Fringe Box



Birdwatcher’s Diary No.298

Published on: 18 Feb, 2024
Updated on: 17 Feb, 2024

By Malcolm Fincham

A mild spell of weather continued to prevail during the first weeks of February with daytime temperature remaining above 10c for the most part.

An Atlantic westerly flow brought an ample amount of showers as well as longer spells of rain to the southern counties of the UK.

Despite the weather conditions, looking back at some of the photos I had taken during the previous fortnight I found myself surprised at what I had achieved during the limited opportunities to get out and about with my camera.

A trip to Staines Reservoir on February 3, in the company of Bob and Dougal on a dry but mostly overcast afternoon, allowed a few new sightings as well as photos to my ‘this year’s’ species count.

Great northern diver, Staines Reservoir.

On the North Basin a great northern diver showed reasonably well during our time there, although the black throated diver remained too distant to photograph.

Goldeneye ducks, (drake and female), Staines Reservoir.

A few wintering goldeneye ducks could be viewed, on the South Basin, from the Causeway.

Gadwall ducks, Staines Reservoir.

Also adding a good number of gadwall out on the water.

Tufted duck, Staines Reservoir.

And tufted ducks to the day’s list.

Wigeon, Staines Reservoir.

Along the banks of the Causeway groups of wintering wigeon also gathered feeding on the grass.

Linnets on the causeway, Staines Reservoir.

While on the Causeway, a small group of linnets could be seen.

Fieldfares and redwings, Staines Reservoir.

On our return to the car, fieldfares and redwings could be seen feeding on the grassland around the outer perimeters of the reservoir.

Moving on to Staines Moor I was able to observe my first sightings of short-eared owls and add them to this year’s photos.

Short-eared owl, Staines Moor.

Viewing them from the footbridge that crosses the River Colne that dissects the boggy moor.

Short-eared owl, Staines Moor.

I also found using the handrails of the bridge to aid support of my camera and large lens assisted in my photos.

Short-eared owl, Staines Moor.

Counting at least five out hunting for small mammals as they quartered over the large expanse of moorland.

Short-eared owl, Staines Moor.

Occasionally flying quite close to view in the late afternoon daylight as they carried out their business.

Kingfisher, Staines Moor.

To my surprise, while watching the owls, a kingfisher flashed past. “Reflexes must be slowing” I mumbled out loud. Just two years ago I managed to capture one in flight there at almost the exact same spot!

Ring-necked parakeet, Staines Moor.

Ring-necked parakeets continued to be abundant about the area.

Dartford warbler, Whitmoor Common.

Locally to home on Whitmoor Common I was able to acquire several photos of Dartford warblers.

Linnet, Whitmoor Common.

A small group of linnets could be seen out on the heathland.

Goldfinch, Whitmoor Common.

Also viewing a few goldfinches during my visit.

Kingfisher, Britten’s Pond.

Just down the road at Britten’s Pond the resident kingfisher once again came within view of my camera lens as it flew past and perched up in a corner of the pond.

Mistle thrush, Britten’s Pond.

A mistle thrush perched up briefly in the willow on one of the islands, while the rattling call of its partner could be heard nearby.

Song thrush, Britten’s Pond.

A song thrush could be seen in song in one of the tall trees by the railway embankment.

A pair of mute swans in flight, Britten’s Pond.

Last autumn’s new partnership of mute swans seemed to be progressing well since the former adult female’s demise during the previous winter, the new pair spending much of their time together on the pond.

Tufted duck, Britten’s Pond.

A tufted duck made a brief and rare appearance for a few days early in the month.

Little grebe, Britten’s Pond.

While a pair of little grebes continued to winter there.

Dunnock, Britten’s Pond.

And at least four dunnocks could be seen feeding together along the footpath.

Rainbow, Britten’s Pond.

The appearance of a rainbow completed the day’s viewing.

Snowdrops, Worplesdon churchyard.

In Worplesdon churchyard at Perry Hill snowdrops had begun to flower.

Mistle thrush singing, Worplesdon churchyard.

