Fringe Box



Birdwatcher’s Diary No.296

Published on: 15 Jan, 2024
Updated on: 14 Jan, 2024

By Malcolm Fincham

Overcast leaden skies welcomed the new year in, as once again I gathered with a small posse of pals for the start of another new year’s sightings list. For me, adding the additional challenge of photographing the majority of the ones I see.

We started at Britten’s Pond on our annual get together to begin our birdwatching ventures around the local countryside.

Lesser black-backed gull, Britten’s Pond.

Included in the more common birds were two lesser black-backed gulls out on the water.

Little grebe, Britten’s Pond.

A count of two little grebes could be seen out on the pond.

Nuthatch, Britten’s Pond.

While among the various tits that had come down to the seed that had been laid by one of the fishing swims, a nuthatch could be viewed.

Wood pigeon, Britten’s Pond.

Within the climbing ivy vines that grow up the trees that border the pond, several wood pigeons could be viewed feeding on the ripened ivy berries.

Redwing, Britten’s Pond.

While a few redwings also joined them in the feast.

Goldcrest, Britten’s Pond.

Adding to the tally of photos was one of several goldcrests.

Greylag goose, Britten’s Pond.

The two resident greylag geese continued to preside in and about the pond.

Grey heron, Britten’s Pond.

And, of course, the resident grey heron continued to show.

Firecrest, Worplesdon churchyard.

The misfortune, however, of being unable to find what had been the regular sighting of a firecrest at the back of the pond in recent weeks was rectified at our next stop when visiting St Mary’s Church at Perry Hill, Worplesdon.

Red kite, lit up by dappling sunlight, Worplesdon churchyard.

Also personally adding a red kite perched up at the back of the churchyard.

Drake goosander, Tarn Pond, Cutt Mill, Puttenham.

The next location we visited was Cutt Mill Ponds in Puttenham, allowing me to see and photograph a few of the 14 goosanders we counted wintering there

Goosanders, Cutt Mill Pond, Puttenham.

The majority were the female ‘red heads’ but at least two drakes could also be viewed.

Mandarin duck (drake).

While by the lakeside a few mandarin ducks, both male and female, could also be seen.

Kingfisher, Cutt Mill Pond, Puttenham.

Here we were also able to pick out our first kingfisher of this year.

Black-necked grebe, Tice’s Meadow.

Our next stop was Tice’s Meadow near Farnham where, from the waterside hide we were able to view the two black-necked grebes still present, this time just within range of my camera lens.

Great crested grebe, Tice’s Meadow.

Several great crested grebes were out on the water, with some already showing signs of developing spring plumage.

Lapwings, Tice’s Meadow.

A reasonable flock of lapwings were also still present, also adding to my new year’s sightings.


Also adding pochard to the year list.

Kingfisher, Tice’s Meadow.

And even a second kingfisher to the day list while there.

By the second day of the month, and for the first time since the latter days of July last year, I was elated to hear the fluty sounds of a blackbird.

Blackbird. This one feeding on hawthorn berries by the car park at Britten’s Pond.

It could be heard singing as I entered my back garden adding itself to my ‘urban’ dawn chorus.

Having fallen silent in its song (as they do), it had re-found its voice. And most notable for me, as it was possibly the earliest in the year I had heard one sing, perhaps due to the recent weeks of mild weather?

With predominant Atlantic low pressure systems continuing, with a ‘wing and a player’ we attempted a visit Farlington Marshes, near Portsmouth, on a blustery January 3.

This in hope of adding a few more photos to my new year’s sightings as that ‘pest from the west’ continued to flow on a strong Jet Stream.

Rainbow viewed from the east wall at Farlington Marshes.

Although billowy showers and a few rainbows energised the day, a few sunny spells eventually prevailed to allow me a few pictures to my day’s sightings.

Brent geese, Farlington Marshes.

An increased number of brent geese had arrived since my previous visit just a few weeks earlier. Now quite impressive and counting in excess of 1,000 on and around the marshland.

They had travelled 2,500 miles from their breeding grounds in Siberia to winter along the southern coastline of the UK.

Barnacle goose and white feral goose at Farlington Marshes.

The resident barnacle goose of dubious origin continued to be present, found as ever close to his buddy, the white feral goose.

Also having increased in their number were the wintering wildfowl.

Shoveler. (drake and female).

These included shoveler ducks.

Wigeon, Farlington Marshes.


Teal, Farlington Marshes.


Pintail, Farlington Marshes.

And good numbers of those rather smart looking Northern pintail ducks.

Various waders could also be added to my sightings, including…

Avocets, Farlington Marshes.

A count of more than 40 avocets.

Bar-tailed godwit, Farlington Marshes.

A bar-tailed godwit.

Black-tailed godwit, Farlington Marshes.

Black-tailed godwit,

Little egret, Farlington Marshes.

While several little egrets could be viewed about the reserve.

Common redshank, Farlington Marshes.

Common redshanks were present in good number. With several individuals feeding on the mudflats out on Langstone Harbour at low tide.

Oystercatchers, Farlington Marshes.

