Sunday 12 June 2022

Thursley Common, Surrey

A few weekends ago I decided to head back to the beautiful Thursley Common Nature Reserve in Elstead, Surrey. I had paid a visit in 2021 to see the famous 'Colin the Cuckoo' (scroll to the end of this post).

This time I thought I'd try to ignore Colin and pay a bit more attention to what else the reserve has to offer. Its a good spot for Dartford Warbler, Common Redstart and Woodlark. Photos, or better still sound recordings, of any or all of those would be more than acceptable.

I came across a male Common Redstart that was holding territory in a stand of mature Scot's Pines. I positoned my parabola and sat back for an whole hour to listen to him.




It was only after discussing this with Sean Ronayne later on that he pointed out that Redstarts perform a lot of mimicry. Its well described in this Sound Approach article. I listened back and could pick up House Sparrow, Yellow Wagtail, European Bee-eater, Blackbird and Green Woodpecker. Have a listen to this brief snippet where the bird does the classic Green Woodpecker 'laugh' right at the end.


They do apparently mimic a lot of Bee-eater species that they must come across on their African wintering grounds but I could only recognise European Bee-eater and that recording wasn't exactly top quality. 

If you can hear Woodlarks singing in the background then that's because there were plenty of them, including this bird singing from the top of a tree.


Woodlark recorded singing from the top of this tree

Despite my best intentions no trip to Thursley would be complete without Colin. I stopped off at the Parish Field on arrival that morning at 6.45am and needed only to wait for thirty minutes before he appeared. 

I know its like 'shooting fish in a barrell' but I don't care, what a stunning chap. I wish him well on yet another return trip to Africa!

Tuesday 7 June 2022

Local Patch Birding

This year 5km from home has become 10km from home adding some new sites for me such as Whitlingham Country Park, Thorpe Marshes and Hosford Woods. That's all good but on the down side it had been agreed that nocmig records should only count for half a point. My total last year was 129 species and I estimated a possible 140 for 2022 but as we near the halfway mark of the year I'm only on 105 and its not looking like I'll hit 140.

However, it's not about the numbers it's about the enjoyment and that certainly hasn't dipped. I've added several species to my local list that I hadn't previously recorded. Bittern, Goosander, Smew, Shag, Glossy Ibis, Nightjar and Firecrest were all new. 

Goosander, UEA Broad, January 2022

Smew, Taverham, Norwich, February 2022

Smew, Taverham, Norwich, February 2022

Glossy Ibis, West Earlham Marsh, Norwich, April

European Nightjar, May 2022

Whilst I missed out on any nocmig recordings of Ring Ouzel, I did manage this female bird on West Earlham Marsh during the Easter weekend.

The dictionary definition of 'record shot' - female Ring Ouzel, West Earlham, Norwich

My previous blog entry of Nocmig Update will give you a better flavour for what I recorded flying over the garden so far but Hawfinch, Spotted Flycatcher, Lesser Whitethroat and Spotted Crake were the highlights. 

Notable absences so far include Coal Tit and Grey Wagtail but I expect with a little effort I'll pick these up before the year is out. A dry spring has meant I've not done well on waders, Common Sandpiper, Whimbrel and Curlew are all missing so far but still possible.

Monday 6 June 2022

Nocmig Update

Now is a good time to do a quick nocmig update before we reach the half-way point of 2022, so lets take a look at the first half of the year.

In January and February I only recorded on four nights and even then there was very little of note save for the odd Teal and Oystercatcher.

In early March though I got busier and recorded as often as conditions would allow. Wigeon were on the move from the middle of the month as were Teal (although to a slightly lesser extent). In mid-March until at least early April there was a regular movement of Water Rail.


I had four seperate flocks of Common Scoter on the night of the 3rd / 4th April. Here's one of those flocks.


Redwing return passage started in early March and peaked at the end of the month and on some nights they were passing non-stop. As expected I managed to record the odd Fieldfare mixed in with the Redwing.


Just as I was anticipating Ring Ouzels to pass, my nocmig recorder packed in. By the time I had replaced it, the Ring Ouzels had moved through and I'd missed my chance. But I need not have despaired as the best was yet to come!

On the night of the 4th May I recorded this Lesser Whitethroat at 00:30 hours. 


I'm still not clear if this was a local bird moving around or a migrant.

Thirty minutes later on the same night I recorded my first Hawfinch, which as you'd expect I was over the moon about.


I had it down as 'unknown' at first but soon cleared that confusion up when I consulted with Sean.

On 14th May I recorded my first and probably overdue Spotted Flycatcher.


And on 22 May I struck gold with this Spotted Crake.


Work commitments meant I wasn't able to start checking areas of suitable habitat at dusk for singing Crakes but given the time of year it's possible it's a local bird rather than a migrant. They are a description species in Norfolk but surely they are under-recorded?

For now my gear is packed away but I will unpack it again towards the end of the month as the waders start heading back.

Sunday 5 June 2022

Southern Portugal - Part 4

As you'd expect, another 6am start. This time though on a cooler, windier and more cloudy day. We returned to our Bustard spot from Day 2 and enjoyed decent views of two birds.

Great Bustard

We also gave the Roller spot from Day 3 a second go and had a fly-past view of three Black-bellied Sandgrouse and a Greater Short-toed Lark near the farm. Raptors included Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Black Kite and Booted Eagle. At the reservoir the Collared Pratincole and Little Ringed Plovers were still present and a Dartford Warbler flicked around some small Olive trees. 

Time caught up with us and we soon needed to return to the cottage, clean up and pack. We drove back to Faro airport, reflecting on a great trip and discussing plans for our next one - the deserts of Morocco and Western Sahara to mop up what we missed in 2013 and 2018, Cyprus, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Japan, Armenia or even Azerbaijan. We're undecided at the moment but enjoying the conundrum.

All in all a great trip, if our schedules had permitted we would have gone in mid-April to enjoy more migrants and avoid the heat (it was nearly 40 degrees on some afternoons). We got all our gen from the excellent David Gosney's book 'Finding Birds in Southern Portugal', also from a friend of Nick's called Hugo who he knows through his time counting raptors in Batumi and whatever else we could glean from other birders we met in the field. Car rental was through Centauro, flights with Ryanair. For food we mostly self-catered. Portugese beer was more than Ok - Sagres or Superbock and the regional wine was excellent. I had eight lifers in total as follows:

  • Great Bustard
  • Little Bustard
  • Black-bellied Sandgrouse
  • Red-necked Nightjar
  • Calandra Lark
  • Western Black-eared Wheatear
  • Iberian Grey Shrike
  • Iberian or Azure-winged Magpie

 Plus a number of species that I hadn't seen for a while or had previously seen only once before like Great-spotted Cuckoo and White-rumped Swift.