Everything has it's beauty, but not everyone sees it. - Confucius
Sometimes the picture doesn't have to be perfect; it's the captured moment that counts. - me
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Monday, 1 June 2009

Thursley Common

Lunch over, Frank and myself set off to Thursley Common, with the aim of boosting my personal bird count, and just enjoying whatever was at the common.

In July 2006, a devastating fire ripped through hundreds of acres of the Surrey green belt, wiping out much of its plant and animal life, including many of its nesting birds. Around 60% of Thursley Common was destroyed in the blaze. Three years on it’s making a fantastic recovery.

It’s a 400-acre heathland reserve just north of the village of Thursley, and is one of the largest remaining fragments of Surrey heath, and includes areas of lowland heath, mire and woodland. The site supports a range of typical heathland wildlife including a large invertebrate population.

After we parked the car, we quickly scanned the lake to our right, containing the usual Mallards, and some Great Crested Grebes. Groups of families were also enjoying the lakeside in the warm sun. It looked a popular place.

Following one of the paths through the heath, we made our way to one of the boardwalks that cross over the boggy ground, and shallow pools and streams that are dotted around. Family groups left behind us, this vast area quickly became ‘ours’; save for a few people out with similar intentions to ours.

Ours, and the Hobbies that constantly flew above us.
‘Like a giant Swift.’ was a description given by Frank, to the ‘birders’ on our earlier walk at Wisley, and a fitting one too. They were Kings of the sky, lording it above us, and below, the Queens; the Damsels were skimming over the bog pools and streams, occasionally settling long enough for a picture or two.

Then my first Dragon of the year. Then another!

Skimming over the water, and briefly settling for a rest were beautiful, golden Four-spotted Chaser. I had indeed struck gold myself; my first Dragonflies this year, and my first ever Four-spotted Chasers. We sat in the hot sun, to watch, take photographs, and to take it all in. I could have sat forever, just gazing at the Cotton Grass stretched out before us, nodding in the cooling breeze.

The Damsells and Dragons skimming by, and the Hobbies soaring overhead. Could it get any more perfect than this?

‘There’s an Orchid’, said Frank.

And there were; everywhere you looked, standing regally and proud, dotted around in the damp floor of the heathland.

Marsh Orchid; their beautiful faces bowing in the breeze.

We carried on, the heath stretching as far as I could see. The occasional birdsong in the air, and as we reached a group of fire scarred trees, we stopped. Frank had spotted something in one of the trees ahead. Binoculars raised to eyes, we focused on a small bird, sat on a charred branch. Another first for me, nudging my count towards my target. A Redstart, too far away for a picture, but his orange red breast clearly visible through the bins. Frank had his scope, and camera, so hopefully got some decent shots.

In quick succession two more firsts quickly fell. Although remaining frustratingly distant, they were easily identified by Frank. A Tree Pipit, and a Woodlark. I hope his ‘scoped’ shots are better than mine.

My poor version of the Woodlark.

And once again, way ahead of us, another first, a Stonechat.

Poor picture, but a pleasing, personal record shot. On checking later, Frank wondered if it was a migratory maura race bird, and I think I agree, after consulting a few bird books.

We’d barely explored this vast area, but time was slipping through our hands, so reluctantly we began to make our way back. I was more than happy with what we’d already seen, and as we neared the boardwalk a sound made us both stop in our tracks. A Curlew had flown in ahead of us.

A distant record shot of another first for me. Its voice I could only liken to whatever sound liquid bubbles would make. Enchantingly beautiful.
We eventually made our way back to the car, for the homeward journey, briefly stopping to observe some tadpoles and newts swimming around in the bog stream by the boardwalk.

A thoroughly enjoyable day, and if I lived closer, Thursley would be my number one place to visit on a regular basis.

And for the record, I broke my target for the year by one. Things can only get better.

And if they get better than this, then bring it on!

Cheers Frank!


  1. Well Keith what a wonderful visit to Thursley you had - nice one. Pity I was elsewhere!

    Amazing pictures as ever and congrats on the Hobby! Particularly like the damsel and its reflection.

    (My broadband is behaving this morning - the wind must be in the right direction!)

