Sheepleas 4 July 2024

Seventeen members attended the walk at Sheepleas, familiar for fungi events but new for butterflies. Conditions were sunny but there was wind with a cold edge that undoubtedly discouraged flight. There were reasonable numbers of Marbled Whites and Meadows Browns about but other species that should have been abundant in the flower meadows were confined with one exception to single figures. Early on came sightings of the solitary Comma and Red Admiral encountered. Later came singles of Large Skipper, Large White and Brimstone. Two Small Heaths and three Ringlets came to seem excessive. The star sighting was a dozen fritillaries flitting about at speed that obstinately refused to land in order to permit precise identification. Eventually one was spotted on the ground and after a long wait it lifted its wings to reveal the tell-tale splodges on the underwing that clinched it as a Dark-green Fritillary. The butterfly species count came to eleven, accompanied by the same number of bird species, mainly heard, that included a tuneful Garden Warbler.

Blackheath Common 27 June 2024

Twenty members attended the postponed dusk walk in conditions much improved on those of a fortnight earlier but still not ideal for Nightjar viewing. In the event there was a satisfactory chorus of churring as night encroached on the heath; most heard wing clapping and a lucky minority glimpsed one or two Nightjars silhouetted against the deepening gloom. There were also two flypasts by roding Woodcocks that some were able to enjoy.

Bookham Common 23 June 2024

Nine members joined a highly enjoyable Sunday walk.  The fun began the moment we stepped out of our cars and found family groups of Long-tailed Tits, Blue Tits, Great Tits and Wrens all around the Tunnel car park.  We could also hear plenty of Blackcaps and Nuthatches in the woods awaiting us.  The weather was excellent: blue skies with high clouds. Crossing the Plains, we saw plenty of singing warblers: Common Whitethroats, Chiffchaffs and even a Garden Warbler.  Then, our attention was drawn by the calls of gulls who were mobbing a soaring falcon in the sky to our left.  It had to be a Hobby or a Peregrine, probably the latter.  We also began to see increasing numbers of butterflies: Large Skipper, Marbled White, Meadow Brown and Comma.  Later on in the walk, we added Speckled Wood, Ringlet, White Admiral, Red Admiral and even a Purple Hairstreak to our list.  (No Purple Emperor or Silver-washed Fritillary yet but due to appear at the site soon).

We passed the Plains car park and found lots of Common Spotted Orchids alongside the path – always a delight.  A Great Spotted Woodpecker climbed high in a tree; Song Thrushes and Blackbirds sang; Jays, Magpies and Woodpigeons flew overhead.  At one spot, a Bullfinch showed very briefly.  Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Dunnock all put in appearances. Beyond the Hundred Pound Bridge car park, we appreciated the shade offered by the tall trees and enjoyed watching a low-flying Buzzard calling loudly above us.  With so much leaf cover, it now became very hard to get any clear views.  Stock Doves called frequently.  When we reached the Bird Hide, we found few waterbirds (Coot, Moorhen) on show, although there were plenty of dragonflies on the wing.  One of the larger pools had three (im)posing Grey Herons, and the ‘Isle of Wight’ pond held plenty of Mallards and Canada Geese. We returned to the cars at with a bird list showing a respectable total of 32 species.

 

Whitmoor Common 1 June 2024

Twelve of us met in the car park of the Jolly Farmer pub.  While we waited to start a Kestrel flew over with a vole in its talons.  Setting off into the first area of woodland by some houses we began to see and hear lots of Blue and Great Tits, and the beautiful song of Blackcaps rang out around us.  We had good views of a Nuthatch, possibly a youngster, perched above us on a tree branch.  A Red Kite drifted across the sky.  Further on into the woods we briefly saw a family group of Great Spotted Woodpeckers.  A Green Woodpecker could also be heard calling.

Out on the heathland we had good views of two Linnets on the path in front of us.  A Cormorant flew over in the distance as did a Grey Heron.  We had remarked about the lack of Stonechats in this habitat where they would be expected, however, then we saw one sitting on top of a small pine.  In the distance a Raven flew past.  A Willow Warbler was seen skulking in the bushes with food in its beak and a Chiffchaff sang from a tree.

Nearing the railway bridge we could hear a Garden Warbler singing but were unable to locate it for a view, and a family of Nuthatches was very active flying to and from a garden birdfeeder.  A Buzzard circled high up above us.  We took a path through another area of heathland where we heard a Dartford Warbler. Unfortunately for us, the birds were keeping out of view in the heather.  Long-tailed Tits were observed in a group of birch trees and a Coal Tit sang.  We took the path back and returned towards the pond.  On the way movement alerted us to something which turned out to be a Treecreeper which unusually perched perfectly still halfway up a tree for an extended period of time so we all could see it.  The pond itself was very quiet, with no bird life in evidence save for a Moorhen calling.  Throughout the morning we frequently heard Goldcrests but none were seen.

By the time we returned to the car park we had managed a list of thirty two species in all (including those heard) which made for a very interesting morning with many fledgling birds in evidence.

