The Burgh 7 April 2024

This most scenic of the group walks was favoured with an attendance of sixteen, a surprising number in view of the strong winds arising from the coat tails of Storm Kathleen. A female Yellowhammer and a charm of Goldfinches in the car park were a good start. During the walk west along the South Downs Way Skylarks were much in evidence and remained so throughout the day; the wind kept them low to the ground and the close views of them were excellent. The conditions seemed to have caused many birds to shelter in the the copse at the first junction. Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were in good voice while tits and Chaffinches were attending the feeder. A Firecrest was singing in an ivy-clad tree but could not be located but consolation came when a more cooperative Treecreeper came into view. During the descent to the valley some Linnets and more Yellowhammers appeared while raptors were represented by two Buzzards, three Red Kites and a Kestrel. A Slow Worm on the edge of the path was an unexpected treat. Large flocks of Stock Doves were seen both in the air and feeding in the fields. Two partridges were also seen that later proved to be Red-legged. At the first rest stop some mobbing crows and an alarmed Lapwing briefly pinpointed a ringtail Hen Harrier that all too soon concealed itself behind a hedgerow. At various points a total of seven Brown Hares were browsing in the meadows. The return to the car park was less productive until the final stage when a single Grey Partridge appeared in the open close to a field margin before flying off. Finally a Raven and a Swallow completed the avian count for the day bringing the total to 33.

Warnham 15 February 2024

Spring weather appearing suddenly after a dreary spell tempted sixteen members to this small but perfectly formed reserve near Horsham. There was immediately birdsong in the car park as Great and Blue Tits, Robins and Wrens celebrated the imminent change of season while atop a tall tree two Great Spotted Woodpeckers seemed to be preparing for the breeding season. From the modern hide the view across the millpond offered numerous Tufted Ducks, Mallards, Gadwall and in the distance three Pochards. On the water there were also Black-headed and Herring Gulls, Coots, Moorhens, a Great Crested Grebe, Cormorants and four Egyptian Geese making far more noise than their more numerous Canadian cousins. In the reedbeds four Reed Bunting were grazing while a Grey Wagtail perched in a nearby tree. The Bullfinch Hide was monopolised by Blue and Great Tits with a Dunnock and a Chaffinch barely getting a look in. The Woodpecker Hide initially seemed little different but things soon warmed up. A few Goldfinches came to the feeders and were joined by some Long-tailed Tits while two timorous Marsh Tits darted back and forth and a handsome cock Pheasant stalked beneath them. The walk along the boardwalk and into the woods was less productive but that seemed of little consequence as the warmth of the sun was felt. Additional sightings included Grey Herons, a Teal, a Nuthatch and a Jay. A Song Thrush on a log provided a photo opportunity. A Stock Dove and a Redwing were heard and a Toad was seen crawling across the path. Return visits to the hides were marked by a male Sparrowhawk flashing through and a single Siskin on a feeder. A pleasant morning produced a species list of 41.

Sheepleas 19 October 2023

The annual fungi walk initially looked as though it would be continuing the autumn trend of rain-reduced events. However on a very gloomy morning a two hour reprieve from the precipitation unexpectedly greeted the nine members who ventured into the woodlands. There no less than 35 species of fungus were waiting to be found though as a result of the prolonged period of wet weather their colouration was not as bright as might be expected. Old favourites such as fly algaric, turkey tail, saffrondrop bonnet and magpie inkcap were present though perhaps in reduced numbers. Other species caught the imagination for their appealing names, blushing bracket, velvet shield, burgundydrop, jelly ear, bleeding broadleaf, wrinkled crust, deceiving bolete and fiery milkcap being excellent examples. Others gave a clue to their edibility with appellations such as poison pie and funeral bell. The resumption of the rain coincided with the return to the car park where all agreed that the two-hour circular walk had been time very well spent.

