Trip reports

Thursley Common on 14th May 2019

Thursley Common on 14th May 2019
Male stonechat at Thursley Common during our walk. (Dave Panchaud)

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Weather, warm and sunny.
Thursley Common is a 350 hectare Site of Special Scientific Interest and a National Nature Reserve in the southwest of Surrey, between Thursley and Elstead. It is largely heathland with some shallow pools and has a good range of wildlife. Our "target" birds for the day were hobby, cuckoo, Dartford warbler, redstart, tree pipit and woodlark.

Six of us congregated in the busy car-park. We decided to walk anti-clockwise around the common in the hope that by the time we reached the boardwalk near the ponds it would be warmer and there would be more dragonflies and so we would have a better chance of seeing hobbies. As we set off through the pine trees we heard goldcrest but every bird that I saw was either a blue, or great, tit. Eventually Dave did spot a goldcrest, but I was not quick enough to see it.

As we emerged from the trees onto the boardwalk we heard a cuckoo and the first of many elusive chiffchaffs. A cuckoo then flew past us and eventually came to rest on an electricity cable which gave everyone the opportunity for a really good view. Our route then took us past the dragonfly sculpture across the heath and towards Parish Field. On the way we saw chaffinch, goldfinch and linnet on the heath and buzzards overhead. We had heard curlew calling earlier and now we saw one flying north towards the ponds. Curlews are reported to be nesting on Thursley Common again this year.

We had been looking out for Dartford warbler since we left the boardwalk and we did get occasional glimpses of them as they flew in and out of the gorse bushes. As we neared Parish Field one did perch up on a small tree for long enough for us to get a reasonable view. We then heard two separate willow warblers up ahead and eventually traced one to silver birch tree just next to the path. We heard several more on our walk but this was the only one we saw. It was nice to hear so many after hearing none at all at Pulborough Brooks last month.

In Parish Field there was the usual collection of photographers with giant lenses waiting for Colin, the Cuckoo, to feed on the meal worms provided by them. However, neither Colin, nor any other birds, were interested in the meal worms as we walked past. On our way back down the path next to the field we had good views of a tree creeper and then a tree pipit. Looking back to the photographers we saw that a mistle thrush was taking advantage of the photographers' generosity.

We then took a diversion from the direct path back to the car park and walked up to a stand of pine trees. On the way we had further glimpses of Dartford warblers. On our diverted route we spotted a kestrel doing an impersonation of a hobby and then heard a nightingale. After ten minutes of silence, which was interrupted by the sighting of a distant whitethroat, most of us moved on but Dave stayed behind and was rewarded with brief view the nightingale.

Our path eventually took us on the boardwalk towards the ponds. We were not very hopeful of seeing a hobby as we had not seen a single dragonfly since we left Moat Pond. We were therefore pleased when a hobby appeared and flew around, and over, us so we all got really good views. As we walked back along the boardwalk we added mallard to our list for the day and had further sightings of both kestrel and hobby. As we returned to the pines by Moat Pond we added blackbird, robin and coal tit and then saw a strange duck in the shadow of the reeds with a pale body and a greeny-brown head which we dismissed as a "funny mallard". Later this duck came into the middle of the pond and was clearly more pintail than mallard.

Thank you to those who came on the walk. Of our six target species we saw four, missing out on woodlark and redstart. Hopefully we will see both at our next walk at Frensham Little Pond.
STEVE WILLIAMS