Sunday, 27 May 2012

Thursley and Hankley Common with the Watford RSPB group (26th May)

My brother and I joined the Watford RSPB group down to Thursley Common in Surrey on an afternoon trip to catch up with some much sought after heathland birds.


We arrived at 15:00pm at Thursley Common with the rest of the group, most of whom were already indulging themselves in the dragonflies hawking around The Moat pond.  Rob Harris soon pointed out the local specialty, Downy Emerald to me (I'm rubbish at dragonflies).  Bird wise we saw much more.  Soon after stepping out onto the heath, we were enjoying the sight of at least 3 Hobbies hawking over the common making regular low flypasts, an amazing spectacle (sorry no pics, to fast for digi-scope shots).

Thrusley Common, what a landscape!

 my brother Ephraim with his camera




Not much else was about until we reached the wooded area near the centre of the Common were we all enjoyed close views of Stonechats in their summer plumage providing some good photographic opportunities.

digi-scope footage of a male Stonechat

 one of the many stunning male Stonechats

female Stonechat

 2 Curlew were also on the marsh (most likely a breeding pair).  The highlight came soon after when a WOODLARK shot out of the undergrowth giving its "tudlu" call before landing close-by and posed for the cameras for at least 10-15mins, even after we had left.

my best digi-scope attempt at the Woodlark


an excessively large number of Woodlark pics (sorry)

 digi-scope video of the silhouetted Woodlark

 Much of the remainder of our time was spent catching fleeting and tantalizing glimpses of REDSTARTS flitting between the conifers before plummeting into the undergrowth.  It was difficult to estimate a figure for how many we saw but at least 3-4 females could have been present in the small area that we visited.  On our return there were now 3 WOODLARKS but all quickly disappeared into the heather.  The final bird at Thursley Common was a white-rump type Stonechat (an unusual variety that I haven't seen before).


Hankley Common


sunset over Hankley Common

Whilst the rest of the group went for a pub lunch in Elstead I decided to head straight for the next site and was soon rewarded with a single Hobby and a singing TREE PIPIT just west of the car park.  The pipit even tolerated me standing only a few metres away, although perhaps it couldn't see me because it's left eye was almost permanently shut and struggle to open it, to reveal a red eye!

 Tree Pipit, you can just see the shut eye

 and the shorter claw (comaprison feature with Mipit)

 As I sat watching it a REDSTART came into land in to the same tree and perched in the open (unlike the ones at Thursley) a really stunning bird.  On my return to the car park I flushed another WOODLARK from the path (by accident) before meeting up with the Watford RSPB group at the car park.  As dusk gradually fell we heard our first short "chrrrrrrrrr" and minutes latter a NIGHTJAR rose out of the vegetation only metres from were we were stood!  The male was soon accompanied by a NIGHTJAR and for the rest of the evening until 22:30pm we enjoyed the spectacular sight of them as they made regular passes and even posed on the electricity pylon pole for at least 5mins.  Bizarrely we also heard a Cuckoo call once at 21:30pm (no mistaking)!  Finally, Bob Harris picked out a Soprano Pipistrelle using the bat detector and we glimpsed it occasionally as it flew low around our heads.

best shot I could get of the Nightjar on the electricity pylon girders

digi-scope footage of the churring Nightjar

Apologies for the large number of landscape shots.

Many thanks must go to John Fisher for giving my brother and I a lift to Thursley Common and Jenny Hill for organising the very enjoyable trip,
Thank you once again.

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