Newlands Corner 23 May 2024

With no rain forecast eleven of us assembled under cloudy skies at Newlands Corner car park. Our first stop at the view to the south gave us several Whitethroat, a Buzzard and the sounds of Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Chaffinch; then came our first glimpses of Swifts, Swallows and a couple of House Martins. The ever-present Skylarks were singing above the cereal field on our descent to the farm.  Around the farm buildings were two Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a Dunnock, while perched along the telegraph poles were House Sparrow, Whitethroat and Goldfinch with young while House Martins & Swallows flitted above. Ascending the bridle path, we heard our first Goldcrest in pines on the left and saw a flighty flock of a dozen or more Stock Doves briefly on the ground opposite. Two Linnets were obligingly perched on fencing to our right, another ascending Skylark, then a flock of busy Starlings, a Red Kite and more hirundines overhead. Crossing White Lane and on up the sandy rise of St Martha’s Hill, we heard Blackcap, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff and then our first singing Firecrest. No clear sight of it but the pause afforded a view of recently fledged Wrens being fed by a parent. Then we enjoyed an eye-level encounter with a soaring Buzzard at the top of the hill and a pit stop in the churchyard of St Martha’s, accompanied by a Yehudi Menuhin School violinist playing inside. On our descent from the church through Rhododendrons, a Nuthatch purported to be a Treecreeper. Then several Goldcrests were heard territorially singing in the large conifers.  Another singing Firecrest could be heard at the corner of White Lane while a Crow was seen angrily mobbing a Sparrowhawk.

Ascending again next to beautifully laid Hawthorn hedge, keen eyes spotted a Painted Lady butterfly in the scrubby field. An elusive Green Woodpecker was heard and another Buzzard soared above the millionaires’ houses. Back out onto the slope below Newlands Corner an extremely well-camouflaged Dingy Skipper was spotted and then then a Six Spot Burnet moth and a possible Small Heath butterfly in the now warm sunshine. In the woods amongst the ancient Yews and Oaks we made a final attempt to spot Bullfinch, Hawfinch or Marsh Tit, but not today. Clear views of another Sparrowhawk overhead then a final stop on the Yew Tree Project boardwalk for some “forest bathing”.  A Green-Veined White butterfly was spotted on route back up to the car park. It was very pleasant walk in beautiful surroundings. Total number of bird species seen or heard was 36.

Thursley Common 17 May 2024

Twelve members met on an overcast morning with heavy rain forecast. The first part our walk produced only a few birds: Mallards and (unusually) a Mute Swan on the Moat, a Whitethroat at the beginning of the boardwalk, and the first of several Stonechats. Pudmore Ponds had a Tufted Duck, an Egyptian Goose and several Canada Geese. The area around Shrike Hill became more interesting with a Tree Pipit performing parachute display flights. Our walk south from the dragonfly sculpture allowed us to see two Dartford Warblers, brief glimpses of two Woodlarks and a good view of a Great Spotted Woodpecker perched on a bare tree. At the far end of that path were singing Willow Warblers. The only raptor seen during the morning was a Kestrel. Until this point, Redstarts had proved elusive but we then found two singing in trees alongside Parish Field. Unfortunately, they stayed high within the tree and we could not get a good view. A Blackcap sang nearby. At that point the rain began and brought proceedings to a close. Total species identified came to 29

RSPB Otmoor 9 May 2024

The trip to Otmoor was blessed with glorious weather. Four species of warbler were seen before we left the car park including a Cetti’s which showed itself. Then it was off towards the reserve proper. To the left of the path out of the car park are The Closes. There no sooner than we had looked through a gap in hedgerow at a spot where Cranes are often seen than we heard one bugle and then fly over. The only Garden Warbler of the day was heard near the car park. Approaching Greenways we heard a female Cuckoo which was of the brown (hepatic) form. We saw and heard a great many Cuckoos throughout the day and they became most people’s star bird. Two Cranes had landed on Greenways but were out of sight sight but a little scanning revealed one very distantly and eventually the second walked into view. Around this time the first Hobby was spotted – at one point at least three were in view simultaneously. We took the path to the hide accompanied by Cetti’s, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Sedge and Reed Warblers, Cuckoos and Hobbies. Redshank and Snipe were spotted from the hide while Linnets and a Yellowhammer were seen on the adjacent path. After lunch a scan of Big Otmoor produced more of the same fare plus Oystercatchers and a variety of wildfowl including a Barnacle Goose (presumably feral) and two hybrids that looked to be a mix of Ross’s and Barnacle and had apparently been present last year. The walk to the two screens was enjoyable but produced largely more of the same. Plenty of Cuckoos were chasing each other and a distant Bittern was heard booming. From the final screen there were two Common Terns, a Great-crested Grebe, Pochard and numerous Black-headed Gulls. The species list for the day was no less then 62.

