Holmethorpe SPs & Redhill again ... 4th January 2011

It seemed to take forever to get light this morning and I didn't get to the local patch at Holmethorpe Sand Pits until 8.45 a.m. The dog-walkers and joggers were already out in force so I decided to walk the few hundred yards past the patch boundary and see if the WAXWINGS were still present in Frenches Road, Redhill. I stood on the footbridge over the railway line for quite a while and, although I could hear the birds trilling nearby, it wasn't until 9.35 a.m. that they showed - eight birds again. They perched in a tall tree by the railway line before dropping down into a back garden to feed on a tree full of rotting cooking apples. A female Blackcap was also feeding on the apples with them. The Waxwings flew off about 20 minutes later but, hopefully, they will stay in the area a while longer as there are still plenty of rotting apples to feed on. I then headed back to the sand pits.

As I reached Nutfield Road, I stopped off at Fordbridge, over Redhill Brook, and watched a Kingfisher skim along the brook on whirring wings. This is a regular spot for Water Rails but none were showing today, although one was squealing later at Mercers Lake. I walked the path along the southern side of Mercers Lake but it seemed very quiet. A scan of the lake from the eastern end didn't produce the Smew I was hoping would still be present, so I headed on towards Mercers Farm, where a flocks of around 60 Goldfinches and 23 Redwings were present, plus 9 Yellowhammers.
Heading on to Spynes Mere, the male SHELDUCK was showing again and a Snipe was asleep on the island. A couple of Pochard, a few Gadwall and a pair of Teal were the only other birds of interest that I could find there. Four Reed Buntings were in the nearby typhus reedbed.

At Mercers West Pit it took 35 minutes to locate the female GOLDENEYE, which is amazing as much of the pit is still frozen over and the area of open water is limited at present. This duck spends more time underwater than on the surface and can be frustrating to spot. Better numbers of Gadwall and Teal were present here, 15 and 23 respectively, and 102 Lapwings were roosting on the ice.

Heading back and walking the north path of Mercers Lake in a last-ditch attempt to locate the SMEW turned out to be the right decision as two were present, hiding together under the overhanging branches near the bank. Heading on down the path, there is one small patch of hedge that is thin enough to be able to view part of the filter beds at Merstham Sewage Treatment Works. Twenty Pied Wagtails and one Grey Wagtail were busy feeding..

Not having bothered to bring food and drink with me, my rumbling stomach told me it was time to head home.


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