Thursley: Hobby and Cuckoo!

Now that spring has arrived, we decided a trip to Thursley Common was long overdue. The National Nature Reserve explodes into life in the spring and summer, with the lizards coming out in their hundreds, and arrivals like the Hobby bringing fresh life to the area.

We began walking, and the first five to ten minutes were surprisingly quiet, with an evident lack of birdsong. Unusual. But around ten minutes in, after walking further into the centre of the reserve, Thursley lived up to its expectations again. Sound erupted from the gorse bushes on either side of the path, and insects and spiders could be seen darting around beneath our feet. It was as good as it had been for all the past years we have visited.

Gorse Bushes
More Gorse

When we reached the big area of gorse in the middle of the reserve, we started seeing a lot more birds flying around from tree to tree and over the gorse, although they were very active, and didn't seem to want to stop to allow us to see properly what they were. Once they had settled down, we realised that they were Linnets. Linnets are most commonly found on commons, heathland, and farmland, where they feed on seeds and insects, usually travelling in flocks, which sometimes include other species as well, such as Twite. The Linnet is suffering in Britain though. The UK population is estimated to have declined 57% since 1970. Because of this, they are listed on the UK Red List.

Linnet Silhouette

The best was still to come though. We decided not to go any further into the centre, but instead to head back a longer route over the boardwalks. Around halfway to the boardwalks we spotted a silhouette of a falcon flying over our heads. A Hobby! The Hobby came and went a few times, each time giving us beautiful aerial displays as it was hunting the vast number dragonflies at Thursley, whilst showing off its wonderful colouring as it swerved around above the gorse and heather. Now for some info. The Hobby arrives in the UK in April, and stays until September or October, when they return to spend the winter in Africa, with the main wintering ground believed to be the Zambezi basin. They catch their prey, flying insects and small birds, in the mid-air, grasping them with their talons, and then feed on the wing. 

Thursley Hobby
Thursley Hobby

Once we reached the boardwalks, we were greeted yet again by the incredible number of lizards sat on almost every plank. They will be featuring in their own post soon.

After crossing the boardwalks, we were close to the car park again, and were beginning to think that we had seen all we were going to see. Then, from very close by, came a familiar call. The call of the Cuckoo, something I hadn't heard for at least 10 months. Then, a few minutes after the call, we saw the beautiful bird itself, as it flew out of a wooded area, and onto a telephone wire, closer than we expected. Still calling, it sat there for over 5 minutes, letting us admire it and take some photos.

It is amazing to think that this individual would have most likely been in West Africa a couple of months ago. Their British population has recently been in decline though, putting it on the Red List as well, along with the Linnet. The Common Cuckoo is well known for being a 'brood parasite'. When the moment is right, the female knocks an egg out of the victim's nest, and lays its own in the old eggs place, leaving the target mother to bring up the cuckoo chick. The female may visit up to 50 nests in one breeding season, with the most common targets being warblers, though over 100 different host species have been recorded.

Thursley Cuckoo
Thursley Cuckoo

This trip to Thursley had been one to remember, with amazing sightings of both the Hobby, and the Cuckoo, and (even more) views of the lizards. Thursley Common remains one of my favourite places to watch wildlife, being a truly unique and special place for wildlife and nature.

Thank you for reading.


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