Pulborough Brooks 4 May 2024

A still, sunny morning tempted 29 members to enjoy ideal conditions for the walk. The car park was awash with song as though the dawn chorus had continued for four hours without a break. Notable among the Robins, Wrens and Song Thrush were two Garden Warblers demonstrating their contralto sound. The light from the viewpoint beside the Visitor Centre was glorious. A dozen Mute Swans were dotted around the brooks; a distant group consisted of three Little Egrets, a Grey Heron and a Great White Egret while a Buzzard and a Red Kite drifted high accompanied by a glider. A Whitethroat provided a harsh soundtrack. A short distance along the track came the fluting sound of the day’s first Nightingale followed immediately by another at the top of the zigzag path. Towards Fattengates Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and a wheezy Greenfinch could be heard. For once the courtyard itself was quiet, quiet enough for a far-off Cuckoo to be heard. On the approach to West Mead a perched Nightingale was spotted in the open and most enjoyed good telescope views of it. A scan of the horizon near the hide disclosed a very distant White-tailed Eagle being mobbed by various corvids. From the hide itself the main sightings were of an avocet sitting on a nest and a Lapwing chick among numerous adults. Waterfowl were represented by a handful of Mallards, Shovelers and Tufted Duck plus many Canada Geese, one with goslings, while high above two Hobbies intermittently soared about. Bypassing Wimpenny the path allowed just a single glimpse of an Adder and no new birds until near the Little Hanger a Sedge Warbler sang vigorously and eventually performed its song flight. Time at the Hanger viewpoint proved well spent. Whitethroats were in good voice and regularly showing themselves. A handsome male Linnet displayed his pink finery. Four Avocets landed on the North Brooks while a few Swallows hawked over the water. A Lesser Whitethroat rattled away for a few minutes and finally a Hobby flew in and perched for telescope viewing. The return up the zigzag path was notable for calls by two distant Cuckoos and song from a previously silent Nightingale, the sixth of the morning. A delightful walk finished with a tally of 49 species.

Tices Meadow 28 April 2024

A temperature of 6C and heavy overnight rain that was only just beginning to clear limited attendance at the morning walk to nine. The Aldershot Park car park offered Magpies, Starlings and Black-headed Gulls in flight as well as an Egyptian Goose incongruously perched on the playground swing. By the river a Blackcap allowed a difficult view while several of its confreres sang sweetly but invisibly, accompanied by noisy Wrens. Chiffchaffs, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes soon joined the chorus and two Bullfinches were spotted flying overhead. Efforts were made to find a rattling Cetti’s Warbler with the usual result while a Great-spotted Woodpecker flew from its perch. In the sky several Swifts swooped around while on the reserve proper a Reed Warbler was singing in the reeds. The Mound provided welcome shelter from the cold wind as well as excellent viewing of the numerous hirundines hawking over the water. They were mainly Sand Martins, perhaps 150 in number, with a scattering of House Martins and a couple of Swallows among them. Four raptor species put in an appearance, two Buzzards, a Red Kite and distantly a Sparrowhawk and a Kestrel. On and around the water were two Common Terns, a Great-crested Grebe, Tufted Ducks and Mallards (the only representatives of the duck community) and Coots, one of which was sitting on a nest barely above the water. Nearby a Whitethroat rasped its song while further away a Reed Bunting similarly showed its lack of harmony. The paths to the west of the reserve produced wheezy Greenfinches, a Stock Dove, Great Tits and a Stonechat. The bird of the day was the final species identified when the perch of a Garden Warbler was located and viewed by everyone. Given the conditions a species list of fifty was excellent.

Farnham Heath 20 April 2024

A sunny spring morning saw eighteen people assembling in the car park of The Rural Life Centre.  A Red Kite flew over in the distance and Goldfinches were active and vocal in the nearby trees while we waited.  A Stock Dove was visible in the sun with iridescent red and green neck plumage shown off in the sun.  As we set off onto the RSPB reserve there was immediately a lot of activity around the feeding station amongst the pine trees with Blue Tits, Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Nuthatches and Robins taking advantage of the seed available.  We began to hear Willow Warbler and also a Redstart singing, and eventually we all had good views of both birds.  The Redstart looked particularly splendid in his smart plumage, singing from the vantage point of a dead branch amidst the pine trees.

Following the path round a Garden Warbler could be heard but efforts to see it were unsuccessful.  A little further on the first Stonechats of the walk appeared distinctively perched on top of the vegetation.  The sound of Woodlarks could be heard as we walked but they were keeping out of sight.  We stopped to get some closer views of another Willow Warbler which eventually perched in the open for us to admire it.  The heathland at first sight appeared to be very quiet, however, there were some Linnets in gorse bushes, and after some time scanning we had fleeting views of a couple of Dartford Warblers and more Stonechats.  A pair of Buzzards soared high in the sky being mobbed by a Crow.

We had arrived at an area of the reserve that often contains Tree Pipits and were just remarking on that when one landed at the top of a pine tree and proceeded to ‘parachute’ down whilst singing.  We all had good views of this bird as it stayed for quite a while in the same position.  Woodlark and Tree Pipit then began singing as we walked on, and an identification challenge ensued to sort out which was which as we watched them.

Returning to our starting point for the walk we picked up a few more for the list at the feeders:  Greenfinch, Dunnock and a surprise Lesser Redpoll.  We had managed a respectable list of 31 species in all for the morning.