After recent turbulent weather and an overnight downpour a bright morning and surprisingly good underfoot conditions greeted the five members who gathered at Heather Farm. The first stop overlooking the pig farm produced a Grey Heron and six Egyptian Geese. On the fence were both a Grey and a Pied Wagtail while Carrion Crows, Magpies and Woodpigeons flew around the treetops. From there birds were initially few with just the calls of Robins, glimpses of Goldfinches, a nicely perched Wren and a flypast of several Canada Geese providing interest. Towards the bridge to the Island activity increased. Three Song Thrushes showed devotion to one bush as they devoured sloes. Blue Tits and Long-tailed Tits were gleaning in the trees while a couple of Chaffinches muttered out of sight and a Great Spotted Woodpecker perched atop a tree. Just over the bridge was a big flock of Black-headed Gulls, perhaps 150, with a few Common Gulls among them. Twenty five Lapwings were also present. The next port of call was the western end of the heath but the visit yielded just a few calls from an invisible Dartford Warbler and a passing Green Woodpecker. McLarens meadow was more productive. There six Redwings and a single Skylark settled into the grass where they were soon joined by two Meadow Pipits. A Stock Dove also flew around. Then it was back to the heath where the main point of interest was a pair of Roe Deer. Near the members’ car park the absence of raptors was rectified by a gliding Common Buzzard and two dashing falcons, a Peregrine and a Kestrel. The woodlands delivered some final treats, the buzzing call of a Treecreeper, a bouncy Goldcrest and the repeated call of a nearby Tawny Owl. Back at Heather Farm the final additions to the morning’s tally were a Nuthatch, a Coot and Cormorant. An enjoyable walk in unexpectedly fine weather concluded with a sightings list of 43.
Four hardy souls joined a damp walk around Horsell Common (more accurately water meadows). Luckily the worst of the rain held off, with just intermittent drizzle.
The wetland area was quiet, with only Canada Geese, a couple of Cormorants and a single Moorhen. The meadows each side of the Bourne were semi-flooded, with large flocks of Black-Headed Gulls, more Canada Geese, a pair of Egyptian Geese, a pair of Mute Swans and Mallards on the water. There were also plenty of Jackdaws, Carrion Crows and Magpies in the fields, along with numerous Wood Pigeons and a few Starlings. A nice surprise was an active feeding flock of around 20 Pied Wagtails. The hedgerows held a number of Robins, Wrens, Blue Tits, Great Tits in good voice, and a flock of Long-tailed Tits. Thrushes were represented by a nice flock of Redwings, a single Fieldfare high in a tree, and a Song Thrush heard but not seen.
Due to the damp, blustery conditions and the amount of standing water, the open heathland was omitted from the itinerary in favour of the mixed woodland and adjacent grazing. Several more Redwings were active in the trees, and a flock was foraging in the horse fields, accompanied by a briefly seen Mistle Thrush. A Blackbird and Jay added to the thrush and corvid count and there were more mixed groups of tits including a single Coal Tit, accompanied by a Goldcrest. A Red Kite over the car park completed a quiet but pleasant walk and a species count of 28.
Thirteen members gathered at the Heather Farm Centre on a bright but icy morning. Starting at the reedbed we noted mallards, moorhens and a mute swan when suddenly a kingfisher perched briefly in the reeds and then darted towards us giving very unexpected but superb views. A couple of redwings were seen as we headed to the pig farm where numerous woodpigeons browsed on the frozen ground. The next surprise came as we saw three ravens flying in front of us, a very unusual species at the location. Around us many passerines were singing especially robins, blue tits, great tits, a chaffinch and finally in dulcet tones a mistle thrush. One of the meadows by the Bourne held a flock of greylag geese. By the bridge to the Island a common gull flew away but the meadows there were quiet. Along the north path larger flocks of greylag and Canada geese were feeding on the farmland and we heard for the first time the call of a green woodpecker, a bird that proceeded to stalk us for the rest of the morning. We crossed McLarens meadows via the hill and flushed two meadow pipits but noted little apart from corvids and black-headed gulls. We then entered the heath from the northeast corner and began scanning for Dartford warblers; initially some individuals were able to catch glimpses of this elusive target but by the end of the walk we had seen at least nine, everyone enjoying fine views of birds perching in the warming sun. Other good sightings included a great spotted woodpecker in brilliant light at the top of a conifer and stonechats in the gorse; late additions of nuthatches and a treecreeper finalised a high quality species list at an impressive total of forty.