Fringe Box

Socialize

Twitter

Birdwatcher’s Diary No.99

Published on: 19 Dec, 2015
Updated on: 19 Dec, 2015

By Malcolm Fincham

Despite some exceptionally mild weather in the southern counties of the UK during the first few weeks of December, leaden skies and poor light continued to hamper my photography.

The unseasonably warm weather however did add to a few surprises that came my way.

Black swan with young cygnets.

Black swan with young cygnets. Click on pictures to enlarge in a new window.

On a private lake in Shamley Green a pair of black swans could be seen with four quite recently hatched cygnets.

Black swans with young cygnets..

Black swans with young cygnets..

Perhaps confused, being a non-indigenous species here from Australia (and originally New Zealand) where it would now be summer. Although this I think unlikely as they have had one brood this year already.

Locally, I decided to spend several afternoons during the past few weeks in an area I have not much visited since my youth (many moons ago) – that being Rydes Hill Common.

I was surprised at how much the landscape has changed since then, with the oaks now much larger and bramble now replacing what was in those days nearly all bracken. The footpaths had changed in directions too, with one particular path leading me out into fields that were once private.

Healthy collection of house sparrows.

Healthy collection of house sparrows.

House sparrows seemed to be in healthy numbers in the hedgerows surrounding the fields.

Meadow pipits on wires over fields around Rydes Hill.

Meadow pipits on wires over fields around Rydes Hill.

While meadow pipits, when disturbed from feeding in the long grass could be seen in numbers of 30 or more watching out from overhead cables.

nuthatch seen recently on a feeder.

Nuthatch seen recently on a feeder.

In a mature oak I managed to pick out a nuthatch through my binoculars.

Ring necked parakeet.

Ring necked parakeet.

Locally roosting ring-necked parakeets could be heard nearby,

Ring-necked parakeets fly over.

Ring-necked parakeets fly over.

While four could be seen flying overhead as the afternoon light began to fade.

Fieldfare on Rydes Hill Common.

Fieldfare on Rydes Hill Common.

Having not seen as many fieldfares so far this winter, I was pleased to pick one out and photograph it.

Redwing, would perhaps be better named red underwing.

Redwing, would perhaps be better named red underwing.

Another winter visitor from Scandinavia, the redwing, could also be seen feeding on berries from the mature hawthorn hedgerows.

Goldcrest.

Goldcrest.

Mixed flocks of small birds made up mainly of long-tailed tits, blue tits and a few goldcrests also stuck close to the hedgerows.

My best sighting in the area was one I have rarely managed to get a photo of. This was on December 6 as I started to make my way home across Rydes Hill Common.

With what light there was that day starting to fade, I heard the zit-zit-zit call of a firecrest (similar to that of a goldcrest) near to the entrance of Holly Farm.

Firecrest on Rydes Hill Common. December 6.

Firecrest on Rydes Hill Common.

Returning to the same area on several occasions since, it wasn’t until the following weekend that it made another appearance, giving me the chance of a few more pictures in slightly better light.

Firecrest.

Firecrest.

Still making the most of the mild weather, it was happily feeding on the insects, in and around the holly and ivy bushes.

The firecrest is a similar size to the goldcrest, being the smallest UK bird.

OK I must confess –my obsession to capture photos of short-eared owls, has overtaken me in the last few weeks. Promising my long-suffering wife that it would be my last attempt (for a while) to venture down to Farlington to attempt to take some more pictures of the ones that have continued to be reported there, she kindly conceded to my wishes.

Being such a photogenic species, and a such a pleasure to watch, and with such a notable influx of ‘Shorties’ into the UK in the past few months, has certainly added to my enthusiasm to view them.

With as many as four showing recently at Farlington Marshes.

Seeing a Short-eared owl is a memorable sight. Look to the lower left!

Seeing a Short-eared owl is a memorable sight. Look to the lower left!

As with all wildlife however, they are not always as obliging or as guaranteed to see or easy to predict. And having met up with several guys who had been there since first light with the same ambitions as I, but with little success.

The afternoon proved to be a better time on this occasion. By 2.30pm two could be seen flying some distance away.

