Fringe Box



Birdwatcher’s Diary No.215

Published on: 6 Sep, 2020
Updated on: 6 Sep, 2020

By Malcolm Fincham

By August 16 the heatwave had passed and average temperatures had made a return. The tide of summer was turning and birds from their northerly were now making a return. Their breeding season now over, a good number were being reported stopping off in the Surrey Hills while on their migration back Africa.

Whinchat at Lydling Farm, Shackleford. Click on pictures to enlarge in a new window.

At Lydling Farm, Shacklford, as well as many other parts of the Surrey countryside, whinchats were being reported. Surprisingly it was to be my first sighting of one this year. I had missed out on seeing one on their arrival in the spring.

Wheatear at Lydling Farm, Shackleford.

Adding to the day’s sightings there, were four wheatears in close proximity of each other, perched in a line along the fence posts.

A number of resident birds were also present and unable to escape my camera lens.

Linnets at Lydling Farm, Shackleford.

These included a small flock of linnets squabbling with each other, among some brambles.

Raven at Lydling Farm, Shackleford.

Across one of the fields a raven briefly came into view before disappearing out of sight over the hedgerow.

Red kite Lydling Farm, Shackleford.

Drifting overhead was a red kite.

Sparrowhawk flying low across the field at Lydling Farm.

While flashing past me, flying low across the field, I briefly glimpsed a sparrowhawk.

On Crooksbury Common near Farnham that same day a pied flycatcher had been reported once again. It has been seen over several days there, although unfortunately too mobile in my attempts to see it.

Previously taken photo of a pied flycatcher.

Although patience on this occasion had not turned to virtue, I was happy to see and photo several spotted flycatchers that were present in the area previously.

Willow warbler, Crooksbury Common.

As well as a willow warbler to the day’s sightings. Seen on a fence in the neighbouring horse paddocks.

The most pleasing sighting was of at least a dozen common crossbills. These birds are renown to be a very irruptive species.

Common crossbill at Crooksbury Common.

They have been reported only rarely in Surrey this year. But had recently arrived in good numbers, feeding in groups on pine cones that is their main diet.

Common crossbils at Crooksbury Common.

At last, they could be be added to my “year sightings list”. My only regret was being such a dull and overcast day, my photos hadn’t turned out as well as I had hoped.

Moving on to Tice’s Meadow, just the other side of the Hog’s Back, near Tongham, water levels had at long-last receded enough to enter the hide by the water’s edge. This in spite of recent heavy rainfall.

Among the group of gulls there was an adult yellow-legged gull. These birds are mostly seen around the Mediterranean.

Adult yellow-legged gull at Tice’s Meadow.

A northward spread and an increased awareness among British birdwatchers of how to identify yellow-legged gulls, means they are now a regular sight in many parts of southern Britain.

They have only recently been recognised as a distinct species, previously considered a sub-species of the herring gull or Caspian gull.

DNA tests have shown that it is in fact more closely related to the great black-backed gull. I still struggle to get impressed with the larus complex of gulls, this one being Larus michahellis.

Although too distant to be photographed, ringed plovers, greenshank, little ringed plovers, redshank, green sandpipers and common sandpipers could be picked out, with the aid of a “scope”.

A great white egret continued to make occasional visits there, often seen roosting at a nearby fishing lake at Badshott Lea.

Black tern (juvenile) on wire, left of common tern on post, at Tice’s Meadow.

Another interesting sighting for several days, and alternating its time between Tice’s and the nearby fishing lake, was a juvenile black tern.

Goldfinch feeding on seed heads at Tice’s Meadow.

Thistle seed heads, now ripening were attracting the interest of goldfinches.


At the Riverside Nature Reserve, near Burpham, as many as two kingfishers could regularly be viewed from the lakeside.

Grey heron at Stoke Lake.

While grey herons continued to be an every day sighting there.

Canada geese taking flight from Stoke Lake.

Canada geese had begun their autumn ritual – gathering increasingly in their numbers on Stoke lake dutduringing late afternoons then taking to the wing in small squadrons. With no concept of true migration, having originally been introduced as an ornamental bird.

Great crested grebe circling around Stoke Lake, before settling on the water.

A juvenile great crested grebe took to the air on one occasion that I was present, allowing me to take a few “in-flight” shots as it circled the lake, before it resettled on the water.

Reed warbler by Stoke Lake.

Still present, I also sighted and photographed a reed warbler in a reedbed by the lake.

House martin over Whitmoor Common.

Near by on Whitmoor Common, house martins could be seen circling overhead, feeding up on insects, readying themselves for their flights back to Africa.

I was especially honoured on a couple of occasions to capture a few photos of a nightjar. This was in daylight, as it roosted on a fallen tree.

Nigthjar on Whitmoor Common.

