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.

Wednesday 29 December 2010


The waiting is finally over.

It's time to find out who took the honours this year. Before I start, I would just like to thank everyone I have met on my travels during this past 12 months. It has been memorable on so many fronts and everyone has contributed into making 2010 the best year for me as a bone fide birder. Special thanks go to Graham James, for all his help and encouragement when I've needed it, and also to Johnny Allan, without whose assistance I wouldn't have seen half the unusual birds in Surrey that I eventually did.

My 2010 Surrey list (which includes Spelthorne, but maybe won't in future years) has ended on 164 bird species. Not bad, I guess, for a first effort. It could have been a lot more but events out of my control have meant I am unable to get to the London Wetland Centre at Barnes this week to see one or two Bittern, or to Beddington in the hope of catching sight of an Iceland or Caspian Gull. I also managed to miss many other birds this year - particularly recently - including Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Brambling, Velver Scoter and Mediterranean Gull.

I'm not sure what my targets will be in 2011. Perhaps I'll stick more to my local patch, but then I could go full-steam ahead for another Surrey, or South East England, year list. It probably depends on how January and February pan out.

So, without further waffle, here are the awards.

In alphabetical order, the nominees are:
Johnny Allan - Beddington Sewage Farm
David Campbell - Canons Farm
Gordon Hay - Holmethorpe Sand Pits
Rich Horton - Tice's Meadow
Graham James - Holmethorpe Sand Pits

The winner is:
Graham James
Congratulations to Graham, who has seen 123 different bird species at Holmethorpe this year. While his mate and fellow Holmethorpe lister Gordon Hay saw ten more than him, no-one is more dedicated to his local patch than Graham, who also runs the excellent Holmethorpe blog which is so useful for anyone interested in visiting the site.

The nominations are:
Barnes WWT
Beddington Sewage Farm
Canons Farm
Holmethorpe Sand Pits
Tice's Meadow

The winner is:
Beddington Sewage Farm
Congratulations to Beddington and all the team there. It's a remarkable site, so close to the concrete urban mass that is Croydon. Never a place to go for a holiday, unless you like landfill sites and plenty of mud when it rains, but the birds love it. A great deal of work goes into making Beddington such a bird haven, notably from Peter Alfrey, Johnny Allan, Mark Spicer, Kevin Guest, Roger Browne and plenty of other birding nutcases who have spent more hours than I care to count staring out across the scrapes and gazing endlessly at the sky looking out for unusual birds. Some of the birds this year include Pacific Golden Plover, Snow Bunting, Lapland Bunting, Common Crane, Pectoral Sandpiper and Short-eared Owl. Oh, and about a trillion Gulls (the lads actually counted them all).

The nominations are:
Common Crane
Ferruginous Duck
Lapland Bunting
Pacific Golden Plover
Red-backed Shrike
Spotted Crake

The the winner is:
Couldn't be anything else really. Never has a bird been written about so often or its arrival anticipated with so much excitement as the Waxwings of 2010. The numbers to have crossed the North Sea have been huge this year, so much so that Rare Bird Alert demoted them for scarce to uncommon from December 13 for the rest of the winter. And although it took them a while to migrate down from the north and east into Surrey, they certainly made themselves noticed. Such a beautiful bird, with plenty of character - everyone loves a Waxwing, even if it personally took me more than ten attempts to see one. After that, of course, I saw them all the time - even from my living room window. We can't predict when the next Waxwing invasion will be, so it's a case of making the most of their visit now.

The nominations are:
Johnny Allan
David Campbell
Kevin Guest
Gordon Hay
Rich Horton
Graham James
Rich Seargent

The winner is:
David Campbell
Congratulations to David, a well-deserved winner. This young lad, also known as Devil Birder, is still at school doing his 'A' levels. David has had a great year (mainly skiving off from his studies, from what I can deduce) and by dedicating so much time and effort into his local patch, he has put Canons Farm well and truly on the birding map. He has seen so many great birds at the Farm, including the only Quail seen in Surrey in 2010, a male Hen Harrier, Waxwing, Short-eared Owl, Black Redstart and Corn Bunting - only the second sighting of this Bunt in the county this year. While his patch list is relatively small (99), his is still a remarkable list of birds.

The winner is:
Johnny Allan
Johnny has merited this award on two fronts. Firstly, by breaking his Surrey listing record this year with a remarkable 193 birds, and secondly because he always takes the time to welcome new birders, such as myself, into the fold. A credit to birding.


2010 Randon's Ramblings Birding Blog of the Year
Winner: Wanstead Birder by Jonathan Lethbridge
Being new to this business, I only came across this blog earlier this year by accident and now I can't miss Jonathan's musings every week. He also has a column in Birdwatch magazine on alternate months. Apart from being the most entertaining and amusing read on bird-watching by a country mile - his daily reports from his visit to Shetland was a brilliant read - his photographs are top-notch, too. He makes it appear all too easy. Annoyingly multi-talented.

2010 Randon's Ramblings Personal Dip of the Year
It could have been Waxwing, but thankfully it wasn't in the end. The Great Grey Shrike took five attempts before I got a sighting. I missed both the Hoopoe at Chertsey and both Red-backed Shrikes at Woodmansterne and Richmond Park, but nope, the dip of the year for me was undoubtedly the Pectoral Sandpiper at Beddington. Everyone I know who went to see this bird got on to it almost immediately. I went twice, and was met the first time by Johnny and we couldn't find it after two hours, and then by Kevin 'Kojak' Guest on the second occasion and failed again after another two-hour search.

2010 Randon's Ramblings five most memorable moments
1. Eventually seeing a Waxwing
2. Watching the Nightjars calling and circling in the half-light on Chobham Common
3. Going to see my only mega rarity of the Year - the Marmora's Warbler in South Wales
4. Listening to the Nightingales on Little Bookham Common
5. Eventually seeing a Waxwing

So, that's it. The Awards for 2010. All there's left to say before Big Ben chimes at midnight on Friday is to wish everyone a very Happy New Year. Let's hope 2011 proves to be as good a birding year as 2010!


  1. Thank you for your Surrey Patch Lister of the Year award, Neil.
    I have to say that there are many patch birders who deserve the title far more than I do. Johnny Allan, Peter Alfrey, Gordon Hay and David Campbell are all far more dedicated to their patches and far more knowledgeable than I am (I am sure there are many others too) and I would put myself way down the ranking, but thank you anyway. You haven’t done so bad yourself at Holmethorpe this year, finding Grasshopper Warbler and Black-tailed Godwit, both scarce birds for our patch.
    Best wishes to Annie and yourself for a happy New Year and a bird-filled 2011.

  2. Wow, I wasn't expecting that! Thanks very much Neil, I am very honoured and will be sure to mention this on my CV