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.