Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Wednesday 13th. March 2013

Since the weekend , I have been reading reports of large numbers of Finches , seen not far from Box Hill in Surrey . All said that the birds were around in the morning , but not seen in the afternoon or at dusk . So it was an early start for me this morning , arriving on site just about 0715 . Although the sun was up , the site was in a deep valley , and the sun's warming rays were unable to penetrate down to the bridle path running up the length of the valley . I was not the first there , two birders from the Redhill area were already on site , but they had not had any sightings before I got there . One had been there two days earlier , arriving after 1030 to be told 'you should have been here ten minutes ago' , the other was hoping to see the Finch for the first time . A cold hour and a half went by without a sighting . I went further for a look further up the bridle path , only to find the two birders gone on my return , and a single replacement scanning the tree tops . Apparently another birder/dog walker had taken them to where he had seen some on his way there . After a short time , a small flock of birds flew into one of the tall trees , some 40/50 mtrs away from where we were standing . WE counted 12 Finches in the tree with the help of binoculars . A while later , in another tree we had 18 , but the sight that I will never forget is when we both turned around to the calls , and had 25/30 birds flying down the valley and over our heads , like a wave of bombers , absolutely incredible . In total , we saw 55/60 birds , admittedly some of them might have been double counted . Oh yes , the Finch in question , Hawfinch . The first report I read on Sunday stated 100/130 birds sighted , and c60 on Monday , so we were well happy with our count . The other birder who was local left soon after to get on with his decorating , but I stayed on for a while as birders in ones and twos arrived , until the twitch reached 20 , which included the original two who returned , having seen a couple of birds . I left at 1015 , with no further sightings , as reportedly , few birds had been seen after this time and
none in the afternoon . I'm posting a couple of rubbish shots taken at distance , unfortunately I wasn't prepared for the moment when the 'bomber squadron' flew over . I had made plans for an early finish at the site , deciding to try for a second time at Thursley Common for the Great Grey Shrike , especially as the weather was better than on the first visit , a pity not to , as the two sites were quite close . Arriving at the Moat car park , well wrapped against the wind , I set off finding the paths much better than the floods last time . By the time I reached 'Shrike Hill' , I had hardly heard a bird , never mind seen one . Meeting some local walkers , they told me that they hadn't heard of any sightings recently , just what I wanted to hear , but I just walked slowly scanning every vantage point , and hoping . The long sunny periods were becoming shorter , and every now and then there
was a snow flurry . I did find a pair of Stonechats , the male being the only one prepared to pose ,
distantly . Also flitting around was a small flock of Meadow Pipits , pictured during one of the darker spells . I must admit , I was starting to think the walkers were right , when a bird flew up from the
ground and perched in a Pine , and the walkers were proved wrong . The problem was though , that the bird was between myself and the sun , which was not good . But , beggars can't be choosers , so I
fired of as many shots as I could , whilst the bird posed on one side , then the other of the tree . After a couple of minutes , it dived down into the low scrubby vegetation below it's perch , and although I waited , it didn't reappear . I carried on well chuffed , only the second of the species that I have seen , and the first photographed . I worked my way around the back of 'Shrike Hill' , hoping that it would be over there and I would have the sun behind me , but it wasn't to be . I met a couple of birders and put them onto the position that I had had the bird , I hope they were lucky too . I was almost back at the spot again , having scanned all of the hill without any success , and just happened to look towards Pine Island , a stand of Pine trees , when a flash of white caught my eye , it was the Shrike again , and this time , although further away , the sun was behind me . It was hunting from a series of dead trees ,
searching the area below the one it was perched on , before moving to the next , what a fantastic
bird . It seemed to find something tasty just before this shot was taken . I haven't looked through all the near 400 shots I took of the bird on the two sightings , a wet day will be needed . Of interest , while watching the second sighting , 6 Common Buzzards were riding the thermals in the distance . Feeling cold , but well satisfied , I headed back to the car , and some warmth , finding another female
Stonechat en route that was willing to pose . A look at Moat Pond was no more interesting than a few
Mallard and a Grey Heron , but something was holding the interest of the latter .
Back to reality tomorrow , work day up on the Common .


Alan Pavey said...

Some great birds there Greenie and some great shots of the shrike! Excellent.

Warren Baker said...

I dont think I have that kind of birding even in my dreams!! Nice one Greenie!!

ShySongbird said...

Well done Greenie. A successful twitch and some great captures. I have never seen one although there was one locally last year which I missed. I would be very happy with a Stonechat too!

John Phillips said...

Just like you said... lots of Gt Grey Shrike photos.... nice one

- John