Fringe Box



Birdwatcher’s Diary No.203

Published on: 7 Mar, 2020
Updated on: 7 Mar, 2020

By Malcolm Fincham

Prevailing winds across the UK continued to be the theme throughout February, dropping more rain on already saturated soil.

It was far from the best conditions for birdwatching, and especially unfavourable for staying up-to-date with my photos.

Snowdrops brighten up the winter scene.

Despite the weather, on the brighter days around the Surrey Hills spring-like temperatures, though chilled by a north-westerly breeze, had brought a little bit of life to the bird sounds.

Robin singing.

It seemed in almost every tree robins could be heard making their territorial tunes.


While nuthatches could be heard making their contact calls from high up in the canopies of leafless trees.

Dunnock in song.

Dunnocks perched up from the hedgerows, engaging with their tuneful song.


While the tiny “jenny” wrens, skulking in bushes, were busy sharpening their abrupt “machine-gun” calls.

Blackcap singing.

Although not having heard one personally, even a few overwintering blackcaps had been reported singing.

Drake goosander on the River Mole in Leatherhead.

On February 2, along the River Mole in Effingham, a female goosander could be seen wintering.

Rose-ringed parakeets by the River Mole.

While in the overhanging trees along the riverbank two rose-ringed parakeets had already paired up and were prospecting for a suitable nest site.

Rose-ringed parakeet seeking a nest site.

A hole, previously made by a woodpecker, was looking appropriate for their requirement.

Rooks in flight.

Other early breeding birds such as corvids had already chosen nesting sites.

Rooks watching over their nest.

These included rooks. They could be seen in their communal nest sites around the Surrey Hills, now paired up and vocal.

Jackdaws collecting nesting material.

While a few of the many jackdaws in local areas could be seen collecting nesting material.

Various birds of prey seen around the Surrey Hills were also looking to begin another breeding season.

Peregrines perched high on a cliff face in the Surrey Hills.

A pair of peregrines could be seen on their usual cliff face.

Red kite.

Red kites had become a regular sighting in and around Guildford, even spotting three over my own garden on two occasions.


A sparrowhawk was another regular recent sighting over the houses in Stoughton.

Common buzzard overhead.

Common buzzards could be seen in more rural parts of Guildford, circling on the sunnier days in the thermals as they displayed in courtship.

Kestrel at Chinthurst Hill, near Guildford.

While kestrels continued to be a common sight at a number of locations.


On one particular occasion even spotting a distant goshawk flying low over Surrey.

Egyptian geese by picnic tables at Stoke Lake.

At the Riverside Nature Reserve near Burpham, in the area surrounding Stoke Lake, a pair of Egyptian geese could be viewed on several occasions, within a small group of Canada geese, by the picnic tables.

Green woodpecker.

A green woodpecker was taking advantage of the soft soil during what has so far been a mild winter.

Pochard on Stoke Lake.

A second annual visit of a pochard could be seen for several days on Stoke Lake.

Great crested grebe in flight across Stoke Lake.

My attempts of an in-flight photo of a great crested grebe on a particularly grey afternoon I felt to be reasonably successful.

Grey wagtail by the boardwalk at Stoke Nature Reserve.

Grey wagtails, showing off their bright yellow underparts, could be seen, both along the river as well as around the reserve.

Goldcrest in the hedgerows at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

At the southern end of the lake, along the hedgerow made up mostly of blackthorn, were a variety of small birds. These included a pair of bullfinches, a chiffchaff, goldcrest, and a small group of redwings.

Fieldfares at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

A group of eight or so fieldfares, though very “flighty”, couldn’t escape a few photos from my long lens, as they perched up in the tall trees lining the towpath.

Kingfisher by Stoke Lock.

At Stoke Lock a kingfisher could be seen perched between the two lock gates.

On February 22 I had my first sightings of two butterflies this year, both being peacock butterflies.

Reports of a first winter great grey shrike on Frensham Common, tempted my friend Bob and I, on what was a grey and breezy afternoon, to an area known as “Vampire Flats”, where the shrike had been seen

Great grey shrike on Frensham Common.

The area is named after a vampire aircraft crashed there on December, 21, 1948.

Great grey shrike on Frensham Common.

It had been a couple of years since we’d had the opportunity to see one wintering in Surrey. Once an annual sighting on Thursley Common, in recent years great grey shrikes have declined in number, with fewer now seen in the UK was well.

Dartford warbler.

Adding to the day’s sightings were a few Dartford warblers perched up in gorse bushes, that were now beginning to add colour to the surrounding heathland.

Distant hawfinch seen at end of last year in Effingham Forest.

A walk in Effingham Forest the following day brought no luck in our hope to see any of the hawfinches recently reported there.


I was, however, able to add a firecrest to this year’s sightings. As well as a goldcrest.

Marsh tit in Effingham Forest.

And also adding several marsh tits to the day list.

Kingfisher at Britten’s Pond.

At Britten’s Pond by Whitmoor Common, Worplesdon, a kingfisher could be regularly seen.

On February 10, I noted two kingfishers on one of my visits there.

Great crested grebes already in spring plumage.

Out on the pond, toward the end of the month, a pair of great crested grebes in breeding plumage could be viewed.

Egyptian goose at Britten’s Pond.

An Egyptian goose flew in to land on the water.

Black-headed gull.

While some of the black-headed gulls circling the lake had begun to change into their summer plumage.

Grey heron at Britten’s Pond.

Ending the day with a grey heron flying in to roost.

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Responses to Birdwatcher’s Diary No.203

  1. Harry Eve Reply

    March 23, 2020 at 8:23 pm

    A browse through Malcolm Fincham’s diaries is a great antidote to the bombardment of woeful news on TV at the moment. At least we are at the right end of the winter and the natural world has much to offer at this time of year. I hope Malcolm is well and able to continue socialising with the local birds and share his experiences with us. Thanks Malcolm.

  2. Alan Cooper Reply

    March 24, 2020 at 2:38 pm

    Nature at its best best and most inspiring. Thank you for sharing those marvellous photographs.

  3. Malcolm Fincham Reply

    March 26, 2020 at 8:02 pm

    Surreal times.. ! Thank you for comments and compliments.

    Although personally keeping well and have not so far succumbed to coronavirus.

    Since my latest report (204), apart from a walk in Effingham Forest, I have now become restricted over the past few days to solo trips out for exercise, with our dog.

    These have mostly been to places where I know people seldom venture, doing my best under recent circumstances and regulations to continue to take a few photos.

    At this rate, before long I may be restricted to lifting rocks in my garden to see what insects I might find to photograph. Strange days indeed!

    Best wishes to all to stay safe.

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