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.

Friday 19 August 2011


It's a funny old business this birding lark. On any given day, you can spend hours and walk miles looking for a bird, and the following day the same bird will just appear right in front of you within minutes. Such is the tale of the past two days.

I drew the curtains back just before 6am this morning and it was how you would expect August to be - a cobalt blue sky, and not a breath of wind. A complete contrast to the November-style evening 12 hours earlier. I was planning another 15-minute drive up the road to Coulsdon to find the local Hoopoe again.

I must have spent at least four hours yomping round the Downs, on a wild Hoopoe chase, yesterday morning, so I didn't intend to go through that again. As it was flying around a lot yesterday, it seemed a better idea to walk along the top path close to the road and set up shop halfway along. I would have a panoramic view of the area, and if the Hoopoe appeared, I could see where it was heading.

I parked up at 6.20am as the sun broke through the early morning mist. I found the ideal spot and waited.

I didn't have to wait long. Within half-an-hour I saw the Hoopoe in the distance flying across the trees like a giant butterfly and then heading in my direction. At first I thought it was going to land on the path but instead it settled in a small tree just 20 yards away, and perched up nicely in the sunshine. Perfect.

And there it stayed, occasionally preening itself, blinking in the sunlight, in no hurry to go anywhere. I took a few dodgy digiscope photos to record the event and posted the sighting on Birdguides. A couple of other birders joined me and we had excellent views of this extremely scarce Surrey visitor for the next ten minutes or so, until a dog-walker forced it to fly back the way it came. It briefly settled on top of a large tree before dropping down out of view.

A few more birders arrived an hour later, but the Hoopoe didn't reappear, although while we hung about we got great views of a stunning pair of Lesser Whitethroat in a bush nearby. By 9am, with a fair bit of magazine work to be getting on with, I headed home happy.

If only more days were like this.

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