Holmethorpe Sand Pits ... April 2011

April got off to a good start with two Red Kite sightings, a Peregrine and a Little Egret on the 1st.


(GJ)

The Little Egret remain on the 2nd, when a first-summer male Wheatear appeared at The Moors NR.


(GJ)

The Wheatear and Little Egret were still around on the morning of the 3rd and the first Common Sandpiper of the year dropped in. On the same morning, Gordon Hay saw a Tawny Owl being mobbed by Blackbirds and eventually flushed from bushes on the edge of the Holmethorpe recording area and Richard Bartlett saw a Peregrine flying north over Nutfield Ridge.
Matt Farmer found a drake Red-crested Pochard at the Water Colour Lagoons on the morning of the 4th and Paul and I were surprised by a Curlew that flew from a pool at Nutfield Ridge later the same morning. The Little Egret put in another appearance and Gordon found a White Wagtail at Mercers Farm in the afternoon, also another Common Sandpiper was at Mercers West Pit.
The 5th turned up a Peregrine, the Little Egret, a male Wheatear and, best of all, a female or immature BLACK REDSTART was found by Gordon in the late afternoon along the hedge between Mercers Country Park and Mercers Farm.
The Black Redstart remained throughout the 6th and Matt Farmer relocated the White Wagtail at Mercers Farm. Yet again, the Little Egret appeared at The Moors NR. A big count of 12 Willow Warblers passing through – we are lucky these days if more than a couple of pairs stay to breed – and two Green Sandpipers were the best of the rest.


(GJ)

It was fairly quiet until the 9th when Gordon located a male RING OUZEL at the horse paddocks at Mercers Farm and also had a fly-over Yellow Wagtail. Unfortunately, the Ring Ouzel didn’t hang around long enough for any of the other local birders to add it to their year lists. The only other notable bird was a Red Kite heading south-west at 6.40 a.m.
The 10th produced a male Wheatear at The Moors NR and Des Ball had two Yellow Wagtails at the sewage works.
A Sedge Warbler was at the reedbed at Spynes Mere on the 11th and Neil Randon located a male Wheatear in the early afternoon. Later on, Richard Bartlett heard the first local Cuckoo of the year at Nutfield Ridge.


(GJ)

The 12th was pretty uneventful, except for a Red Kite low over Mercers Farm at 7.55 a.m.


(GJ)

The 13th saw the first Reed Warbler for the year at Holmethorpe and four Wheatears were noted.


(GJ)

On the 14th, three Wheatears were at Mercers Farm and I had the strange sight of a Barnacle Goose with two small Canada Geese at Spynes Mere, photos were taken and, after close inspection, it appeared that the ‘Lesser’ Canadas were in fact Canada x Barnacle hybrids and even the Barnacle Goose didn’t look quite right – all fairly obvious escapes.


(GJ)

The 15th saw me find a local scarcity – a Red-legged Partridge at Mercers Farm. It is surprising that we don’t see more of them as they are present in good numbers at South Nutfield, only a couple of miles away. Paul found the first Lesser Whitethroat for the year and five Wheatears were at the farm. In the evening he spotted two Little Egrets heading south-west.


(GJ)

Three Wheatears were present on the morning of the 16th, the number rising to five by the evening. In the afternoon, Gordon rang me with the news that he had just had a glimpse of a Common Redstart at the edge of The Moors. I joined him but, despite a long wait for the bird to reappear, it failed to do so.
The 17th proved a red-letter day for my wife Sue and I when we decided to have a stroll around the perimeter path of The Moors NR in the afternoon. Sue has the ability to pick out scarce birds that I often miss and, on this occasion, commented that the crow she had just seen flying off looked massive. I soon got onto it and it began ‘cronking’ as it disappeared into the distance. The first RAVEN for Holmethorpe! The following day, I received an email from Tom Cahalane to say he had spotted the Raven between Redhill and Reigate not long after we had seen it. Earlier on the 17th, Gordon Hay and Ian Kehl had seen a Red Kite drifting north-west and two Wheatears had been present at Mercers Farm.
The 18th proved almost as good as the previous day, when I had a ringtail HEN HARRIER fly from the direction of Mercers Lake and then head north over South Merstham – only the third site record. Two Wheatears were at Mercers Farm on the same date.
On the 19th, I saw a Peregrine take a Woodpigeon at Nutfield Ridge.
The 20th produced a summer-plumaged Dunlin at Mercers West Pit and the first local Garden Warbler for the year. Matt Farmer had a Peregrine fly over the M23 and over Spynes Mere on his way to work in the morning and Gordon Hay logged the first two Hobbies of the year locally.
The 21st proved yet another red-letter day with Paul and I finding a TURTLE DOVE at Spynes Mere in the morning. Unfortunately, it didn’t stay long enough for other birders to locate it. The first local Common Tern appeared at Mercers Lake on the same day.


(PK)


(GJ)

Two Greenshanks appeared at Mercers West Pit on the 22nd and a Curlew flew over later in the morning. Also, a Peregrine was over the landfill site. In the evening, Gordon saw a Cuckoo in flight.


(GJ)

The 24th saw Gordon logging the first local Swift for the year and he also found a Ringed Plover on Spynes Mere sandspit.
The 25th was our annual Holmethorpe Bird Race day. This year, I couldn’t attend due to other commitments and, unfortunately, it turned out to be a non-event with only Gordon Hay, Ian Kehl and David ‘Devil Birder’ Campbell from Canons Farm at Banstead turning up. Normally, the bird race turns up a few special birds but this time only a couple of Hobbies and a Red Kite (seen by David) were really notable.


(DC)

The 26th produced another Little Egret.
The 27th had my head spinning as I had another TURTLE DOVE fly overhead heading north-north-east at Spynes Mere at 7.33 a.m.
Not much else of note was reported during the last few days of the month.
April out of the way and my favourite birding month ahead.

Graham

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