Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Stonechat invasion (sort of)

The north of Surrey enjoyed what us southerners think of as 'proper winter' today - a one inch fall of snow that sent the road network into a mild panic and birders to fetch their optics just in case all sorts of hard weather movement was about to appear overhead - but the snow was just localised, it melted by lunchtime and the birds didn't seem to move at all... or did they?

My visit to Priest Hill questioned whether or not stuff was stirred up a little bit, as a minimum of six Stonechats were in the Belted Galloway meadow this afternoon. I saw one female last week and three (one male) on Saturday. I have been giving the meadows a good grilling so I think it unlikely that the birds have been present all of this time, and it seems a bit early for the spring passage that this species does exhibit. Whether or not they have been widely dispersed across the site and have just come together I'll never know. Two males and four females kept me thoroughly entertained for an hour or so.

Earlier in the day I visited the River Hogsmill between Bourne Hall and Ewell Court. I was lucky enough to bump into local birder Colin Manville, who happily let me team up with him and showed me some of the local birding hotspots (if such things do exist within Surrey!). It was a morning of interest, with a Chiffchaff at Bourne Hall lake, two Grey Wagtails between the mills, a Kingfisher at Upper Mill, a Little Egret along the river (Hogsmill Open Space) where a furtive Water Rail also finally gave itself up.

The 2015 Patch Challenge increases to 67 species, which is, by my calculations 74.4% of my target. Today's additions were Chiffchaff and Mute Swan, neither of which were anything but expected.

4 comments:

  1. Stonechats do that dont they? They seem to move around at no given time for no real reason! We had none here for a couple of years after the winter of 2010 but in 2014 they finally bred again near our village. They vansihed late summer then the white throated one arrived in autumn. It has now gone, but a pair have just turned up on the coast path. I have no idea whats going on....

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    1. But I love Stonechats Stewart, I can forgive them such baffling behaviour - in fact, it makes them more endearing. One of my favourites!

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  2. Same down here at Lade, they come and go without a by-your-leave, nearly always in twos or threes, and always when least expected, but always brighten up a slog across the shingle, smashing little chaps.

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