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 11 August 2014


Well, what do you know? It doesn't happen often but everything came together to make for a pretty good day all round. The weather last Thursday was fantastic, the birds were brilliant and it was finished off with a fantastic meal with Annie.

As with the last few birthdays, my 55th (55! How did that happen?) was spent out in the field. The day before I put a message out on Twitter asking for suggestions on destinations. The choices were the Black-winged Pratincole (this wasn't really on the cards, it was going to be just too far to walk – a six-mile hike didn't appeal), the Long-tailed Skua at Pagham/Selsey (would have been first choice, but by Thursday it had long gone), or the breeding Bee-eaters on the Isle of Wight.

The Isle of Wight beckons
A few weeks back a local chap was hunting for dragonflies at the Wydcombe Estate when he spotted four Bee-eaters – it became big news. Three weeks ago, the National Trust announced a pair of Bee-eaters had laid and successfully hatched eggs and ever since then birders have visited the site pretty much every day.

My intention was to become one of them. It wasn't too far a drive to hitch a ride on the ferry at Portsmouth, so I went for it. I was on the water for 9.30am and at the Wydcombe Estate near Niton by 10.30am.

The National Trust had arranged things very well for the
public to see these fantastic birds
The weather was truly glorious. I really couldn't have planned it better. It was maybe a tad too hot really. However, being able to park in a field and walk about ten yards to the edge of a cordoned off area and within seconds view two Bee-eaters perched on telephone wires occasionally dropping down to catch a bee or some other insect to feed on was perfect. There was even, conveniently, a Portaloo in the corner of the field, which helped relieve the two cups of coffee on the journey down. Fabulous.
Birthday Bee-eater!
I was met by a National Trust volunteer, who took my details for their records. I also met with two separate parties from Croydon, who appeared to know who I was from this blog. One family, Jess, Mark and Ellie Barnes, came from north of Purley, and were great company during the visit. Also present was Simon Thurgood, who had made the trip from Devon.
One of the four Bee-eaters with its catch
I stayed for nearly three hours. I enjoyed every minute of it. In total I watched and listened to four Bee-eaters hunt around for food, including an acrobatic pursuit of a butterfly above my head. They were occasionally mobbed by Swallows, who didn't appear to enjoy these new arrivals on their patch, to add to the display. An excellent midday session.

I had to leave shortly after 1pm to catch the ferry back to the mainland. Next stop, Beddington. While I have seen a Glossy Ibis in Surrey this year, I quite fancied seeing another one at one of my local patches. The heat was intense on the drive up, the temperature reached 30C, but was starting to drop slightly by the time I arrived just after 4pm.

The Glossy Ibis returned to Beddington
This Glossy Ibis had made a brief appearance at Beddington earlier in the week and clearly fancied another visit. It was easy to find on the western side of the north lake, happily feeding away, with a Black-tailed Godwit nearby.

After that, a dash back home to get ready for dinner with Annie in Battersea at a Lebanese restaurant called Dalila. It had been recommended by Jay Rayner in the Observer magazine and we fancied giving it a try. It was excellent.

Way too much to eat and the owner and his staff were really nice. We really got on well with our Portuguese waiter, Pedro, who we discovered was a qualified paediatric dentist looking for work in Britain. His father is Antonio Vieira, who happens to be assistant coach at Monaco football club. We stayed until the place closed up. It's not often that the guy who serves your dinner also gives you a lift to the station afterwards.


  1. Good things come to those that wait...

  2. Indeed Steve. The Long-tailed Skua is back - could do with him sticking around until Thursday!