Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Shalford patch diary, June 2017

It's been a while but here we are again, and I'm sad to say this will be the last one of these patch reviews I'll do for Shalford Water Meadows. Not too sad though as a new patch and county list beckons with my southward migration to Pulborough in West Sussex this week.

As is typical for midsummer it's all been a little bit quiet on the bird front lately and it's at this time of year that one's attentions are drawn to keeping tabs on the rather more scarce resident and migrant breeding species on the patch rather than the unpredictable excitement of passage birds in spring and autumn.

As of the middle of June I'm pleased to report there were at least three active nest holes in the Sand Martin colony on St Catherine's Hill, with the adults busy feeding youngsters. When I revisited on the 29th it had all gone rather quiet, but I'm hoping that just means they're between broods. Perhaps someone with more experience of this species' breeding habits can enlighten me? Either way it really is wonderful to see this species breeding so close to Guildford.
I was getting a little anxious about the Stonechats at St Catherine's Lock as the young seemed to be taking forever to fledge but I'm pleased to report that both adults were seen with two juveniles in tow on 20th June, this increasing to three juveniles by the 29th. Great to see and another nice one to confirm as breeding here after last year's mystery juvenile at the lock in mid-June aroused suspicions that this species was more than just a winter visitor here.
Juvenile Stonechat
Juv Stonechat
The Spotted Flycatcher pair were also still present in the trees on the western edge of Shalford Park as of this past weekend (via Kit Britten) following on from my delight at discovering a week or two ago that they are indeed nesting in this area. Surely one of the closest remaining breeding pairs of this declining species to Guildford town centre now?
Spotted Flycatcher on nest
From a species that is dwindling as a breeder in Surrey to one that is very much on the increase: it's been great to confirm the presence of at least one breeding pair of Firecrest on the patch this year (I obviously won't say exactly where), as this species continues to spread ever closer to urbanity in this part of the world.

Firecrest - photo by Kit Britten
Away from the scarcer stuff there's so many juvenile birds around now, including a regular gang of Mistle Thrushes at Shalford Park, all the common Tits, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Blackbirds and Grey Wagtails plus the first young Swallows and House Martins at St Catherine's Lock the other day.
Mistle Thrushes - photo by Richard Waters
Mistle Thrush - photo by Richard Waters
Green Woodpeckers have been notable by their absence in recent weeks - as Kit pointed out on our walk around the patch ten days or so ago - so it was good to see an adult and a juvenile together just west of the railway line near the Park and Ride on the 29th.
Green Woodpecker (juvenile)
Reed Buntings, Song Thrushes and Whitethroats have all been seen carrying food and until recently there were still at least three or four Garden Warblers singing around the area; a large increase on last year if they all breed successfully. Reed Warblers have gone quiet, if indeed there are any on territory at all (last year it seemed only one pair bred) but there's still at least one pair of Sedge Warblers near St Catherine's Lock; one was singing by St Catherine's Pool on the 25th while another was seen carrying food into Broom Meadow on the same day. As I mentioned in my previous patch diary postWater Rail regularly alarm calling in Mill Mead Meadow towards the end of May would suggest breeding success as I'm told they often call in such a way when they have young around.
Whitethroat - photo by Dave Carlsson
It's been such an enjoyable eighteen months or so patch watching Shalford, getting to know its birds and other wildlife. Patch birding is always full of surprises but I don't think I ever would have imagined a year and a half ago I would find Garganey, Brent Goose, Med Gull, Curlew, Lesser Whitethroat, Crossbill, Cuckoo, Nightingale and many more locally scarce species just a stone's throw from Guildford town centre, not to mention breeding Stonechat, Sand Martin, Spot Fly and Firecrest. It just goes to show the value of putting in that bit of extra effort to find birds on your own doorstep. I can't wait to get out and about in the Pulborough area and start all over again!

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