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.

Thursday, 17 March 2011


A brief walk around Headley Heath this afternoon was the only option available today - Annie wanted a bit of fresh air and likes the walk around the Heath - before a trip to Waitrose in Banstead to do a bit of early pre-weekend shopping.

The walk was pleasant enough and the sun made an appearance, which was welcome after so many grey days during the past few weeks. The birds were scant, though, apart from plenty of Long-tailed Tits and a Greater Spotted Woodpecker drumming in the distance.

On the walk back to the car, I was already scheming a course of action for tomorrow afternoon if the predicted heavy rain had passed over. I hoped to try for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in the fields at the back of Aberdour School near Canons Farm, or failing a sighting there, a visit to Tilford, where at least three have been seen recently. Or, if Sand Martin and Wheatear turn up, a visit to my local patch.

Then, suddenly, a song I recognised, and a first for the year. A Willow Warbler (103), followed by another one in the distance. Headley Heath is a very good site for Willow Warbler - I remember seeing at least ten on one visit here last spring, so they obviously like the place, but this was very early to say the least. Normally, you wouldn't expect to see one of our most common migrants until the end of March/beginning of April. A candidate for the earliest recorded in Surrey, perhaps?

I looked on Rare Bird Alert later to see how many have been seen around the country recently. A single bird today in Dorset, plus one in Crosby, Lancashire and four in Leasowe, Cheshire yesterday appear to be the only Willow Warblers recorded across the country so far. After what started off as a run-of-the-mill walk, I now feel quite privileged.


  1. Hi Factor, there have been at least four earlier dates (including one in February!). The reference book to get is Birds of Surrey. Get it here:



  2. Hi Neil

    Well done on the Willow Warblers, that is very early!

    The Aberdour pair have shown every day since last Friday (when I found them) and the weather this weekend looks good, so you're in with a chance.

    There's also another pair, although a lot more difficult to see, near the Reads Rest Lane entrance to Banstead Woods and another recent hotspot is at the other end of Banstead Woods near the car park (so it's likely that there are three pairs this year, there certainly was at least that last year).

    all the best