Welcome to my blog. If you live in Surrey and birding is your obsession (to get out of bed at some ridiculously early time of the morning, no matter what the weather, to go and look at birds isn't normal behaviour, believe me) and you're still a bit of a novice (like me) then, hopefully, this blog is for you.

Thursday 7 March 2013


Winter just won't quite leave, will it? Its death throws are like those of a bad actor.

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
Prior to visiting Thursley Common on Tuesday morning I popped in at Cutt Mill Ponds, where I saw five Mandarin, plus a handsome Kingfisher fly on to a branch by the side of the road as I was about to drive past. No Goosander, but a nice opener nonetheless.

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
At Thursley itself, the Great Grey Shrike was happily hunting for food in the sunshine in one of its usual spots – where it's hardest to walk to – at the far eastern end on Ockley Common. I've been lucky with the Shrike this winter. With each visit – four in all – I've located the Shrike every time, which is in stark contrast to my first attempts a few years ago. Whether it means I've actually developed a touch of birding craft during these past few years, who knows.

The Great Grey Shrike was busy hunting in the warm sunshine
Thursley was a really pleasant place to visit on Tuesday morning. There were plenty of Woodlark and Skylark singing, plus the distinctive call of a Curlew, one of the pair that regularly breed here during the spring announcing its return to the site. I'd hoped to see a Dartford Warbler – there are a few dotted around the Common – but I didn't even hear one call, which was a surprise given how warm it was.

Skylark song was a feature around the Common
Thursley Common's Curlews are back
Of the birds I should have seen by now in Surrey this year there are a handful of omissions. The most glaring one is Lesser Redpoll. I'm not sure why that is. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker is due soon, hopefully at Canons Farm, while Crossbill have been few and far between anywhere – just two sightings reported so far, at Crooksbury and Chobham Commons this week.

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.

1 comment:

  1. Check out my Surrey blog:
    exploringwildlife.blogspot.com, for updates on what we are spotting.