Well, this weekend got off to a glorious start with scenes like the ones pictured above and below replicated all around Winkworth on Saturday, as the arboretum was bathed in beautiful warming winter sunshine all day.
The birds were evidently feeling it too, as there was a great deal of singing going on, including Treecreepers and Stock Doves in Bluebell Wood, Goldcrests in Holly Wood and Bullfinch in Magnolia Wood. There were again good numbers of Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming across the site.
Talking of Bullfinches, I was pleased to get a half-decent shot of this handsome male on the edge of the Winter Garden while I was having my lunch on Sunday. After over three months at Winkworth I still can't quite believe how numerous this species is here given their increasingly scarce status in Surrey as a whole. Always a treat to see them.
Down on Rowe's Flashe there were three drake Pochards back on the water on Saturday, the first record here for a couple of weeks. On Sunday the lake was partially frozen and the Pochard count had increased to four - the highest number I've seen here yet.
Pochards doing what they do best...sleeping!
...and just to prove they do wake up sometimes...
(male Tufted Duck in the background. Fourth Pochard out of shot)
Also of note on the lake this weekend were seven Mandarins (six drakes, one female), two Little Grebes and a Water Rail calling at the southern end on Saturday.
A pair of Grey Wagtails were hanging around in the spillway north of the dam on Sunday afternoon, the male singing occasionally. The light was pretty poor by this point, so this was unfortunately the best picture I could get of the female, despite being very close.
Down in the Phillimore area of the arboretum I noted at least two Marsh Tits, and on Sunday morning there was a male House Sparrow singing from a bramble thicket in the Furze Field - a new bird for Winkworth for me! Also on Sunday a female Kestrel was keeping watch on me from atop a tree just to the east of Thorncombe Street as I did my morning checks in this area, while on Saturday a Sparrowhawk made a typically dashing flypast through Bluebell Wood. Buzzards are beginning to get territorial and I'm increasingly seeing them soaring and calling overhead.
The Alders around Rowe's Flashe and the Phillimore area continue to be excellent for Siskin, and two Redpoll flew over the upper arboretum on Saturday lunchtime.
First thing on Sunday I was treated to good views of at least two Firecrests on the eastern edge of the Holly Wood, although sadly I didn't have a camera to hand!
While walking the slope paths on Sunday morning I stumbled across these three Roe Deer, who were clearly in no hurry to run away! On Sunday afternoon there was a Fox lurking on the eastern shore of Rowe's Flashe, worrying the assembled Mallards.