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 1 March 2016


It has been a satisfying couple of weeks. I've mentally freed myself from the drudgery of getting in the car and driving somewhere for nearly an hour simply to see a fairly rare bird.

I'm not sure how this has happened, but for the moment I am more than happy to potter around the local patch and see what turns up. No pressure, just a nice walk enjoying the fresh air in half-decent weather – recently it has been cold, but dry and bright. A nice change from wind and rain.

The Moors
A Great Crested Grebe on Water Colour Lagoons
I could, if motivated, drive down to the coast to see the odd Glaucous Gull and Purple Sandpiper. A Glauc turned up the day I was at Dungeness and has been there ever since, but I just can't be arsed to drive anywhere.

The thing is my local patch is doing quite well. As Steve Gale wrote recently here, Holmethorpe has changed quite a bit over the years, some of it for better, some for worse, but throughout its history it can deliver excellent birding, due in large degree to the variety of habitat within its boundaries.

Local birder Gordon Hay has walked this area for more than 30 years, and hasn't lost his enthusiasm for the place. He finds the majority of the best finds on the patch, along with Ray Baker, another local birder who is out most days searching for species. Gordon saw, for example, a pair of Black-tailed Godwit in January, the earliest record of these waders at Holmethorpe, and there have been plenty of good birds since.

Only during the past couple of weeks Holmethorpe, via Gordon, has had Oystercatcher, Mediterranean Gull, Raven, and notably Scaup. The first-winter female arrived on Water Colour Lagoons on February 21, then went missing for a few days before taking up residence with a small group of Tufted Duck on Mercers Lake.

I've been out a few times recently, mainly in the late afternoon, hoping to find a Med or Iceland Gull among the large flock of Black-headed Gull that have been following tractors ploughing and drilling the fields on Mercers Farm, and then scanning the roost on Mercers Lake, but I've drawn a blank each time.
Black-headed Gulls following a tractor drilling - no white-wingers among them
The Oystercatcher arrived on February 23 for the afternoon, and as I happened to be working from home that day I was able to catch reasonable views of it on Mercers Lake later in the day before it flew to one of the ramps further away.

An Oystercatcher on Mercers Lake was a nice find by Gordon Hay
The Oystercatcher in fligh
The Scaup slept for most the time I was there this evening.

Time for bed - sleeping Tufted Duck and Scaup (second left)
One of the brief moments the Scaup was awake
So, yes it has been enjoyable. I'm nowhere near Gordon's patch list this year, I'm only on 72 I think, but it has been a good start. It has also been nice to see Water Rail, Grey Wagtail and a few wintering Chiffchaff and Stonechat (we had up to seven Stonechat on site this winter – a large number for the patch, but they now appeared to have left), but the highlight this week undoubtedly has been the mumuration of Starlings.

Over the past few weeks the numbers of roosting Starling have been building steadily. We now have at least 3,000 of them roosting in the trees along the Moors cycle path, and this evening I was treated to a wonderful display. I'm hoping the numbers grow even larger.

The mumuration of 3,000+ Starlings over the Moors and
Water Colour Lagoons is a fantastic spectacle each evening
The birds occasionally flew in two groups before joining together – they flew right over my head at one point down on the Moors – but the best sight was seeing this amazing flock fly a few inches above the water across Water Lagoon1 in the half-light. Well worth paying a visit if you are in the area as the sun goes down.


  1. Hi!
    I'm a 13 year old who loves birdwacthing, living nearby in Wallington.
    I really love reading the blog with some fantastic pictures!
    I hope to come and visit soon, as last time we went it was fantastic as I saw my first Whinchat!
    Thanks for a fantastic blog
    Arjun Dutta

    1. Thanks for the kind words Arjun. The spring could be very good at Holmethorpe this year so it should be worth the visit

  2. Sounds as though you're 'cured' Neil...

    1. Well, let's wait and see, Steve. I'm always the hyprocrite when it comes to birding!