The group visited Thursley Common in Surrey on Sunday 17 June. The day started overcast but soon cleared to a sunny day, however the recent heavy rainfall meant that the boggy part of this National Nature Reserve was particularly wet and in one section brought a whole new meaning to ‘boardwalk’!
It is now six years since Thursley Common was devastated by a major heath fire, and the remaining signs of that fire are the few burnt remains of shrubs amongst the regenerated heather. On the whole the heathland, mire and woodland appear to have recovered, but as we walked around two pieces of the ecosystem “jigsaw” were still largely absent – there was little in the way of gorse bushes – instead silver birch is invading the heathland – and there was no sign of dartford warbler.
However, what we did see – and we saw a lot – demonstrated that Thursley Common has largely recovered and remains a very special place.
We quickly connected with stonechat (previously these would have often been associated with dartford warbler), reed bunting and linnet. A pair of buzzards were seen throughout the day over the heath; the first time I believe we have recorded buzzard at this location and indicative of the eastward expansion of their range over the last few years. Another exciting raptor, that gave splendid views and aerial performances, were a pair of hobbys. Curlew, woodlark and tree pipit were soon added, but for me the bird of the day were the redstarts. These seem to be doing very well as we saw at least 4 or 5 pairs, each apparently with young. In the sunlight the adult males looked truely spectacular.
Shifting our gaze groundward there was also much to see: basking common lizards, four-spotted chasers, beautiful demoiselle (and they truely are), southern marsh orchids (correct me if I’m wrong with my id), and a fantastic raft spider. This is the second largest spider in the UK and a specialist of these peaty bogs – it seemed to be able to walk on water and then it disappeared as it dived beneath the surface.
In the woodland section we also saw and heard willow warbler (at last – this species has been hard to find this year in Kent), chiffchaff, chaffinch, great,blue and long-tailed tits, green and great spotted woodpeckers, robin, wren and we heard the high pitched calls of goldcrests in the conifers above.
If you didn’t manage to join us, enjoy the selection of photographs below taken on the day. And if you get the chance to go there during the summer it is well worth the visit.
Report by Paul Yetman, trip leader.