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 28 June 2016


I was in Mallorca on holiday during the week of the referendum. I couldn't have chosen a better place to be. The birding was like nothing I have experienced before. It was, on occasions, magical.

But more of that another time.

The atmosphere in Mallorca was in complete contrast to that created by the Brexit result. The weather was a darn sight better, too.

Call the outcome what you will but the fact remains we are a democracy and whether or not the public are accused of being ill-informed, indifferent, arrogant or just plain reckless, as a nation we have to live with the consequences of our actions.

I can understand why so many people have felt compelled to express their concerns, fears, anger via social media since Friday morning but if those in the remain camp are so passionate about us staying in the EU why express it now? It's a bit late in the day, don't you think?

My conclusion is the majority of people who voted to stay – myself included via postal vote – never even considered the possibility the Brexiteers could win the day. It was arrogance and ignorance of how others view the world we live in.

But that turned out to be a massive own-goal, one a Hodgson-managed England team would have been proud of.

I live in the south-east of England, work in London, and have a decent life without earning a fortune. Others are not so lucky. And while us southerners don't really want to accept it, on the whole we have a better life here than many who live in other areas of the country.

It is more clear to me than ever that as a nation we are disconnected. On BBC on Sunday morning Andrew Marr summed it up brilliantly on his programme.

He said: "This is the most dramatic and important democratic decision ever taken by the British people.

"But it leaves our country deeply divided. It's not just the overall numbers – the 17 million leavers against the 16 million stayers. 

"The minute you dig down into the data you find that poorer areas with more unskilled and semi-skilled workers and pensioners were much likelier to vote leave. 

"A map of the results shows a yawning gap between the posher, better-educated and richer parts of Britain – London, some of the city centres elsewhere, university towns and so on – and the huge swathes of post-industrial, ex-mining and struggling fishing and agricultural Britain.

"Whatever the politicians tell us at the moment, we are not one country.

"None of this should come as a surprise. Nor can we really blame today's campaigners.

"For the past 50 years we have seen a decline in heavy industrial, making things, exporting Britain, and the rise in service industries, banking and culture which mopped up some of the lost jobs.

"Under our last five prime ministers we became a shopping nation.

"London boomed as a global centre while, ignored by too much of the political and the media class, places like industrial Wales, the Black Country and struggling coastal towns became ever poorer, ever more desolate.

"Meanwhile, waves of migration and globalised culture washed among us, eroding our sense of self. Whole communities changed colour and language, leaving older people bemused and cut off.

"As the numbers from eastern Europe rose – eager white, hard-working new neighbours – alarm grew in the poorer parts of the country. But the self-confident, multi-ethnic, liberal, urban class – high on high house prices and high employment levels – were having such a good time they barely noticed.

"London spoke a lot, but didn't listen.

"Well, it's heard now.

"This has been the rebellion of the diminished against the cocky, the ignored against the shapers of modern times, and the struggling against the strutting.

"This revolt has taken us out of Europe with huge consequences for the rest of the EU. It has also taken out the leadership of the governing party and may soon remove the leadership of the opposition party as well.

"In the House of Commons today, nobody has a clear majority and whatever administration is cobbled together over the next weeks and months it will surely struggle for real authority.

"We are still today a lucky country, able to fashion our own future and with a wonderful history. But we are also divided, full of bad feelings and in choppy seas, still searching around for a rudder."

Andrew Marr is right. We are deeply divided, but we shouldn't be surprised, as we have always been that way. The result of the referendum starkly reflected that fact.

One of my passions is stock car racing (as some would have seen from occasional posts over the years). I know many drivers, fans, promoters. Most have been born and bred in the Midlands and the north. Many are from working-class backgrounds and live close to some of the more deprived areas, such as Bolton, Bury and Rochdale.

Earning a living in post-industrial Britain is hard going – and the people there don't see how things will change by staying the same. So many voted to leave the EU.

To them London is like another world, another country. They don't feel part of the epicentre of the nation where big business flourishes. They feel left behind and ignored.

As a result, with the EU not having much influence on their lives, they wanted change. In this instance the ignored have been given a voice and, whether many of us who use social media like it or not, they grasped it.

Then there is the older generation. The result of the referendum has shown that the older you are the more likely it is you voted the leave. My 88-year-old mum did. Everyone of her friends did, too. They are all in their 80s.

It is no surprise to discover the majority of old codgers and old biddies who live in dilapidated, clapped-out, seaside towns like Margate voted to leave the EU as well.

The more you look at the result the more obvious the outcome could have been predicted.

What is important now is not to continue to cry into our muesli but to work together to rebuild relationships, trust and the country as a whole. And to listen more.

Sunday 12 June 2016


We're now into June and while the weather has been indifferent, the local birding has been equally so. The patch has been quiet, apart from a pair of Garganey seen by Ray Baker that briefly dropped in a fortnight ago on the pools at the Moors. Their visit coincided with Annie and I visiting her brother and family near Bath (where the weather was glorious).

There were also a couple of juvenile Tawny Owl, also seen by Ray, up on Nutfield Ridge early one morning, but that has been about it. I've spent a couple of brief walks seeing very little, so I'm starting to become a bit concerned as to whether the species list at Holmethorpe will be able to reach the heights I was hoping for by the time we reach the autumn.

The first target for the year overall is 144, which I think will be a site record, and 150 is the ultimate goal, but this is probably way too optimistic.

Currently the year total is 132, which is quite respectable. Of those I have seen 106. Not brilliant, I know, and it is remarkable how many birds I have missed out on so far on the patch. Two relatively straightforward ones, Peregrine and Coal Tit are missing, as well as Mediterranean Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Woodcock, Jack Snipe (hard to see even though they are regular winter visitors), Barn Owl and Raven. There are plenty more that will probably have to wait until next year.

Glaring omissions for anyone on the site list are Smew (still a chance at the end of the year), Dunlin, Greenshank, Caspian Gull (we must get one sometime surely), Cuckoo (I have a feeling we may miss out this year), Black Redstart (usually one a year), a rarer grebe like a Slavonian or Black-necked and Black Tern (maybe on the return journey).

Earlier in the year I gave a list of rare birds I had on a Holmethorpe wish list. None of them so far have appeared, but the pair of Bearded Tit, a Merlin and a Little Tern were still welcome surprises and probably the highlights of the year so far.

I still believe we will hit the jackpot at some point. It's just guessing what it might be. My gut feeling is it will be either a decent wader (a Curlew Sandpiper would be nice), a Red-rumped Swallow, a Bee-eater fly-past or a nice warbler.

Or none of the above.

In the meantime, here's a couple of photos of the latest offerings.

One of a reasonable number of vocal Reed Warblers breeding at the
Water Colour lagoons this year