Brent Goose at Holmethorpe SPs, Surrey ..... 16th November 2011

Holmethorpe has a pretty good track record when it comes to geese.
Past records have included Tundra Bean, Barnacle, Brent, White-fronted and Pink-footed Geese as well as the regular Greylags, Canadas and Egyptian Geese.
There have also been escaped/feral Emperor and Bar-headed Geese, and a Chinese Swan Goose put in an appearance on one occasion.

Personally, I still haven’t seen Bean Geese or wild Pink-foots locally and have only recorded Brent Goose on one occasion over the years.

After the unidentified gull from yesterday failed to appear this morning at Water Colour lagoons (more on that in a minute), I was about to head further round the local patch when I noticed a smallish goose heading in from the north-east and splash landing onto the lagoon.
A BRENT GOOSE no less.

I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised as there have been Brents over Canon’s Farm at Banstead and Beddington SF, where one touched down briefly, in the past week or two.

The Brent soon teamed up with a few Mallards and headed to the far bank of the lagoon, where it dabbled around in the shallows for about five minutes, before being spooked by the noisiest jogger in the area - a chap that you can hear coming from a mile away (exaggeration) by his loud huffing, puffing and grunting.

Not surpringly, the Mallards and Brent took off in a panic and the goose circled the lagoon calling persistently before heading off to the west. A new bird for the year at Holmethorpe.
I wandered further round the local patch and after checking the pits at Spynes Mere and Mercers West, I headed back across Mercers Farm when I noticed it, or another, Brent heading towards me from the west. It circled over Mercers Farm before heading back toward Mercers West Pit and out of sight.

Despite the lousy photo, I can assure you that it was a Brent Goose!

The only other bird of note appeared as I was watching a flock of 15 Lesser Redpolls (still no Commons found locally) and the flock suddenly took off in a panic as a male PEREGRINE flew overhead heading east.

Two decent birds in a day will do just fine, so I headed back to the Water Colour lagoons to check the gulls again. Still no sign of yesterday’s oddity.
So far there have been three suggestions as to what the gull was (Azorean Yellow-legged Gull, a small argentatus Herring Gull or a very pale graellsii Lesser Black-backed Gull) but, as the photos were so poor, we will probably never know for certain, unless it appears again.
My money is on it being a small female argentatus Herring Gull.

I can only hope that it is seen at Beddington SF where the birders are far more experienced at gull identification than any of the Holmethorpe birders.


Mystery gull at Holmethorpe Sand Pits ... 15th November 2011

This gull was picked out by Gordon Hay at Water Colour Lagoon 1 at Holmethorpe SPs late this morning.
I had already noticed it a couple of minutes earlier and had dismissed it as being a scruffy-looking Lesser Black-backed!
On closer inspection, it had the mantle colour of a Yellow-legged Gull but that species should be showing a white head by this time of year and the bird we were looking at had anything but a white head. The fine streaking giving it a hooded effect. It was darker mantled than the Herring Gulls it was accompanying but lighter mantled than graelsii Lesser Black-backed. In fact the grey tone was closer to that of a Common Gull.

We ran through the likely identifications. Argentatus Herring Gull? It didn’t have the bulk and brutish expression to be that.
Azorean Yellow-legged Gull? Not sure. I suppose it is possible but I need to get better photos.
I am hoping it will still be around tomorrow.
Opinions would be welcomed but I appreciate that from the poor quality of my photos, it won't be easy!


Holmethorpe Sand Pits … 16th October – 7th November

On the 16th October, Gordon Hay found an adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULLon the sand spit at Spynes Mere. I made my way to add this locally scarce species to my year list but, five minutes before arriving at Spynes Mere, Gordon phoned to say the bird had just flown.
Earlier in the day, Ian Kehl had found our first local Fieldfare for the autumn.

The 19th October produced a Peregrine over Mercers Farm carrying prey and on the 20th I found a drake Pintail on Mercers West Pit, another new local year tick. A couple of the other local birders saw it but it only stayed for the one day.

On the 21st, Gordon and I spotted a Peregrine heading east over Mercers Farm and, on the 23rd, Ian Kehl saw our first Little Egret since May. That bird didn’t stay long enough to be refound.

The 27th produced two Common Crossbills for Gordon flying east over Mercers Farm - another new species for the year – and yet another year tick came on the 28th when Gordon spotted a SHORT-EARED OWL being mobbed by corvids over Mercers West. Paul and I were at the eastern end of Spynes Mere but, despite a call from Gordon alerting us to this bird, we failed to see it.

On the 29th, Gordon struck lucky again with 12 Common Crossbills flying west over Spynes Mere and on the 30th he found a Stonechat out on The Moors NR. I managed to find the Stonechat the following day but it hasn’t been seen since then.

No really notable birds were seen until the 6th November when Gordon found Holmethorpe’s third ever FIRECREST in the car park at Mercers Country Park, another bird that unfortunately didn’t hang around long enough for others to see. On the same visit, Gordon also had a Redshank flying south and calling.

The 7th November proved rewarding when I met up with Gordon at first light and he almost immediately spotted a SHORT-EARED OWL being mobbed by corvids over Water Colours. It eventually shook of the crows and headed south – the second for Gordon this year, the first for me and, surprisingly, only the 6th local record of this species. About an hour later we picked out a first-winter LITTLE GULL at Water Colour Lagoon 1. It only stayed for ten minutes before flying off to the south. Later in the morning we saw the first two Golden Plovers for the year at Holmethorpe, flying north over Mercers West Pit.

The Holmethorpe year list now stands at 138 species, which is the same number that we had recorded by the end of November last year.