Trip reports

Mid-week Walk at Thursley Common on 2nd June 2016

Mid-week Walk at Thursley Common on 2nd June 2016
Graham Carey

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Weather: Cold and strong NE wind with thick overcast becoming warmer and brighter Max 13C
A select band of seven of us, including one guest, braved the less than summery conditions in search of some of the delights that the common has to offer at this time of year. Even before leaving the car park we heard a wren and also a distant curlew calling - a good start. The Moat Pond was pretty empty, even most of the resident mallards appeared to have deserted but those with younger ears than mine heard a goldcrest calling in the pines and some managed a brief glimpse. We headed out on the first boardwalk, carefully avoiding the hole left by a dislodged plank, and soon heard a whitethroat just ahead of us - but that was as good as it got as the bird simply stopped singing until we had passed by, never giving us even a glimpse. Amazingly, given the cold wind, a blue damselfly was flying at the first viewing platform but its precise identity eluded us as it didn't hang about. After that things started to improve and we found two males and a female tufted duck on the first stretch of water and a little further on there was the curlew right out in the open. This flew as we approached, calling as it moved away from us. We then spotted a few distant house martins hunting in a more sheltered area before we made a right turn across Pine Island to Shrike Hill.

Once off the boardwalk there was a little more shelter from the cold wind but bird song was difficult to pick up, so most contacts were visual. First was a smart linnet then, as we passed a substantial stand of pines, we spotted a female redstart searching for food amongst some dead wood, albeit some distance away. Next up was a brief glimpse of a silent cuckoo as it flew across our path and promptly disappeared into dense scrub. Reaching Parish Field, the first of several stonechats was seen briefly before we moved on in the shelter of the trees. In the field proper a male redstart was feeding in a silver birch and two woodlarks were doing the same on the ground with the local rabbits. We then had our first encounter with the star of the morning as a male cuckoo flew up and into the trees on the far side, where he started calling. We continued to the top of the field, seeing several female redstarts collecting food, so presumably with young in the nest, and the first of several jays was seen. A buzzard was making the most of the wind, hanging effortlessly in the air as it looked for prey - we couldn't work out why it didn't visit Parish Field where plenty of young rabbits were on offer. Opting to return through the field itself, which was an oasis of calm, being sheltered from the wind, we soon came across a couple of mistle thrushes and a green woodpecker and a willow warbler were calling from the trees, as was the cuckoo again. The cuckoo then flew down and fed briefly on the ground before again flying into tall trees, but then flew down again and started feeding in full view, allowing us to admire it for about ten minutes before we moved on. Quite a treat. Also feeding in the field were a female blackbird and a song thrush.

Leaving the shelter of Parish Field we headed back to the cars, getting a glimpse of a chiffchaff and hearing a chaffinch and another willow warbler - this one eventually allowing a sighting. Small parties of linnets were seen on the return journey as were several more stonechats, a meadow pipit and a pair of swifts but, sadly, no Dartford warblers. For some unknown reason someone has decided to cement the top section of one of the recently demolished pylons (No. 36) into the ground at the junction where the boardwalk from Shrike Hill leads back to the car park - seems an odd thing to do on a nature reserve. Mike, who returned to the common briefly after lunch, was able to watch a feeding Dartford for about 15 minutes from about 10 yards away, lucky man.

My thanks to those who braved the less than ideal conditions and helped find the birds. Apparently it was warmer on some days last December! As usual with Thursley it was quality rather than quantity that was the order of the day but we saw or heard around 25 species - and managed to miss a fly-over osprey while we were under the trees at Parish Field.
PETER HAMBROOK