Riverside Park 1 January 2024

Twenty people enjoyed the group’s traditional New Year walk, taking advantage of a break in the weather to enjoy some watery sunshine. The towpath was muddy but passable, enabling us to take in the river and nature reserve. The start was slow, with several Robins and numerous Blue Tits, joined after a while by Great Tits, some singing, an active flock of Long-tailed Tits and some noisy Wrens. Nearer Stoke Lock we had good views of an obliging Goldcrest, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Nuthatch across the river. Sadly no Siskins were present but some Redwings were actively feeding on ivy berries. A small flock of Teal showed well in the flooded reed beds, and a highlight was excellent views of a Kingfisher near the outfalls below the lock. A Grey Heron and Moorhen were seen in the wetlands adjacent to the lock and a Pied Wagtail near the lock. On our return the lake was not very productive, with very few gulls (although one Black-headed Gull was almost in breeding plumage), several Tufted ducks, Mallards and a single Great Crested Grebe. The total for the day was a moderate but pleasing 32.

Riverside Park 1 January 2023

The sixteen members who attended the New Year walk in the middle of a very inclement spell of weather were delighted by a mild and dry morning. Immediately blue and great tits were seen flitting through the car park bushes while robins were in fine voice. A hovering kestrel came into view while a red kite soared around. The towpath was initially quiet with just a few mallards on the water. Then a few rusty singing voices were heard, first a wren and then a rather hesitant song thrush that was perhaps out of practice. Towards the lock a fine cock pheasant bellowed loudly and a grey wagtail sped away. Then in an alder a flock of about twenty siskins were spotted feeding, a sight enjoyed for several minutes. The pond beyond the lock held just seven shovelers and dozens of black-headed gulls with a single common gull among them. On the wires was a pied wagtail and high up on the pylons two cormorants. Along the river swam the only Canada goose of the walk plus two mute swans. A jay appeared near the boardwalks towards the lake and a Cetti’s warbler was heard. The lake itself offered few new species, tufted ducks, a great crested grebe, a lesser black-backed gull and a few herring gulls. From the high point back towards the car park a scan of a distant pool identified a few real and a couple of wigeon. A brief visit to Bowers lock followed. A great spotted woodpecker could be heard pipping and eventually it offered excellent views atop a dead tree. Three red kites were circling. A small flock of goldfinches fed in alders while a mistle thrush joined them. A productive and enjoyable walk resulted in a species list of 39.

Riverside Park 1 January 2022

Ideal conditions greeted the twenty one members who assembled at Riverside Park for the first New Year Day walk in two years. Robins were in full voice and blue tits buzzed around the car park. A red kite swooped low overhead displaying its resplendent plumage. From a vantage point we could see across the river that small flocks of teal and lapwings were swimming on the flood. Blackbirds were active in the bushes as we made our way towards the lake. There the water was high and initially only gulls and tufted ducks could be seen. Closer to the island mallards and cormorants appeared and a pair of great crested grebes roosted on the water. Our approach to the marsh pool was interrupted by the sudden appearance of a buzzard being mobbed by crows; we were to have subsequent views of the bird perched close to us. On the marsh were some Canada geese and two Egyptian geese in the company of several shovelers. A kestrel hovered briefly as we crossed the reedbed on the boardwalk and back at the lake several common gulls had joined the flock. After an uneventful return to our starting point we paid a quick visit to Bower Lock and spotted a few long-tailed tits, a nuthatch and a pair of mute swans. An enjoyable walk produced a species list of 31.

Stoke Meadows – Riverside Park

Despite a cold and gloomy morning 28 members marked the New Year with a walk around Riverside Park in Guildford.

The towpath resounded with the song of birds responding to the lengthening of the day. The robins and great tits were in fine voice while a couple of song thrushes were asserting their territories. Blue tits were abundant while the odd wren or dunnock was glimpsed. The water meadows initially appeared empty but eventually a handful of teal and wigeons were spotted through thick vegetation. Cormorants regularly hurried by while a grey heron gave a flypast. A kestrel and buzzard allowed decent views of their perches, the latter causing a jay considerable agitation. Finches were in very short supply being represented only by a few chaffinches and goldfinches.

By Stoke Lock there was a greater variety of birds including chiffchaffs, goldcrests, pied wagtails and a single meadow pipit. At the end of the circuit a small flock of long-tailed tit entertained for a while. The lake was covered in gulls. Conservatively black-headed numbered 150 but among them were a few herring gulls and singles of common and lesser black-backed. A dozen tufted ducks and one pochard were present. A great crested grebe was close while three little grebes were tucked into a distant corner. The final sighting was a great spotted woodpecker.

The species list totalled 44.