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Word and pictures by Malcolm Fincham
Monday, April 30: Life beyond Bowers Lock… I decided to take advantage of a break in the weather and the last day of the month by taking a cycle along the towpath between Bowers at Burpham and Triggs Lock near Sutton Green.
The river was still very much in flood and the water was high enough in places to be seeping across the towpath. It made cycling tricky, but far easier than walking ankle deep in water.
The first thing to take my interest was a pair of displaying lapwing over a flooded field.
After getting beyond the flooded area of the towpath (and deciding that I definitely would not be going back that way), the next thing I noticed that had changed since I last ventured this way were the amount of common whitethroats now present and singing their ‘scratchy’ calls.
These birds are of the warbler family and, as with most warblers, are only summer visitors.
Across the river I managed to pick out a pair of roe deer and even got a few pictures before they scurried away.
On appoaching Triggs Lock, among many more common species of bird I could hear were distant sounds of ring neck parakeet – another of our non-indigenous species that have established themselves in the South East – while I also saw three pairs of mandarin duck in another flooded area.
A pleasing end to my trip on arriving at Triggs Lock was a kestrel hovering between some trees on the only dry bit of land surrounding us. As a personal bonus, by cycling back home by road, a little owl and I managed to spook each other (in daylight) but unfortunatly flew off before I could take a photo.
Sunday, May 6: Checking through my previous years’ records, it is very noticable to me how this year’s run of below average tempratures have made a difference to the arrival of some of our summer visitors; many of which are still only just arriving.
And although the recent rainfall has been a welcome to many, quite a few of our ground-breeding birds have suffered losses.
On Tuesday last week, I made a brief visit to the Unstead reserve near Godalming and was pleased to see my first common terns of the year (two of them) and later that day on my visit to Stoke Meadows, Guildford, was also delighted to see that my concerns for the great crested grebes were unfounded. (See previous report). Although I managed only a distant view, at least two chicks had survived last week’s floods.
Heard my first cuckoo of the year while out in Wonersh most days this week, but at least two week’s later to when I heard it last year.
On Friday evening last week I revisited Stoke Lake and was able to view my first common sandpipers of the year. Although they are usually wadeing birds, I was surpised to see them feeding on the grass along with the Canadian geese. Although the light was poor, I get a picture of one.
Today for a change of scenery I visited Pulborough Brooks RSPB reserve in West Sussex with Mark, an old friend of mine, to see what new birds I could add to my year list.
Unfortunately, once again the weather wasn’t at its best with light rain and drizzle all morning. It seems that they had also suffered losses due to the flooding, especially in the lapwing department with only two noticable broods on show. No doubt they must have nested on a higher part of the ‘wader scrape’.
To finish on a happy note, among the various birds singing along the trail on the way down to the flooded scrapes were at least five nightingales – such a delight to hear their beautiful song and well worth the trip for just that alone. And as a bonus I even got a picture of one.
I also managed to get pictures of both a house martin and a swallow that had decided to stop for a brief rest before joining back up with the hundreds that were flying low around the reserve.