Trip reports

Mid-week Walk on Thursley Common

Mid-week Walk on Thursley Common
Peter Hambrook

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Weather: Fine and sunny but cool NE wind 20C

Unusually quiet roads meant that we all arrived in good time for this walk. For once the car park wasn't too busy, so parking wasn't an issue, despite the Wokingham and Bracknell RSPB Group also choosing to meet here at the same time - but we did have to sort out who was with which group! From the car park Ken picked up a coal tit in the conifers and another was found nearby at the end of the walk. Along the edge of The Moat pond, downy emerald dragonflies patrolled but wildfowl consisted of just the usual mallards waiting to be fed.

We headed out on the southern boardwalk towards the dragonfly sculpture but there were few birds about on this first stretch, so we turned right towards Parish Field. Eventually we came to an area of thick gorse where a Dartford warbler was flying about, giving fairly close views but not landing in sight. Overhead, two buzzards were circling in a thermal, while out in the boggy area several goldfinches were flying around, along with a pair of linnets, a male stonechat and another Dartford. Moving on, a willow warbler was heard in a stand of conifers, as well as a distant chiffchaff, while several chaffinches were also present. Crossing the bridleway, we headed for Parish Field but the usual redstarts were not seen or heard this time and the photographers were waiting in vain for Colin the cuckoo to pose for them. He seems much more elusive this year and this was the third visit I had made when he wasn't around. We did, however, see a mistle thrush, which later on was seen to be 'standing in' for Colin, while a cinnabar moth and common blue butterfly were spotted by Steve as we headed up the field.

Heading towards the mound, we followed the bridleway east up the hill, stopping to look at a skylark sitting on top of a gorse bush on the way, before eventually coming to a large stand of conifers. Just before turning left alongside them things started to liven up when a cuckoo was seen flying some distance away, a quite distinctive bird with a couple of missing tail feathers. Nearby was a kestrel, and a woodlark was found in the shade of a bush beside the track. Suddenly three hobbys flew across at low altitude, calling, before turning and heading for Shrike Hill. It was becoming obvious that birds were taking advantage of the shelter of trees to keep out of the stiff breeze and we came across another male stonechat and three Dartford warblers doing just that near to 'The Mound' and our first redstart sighting was also in the lee of trees. Shortly after this we again met up with the 'opposition' who were watching a female redstart frequenting an area of dead trees and branches and we were about to move on when a tree pipit was found, sitting quite obligingly on a dead snag on a fairly distant pine.

Having cleared the last of the target birds, we headed for Pudmore Pond and were treated to another fly-by from the three hobbys as we approached. Apart from good numbers of four-spotted chaser dragonflies, some heard-only Canada geese, a female tufted duck - and several photographers in camouflaged clothing hoping to get a close-up of a hobby, the pond was quiet, with quite low water levels after the long dry spell.

Just before arriving back at the car park we spotted another photographer, this time concentrating on something up in the pines. This proved to be a cracking male redstart and was our best view of the day. While watching him, we also saw a treecreeper climbing a tree nearby and it was soon joined by another. One of them disappeared into a fissure in the bark, leading us to suspect that they had a nest there.

All-in-all a successful day, albeit after a rather slow start. Unusually, we fielded an all-male team this time, including one guest, while the Wokingham and Bracknell group were all female by the time we met for the second time, having somehow lost their male leader - we didn't like to ask where he had gone.
Peter Hambrook