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 31 August 2016


Bit of a catch-up for the past three weeks. Two visits to Kent have been interspersed with brief local patch wanderings.

The Bonaparte's Gull at Oare showing the comparison in size to the Black-headed Gulls
The first Kent trip was to Margate to take my mum to a hospital appointment, but I spent 45 minutes at Oare Marshes on the way down, where I managed to see (with the help of others) the Bonaparte's Gull again. Most notable group sighting was five Little Tern that flew in and landed on the East Flood for about half an hour.

Five Little Tern flew in and landed on the East Flood

A Little Stint, Spotted Redshank and a Yellow Wagtail were the other highlights.

The second trip was a proper birding session on the beach at Dungeness Point on the 22nd to seawatch for Balearic Shearwater during the morning. The weekend had been unseasonably stormy and there was still sufficient wind to give me hope of some decent sightings.

It took some patience but eventually I was rewarded with seven Balearic Shearwater split into three small groups during a three-hour period, plus two Arctic Skua. Not much else of note though.

On the local front, two new birds appeared, with a lone juvenile Dunlin arriving on the Moors one morning, followed by three Greenshank few days later. These I missed, but two more turned up a couple of days later.
A pair of Greenshank and two Green sandpiper feeding on the Moors
One other bird of interest was a lone Wheatear on Farthing Downs one morning seen while waiting to pick up Annie from a physio appointment in Coulsdon.

The waders' arrival at Holmethorpe topped the patch year list up to 137 as we enter the autumn months. Not bad at all, but unfortunately with regard to the Horton Hay Cup challenge* with Tice's Meadow, our rival patch has hit back with a fine haul of sightings this month, including a Honey Buzzard, Black Tern, Pied Flycatcher and a first for the site, a Nightjar. They are on 141 at the end of August.

So, now tomorrow is September and the real heart of the autumn migration begins. Looking forward to it - so long as I can get enough time away from work to enjoy it.

*The Horton Hay Cup is a challenge between Tice's Meadow and Holmethorpe Sand Pits to see which site can deliver the most bird species during the year. Named after the two patch stalwarts, Rich Horton and Gordon Hay, the winner is designated the best birding site in Surrey – ignoring the fact Beddington Farmlands attracts more birds annually and really is the best birding site in the county.

Wednesday 10 August 2016


It had been a while since I gave Oare Marshes a proper visit, so seeing as it was my birthday on Sunday I thought I'd spend most of the day there. I wanted to spend a decent few hours actually looking at birds rather than spending more time in the car travelling somewhere too far away to really enjoy the day.

Plenty of juvenile Starling at Oare
Thankfully, the Minsmere Purple Swamphen disappeared the day before so I didn't have to argue with the devil on my shoulder tempting me to go there instead.

One of two Spotted Redshank
Little Stint is a regular sighting at Oare Marshes
Juvenile Garganey
Oare Marshes is only an hour away and the reserve is nice and compact with many of the birds easy to view next to the road-side parking. There is always plenty to see here. During a breezy day I saw 14 species of waders, including two Little Stint, a Curlew Sandpiper and two Spotted Redshank. The supporting cast included a single Ringed Plover, at least 12 Ruff, a handful of Whimbrel, a couple of Green Sandpiper and at least two Greenshank.

Numerous Yellow Wagtail, mainly juveniles, migrated around the sea wall, while skywards, a Marsh Harrier hawked the west side of the reserve during the morning and later a Peregrine headed off to the neighbouring pylons to feed on a recently caught prey

The Bonaparte's Gull made an appearance in the afternoon
I made a slight faux pas by going early in the morning, when the tide was out, but it didn't really affect my enjoyment too much. There were, predictably, plenty of gulls flocking on the East Flood in the afternoon when eventually the Bonaparte's Gull came into view.

This gull is now a regular summer visitor to the site, this being the fourth year in succession it has appeared at Oare. Where it goes during the winter is anyone's guess, but unlike many American vagrants, all being well this bird will return to Oare next summer.

A Glossy Ibis was a welcome addition to the day's list
Highlight of the day was undoubtedly a Glossy Ibis that dropped on to the East Flood at around 2pm. It stayed until 3.45pm before flying off north west.

A total of 68 species were seen during an excellent day's birding.

Monday 1 August 2016


I would have never imagined a week ago a White Stork arriving on my local patch at Holmethorpe would only merit a patch tick.

Most birders will be aware Beddington Farmlands has been visited by a second White Stork in recent days, a first ringed individual having turned up briefly on July 22nd. The latest White Stork has become a bit of a long-stayer, having been first seen last Tuesday.

It had a habit of flying off in the evening and returning the following morning, so I went along on Thursday to catch it before I headed off for work. It's bad enough twitching birds, but worse when that twitch takes place at Beddington.

I'm now not a key holder, so was unable to enter the inner sanctum of the Farm, which is only accessible now to a small group of birders. With no-one around it meant viewing the main lake through the perimeter fence. Not ideal.

I had given myself an hour at the Farm, before driving to Croydon and taking the hit by paying NCP rates to park the car for the day. However, the bird, although seen during the early morning, chose not to come into view. Instead it waited a further hour to show itself after I had left. Bloody annoying.

Undeterred, I went back the following morning, and after about 20 minutes I had my first view of a White Stork. It had a habit of wandering into area out of sight for a while, sometimes poking its head up above the vegetation, but at least I got decent, if slightly distant views of it.

The White Stork at Beddington
After an hour I returned back to base and caught the train up to London. The Stork remained at Beddington until Saturday afternoon, when it flew off, heading south east mid-afternoon.

So that was that, I thought.

No so.

I was intending to leave for Sheffield yesterday morning for a motorsport event but was woken with a start at 5.40am when the phone rang. It was Gordon Hay. I didn't answer it for risk of waking Annie further, so waited to listen to the voicemail.

In a very calm voice Gordon announced:  "The White Stork from Beddington has just dropped down on Water Colour 1 on the muddy area at the back."

Jesus H! From semi-torpor I was out of the bed and tripping down the stairs trying to put my jeans on. I was out the door in about five minutes, maybe less.

The drive to the Water Colour Lagoons is all of two minutes, but it felt like an eternity.

Thankfully, it was still there when I arrived to meet up with Gordon and Ray Baker, who lives at Water Colour and had similarly just woken up.

Would you believe it? Here was the White Stork on our patch. Amazing!

The White Stork on Water Colour Lagoon 1
But strangely, neither Gordon nor I were as excited about this first for Holmethorpe as we should have been. And it was for the same reason. We had both twitched this bird up the road at Beddington and so we couldn't celebrate this scarce visitor to Britain as a first for either of us in Surrey as well as on the patch. The fact we had seen this bird already nullified the thrill. Nevertheless, it was an fantastic bird to see just quarter of a mile from where I live.

We watched the Stork for about half an hour before it flew behind a tree. A walk round the side of the trees revealed nothing. We had managed to lose sight of a large white bird – we just couldn't find it again and presumed it must have flown off.

The White Stork flew out of view
Sadly, regular patch watcher Ian Kehl, who tours the site each Sunday with Gordon, was later to arrive than usual due to family commitments and didn't see it. He and Gordon continued on their walk around the area. Another local birder, Ian Jones, arrived a couple of hours later to see the Stork circling the Lagoons before flying off.

It went missing most of the day after that but has been relocated again back at its favourite haunt on the main lake at Beddington today.