Holmethorpe Sand Pits, Surrey ... 1st - 10th February 2011

Holmethorpe Sand Pits continue to host up to 3 redhead SMEW on Mercers West Pit, although they can prove elusive at times.


The female and first-winter GOLDENEYE remained until the 8th, but haven’t been seen since and have, presumably, moved on.


A pair of Shelduck have been present intermittently and 3 birds were seen on the 8th when a drake was on Mercers West Pit and a pair flew over heading east.


A drake RED-CRESTED POCHARD was briefly at Water Colour Lagoon 1 early on the 10th before it flew off strongly to the east. It has been added to our year list as being of unknown origin as the status of this species in Surrey is somewhat clouded as self-sustaining feral birds do exist but also many birds are kept in collections. Normally, we don’t see this species turn up at the pits before mid-April but that in itself doesn’t clarify the situation regarding this drake.


LITTLE EGRETS are appearing more regularly now, with single birds seen on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 7th and 8th, two birds on 6th and 10th and three individuals on the 9th.


Green Sandpipers are also being seen occasionally at Mercers West Pit with 2 birds present on the 6th. Seven Wigeon (a drake and 5 females) were at the same pit on the 1st.
In general though, wildfowl numbers are declining with maximum counts since the start of February being 45 Gadwall, 22 Pochard, 35 Teal and 21 Shoveler. Up to 3 Egyptian Geese have appeared at the pits during the last ten days with up to 46 Canada Geese and 98 Greylag Geese being counted.
A Water Rail has been seen at Fordbridge, near the entrance to the Water Colour housing development, on the 1st, 8th & 10th. This bird favours the stream on The Moors NR side of the road. A male Kingfisher was seen on the 6th.


Raptors haven’t been much of a feature in February so far, with just 3 Common Buzzards together on the 3rd, single Sparrowhawks seen on the 1st, 6th and 8th and, surprisingly, no Kestrels reported so far this month.


Single Common Snipe have been seen on four dates but, as they are mainly concentrated at The Moors NR where there is no public access, many more are probably in the area. No Lapwing counts have been taken so far this month but I would estimate that up to 150 birds have been present since the start of the month.

A few Great Black--backed Gulls have been present with 15 seen on the 8th at Nutfield Ridge and Lesser Black-backeds Gulls have been seen in good numbers for Holmethorpe with 85 birds on the 8th, also roosting at Nutfield Ridge where there were around 1000 Black-headed Gulls on the same date. There must have been a movement of Common Gulls on the 9th when 252 birds turned up at Spynes Mere and on the same date Gordon Hay counted 510 birds roosting on a field at Godstone, a few miles away.


Holmethorpe’s resident Little Owls have only been seen on a couple of dates so far this month and Siskins are often being seen, but not in great numbers – the best count being 12 birds on the 6th. Bullfinches are regularly noted at Holmethorpe and there were 4 birds seen on the 6th and the 9th.


The stubble field at Mercers Farm has now been ploughed and, as a consequence, Skylarks seem to have moved off but they should return again once a crop has been sown. Yellowhammers at the farm were concentrated into a smaller and smaller area of stubble as the ploughing took place and around 60 birds were noted on the 6th. Occasional single Grey Wagtails have been noted at the sewage treatment works along with up to 47 Pied Wagtails and a single Meadow Pipit. This is an underwatched area due to there being no access and the filter beds being only visible through a small gap in the hedge along the northern path at Mercers Country Park. During the summer, when the hedge is in full leaf, it is almost impossible to view.
A couple of Coal Tits and Goldcrests have been noted at Mercers Country Park and there are still reasonable numbers of Redwings but much fewer Fieldfares now.

Overwintering Chiffchaffs have been a regular feature at Holmethorpe in previous years and on the 3rd December last year Gordon Hay and I counted 6 birds in the area but, since the freeze-up and the start of 2011, none have been reported. Hopefully, they just moved on and didn’t succumb to the cold conditions.

WAXWINGS have continued to put in an occasional appearance around Frenches Road at Redhill, which is close to Holmethorpe Sand Pits, with Neil Randon noting 18 birds on the 3rd, 15 birds on the 7th and a single bird on the 8th. The rotting apples that they were feeding on are almost gone, so the birds may soon move on.

February can be a difficult month to add new species to the year list but we are still hopeful that a Goosander or a Pintail may drop in at some stage.


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