If this was an astrology blog, which thankfully it isn't, I would be describing this time of year as on the cusp. It's neither one thing or the other. We've had one glorious day this week, but rain is forecast and the cold snap is due to return next week. Tiresome.
Tuesday was an exception to that particular rule. So I spent the morning making the most of it.
Birding currently is like the weather. It's also neither one thing or the other. The winter migrants are on the verge of flying to their breeding grounds, while our spring visitors are contemplating arriving here. But not quite yet.
It's a time to catch up with some species missing off the Surrey year list – predictably I've ended up doing one when I originally stated I wouldn't. As lists go, however, this one won't be mind-blowing, nor will I be hell-bent in keeping up with previous years. If that were the case I would have already chased over to Tices Meadow for a Black-tailed Godwit, Water Rail and Jack Snipe and to Barnes for a Bearded Tit and Pintail. I really can't be bothered to do that. I'd like to go to Tices at some point but I should really concentrate on my two patches over on this side of Surrey, neither of which I have paid enough attention to in recent weeks.
I have a British year list, but that is only 15 ahead of my Surrey year list. I look at other people's lists and wonder how they have enough time to see all these birds. Lee Evans, for example, is already on 215 British birds for the year, which is 95 ahead of me. But I'm happy with what I have seen so far.
|Cutt Mill Ponds is one of the best places in Surrey for Mandarin
At Crooksbury Common, where 11 Crossbill had been seen a few days earlier, none were present while I was there, just a few Woodlark. Last year a lone Dartford Warbler was a constant presence, but it either perished due to the cold snap or got bored waiting for a mate to arrive and travelled the short distance to Thursley Common where plenty of potential partners have taken residence.
|Early morning at Thursley Common
|The Great Grey Shrike was busy hunting in the warm sunshine
|Skylark song was a feature around the Common
|Thursley Common's Curlews are back
I've sort of given up on Jack Snipe for now. At least we've got another winter spell (whoopee-do!) at the end of the year for me to have another go.
Another bird I've yet to see is a Water Rail. Last year I had a reliable place on my local patch at Holmethorpe I could regular see one or two, but due to the heavy rain this winter, the Redhill Brook opposite Mercer's Lake has been flowing too fast for these secretive crakes. I ought to give the area a proper walk – something I have neglected to do for quite a few weeks.
Of the early spring arrivals, none yet has appeared in the county but the odd Sand Martin and Wheatear have been seen elsewhere.
In a couple of weeks from now, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers will be singing, Wheatear will be the buzz word, as will Sand Martin, Little Ringed Plover, Little Gull (at Staines Reservoir) and maybe if we're looking up at the sky at the right time, an early flyover Osprey. That'd be good.
For me the bird I look forward to seeing most in about a month's time is a Ring Ouzel. That's when I know spring really is in full swing.