Fringe Box



Birdwatcher’s Diary No.279

Published on: 19 May, 2023
Updated on: 21 May, 2023

By Malcolm Fincham

As we entered another month the bright yellow colours of April’s daffodils and lesser celandine began to dissolved within the caeruleus hue of bluebells about the Surrey countryside.

Although temperatures were improving marginally during the first weeks of May in the home counties of the UK, the weather remained inclement with limited opportunities to get out and about with my camera. Despite such restrictions, on the whole, my ventures were surprisingly rewarding during the time allowed.

The first of my trips was beyond the Surrey borders on an overcast but dry May 2. This was to Oxfordshire, in the company of good friend Bob, on what had become an annual trip to the wildlife haven of Otmoor RSPB.

This allowed me the opportunity to add a few new sightings of some birds rarely seen within the Guildford area, as well as adding a few that I had not yet seen locally this year.

Sedge warbler at Otmoor.

A cacophony of chattering song could be heard from both reed and sedge warblers within the reeds themselves, now springing new green shoots within the old stems of last year’s growth, along the ditches beside the path.

Common cranes at Otmoor.

The expansive floodplains and grazing marsh make it home to a variety of waders, including common cranes, counting at least five while there.

Lapwings at Otmoor.

Breeding out on the marsh were common redshanks, common snipe, while lapwings could also be picked out.

Curlew at Otmoor.

A curlew alerted us by its call as it flew overhead.

Great white egret at Otmoor.

Over the marsh, a great white egret could be viewed in flight.

Marsh harrier at Otmoor.

And at least two marsh harriers could be seen hunting over the reed beds.

Bittern, previously seen at Otmoor.

Out of view among the reeds at least two bitterns could be heard ‘booming’.

Cuckoo at Otmoor.

While at least two newly arrived cuckoos could be heard calling from beyond the treeline.

Lesser whitethroat at Otmoor.

The hedgerows were bustling with a variety of songbirds and warblers, these included both lesser whitethroats and common whitethroats.

Garden warbler, singing, at Otmoor.

A garden warbler, in full view, also sang its little heart out for all to see and hear.

Cetti’s warbler at Otmoor.

And we even got a rather cryptic view of a Cetti’s warbler, one of many heard that day in song.

Reed bunting at Otmoor.

While several male reed buntings were also in song.

My personal ‘bird of the day’ had to be when we were alerted to the ‘reeling’ sound of a grasshopper warbler as we made our way back to the car at the end of our visit.

Grasshopper warbler ‘reeling’ at Otmoor.

To our total surprise, this usually skulking little bird was perched out in the open for well over three minutes on a small clump of bramble seemingly without a care in the world and singing at the top of his voice.

Grasshopper warbler ‘reeling’ at Otmoor.

Thus allowing me to get what are, undoubtedly, my best photos to date of one.


In addition, we saw our first swifts of the year.

Hobby at Otmoor.

As well as getting views of our first hobbies of the year, three in total.

Back in Guildford, it wasn’t until May 4 that I saw my first local swifts of this year, in the evening sky over Stoughton.

Common redstart, Thursley Common.

On Thursley Common on May 4, several male common redstarts could still be heard singing.

Parachuting tree pipit.

While ‘parachuting’ tree pipits were still in fine voice, sounding as if their ‘batteries’ were running low as they drifted down gently from the sky.

Woodlark, Thursley Common.

And the resplendent sounds of woodlarks overhead were joined by the distant sound of a skylark, as I walked the heathland.

Male stonechat, Thursley Common.

A male stonechat perched on a dead tree stump.

Female stonechat, Thursley Common.

While its partner sat up on a nearby gorse bush, now in flower. Also getting my first brief Surrey view of a hobby while there.

Common tern at Britten’s Pond.

Britten’s Pond for the first week of May received its annual visit of a pair of common terns, spending much of their time feeding up on the plentiful supply of small fish.

Common terns, food pass.

Often the male could be seen doing the majority of the fishing, showing off his expertise, frequently seeing his partner got a share of the spoils. Thus proving that ‘one good tern deserves another!’

Unfortunately, with no suitable place on the islands to nest, and no tern raft provided, eventually they moved on.

Kingfisher, Britten’s Pond.

With small fry abundant, there was always enough for the kingfisher when he arrived.

Carp jumping in Britten’s Pond.

It was also that time of the year when it seems I get a lucky photo of one of the larger fish breaching the surface, on the far side of the pond. Possibly too big even for the regular visiting cormorants.

Canada geese with goslings at Britten’s Pond.

Along the banks of the pond a few more of the Canada geese were proudly displaying their goslings.

Mallard ducklings.

While in and about the pond, several more groups of mallard ducklings could be viewed.

Chiddingfold Forest.

Elsewhere in Surrey, Chiddingfold Forest gave me the opportunity of adding a few more butterflies to this year’s sightings.

Despite it continuing to be mostly overcast, there were a few breaks in the clouds while there in the company of Bob and Dougal.

Wood white butterfly, Chiddingfold Forest.

We managed to find two wood white butterflies on the wing.

Painted lady butterfly, Chiddingfold Forest.

A brief spell of sunshine helped to reveal three painted lady butterflies within a small glade that we searched.

Female orange-tip butterfly, Chiddingfold Forest.

I was also able to add a photo of a female orange-tip butterfly to my list.

Speckled wood butterfly, Chiddingfold Forest.

And although having already seen speckled woods, it was nice to add a few fresh photos.

Early in the afternoon of May 9 I was alerted that a hoopoe had been sighted at the south-east corner of Frensham Little Pond. Although widespread in Europe these birds are quite a rarity in the UK.

Over the years they have become what one might call “my ‘bogie’ bird”, having made several attempts to see one and failed.

Not having my car that day, I was most grateful that Bob volunteered to pick me up. On our arrival we were informed it hadn’t been seen for over an hour, while more than half a dozen birdwatchers continued to search the surrounding areas. All this as another heavy shower of rain passed through to dampen my hopes some more.

Hoopoe, Frensham Little Pond

Eventually, someone spotted it on the east side of the lake! Getting to the area as quick as my legs would allow, I first saw it in flight, noting its woodpecker-like, undulating flight pattern, pale orange colour and broad wings as it headed away from me.

Hoopoe, Frensham Little Pond.

It followed a line of fir trees and then kindly turned back toward the lakeside, eventually settling to feed on some wood ants and for long enough for me to take a few photos.

Preceding weeks of precipitation including at the Riverside Nature Reserve, near Burpham, had given a fresh and lush look to its landscape as the last of the trees began to come into leaf.

Hawthorn now with Mayflower blossom.

Hawthorns, already in leaf, were now displaying their ‘Mayflower’ blossom.

Reed warbler by Stoke Lake.

By the lakeside one of several reed warblers could be heard singing as it showed periodically among the old reed stems.

Sedge warbler by Stoke Lake.

A sedge warbler could also be viewed nearby.

Common whitethroat.

A variety of songbirds could be heard along the boardwalk, picking out a singing common whitethroat.

Reed bunting, Riverside Nature Reserve.

And a female reed bunting to add to the day’s photos.

Green-veined white butterfly.

I also managed to photograph my first green-veined white butterfly of the year.

Cormorant on the River Way.

At Stoke Lock, a laburnum tree was now in full blossom and close to the lock gates two cormorants fished.

Red kite.

Red kites continued to be regularly viewed. I was rather pleased to end another day with close views and photos of one in fine plumage as it perched on a nearby tree.


On Surrey heathlands nightjars had made their return, counting three while on a late evening visit to Whitmoor Common.

Share This Post

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *