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Birdwatcher’s Diary No.271 – New Year Spectacular!

Published on: 16 Jan, 2023
Updated on: 16 Jan, 2023

By Malcolm Fincham

The new year began as the old one ended weather wise, with a mild westerly flow continuing the currant theme.

In spite of the weather New Year’s Day had inspired our desires to begin once again a new list of sighting for 2023.

With what had become a regular small posse of companions, we ventured out and began another year’s challenge in our varying individual intensities to see what we might find.

For me, it was more in respect (and with hope) of capturing record shots of what my readers may be able to view in and around the Surrey countryside.

Although accumulating more than 40 species of birds during the first day’s outing of the year. my main intent was to submit a summary of the most interesting of the photos I had obtained.

Goosanders, two drakes and a female, Cutt Mill, Puttenham .

Our first stop was Cutt Mill Ponds in Puttenham where we were able to see goosanders, counting three, including two drakes and a female.

Mandarin ducks (and a heron), Cutt Mill, Puttenham.

We also added both male and female mandarin ducks out on the water of the ‘house pond’.

Tufted duck, Cutt Mill, Puttenham.

Tufted ducks were also present.

Drake shoveler duck.

And a few shoveler ducks too.

Dartford warbler, Crooksbury Common.

Moving on to Crooksbury Common, we were able to add a Dartford warbler to the list.

Firecrest, Frensham Great Pond.

While at Frensham Great Pond we were able to add a firecrest to our list.

Siskins.

As well as a small mixed flock of siskins and goldfinches near the outlet pond.

Lapwings, Tiice’s Meadow.

Among the additional sightings at Tice’s Meadow, were a wintering flock of what had been reported to be in excess of 400 lapwings.

Little grebes, Tice’s Meadow.

While out on the water a group of six little grebes that gathered in a tight cluster could be counted.

Green sandpiper, Tice’s Meadow.

A green sandpiper had once again, as on my two previous visits, positioned itself to the right of the waterside hide, within range of my camera.

Gadwall, Tice’s Meadow.

And several gadwall were close to view.

Taking advantage of a much brighter and dry interlude in the weather on January 2, I visited Farlington Marshes, near Portsmouth, in the company of Bob, Dougal and school-day pal ‘Big Chip’.

This was to add a few coastal assortments as well as what turned out to be a few bonus wintering species not commonly seen, increasing our count in excess of 80 species.

The tide was high on our arrival but I was holding on to the opportunity of a few good sightings.

Brent geese, Farlington Marshes.

Brent geese were of common sight, numerous flocks equating to more than 1,000 individuals.

Black brant, Farlington Marshes.

Also still present, having sifted through the vast numbers of brent geese, was the black brant goose, seen on my previous visit and report. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brant_(goose)

Red-breasted merganser, Langstone Harbour.

A group of six or more red-breasted mergansers could be viewed in Langstone Harbour at high tide.

Common redshank, Farlington Marshes.

While on the concrete sea defence wall a common redshank could be seen.

Dunlin in flight.

A fling of dunlin flew low across the harbour.

Grey plovers.

And a few grey plovers added to our sightings.

Curlew, Farlington Marshes.

Also in flight across the harbour, a group small group of curlews could be viewed in flight.

Oystercatcher at Farlington.

And an oystercatcher.

Avocets, Farlington Marshes.

Looking across the main inland lake from its viewpoint, a group of 34 avocets could be counted.

Pintails, Farlington Marshes.

Pintail ducks could also be viewed, mostly in pairs.

Dartford warbler, Farlington Marshes.

Close by the viewing point, a Dartford warbler was still present.

Wren, Farlington Marshes.

And a wren also showed well.

Continuing our walk along the seawall path, while viewing inland across the salt-marsh and numerous inland pools, a variety of wintering ducks and other birds could be added to the day list.

Shoveler, Farlington Marshes.

These included, shoveler.

Teal at Farlington.

Teal.

Wigeon, Farlington Marshes.

Wigeon.

Turnstones, Farlington Marshes.

A couple of turnstones.

Black-tailed godwits, Farlington Marshes.

Several small groups of black-tailed godwits.

Lapwings, Farlington Marshes.

Lapwing.

Shelducks, Farlington Marshes.

And a small group of shelducks.

Marsh harrier, Farlington Marshes.

A distant scan across the grassland with the assistance of Dougal’s ‘scope’ allowed the opportunity to pick out a marsh harrier. Later seen in flight.

Peregrine falcon, Farlington Marshes.

While picked out, sitting on a grassy mound, a peregrine falcon.

Kestrel, Farlington Marshes.

Completing the birds of prey sightings, and closer to view, was one of several kestrels in and around the reserve.

White-fronted geese, Farlington Marshes.

One of the highlights of the day was five white-fronted geese, I had previously seen there just before Christmas. On this occasion it was with much credit to keen-eyed Bob. He’d picked and pointed them out, allowing me the opportunity to ‘snatch’ a few photos of them in flight alongside a swath of brent geese.

White-fronted geese, Farlington Marshes.

Following their flight we saw them land. And by retracing our steps we were able to relocate them, still in their family group of two adults and three juveniles.

Having completed the full circuit of the reserve, we followed up on a report that a short-eared owl was out hunting in the ‘point field’.

Short-eared owl, Farlington Marshes.

On our arrival it could be viewed perched atop of a hawthorn bush.

Short-eared owl, Farlington Marshes.

