Trip reports

Mid-week walk alongside the Wey Navigation near Papercourt Lock on Wednesday 10th July 2019

Mid-week walk alongside the Wey Navigation near Papercourt Lock on Wednesday 10th July 2019
White-legged damselfly (Steve Williams)

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Weather, warm and sunny
The Wey Navigation was originally built in the 1600s to bring goods from Guildford to London. Following its decline it has been restored by the National Trust and is now used mainly by leisure craft. The section around Papercourt Lock consists of the navigation and the River Wey which combine for a short stretch downstream of the lock before separating again just before the road bridge. The river and the navigation pass through pasture, marsh and a broad leaved tree lined stretch. This variety of habitats pond usually provides us with a good variety of bird species. At this time of year the birds are often harder to spot, but this is compensated by the large numbers of butterflies, damselflies and dragonflies.

Seven of us met in the carpark and saw pigeons and the usual collection of corvids in the large field opposite. We set off upstream and noticed a mixed flock of blue, great and long-tailed, tits flying to the trees on the opposite bank of the river. A little further on, we heard our first sedge warblers and after a few minutes searching we got fleeting glimpses of them and then better views of our first whitethroat. Along the river we saw mallard, coot and grey heron. A squadron of greylag geese flew overhead and cormorants could be seen sunning themselves at the top of a dead tree in the distance. As we walked we disturbed large numbers of, mostly male, banded demoiselles and a selection of butterflies including ringlet, small skipper and meadow brown.

As we approached Papercourt Lock we spotted blackbirds, starlings, goldfinch, chaffinch and a jay flying around the trees on the opposite bank. Overhead we saw our only red kite of the day and on the river a moorhen. In the vegetation next to the river there were many more banded demoiselles, a male beautiful demoiselle, red-eyed, blue-tailed and white-legged damselflies. We then crossed the bridge by the lock and turned right towards the confluence of the River Wey and the Navigation. There was a lot of movement in the nearby bushes and we spotted a bunting that initially appeared to be quite yellow. Under closer inspection, and in better light, it became clear we had seen a young reed bunting. This initial bird was then joined by several others including an adult male.

On the other side of the river we saw several whitethroat and sedge warblers and in the distance a buzzard. Swallows were feeding high above us and a kestrel hovered nearby. A pair of Emperor dragonflies appeared over the water. The male stayed around for some time and the female laid her eggs at the water's edge. As we made our way back to the lock we saw a brown hawker and a black-tailed skimmer. As we walked parallel to the Navigation along the edge of Papercourt Marshes we saw no new bird species but did see many butterflies including meadow brown, red admiral and comma.

We rejoined the Navigation at the next bridge and headed back towards the lock. Almost immediately Nigel spotted movement in the reeds which materialised as two young reed warblers, their tail feathers much shorter than those of adult birds. As we walked under the trees we saw a number of blue, and great, tits, robins, a wren and a songthrush. The thrush was flying backwards and forwards through the trees, presumably finding food for its young and returning to its nest. Alan spotted a blackcap and we all heard a nuthatch. While we were trying to spot the nuthatch two treecreepers appeared and stayed around long enough for us all to get very good views.

As we retraced our steps to the carpark we saw no new birds but did add speckled wood to the butterfly list. Thanks to those who came on the walk. It was a very pleasant way of spending a sunny July morning.

STEVE WILLIAMS