Trip reports

Mid Week Walk to Papercourt

Mid Week Walk to Papercourt
Photo of a whitethroat by Peter Hambrook

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Weather: Superb! Clear blue sky, very light breeze. 15c

As with last year, very few people came on this walk despite the excellent weather - so I guess that there must be more exciting places to go in the middle of May. Sometimes it is great to do a walk with a smaller group, so five of us, Nigel, Chris, Kath, myself and Sue - a member of the group but a first-timer on these walks, set out to see what we could find.

As usual, the car park was a good place to start with robin, blackcap and wren all singing well and the usual jackdaws, carrion crows and woodpigeons feeding on the fields opposite, together with a single greylag. We began the walk with a short foray up the road towards Pyrford and Canada geese flying in from further west. An early surprise was a very close Cetti's warbler in a roadside bramble patch - I cannot recall having heard one here before. It didn't show at first but some of us managed a brief glimpse on the walk back. Chris and Kath, who were a bit behind the rest of us, also managed to see some (presumably) roe deer - I forgot to ask them! Scanning the water meadows we managed to find several cormorants in trees, a few lapwings, apparently determined to try and breed despite the presence of large numbers of jackdaws and carrion crows, a single stock dove and male pheasant - and lots of rabbits with their ears up watching a magnificent russet fox that was checking out the field. Nigel, who was in good form all morning, then spotted the first buzzard of the day

Retracing our steps to the bridge, we then headed alongside the Wey Navigation towards Papercourt Lock. I got a brief glimpse of a kingfisher as it flew up a side channel but most of the action was on the opposite bank with a parade of sedge warblers and reed buntings popping up in turn and giving reasonable views - eventually. The lock area was fairly quiet but a look across Papercourt Marshes revealed the usual female kestrel on the wires (we also saw a male later on) and a whitethroat was singing from the tops of bushes, occasionally launching into a display flight. Continuing along the canal path we came upon good numbers of beautiful demoiselle damselflies, a pair of coupled large-reds and orange-tip, large white and peacock butterflies added to the action. Just before the footbridge at Tannery Lane we came across a pair of reed warblers but they weren't very obliging. While scanning the water-meadows we were surprised to see a male mandarin fly over and a grey heron also flew across towards the river. Heading south now, we came across a very low-flying red kite checking out a field that was being prepared for sowing and high above that was our second buzzard of the morning, while a jay passed low overhead. Heading east now along the back of Papercourt Marshes reserve, things quietened down as we got near to the middle of the day but we had our first house martins overhead.

Arriving at the entrance to the sailing club, we side-tracked to look at the small pond behind the club house. A lot of money has been spent turning this into a fishing pond and, while it is now a lot easier to view, quite a bit of the habitat has been lost in the process. Never the less it still held a briefly-glimpsed little grebe, a pair of tufted duck and a couple of grey wagtails - all found by Nigel. We then headed back towards the cars along the side of the sailing lake, passing a group of coots furiously engaged in a late territorial dispute, while a ring-necked parakeet flew overhead. There were also several garden warblers singing either side of the path but only giving glimpses of themselves occasionally, while a paddock held a mistle thrush and some of the local house sparrows. The far end of the lake provided a few great crested grebes, one pair still courting, and a single black-headed gull - the only gull seen all morning. It was then back to the cars and home for a well-earned lunch after a walk of a little over three miles and a tally of around fifty birds, three damselfly species and three butterfly species.

Peter Hambrook