Fringe Box



Birdwatcher’s Diary No.299

Published on: 2 Mar, 2024
Updated on: 2 Mar, 2024

By Malcolm Fincham

Low pressure systems continued to dominate the weather during the latter weeks of February, bringing showers as well as longer spells of rain.

Wind directions had turned to north-westerlies for a time as the last week of the month approached bringing daytime temperatures down into single figures for the most part.

Continuing my ventures into the final weeks of February once again in the company of Bob and Dougal, on February 17 on a dry but overcast afternoon we decided to revisit Effingham Forest near East Horsley.

Honeysuckle Bottom, East Horsley. Click on pictures for an enlarged version in a new window on your browser.

This time in the area of Honeysuckle Bottom walking the track that leads up to the Sheepwalk.

Along the trail and among the mosses growing beside the track, scarlet elf cups could be viewed growing on the decaying debris.

Scarlet elf cup fungi, Honeysuckle Bottom.

These are fungi that grow during the cooler months of winter and early spring in damp, deciduous woods with plenty of fallen wood on which they grow.

It’s believed that the elves of the wood visit these cups in the morning and drink the dew from them, but it was too late in the day for us to gain any proof!

Marsh tit.

The sound of marsh tits were more to our interest, and several could be heard calling, as well as seen, as we walked the lane.

Raven, Honeysuckle Bottom.

Further up the lane a raven could picked out from a clearing, perched up in one of the tall trees across a field.

Our target species of the day we eventually located near Sheepwalk Cottage. Although having seen wintering bramblings about the forest on numerous occasions in the past, we had been hard pushed to see any since the new year.

Brambling, Honeysuckle Bottom.

Therefore, it was a nice bonus to see a flock of 20 or so feeding within a small area, and to get my first photos of them for 2024.

Chaffinch, Honeysuckle Bottom.

While alongside them several chaffinches could be viewed.

As seen and written about in my recent reports, wintering flocks of Bohemian waxwings continued to be viewed at several locations in Surrey for the first time in over a decade.

Waxwing, Upper Hart Car Park, Farnham.

Although I has still not seen any within the Guildford borough area, it seemed unkind not show some respect to them and revisit the ones still present in Farnham.

By now they had moved on from the previous area where we had sighted them and were now being reported by the Upper Hart Car Park near the Waitrose supermarket in the town centre.

Waxwing feeding on mistletoe berries, Upper Hart Car Park, Farnham.

Having now depleted most of the rowan berries (as had many of wintering thrushes), many of the visiting waxwings had now taken to feeding on mistletoe berries.

On our arrival, although seeing plenty of mistletoe in the surrounding trees, we were at first unable to sight the birds, or even anybody else about the area already observing.

Waxwing, Upper Hart Car Park, Farnham.

Eventually we found a small group of cotoneaster shrubs full of berries near the car park with plenty of waxwings present and gorging on the fruits.

We appeared to be the first to have re-found them, although it wasn’t long before a small group of fellow birdwatchers had gathered alongside us to be entertained by the waxwings’ presence.

For the most part during the remaining weeks of the month I remained local to home with weather conditions as they were.

I concentrated on areas either within a short distance of my car, or I sheltered in areas where there was substantial cover of evergreen trees for both myself and my camera equipment to escape from the inevitable showers of rain.

Willow tree coming into leaf, Britten’s Pond.

At Britten’s Pond a few noted signs of spring were beginning to show, including the willow trees on the islands that were already showing signs of breaking into leaf.

Egyptian geese, Britten’s Pond.

A pair of Egyptian geese made several appearances on the pond for the first time this year.

Little grebes, Britten’s Pond. The one on the right coming into its breeding plumage.

While one of the two little grebes was already coming into its breeding plumage.

Canada and greylag geese in flight, Britten’s Pond.

A few Canada geese had newly arrived on the pond. One of them was seen chasing one of the pair of resident greylag geese across the water.

