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Birdwatcher’s Dairy No.148

By Malcolm Fincham

Getting back to my Surrey roots after a glorious week away in the Scillies, I grounded myself by returning tp Papercourt water meadows in Send.

Wheatear (above) with a stonechat at Papercourt water meadow.

On my previous visit on October 2 I saw the last of migrating birds in Surrey, which included a wheatear and just one swallow overhead as it headed south.

The only notable birds on this occasion, however, was a pair of resident stonechats.

Yellow hue to the sun.

While stormy, mild air drawn up from the Azores gave the west coast of the UK a beating, Surrey remained just dry but breezy. A little eerie too at Papercourt however, as I walked the meadows towards Papercourt Lock. Obscured by clouds the sun began to turn a strange hue of yellow at first.

Birds around me fell silent, as if as confused as I was. The clouds covered both the sun and the landscape that surrounded in a strange orange colour.

The sun turns red. The sky became orange.

I half expected to witness four horsemen to ride by, (conquest, war, famine, and death, respectively I believe).

I later learned its cause was just dust being drawn up from the Sahara desert. ”A few rare sightings like an Alpine swift too! would have been nice” I thought when I heard the news. It wasn’t long before my thoughts returned to bite me on the bum!

Barely settled and still feeling the aches and pains from an extensive week of walking from dawn till dusk on the epic holiday I wrote about in my previous report, it was only a few days before I got a call from my friend Dougal.

A two-barred greenish warbler had been spotted in Dorset. This bird was indeed a rarity. Usually found in Mongolia, Manchuria and southern Siberia. With the addition of Bob, we set off to Swanage the following morning to investigate.

A 20-minute walk from the car park to where it had been seen left us in anticipation, our only comfort was that the people returning had seen it. Although their views had been brief as it skulked for the most part deep within the foliage at the edge of a disused quarry.

Patience would certainly be a virtue and on such a drizzly, overcast day, and my chances of getting a photo sounded very slim. Fortune started to turn my way when a small section of the observing crowd, satisfied by some brief views, departed, allowing us a prime spot.

Two-barred greenish warbler at St Alchem’s Head, Dorset.

”There it is” Bob and Dougal called simultaneously, in whispered voices.

Two-barred greenish warbler flits around the bushes.

I fired several rounds of shots with my camera as it flitted from branch to branch, not really sure if any were coming out in focus. It wasn’t until I got home and croped the pictures I had taken that I could appreciate some of the results.

Stoke Lake as October comes to a close.

Pressing my default mode I returned the following day to my comfort zone of enthusiast rather than ”manic twitcher”. Several walks around the Riverside Nature Reserve before the month came to a close, soon grounded me. Although most days remained overcast, it stayed mostly dry, allowing me to continue to stay up to date with my photos.

Teal on the scrape by Stoke Lock.

A count of 15 or more teal skulked along the water’s edge of the scrape near Stoke lock.

Grey heron near Stoke Lock.

While a grey heron thought he could escape my view as he crouched in the long grass.

Gulls on the scrape by Stoke Lock.

A large group of black-headed gulls, now all in winter plumage, took up most of the space on the water, as usual.

Pied wagtail.

On the sewage beds, pied wagtails continued to feed.

Grey wagtail.

These were also joined by a few grey wagtails.

Tufted ducks on Stoke Lake.

Tufted ducks were growing in number on the lake, counting 26 just before dusk one evening.

Little grebe (dabchick) on Stoke Lake.

Distracted from my count, a dabchick disturbed by my presence, scurried franticly from the reed beds beside me, treading water as it flapped its wings and headed toward the island.

Great crested grebe on Stoke Lake.

Great crested grebes were easier to count with just two, both now in winter plumage.

Blackbird feasting on berries at Stoke Nature Reserve.

In the blackthorn close by the lake a blackbird was feeding on sloe berries.

Long-tailed tits at Stoke Lake.

While groups of long-tailed tits could constantly be heard as they worked their way through the hedgerows.

Common buzzard mobbed by two corvids.

A common buzzard was noted on a couple of occasions, flying quite low over the lake.

Red kite over Stoke Lake.

As well as a red kite on the October 27, gliding over between the lake and the A3.

The furthest I travelled within Surrey was to Staines Reservoir on October 21. This was with Bob and Dougal.

A red-necked phalarope had been reported there. Having not seen one for several years I was keen to see it. A brisk southerly wind blew directly up the causeway, making it uneasy just to stand still, let alone view across the south basin where it had last been seen.

Red-necked phalarope riding the waves on the south basin at Staines Reservoir.

Fortunately it was reasonably close by, undaunted as the phalarope surfed the waves, in what was to it, just a warm-up preparation for its long migration across the Atlantic.

Whitmoor Common.

I also made several trips to Whitmoor Common on the outskirts of Guildford.

Dartford warbler on Whitmoor Common.

My best days birding there included the sighting of at least eight Dartford warblers.

Birds on the wire at Whitmoor Common.

The overhead wires gave the impression that they were sagging with the weight of birds visible.

Linnets.

These included linnets.

Meadow pipit.

As well as meadow pipits.

Reed bunting on Whitmoor Common.

A few reed buntings could be found out on the heathland.

Female stonechat.

Along with several stonechats.

Green woodpecker.

Harder to find was a green woodpecker as it attempted to hide itself from my view. Eventually I got close enough to get some reasonable pictures.

Lesser redpoll on Whitmoor Common.

Near to the car park along Salt Box Road, I was also able to pick out half a dozen or so lesser redpolls, feeding high up in the silver birches.

Blue tit on Whitmoor Common.

Other birds included blue tits.

Coal tit.

Coal tits.

Tree creeper.

And a treecreeper.

I took a brief visit to Effingham Forest on a gloomy afternoon with Bob in the hope of seeing at least one of the irruption of hawfinches that have recently invaded the UK. Seen by just about every other keen birdwatcher throughout Surrey, they had eluded us. And so far continue to do so!

Redwings.

We did see a recently arrived flock of eight redwings.

Redwing and a great spotted woodpecker.

Which were photo-bombed by a great spotted woodpecker.

Two marsh tits.

A pleasing sight to take away was a photo of two marsh tits together.

Clandon Park.

We also visited Clandon Park on a sunnier day on the October 25.

Raven over Clandon Park.

Where we saw, most notably, two ravens. Also adding common buzzards.

Shaggy ink cap mushrooms.

Among some of the fungi seen were shaggy ink cap mushrooms.

Rainbow trout.

A rainbow trout in a lake by the public footpath.

Common darter dragonflies at Clandon Park.

While common darter dragonflies could still be seen breeding.

And the warm, late October sunshine was even still bringing a few butterflies out to play.

Jay carrying an acorn.

A jay flew past. Often seen collecting acorns at this time of year, they are known to carry at least three or four in an adapted gullet, sometimes with one more held in the bill.

Jay in flight. This one looks as if it is carrying a gullet full of acorns.

The acorns are usually taken away from the immediate vicinity of the oak to be cached elsewhere.

View along the River Wey.

One of my last visits of the month was to Bowers Lock in Burpham.

Barn owl roosting.

Viewing across the field, I was able to view and photo a barn owl, using an old oak tree to roost in. ”Maybe some in-flight shots for my next report, if it sticks about?” I thought, as light faded too much for me to stick around on this occasion.

Sunset over the River Wey.

And the sun set beautifully over the River Wey.

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