Fringe Box



Birdwatcher’s Diary No.305

Published on: 2 Jun, 2024
Updated on: 1 Jun, 2024

By Malcolm Fincham

Low pressure systems were never too far away from the British Isles during the later weeks of May with no sustained periods of settled weather.

They brought showers and occasional longer spells of rain across the UK.

As often, southern counties fared better than most. Temperatures remained average for the time of year and ideal for my walks about the local Surrey countryside when dry weather permitted.

Continuing my attempts of photographing sightings within the more rural parts of Guildford, and beyond, I first visited Britten’s Pond.

Carp jumping, Britten’s Pond.

Anglers had now returned to fish the waters after its brief spell of closure while the fish had been spawning. Unlike the fishermen, my quest was the challenge of catching one of those large beasties as they occasionally breached the surface.

Common tern, Britten’s Pond.

A common tern continued to make an unpredictable visit, circling over the pond and diving into the water to catch a selection of the smaller fish.

Common tern, Britten’s Pond.

Often resting a while on a small raft to digest its meal before once again disappearing out of sight.

Grey heron, Britten’s Pond.

Although the presence of the kingfisher was rarely seen during the latter weeks of the month, a grey heron was frequently viewed perched on one of the islands or seen flying over the water.

Cormorant, Britten’s Pond.

And a few cormorants continued to be regular visitors, occasionally seeing them with their wings stretched out to dry.

Tufted duck, Britten’s Pond.

A drake tufted duck also continued a rare presence, especially at this time of the year.

Common buzzard with small mammal.

A common buzzard flew over the pond carrying a small mammal in its talons as it headed back to its nest site.

Stonechat, Whitmoor Common.

On nearby Whitmoor Common stonechats appeared to be in reasonable numbers. The males looking resplendent in their plumages.

Linnet (male), Whitmoor Common..

Males linnets were noticeably in bright summer feathers of crimson foreheads and chests, and much browner females have continued to sustain their numbers in recent years.

Dartford warbler, Whitmoor Common.

While Dartford warbler also continued to be seen and heard in song.

Willow warbler, Whitmoor Common.

For the first time over the past few years, I heard and saw a willow warbler in song in a group of silver birch close to the heathland. This was once a regular summer sound there.

Common whitethroat.

Common whitethroats continued to be present, but less frequent in their calls in recent weeks.

Chiffchaff, Britten’s Pond.

Chiffchaffs had quietened in their repetitive calls, having previously seen but not heard their sounds at Britten’s Pond too.

Great tit, Whitmoor Common.

While great tits, as well as many other similar species, could be seen at their nest sites returning with food for their young.

Young great spotted woodpecker, Whitmoor Common.

Looking up into the canopy of trees adjacent to the heathland, I was also able to spot and photo a young great spotted woodpecker, still in the guidance of its parents and recognised by its shiny red head-crown.

Great spotted woodpecker, (adult male, showing red nape) Whitmoor Common.

Adult males just show red on the back of their necks.

Great spotted woodpecker. (Adult female).

While adult females show no red colouring on their heads at all.

Green woodpecker.

Also observed nearby was a green woodpecker.


While also adding a goldcrest to my day’s sightings.

On sunnier days I turned to attempting to photograph a few butterflies now starting to emerge about the local countryside.

Clandon Wood burial ground.

Green hairstreak butterfly, Clandon Wood burial ground.

At Clandon Wood burial ground green hairstreaks continued to be on the wing, as they were later that day at Sheepleas, near East Horsley.

Green hairstreak butterfly, Sheepleas.

Having reported them on Pewley Down this year is possibly a record number of sightings for me.

Green-veined white butterfly, Clandon Wood.

A few green-veined white butterflies were still on the wing at Clandon Wood.

Holly blue butterfly, Clandon Wood.

As well as several holly blues.

Small copper butterfly, Clandon Wood.

Also there I added my first small copper butterfly of this year.

Small heath butterfly.

And just my second sighting this year of a small heath butterfly.

Dingy skipper butterfly.

Dingy skippers were also now on the wing, very much living up to their name with skippers as generally not being one of the most captivating of butterflies.

Although moths could generally be thought not to be very attractive, there were a few now out on the wing that were quite appealing.

Silver-y-moth, Clandon Wood.

Photographing one of several silver-y-moths.

Burnet moth.

Several entrancing Burnet moths had begun to emerge.

Mother Shipton moth.

But most bewitching of all were several Mother Shipton moths.

Named after Mother Shipton a 16th-century enchantress, these moths are thought to resemble her face on the markings on their fore-wings.

Adult coot feeding one of its young.

At one of the small ponds a pair of coots could now be seen feeding their young.


While several swallows arrived to feed over the water.

Grizzled skipper butterfly, Sheepleas.

And at Sheepleas I was also able to add to my year’s sightings several grizzled skipper butterflies.

Common blue butterfly.

As well as my first common blue butterfly of the year.

Brimstone butterflies, a bright yellow male and the paler female.

While several brimstones could be seen now mating.

Roe deer, Sheepleas.

Also adding a roe deer to my day list.

On May 25, already encourage by a recent and rare full day of pleasant sunshine and warm temperatures, I was alerted to reports of a red-backed shrike that was visiting Thursley Common.

Red-backed shrike, Thursley Common.

With it being just the fifth one recorded there over the past decade, I decided it was worth a visit. Although some distance to view, it could be seen halfway up the aptly-named hillside locally known as ‘shrike hill’.

Woodlark, Thursley Common.

Also adding to my day-list on my rambles about the heathland were several woodlarks.

Common redstart, Thursley Common.

As well as a male common redstart, which had now paired up with a female.

Tree pipit.

Tree pipits were still present, although not singing or displaying.

And about the boardwalks various dragonflies and damselflies had begun to emerge. These included what I believe to be, and according to a Google image search and not totally reliable from my experience.

Four-spotted chaser, Thursley Common.

A four-spotted chaser?

Broad-bodied chaser.

And several broad-bodied chasers?

Hobby, Thursley Common.

These all attracting several hobbies keen on hunting them down to feed upon.

Hobby, by the River Wey at Elstead.

Elsewhere on my travels on the more clement days that prevailed during the latter days of May, I was also able to add to my photos another hobby hunting along the River Wey at Elstead.

Hobby, Crooksbury Common.

While also spotting one perched in a pine tree at Crooksbury Common.

Willow warbler, Crooksbury Common.

Also adding a singing willow warbler while there.

Spotted flycatcher.

And even my first sighting of a spotted flycatcher this year.

Common buzzard.

Also during my walks I was able to add numerous photos of common buzzards.

Red kite, Slyfield, Guildford.

And red kites still regularly visiting where construction work is going near the recycling centre at Slyfield.

Song thrush.

Also adding a song thrush.


And a few goldfinches.

Slow worm.

And my first slow worm photo of the year.


Back at home attempting a few photos of swifts over my garden.

Robin on its nest in the alcove protected by the ‘Cookie Knight’.

I was delighted to notice a robin nesting for a second successive year in my garden alcove, this year being protected by my old ‘Cookie Knight’ jar.

One of at least three baby chicks in the robins’ nest.

A moment of opportunity came my way on May 29 as I noticed both adults leave the nest-site temporarily to collect food for their young. Enough time to sneak in for a few seconds, revealing from a photo that at least three chicks were occupying the nest.

Adult robin tending to its young.

And keeping the occasional eye on the situation from a harmless distance I noted the adults, now looking rather scruffy from their hectic duties, busily continuing to attend to their young as the month came to a close.

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