Trip reports

Mid-week Walk at Papercourt on 10th May 2016

Mid-week Walk at Papercourt on 10th May 2016
Peter Hambrook

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Weather: Wet. Drizzle changing to moderate rain before gradually clearing. 16C.
Steve, Nigel and I where the only takers on this walk. Given the doom-laden weather forecast the night before that was, perhaps, hardly surprising. Semi-gridlock around West Byfleet saw my normally easy 15 minute run take double that time - sorry for my late arrival guys. With just a gentle drizzle falling and warm conditions we first checked out the area around the car park. This produced a heard only blackcap, wren and chiffchaff in the woodland, while on the pasture were Canadas, greylags, magpies, woodpigeons and jackdaws by the score and a solitary roe deer.

Next we braved the traffic along the road to Pyrford to scan the fields and roadside bushes, adding a reed warbler along the Wey Navigation, a very close whitethroat in a roadside bush, a pied wagtail, pair of swans and several cormorants by the river, plus a flyover heron. A further group of Canadas contained at least one tiny ginger gosling. The busy road was not a pleasant place to be, so we retraced our steps and headed along the riverside footpath towards Papercourt Lock. Several reed buntings were obligingly sitting out in the open while less obvious was another whitethroat and a sedge warbler. The first of the morning's swifts hunted overhead and another lone roe deer was visible further back from the river. The drizzle changed to light rain as we approached the lock, from where Steve spotted a stock dove amongst the cattle on the grazing marsh.

Pressing on, we scanned Papercourt Meadows without adding anything new and, with the rain becoming more enthusiastic, took our time walking onwards in the shelter of the high trees bordering the section of the canal to the Tannery Lane footbridge. This section produced a greater spotted woodpecker, treecreeper and blackcap amongst the more common species, plus assorted swifts, house martins and the occasional swallow hawking insects overhead. Reaching the end of the shelter we had to make a decision on whether to continue or return whence we had come as the rain was unrelenting. Hell, we were already wet and anyway the skies looked a lot brighter upwind, so we continued on our way. The thin line of trees that used to border the footpath by the small stream had been grubbed out and an attempt was being made to burn them but this was being hampered by the wet conditions. Served them right - the destruction had only given them a strip about ten feet wide of extra crop and had made the walk less enjoyable. Despite the activity below, a skylark sang lustily from on high.

We reached the green lane backing on to Papercourt Marshes reserve with the rain reverting to a light drizzle before petering out. This lane produced a few common birds such as robin and dunnocks, a pair of goldfinches and a long-tailed tit, while a song thrush was singing loudly but unseen. The first pond, which was barely visible, held four male tufted duck (presumably their mates were sitting on eggs in the reeds) but no sign of the usual little grebes. A moorhen called unseen nearby. The main reedbed was surprisingly silent but a couple of jays showed themselves and, as we reached the road, a grey wagtail flew over and landed nearby in full view.

Crossing the road to the sailing lake we decided against tackling the boggy area to view the pond but gave the visible area a distant scan which revealed a little grebe. On the main lake we added coots, a few great crested grebes, another pair of swans and a male and two female pochards, while a group of four black-headed gulls flew past and more swifts were hawking insects overhead. The footpath was partially blocked by three anglers who had just landed a large carp and were about to weigh it - 28 lb! A lot of clearance of lakeside vegetation has taken place, with more angling positions apparently being created but a bonus for us is that the view of the lake has greatly improved. The uncleared area held a singing garden warbler, which eventually emerged and flew along the path to a further area of cover. The garden of the first house still has its house sparrow colony and one eventually broke cover, while further along were a pair of collared doves. With our clothes gently steaming in the brighter conditions we headed back to the cars, with Steve picking out the final new birds for the day, a pair of passing Egyptian geese, before we headed home for lunch.

Not the best of days, certainly not for raptors, but we saw or heard over 50 species and only got a little damp. Thanks for your company guys.
PETER HAMBROOK