Thursley Common 29 April & 1 May 2021

The Thursday walk took place on a chilly day with sunny periods. It was tinged with a little sadness as it was the first one at Thursley since the disastrous fire of late summer. The common had an unfamiliar look but in many places the first signs of regeneration were appearing. The walk to Parish Field produced a few sightings, a woodlark overflying us and a male stonechat giving an acrobatic demonstration of flycatching. As we approached the woods redstarts were in good voice but as elusive as the chiffchaffs we could also hear. In the field was an armchair lounge of two dozen photographers in which Colin the famous cuckoo was posing on his perch; after a while he took off but could be heard calling regularly during the rest of the morning. We then skirted Parish Field in search of tree pipits and caught glimpses of one or two performing their display flights. Willow warblers were also singing around us allowing occasional views. Out on the heath the Dartford warblers were sheltering from the chill and were more heard than seen but we managed a couple of sightings. Some of us  were fortunate also to see a female wheatear on the east side of Shrike Hill. As we skirted the hill we repeatedly heard a curlew’s call but failed to see it. We did however see a lapwing apparently defending its nest from a crow. Close to the dragonfly sculpture we saw two female crossbills offering great views as they fed in the pines. The walk produced some good quality birds with a species list totalling 34.

An overspill walk on the following Saturday enjoyed better conditions. As a consequence the six participants had more and better sightings of much the same species as two days previously. The cuckoo was again on its usual perch. A tree pipit parachuted for us several times and allowed us to find its perch. Redstarts were far more visible including a pair on the charred southern side of Shrike Hill. From there we also sighted a pair of woodlarks bringing food to a nest on the hillside. A hobby gave a flypast over the bog and obligingly perched for excellent viewing. The star birds though were a flock of 30-40 crossbills feeding on the south edge of Parish Field. The Saturday species count was 41.