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More Mogador

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Wikipedia succinctly states that "Mogador is a hamlet at the edge of Banstead Heath, about 1 km from the top of the north-facing dip-slope of the North Downs. At an elevation of about 200 metres it is one of the highest settlements in south-east England." As for the purposes of bird recording, the area that I consider to be Mogador begins much closer to the top of the dip-slope, starting with an area of horse paddocks and copses. No doubt the height (relative I know) of the ground must be of some asset to what turns up here. It is very good for chats, much better than the nearby North Downs scarp slope at Colley Hill, which is directly south of Mogador. Colley Hill looks as though it should be a great site to bird, but the hours that I have put in over the years have been scantily rewarded - I have had much more success at Mogador. Birds on the move appear to be more easily and regularly seen at Mogador than Colley Hill, and it has taken me some time to accept that the more d

Tidying up the loose ends

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This post is a bit of a round-up, covering the last few days - those images that didn't quite fit into previous posts, those snippets of information that fell through the cracks in the blogging floor... to begin with, I've been visiting the 'Station field' on an almost daily basis, which is a recently cut meadow that is but a ten minute stroll from my front door. The bales of hay have been left in place, which has meant that any chats present are easy to see as they perch up, sentinel like, surveying all before them. Whinchats have only been present on one visit, although Wheatears (below) have been seen on each occasion, peaking (so far) at four last Sunday. The freshly exposed stubble has enticed up the three Red Kites (above) and six Common Buzzards to search for food. As previously mentioned, this site looks very good for sky-watching, being on proven fly lines. I await a chance to test the theory. After 33 'blank' years, the migrant tortrix Cydia amplana tu

Mogador shines

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Two large chunks of the day were spent birding across the rank grassland and arable farmland of Mogador, the Surrey village that sounds like a place straight out of a Tolkien novel. For the first visit I was joined by local birder and Holmethorpe-legend, Gordon Hay. We were delighted to find that the first influx of autumn Meadow Pipits was apparent, with 50 birds in a loose flock that happily drifted around by our sides. At least five Wheatears and a couple of Stonechats entertained us, and the two Yellow Wagtails that came in from the north and alighted in the long grass were most welcome. It was not until the end of our visit that an immature male Common Redstart bestowed upon us a distant sighting. I was alone in the early afternoon, and it was at once apparent that there had been a further arrival of chats, the Stones having increased to three and a Whin newly in. All five of this mornings Wheatears had moved on, to be replaced by three fresh ones, clearly identifiable as new on p

1980 Part 7 - Cornwall and back

A mid-September Saturday saw me embark on the whistle-stop tour of Kent, starting at Shellness, on the Isle of Sheppey, where a marked passage of hirundines and pipits was most obvious, along with 100 grounded Meadow Pipits, eight Wheatears and eight Yellow Wagtails. Nearby Capel Fleet was playing host to an immature Marsh Harrier. We then dropped down and drove slowly across the flat greenlands of Walland Marsh, where 25 Yellow Wagtails, four Whinchats and a Common Redstart were seen from the car. Arriving at Dungeness it was all too apparent that little was happening, although the following morning was kind enough to bestow upon us an adult female Red-backed Shrike, along with a Turtle Dove and Whinchat. All were keeping low in the bushes thanks to a strengthening south-westerly wind. Along with Dave E, we were whisked down to Cornwall in the early hours of September 21st courtesy of Mike Mc’s Toyota Celica – speed trumped comfort as we lowered ourselves into the cramped interior. Fi

A 'new' location

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Yesterday I was walking back home from Epsom Town centre when I passed a gateway - a gateway that I have walked on by over the years - and noticed that the substantial field on the other side was being cut, the grass neatly piled and baled. My birding brain kicked in with "I bet there will be a Wheatear or two on top of those bales before the day is out" and I found myself back on site later that evening - no Wheatear, but at least six Common Buzzards were gathered, no doubt taking advantage of the recently cut grass to forage for food. I returned early this afternoon, and, joy of joys, two Wheatears were on show, along with seven Common Buzzards and a Red Kite. And there was more, for I went back two hours later and the Wheatears had been joined by three Whinchats! Now, this field is largely unbirdable, with private housing, a railway station and a mature Hawthorn hedgerow keeping observations down to the previously mentioned gateway - or so I thought. I have found a couple

1980 Part 6 - a few characters

I had been introduced to Mike McDonnell by Dave E, who had befriended him on the Isles of Scilly the previous autumn. Mike was a happy-go-lucky birder/photographer who lived in Dartford. I was to spend much time with him over the coming couple of years, regularly being driven to his house by Dave E, where we would invariably wait for Mike to gather his stuff, which would also involve his preparation of lunch for the day’s birding. Mike did not scrimp on his food – he would produce veritable feasts that would shame my simple sandwiches, often featuring an oversized thermos flask full of cuts of meat. It was never a dull moment with Mike, the time being passed with much laughter and the inevitable search for a decent pub at the day’s end. On this mid-August day, we had driven on to the north-Kent village of Cliffe, where a series of Thames-side pools could be found and had a reputation as being good for waders. Our haul included six Wood Sandpipers, 12 Ruffs and two Curlew Sandpipers, al

1980 Part 5 - mid-summer uncertainties

My time as an art student had come to an end. The social element of college life was something that I enjoyed, albeit on my own terms. I was known as someone that would join in when the collective hair was being let down (and our hair was still long for most of that period) but if a good bird was to suddenly appear, I would be missing. Birding came first. My frequent absences, because of last-minute decisions to go off to Dungeness, Norfolk, or the Isles of Scilly, were just accepted by my peers. In later years, one of my fellow students expressed his admiration for my self-confidence, and my willingness to please myself, not worrying about what others thought. It had come at a price however – whereas others had formed firm friendship groups, I was always on their edge, never one on the inside. I had turned and walked the other way whenever there was the hint of a relationship forming, so focussed was I on maintaining my birding connections. I believed that to show any drop in commitme