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Birdwatcher’s Diary No.185

Published on: 21 Apr, 2019
Updated on: 23 Apr, 2019

By Malcolm Fincham

Although my best intentions are to stay up-to-date with my reports, at this time of the year they continue to fail me once again. With springtime visiting birds being reported arriving on a daily basis, it has been far from easy keeping up with my photographs.

On Sunday April 7, in the company of good friends Bob and Dougal, we revisited Staines Reservoir and Moor, having only visited there the week before.

Garganey at Staines Reservoir. Click on pictures to enlarge in a new window.

Much changes in a week however, and it turned out to be a good day adding a few new photos and sightings to our year’s listings. I was able to get some reasonable pictures of an obliging garganey.

The garganey population movemostly” to southern Africa to winter. They are our only migrating duck, arriving about this time of the year to breed in the UK. Generally they remain very elusive, though this one displayed well on the south basin on the day of our visit.

Scaup at Staines Reservoir.

Also showing well, and another good sighting, was to our delight, a “visiting” male scaup, not far from where we stood on the causeway as we looked out on the north basin.

Mallard with chicks.

Also, beyond the railings was an adult female mallard duck minding her clutch of chicks as they splashed around in the water.

Mallard caring for her chicks at Staines Reservoir.

On having allowed them to play for a while she attempted, with little success, to tuck them out of sight under her wings and body on grassy part of the bank nearby.

Little ringed plover at Staines Reservoir.

On the the other side of the causeway that divides the two basins, and close to view, was a little ringed plover.

White wagtail at Staines Reservoir.

Also seen were several white wagtails. Although similar in looks to our pied wagtails, these birds breed in more easterly parts of Europe. It is the national bird of Latvia and has featured on the stamps of several countries.

Thanks to Dougal and the sharing of his “scope”, we where to pick out the more far-flung stuff and were able to add a few species, otherwise too distant to view.

Great northern diver. This one I photographed there in 2014.

A great northern diver was observed, but too far out for a picture with my camera.

Little gull at Staines Reservoir.

Three little gulls on the far side of the basin were another good addition.

Common tern.

As well as my first common tern of the year.

Moving on to Staines Moor we were able to add a ring ouzel to our year’s sightings.

Ring ouzel on Staines Moor.

Not to be confused with the blackbird, the male is particularly distinctive with his pale wing panels and black plumage contrasting with a white gorget (a white crescent on the upper breast).

The female’s appearance varies from a very bright breast band to a scarcely visible one. This often depends on the age as the older females tend to have a brighter and more defined colour.

Linnets bathing in the river on Staines Moor.

Among the other bird sightings were groups of linnets in song, washing in the shallow water of the River Colne.

Skylark on Staines Moor.

While skylarks continued to sing overhead.

On April 10 reports came through what was thought to be almost certainly “Colin” the infamous Thursley cuckoo, having made its return to the Parish Field on Thursley Common.

Colin the cuckoo previously photographed on Thursley Common.

Having plenty of photos on its previous years of visiting there, and confident of seeing at least one cuckoo this year I opted to give him a miss, at least for the time being. Besides, I imagined the hoards of “paparazzi” that “Colin” would probably be attracting,

There was still plenty to look out for on my local patch at the Riverside Nature Reserve near Burpham At least five blackcaps could now be heard singing there.

Female blackcap at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

With the contact sounds of the females, both heard and (sometimes) glimpsed, not far from the melodic song of the male.

For the first time this year, on the evening of April 10, a sedge warbler could be heard, having just arrived back from Africa. It was tuning up, singing segments of its “scratchy” song, nestling out of sight in the reed bed near the lakeside.

Sedge warbler near Stoke Lake.

It wasn’t until three evenings later that it finally gave itself up, although only briefly for my camera, as it perched up still partially secluded in the shelter of some brambles near the lakeside. Later it could briefly be been seen back in the reeds, where I had or originally heard him calling.

Linnets at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

Not regularly seen by me there were a pair of linnets that had appeared to have taken up residence.

Long tailed tit at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

Long-tailed tits remained a regular sighting, now paired up with some already tending to their young.

Nuthatch at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

A pair of nuthatches could be seen in close proximity as I walked the reserve, constantly in contact with each other as they worked their way, in their renown upside-down posture, as the picked out insects from the bark of a tree.

Tree creeper collecting insects for its young at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

Tree creepers were also present and active, while unlike the nuthatch, they could be mostly seen working their way up the trees. One in particular I photographed could be seen with a beak full of insects, suggesting that it had young nearby to feed.

Great crested grebe on Stoke Lake at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

Great crested grebes continued to grace the lake with at least two pairs seen most visits, although no signs of nest building has been evident.

Coot on its nest at Stoke Lake.

The coots on the lake had already built their nests and were already incubating their young.

Bee collecting pollen by the lakeside.

In spite of a mostly rather chilly fortnight, with an easterly breeze during the first half of April, as well as regular night frosts toward the middle of the month, insects were now starting to emerge. A few bees could be seen collecting pollen.

House martin now arriving.

Just as importantly many other smaller insects were now breaking out. These being essential for the now arriving swallows, house martins and sand martins.

Sand martins.

Sand martins and house martins could be seen as they passed through. Stopping to feed while in fight over the sewage works near Stoke Lock.

Swallow hawking over Stoke Lake.

Late afternoon and early evening they could be seen along with the swallows, as they hawked for insects.

Canada goose of unusual origin.

On the lake was a small group of Canada geese. One of which often seen there (and several other lakes and ponds around the Surrey Hills) was certainly a hybrid.

Greylag goose takes flight from Stoke Lake.

A lone greylag goose would often spend time among the small “gaggle”, catching sight of it on one occasion, treading water as it took to the air.

Egyptian geese with chicks.

Looking out on the “scrape” from the towpath by Stoke Lock, were a pair of Egyptian geese already with their young.

Kestrel at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

While in an oak, still bare of leaf, a pair of kestrels could be seen mating on several occasions.

Camera-shy blue tit at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

Nearby, a blue tit attempted to hide from my sight.

Robin at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

While a robin boldly posed for a picture.

Willow warbler singing at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

Species of birds were arriving by the day, and hopefully with many more passing through before the month is over. My latest addition there was a willow warbler. It announced its arrival with a full rendition of its song.

My most unusual sighting of Apri so far was on my “travels” was to the south of Guildford in a residential area of Shamley Green.

A strange looking bird could be seen, standing on someone’s front doorstep, calling. From a distance I struggled to work out what it was.

Guinea fowl.

Having rubbed my eyes in disbelief a number of times, I soon realised it was in fact a guinea fowl. “Maybe he forgot to take his keys with him when he went out?” I thought to myself, as he continued to call loudly at the door as if hoping someone would let him in.

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test One Response to Birdwatcher’s Diary No.185

  1. Harry Eve Reply

    April 22, 2019 at 8:04 am

    The bee is almost certainly a female Hairy-footed Flower Bee. In my garden they seem to prefer Cowslips at the moment.

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