Over the past couple of days, fellow north-Surrey birders have been returning some tidy counts of Stonechats. Now, I love Stonechats, so today was turned into a 'Stonechat Sweep Day' where all of my most chatty patches were visited - all being within five miles from home. It turned out rather well.
Fist up was the grandly named Mogador, open farmland/pasture with ribbons of hedgerow and several scrubby corners - Stonechat score: 7 (4 males). Next up was Canons Farm, always a favourite with our chat friends, and so it proved again - Stonechat score: 7 (3 males). Epsom Downs played hard to get, with the most chat-tastic areas disappointingly devoid of them, but when I gave them all another search they came out to play - Stonechat score: 5 (2 males). The last stop was Priest Hill, scrubby ex-football pitches and this site stole the show, with guest appearances as well - Stonechat score: 11 (3 males) + 4 Whinchat. This gives a combined grand Stonechat total of 30, quite remarkable really. This was very much a minimum count as well. It was interesting while spending the 90 or so minutes with the Priest Hill chats (all keeping together in a loose flock). I saw three males together only once throughout that time, and a particularly well-marked Whinchat just the once as well. How many of the females were just bit part players as well? I did actually count eight females together, but the chances of there being more than that must have been high. Each of the four Whinchat were remarkably different, with a couple of 'drab' types, a bright peachy bird and a most arresting pale individual that was almost cold grey.
By-products of the 'Chatfest' were a Tree Pipit, 50 Meadow Pipit, eight Redwing, 25 Chiffchaff, 100 Linnet, a Reed Bunting and 18 Yellowhammer.