My patch walk at Epsom Common this morning started with Wren and Blackbird singing at the car park. No activity on the Stew Pond apart from three anglers hoping for a bite! Blue Tits called as I climbed the steps to scan over the Great Pond with the sun directly ahead making it difficult to discern the colour of any shapes on the water but I picked out Mallard, Coot, Moorhen and two Grey Herons. A Kestrel flew over and a few minutes later was followed by a Sparrowhawk with a Carrion Crow in tow.
Directly to my left were a pair of Canada Geese; the male on sentry duty while his partner enjoyed the fresh green grass. One was colour ringed (YYS) but I couldn't read the BTO ring number.
Grey Heron patrolling the distant pond margins.
I then walked round to the other end of the pond and with the sun behind me was able to easily pick out a pair of TUFTED DUCKS, 5 Teal and then a pair of MANDARIN DUCKS briefly emerged from the pond-side vegetation but quickly disappeared. Then I heard the call of a Mandarins overhead and a group of 9 circled over the treetops and promptly headed off westwards. My earliest recorded sighting was 12 March 1997 but last year I didn't pick them up until the 31 March so this visit was obviously well timed to log their return!
Skirting further around the pond I eventually managed a distant (cropped) view of a male Mandarin while also logging a second pair hidden amongst a stand of willows out in the water and then disturbed a female Pheasant who flapped her way deep into the woods.
With little else on offer I headed along the northern boundary of Ashtead Common overlooking Rushett Farm and picked up several Skylarks joyfully singing, Magpie, Woodpigeon, 2 STOCK DOVES, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Great, Coal and Long-tailed Tits with one carrying nesting material. Several Nuthatches were heard calling plus Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Treecreeper, Jackdaw and Parakeets.
Evidence of the tree management work; some heavily cropped crowns and others have just had a haircut but a many of the old veterans have been left alone apart from having had their understory cleared away. First butterfly sighting for this year was two BRIMSTONES flitting through the woodland glades. I then retraced my route back to the Great Pond and as luck would have it the group of Mandarins that I had seen flying off earlier returned and after a quick circuit deposited themselves on the water but promptly swam out of view under the overhanging branches. As I crept slowly and quietly closer I could hear them chatting to one another and then they all erupted in flight across the pond.
I counted 10 males and the reason for their visit was to court one unpaired female who definitely didn't want to play their games as she constantly flew away with her numerous consorts following her every move.
Female Mandarin Duck.
So todays surprises lifted my patch sighting total for 2011 to 44. Now all I need to hear is the song of some returning LBJ's. FAB.