Monday, 14 March 2011

Patch Walk Delights.

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.


  1. I love the Mandarins. They are just wonderful.

  2. The Mandarin are delightful Frank. lovely images.

  3. Great serie, the mandarin is such a lovelly duck! I also love the coot...they are unnaproachable here!

  4. Wonderful images as always. Those Mandarins just amaze me. I have never seen such a thing! It's always such a pleasure visiting your blog.

  5. A question for you Frank. I quite often see Canada Geese in your photos. Are Canada geese native to England or are they invasives?

  6. I think the birds see you coming and run over to pose for you! You always get such wonderful images. :)) Thanks for sharing.

  7. Hi Frank..Comical you Canadian Goose collage!!
    The Mandarin are just amazing..they hardly look real!!

  8. And me, I'm for the Mandarins; they are graceful.

  9. Wow the mandarin ducks pictures are splendid, lucky you... I've only seen it once in a park in France and would love to see them wild ;-) A beautiful walk in sunshine you got!

  10. Wonderful captures! That lady Mandarin may not be as bright as the boys - but she sure is beautiful!

  11. Lovely photos. There don't seem to be any Mandarins in this area at all Frank. They really are incredible looking birds. It was nice to see a close up of the female which I think tends to be a little overlooked due to the spectacular appearance of the male, she is very attractive too!

  12. You had a wonderful outing. I really enjoyed the pictures. The Mandarins are especially beautiful. I took another trip to Middle Creek yesterday, but it was not nearly as productive as the first.

  13. LBJ's will be with you very soon now Frank :-) Do you reckon you'll get to 100 species on your patch this Year?

  14. A beautiful series of photographs! Sounds like you had a delightful adventure. The Mandarins are breathtaking creatures! A joy to view your blog!

  15. Thanks Tammy. They are a very endearing species.

    Thanks Roy.

    Cheers Dominic. For some reason our Coots are generally quite co-operative.

    Hi Mona. They are somewhat unusual. Far more showy than our home grown ducks.

    Hi Red. The 'Greater' Canada Goose was originally an introduced species but we now have vast numbers throughout UK and Europe.

    Hi Lois. It's not always that simple .. lol. The Canada Geese are often approachable although one took a nip at Anita's leg today!

    Hi Grammie. Well that was the view I was offered so I took it .. lol. Yes the Mandarins do look like colourful toys.

    Cheers Bob. I agree.

    Thanks Chris. I hope you get the chance to creep up on a wild one sometime.

    Hi Kerri. Yes, she is not unlike the lady Wood Duck .. just as interesting.

    Hi Jan. Delighted to share something you don't see. The male does actually help the misses with bringing up the youngsters so not just a showoff!!

    Cheers Willard. I know, sometimes it works out and sometimes not. Patience is always the key.

    Hi Warren. I have been reviewing my old records and with an all time total of 75 I have a feeling it might be a struggle. Unlike you I am not visiting daily so will easily miss single day stayers.

    Thanks Julie G. Some recent local visits have been very quiet but on another day like yesterday the added surprises lift the spirits.

  16. What a lot of birds you saw and so many beauties! I have several patches I keep track of now and should do a post about them! It would be fun to compare by patches what everyone is seeing. eBird has now started a "Patch Game" which helps you keep track of birds in a certain patch.

  17. Hi Kathie. I'll look forward to seeing some info on your new local patches.
    My local patches close to home sit within a 5 x 5km grid square and I submit data via a Surrey Birders site and it is interesting to compare boh totals and species seen with other Patch recorders.


I hope you enjoyed your visit and I always appreciate your comments and feedback.


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