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Birdwatcher’s Diary No.33

Published on: 14 Apr, 2013
Updated on: 14 Apr, 2013

By Malcolm Fincham

The first week of April continued with a cool theme to the weather with still no sign of any summer migrants locally and almost certainly just as well for their own sake.

I find it quite incredible in fact on occasions like these, when such adverse weather occurs, how nature seems to adapt and how the birds seem to instinctively know what the weather is like here in the UK. Without  their main food supply,  insects, they just would not survive.

Fieldfare still is residence.

Fieldfare still is residence.

With daytime temperatures still in single figures for most of the week, it was most unusual to me to still see so many redwings and fieldfares locally, with as many 20 tufted duck still on Stoke lake and more than 30 teal still residing on the flooded field by Stoke lock.

Green sandpiper, one of three on the flooded area by Stoke Lock.

Green sandpiper, one of three on the flooded area by Stoke Lock.

Also on the same flooded field during the week, I counted as many as three green sandpipers on several evenings stopping off to feed on their journey back to their sub-Arctic breeding grounds.

Woodlark on Thursley Common.

Woodlark on Thursley Common.

On Sunday, April 7, I made a last-ditch attempt of trying to see the great grey shrike at Thursley Common and maybe get to see a summer migrants of some kind. However, I was unlucky on both counts. Although the shrike had been seen on several dates recently, he once again managed to elude me. It didn’t turn out to be such an uneventful day as on my walk I met up with a guy new to bird watching. And while walking a short way, we found him a pair of woodlark – a bird he had not seen before.

Skylark.

Skylark.

Shortly after, by chance, we spotted a skylark, which gave a good opportunity to compare their difference. Although I managed to get what I feel are some good pictures of the woodlark, Ii wasn’t so fortunate with the skylark, so have added one I previously took, for comparison.

A mute swan on its nest.

A mute swan on its nest.

Some of our resident species of birds have been active despite the below seasonal temperatures, with some blackbirds actively nest building and even a few reports of some brooding. This certainly seems to be the case with some local swans.

Mistle Thrush posing.

Mistle Thrush posing.

Mistle thrushes have been noticeably active during the past week or so with song thrushes and robins beautifully vocal on our sunnier days.

Song thrush.

Song thrush.

Robin singing.

Robin singing.

Grey wagtail.

Grey wagtail.

By our local streams and rivers there have been grey wagtails (not to be confused with the yellow wagtail, a summer migrant) pairing up and looking for nest sites.

At long last a swallow by Stoke Lake.

At long last a swallow by Stoke Lake.

It wasn’t until Thursday, April 11, that I had my first summer migrant sighting in Guildford. I believe the saying goes ‘one swallow doesn’t make a summer’ but I must say the one I saw that evening, while walking along the towpath by Stoke Lock, was a welcome sight  – with a hope of warmer days to come.

Just warm enough for a bat to put in a display by Bowers Lock.

Just warm enough for a bat to put in a display by Bowers Lock.

Also that same evening, as I continued my walk along the towpath, it was rather pleasing to see my first bat of the year out of hibernation, and to get a picture of it as it hunted up and down the river was a real bonus for me. Not being too knowledgeable on ‘makes and models’ of these critters. I would welcome a response from any of you experts out there.

Cormorant hanging its wings out to dry.

Cormorant hanging its wings out to dry.

With the evenings now drawing out, I was able to get as far as Bowers Lock well before dusk and managed to get a few pictures of a cormorant high in a tree, drying its wings in the evening sun.

Barn owl cotinues to make an appearance.

Barn owl cotinues to make an appearance.

A barn owl was also in view, perched in a tree across the field. And to complete a pleasant evening, I was even able to get a shot of a little egret as it flew gracefully by.

Little egret.

Little egret.

The following night I unfortunately only had enough time to make a trip as far Stoke Lock cottage, but was pleased I made the effort as there were by then five swallows hunting flying insects around the sewage filter beds just beyond the cottage. I even managed a few more pictures.

Swallows feeding over Stoke Lock cottage.

Swallows feeding over Stoke Lock cottage.

With the weather forecast looking good for the the week ahead, with warm southerly winds aiding the arrival of summer migrants, I would highly recommend you getting out and looking for some.

This is something I will most certainly be doing in the next few days and hope to have my next report with more up-to-date pictures soon.

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test 5 Responses to Birdwatcher’s Diary No.33

  1. Peter Smith Reply

    April 20, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    I had the pleasure of meeting Malcolm Fincham at Thursley Common the other week.

    Having just read his latest article I would like to thank him for mentioning me and for finding me a pair of woodlarks!

    I enjoy your articles and would encourage him to keep it up. I hope to meet him again soon.

  2. Debbie Hogan Reply

    April 23, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    As always find Malcolm an enthusiastic and knowledgeable bird watcher. There is the opportunity to join a Dawn Chorus Day this SUNDAY 28th 5am meeting at Park Barn Youth Club (community centre) see the link by The Surrey Green space project http://www.surreygreenspaceproject.co.uk

  3. Norn Smith Reply

    April 24, 2013 at 12:54 am

    First Wheatear today spotted in Wood Street. Plus hedgehogs mating!

    • Martin Giles Reply

      April 24, 2013 at 11:30 am

      Point of information – ‘The name “wheatear” is not derived from “wheat” or any sense of “ear”, but is a 16th-century linguistic corruption of “white” and “arse”, referring to the prominent white rump found in most species.’ Source Wikipedia. I was told, only the other day, that this was a Victorian inspired change to make the name more respectable.

      It is good to see that, in the light of reports of falling hedgehog numbers, local hedgehogs are taking their duty to continue the species seriously.

  4. Malcolm Fincham Reply

    April 25, 2013 at 12:23 am

    Thank you to Norn Smith for his astute observation on spotting a wheatear in Wood Street and your update on events in the hedgehog community. I hope they are not keeping you awake as they can be quite noisy!

    Also top marks to editor Martin Giles for wheatear facts. I was tempted to mention the origin of the word with a picture I happen to be including in my next report, but was fearful it might get censored! [We just aim to tell the truth on The Dragon however shocking!:)]

    Also a thank you to Debbie for the link on Sunday’s event.

    Although I can’t be sure to make it, some of my other readers may like to take up the challenge of an early start and partake in what sounds a great event.

    Last but not least, thank you Peter for taking time to find this website and hope you continue to find it interesting.

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