Welcome to my blog. If you live in Surrey and birding is your obsession (to get out of bed at some ridiculously early time of the morning, no matter what the weather, to go and look at birds isn't normal behaviour, believe me) and you're still a bit of a novice (like me) then, hopefully, this blog is for you.

Saturday 31 July 2010


With a bit of luck this will be my last weekend without a scope. It is my birthday next Saturday and my thoughtful wife, Annie, is hopefully going to purchase one for me at Sevenoaks Nature Reserve tomorrow afternoon.

Kay Opticals of Morden are demonstrating a number of their bins and scopes there tomorrow and we are planning a visit. A scope can't come quick enough, to be honest, because my birding is limited at the moment to woodland areas. Anywhere expansive like reservoirs and even places like my own patch, Holmethorpe Sand Pits, or Beddington Sewage Works, are pretty hopeless for viewing purposes with binoculars.

A case in point today. I don't know why I bothered going there, but the prospect of seeing a Caspian Gull was too tempting, even if it would be a massive outside chance of me actually seeing one in my current predicament. I was relying on the possibility that someone might be at Staines Reservoir actually looking at the bird when I got there, so that I could scrounge a look.

Predictably, there was not a soul around and anything that looked remotely interesting was too far away. There was a gull on the gantry on the King George VI Reservoir opposite where the Caspian Gull was supposed to be visible on, but it could have been a Herring Gull, or numerous other subtle variations from where I was looking.

Never mind, there were a few Common Terns flying around and I did get a photo of a Common Blue butterfly - just something to put up on the blog more than any other reason.

After a brief visit I drove to Little Bookham Common to try and get a half-decent photo of a Marsh Tit and a Bullfinch. No such luck there either. I saw both birds but couldn't get close enough quick enough to grab an image. So I took a photo of an impressive tree instead.

Tuesday 27 July 2010


I took another visit to Beddington this morning. A case of not being able to sleep after last week's op - my nose was bunged as a capped oilpipe leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

It turned out to be a worthwhile exercise. I ended up at the north end of the Farm where all the Green and Common Sandpipers have been migrating to recently - 31 Green Sandpipers were present. After a few minutes Johnny Allan walked by on the 'good' side of the perimeter fence. After introducing myself - he knew me from various forums, messages, etc - he very kindly invited me into the Farm's inner sanctum.

He's a top man, Johnny. Certainly knows his stuff, having been a serious birder for more than 30 years. His blog (see sidebar) is always a good read, too. We ventured over to the eastern end of the scrape and using his scope, he pointed out the Wood Sandpiper (143) that had arrived on the site a couple of days ago. An excellent new bird for the list.

It also reaffirms my need for a scope. I knew the bird was there when looking through my bins, but there was no way of picking it out clearly to make a confirmed sighting. The scope showed the bird straight away, and its distintive mottled plumage compared to the Greens and Commons.

So, better start saving up.

Monday 26 July 2010


Annie and I went for a pleasant walk around Bookham and Little Bookham Commons this afternoon. Always a good place for birds, particularly Little Bookham. While the Nightingales have shut up shop, there's still plenty to see. Over a two hour saunter, we spotted a pair of Goldcrests with their young, as well as numerous Goldfinch and a couple of Buzzards soaring high up.

Best of all, though, were a pair of Bullfinches, the first I have seen in a few months, plus a couple of chirpy Marsh Tits. I didn't get a photo of either, but did manage some nice shots of a Silver-Washed Fritillary butterfly, of which there are many at Bookham at this time of year,

Friday 23 July 2010


Having only had a sinus operation the day before, I wasn't supposed to venture out on Thursday evening. But I'm glad I did. I felt pretty good, so I took the opportunity to go for a walk. I was only going to go over to the Holmethorpe Lagoons and back, but by the time I got there I felt fit enough go further on and ended up at Spynes Mere.

On the way, I saw a few House Martin and House Sparrow, plus a Yellowhammer amd Whitethroat, but it was just a walk without much expectation of seeing anything out of the ordinary.

Once at Spynes Mere, I was counting the number of Lapwing there were on the sandbar, when... hang on, what's this? A wader. At first I thought it was a Greenshank, only because one had been sighted the day before. But this wasn't a Greenshank. I sent Graham James a text, explaining this wader had a reddish front, and after a brief call back he decided it was worth coming over to have a look.

To his, and my delight, it was the first Black-Tailed Godwit of the year at the Holmethorpe Sand Pits, and my 142nd species for Surrey in 2010 - my first new sighting for more than a month.

Monday 19 July 2010


Yellow-Legged Gull. Mediterranean Gull. Ringed Plover, Black-Tailed Godwit. Lesser Spotted bleedin' Woodpecker. None of the above have been seen by me all year. They are all doing their very best to avoid me, and they are succeeding.

None of them are what you would call rare, although the little woodpecker is a bit of a scarcity in my part of Surrey. Most will pop in for a visit somewhere in the county, but never when I'm around.

Never mind. To lift the spirits I made a b-line for Chobham Common on Sunday to see if I could find one of my favourite birds - the Dartford Warbler. Now, this little fellow is pretty rare these days, but because its habitat requirements are quite specific and because I now know where to look and what to listen out for, this warbler never lets me down. And so it was on Sunday during a warm late afternoon in the sun. I got my best views of this smashing little bird. Two males were chattering away on their respective patches, and one was showing really nicely.

Monday 12 July 2010


I haven't left a post for more than a month - basically, my spotting skills have let me down during a quiet start to the second half of the year. I have had an unerring ability to miss a few notables in recent weeks.

After missing two Red-Backed Shrikes and a Hoopoe last month, I also failed to see a Golden Oriole - although this one was just over the border in Kent. The usual thing - the bird was flying about and showing well the day before, but as soon as I arrive (it wasn't just me, two other blokes where on the hunt, too), it disappeared.

Two other birds I have been looking for recently have been Yellow-Legged Gull and Mediterranean Gull. I've been to Beddington three times and Staines Reservoir once and haven't seen either. Mind you, with just a pair of bins it's hard to see, from a distance, if what appears to be a Herring Gull has yellow legs or not. I shall persevere.

Been on a couple of nice walks, despite the lack of new sightings. Leigh Place Pond, near Godstone church last week was very pleasant. Plenty of Goldcrests and a pair of Grey Wagtails were the highlights. I also had a good walk around some wheat fields near Crowhurst, where I saw at least ten Yellowhammers.

As far as my self-proclaimed rivalry on the Surrey Birders listing sight, I am three behind the leader, so the missing gulls and a Black-Tailed Godwit - currently popping up here and there - would bring me back level. Hopefully, my luck will change (don't count on it though).