Fringe Box



Birdwatcher’s Diary No.1

Published on: 15 Apr, 2012
Updated on: 15 Apr, 2012

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by Malcolm Fincham

Introducing a new section on The Guildford Dragon website. We welcome Malcolm Fincham from Guildford, who is a keen ornithologist and a regular visitor to a number of locations in the area that are excellent for bird watching. Malcolm also takes photos when out and about and keeps a diary of his sightings.

Here is his first report with some of his photos.

Willow warbler on Whitmoor Common, Worplesdon.

Tuesday, March 27: a late afternoon cycle over Whitmoor Common, Worplesdon, brings great delight to hear not only one, but two willow warblers ‘singing’, making them my first sighting of summer migrant birds.

These tiny birds, smaller than a robin, fly all the way from the sub-Sahara to spend the summer season with us. Very similar looking to the chiffchaff, but far more melodious.

At least two chiffchaffs were also calling from high in the silver birches, whilst small flocks of both linnets and meadow pipits could be viewed out on the heathland. Also, at some distance, a stonechat, sitting on top of a small shrub. Alas, my thoughts went back to my youth (over 30 years ago) when skylarks were a regular sight there; thinking how lovely it would be to see one, high in the the sky, once again singing its summer tune over the heathland.

Good Friday, April 6: took advantage of having a day off work by taking a venture out to Thursley Common for a change of scenery and in hope of spotting some early summer arrivals.

Was delighted to be greeted by the sound of two curlews calling (in flight). Although it was quite a cool day, the sunshine seemed to encourage many birds to sing. Meadow pipit, linnets, stonechat, skylark and even two raven were all a pleasing addition to my day’s list.

Was also happy to add redstart – first new migrant of the day and here for a summer visit, having travelled all the way from Africa. Another new “year tick” for me!

Great grey shrike - also known as the butcher bird.

But my “bird of the day” had to be the great grey shrike (northern shrike) also known as the butcher bird. It is renown for catching small rodents and beetles, and so on, and to hang them on spikes of shrubs or trees – like a butcher using meat hooks and hanging meat in a larder for later consumption.

The great grey shrike is a bird that only “over-winters” in this country  and overdue for a return to more northern parts of Europe. Although I was only able to get quite distant views (and binoculars were a must), it was a big bonus on an enjoyable day’s walk.

Friday, April 13: loved the story of the mallards on the roof Guildford Castle that appeared on this website today. They have a habit of nesting in the strangest of places. Not the most brightest of birds. Probably why they have such large broods  – between eight and 13 young.

Life expectancy of an adult can be up to 20 years they reckon, but I would like to know statistics of how many don’t make it.

Was taking photos of a pair of coot with three chicks at Stoke Meadows this evening, but not too happy with them as the light was not good  – might pop back tomorrow.

Made a brief visit to Unstead Sewage Farm this afternoon and had chat with my mate ‘Birdman Brian’. Picked out two housemartins, a swallow and a water rail between us.

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