Short-eared owl takes a short rest at Farlington.

Short-eared owl takes a short rest at Farlington.

Soon after a third came out of its roost in the long grass and started to quarter the field just a short way off.

Feeling so fortunate to have managed to get such pleasing photos, I end this report with a montage of what I feel are some of my best pictures, adding a few fascinating facts in the captions.

The short-eared owl is quite different from all other owl species.

The short-eared owl is quite different from all other owl species.

The short-eared owl is a medium-sized owl typically seen flying low over open marshes or fields.

The short-eared owl is a medium-sized owl typically seen flying low over open marshes or fields.

The loss of inland marshes, meadows and coastal wetlands to human development has contributed to the decline of this species.

The loss of inland marshes, meadows and coastal wetlands to human development has contributed to the decline of this species.

Short-eared owls prefer to be out in the open.

Short-eared owls prefer to be out in the open.

Short-eared owls are somewhat nomadic, often moving to areas with high rodent populations to settle and breed.

Short-eared owls are somewhat nomadic, often moving to areas with high rodent populations to settle and breed.

Short-eared owls are light to dark brown, about the size of a crow, a distinguished by their small ear tufts.

Short-eared owls are light to dark brown, about the size of a crow, and distinguished by their small ear tufts.

When hunting for prey, short-eared owls circle and glide close to the ground.

When hunting for prey, short-eared owls circle and glide close to the ground.

Short-eared owls usually roost on low perches or on the ground.

Short-eared owls usually roost on low perches or on the ground.

Short-eared owl at Farlington, certainly popular with the local paparazzi.

Short-eared owl at Farlington, certainly popular with the local paparazzi.

A rather angelic pose.

A rather angelic pose.

In contrast with many other owls, short-eared owls begin foraging during daylight or early evening.

In contrast with many other owls, short-eared owls begin foraging during daylight or early evening.

A group of owls has many collective nouns, including a bazaar, glaring, parliament, stooping, and wisdom of owls.

A group of owls has many collective nouns, including a bazaar, glaring, parliament, stooping, and wisdom of owls.

The short-eared owl is found on every continent except Australia. Its population is declining throughout most of its range.

The short-eared owl is found on every continent except Australia. Its population is declining throughout most of its range.

Share This Post

Responses to Birdwatcher’s Diary No.99

  1. Janice Sartori Reply

    December 21, 2015 at 11:19 am

    Thank you for these wonderful photos, they give me great joy.

    Happy Christmas to all involved.

  2. Godalming Birds Reply

    December 21, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    Really enjoy reading this blog, good work.

    Is the lake that holds the black swans viewable from a road/public footpath?

  3. Debbie Roberts Reply

    December 24, 2015 at 7:46 am

    Malcolm, have you seen the beautiful bottle green ducks on Wood Street pond?

    And were you my English teacher at Merrow Grange school in the 1970s?

  4. Malcolm Fincham Reply

    December 24, 2015 at 11:13 pm

    I would like to thank all those that have followed my reports over the past year, especially those who have made such kind comments, in what has become an ever-growing audience.

    Although not being able to answer all the questions asked, in response to previous comment, although I did attend St Peter’s and Merrow Grange School (sometimes) back in the 1970s, it was my elder brother who was an English teacher there.

    Wishing a very merry Christmas to all and hope to be back soon with another report.

  5. Simon Vine Reply

    December 25, 2015 at 5:40 pm

    Malcolm,
    Good to see the references to Rydes Hill Common. I remember those days very well. Reckon that is where the interest in birdwatching all started?

  6. Malcolm Fincham Reply

    December 28, 2015 at 10:58 pm

    Nice one Simon, thanks for adding to the memories.

    I still recall you recognising the sound of a nightingale back in mid-1970s, on what we all used to call the second common (between Aldershot Road and Broad Street).

    A bird I have not heard there since, alas. The sound of one however, still takes me back to such times.

  7. Gordon Bridger Reply

    December 31, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    I had not realised until today that this amazing collection of bird photos existed on The Guildford Dragon NEWS – well done and thanks.

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *