Sam Jones and I planned a big day on the patch, and as soon as I got out the car just before dawn the welcome sound of a Cuckoo greeted me, as what was presumably the returning valley bird sang from Allden's Hill. Remarkably, we had 3 more birds before we called it a day at 16:00. A lengthy vis-mig from the Ridge was largely a catch up, as we exchanged stories about our recent trips to Morocco, but 4 House Martins north represented year tick number two of the morning. A Willow Warbler sang from Furze Field, and we went on to hear 6 more, quite an increase on recent days. A couple of 3rd-year Lesser Black-backed Gulls drifted north, and a Tufted Duck pair west was a Ridge tick.
We weaved through the patch, picking up Garden Warbler, Meadow Pipits and more Hirundines. A Blackcap at New Barn, uttering a remarkable and varied mimicry selection, threw us for a while. We then set up shop for a sky-watch inside the Hascombe Gap, and we were to be rewarded, as low cloud sent a nice selection of migrants through. Matt Phelps joined us at 12:15, by which point we'd racked up 5 raptor species, and it wasn't long after his arrival when I picked up a distant, very big flock of birds flying north-east. What seemed like a skein of Geese were travelling at some height, and as the others got on them we were stumped as to their ID. We began to veer away from Geese, as Matt noted the lack of elongated necks in his scope, and then the group of around 70 individuals 'whiffled' down, and it seemed apparent these were large waders.
Unfortuantely, we lost them in the cloud. Upon reflection, and a long look at different plates and photos, I reckon they were Godwits, and very likely Bar-tailed. We will never be certain, but a flock of that size is a colossal Surrey record, whether they were Black or Bar-tailed. Slightly frustrating, but the spectacle of a group that big, clearly migrating over a load of fields and woods on my patch, was simply fantastic. Not long before we set off, a single Sand Martin came through with some more House Martins, part of a steady northerly Hirundine movement during the watch. These are not easy patch birds, and it took me to 97 for the year. Unusually for mid-April here, Gulls too were moving, with numbers of Herring and Lesser Black-backed's, as well as a sole Black-headed, going the same direction as the Godwits. As we headed back to the car, another Cuckoo flew over Nore Hanger, and we had 2 more near Mill Pond.
A fantastic day on the patch. Spring has sprung, and I really believe that there are more surprises to be had in 2017. Bring it on!