Titchfield Haven 29 October 2023

Twelve soon to be bedraggled souls met in the Yacht Club car park defying the dire forecast. Despite the optimism engendered by a few all too brief dry periods the theme of the day was heavy downpour alleviated from time to time by steady rain. The plan for the day was mainly shelter in the hides starting on the west side of the river. En route the viewpoint over the head of the river revealed only a few birds the most notable being a single Common Gull among the Cormorants and Coots. Further along the road a few waders were spotted sheltering behind groynes on the shingle, three each of Redshank, Turnstone and Sanderling but the sea was empty of bird life. From the Meon Shore hide an excellent array of waterfowl and waders were in view. Sixteen Snipe were the highlight showing their elegant plumage to advantage in the gloomy light and later their skills in flight. Oystercatchers were roosting in abundance in the company of a fair few Lapwings and a handful of Redshanks. Teal too were numerous with a scattering of Mallards, Shovelers, Moorhens and just one Shelduck. The next port of call was the Spurgin hide, taking advantage of a pause in the precipitation – as did a number of songbirds including Robins, a Blue Tit and a Chiffchaff. From the hide two Cetti’s Warblers made their presence felt while a large flock of Starlings could be seen perched atop a large tree. A female-type Marsh Harrier soon appeared flushing ducks and waders over a large area on its patrol. A Grey Heron and some Canada Geese were spotted distantly but the pools in front of the hide remained deserted. The return to the car park was marked by the discovery of a young and rather cold slow worm on the path and happily coincided with the driest part of the day. Back at the beach a patch of snow marked a tightly packed flock of over forty Sanderlings. Immediately after the local Merlin streaked from the visitors’ centre across the river and perched for distant viewing. Meanwhile a male Marsh Harrier decided to put on a show, roaming over the reeds and displaying its handsome plumage with a rainbow as the backdrop. Reality soon reasserted itself as the group was then imprisoned in their cars by drenching rain with just lunch for comfort. After that the Knights Bank hide became the destination. From there there was much to see on an area much more heavily flooded than usual. Large numbers of Gadwall, Mallards and Teal circulated with a few Wigeon. The Canada Geese flocked increased while a few Egyptian Geese were also seen. The gull flock included both Lesser and Great Black-backed Gulls. The most striking sight came from perhaps a hundred Black-tailed Godwits feeding on the banks in the company of a good number of Lapwings. Both Marsh Harriers reappeared, one feeding on the meadow while the other discouraged a Common Buzzard from approaching. Sadly the three Glossy Ibis reported earlier in the day did not appear but despite the group’s travails it was accounted a successful walk with a list of 47 species.

























































































































































































































































Puttenham Common 28 September 2023

Fourteen members assembled in the Middle car park on a dull but mild day that was perfect for walking. As usual Cutt Mill was the initial target but abundant foliage severely restricted views of the pond. Four Mandarins could nevertheless be seen on the far edge while around two dozen Shovelers were scattered around. A few Mallards and two Tufted Ducks completed the count of waterfowl. A noisy Heron flew by a couple of times while five Cormorants engaged in some synchronised diving as they sought their breakfasts. Songbirds apart from tuneful Robins had been lacking to this point but en route to the first Tarn a Goldcrest was heard, the first of several encountered that all seemed determined to stay out of sight, while a Buzzard was glimpsed ahead of the group. The only new bird on the Tarn itself was a Great Crested Grebe but from the dam at the end Coots, Moorhens and an overflying Black-headed Gull boosted the list. As the group began to move on a Kingfisher was spotted but seen only by the fortunate laggards. The woods were initially quiet but judicious use of the Merlin app picked out Blue, Great and Coal Tits as well as a Wren, more Goldcrests and a Treecreeper. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was also glimpsed among the trees. After the exercise of a climb to the upper heath a pleasant surprise was the delightful song of a Woodlark that continued for some minutes but frustratingly only from a hidden perch. A Red Kite soared overhead while two Green Woodpeckers then flew across the path and a further Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard pipping. In quick succession two pairs of Stonechats were sighted among the bracken and then briefly a Dartford Warbler. That proved to be very much the cherry on the cake of an enjoyable and productive walk with 37 species identified.

Pulborough Brooks 7 September 2023

On the hottest day of the year so far fifteen members enjoyed a bird-filled walk at Pulborough Brooks. While late season warblers were thin on the ground we had some fine raptor displays and good wader sightings.

We started with a Willow Warbler at the Visitor Centre viewing platform followed by a Wren and a Stonechat with White Stork, Little Egret and Mute Swan visible on the mid-brooks. From West Mead we had close up views of a Wood Sandpiper and Lapwing while a Hobby entertained us with its aerial prowess. Buzzard and Marsh Harrier were also present. Greylag and Canada Geese were added to the list together with Grey Heron. At Winpenny Hide we saw a very distant Kestrel and had flight views of the White Stork and closer views of a juvenile/female Marsh Harrier. A Red Kite was also spotted. We moved on to the Hangar View and from there to the shade of Nettly’s where we added Teal, Mallard, Shoveler, Moorhen and Black-tailed Godwit to the list. Two Ruffs were also present as were Starlings. In the course of the morning a Chiffchaff was heard but not seen while Robins put in an appearance. Additionally Dunnocks, Jackdaws, Magpies, Wood Pigeons were seen while a Blackbird and Stock Dove became the final sightings.

