Fringe Box



Birdwatcher’s Diary No.293

Published on: 2 Dec, 2023
Updated on: 2 Dec, 2023

By Malcolm Fincham

Weather in the southern counties of the UK began to settle as much drier conditions prevailed for the most part during the latter weeks of November.

A high-pressure system was building from the west, drawing down a cooler northerly flow bringing daytime temperatures into low single figures by end of the month.

Drake goosanders, Cutt Mill (house) Pond.

A visit to Cutt Mill Pond at Puttenham saw the first arrival two goosanders. Two drakes could be viewed across the water on the ‘house pond’ on November 17.

Female goosander, Cutt Mill, Puttenham.

While several more were being reported including a few females during the days that followed.

Mandarin duck, Cutt Mill.

Still resident there, and also viewed at distance on the far side of the pond, were several mandarin ducks.


The ‘seeping’ calls of wintering redwings alerted me to a small group of them as they timidly flew back and forth to feed on hawthorn berries.

Fieldfares in flight.

While also sighting my largest flock this winter of 20 or so fieldfares as they flew over, that afternoon.

Overdue for me, was a visit to the Riverside Nature Reserve, near Burpham on November 22.

Tufted ducks, Stoke Lake.

Tufted ducks that winter there on Stoke Lake were growing in number since my previous visit, although still lower in count than this time last year. Counting just eight about the lake.

Black-headed gull, Stoke Lake.

A black-headed gull in winter plumage perched on a ‘No Fishing’ sign as I decided to spend a while at the picnic tables at the southern end of the lake.

Kingfisher, Stoke Lake.

As I observed the lake from my seated viewpoint, I was pleasantly graced by a kingfisher perching up in a small, now leafless shrub by the water’s edge.

“If only it had perched up on the ‘No Fishing’ sign, where the gull had previously been!” I mumbled to myself, but enjoyed the moment all the same.

Kestrel by Stoke Lake.

Having rested a while, I decided to continue my walk observing a small group of cattle still on the reserve, as well as noticing a kestrel perched in a hawthorn close by them.

Kingfisher, Stoke Lake.

It wasn’t long after that nature, once again, showed me how unpredictable she can be. Looking back towards the picnic benches, I could see, some distance away across the water, the kingfisher now sitting on the ‘No Fishing’ sign!

Great spotted woodpecker, Riverside Nature Reserve.

Other sightings there included a great spotted woodpecker.

Green woodpecker, Riverside Nature Reserve.

As well as a green woodpecker.

Stonechat on a bulrush by the boardwalk.

A stonechat could also be observed from the boardwalk.

Teal by the boardwalk.

A few teal could now be seen in the flooded areas as they secluded themselves beneath the sallows.

Cetti’s warbler, previously seen at the Riverside Nature Reserve.

And at least two Cetti’s warblers could be heard calling from time to time.

Shoveler ducks on the flooded scrape.

While viewing from the area by Stoke Lock, two pairs of shoveler ducks had now returned to the flooded scrape.

A surprise sighting for me (and more than making up for missing out on the kingfisher perched on the ‘No Fishing’ sign) was while viewing across the ‘scrape’ there was a group of seven great white egrets flying south just above the utility pylons.

Great white egrets, Riverside Nature Reserve.

Taking a few pictures as they flew over, I was even more surprised to observe them circle, lower in height then briefly, and land just beyond the flooded scrape.

Great white egrets, Riverside Nature Reserve.

They were there long enough to photo two of them before, once again, taking flight and continuing their journey south.

Until recent years, as well as little and cattle egrets, this would have been a mega rare sighting. They have now, however, become established breeding birds in parts of southern England. Even so, seeing seven together, is still, to date, possibly a record count for in Surrey.

Bower’s Lock.

A brief walk downstream along the River Wey towpath beyond Bower’s Lock, saw the previous month or so of above average rainfall had created another large inland pool of flood water.


And there I was able to add a handful of wigeon to my day-list.

Britten’s Pond.

A couple of visits to Britten’s Pond saw the resident kingfisher showing regularly during the last week of November.

In my view, this was mainly due to the increase in leaves now falling from the trees surrounding the pond. There was certainly less foliage for him to hide within while doing his fishing.

Kingfisher, Britten’s Pond.

He also appeared more confiding than usual, not flying off so far as I followed him along the water’s edge, getting numerous photos as he perched up on the overhanging branches by the anglers’ fishing swims.