Rook (right) with jackdaw in the field behind Britten’s Pond.

In the tall trees to the rear of the pond a few rooks had reclaimed their nests from previous years, and could often be seen feeding alongside jackdaws in the field beyond.

Long-tailed tits nest building.

While a pair of long tailed tits could already be found busily nest building.

Nuthatch at Britten’s Pond.

Also around the pond nuthatches could be seen and heard calling.

Great spotted woodpecker.

A great spotted woodpecker could be heard drumming in the woodland to the rear of the pond.


And a goldcrest could be viewed, close by, singing in a holly bush.

Dunnock in song at Britten’s Pond.

While several dunnocks showed well on and about the footpath, with some also singing.

Red kite, Britten’s Pond.

Other regular sightings on the sunnier days were red kites.

Common buzzard, Britten’s Pond.

As well as a pair of common buzzards.

Tufted duck, Britten’s Pond.

A tufted duck, possibly the same one as seen earlier in the month, made a reappearance during the several days I visited.

Black-headed gull now gaining summer plumage, with one behind still showing winter colours, at Britten’s Pond.

A few of the black-headed gulls had begun to gain their summer plumages with their chocolate-brown heads now showing.

Lesser black-backed gull, Britten’s Pond.

And regular recent sightings of a pair of lesser black-backed gulls continued.

Kingfisher in flight, Britten’s Pond.

A kingfisher continued to grace the pond with an occasional appearance although an in-flight shot was the best I could achieve.

Mute swans on the island at Britten’s Pond.

While the pair of mute swans had already begun their nest building on one of the islands.

Primrose in flower at Worplesdon churchyard.

At St Mary’s churchyard, Perry Hill, Worplesdon, a few primroses had begun to break into flower alongside the snowdrops and daffodils still in bloom.

The only notable bird sightings and photos I managed to achieve on my visits there were….

Mistle thrush, Worplesdon churchyard.

A mistle thrush still heard in song from visits earlier in the month.

Song thrush in song, Worplesdon churchyard.

While a song thrush could now be seen and photographed in song in another corner of the churchyard.

Lesser redpoll, Worplesdon churchyard.

A lone lesser redpoll could also be picked out as it briefly perched up.

Kestrel, Worplesdon churchyard.

And a kestrel could be viewed perched in a conifer as it viewed out into one of the fields beyond.


While treecreepers and nuthatches could be heard.

Blue tit on the wall of St Mary’s Church.

Adding to my unusual sightings on my visit were two common birds, one a blue tit perched on the wall at the front of the church.

Wren on the wall of St Mary’s Church.

While at the other end, a wren could be seen perched to the rear of the building. Both seemingly in want of having their photos taken.

Firecrest, Worplesdon churchyard.

At most places visited during the last weeks of the month firecrests could be heard singing, now appearing to be outnumbering locally their cousins, the goldcrest.

Fieldfares. These ones seen feeding on grassland at Lydling Farm, Shackleford.

Elsewhere around the local Surrey countryside wintering thrushes continued to be observed, with groups of fieldfares seen now feeding out in fields.

Redwing, feeding on ivy berries.

With redwings often seen alongside them.


A sparrowhawk was never too far away either. Often seen flashing past me, in hope of a vulnerable victim.

While on local heathlands Dartford warblers appeared to have survived what has been, so far, another mild winter.

Dartford warbler, Crooksbury Common.

And with February almost out of the way, and spring within sight, these insectivores had plenty to look forward to for another year’s survival in the southern-most counties of the UK.

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Responses to Birdwatcher’s Diary No.299

  1. Steve Simnett Reply

    March 3, 2024 at 10:58 am

    I love the long-tailed tits nesting.

    Well done Malcolm.

  2. Ellen Portess Reply

    March 14, 2024 at 9:52 pm

    I love reading your diary about which wildlife you have seen. Thank you.

    Editor’s response: Please do also see the Wild Surrey column by Harry Eve.

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