Trip reports

Thursley National Nature Reserve - 19/05/2019

male stonechat perched on bramble

Friday, 24 May 2019

It was nice on this occasion to be greeted on the open heathland by the mellifluous song of woodlark. Two of these birds soon appeared into view flying around together, but never settling near enough to obtain decent views. One or two swallows flew low behind smaller pines and a calling male reed bunting was seen perched low in a small willow to the right of the path. A curlew sang in flight before a drake mallard flew right. Some goldfinches were also singing, the odd bird noticed perched on the top of trees whilst we tried to locate the tree pipit that had been heard. No luck with that, but a male stonechat showed nicely on the top of one of the taller pines. Three grey herons then flew across the heathland before a second male stonechat and reed bunting were seen.

A small patch of lousewort was in flower on the corner of a wide track branching away from Pudmore Pond, but despite their being plenty of heather and gorse in the area it proved fairly quiet. A male Dartford Warbler was seen briefly at distance on the top of a small gorse bush before it flew off to the right out of sight. Another appeared albeit fleetingly on the top of more gorse adjacent to the track.

Three tufted ducks, two drakes and a duck, a pair of Canada geese and three mallard were on the pond and the bogbean was in flower. There was no sign of any hobbies, just another male stonechat perched on the top of a dead tree to the left of the boardwalk. Soon after crossing this and joining the path, we had good views of two Dartford warblers in a small silver birch and there were two woodlarks on the ground at the side of some heather. Unfazed by our presence, these offered superb views for several minutes before walking off into the vegetation. The curlew then reappeared in flight low across the boggy area.

Prolonged views of another woodlark on the ground were enjoyed just before reaching the intersection of tracks close to the tree surrounded field. A willow warbler was at last seen singing near the top of an ash, but on entering the field there was no sign of the regular cuckoo. A redstart sang from the mature oaks bordering the field, but it could not be located amongst the dense foliage. A nice bonus, were two cinnabar moths flying low over the grass, having been disturbed by our approach. Shortly afterwards, a vibrant small copper butterfly also settled on the ground obligingly.

Seeing a redstart this time at Thursley proved challenging. A second bird sang as we followed a track towards a second patch of woodland, but having been briefly spotted, quickly moved deeper in to the trees. It was eerily quiet in the next wood, but just when we thought we might fail, a brightly plumaged male redstart was seen perched on a branch of a small tree growing just behind a pine stump. Viewed head on, the bird's silvery forehead really stood out in the dappled light.

All too soon, it flew off to the right and we left the wood to rejoin the heath. Another male redstart was seen singing near two pines. This individual proved trickier to view owing to a slender silver birch branch waving gently in the breeze frequently obscuring it from sight. The final sighting of the day occurred just as the sun forced its way through the clouds and the temperature began to rise. A single hobby, first sighted over a distant stand of tall pines, steadily moved closer, eventually making one low pass over Pudmore Pond before gaining height again and circling around the heath.