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.

Monday, 19 September 2016


I've been looking forward to a bit of autumn migration this month but, in reality, it has personally been a bit disappointing. I've focused more on the local patch in the hope something memorable might appear, but it has been pretty slow going.

Five Little Stints at Oare Marshes
In between walking the patch I've paid another visit to Oare Marshes. An early start on the 5th, this was en route to Margate to visit my mum and take her to a hospital appointment.

Oare will always make up for a barren spell at home, and seven Little Stint and up to 14 Curlew Sandpiper kept the interest going. A brief visit to a gloomy Reculver threw up a couple of rain-sodden Wheatear, before my final stop at Foreness Point produced two more Wheatear and a Whinchat.

Wheatear at Foreness Point
Whinchat at Foreness Point
The highlights at Holmethorpe this past fortnight happened yesterday with a pair of distant Whinchat on the Moors, my first for the autumn on the patch, followed by my first patch Peregrine of 2016. This falcon circled low over Mercers Farm before swooping for a prey. It failed to catch anything and then circled high and headed south.
Local patch Peregrine
That's been about it. Elsewhere, of course, the quality migrants have been dropping in or flying overhead. Locally, the prime site has undoubtedly been Beddington. Roger 'Dodge' Browne picked up a cracking Sabine's Gull on the 13th, and this excellent yank seabird was followed by a Kittiwake two days later.

Inland Kittiwakes are patch gold, especially in Surrey. I've never seen one. I've also never seen a Honey-buzzard in Surrey – or anywhere else for that matter.

But Beddington was the place for one of those, too, with one heading south last Saturday. Canon's Farm has also been a site for a Honey-buzzard, with Steve Gale picking one up on the 6th.

Elsewhere, Tice's Meadow had a brief Pectoral Sandpiper, while Leith Hill has been the place for views of migrating Osprey.

The bird I'm always keen to see during the early autumn is a Wryneck, but I fear I will now have to wait until next year. I simply couldn't spare the time to drive down to Shooter's Bottom for the Wryneck that recently stayed for a week until the morning after it had predictably left.

I went to Leicester for a meeting on the 1st of the month and drove back via the M40, and so made a detour to Otmoor to see if I could connect with the juvenile Purple Heron in the late afternoon.

It was a fair old walk to the best vantage point, the first of the viewing screens, and was I welcomed by a regular local birder and another birder with her young daughter. They both looked sheepish as I looked out over the scrape.

"Anything interesting?" I asked.

"Yes," said the local birder. "A Purple Heron."

"Oh, great. How long ago did you see it?"

"About four minutes ago..."

Bugger. The Heron takes a habitual route across the reserve and tends to finish up at the western end in an area covered in reeds, where it likes to fish before roosting for the evening. This it had done four minutes earlier.

There wasn't much point in sticking around for too long, so after 20 minutes I trudged back to the car. Strangely, I was relatively unmoved by the whole experience. I'm probably simply getting used to twitching dips – I've had enough of them!

What's to follow? Well, I shall persevere with the patch, which overall has been rewarding this year, and will keep a close eye on the skies over Holmethorpe in the vain hope a decent raptor drifts into view. As local birders we all live in hope of the future big find. It does happen sometimes.


  1. And it WILL happen Neil. Maybe next week, maybe next year, but happen it will.

    1. Finger's crossed it is sooner rather than later Steve!

  2. Hi Neil!
    My name's Arjun and I regularly read your blog, in between homework.
    I have been birdwatching since i was 7.
    Since I am now 13, I haven't seen as many birds as I want to, but Wryneck is now top of the list since this year I have seen Little Bittern, White Stork and the Honey-Buzzard that Steve Gale spotted a month back; Wryneck is really what I want now to finish of in high.
    I visited Holmethorpe 3 years ago, but want to visit soon. When's the best time of year to do so?
    Regards, Arjun

    1. Hi Arjun - thank you for reading my blog. When is the best time to visit Holmethorpe? A difficult question to answer, but I would say during April when spring migration is at its peak. Very early morning is always best. There is always the chance of seeing something good but birding is never that predictable! It has gone a bit quiet this past week or so, but even then something might turn up. A Ring Ouzel isn't out of the question and a decent raptor could fly over at any time. With a sudden influx of Yellow-browed Warblers hitting the Yorkshire coast today, I wouldn't be surprised if we find one on the patch in the coming weeks. As for Wrynecks, I feel the same. I never feel the year is complete without seeing one. There was one near Beachy Head today, but unfortunately the road leading up to the site is closed at the moment so it is a longish walk from Birling Gap. Best of luck!