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.

Saturday 25 February 2017


The Holmethorpe patch list is slowly taking shape, although still well behind last year, as I am. Of the 89 species currently seen so far this year, I have seen 70. Really nothing to write home about.

I will catch up, but overall the birds are slow to drop into the area. It's not that we haven't had plenty of people out watching, but that's the way it is.

I always find it curious how certain species of bird tend to prefer one site more than another. Take owls as an example. We have regular Little Owls on the site, and the occasional Barn Owl. Tawny Owls are rare, but Short-eared Owls are virtually non-existent – only one in about seven years.

I for one find it hard to understand why. On the Moors, a wetland area with longish grass and hedgerows, we have what appears to be decent habitat but for some reason we don't even get any drop in for an evening or morning on migration.

Same with gulls. The Iceland, Glaucous and Caspian Gulls love Beddington, but over the years ignore our landfill. We've had the odd Iceland but no Glaucs since I've been birding here.

A Bittern flew over the area, seen by Gordon Hay, in January. It was the first sighting for 15 years – even though we have plenty of reeds and good roosting areas for them. Yet down the road at Hedgecourt Lake, Bittern is a regular sighting most years.

Obviously, it makes those rare visitors all the more satisfying when they do eventually arrive but it has dawned on me that walking round the patch every day is bound to be a hard slog to see anything different. Ray Baker is one of our most dedicated patch watchers these days, and he never seems to waver in his enthusiasm for the job. I take my hat off to him!

But there you go. It takes all sorts to make up a birding world – one where I occasionally struggle to find the enthusiasm to make the effort to get out of bed early. Luckily, there are still a few decent birds locally to keep me going where the time of day is of little consequence. The Rose-coloured Starling in the Crawley suburbs at Broadfield is certainly one. I went back down to see it last Sunday lunchtime.

It has been fascinating watching this first winter bird mature from a fairly dull brown juvenile, through its teenage years and slowly into adulthood. Its plumage is now verging on the striking black/blue and rose pink contrast colour scheme that makes these birds so attractive.

There are now just a handful of days before we can welcome in March and the first spring migrants of the year. Traditionally, spring is our patch's best season – superior to autumn – and so it will be a time I will definitely be getting out there full of expectation.

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