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.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016


Spring migration is now well under way and locally it has been very rewarding. Holmethorpe Sand Pits has had a very respectable turnout of migrants as well as wintering birds travelling in the other direction.

Only yesterday a pair of Brambling were found in the Mercers Country Park car park by Gordon Hay first thing after the overnight heavy rain had drifted past. I managed to drag myself out of bed to venture over. I couldn't find them at first, but a distinctive wheezing call behind me attracted my attention, and there they were, my first-ever Brambling on the patch.

Female Brambling at Mercers Country Park
Later that morning I found our first Common Sandpiper at Mercers Lake, heard the first Sedge Warbler singing in the bushes along the Water Colour causeway, and much later saw a couple of Wheatear in the horse paddocks alongside Mercers Farm.

Common Sandpiper at Mercers Lake
A distant view of a Wheatear in the horse paddocks on Mercers Farm
On Saturday afternoon Des Ball found our second male Redstart of the spring at the entrance to the Moors and Water Colour Lagoons, then the following morning a Black-tailed Godwit was seen stood in the flooded area on Water Colour Lagoon1 that backs on to the Moors.

A Black-tailed Godwit on the flooded plain on Water Colour Lagoon1
The same morning an Oystercatcher (the third of the year) stood briefly in the shallow water that is the island on Lagoon 2 before it flew off. The drake Pintail made another appearance on Spynes Mere, while Ian Kehl and Gordon saw a Common Tern fly over Mercers Lake.

The drake Pintail made a welcome return to Spynes Mere
It goes to prove that by putting in the hours (and the miles) patch birding – even on an inland site in east Surrey – can produce decent birds. So far this year I have had three patch lifers – Bearded Tit, Redstart and Brambling. Long may the list continue throughout the year.
The overall sightings list for Holmethorpe in 2016 now stands at 116, with the rest of April and May to discover more patch gold. A Stone-curlew, Osprey, Wryneck or Ring Ouzel would top my personal wish-list during the next week. A shoe-in, surely!

Elsewhere, our neighbouring patch to the north at Canons Farm, with Steve Gale monitoring the site, has thrown up a number of great sightings, including a female Goshawk yesterday, as well as Ring Ouzel, Redstart, Wheatear and Hawfinch (a Steve Gale speciality).

Male Reed Bunting
Of the common migrants Willow Warbler are in abundance locally, which is a good sign, as are Blackcap and Chiffchaff. These regular visitors are the sound of spring. All we really need now is a Cuckoo to make that spring music complete.


  1. Unfortunately Neil, this particular Hawfinch didn't have my name on it...

    1. At least the Goshawk did. A major find! Canons is back on the map. When are you planning to go to Dunge btw? I'm intending to spend a couple of days there during the second week of May (9th and 10th). Hoping for some Pom Skua sightings

    2. I'm actually typing this in the DBO common room, and happily will be down again on May 9 for a week or so!