It is strange how, every so often, even an inland local patch can turn up good and unexpected birds. Today was one of those days, although the last couple of days at Holmethorpe Sand Pits have hardly been unproductive.
On Wednesday 24th March, a male Black Redstart was found by Matt Farmer and the same bird was seen again late in the afternoon by Neil Randon. The same day produced 12 Sand Martins, a female Goldeneye and 2 Shelducks.
Yesterday, the 25th, had Matt recording a total of 28 Sand Martins feeding over one of the pits plus the first local Swallow of the year.
Then, early this morning, at 5.50 a.m., I spotted a female Marsh Harrier slowly flapping over Mercers Lake and heading south, its cream cap clearly visible, even in the less than perfect early morning light. It headed into the distance, disappearing over Nutfield Ridge briefly and then reappeared over the ridge with several corvids mobbing it before disappearing again below the horizon. The last thing that I was expecting at this early hour was a large raptor. This was only the 4th site record of this species at Holmethorpe.
As if that wasn't enough, a while later I found a female Black Redstart near to the same spot that Matt had found a male on Wednesday.
Female BLACK REDSTART
A phone call to local birder Gordon Hay had him joining me briefly to add this species to our local year lists and not long after, I was joined by Johnny Allan from Beddington SF who is trying to beat the Surrey year list total (which is a record already held by Johnny - see http://surreybirding.blogspot.com/). As is always the way, by the time Johnny arrived, the bird had disappeared and it took some time for us to relocate it some distance from where I had last seen it.
Mike Spicer, also from Beddington, managed to locate the bird again later in the morning.
A Swallow and a few Sand Martins were over the nearby pits and a pair of Shelducks flew over.
Later in the day, Gordon noted that the female Goldeneye was still present on one of the pits and he also logged the pair of Shelducks and exactly 100 Stock Doves and a Little Owl at Mercers Farm. He also saw 20 Sand Martins, plus the Swallow, 9 Shoveler and 5 Chiffchaffs.
A day that produced a few good birds for an inland local patch. What will tomorrow bring? I can't wait to find out.