While in one of the trees lining the graveyard a mistle thrush could be heard in song.


A few greenfinches added to my year’s photos.


While a kestrel perched up in the field just beyond the churchyard.

Blackthorn at Stoke Lake.

A visit to Stoke Lake on February 11 saw the first few sprigs of blackthorn now coming into flower by the lakeside. Their fresh white blossom always evoking my thoughts as the first signs of spring.

Great crested grebes on Stoke Lake.

On the lake a pair of great crested grebes appeared to have already begun to form a partnership.

Tufted ducks, Stoke Lake.

A small wintering raft of tufted ducks continued to be viewed on the lake.

Stonechat, Stoke Lake, Riverside Nature Reserve.

By the lakeside a pair of stonechats could be observed.

Kestrel by Stoke Lake.

While in the field at the southern end of the lake, a kestrel continued to hunt.

Red kite, Riverside Nature Reserve.

And just to the other side of the River Wey a red kite could be viewed.

Rainbow near Stoke Lake.

Once again it appeared that I had the fortune to avoid the rain as dark clouds passed by beyond the river and a distant rainbow made another appearance.

Lapwings, Tice’s Meadow.

At Tice’s Meadow, near Farnham, on February 10, more than 100 wintering lapwings could occasionally be viewed in flight on the far side of the water from Horton’s Mound.

Black-necked grebes, Tice’s Meadow.

While two wintering black-necked grebes could still be viewed out on the eastern end of the ‘workings’.

Green sandpiper, Tice’s Meadow.

Adding to this year’s sightings with a photo of one of at least three green sandpipers seen there that day.


Although not yet having had the opportunity to visit, just a little further down the road in Farnham, a group of wintering waxwings, they continued to be viewed near the library in the town centre. Now hoping to see them closer to home.

Woodlark, Crooksbury Common.

Elsewhere, at Crooksbury Common, near Farnham, I was delighted to hear and photograph my first woodlark of the year, in song.

One of the very few bright sunny days of the month so far occurred on February 12. Thus prompting our decision to enjoy a walk through Effingham Forest, near East Horsley.

In the 1860s, the Earl of Lovelace owned the land and had built some notable bridges in the woods around Horsley to assist the transport of timber by horse-cart from his forest.

One of the original 15 Lovelace bridges, of which 10 are still intact.

Of the original 15 bridges, 10 are still intact and on public view in an attractive circular route, with some lovely forest vistas.

Brambling, previously photographed at Effingham Forest.

Although not seeing any that day, bramblings can regularly be seen wintering there.

Marsh tit, Effingham Forest.

Marsh tits, however, could regularly be heard and spotted that day, allowing for some nice photo opportunities.

Hawfinch, Effingham Forest.

Hawfinches continued to be present there although mostly, as on this occasion, only distant views.

Common crossbills, Effingham Forest.

While common crossbills had made a return to the forest.

Lesser redpoll.

Along with wintering lesser redpolls.

Red admiral, Effingham Forest.

As the sun warmed the air about us, temperatures began to lift into the low teens centigrade, enough to bring out of hibernation and to photograph my first red admiral butterfly of the year.

The warming thermals were creating ideal conditions for displaying birds of prey as we watched from a viewpoint across the valley.

Common buzzard.

Immersed in their springtime rituals, firstly several common buzzards proudly displayed their new pristine 2024 plumages.


A sparrowhawk also added extra entertainment while attempting to mob the common buzzards during their displaying.

Goshawk over Effingham Forest.

The most prized view of the day for us had to be a goshawk, lingering in flight as it drifted high over the not too distant pines.

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Responses to Birdwatcher’s Diary No.298

  1. Harry Eve Reply

    February 18, 2024 at 10:15 am

    Great photos – my favourites being the Swans in flight and the Marsh Tit. I think the birds must put on a special performance for Malcolm Fincham.

  2. C Armstrong Reply

    February 18, 2024 at 10:39 am

    Love the bird watchers diary!

  3. Jan Messinger Reply

    February 18, 2024 at 1:29 pm

    The most stunning photography as always from Malcolm Fincham.

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