|South side of the Ridge where the Godwits flew over|
I planned to get a good few hours of work in, but the BBC and their erratic weather forecasts had me racing back to the Ridge for 11:45, with the showers now expected at 12, not 3. Swift movement was evident - by the end of the sky-watch I'd tallied up 77 moving west. At this time of year I've found Swift action to be a good forbearance of other species passing through (normally just the odd Gull).
At around 12:10 the forecast cloud drifted in from the west, and with it just the slightest bit of rain. At 12:20 I picked up a tight flock of birds, initially thought to be racing pigeons, moving north-east-east over the southern facing side of the Ridge. Binoculars soon revealed striking wing bars, white rumps and long trailing legs - Black-tailed Godwits! A rough count estimated the group to be approximately 40-strong.
|Comma, Winkworth, 25/7/2017|
The flock weren't particularly high, and I actually lost them briefly behind an Oak tree. In that time I reached for my camera, but despite being on the birds for a good minute or two, failed to get any pictures. I switched back to bins as they climbed slightly, and did a quick recount before they disappeared over Junction Field.
There are a few reasons as to why this record was so thrilling, and remarkable. Firstly, it was a patch tick and mega 'un-blocker' for me, both of which are very rare things. Second of all, it was a stunning encapsulation of migration over the patch. Thirdly, it was an early completion of my wader operation, and absolutely not how I expected! Any wetland bird here is of note, let alone a large flock of waders. To top it all off, when I got home and did some research, it seems this is actually a record count of Black-tailed Godwits in Surrey - crazy stuff.
If it was the spring, Godwits moving east would make a little more sense, given the theory that birds 'cut the corner' on the south coast and come out at the Thames/Wash. Perhaps the wind and cloud threw them off a bit, and their reorientation had them heading to the north/east Kent coast. Or, perhaps, they were simply switching from the River Wey to the Wey-Arun Canal (a theory I've touched on previously), before continuing south.
|Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, Selsey, 25/7/2017|