  2. Keith, I regret the Redstart failed to be captured & my Woodlark shot is no better. Glad you got the Stonechat (can I have a copy?).

    A very pleasant day & thanks for travelling south to join me. Cheers Frank

  3. Sounds like you guys had a brilliant day! Great images, particularly the Hobby.

  4. the damselfly and dragonfly images are exquisite.

  5. I really wish we had a few acres set aside around here for wildlife, but we don't. Land is taxed here by the governments but they do allow farmers to let land return to nature, so to speak and will pay the farmer a fixed amount each year but nobody takes the government up on deals like that because they can make so much more on corn and soy beans.

    I like your photography and the catches you got. All are new to me but they are still ver nice. I heard th eneighbor lady yell to her kids that she saw a "Dragon Fly" and wanted them to come see it. We are separated by a tall board fence so I never got to see it. I suspect it could have been a damsel fly.

  6. YEAH on adding to your list, as I told you yesterday I hadnt tallied up in a while so I did...from 2006 to 2009 I added only 6 new ones. This is what makes adding one especially gratifying! The photos are great--if that curlew hadnt given away his location it would have been hard to spot on that brown grass! I know it was a fun trip with a friend along!

  7. Wow! What a great day you had altogether and I just wish my photos were as good as your 'not good' ones! :)

    What a shame about the fire but how well Nature is replenishing herself. Lovely to see the Orchids and the Dragonfly is stunning!

  8. The damsel and the dragonfly were picture perfect!

  9. Tricia, thank you. Frank was a great host, and we had an excellent time. Would love to go back there sometime.

    Frank, thank you. Had a great time. Shame about the Redstart pictures; but at least we saw it. I’ll e-mail a couple of Stonechat shots over to you later.
    Thanks again for a great day.

    Matt, thank you. We certainly did have a brilliant day; and it just got better as the day went on.

    Phil, thanks for your comment. Appreciate it.

    Abe, thank you. We’re lucky here I suppose; there are quite a few places set aside as Nature Reserves by various organisations. Long may it continue. I’m glad you enjoyed the pictures; it’s always good visiting other peoples blogs, and seeing the different species to what we have at home.

    Dixxie, thank you. You can’t beat that excitement of seeing a new bird for the year, or the very first time can you. We had a great day, and seeing and hearing the Curlew at the end of it, was like icing on the cake.

    ShySongbird, it was a day to remember. Thank you for your compliment on the pictures. Nature is certainly getting a good grip on the place now, and it seems the wildlife is returning.

    Shelley, thank you for your kind words. It was my first Dragonfly of the year, and I was very pleased how it came out.

  10. Outstanding Images, love every shot.The Hobby in flight looks perfect.Damselflies get my vote ten out of ten.
    Well done.

  11. Happened onto your blog today and took the the time to go through the entire blog. You, through your images have given me a glimps of your part of the world through the window of your camera lens. Thanks for the images.

  12. John, thanks for your comment. Appreciated. The Damsels can be tricky at times, but rewarding when a good shot comes by.

    It's Time to Live, thank you for stopping by, and taking the time to comment. And thank you for your very kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed your visit. Off to have a look at your place now.

  13. The Damsels shot with the reflection is worth mentioning:)Rest are as usual great!

  14. ...how cool that you got to bird with Frank. I read about your day birding together on his site as well. It would be a blast to bird with such knowledgeable birders. A very informative post...interesting about the fire and the reserve's rebirth (Mother Nature is amazing). Lovely photos as well.

  15. Terrific set of photos Keith. What a great day out you had with so much wildlife to see. Damsels, dragons, orchids and birds - I bet your camera was running red hot by the end. :)

  16. NatureStop, thank you for your kind comment. Appreciated.

    Kelly, thanks. Frank was a great host, and very knowledgeable. A really good day. And it's so good to see nature fighting back like that, after the fire.

    John, thank you. I did take rather a lot of pictures lol

  17. Keith, just to add my appreciation for your efforts with these pictures. Great shots and scenery.

  18. RMN1, thank you for stopping by, and commenting. Had a look at your blog, and some beautiful macro shots there.

    Les, thank you. Appreciate your comment.