Trip reports

Mid-week walk at Frensham Little Pond Thursday 13th June 2019

Mid-week walk at Frensham Little Pond Thursday 13th June 2019
Willow warbler - on a drier day. (Steve Williams)

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Weather, WET!
Frensham Little Pond was originally built to provide fish for the Bishop of Winchester. Now it is owned, and managed, by the National Trust. The pond is surrounded by a range of habitats including reedbeds, broad leaf woodland, Scots pine wood and heath. This variety of habitats and the pond usually provides us with a good variety of bird species.

For our visit the weather was so wet that only Nigel and I made it. We agreed to walk clockwise around the pond so we would initially stay in the cover of the trees and hope that the weather would improve by the time we got to the more open areas to the south and west of the pond. From just past the Tern Café we saw mute swan, cormorant, mallard and coot on the lake and two common terns flying above it. The National Trust has provided tern rafts and these do appear to be being used for breeding.

Further round the pond we stopped to watch a pair of great crested grebes feeding a juvenile. One adult stayed quite close to the young bird whilst the other disappeared under water before returning with a small fish. Nearby was a male tufted duck and overhead a few swallows feeding on what little insect life was about. Here, we also saw our only raptor of the day, a sparrowhawk.

We continued our walk in a stop-start fashion. Starting whenever the rain eased off and stopping under some large trees when it started again. During our stops we saw dunnock, robin and blackbird near to the ground and blue, and great, tits in the treetops. Whilst watching the tits we both saw a chaffinch sized bird with a warbler's beak. We managed to follow the bird until it provided better views to allow us to identify it as a spotted flycatcher. It was not behaving in the usual way; perch, fly, catch, return to perch, but was hovering amongst the leaves at the tips of branches between perches. Perhaps the rain had reduced the number of flying insects available for it to feed on.

We emerged from the boardwalk and in the absence of any sign of improving weather we decided to keep close to the lake and give the heath a miss. On the south side of the lake we could hear a willow warbler singing. As we drew closer to the sound a bird flew past us and began singing on a dead tree so we got very good, if slightly distant, views of it. The rain then stopped and in a few minutes the sky was full of hirundines. Firstly sand martins arrived, closely followed by swallows and then house martins. Higher over the lake swifts also appeared. They were making the best use of the break in the rain to feed. Once the rain started again these insectivorous birds all disappeared as quickly as they had arrived. Undeterred by the rain we continued on around the pond and saw moorhen and goldfinch.

As we had been walking round the pond we had heard reed warblers on several occasions and had fleeting glimpses. On our way back to the car park we stopped between two reed beds under the cover of some trees; it had started raining quite hard again. We were rewarded with good views of several reed warblers quite close to us. Above the reedbeds we heard and then saw a chiffchaff.

Thanks to Nigel for braving the elements. Our next walk is to the River Wey and Papercourt Marshes and hopefully we will see the only common warbler we have not yet seen on our mid week walks, the sedge warbler.

STEVE WILLIAMS