Also taking advantage of the low tide beyond the harbour wall were oystercatchers.

Turnstones, Farlington Marshes.

As well as a few turnstones.

Curlews, Farlington Marshes.

Several curlews could also be viewed in flight, joining up with others already probing the muddy soil out in the harbour.

Grey Plover.

And at least one grey plover was close enough to photo.


While groups of dunlins fed along the waterline of the rising tide.

Lapwings in flight.

Groups of lapwings were also present. Mostly seen in the area known as ‘the deeps’.

Rock pipit, Farlington Marshes.

Along the seawall at least two rock pipits could be viewed.

Shelducks, Farlington Marshes.

While flying overhead onto the inland reserve, a group of shelducks could be added to our sightings.

Stonechat, Farlington Marshes.

Several stonechats were also present about the reserve.

Red-legged partridge, Farlington Marshes.

A surprise sighting was a lone red-legged partridge and a first for me there in my years of visiting.


While over the reserve at least four skylarks could be seen singing.

Greenshank, Farlington Marshes.

Also adding to our sighting was a greenshank seen along the stream.

Reed buntings, Farlington Marshes.

Although hearing a small group of bearded reedlings as they made their ‘pinging’ calls from within the phragmites reed beds, the best we could add to our sightings were a pair of reed buntings.

Marsh harriers, Farlington Marshes.

A pleasant addition to end the day’s sightings were three marsh harriers hunting over the reed beds.

Back in Surrey, I continued my challenge during the first weeks of January to see locally as many new species for the new year as achievable.

With a long awaited dry spell forecast as the second week approached, I was eager to continue my adventures. By January 5 the tables had begun to turn weather-wise, as the energy from a strong Atlantic Jet Stream began to stall.

High pressure ha, at last begun to take control, rising north of the UK and drawing in a north-easterly flow bring much cooler and drier weather conditions across the country.

Waxwing, East Horsley.

Waxwing sightings continued with reports on opposing outer area of Guildford, having visited and photographed the small group that had been continuing to show well in East Horsley, as mentioned in my previous report.

A larger group had also been reported in and around Haven Way, Farnham. On January 6, and in the company of birdwatching pal, Dougal, we decided to give them a visit too, having not yet added them to this year’s sightings list.

Waxwings, Haven Way, Farnham.

Here a group, of 67 birds could be viewed feeding on sorbus berries.

Temperatures began to tumble falling into single figures during our following day’s visit to Lydling Farm, Shackleford.

Fieldfare, Lydling Farm, Shackleford.

A group of 50 or more fieldfares could be viewed feeding in the fields within an even larger group of starlings.

Bullfinch (male).

Also adding a bullfinch perched up in the hedgerow, while attempting to photograph the fieldfares.

Redwing and fieldfare together, Lydling Farm.

A few redwings could also be counted.

Meadow pipit, Lydling Farm.

And a small group of meadow pipits could be seen washing in a puddle.

Linnets, Lydling Farm.

Mixed flocks of linnets and goldfinches were feeding on the stubble.

Little owl, Lydling Farm.

And the little owl could also be picked out, perched in his usual tree.

Kestrel, Lydling Farm.

While a kestrel continued to hunt over the fields.

The most surprising sighting of the day, and possibly my earliest ever addition to my yearly Lepidopteran list was a peacock butterfly.

Peacock butterfly, Lydling Farm.

Having occasionally come across one hibernating (usually in a shed or garage) in past years, this one was on the wing, even settling briefly while surrounding temperatures were little more than 5c in the shade.

Redwing feeding on ivy berries.

Locally, redwings continued to be seen feeding on ripened ivy berries, as they, as well as other wintering thrushes had, by now depleted most of the holy berries about the countryside.

Redpoll, Crooksbury Common.

While small flocks of redpolls continued to be seen at at various locations I visited.

Dartford warbler, Whitmoor Common.

On Whitmoor Common a few Dartford warblers continued to be viewed, although rarely making their contact calls.

Stonechat, Whitmoor Common.

A few stonechats could also still be observed in pairs, and often a clue to me that a Dartford warbler would be in tow of their presence.

Great spotted woodpecker, Whitmoor Common.

Great spotted woodpeckers also continued their presence about the woodland areas.

Ice on Britten’s Pond.

With night time temperatures falling below freezing, by January 10 the shallow waters at Britten’s Pond had lightly frozen overnight, relieving a thin layer of ice across most of the water.

Black-headed gulls on a lightly frozen Britten’s Pond.

Enough to hold the weight of the black-headed gulls residing there.

The ice being just a brief inconvenience to the anglers wishing to fish the waters.

Robin, Britten’s Pond.

It seemed more inconvenient for the robins, with at least one seen at most of the swims, used to having some human company to beg a few titbits from.

Treecreeper, Britten’s Pond.

A delight for me was a close encounter with a treecreeper, as it acrobatically assented a nearby tree, checking out crevices in its bark.

Kingfisher, female, Britten’s Pond.

And of course the sighting one of the resident kingfishers. A female on this occasion, recognised by its orange lower mandible.

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