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.

Monday 5 November 2012


The Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler at Birling Gap, near Beachy Head, has been darting around the trees in the Horseshoe Plantation during the past week and yesterday had been my only possibility to try to see it.

Originally I planned to get up early and go birding before setting off for work, but as soon as the alarm went off at 6.00am I turned it straight off and went back to bed – the weather was truly awful – heavy rain, wind and dark, ominous clouds. It didn't bode well.

I knew the weather was supposed to improve but even when I did get in the car just after 9.00am, and despite the sun breaking through, the clouds looked heavy with rain and the clouds were racing across the sky.

To cut a long story short I didn't go to work as I had made a mix-up with dates (it happens) and so it transpired I could have the rest of the day to myself. Every cloud and all that.

So, now that there was no rush I headed off to Birling Gap. I thought I'd see what a sea watch would be like there, but it proved to be futile. I've never known a wind like it (apart from the famous storm of '87, obviously). My car, which is a big old Mondeo, rocked to and fro and felt like it was going to tip over, the gale was that severe. I tried to take a walk to the front but while I managed to point the scope out to sea I could see little.

I soon gave it up and headed off for the Horseshoe Plantation, where the Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler had been seen an hour earlier. I was concerned about the wind – I couldn't imagine this tiny warbler, along with it's Goldcrest pals, would want to show itself in storm-like conditions.

Horseshoe Plantation - a waiting game (as per usual)
But once I arrived my fears were allayed. The Plantation is at the base of the hillside and protected from the wind. There were a few birders present and they had already seen it. Within 45 minutes after a number of Goldcrests were spotted the Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler showed itself. Like so many birds of its size it was very active, darting around the trees quickly and not staying still for long. Luckily, this one stayed close-by low down at eye level and showed well on brief occasions.

A record shot of the Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler
It was easy to identify – like a Yellow-browed but with more subdued markings. It skipped along the branches and ended up deeper into the wood. It would show itself again after about another 45 minutes later, along with a Firecrest (which I couldn't locate) and then it was gone again.

By now it was after 1.30pm so time to head off to my next destination. While ambitious, I headed across country for Reculver on the north Kent coast, getting there just after 3pm. After a half-mile walk past the Towers along the sea wall path I found my two target birds feeding together, a Shorelark and a Snow Bunting.

A Shorelark at Reculver – a regular winter visitor to the site
A Snow Bunting at Reculver
Record shot of the Snow Bunting
The Shorelark and Snow Bunting fed close together close to the path
By 4pm it was already getting dark and was still windy so digiscoping was not ideal at slow shutter speeds, but I had excellent views of the two birds for a good 30 minutes, as they fed to within ten feet of me.

While at Reculver I also saw two Ringed Plover, one Grey Plover and two Sanderling on the seashore, three Oystercatcher flying out at sea, plus at least 150 Brent Geese flying over heading west along the coast. For a relatively brief visit, it had been a good one.

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