15th June 2017
Of course the original objective was to photograph the Red-footed Falcon at Frensham Common, but that hadn't been seen since 7.30am, and so after an hour we took the strategic decison to move to Thursley Common in the hope of some Hobbys and Dartford Warblers.
I sensed we might be in for a good day as, just as I was sitting in the boot having a sandwich, I looked up and there in front of me just 8 yards away was a superb male Redstart. Of course by the time I had found the camera it was long gone. I have been to Thursley several times before, but always for dragonflies, so really have no idea what birds are here.
So off we set and not too surprisingly, in view of the fact that we were in an acid bog and heathland, the first birds we came across were Stonechats. I normally photograph Stonechats during the winter months so these, especially the males, were rather more colourful. Also along the boardwalks Goldfinches were posing on the Gorse.
We also saw Redstarts at a few places on our route, and what was noticeable was that it was the males that enjoyed the sunshine, whilst the females seemed happier collecting food for their offspring in the shadows.
I normally go to The Brecks for Tree Pipits, but up on the heath here they were far more numerous and were singing from several trees. One particular individual was particularly confiding and allowed us to approach to within just 8 yards as it posed on a burnt log. Note the thin striations on the flanks, the stouter bill and tiny hind claw compared to a Meadow Pipit.
A little further along the track there were a few birds chasing around low over the heath, eventually dropping into cover. More Tree Pipits? A stealthy approach managed to locate one of the birds which turned out to be, not a Tree Pipit, but a Wood Lark. Once again we were able to get within just 8 yards.
Well, can this day get any better? Yes it can. As we approached the end of the track, we could hear the unmistakeable jangle of a Dartford Warbler. Now these birds are harder than you can imagine. Yes, they are loud and you can get just yards from them. The problem is that they often sing from the centre of a bush, so can be heard but not seen.
When they do eventually break cover, you very often have just a few seconds to grab a shot before they drop down again into cover. However, with a little patience it is possible to hear them, see them and grab a shot which I managed to do. Not the best, but I WILL BE BACK!!!