Taking great care not to disturb it as it perched close to one of the many tracks where dog-walkers pass, I took a few photos with my zoom lens, then retreated. To my surprise, when I revisited the area the following afternoon, not only one was still present, but a second one could be seen on a log nearby.

Nigthjar on Whitmoor Common.

Daring not to cause any disturbance, I was unable to attain whether any young were present nearby. The ones I photographed looked to be two male birds? Not knowing their habits in detail, maybe the females were tucked away on another part of the heathland?

The lovely sight of heather in bloom while visiting Whitmoor also drew me in the direction of Thursley Common on August 26.

Grayling butterfly, Thursley Common.

Grayling butterflies, as mentioned in my previous report, were still present and allowing me a few photos.

Small heath butterfly, Thursley Common.

Alongside, small heath butterflies could also be found.

Small copper butterfly, Thursley Common.

Good sightings of a late summer brood of small copper butterflies also gave photo opportunities.

Red admiral butterfly, Thursley Common.

While red admirals were also still enjoying the strength of the late summer sun.

Thursley Common.

Parish Field, Thursley Common.

I much enjoyed the views and the smell of the heathland as I headed toward the Parish Field from its eastern side near the A3.

Common buzzard, Thursley Common.

Overhead a very pale looking common buzzard drifted.

Fungi, Thursley Common.

While it was rapidly becoming that time of the year to start looking out for various fungi.

Hornet robber-fly.

In the warmth of the sun a hornet robber-fly could be seen hunting for prey.

Stonechats, Parish Field, Thursley Common.

At the Parish Field families of stonechats perched up on stems.

Woodlark, Parish Field, Thursley Common.

While at least eight woodlarks, feathers blending within their surroundings, scurried among the grass stems looking for food.

Swallow hawking insects over Britten’s Pond.

At Britten’s Pond off Salt Box Road, Guildford on August 28 a dozen or more swallows could be seen hawking insects over the water.

Kingfisher flying low across Britten’s Pond.

A kingfisher darted across between them. It was of some surprise when I checked the photos of it that I had inadvertently taken shots at the precise moment it was having a “poop”. “Not many photographers could achieve a shot like that!” I thought. “Or would want too!” was my second thought.

A return to Lydling Farm on August 30, this time with good pal Bob, gave us the opportunity to add another species of bird to this year’s sightings. It was a yellow wagtail.

Yellow wagtail feeding on insects, at Lydling Farm, Shackleford.

Having missed seeing one on their passage through to their breeding grounds, it was now making its return and although distant to view, it had stopped off on its long trek back to Africa to feed up on insects among the cattle.

Swallows were hawking insects at Lydling Farm, Shackleford.

A good number of swallows were also present, hawking the fields.

Starlings at Lydling Farm, Shackleford.

And a substantial of starlings’ murmuration.


Wheatear on the model aircraft runway at Lydling Farm, Shackleford.

Surprisingly to us, especially being a bank holiday weekend, there was no one flying their model aircrafts that day. This turned out to be to our fortune. As on the short grass of the runways we were able to pick out four wheatears.

Yellowhammer at Lydling Farm.

Linnets could be seen, already growing in winter flock numbers. While on this occasion a yellowhammer could be viewed, perched some distance away on overhead wires.

Another visit to Crooksbury Common, near Farnham, this time on a day with a little more brightness in the cloud cover than our previous visit. We were fortunate again to pickup on the sound of common crossbills, calling while in flight.

Common crossbills at Crooksbury Common.

We first counted at least seven as we watched them fly overhead. Following their flight we noted that they had settled not too far away, along the track. They had joined up with another flock to feed on pine cones and were now in excess of a score.

Common crossbills at Crooksbury Common.

Watching them as they perched up in one of the shorter pines, we noticed a small groups were taking turns to fly down to drink from a small pool, while the rest stayed on lookout from the tree.

Common crossbills at Crooksbury Common.

Common crossbills at Crooksbury Common.

Too my delight, I was also able to get photos of them with some colour showing.

Siskins at Crooksbury Common.

A flock of 20 or more siskin also passed overhead.

Dartford warbler.

And a few Dartford warblers could also be viewed.

For me, one of the most abstract of sightings during the past few weeks of varied weather conditions was a photo taken by my good friend Bob, in Wood Street Street.

Sparrowhawk on Bob’s roof.

Having already seen peregrine, wheatear and red kites on his bungalow roof in recent years, after some heavy rainfall on August 23, he photographed a sparrowhawk drying its wings.

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Responses to Birdwatcher’s Diary No.215

  1. John Walter Reply

    September 12, 2020 at 6:13 pm

    Thank you Malcolm for the great pictures of local recent sightings.

    Today (September 12) whilst walking along Flexford Lane up towards the Hog’s Back we sighted a pair of red kite.

    Beautiful to observe them hunting in the large field to the left of the track.

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