morning with four House Martins back on territory over the rooftops by Shalford station - a full two weeks later than in 2016. My 89th patch species of the year; I'm now slightly behind my total for this time last year but still missing a number of relatively easy bits, most notably Green Sandpiper, Great Crested Grebe and Ring-necked Parakeet. I'm aiming to reach at least a hundred before we move house.

Warbler numbers have been increasing steadily, with at least 15 each of Chiffchaff and Blackcap present on the 14th, several of the former already nest building and the latter pairing up. Willow Warbler numbers have been at a consistent three for a few days now, although I've not covered the whole of the patch in a single session for a while so no doubt there have been several I've missed. The first Whitethroat was singing in the scrub just south of the Railway Triangle on the morning of the 12th - the exact spot I had my first one last year. By this morning there were at least six singing around the mid-patch (St Catherine's/Broadford).
Sunrise over Broom Meadow
Gull numbers are dropping now, with Lesser Black-backed the most numerous in recent visits and generally all moving north (7 north on the 14th, 4 north today), with just occasional appearances from Black-headed, Herring and Great Black-backed. The Stonechat pair are still kicking about, usually in or around St Catherine's Meadow, although this morning there was a male in the Railway Triangle. The two Red-legged Partridges, meanwhile, are still to be found most days in the Horse Field which, as yet, has failed to deliver any migrant passerines. Last year I had Redstart and Yellow Wag here in late April so I'm hopeful the next two weeks will produce the goods - just need the wind to change!
Red-legged Partridges
Roe Deer


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