Fringe Box



Birdwatcher’s Diary No. 219

Published on: 8 Nov, 2020
Updated on: 9 Nov, 2020

By Malcolm Fincham

Autumn was well and truly upon us in the Surrey Hills as October opened its doors.

The colours of autumn 2020

Although still mild, the colours in its landscape were now turning to pastel shades of reds, browns and yellows, as the leaves began to fade and fall from Surrey’s arboreal landscape.

Low-pressure systems were lining up in the Atlantic and heading our way.

St Mary’s Churchyard at Perry Hill, Worplesdon.

A few dry days to start the month allowed me a couple of visits on both October 1 and 3 to St Mary’s Churchyard at Perry Hill, Worplesdon.

Firecrest at St Mary’s churchyard, Worplesdon.

On both visits, I was able to pick out two firecrests, flitting among the yew trees and holly bushes.

Arriving back from my adventures on the Scilly Isles, shown in my previous report, the weather continued its unsettled theme.

Silver birch trees on Whitmoor Common.

On Whitmoor Common, Worplesdon, on October 15 the silver birch saplings still held on to their leaves – though some now tinged with gold and brown in their hue.

Meadow pipit on Whitmoor Common.

An increased number of meadow pipits could now be seen, once again making the heathland their annual winter home.

Lesser redpole on Whitmoor Common.

The recent influx of wintering lesser redpolls within the Surrey countryside could now also be seen on Whitmoor’s heathland.

Lesser redpoles overhead on Whitmoor Common.

A flock of more than 50 flew overhead, settling a while before taking flight once again only to settle in a group of silver birch trees.

Lesser redpolls on a wire on Whitmoor Common.

A mixed flock, mostly made up of redpolls, perched up on the wires for a while. And linnets could also be heard and sighted from time to time.

Reed bunting on Whitmoor Common.

I was also able to pick out at least one reed bunting on occasions among the large gathering mixed flock.

Green woodpecker, Whitmoor Common.

Green woodpeckers continued to reside there, feeding in the soft sandy soil. Often adding their “yaffling” sounds while in flight.

Common buzzard.

A common buzzard flew over heading for its roost site.

Rowan trees, laden with berries, were looking invitingly tempting for the arrival of wintering thrushes.

Male bullfinch feeding one rowan berries on Whitmoor Common.

For the moment, however, it seemed to have seduced several bullfinches to enjoy the spoils.

Female bullfinch feeding on rowan berries on Whitmoor Common.

A family of both male and females were getting early pickings of its fruit.

Grey heron on Britten’s Pond.

At nearby Britten’s Pond, a grey heron sat out on one of the small islands.

Carp jumping on Britten’s Pond.

A carp breached the water on the far side of the pond on several occasions. Eventually allowing me a record shot.


While a kingfisher continued to be glimpsed on most of my visits.


Jays, well known for preparing for the winter, could be seen to be collecting acorns.

Jay with acorn on Whitmoor Common.

Often viewed in flight across the heathland, frequently seen carrying an acorn in their beaks.

Their gullets looking swollen as they transported their quarry – as I recorded eight or more trips to a hideout where they would be regurgitated and hidden for later consumption.

Effingham Forest.

Lesser redpoll in Effingham Forest.

A visit to Effingham Forest gave up more views of common crossbills as well as lesser redpolls.

Siskins, these pictured at Papercourt water meadows.

Siskins could also now be added to the arrival of winter flocks, seen among the redpolls.

Sparrowhawk in Effingham Forest.

Perched nearby, a sparrowhawk watched on, keenly, with piercing eyes.

Peregrine, Effingham Forest.

While above the tree line, a peregrine glided through.

On October 18, with the addition of Bob and Dougal, we decided to follow up on reports of black redstart. Not having seen one yet this year.

It had been sighted in a horse paddock in Rushmoor, from a track leading down towards Frensham Little Pond.

Black redstart in a horse paddock near Frensham Little Pond.

It was still present when we arrived during the early part of the afternoon, although keeping its distance within the private land it was on.

Great spotted woodpecker.

A great spotted woodpecker attempted to hide unsuccessfully behind a fence post as we made our return to the car.

A recent irruption of common crossbills continued to accumulate in number among Surrey’s coniferous woodlands. We stopped off for a short while at Crooksbury Common, near Farnham, on our return home.

Common crossbills in flight on Crooksbury Common.

While there we discovered a large flock of what appeared to be about 50 common crossbills in total.

Male common crossbill on Crooksbury Common.

At the time of watching, they could be seen perched up in a pine tree, with small groups taking turns to come down to drink from one of the recently dug pools.

In-flight pictures of common crossbills on Crooksbury Common.

Although light quality was once again not at its best, I was reasonably pleased with some of the in-flight photos I took.

On October 25 British Summertime came to an end. Clocks had once again been put back an hour, leaving me little time for birdwatching during my working weeks.

As the month came to a close, relatively mild conditions continued with no overnight frosts as yet. Though with prevailing winds the leaves were, already starting to lose grip of the trees. For me, it made birdwatching a little easier.

Another good autumn for fruit was giving ample choice and easy picking for some of our resident birds to take command (for the moment) of their chosen trees; before those Scandinavian invading thrushes arrive to steal their spoils.

Male blackbird feeding on berries.

Towards the end of the month, I picked up on several blackbirds constantly feeding on berries. They were in a tree they had made their own, at least for the time being.

A closer look of their beaks showed they were either first winter birds or maybe winter visitors from Scandinavia. Adult male beaks are yellow, while these were black.

Redwings growing in number in the Surrey Hills.

The “seeping” sounds of redwings could be now regularly heard as the month came to a close.

October 31, traditionally Hallowe’en, there was in addition – a blue moon.

A blue moon refers to a very rare occasion when a full moon appears for the second time in the same month.

The full moon on Hallowe’en.

Unfortunately, its name has nothing to do with its colour and the Moon just looked pearly grey. Often shrouded by clouds on this occurrence, giving a traditional eerie appearance.

This year we also had a full moon on October 1. which was that of the Harvest Moon.

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Responses to Birdwatcher’s Diary No. 219

  1. Jan Messinger Reply

    November 8, 2020 at 10:24 pm

    Fantastic photographs as always. So wonderful to see what’s in Worplesdon and particularly Whitmoor common.

    We are so lucky. Let’s hope we don’t spoil what we have on our doorstep.

  2. Alan Diver Reply

    November 9, 2020 at 2:16 pm

    Thank you Malcolm Fincham. I enjoyed your lovely pictures and comments.

  3. Ellen Portess Reply

    November 9, 2020 at 7:13 pm

    Wonderful photos, thank you.

  4. Roland Dunster Reply

    November 14, 2020 at 6:03 pm

    As ever, superb photos accompanied by evocative and informative writing.

    The mystery of blackbirds with black beaks, which I’d recently seen at the Riverside Nature Reserve, also solved!

    Many thanks Malcolm and please keep up the inspirational and educational work.

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