Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds

Thursday, 3 August 2017

31st July-3rd August

After the remarkable flock of Black-tailed Godwits last week, the last thing I expected just 5 days later was another migrating wader party, but this is exactly what happened on Tuesday. My early morning routine consisted largely of hedge bashing, but after 10 Cormorants, 48 Starlings and a single Common Tern had moved south-west over Winkworth, I realised I'd been a bit dumb to choose passerine searching over a sky-watch, particularly ahead of the rain that was forecast for 9.

20 Whimbrel WSW over Goose Green, 2/8/2017
It was too late to bother heading up the Ridge, and so it was a routine whizz through the patch before work. I decided to check a small meadow at Goose Green, just off the footpath, with its rather dense line of blackthorn and brambles perhaps holding my long sought-after Lesser Whitethroat. I'd hardly walked a few steps from the car before a large flock of somethings appeared low over the A281 treeline to my east. I went into super-rush mode, but the identification process was aided when at least 2 birds in the group called - Whimbrel!

I took in some binocular views to be sure, and after failing to get pictures of the Godwits I raced to bag some shots of these guys. Fortunately, they deviated from their westward flight, turning south before heading off south-west in the direction of Tilsey Farm. This allowed for a prolonged chance with the camera, and I managed a couple of pictures that were OK - this also helped me confirm the flock as 20 strong. I've always wanted a picture of something ridiculous flying over the woods/fields of my patch, but sadly my effort at this was out of focus. I've used the picture in this post anyway.

When I picked the group up they were in an unorganised mess of a flock, but turned into a V, and left that way. I later learnt that, when migrating long distances overland, Whimbrel will fly in a V-formation, and these guys must have been on one hell of a trip, and no doubt cut the corner at the Wash or Thames estuary. Aside from the call, the shorter bill was noted, quicker wingbeats, and also the 'head and crop up' flight which can be seen in the photos.
Blurry Whimbrel over Goose Green

Happy days, another example of chance, and also further reiteration of my Shalford Split theory, which I really do think has legs. I reckon they tracked they Wey then Wey-Arun canal, and lowered ahead of the rain (which came 20 minutes after I saw them), perhaps interested in Scrubbin's Pond. I wonder where they did eventually pitch down?

The fact I'd had a (super-rare locally) Mediterranean Gull south over my flat in Godalming at 5:45 that morning should have been an indicator that stuff was moving down the river/wider area, and a prolonged sky-watch could have turned up more waders. I'm not complaining though - this is just the 2nd record of Whimbrel here, and brings my year list to 110.

Full of optimism and expectation, this morning flattered to deceive, with just a couple of Willow Warblers new in at Winkworth, and a Swift over, of migration note. A Kingfisher at Rowe's Flashe was the second in 3 days, not bad for this local scarcity, with the bird on the 1st coming at Mill Pond.

In focus Whimbrel over Goose Green
A far better sighting that day was one of Robin S, who I hadn't seen for far too long. We had a few hours together in the morning, and he added 7 birds to his Thorncombe Street list. We spoke of plans for a coordinated vis-mig session later in the season, and I will need all the help I can get having (foolishly) decided to go head-to-head with Steve G in a migration challenge. All the details are on his excellent blog here. I'm intrigued to see what the final number of birds will be.