Fringe Box



Birdwatcher’s Diary No.292

Published on: 18 Nov, 2023
Updated on: 17 Nov, 2023

By Malcolm Fincham

The weather remained inclement and at times rather volatile, as another named storm Ciarán arrived on a continuing muscular Jet Stream during the early part of November.

Daylight hours were also rapidly closing in giving limited opportunities for me to capture up-to-date photos on my travels, mostly in my local surroundings about the Surrey countryside.

 A special delight for my family and I, to begin the month, distracting me from my birdwatching, was the welcoming of my granddaughter Aurora into the world on November 2, with congratulations and best wishes to my son and daughter-in-law.

This I felt was rather uncanny. Having decided the name several months prior, it was just a few days after her birth that my friend Ross sent me a photo he and his son Max had just viewed of the Aurora Borealis that he had taken on his phone at Reculver Towers, Kent.

Aurora borealis viewed and pictured by Ross at Reculver Towers, Kent.

A very rare event so far south in the UK and witnessed by many with pictures shown on social media with sightings as far south as the Isle of Wight.

Northern Red Oak.

By the first weeks of November, assisted by some strong breezes, many of the trees’ leaves were beginning to change colour and fall at their varying rates. Some of the most attractive being the non-native species such as the Northern Red Oak.

View from Worplesdon Churchyard.

My view from Worplesdon churchyard on Perry Hill across Guildford, was, as always, an inspiring one to me.

Siskin at Worplesdon Churchyard.

At Worplesdon churchyard a small group of siskins could be heard high up in pine trees at the back of the church, with one on view atop of one of the trees.

Nuthatch, Worplesdon Churchyard.

While at the base of one of the pines a nuthatch could also be photographed checking out the bark for insects.

Firecrest, Worplesdon Churchyard.

Nearby a firecrest flitted about in a holly bush.

Kestrel, Worplesdon Churchyard.

While just the other side of the churchyard a kestrel perched up, partially viewed, in a conifer.

Surprisingly, for me, I had so far viewed very few redwings or fieldfares this autumn around the areas I visited to the northern side of Guildford .

Blackbird, Whitmoor Common.

Only blackbirds could still be seen depleting the rowan trees of their berries on Whitmoor Common.

Lesser redpoll, Whitmoor Common.

By the first weeks of November lesser redpolls had increased in their number on Whitmoor Common with a flock of between 60 and 80 individuals seen moving about the silver birch trees busily feeding on the cylindrical seed cones. With a few possible, similar looking, common redpolls (mealy) from more northerly parts beyond the UK, in the mix.

The name redpoll derives from old English “poll” referring to the top of one’s head.

Kestrel mobbed by redpolls, Whitmoor Common.

Out on the heathland a kestrel continued to be viewed. Occasionally it could be seen being mobbed by the redpolls whenever it came too close for comfort to where they were feeding.

Goldfinch, Whitmoor Common.

Goldfinches could also be viewed among the flock.

Jay, this one pictured in Worplesdon Churchyard.

Jays were by now were appearing to be less active in their pursuits, having now plucked most of the acorns from the oaks overlooking the heathland.

At Britten’s Pond there had been a notable change of personnel during the first days of the month.

The adult male mute swan, having spent the last year in the company of what would now be its second winter daughter, this after the unknown death last winter of its long-time partner.

Mute swans, Britten’s Pond.

The change came when another unrelated female arrived on the pond causing, for a time, much anxiety. It appeared to me that after some dispute between the three swans that his daughter was chased off the pond and the adult male had now accepted the new companion. Time will tell?

Great crested grebe, Britten’s Pond.

Also arriving on the pond, at least for a few days, was a great crested grebe.

Greylag geese, Britten’s Pond.

The large greylag geese population earlier in the year had now, once again, dwindled to the usual wintering pair.

Canada geese, Britten’s Pond.

And few Canada geese continued to visit.

Grey heron in flight.

While a grey heron continued its presence.

Kingfisher, Britten’s Pond.

And a male kingfisher could now be regularly seen skimming across the water.

Kingfisher, Britten’s Pond.

Now with fewer leaves to hide behind, he could occasionally viewed perched up.

Winter movement of wood pigeons.

November saw the start of large winter movements of wood pigeons, with some local birdwatchers reporting sightings of groups of over 4,000 in flight over areas of the Surrey countryside.

Staines Moor.

Reports of as many as nine short-eared owls had tempted me, in the company of Bob and Dougal, to visit Staines Moor early in the month.

A previously taken photo of a short-eared owl at Farlington Marshes.

A large influx had arrived recently from eastern continents and were spending their time wintering at numerous locations throughout southern counties of the UK.

We were staggered to see so many people already present on our arrival there. Looking out across the moorland through binoculars there appeared to be at least one small group of people gathered about almost every hawthorn and bramble clump about meadows.

One of many photographers taking pictures of the owls at Staines Moor.

I must admit, the sight of so many people present was immediately going against the grain of my idea of birdwatching.

Privileged to have had so many accidental close encounters and photos during my years of birdwatching, we had no desires to join the madding crowd and instead chose to stick to the footpath close to the River Colne that runs through the reserve.

Short-eared owl, Staines Moor.

In spite of it all, however, we enjoyed the delight just to watch them from a distance as well as to get a few reasonable record-shots of at least some that flew our way across the river.

Crepuscular by nature, we saw the first few out on the wing just before 3pm and having seen at least five short eared owls during our vigil.

With the afternoon light starting to fade, we decided to call it a day as the last of the autumnal sunlight filtered though the leaves as we returned to the car.

Lydling Farm, Shackleford, Godalming.

In spite of regular wet spells of during the first weeks of the month, the weather remained relatively mild for the time of year. And on a rare day of sunshine I made another visit about the fields in Shackleford, near Godalming.

Red kite, Lydling Farm, Shackleford.

Although not accumulating a vast amount of species while there, as on my previous visit red kites continued to be a common sight.

Common buzzard, Shackleford.

Common buzzards too remained a common sight there.

Kestrel, Shackleford.

A kestrel flew past, glancing my way as it came within view of my camera lens.

Red-legged partridges, Shackleford.

Across one of the surrounding fields a covey of nine or so red-legged partridges could be viewed ‘clocking’ my presence before I could get any decent shots, and disappearing into the safety of a hedgerow.

Pheasants, Shackleford.

A few colourful pheasants were also present.

Skylark, Shackleford.

A handful of skylarks could also be viewed.

Roe deer, Shackleford.

And completing the walk with a roe deer as it scampered across the fields.

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