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Birdwatcher’s Diary No.248

Published on: 31 Jan, 2022
Updated on: 31 Jan, 2022

By Malcolm Fincham

High pressure continued to be stubbornly centred over southern England and northern France throughout the latter weeks of January. Its awkward position was not far north enough to bring cold easterly winds or south enough to bring a mild south-westerly flow.

Although situated on the warmer side of the Jet Stream, temperatures remained in single figures for the most part with a series of overnight frosts. Enough locally, at Britten’s Pond, Worplesdon, to lightly freeze the surface water.

Over Britten’s Pond. Herring gull above and black-headed gull below. Click on pictures to enlarge in a new window.

The ice was thick enough to hold the weight of the black-headed gulls there. A herring gull was among the ‘squabble of gulls’ present.

Female mallard duck on the ice on Britten’s Pond.

And a female mallard gingerly walked across the thin ice.

Canada geese breaking through the ice on Britten’s Pond.

While a pair of Canada geese acted like icebreaker boats pushing through the ice.

Kingfisher, Britten’s Pond.

The resident kingfisher continued to be elusive and a challenge to photograph. Eventually I got a couple of lucky shots as it flashed past before disappearing, once again, beyond view.

Goldcrest.

A casual walk around the pond revealed several resident species there. At least two goldcrests could be found flitting around in the holly bushes at the back of the lake.

Treecreeper, Britten’s Pond.

While on the thickly embossed bark of an oak tree a treecreeper probed the deep crevices for insects.

Long-tailed tit, Britten’s Pond.

The regular sight of long-tailed tits were, as always, a delight to see.

Continuing my quest to add a few more species to this year’s tally, I visited Papercourt water meadows, near Send, in the company of Bob and Dougal.

Little owl, Papercourt water meadows.

In a line of oaks just to the north of Papercourt Lock, having seen one on several occasions previously there, I had the pleasure of viewing my first little owl of the year.

From the meadows as we trudged across the muddy terrain in our ‘wellies’, the distinctive sounds of peregrine falcons could be heard screeching.

Peregrine falcons scrapping, high over Papercourt water meadows.

Looking skyward, two could be viewed. They gave the appearance of not being very happy in each other’s presence.

Possibly one being a resident of the Woking nest site by one of the new tall buildings that could be viewed just a mile or so away.

Roe deer at Papercourt water meadows.

As the light began to fade a roe deer braved the opportunity to venture out of hiding to graze on the meadows.

Barn owl, Papercourt water meadows.

Eventually, and before it got too dark to photo, a barn owl quartered the field.

Lesser redpoll, Effingham Forest.

At Effingham Forest the following day I was able to add lesser redpoll to this year’s sightings. Allowing good views of 18 feeding in a silver birch tree.

Hawfinch, Effingham Forest.

Although already seen on my previous visit but always good to see, were several hawfinches.

Marsh tit in Effingham Forest.

A marsh tit near by could be heard and seen calling.

Siskin in Effingham Forest.

And a group of siskins flew overhead, settling briefly nearby before moving on.

After another night of light frost, January 17 began and ended as a day of constant bright sunshine.

Stoke Lake at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

At the Riverside Nature Reserve, near Burpham, it was an ideal one for taking photographs.

Common buzzard, mobbed by ‘covids’ at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

On my arrival a common buzzard could be viewed circling overhead. It was being frustrated by a small group of ‘corvids’ determined to move it on from their patch.

Red Kite overhead at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

Near the recycling centre across the river a red kite circled.

Female bullfinch at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

Male bullfinch, pictured near the recycling depot at Slyfield.

Having already seen a male bullfinch this year near the recycling centre, the delight of seeing a female one on this occasion, although of dimorphic difference, obviously couldn’t be added to my species list.

Chiffchaff, Riverside Nature Reserve.

I did, however, manage to add a chiffchaff to the tally with at least five counted near the sewage works.

A mixed flock of blue, great and long-tailed tits worked their way together through the hedgerows and a few goldcrests  were also within the group.

Shoveler on the flooded scrape near Stoke Lock.

On the flooded scrape near Stoke Lock were a few shoveler ducks, which then took flight.

Cormorants on a pylon near the Riverside Nature Reserve.

High up on one of the pylons near Stoke Lake three cormorants could be viewed.

Teal secluded within the sallows at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

Under the sallows that spread out toward the river and adjacent to Stoke Lake, several teal could be seen, partially hidden from sight.

Water rail. This one recently seen at Unstead.

While secluded from view, a water rail could be heard squealing.

Tufted ducks on Stoke Lake.

On the lake a raft of 25 or more tufted ducks could be viewed.

Little grebe.

Several little grebes tucked themselves in close to the margins of the lake.

Lapwings at Burpham Court Farm.

Looking out across the River Wey in the direction of Burpham Court Farm, a couple of dozen or more wintering lapwings had been ‘put-up’ by a red kite circling over the wetland.

Teal in flight at Burpham Court Farm.

While a group of wintering teal had taken flight from the scrape, in brief panic before resettling with their lapwing compatriots.

At Shackleford near Godalming on a bright sunny afternoon all seemed at first sight quiet and quite lifeless.

Grey, wagtail, Shackleford.

On a farmyard dung-heap a grey wagtail could be seen looking for insects to feed on.

Pied wagtail.

It had been joined by one of its cousins, a pied wagtail, and both were happily sifting through the muck.

Roe deer, Shackleford.

By chance, while spending a few moments at one with the weak radiance of warmth on my back from the afternoon sun, I watched across the field as three roe deer gingerly poked their heads out. They sniffed the still air from the long grass in an area set aside for wildlife.

To my surprise and fortune, a large flock in excess of 100 birds took flight from a distant field and were heading in my direction. As they drew closer to view I could see it was a mixed flock of starlings, redwings and fieldfares.

Fieldfare (above) and redwing (below) in flight, Shackleford.

Quite fulfilling was getting a few photos of both redwings and fieldfares in flight.

Fieldfares, redwings and starlings.

By chance they settled along the tree-line where I stood and no more than a 100 yards away.

Unsurprisingly, with such a large flock of birds present, it was inevitable that there would be a sparrowhawk about.

Sparrowhawk, Shackleford.

Snatching a few record shots of it was the best I could do, as it flew low and ‘Exocet ‘like along the fence line.

Red kite, Shackleford.

Across the field a red kite quartered low above the grassland.

Mandarin duck in flight over Tarn Pond, Cutt Mill, Puttenham.

The afternoon sun was low in the sky by the time I stopped off at Cutt Mill Pond, Puttenham. Shadows from the surrounding trees had already begun to lengthen across the water. A group of mandarin ducks flew just above the tree line on the far side of the lake.

Great crested grebes, Tarn Pond, Cutt Mill, Puttenham.

And a pair of great crested grebes on the water had already begun to show signs of spring plumage.

Female goosander, Tarn Pond, Cutt Mill, Puttenham.

On the eastern side of the tarn pond, still lit by sunlight, a group of at least 12 goosanders could be seen.

Drake goosander, Tarn Pond, Cutt Mill, Puttenham.

More often seen on the lake further down stream, they were obviously being quite shy of humans and taking advantage of the absence of anglers there that day.

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