Fringe Box



Birdwatcher’s Diary No.6

Published on: 23 May, 2012
Updated on: 23 May, 2012

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By Malcolm Fincham

After submitting my previous report on Sunday, May 13, I decided that as it was such a pleasant afternoon I would take a cycle ride along the towpath out through St Catherine’s and on to Unstead Sewage Farm near Godalming.

Although there is not much to report on arrival at Unstead, the cycle ride was most enjoyable. I was able to take some nice pictures of a chiffchaff sunning itself and a kestrel hunting.

Great crested grebe and its young on Stoke Lake.

On Monday, May 14, I revisited Stoke Meadows to find the great crested grebes were now becoming more brave about showing off their young who had survived the floods mentioned a few weeks ago. They allowed me to get a few distant photos. And also I was pleased to see a roe deer on the far bank of the lake.

My highlight of the week had to be on Wednesday, May 16, when I took myself on an evening venture over Whitmoor Common, Worplesdon, and found myself chasing around after a cuckoo on my pushbike. When I told my wife, she asked how the cuckoo managed to ride my bike!

I first heard him in a large oak tree by the field near the Salt Box Road car park, but finaly caught up with him sitting on top of a tall silver birch where the tree line ends and the heather starts to grow.

I was especially pleased, as like the kingfisher in a previous report, they are the first reasonable pictures of one that I have been able to take.

Cuckoos arrive in this country in April/May and seek out nests of mainly reed warblers (see picture in my previous report) or meadow pipits (see pictures in my first report) in which to lay their eggs.

Cuckoos only stay a month or two before returning to Africa in July or August.

Cuckoo on Whitmoor Common.

On Sunday,May 20, I made a brief visit to Stoke Meadows and met up with Paul who has a special interest in the well being of the swans and cygets I previously reported on.

There were fears that the cygnets had all been predated. However, Paul has relocated them in the marsh area of Stoke Meadows  and has sent me a picture. Unfortunately, only four of the six remain.

I ventured on to Bowers Lock where I destinctly picked up the sound of a garden warbler, but doubted my abillity to distinguish it when all I could see was a blackcap. Theirs is a similar song, but the garden warbler has longer more mellow phrases.

I took a few pictures of the blackcap before realising the garden warbler was just behind and to the right of it.

I completed my week by doing a late evening trip to Whitmoor Common in hope, and with some success, of getting a brief view of a nightjar. This is a nocturnal bird that arrives in the summer and  has a spooky reputation. At one time it was called the goatsucker, with the myth that it fed on goats’ milk in the dead of night. However, it is now known that it only feeds on moths and other night insects. The males make a churring sound with an occational clap of thier wings as well.

Paul, who is mentioned above, has taken some pictures of the swans and their four cygnets. Have a look at these….

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And finally… something different, adds David Rose.

Back in our teens (in the mid 1970s) Malcolm and I, along with other members ‘our gang’, spent a great deal of our time after school and at weekends out in the countryside around Guildford. We became interested in its natural history and walked miles on birding trips. We camped out on Whitmoor Common and heard the nightjars, we searched for skylarks’ nests on Wood Street Common (never found one), watched gulls at the Slyfield tip – and also got interested in digging up old bottles there, but that’s another story.

Simon and Malcolm in about 1975.

In about 1975 I took some pictures of members ‘our gang’ which by then had taken on the name of the Rydes Hill Freedom Fighters! Once picture was of Malcolm Fincham and Simon Vine standing by a road sign at the junction of The Avenue and Goose Rye Road in Worplesdon.

Simon and Malcolm in 2012.

Over the years, some of us have remained in contact with one other, while others haven’t met up for many years. A couple of weeks ago I arranged a birding trip with myself, Malcolm and Simon. I won’t say how long it has been since they had seen each other, but we just had to go back and re-take that photo. That’s a serious case of ‘then and now’.

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