Just a twenty minute drive from our home in Woking, lies a most unique and wonderful area of ancient heathland. Chobham Common is the largest area of heathland in South East England and regarded as one of the finest examples of lowland heath in the world. It is a National Nature Reserve, jointly managed by the Surrey Wildlife Trust and has been designated a 'Site of Special Scientific Interest'; SSSI. Its list of rare plants, lichens, ferns, insects, dragonflies, butterflies, mammals and reptiles is extremely impressive, and with a bird list of over 100 species, it's a place I have wanted to return to.
I have only been here on a couple of occasions but that was over 15 years ago, though I still remember the excitement of seeing Dartford Warbler, Nightjar and Woodcock. Today, however, none of the for mentioned specialties were seen. Morning birding with a slight drizzle in August is definitely not the best scenario to see these heathland birds, but I didn't go unrewarded.
I first entered the gate down Red Lion Road where I followed the trails up to the powerlines. Here I added two species to my very modest year list: Coal Tit and Goldcrest. After poking around for an hour or so I headed to the main entrance (Roundabout Car Park), where I spent another hour looking and listening for Dartford Warbler. With poor weather conditions, I really new I was out of luck, but was happy to be out and learning some of the trails. Every now and then I would bump into little flocks of Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Goldcrest and Willow Warbler, which kept me busy.
Green Woodpeckers, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Carrion Crow were all present as were several groups of Ring-necked Parakeet, that noisily flew over the heath. So, bird of the day was a Stonechat. En-route back to the car from the Red Lion Road entrance I noticed a bird. It flew from the heather up to a tree and started twitching its tail. I was really thrilled to see this plump little heathland bird. No, I didn't get a stonking male in breeding plumage in perfect light. My first look for many years was a rather damp and sad looking juvenile, but I was very happy to see it none the less. After a few minutes I noticed two more, one being another juv and the other a female.
|Chobham Common trail|