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.

Tuesday 7 January 2014


I'd never arranged a funeral before so it was with a sense of relief that my Uncle Derek's final journey yesterday went as smoothly as it did.

He died at the end of November having only been diagnosed a few weeks earlier with leukaemia. As it turned out, that was treatable and he was put on tablets which would have kept him going for the rest of his life had it not then been discovered he had the advanced stages of lung cancer.

I won't dwell on what happened during that time, but suffice to say the quality of care he received before we managed to get him into a local hospice five days before he died was lamentable.

It was a palliative medical procedure to help free his airways that accelerated his death, as his body couldn't cope with the intervention. The end was swift, which was, in some ways, a blessing.

Whenever someone dies after a medical procedure, a post-mortem is required. This can take a few days, or if there is the need for an inquiry, a few weeks. So the funeral had to wait, and was compounded by Christmas, as the Thanet Crematorium was closed until January 2nd.

It also meant a lot of time to think about the music, hymns, speeches, order of service, words spoken by the lay preacher, timings, the wake. It was quite stressful, and I had a few weeks with it hanging over my head. It was important it went off without a hitch. I even started worrying that I'd got the date mixed up and that everyone would turn up on the day but coffin wouldn't.

I needn't have worried. It went pretty well. We were lucky in that Derek's funeral was the last of the day so there were less time constraints and so it didn't matter if we overran (which we did).  It was, hopefully, a fitting send off. The music reflected his love of music (he used to sing with a local concert party). 

So what has this got to do with a Glossy Ibis? Not a lot, but seeing this great Surrey tick on Sunday morning at Frensham in the flooded area next to the church was a good distraction. It took my mind of things for a few hours.

It had been seen briefly at first light, but I didn't arrive until after 9am. It then took an hour to find it, as the Glossy Ibis had taken to the air and disappeared for a while, but it was relocated by the church and excellent views were had, including in flight, as it took off again and circled the area before landing a bit further away. What a fine bird to have in Surrey. Sightings of Glossy Ibis in the county tend to be fleeting but this one has stayed for a few days.

Glossy Ibis at Frensham
To my mind, January is one of the best months of the year for Surrey birds. Something interesting invariably turns up. At Beddington there has been an Iceland Gull and Caspian Gull, the Great Grey Shrike is still on Thursley Common, while at Staines Reservoir there is a Scaup, the usual Black-necked Grebes and also a Slavonian Grebe. At Thorpe Park a Shag has stayed for a few days, while at Holmethorpe Sand Pits, three wintering Smew – a regular feature on the local patch at this time of year – were on Mercer's Lake.

All good stuff. After leaving Frensham I popped over to Cutt Mill Ponds with Captain Bob Warden and his gang where we saw 12 Goosander, including five handsome drakes on the water, plus three drake Mandarin. And then on the way home I caught up with the three redhead Smew at Holmethorpe.

I'm still uncertain what form my birding is going to take this year. Surrey year listing is less of a draw than it was. Once you start it's hard to stop and I don't need a straight jacket and the added pressure of chasing round the county just so I can tick off birds for a bloody list.

It can make you feel miserable if things don't go well. It just doesn't appeal as much. Birding is supposed to be fun. With that in mind, that Grey Phalarope down at Hove looks worth a trip out, and maybe those Parrot Crossbills at Old Lodge on Ashdown Forest...


  1. Glad all went to plan Neil, my condolences to you and your Uncles' family.
    Can I say, that I think you've got the right idea with your birding this year. It was obvious last year that you were just not enjoying it, which is not the idea. So, go out and see what you see, find that enjoyment that went walkabout in the last few months.
    Maybe see you out and about soon,
    all the best,

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