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Birdwatcher’s Diary No.2

Published on: 20 Apr, 2012
Updated on: 21 Apr, 2012

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Words and photos by Malcolm Fincham

The second of Malcolm’s reports of latest sitings in the local area.

Friday, April 13: Following on from my comments on the mallards at Guildford Castle: the early spring warmth of the last few weeks of March inspired much activity. Early breeding birds (such as mallards and coots) made good progress making nests and laying their eggs.

A coot and its young at Stoke Lake.

Many young are now starting to appear. It must be quite a culture shock with these cool days and cold nights!

Fortunately, though it can be a cruel world, they’ve adapted to have at least two to three broods in a season, so remain among the birds of least concern environmentally. The pictures here were taken at Stoke Lake.

Sunday, April 15: Redstarts at Frensham. For a change of scenery, and to treat my long-suffering wife to a cup of Earl Grey tea, we decided to visit the cafe at Frensham Great Pond. While we sat and chatted my mind and eyes drifted into into the usual “looking out for wildlife” mode and out of the corner of my eye I was sure I noticed something familiar. Another migrant visitor that I had only got a glimpse of at Thursley last week

Male redstart.

Indeed I was correct:  “It’s a male redstart, ” I exclaimed. Ran to the car, got my camera and managed a few pics. Also on show was a female redstart (photo in the gallery above I had previously taken). These summer visitors feed on insects and are about the size of a robin. The word “start” in their name apparently comes from the old English word meaning “steort” or “tail”

Frensham Great Pond.

The notice board by the public toilets at Frensham also noted yellow wagtail, common tern, reed warbler and cuckoo among the latest sightings there.

Monday, April 16: blackcaps in full song. To take advantage of a dry, sunny afternoon, I decided to go for a cycle ride along the towpath from Stoke Lock out to Triggs Lock at Sutton Green, hoping to pick up another new migrant bird or two.
I managed to get a glimpse of one, a common whitethroat, well hidden in a small clump of brambles, but giving itself away with its notable scratchy calls, although very brief.
Guessing he had only just arrived, and was too shy to show himself for a photo, I decided to let him be, as I’m sure there will be better opportunities in the next few weeks

Male blackcap.

The most notable part of the day was the amount of blackcaps in song. Probably the two most interesting thing to know about blackcaps (to non dedicated birders) are: firstly, that it’s only the males that have a black cap (see photos), the females are a brown-copper coloured. And secondly, it’s only the males who sing – making life so much harder for me to seek out and get a decent photo of the female.

male orange tip butterfly.

Also, brought out in numbers on the more more sunny days of April days is the orange tip butterfly. Like the blackcap, the males have different colouring to the female. The female has black wing tips.

Swallows skimming over Stoke Lake.

Tuesday, April 17: swallows are also starting to arrive at Stoke Lake in numbers now. I saw at least nine skimming over the water this evening.

Thursday, April 19: patience can often be a must when bird spotting, but sometimes it can be just the plain luck of being in the right place at the right time as it was for me on my brief visit to Unstead Sewage Farm.  I had the good fortune to get a fleeting glimpse (and a few photos) of a very secretive bird – the water rail. Often heard in reed beds making a sound closely resembling a “sqealing pig”,  but rarely seen out in the open.

Rare sighting of a water rail at Unstead Sewage Farm.

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test One Response to Birdwatcher’s Diary No.2

  1. John Surrey

    April 24, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    These articles are fantastic, the photos extraordinary! Thankyou so much! Look forward to the next ones!