Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds

Monday, 13 February 2017

13th February

Having been away, and ill before that, today was my first opportunity to enjoy some quality patch time in a couple of weeks, and it proved to be a very productive and enjoyable session. With the forecast for clear skies and sunshine I figured a sky-watch would be my best bet, as I hoped to get Brambling or Peregrine on my year list, and I found myself on Allden's Hill for no less than 4 hours from 08:15.

The Curlew that flew N at 08:33 (2nd site record)
With Mill Pond eerily quiet, I positioned myself in my usual spot and immediately noted the decent numbers of Common Gulls moving slowly south, with some loitering and dropping into the fields. At 08:33 what initially looked like a big, dark gull came powering north at height, in the opposite direction to all the others. The quick flight action had me going, and any thoughts that this was Cormorant were quickly erased when I got my bins on the bird, which was clearly a large wader. Despite the distance the light was good, and it soon became clear I was looking at a Curlew! I managed a couple of pictures as it continued NNW fairly quickly, and was left in amazement as it disappeared out of sight. This is a fine sighting here (any wader is), and it's only the 2nd Curlew record for the site, after Kevin Guest and I had one calling over the same valley, heading north on 6th April 2015.

One of the 3 Sparrowhawks today
Presumably a bird heading to northern breeding grounds, the gorgeous start to the day had me feeling like it was spring, and I was pumped up for what else would appear. For the next 3 hours, it was in fact little. Gull numbers continued to be higher than normal (20+ Herring Gulls notable), and there was a few Finches moving about, including pleasing numbers of Greenfinches, 20+ Siskins and 2 Lesser Redpolls. There was to be no Brambling, with numbers massively down this winter following last seasons bumper figures. However, another year tick flew over at 11:45, this time a calling Skylark heading SE. Rare here, only recorded on passage with the odd singing bird in the south-east of the patch, this is my earliest record of this species here, and the first before March.

A small purple patch then occurred. Raptor numbers had been OK without being as spectacular as they can be, though 3 Sparrowhawks (including a displaying male) were welcome. Anyway, my hoped for Peregrine appeared distantly over the Ridge at about 12:09, being mobbed by a Carrion Crow. This species is normally only seen from February to April. At 12:15 another surprise - this time a calling Chiffchaff in the trees on top of Allden's Hill, towards Winkworth. This species does winter here, but in tiny numbers. A great session then, with 4 year ticks, taking me to 83 for 2017. A quick whiz through the rest of the area yielded little, bar a nice 3 species mixed flock of Gulls at Bonhurst.