Ranmore Common 13 July 2023

The weather could have been a bit kinder but at least it wasn’t raining when twelve of us met at Ranmore Common. The windy conditions weren’t ideal for butterflies but even so we managed to see eleven species including some exquisite, newly emerged, Chalkhill Blues. As usual there was a wealth of flowers ranging from Pyramidal orchids and Clustered Bellflower to Rock Rose, Rest-harrow and, rather surprisingly, a lot of Squinancywort. Last year we saw only a couple of plants of this quaintly named flower so maybe this year’s weather suits it better. The name comes from its former use as a herb for curing quinsy (a bacterial throat infection). There weren’t many birds around but we had good views of Yellowhammer and Buzzard and some caught sight of a Raven.

Bookham Common 24 June 2023

The weather was fine for our walk at Bookham Common today.  Twenty members assembled at the Tunnel Car Park in excellent conditions though the protection of the shade in the wooded parts of the Common was later much appreciated. We began well with a family of Goldcrests (at least 4) feeding next to the route towards the Plains. Wrens and Blackcaps joined in the forest fun! The open, grassy area offered us views of Gold- and Greenfinches, Chiffchaffs galore, Whitethroat, Song Thrush, and we also heard a Green Woodpecker.  Butterflies were plentiful, including Large Skippers and a Marbled White.  Once past the Plains Car park we saw lots of Common Spotted Orchids, and a little further on, everyone heard the Cuckoo. A Great Spotted Woodpecker perched in the sunshine, and a Buzzard circled over the wood. We stopped for a welcome drink near the Hundred Pound car park, then climbed up to the well-known Purple Emperor trees/clearings, where we came across plenty of photographers, some of whom had been successful in their search.  Sadly, we failed to find an Emperor, but we did encounter Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral.  Birds were a little scarce as we walked through the woods, although Nuthatch and Jay gave good views.  At the bird hide near the ponds, we saw Coots, Little Grebes and a swimming Grey Heron, but our view was somewhat hampered by the tall reeds and scrub.  The other ponds produced plenty of Canada Geese and Mallards, plus a solitary Moorhen.  We were back at the cars by 12.45, having notched up a commendable total of at least 34 bird species, and seen plenty of butterflies, dragonflies and wildflowers.

Blackheath Common 15 June 2023

The sultry evening drew a large attendance of 24 to the annual nightjar walk, this year returned to an old haunt conveniently located near Guildford. The evening began auspiciously with the clear call of a Cuckoo that persisted intermittently throughout the walk. A couple of Chiffchaffs were singing before one of them perched in view on a bare branch. Before long the hoarse rasp of a Dartford Warbler was heard and an eagle-eyed member quickly spotted its perch in the mid-distance. Behind an enthusiastic Garden Warbler was pumping out its melodic tune but although its location could be confidently identified it emulated its’ species habit of staying in impenetrable cover. A few more paces on a Willow Warbler was trilling; it too was hard to spot, giving just glimpses as it hopped though foliage. A few minutes’ wait for dusk was necessary at the Nightjar arena. In the interval what sounded like calls from a roding Woodcock were heard and then one flew right overhead before returning a short while later. Meanwhile the churring of Nightjars was starting. At first it was distant and punctuated with periods of silence but then flight calls could be heard though frustratingly the birds were keeping below the horizon. Even when the churring came closer sightings were at best fleeting but the presence of at least three birds could be confidently identified. A rewarding evening produced not only the target species but also a good quality supporting cast in a list totalling thirteen. 

RSPB Farnham Heath 21 May 2023

Twenty two members met at the Rural Life Centre. Walking out onto the reserve we soon began to hear numerous Willow Warblers and Blackcaps. We then heard a Garden Warbler and eventually a few people in the group did see the bird. The distinctive song of a male Redstart followed and after a while we tracked it down to a group of pine trees for good views.  A distant Cuckoo was heard but unfortunately not seen. Soon it was the song of a Tree Pipit and Woodlark slightly further along the heathland path that alerted us to the birds perching characteristically from bare branches and the tops of trees.  The Tree Pipit did a couple of parachuting display flights for us as we watched.  Stonechats were busy feeding their young and there were brief views of one distant Dartford Warbler.  At one point a pair of Raven flew over in the distance. Through the more wooded areas, we saw a Treecreeper and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Linnets were flying down to the path to feed at one point and we were finally able to have good views of two singing Willow Warblers.

Back at the car park we had one last look back into the reserve in an area where a Spotted Flycatcher had been seen by some other birders.  Sure enough we had some fleeting views of the said Flycatcher through the tree canopy and decided to walk back into the trees but sadly it did not re-appear.  However, we added a Greenfinch to the sightings list plus a Hobby that appeared high above the trees and a Red Kite flying past. In the course of a really pleasant walk in the spring sunshine we identified 32 species of bird. We also saw a couple of dragonflies, some Holly Blues, Small Coppers and a couple of Red Admirals.