Black-headed gull, Britten’s Pond.

The usual group of black-headed gulls had returned to winter there.

Grey heron, Britten’s Pond.

While the resident grey heron continued its presence.

Great crested grebe, Britten’s Pond.

And a great crested grebe in winter plumage also could now be regularly seen out on the water.

On November 25 I visited Tice’s Meadow near Farnham in the company of Bob and Dougal.

Much voluntary work has been carried out over recent years to make it an important part of Surrey’s nature reserves.

Concerns had arisen once again in recent weeks. This was over the controversial plans to build a McDonald’s fast food drive-through restaurant. This story was covered by The Guildford Dragon NEWS. 

And further to that on a recent BBC Surrey radio interview.

Waterside Hide, Tice’s Meadow.

Surprisingly, after all the unsettled weather over recent months, water levels still remained low enough to visit the waterside hide at Tice’s Meadow where I’ve had my best opportunities to take photographs from, to add to my recent sightings.

Green sandpiper, Tice’s Meadow.

Two green sandpipers were still present at our time of visit.

Little egret, Tice’s Meadow.

While at least five little egrets, now wintering there, could be viewed feeding in the margins.

Grey heron, Tice’s Meadow.

Alongside them several grey herons could also be viewed.

Fox, Tice’s Meadow.

As well as a fox scavenging about by the bank of the water.

Common snipe, Tice’s Meadow.

Around the edges of the small inlet pool to the right of the hide, several common snipe could be picked out, having returned to the reserve to winter.

Viewing from hide at Tice’s Meadow.

Looking out from the hide across the water, a variety of distant wildfowl could be observed. With the hide being so close to the water’s edge, I took advantage of photographing the birds closer to view.

Great crested grebe, Tice’s Meadow.

These included great crested grebes.

Tufted ducks, Tice’s Meadow.

Tufted ducks.

Gadwall, Tice’s Meadow.

A few pairs of gadwall.

Pochard, Tice’s Meadow.

As well as a pochard.

Lapwings, Tice’s Meadow.

Although having declined regionally over recent decades, a flock of lapwings had once again returned to call it their winter home.

Around the reeded areas of the reserve, the regular sound of Cetti’s warblers could be heard skulking within the reeds, while more obliging to the eye were a couple of reed buntings.

Wren, Tice’s Meadow.

A wren also kindly perched up on a post for a photo.

Peregrine, Tice’s Meadow.

While a peregrine on one of its regular visits could be seen passing through.

Redwings, Tice’s Meadow.

A pleasant end to the day was to see the increase in the number of wintering redwings there too. Timidly feeding on the hawthorn berries.

A late evening skyward glance from my back garden on November 26 saw a mysterious ethereal halo moon in the southern sky. Questioning its presence, I wondered if I had seen the like of it before?

Halo moon.

On researching the phenomena, it was indeed of a rare occurrence. In scientific terms it is thought to be created by ice crystals high in the atmosphere.

In ancient culture, however, when you spot a halo around the moon, something special might be happening – whether it be good or bad – or perhaps the universe itself might be speaking directly through this mysterious natural occurrence.

In my personal view, whatever your interpretation of its presence may be, there is far more to life than we can ever perceive.

Redwing, St Mary’s churchyard.

A visit to St Mary’s churchyard, Perry Hill, Worplesdon  before the month was out saw the arrival of the first redwings there. Although fewer in number than recent years, they could be seen feeding on the now ripening holly berries about the grounds.

Greenfinch, St Mary’s churchyard.

A small group of greenfinches could also be viewed during my visit.

Male siskin.

While at the rear of the churchyard a group of 50 or so siskins could be observed.

A rather unusual ending to the month’s birdwatching was to see a white dove perched atop of one of the tall trees in St Mary’s churchyard. “

White dove, St Mary’s churchyard.

A “dove from above” perhaps? With hindsight, probably from a local dovecote, and possibly the one at Worplesdon Place hotel?.

Nonetheless, certainly a sighting I had not seen there before.

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Responses to Birdwatcher’s Diary No.293

  1. Roland Dunster Reply

    December 2, 2023 at 6:37 pm

    I always read and enjoy Malcolm Fincham’s uplifting Birdwatcher’s Diaries.

    Editors comment: Yes, we are privileged to have his column laid out and edited by David Rose. It is very much appreciated and is an important record of some of our local fauna.

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