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 22 November 2016


So, what have I been doing lately?

It's that time of year again, when all the Siberian Accentors, Isabelline Wheatears and Forster's Terns turn up, stay a while and then leave, never to be seen again.

It is just after that sequence of events happens that suddenly, as if waking from a long hibernation I reappear out into the cold, wet, dark days of late autumn/early winter and go birding once again.

But then the days are short, the birds are scant and... well, I go back to my pit and dream more dreams of wondrous birding experiences in Britain (holidays to Majorca don't count in this sulk) in 2017.

Something has to change, but I'm not sure that it will for the time being. My busy work pattern every year coincides with the best time to go birding – usually September and October.

And next year looks like being even more hectic as I take on a new venture. I'm self-employed and while the new project will only take up a few days a month, those days would have been times I'd have gone out for the day. 

Never mind, it will help with the bills, etc. But that is an issue at my time of life. I'm 57. I can't quite believe I've reached that age, as I still feel mentally about 12. And the time is racing by, which is alarming to say the least. I don't want to spend all the rest of my life chasing around worrying about how I'm going to pay the bills every bloody day.

My uncle Michael (my dad's brother) who died this summer, gave his son, my cousin Mark, one simple piece of advice. He said most of the things you worry about in life will never happen, so don't waste your energy on them.

On the flip side of that, the same can be said of waiting for good things to happen. They won't if you don't make an effort. And there's no point waiting for a rainy day either. So many of my parent's generation saved and scrimped all their lives but ended up too old or ill to ever to enjoy the fruits of their hard work. It makes me feel very sad if I think about that too much.

That is why I shall go on more holidays in future – even if I have to work even harder to make up the deficit afterwards. We all need treasured memories – experiences we can recall for years to come. They don't have to be epic adventures, just days and weeks where you can relax and reflect and enjoy moments. Snapshots that last a lifetime.

Tuesday 1 November 2016


The year has flown by, hasn't it?

Unfortunately, the autumn has sprinted past. While it has been an epic couple of months for many birders, with some incredible sightings on the east coast and all the way up to Shetland, I can't personally say it has been as thrilling for me.

If you read this blog you'll know I go through this same old scenario, the same old routine, most years. Nothing much has changed. I haven't contributed to the patch at all in recent weeks and that is likely to continue for at least another fortnight. At some point life will become a little bit less frantic but by then most of the excitement of the latest migration will have dissipated.

Having said all that, I quite enjoy birding during the winter months. There's less urgency, and there are a few nice birds dotted about, plus a few long-staying wintering birds, to go and see.

What I could really do with, however, is for our local Holmethorpe birders to discover more new species on the patch. Those who have been following our local events at Holmethorpe will be aware that we are involved in a friendly(!) competition with fellow Surrey patch Tice's Meadow for the honour of winning the inaugural Horton Hay Cup.

This cup, which now actually exists, goes to which ever site records the most bird species during the year. The incentive for the trophy came about after Tice's claimed their site was the best in Surrey. While that statement is likely not to be too far from the truth – although Beddington will clearly argue their case for that title – it couldn't be ignored so I came forward with the challenge.

It had been close up until this autumn, and I lived in hope that Ray Baker's Yellow-browed Warbler and Great White Egret last month would make the run to December 31st that more exciting.

My hopes have been dashed, however. Just when I thought we were in with a shout, Tices' came up with Spoonbill, their own Yellow-browed Warbler and a Ring Ouzel.

We rallied briefly yesterday when Ray had a fly-over Woodlark, a real rarity for the patch, which means with just two months to go the score is Tice's Meadow 149, Holmethorpe 142.

A seven-point deficit is too much to claw back, although we have an outside chance. The obvious bird still to appear is Smew. Usually a regular winter visitor, we haven't had one yet this year. Short-eared Owl is another possibility, as is Little Gull. I would still hope for maybe a flyover Bewick's or Whooper Swan, or a Hen Harrier or Marsh Harrier. Snow Bunting or Lapland Bunting would be great, and a Waxwing wouldn't go amiss. All these – apart from Smew – are the longest of longshots, but we live in hope.

For us 142 is a decent score, as 143 is the patch record. We may not win the Horton Hay Cup this year, but if we can somehow get to 144, the year would have been a great one for the patch.