We also watched for a good 15 minutes or more as it hunted around the field.

London Wetland Centre.

By the following day inclement weather had returned. Although impeding my photography a tad, our visit to the London Wetland Centre near Barnes involved, for much of our stay, viewing from the various hides.

Bittern, London Wetland Centre.

From the Dulverton Hide we were able to pick out one of the bitterns that had been previously reported. Although distant, it could be viewed in front of the reed bed in the direction of the Peacock Tower hide.

Bittern in flight, London Wetland Centre.

While watching it took flight, allowing me a few seconds to catch a photo as it flew across the main lake.

Common snipe.

From the Peacock Tower we added common snipe.

Female reed bunting, London Wetland Centre.

As well as a a female reed bunting.

Cetti’s warbler, London Wetland Centre.

And getting some unusually good views of a Cetti’s warbler.

Female goldeneye, London Wetland Centre.

While out on the lake seeing a female goldeneye.

Pochard, London Wetland Centre.

And several pochard could be viewed.

What intended to be a brief stop off at the ‘big observation hide’ on our way back out of the reserve lasted in excess of an hour.

Looking out just beyond large plate-glass window overlooking the main lake to the reeds close by the centre a rare close-up view of a bittern could be observed.

Bittern, London Wetland Centre.

Although reflections in the glass made photography a challenge, visually one could not ask for a better sighting. It felt like an irreverence to leave it while still in full view when eventually we had to head off home.

Ring-necked parakeet, London Wetland Centre.

So with one last wave to the ring-necked parakeets abundant in the area, we headed home.

Red kite, often seen recently over my garden.

Although having already seen one on the first of the month, I didn’t have to venture further than my back garden on January 5 to see a red kite drifting low across the rooftops, once again still spellbound by their now regular presence.

Kingfisher, Britten’s Pond.

During the first weeks of the month I had a few rare windows of opportunity to visit Britten’s Pond along Salt Box Road, Worplesdon. This gave me the chance to see my first kingfisher of the year.

Since the lead up to Christmas, the pond had suffered more than its fair share of bird deaths. This is thought to be have been due to avian flu that had been prevalent in the UK during 2022.

The first bird to have died was a second winter female mute swan, this occurring during the cold snap in mid December. The second mute swan to die was an adult on Christmas Eve, also showing no signs of physical injury.

Mute swans, Britten’s Pond.

It was therefore pleasing for me to me to see the adult male and the remaining second winter female still looking well.

Greylag geese, Britten’s Pond.

Also still appearing to be in good health were the two resident greylag geese.

Little grebe, Britten’s Pond.

A little grebe had made a reappearance after a few weeks absence.

Firecrest, Britten’s Pond.

Another delightful sight for me, in the hollies at the back of the lake, was a firecrest. Especially that although having previously heard their call in the area, it was the first time I had got a picture of one there.

Redwing feeding on ivy berries.

Other sightings there included a small group of redwings.

Blackbird feeding on ivy berries at Britten’s Pond.

As well as blackbirds feeding on ivy berries.

Treecreeper, Britten’s Pond.

Adding to my day’s photos was a treecreeper.

Nuthatch, Britten’s pond.

As well as a nuthatch.

Chiffchaff.

And even a chiffchaff on one occasion.

What seemed to be a relentless conveyor belt of wet weather across the southern counties of the UK took a brief break for a couple of hours on January 11. Just long enough for a walk around the farmlands in Shackleford.

Although not one of my most productive visits there, I was still successful in adding a few more photos and sightings to my new year list.

Fieldfare, Shackleford.

A few fieldfares were still present, although not as many as on my previous visit there.

A charm of goldfinches.

A variety of flocks of birds were still present, however, including a charm of goldfinches.

Meadow pipit, Shackleford.

Other flocks included meadow pipits.

Linnet.

And linnets.

Skylark, Shackleford.

A few skylarks could be heard in song as well as seen in flight while the sun shone.

Red kites, Shackleford.

A regular sight there in recent times have been red kites, with two present on this occasion.

Common buzzard.

A common buzzard was also present.

Raven.

And a raven also flew over to add a new species to my year.

Bullfinch, Shackleford.

While a bullfinch was a most welcomed addition to my new year’s sightings.

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Responses to Birdwatcher’s Diary No.271 – New Year Spectacular!

  1. Geoffrey Bailey Reply

    January 17, 2023 at 9:16 am

    Amazing collection. Well done.

  2. John Lomas Reply

    January 19, 2023 at 12:52 pm

    I don’t know if Malcolm Fincham is a “lister” but if he does happen to keep lists how did 2022 compare with previous years?

    Obviously, 2020 and 2021 were Covid affected so far as trips out were concerned and there may have been a bird flu effect on numbers seen during a 2022 year list.

    Does he keep site lists for example for: Whitmoor Common, Stoke Lake, Pewley Down etc?

  3. Malcolm Fincham Reply

    January 22, 2023 at 6:51 pm

    First, I would like to take the opportunity to thank all those for taking such an interest in nature by reading my reports, especially those that have taken time to comment.

    My short answer to John Lomas’s interesting questions is that while personally covering such a wide range of areas in West Surrey, I don’t have the time to dedicate myself (as some local birders already do) to list birds I see on individual “patches”, so only generalize on the ebb and flow of avian species for my reports.

    I do, however, regularly report any rarities or even unusual species not often seen within habitats to Surrey Bird Club. https://surreybirdclub.org.uk/#latestpost:sightings

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