Trip reports

Mid-week Walk at Frensham Little Pond on 8th June 2017

Mid-week Walk at Frensham Little Pond on 8th June 2017
Peter Hambrook

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Overcast, cool and breezy from west, becoming increasingly drizzly 16C
There are now car park charges here but fortunately the pay and display ticket machine was out of order so we escaped uncharged. On the plus side, the café and loos are now open daily.
We elected to do the wooded area first while the birds were still fairly active and it also permitted a view along the full length of the pond. We were soon hearing sedge warblers in the reeds but these were keeping their heads down, so our first significant sighting was a grey wagtail which flew across in front of us and landed on the roof of the boathouse. It, or another, later landed on the sandy beach in front of us. Looking down the lake we could see masses of hirundines at the far end, flying low over the water. These were mainly sand martins but closer inspection also revealed some house martins and swallows. Swifts were also present in some numbers. A cormorant was perched precariously on a post and was still there as we finished our walk. Also on the water were two male tufted ducks and several great crested grebes, one with a youngster on its back. A few black-headed gulls and a single common tern patrolled just above the water. Steve, who is about to join our group, then spotted a bird near a truncated oak, which proved to be a juvenile redstart and this was soon joined by a cracking adult male. Moving on, and trying to ignore the many dogs and their noisy owners, we came across a pied wagtail in a field of rough grass and had brief views of a great spotted woodpecker, a passing red kite, a garden warbler and a treecreeper, while a willow warbler was heard but not seen.
Emerging on to the more open ground we noted that conifers are rapidly taking over the area devastated by the fire a few years ago. The heather is coming back however and the many large dead trees, both standing and fallen provide a convenient perch for the local birds - which soon proved to be very useful. My check on an interesting raptor that landed on one of these was distracted somewhat by a female dog owner bellowing at her pooch from about three feet behind me and the bird, not surprisingly, flew off. Luckily Ron was on it too and we picked it up flying low towards us. Thinking it was a hobby, we were surprised when it appeared to hover but it then landed and we could see that indeed it did appear to be a hobby with an indistinct mask. We continued to see it, apparently hunting close to the ground, for the next half an hour or so. It was only on the following Saturday that a red-footed falcon was reported. Fortunately Steve W. had taken a photo of the bird at extreme range. Although not good, it did show that what we had seen was indeed a first summer (ie: a one year old sub-adult) male red-footed falcon, hence the non-hobby like behaviour. That was a bit of a turn-up for the books - and a bird species that I have only seen once or twice before! Next up was a woodlark sitting atop a birch stump, followed by a stonechat, tree pipit, a lazy sky lark singing from a birch stump (we checked the sky several times before spotting it) and a couple of male linnets.
By now the drizzle was becoming persistent and not everyone had waterproofs, so we elected not to trek up to King's Ridge, despite spotting a buzzard above that area, and instead headed back towards the cars. Back by the lake we heard another garden warbler, willow warbler and a blackcap but they remained unseen in deep cover. With the drizzle become troublesome we took shelter under trees with a view over part of the reed bed and managed to briefly see both reed and sedge warblers, while Steve W. picked up a nuthatch in the branches above us, although most only heard this.
Despite the iffy weather it was a brilliant morning for birding with all members of our small group finding birds rather than waiting to have them pointed out, which makes leading the walks much more enjoyable as that then only involves keeping to the schedule (and not getting too lost). Thanks guys.
Now I must just get a note off to the BBC Weather people, who forecast a dry morning..................
PETER HAMBROOK