Fringe Box



Birdwatcher’s Diary No.274

Published on: 4 Mar, 2023
Updated on: 4 Mar, 2023

By Malcolm Fincham

Even I, as a lover of all seasons, concede to admit, this winter was by now starting to drag its heels.

As settled and mostly dry overcast weather continued during the latter days of the month, it was starting to leave me with little motivation to push myself to ascertain one’s mental health. This despite my passion for nature.

Injured mute swan, Stoke Lake.

Seeing, and having empathy with an injured first winter mute swan on a particularly overcast day at the Riverside Nature Reserve added to my feelings. It appears daft in hindsight but what was seemingly a long winter was, indeed, taking its toll.


Stoke Lake at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

Determined not to be brought down by the ‘quicksand of my thoughts’, I returned to the Riverside Nature Reserve, near Burpham, as overcasting drizzle turned to a few brief hours of sunshine. It wasn’t too long before I began to once again be at one with my surroundings.

Stonechat (female) along the towpath near Stoke Lock, Riverside Nature Reserve.

Next to the towpath near Stoke Lock a female stonechat could be viewed as it flitted back and forth between the brambles by the path and the reeds by the water’s edge.

Greenfinch, Riverside Nature Reserve.

A greenfinch attained my attention with its ‘wheezing’ call as it perched up in a nearby tree.

Egyptian goose near Stoke Lock, Riverside Nature Reserve.

While an Egyptian goose flew past over the lock in the direction of the scrape.

The view along the the boardwalk, Riverside Nature Reserve.

Crossing the footbridge in the direction of the boardwalk, a Cetti’s warbler could be heard intermittently calling a burst of its brief harsh song.

Cetti’s warbler, this one pictured at the London Wetland Centre.

As often eluding me of a sighting.

Teal by the boardwalk at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

While just within the entrance gate, a small group of teal could be observed.

Along the boardwalk other stonechats could be viewed. On this occasion a pair.

Stonechat (female), near the boardwalk at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

The female flitted around, and on one occasion appeared briefly on the boardwalk. just a little way from where I watched.

Stonechat, (male), Riverside Nature Reserve.

While the male typically perched up on one of the many reed stems that poked out from the marshland.

Wren, Riverside Nature Reserve.

Several wrens could be observed flying close to the walkway often using the boards to shelter beneath.

Great tits by the boardwalk, Riverside Nature Reserve.

For no apparent reason, two great tits could be seen and heard aggressively pursuing each other around the small clumps of sallow.

Arriving at the lakeside, I was greeted by the sight of a large raft of well over 100 gulls. They had stopped off on the water for a quick wash and brush-up before returning to the Slyfield recycling centre on the other side of the river.

Gulls on Stoke Lake.

Mostly viewed were herring gulls in their varying colours of plumage.

Black headed gulls in various stages of plumage on Stoke Lake.

While the black-headed gulls that were present, were now gaining various stages of their breeding colours.

Tufted ducks, Stoke Lake.

Out on the water and by the island, several small rafts of male and female tufted ducks continued to be present.

Grey heron, Stoke Lake.

A resident grey heron occasionally flew around the lake choosing to perch among the reeds where it would least likely be disturbed while doing its fishing.

Blackthorn starting to blossom by Stoke Lake.

Looking around the lake, the blackthorn hedgerow, in some areas exposed most to sunlight, had already begun to come into blossom as the last few days of the month approached.

Kingfisher perched up in an oak tree by Stoke Lake.

Fortune came my way as I walked the path beside the lake, when to my amazement a kingfisher flew past over the reeds and perched up in one of the oak trees that overhung the track.

Kingfisher, Stoke Lake, with a great crested grebe in the foreground.

Creeping up as near as I dare, I managed a few photos before he dived into the water and made off with a fish.

Also resident out on the water, a pair of great crested grebes had begun to colour up into their breeding plumage.

Great crested grebes begin their courtship display..

Already they had started their elaborate courtship display in which they rise out of the water and shake their heads.

Great crested grebe carrying a reed stem in its beak.

On observation, I was even able to notice one of the grebes carrying what looked to be nesting material, or maybe just a gift for its partner?

Another surprise addition to my mensuration while taking a few photos, my observations took me to an out-of-focus kingfisher, just beyond the grebe. Probably the very same kingfisher I had photographed just a short while earlier.

Kingfisher, Stoke Lake.

A small tweak of the lens soon rewarded me.

Mallards on the River Wey.

Drake mallards were looking especially handsome in their breeding plumages. So underestimated for their beauty due to being so commonly sighted.

As with so many ‘critters’ I’m sure they would be greatly more appreciated for their colour if they were a rarity.

Canada geese on the grasslands to the south of Stoke Lake.

On the field at the southern end of the lake a handful or so Canada geese could be viewed, now paired up and feeding on the grassland.

Chiffchaff, Riverside Nature Reserve.

While in the blackthorn hedgerow shaded by the afternoon sun, a chiffchaff could be found.

Redwing, Riverside Nature Reserve.

As well a one of a small handful of redwings that had flown up from feeding in the field nearby.

On Britten’s Pond a willow on island attempting to break into leaf.

At Britten’s Pond, off Salt Box Road, Worplesdon, the willows on the islands had started their attempt to break into leaf.

Blue tit checking a nest site at Britten’s Pond.

Blue tits could now be viewed checking out holes and crevices in trees looking for potential nest spots.

Long-tailed tit with feather, Britten’s Pond.

A few groups of long tailed tits had begun to split into pairs, even seeing one recently carrying a feather in its beak as it disappeared into a clump of brambles.

Kingfisher, Britten’s Pond.

The kingfisher continued to be a regular sighting about the pond.

Blackbird feeding on ivy berries.

While blackbirds there still feed in the ivy that climb the trees around the pond.

Redwing feeding on ivy berries, Britten’s Pond.

Redwings joined them, attempting to remain incognito as they fed on the berries, but giving themselves away by their ‘seep, seep’ call.

Marsh tit.

Elsewhere on my travels, in the company of Dougal, John and Ross, with his son Max, on a day trip up from Maidstone, Kent, we visited Effingham Forest. This giving them the opportunity to view a marsh tit and not a common sighting in their location.

Hawfinch, this one pictured at Newlands Corner.

Also adding to the sightings were at least three hawfinches. While a calling marsh tit also attracted our attention.

Goshawk over Effingham Forest.

A real bonus for all of us was a goshawk as it passed through high over the tree line.

First frogspawn of the year, Effingham Forest.

And finally, with much thanks to Ross’s son max, searching around a nearby pond, I was even able to see my first frogspawn of the year.

By the meteorological calendar, spring will always start on March 1. However, a glance at the weather forecast wasn’t convincing me!

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