Fringe Box



Birdwatcher’s Diary No.280

Published on: 29 May, 2023
Updated on: 28 May, 2023

By Malcolm Fincham

By the end of the second week of May a long awaited spell of settled weather had arrived. This was much thanks to a high pressure system pushing up from the Azores. Temperatures, however, remained just below the seasonal average, dropping often to low single figures overnight.

Ruddy shelduck, Burpham Court Farm.

At Burpham Court Farm on May 14, while looking across the wetland areas of the River Wey Navigation from Jacobs Well Road, a ruddy shelduck could be viewed as it loosely associated with a mixed group of Egyptian and Canada geese.

Little egret, Burpham Court Farm.

Also picking out a little egret.

An invite from Dougal on May 18, took me on a journey down to Knepp Estate, just south of Horsham.

Knepp was once an area of intensive farming, but in recent years has become devoted to a pioneering re-wilding project.

It now has a mosaic of habits, including grassland, scrub and woodland, shaping the future of nature conservation. And  consists of 3,500 acres of land owned by the Burrell family for over 220 years.

White stork, Knepp Estate.

In recent years it has probably been best known for its reintroduction of white storks, with as many as 19 pairs now occupying nests within its grounds.

White storks, Knepp Estate.

White stork with young, Knepp Estate.

And with many of the birds already raising young.

The free roaming wildlife there include red, and fallow deer, as well as cattle, ponies and pigs.

Although restricted to three set footpaths provided by the owners of the estate, there was much to view along the way, with plenty of exercise for one’s legs across the mostly uneven ground.

Tamworth pigs, Knepp Estate.

The rare-breed Tamworth pigs originally replaced what were once wild boar. They are an old breed, renowned for their hardiness and a surprising ability to sprint short distances. We were fortunate to spot a sow suckling three piglets, close, but not too close to where we walked.

Fallow deer, Knepp Estate.

Several herds of fallow deer could also be viewed.

Exmoor pony, Knepp Estate.

As well a small groups of Exmoor ponies.

Longhorn cattle, Knepp Estate.

While longhorn cattle are also resident there.

Lesser whitethroat, Knepp Estate.

The most pleasing highlight for Dougal was one of several lesser whitethroats still in song to add to his year’s tally.

Having expended most of my opportunities of sightings of new birds locally, and with the arrival of a few warmer and drier days, it felt the right time to look for a few new butterflies that hopefully had begun to emerge.

On May 20, once again, in the company of Dougal, we visited Sheepleas, near East Horsley.

Our first encounter was quite a bonus, and came about when hearing several blackbirds ‘ticking’ loudly from within the thick scrub of hazel, blackthorn and mixed vegetation that line the grassland.

A previous photo of a tawny owl I had been alerted to by a blackbird.

Recalling a previous encounter of a blackbird ‘alarm calling’ in the middle of the day, although not quick enough on this occasion to get a photo, a tawny owl could be viewed as it took flight.

 Adding to our year in the way of butterflies included…

Dingy skipper butterfly, Sheepleas.

Several dingy skippers.

Green hairstreak butterfly, Sheepleas.

A green hairstreak.

Small copper butterfly, this one pictured at Clandon Wood Burial Ground.

A small copper.

Grizzled skipper butterfly, Sheepleas.

And a grizzled skipper.

A few daytime flying moths could also now be seen.

Burnet Companion moth, Sheepleas.

These included burnet companion moths.

Mother Shipton moth, Sheepleas.

And a few mother Shipton moths.

Pewley Down.

On Pewley Down in Guildford the following day, we were able to add…

Small blue butterfly, Pewley Down.

Our first small blue butterflies.

Small heath butterfly, Pewley Down.

A small heath.

Common blue butterfly, Pewley Down.

As well as a common blue.

Six-spot burnet moth, Pewley Down.

Adding a six-spot burnet.

Mint moth, Pewley Down.

And a mint moth to our moth sightings.

Brown argus butterfly, Clandon Wood Burial Ground.

On a solo mission to Clandon Wood Burial Ground on May 22, I added a brown argus butterfly.

Small copper butterfly, Clandon Wood Burial Ground.

As well as at least six small coppers.

Common blue butterfly, Clandon Wood Burial Ground.

Several common blues.

Green hairstreak butterfly, Clandon Wood Burial Ground.

And my second green hairstreak of the year.

Adonis blue, Denbies Hillside.

Meanwhile on Denbies Hillside, near Dorking, by the last week of the month the adonis blue butterfly was starting to emerge, on its first brood of the year.

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Responses to Birdwatcher’s Diary No.280

  1. Daniel Andrew Reply

    May 29, 2023 at 8:59 pm

    I enjoy these articles, thank you!

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