Fringe Box



Birdwatcher’s Diary No.228

Published on: 20 Mar, 2021
Updated on: 20 Mar, 2021

By Malcolm Fincham

March began on a bright note weather wise. Although rather cool by night with a few night frosts continuing, especially in the more rural districts of Surrey.

A light breeze and blue skies had beckoned birds of prey out to play. Circling often way up high in the thermals, in the varying air currents. So distant, at times, often binoculars were needed to pick out and to identify which species.

Some of my photos in this report were, of course, taken at previous times.

Common buzzard.

Now, the most common birds of prey locally are common buzzards. Although just 20 years ago they were a rare sight indeed in the south-east of England.

Red kite.

More recently, and even since my diary reports began back in 2012, red kites have also increased. They can now be seen in accumulatives number throughout both, town and countryside.


Sparrowhawks can now be seen displaying, often recognised by the “flap flap” of their wings, followed by a long glide, often in a reasonably tight circle.

On march 14, I watched as one took to the sky having made a brave attempt swooping through the sewage works at Slyfield.

It immediately sent all the birds feeding there into a frenzy.

Unsuccessful in its mission on this occasion as it was chased off by a jackdaw.


Kestrels can also be seen locally, especially at the Riverside Nature Reserve.


Once in a while it might be possible to spot a goshawk as I did recently. These birds are like sparrowhawks on steroids!

Although still a rare sight, due to continued persecution by some “gamekeepers”, there have been a few random sightings of these nomadic birds within the Surrey Hills.

The most renown apex predator locally has to be the peregrine falcon. A recent project taken on by some local bird lovers has involved a nest-box set up high on Woking’s Export House building.


Mentioned in an earlier report, peregrines have been successfully breeding locally since 2016. Hopefully they will have a similar success in 2021.

In Woking, webcams have again been set up to monitor their progress.

They are new pair this year, and I will be looking forward to seeing how they get on.

Peregrines are known to dive through the air at speeds of up to 200mph making this protected species the fastest creature on the planet.

March 4 brought the first sand martin sightings of the year to Tice’s Meadow near Tongham.

Sand martin.

Unfortunately, the sand martin hide there wasn’t very inviting, still partially submerged by the volume of rain that had fallen during the autumn and winter months.

Near Redhill, Surrey Wildlife Trust has recently begun a more intricate project in hope of attracting some of the summer visitors to Nutfield Marshes – the Moors & Spynes Mere.

House martin.

At Tice’s there was also a reported early sighting of a house martin, possibly a record earliest for Surrey.

Jack snipe.

From “Horton’s Mound” at Tice’s, a jack snipe could also be viewed.

Black-necked grebe in summer plumage.

Distant to view, as most things are at Tice’s, was a black-necked grebe for several days.

Frogspawn at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

My local walk to Riverside Nature Reserve, near Burpham on March 5, gave me my first frogspawn sighting of the year.

Reed bunting at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

While another optimistic sign that spring was seeing several reed buntings had returned along the boardwalk and could now be heard calling. The males now colouring up into summer plumage.

A great spotted woodpecker could be seen and heard drumming in one of the tall trees that lined the banks of the River Wey.


While nuthatches had now found their voices. It was now beginning to feel that a seasonal transition had begun.

Grey wagtail near Stoke Lock.

A pair of grey wagtails could be viewed across the river, one of which was in one of its favourite spots, perched on a tree stump that poked out above the water.

Possibly it was the same bird I saw there last year, using the same spot to fly-catch from.

Drake and duck pintail.

Further along the river in the direction of Burpham, looking across in the direction of Burpham Court Farm, viewing from behind the allotments, for several days at least three pintail ducks could be viewed on a flooded pool.


Also still wintering there, although not easy to view at such distance, a group of shoveller and wigeon could still be seen.


Elsewhere on my local travels, wintering fieldfares could still be viewed in large numbers counting several flocks of more than 50 birds flying to roost, making their characteristic ‘tsak tsak’ flight calls as they flew overhead.

I made the most of the relatively dry spell of weather, taking advantage of the trees still bare of leaf thus allowing better opportunities for seeing and photographing wildlife.


A chiffchaff had broken into song.

Great spotted woodpecker.

Great spotted woodpeckers could be heard drumming high up in the canopy of trees.


Treecreepers could also be viewed singing as they crept up the tree bark stopping periodically to pick out an insect from the crevices.

Long-tailed tit.

Long-tailed tits had now begun to pair up, some now seen carrying nesting material.

Redwings in the disused horse paddocks bordering Whitmoor Common.

While in the old horse paddocks adjoining Whitmoor Common redwings could still be observed.

Lesser redpolls.

Lesser redpolls could still be seen in large flocks in heathland areas personally witnessing a flock of over 80 birds at one location. On Whitmoor Common a smaller group of 10 or more could also still be seen.

I had recently even had reports in the Stoughton area of redpolls having been seen on garden feeders.

Green woodpecker.

Several green woodpeckers could also be viewed.

Mistle thrush, Whitmoor Common.

While one of a pair of mistle thrushes perched up on one of the fence posts.

Small tortoiseshell butterfly.

By March 9, I managed to add my first small tortoiseshell to this year’s sightings of butterflies.


On recent pioneering walks I have had the privilege to pick out and also photo several firecrests at various locations.

Rainbow over Britten’s Pond.

I visited Britten’s Pond on what was a cool day on March 11. A few showers passed through, while the late afternoon sun produced a couple of rainbows adding to the vista.

Egyptian goose at Britten’s Pond.

An Egyptian goose flew into land on one of the islands.

Great crested grebe on Britten’s Pond.

Out on the lake was a lone great crested grebe, now in summer plumage.


A cormorant flew low across the water.

The pair of mute swans there were spending much of their time chasing the Canada geese around.

Kingfisher at Britten’s Pond.

While the resident kingfisher remained present though always elusive, in spite of its iridescent plumage.

Jackdaws going to roost.

A large contingent of jackdaws, that had gathered in the tall trees at the back of the pond, took flight in unison, heading in the direction of Slyfield, to roost.

With buds on many of the trees and shrubs now looking ready to burst into life, and blackthorn already glistening in its white coating of blossom, spring was at last beckoning.

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test 3 Responses to Birdwatcher’s Diary No.228

  1. Gordon Taylor Reply

    March 21, 2021 at 1:36 pm

    Brilliant. I like this. It’s very good to know what identification signs to look for.

  2. Margaret Dean Reply

    March 21, 2021 at 6:23 pm

    Thanks as ever for this great report. We have had a little group of lesser redpolls on our niger seed [Guizotia abyssinica] every day since the snow in February. We’re in Merrow Common. They are still here.

  3. Belinda Barratt Reply

    April 1, 2021 at 12:22 am

    It was lovely to meet Malcolm yesterday at Whitmoor Common and would like to thank him for telling us about the linnets.

    Fantastic photos as ever.

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