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 5 January 2016


And so begins another year and the quest to witness more memorable birding moments.

I have a plan, which is to focus on more Holmethorpe patch walks this year, plus a few trips to the coast to enjoy some rarer finds – basically a pursuit of treasure at the end of the birding rainbow.

Holmethorpe had a decent 2015 and began where it left off into the new year when Gordon Hay spotted a pair of Black-tailed Godwit landing in the flooded area behind Water Colour Lagoon 1 yesterday afternoon – the first winter record of this species on the patch.

A good start then. I gave myself the morning off and took my first visit of the year to the patch. A gloomy start, but there was plenty of activity around the Lagoons, with stacks of gulls and Canada Geese, but unfortunately no Godwits.

The Moors always floods at this time of year, particularly now we
tend to get wetter winters
With the amount of rain we've had in recent weeks it was no surprise to find an area along the Moors cycle path flooded, with the water coming up to within an inch of the top of my wellies. Plenty of dabbling ducks here, including 50-plus Teal and our regular male Wigeon who thinks he's a Mallard (must be the same bird as last year – can't imagine there is another one with a personality disorder who visits the exact same spot).

The walk around the area took four hours, with not much to get the pulses racing – least of all at my sedantry pace. Apart from the absent Godwits probably the main disappointment currently is the lack of Smew at Holmethorpe. We generally get at least a couple most winters but there's been no sign so far.  This is possibly weather-related – maybe we'll get a late arrival when the cold snap inevitably arrives.

Never mind, a Water Rail, a flock of Siskin feeding on alders and a smaller group of Lesser Redpoll kept my interest from flagging.

Siskin feeding in alder tree

Lesser Redpoll
Another interesting bird was a Tufted Duck/Scaup hybrid on Mercers Lake. I began imagining this female might metamorphose into a Lesser Scaup but that was only me dreaming.

The Tufted Duck/Scaup hybrid on Mercers Lake
But then dreaming of the big find is what keeps many of us motivated. Unfortunately for me, my self-found skills are sadly lacking. At Holmethorpe the only two self-found birds I have ever discovered were a Black-tailed Godwit and a Black Tern. Nice birds for the area but I need to find more stuff!

It would help, of course, if I went out birding more often, which hopefully I will this year compared to last. Anyway, it's got me thinking about motivation and what it is that makes birding so enjoyable.

Much of it is anticipation. For me that is key to it. Walking out the front door knowing I'm going somewhere where I may see something extraordinary, or even something ordinary that proves to be extraordinary.

Even today, walking across the Lagoons in the half light there was plenty of activity – a bird rush hour – with birds calling, landing and in flight, the sight and sound of birds on the move. It was captivating.

Ideally, I would prefer predominantly to keep to my local patch. It's five minutes from my house – with my work commitments that is ideal – the habitat is varied and we get half decent birds drop in at any time of year.

But the only thing that stops me from committing wholeheartedly to this preferred option is the craving to see birds I haven't seen before. I started out on this pastime later than most, and being 56 years old with a life list that isn't impressive means I've a bit of work to do before I can feel contented with my lot.

Take Little Auks for instance. I saw a fantastic photo earlier today of a flock of these mini auks flying up the Scottish coastline with huge waves crashing around them. An amazing sight. I want to witness that treasure at the end of the birding rainbow.


  1. Great post Neil. Commitment to Holmethorpe will certainly bring more meaning to your local birding efforts, but to keep that commitment going then the odd escape to elsewhere will be wise. Good luck in 2016 and I do hope that your time in the field will increase.

    1. Thanks mate. Thinking of going to Dungeness early tomorrow morning (plan to be back mid-late afternoon). Only ever been once before! Thought of heading for the beach first before going to the RSPB reserve proper, although not sure how best to get there. Any suggestions on the best plan of action would be welcome!

    2. Hi Neil. OK. I am assuming that you know where the RSPB reserve entrance is. Carry on past this, driving eastwards until you come to the start of the Dungeness Estate. There is a right hand turn before you reach the Pilot Inn Pub. Take this. After half a mile, on your left hand side, you will see a fish stall. If you also look seawards you will see a few boats up on the beach. Anywhere along here is the best bet for seawataching. The southernmost boats is where the Caspian Gulls normally hang out, by the puddles. They also get on the RSPB reserve. If you see any birders by the boats then there is a good chance one of them will be Mark or Martin. Both will give you a helping hand with where they are. The visitor centre at the RSPB reserve should have up to date info on what is being seen and will be able to guide you to the LE Owl, Shags, Smew etc. Good luck!

  2. swgale1958@gmail.com

    If you want more info, send me your phone number and I'll call you.