Fringe Box



Birdwatcher’s Diary No.294

Published on: 17 Dec, 2023
Updated on: 16 Dec, 2023

By Malcolm Fincham

The first couple of days of December continued on a cold theme with daytime temperatures hovering just above freezing. An ideal time for Dougal and I to visit Unstead Sewage Farm, near Godalming.

Previous sighting of a green sandpiper at Unstead Sewage Farm.

Although we were unable to locate the Caspian gull, nor the two green sandpipers that had been reported there in recent days.

Black-headed gulls, Unstead Sewage Farm.

Just a group of black-headed gulls could be viewed on the far lagoon.

Gadwall, Unstead Sewage Farm.

On the relatively newly dug south scrape two pairs of gadwall ducks could be seen dabbling.

Tufted ducks, Unstead.

As well as a small raft of tufted ducks viewed on the water.

Little grebe, Unstead.

A little grebe also added to the day list.

Water rail, Unstead Sewage Farm.

Most elusive of the birds to see that day were two water rails, which we briefly viewed on several occasions from beside the viewing hide as they scampered back and forth across a thin layer of surface ice between two clumps of reeds.

Other birds I added while there were.

Grey wagtail, Unstead.

A grey wagtail perched on a post.

Egyptian geese, Unstead.

A pair of Egyptian geese.

Common buzzard.

A common buzzard flying low across the treeline.

Little egret, Unstead.

And a little egret in the meadows beyond.

Temperatures soon began to rise once again during the proceeding days as prevailing westerlies brought a succession of low pressure systems across the country, thus providing very few dry spells to get out and about with my camera.

On the few occasions of when acceptable conditions allowed, I first visited Lydling Farm, Shackleford, near Godalming.

Earlier days of frosts and breezes had now already cleared the oak trees of their leaves there. Oaks being some of the last of the deciduous trees to loose their foliage.

Little owl, Lydling Farm.

In one such now leafless mature oak across one of the fields I once again enjoyed the pleasure of seeing a little owl I had previously seen during the first months of this year.

Dunnock, Lydling Farm.

Along the tracks several dunnocks could viewed alongside the hedgerows.

Song thrush washing in a puddle at Lydling Farm.

And a song thrush washed itself in a puddle.

Grey wagtail, Lydling Farm.

Two grey wagtails could be seen flitting around and feeding on a silage mound.

Goldfinches at Lydling Farm.

And a mixed flock of goldfinches and linnets fed out on the stubble.

Red kite, Lydling Farm, Shackleford.

A few red kites drifted though.

Kestrel at Lydling Farm.

And a kestrel continued to hunt over the fields.

Sparrowhawk at Lydling Farm.

While a sparrowhawk circled overhead.

Thursley Common.

A visit to Thursley Common was, as always, a delightful walk, if only to take in the wonderful scenic views.

Dartford warbler.

It also allowed me the opportunity to hear and view a few Dartford warblers about the heathland.


Two fieldfares also added to my sightings as they perched up atop of one of the tall deciduous trees that bordered the ‘Parish Field’.

Lesser redpoll, Thursley Common.

The most notable of sightings, however, were continued presence of lesser redpolls, still present since my previous recent visit, with a flock of over 100 individuals now resident.

This being especially pleasing for me, having had a total absence of sightings of them during the previous winter.

Reed bunting, Thursley Common.

Alongside the boardwalk a reed bunting could be viewed.

Great spotted woodpecker, Thursley Common.

While near the car park, on my return, a great spotted woodpecker was hammering on a pine cone to feed on its seeds.

Goosanders, Tarn Pond, Cutt Mill, Puttenham.

On Cutt Mill Ponds in Puttenham, goosanders continued to winter, with as many as 20 reported on the Tarn Pond on one occasion during the first weeks of the month.

Lesser black-backed gull, Britten’s Pond.

On December 9, while visiting Britten’s Pond in the company of Bob and Dougal, on an overcast, but nevertheless rare dry afternoon during recent days, we first picked out a lesser black-backed gull among the dozen or so black-headed gulls about water.

Great crested grebe, Britten’s Pond.

A wintering great crested grebe continued to be present.

Little grebes, Britten’s Pond.

Also adding two little grebes that had recently returned there to winter.


While a small group of redwings were also present and could be seen feeding on the holly berries in the trees at the back of the pond.

Firecrest, Britten’s Pond.

Closer inspection of the holly bushes also revealed a firecrest flitting among the leaves.

Goldcrest, Brittens Pond.

This adding to the equally tiny goldcrest we had seen earlier during our walk.

Robin, Britten’s Pond.

Of course, one of the many robins continued to be present about the pond.

Kingfisher, Britten’s Pond.

And to the ‘keen-eyed,’ the kingfisher continued to show a presence.

Although having been a quiet few weeks in birdwatching, and having been writing these fortnightly reports for over a decade now, it came of great delight that my grandson Finley, now eight, was showing an interest in my stories.

Ring-necked parakeets.

He often points out and names the various birds we see while on the occasions I walk with him to or from school. Even adding a pair of ring-necked parakeets to his ‘life-list’ in recent days.

Optimism, for me, also continued to grow as we approach the end of another enjoyable year of birdwatching.

This mostly over the large influx of Bohemian waxwings that have arrived from the northern most parts of Scandinavia over the last few months.

Most have been reported in Scotland and around the north-east coastal towns of England. However, they are now slowly working their way south feeding on the berry crops.

Recent photo of a waxwing, sent by my friend Ross,who said: “Five of these beauties were a couple of miles from the office.”

And it is being  reported to be the largest flocks for more than a decade. Maybe I will be able to add them to my grandson’s sightings?

A report from my friend Ross, on December 13, showed pictures of five waxwings he had seen near his home in Kent and close to the Surrey border.

It might well be worth us all keeping our eyes peeled, locally, in the weeks to come?

Share This Post

Responses to Birdwatcher’s Diary No.294

  1. Michael Duff Reply

    December 18, 2023 at 8:40 am

    What a brilliant report. Most of us would have no idea of the wide array of birdlife on our doorstep without these stunning photos. Good on Malcolm Fincham.

  2. Simon Vine Reply

    December 29, 2023 at 3:30 pm

    Fantastic report from my old buddy Malcolm Fincham I will keep the porkies peeled in the hope of seeing some waxwings. I hope to see Malcolm in ’24 👍.

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 *