Friday, 19 July 2019


Weasel's-snout - or Lesser Snapdragon - is a decreasing arable plant that is possibly native and is found sparingly in the UK (mostly in the south of England). I was delighted to find out that a single flowering specimen had been found at the botanical wonderland that is Langley Vale, in a field due west of Nohome Farm. Unfortunately my pictures were not up to much, but worth posting here for anybody that is not familiar with what it looks like. Ignore the reddish-brown vegetation that is wrapping itself around the plant, as that is Black Bindweed.

Whilst scouring the site it was a delight to bump into several local naturalists, and among their number was artist and creative writer Susy Jones. We teamed up to try and hunt down the Venus's Looking-glass plants found earlier in the summer. Even though we were armed with grid-references and 'pin's on digital maps' we failed. Was that down to our poor fieldcraft or had they stopped flowering, which would have made them almost impossible to spot in the heavily vegetated field? It later transpired that others had looked earlier in the day without success, so it seems as if the plants had indeed 'gone over'. There was plenty of Narrow-fruited Cornsalad still on show, although most of it was past its best, along with some impressive Catmint specimens. What was not so impressive was the amount of Barren Brome. I spent a good half hour picking out the wicked seed-heads from my boots and clothing, marvelling through gritted teeth at how they are able to burrow so deep into whatever they attach themselves to. After attempting to rescue my socks I gave up and put them in the bin. So yet another gem of an arable plant finds its way onto my Langley Vale list. One day I'll devote a post to them all - it really is a special site that needs cherishing. The Woodland Trust have something of great botanical value in their hands...

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

More Beddington sneak-peeks

I spent a bit of time wandering around the accessible edge of the south lake at Beddington SF this morning, and while there took a couple of pictures of one of the three new hides that are soon to open to the public. Before anybody starts thinking that I bunked onto the closed public footpath, I took the interior shot by poking my camera into the hide from outside - clever huh? The view from here is going to be great, as can be seen below.

As for my time in the field, highlights were 3 Little Egrets, a Kingfisher, one Common Sandpiper and several Small Red-eyed Damselflies on the northern lake. Ruddy and Common (below) Darters were present, as were Black-tailed Skimmers (bottom) and Emperor Dragonfly.

I have just had details back from the ringer of a Mute Swan that I observed here on Sunday, which was sporting an orange plastic ring (4CSK) - it was ringed at Earlswood Common, near Redhill, on April 25th 2018.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

A wet morning

The weather forecast suggested a partially cloudy morning with the outside possibility of a few spots of rain. They didn't get it quite right. I was at Beddington by 05.30hrs and spent four hours largely getting wet in proper rain. The soaking of the verdant vegetation meant that my walking along the overgrown footpaths also meant a soaking of my clothing, plus the copious transfer of grass seed. Oh well...

Most of the waders that had been present this past week had moved on, so that I recorded just single  Little Ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper and Lapwing. One surprise was a juvenile Common Cuckoo that flapped through the dense vegetation on 100 Acre (image, taken in appalling light, above). There was also a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull on the Northern Lake (poorish pictures below, that show a few of the characteristic features of this species, such as inner primaries same tone as outer, the plain dark tertials edged white).

There were plenty of passerines, many young family parties, to be found across the farm, particularly on the mound, with tits, Linnets, Goldfinches and warblers (Reed, Sedge (below) and Whitethroat) being the most numerous.

Friday, 12 July 2019

End of week left-overs

Lazy blogging or canny use of resources? A handful of 'left-over' images from the past couple of days for your perusal...

A stroll along the River Mole at Dorking revealed fair numbers of Banded Demoiselles, with a few perching on the bank-side vegetation allowing close approach. Also seen were single Little Egret and Kingfisher.

Real life 999! When birding at Beddington yesterday I couldn't help but notice that a very smoky fire had broken out in an area close to the incinerator. Emergency vehicles were soon on site containing the blaze. The site was briefly closed off to incoming traffic - fortunately I was able to return to my car and leave without any hassle, albeit driving through thick smoke to do so.

Now this, Ladies and Gentlemen, is what a proper sewage farm looks like, with pungent goo drying off in the open air, wet flashes and invert rich mud an attractant to passing waders, plus banks of vegetation adding to the (not unpleasant) whiff - especially on a warm and sunny day. Marvellous!

We started with Odonata, so let's end with them. One of many Black-tailed Skimmers at Beddington.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Greenshank and fire

An eventful morning's visit to Beddington, with the avian plaudits going to a fine selection of waders and drama in the form of a spectacular fire close to the incinerator that prompted a good turn-out from the fire brigade and closure of the site - luckily I was allowed to leave through a dense fog of smoke...

So, what waders were present and where were they? Here goes:

Lapwing (3, on North Lake); Little Ringed Plover (2, on North Lake), Common Redshank (2 adults, both on North Lake, with one exhibiting a green plastic ring on the upper right tibia), Greenshank (1, on Jim's Bed, photo above), Wood Sandpiper (1, on North Lake, different from last weeks bird being a very well marked adult, still in good summer plumage), Common Sandpiper (3, two on 100 acre, one on North Lake), Green Sandpiper (8, all on 100 acre, mostly on Jim's Bed). Also of note was a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull (on the wet grassland workings), a Common Buzzard and a Peregrine.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Dragon's-teeth and chalky corners

Cut-leaved Gremander
Wild Candytuft
There's a chalky corner of north-east Surrey where a couple of caring botanists have cultivated a number of scarce plant species from Surrey-sourced seed. This has been done with the blessing of various organisations. This 'nursery' acts as a back-up to the vulnerable wild populations, so that if ever they should disappear (at the likely hand of man), the species will still exist within the county and could be repopulated by the offspring of those very same missing plants.

This chalky corner is tended to rather than managed, and it is incredible how well some of the species that are present just set seed with wild abandon (unlike at their 'wild' sites). Broad-leaved Cudweed, Wild Candytuft, Basil Thyme and Cut-leaved Germander are spreading away from their original seeding sites with vigour. Night-flowering Catchfly, White Mullein, Prickly Poppy, Rough Poppy and Hairy Rock-cress are just some of the other plants being looked after.

There are also some other species present, seed that has been donated, such as Dragon's-teeth, Shepherd's-needle and Bythinian Vetch. It is a privilege to be able to visit this living botanical museum with the chance to get familiarised with species that would be otherwise difficult to see.

Night-flowering Catchfly

Monday, 8 July 2019

Red-veined Darters at Beddington

Last Friday I was pretty sure that I saw a female Red-veined Darter at Beddington SF (between the South and North Lakes), but my views were brief and I didn't feel confident enough to claim it. I was therefore heartened to hear that, on Saturday, Nick Gardener had recorded 'several' in the same area. This morning I returned and spent a couple of hours slowly walking the vehicle tracks that run along the eastern flank of the Northern Lake. I was able to find three, if not four males and a single female, all resting on the bare earth of the tracks, all were flighty but patience paid off with excellent views being obtained. Here is a selection of images, some which show the blue colouring of the underneath of the eye, a feature only shared with the exceedingly rare Scarlet Darter.