Trip reports

Mid Week Walk at Bookham Commons

Mid Week Walk at Bookham Commons
Steve Williams

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Weather: Overcast with very light rain, becoming heavier briefly, 17C.

The forecasters had been dithering for a week over what the weather was going to be for our walk at Bookham. It ended up being cool and just slightly damp. OK for birds but not for our hoped for butterflies.

As it happened we did quite well for birds despite it being well past the peak of the breeding season. With the leaf cover it was a bit hit and miss actually seeing them all but we heard blackcap, chiffchaff and wren on the first part of our walk. While moving to the more open 'Plains' area we had rather a strange encounter. The seven of us had stopped to check what was singing nearby when I spotted what I thought was a juvenile woodpigeon on the path ahead. The bird spotted us but, instead of flying away, walked towards us. As it got closer I realised that it was too small for a woodpigeon - it had to be a young stock dove as nothing else fitted the plumage. By this time the bird was only about six feet in front of us and, faced with a forest of legs, stopped and looked at us. Les decided to see how tame it really was and offered it his finger - which it bit with relish!

This was getting silly! Les decided it must be hungry but, as his finger was a bit big for it, offered it a grass seed head - which it promptly ignored and had another go at his finger. This was one mixed up youngster. We circumnavigated the obstacle while Les kept it engaged and made our escape but even then the dove didn't give up and started to follow (must have been something about that finger) but, fortunately, was unable to keep up with us. We did wonder what happened to it as not long afterwards a pack of about 18 cyclists came thundering along the track past us towards where we had left Stockie - we feared the worst if it didn't have the sense to get out of their way!

Moving into the Western Plain we started to see a few birds, including greenfinch and whitethroat before coming to an area by a virtually dried up stream which seemed to be a sort of crèche for young birds. Here there were lots of goldfinches, dunnocks, linnets, a great spotted woodpecker and a song thrush plus several swallows flying very close to us, often at knee height, while one or two herons from the nearby heronry also flew past. As it had warmed slightly we started to see a few butterflies too, but only the dark meadow browns and ringlets which, presumably, warm up quicker than the paler species.

Moving on towards the ponds, we came across several jays and further great spotted woodpeckers before reaching the largest pond where we had a brief glimpse of a kestrel and found a female mallard but nothing else. The other ponds were more productive with little grebes on two of them and also several coots with young, a moorhen or two and a male tufted duck. At this point the rain became heavy enough to cause us to take cover briefly in the hide but it soon passed and the skies started to brighten a bit.

As there was still very little butterfly activity we decided to head back to the cars and managing to note a few blue damselflies and a blue chaser or skimmer dragonfly on the way, none of which came close enough to identify. We did also see one of the white butterflies but again it was too distant to identify with confidence. All in all a pleasant morning's stroll and rather better for birds than expected, but the cool dampish conditions definitely inhibited most butterfly activity.
Peter Hambrook
Photo of the juvenile stock dove mentioned in the text - just before it bit Les's finger.