Tuesday, 17 September 2019

What is Mogador?

A local day's birding that didn't promise much but ended up being one of great interest. Throughout the day, cloudless blue skies meant that if anything was moving through the area it was high - I picked up a number of passerines too far up to specifically identify, all heading south, and I suspect that they were mostly pipits. This was slightly born out by the number of Meadow Pipits found in the fields at Canons Farm (40) and Mogador (70). The other 'species of the day' were Stonechats, with three at Canons Farm (different from yesterday) and six at Mogador (two males). The latter site also held a male Common Redstart, with Colley Hill also chipping in with a female type plus a Whinchat.

Mogador is not a site that crops up regularly on the birding map. It occupies high ground just inland from the scarp slope of the North Downs (at Colley Hill.) It is open farmland (arable and cattle) with thin ribbons of low vegetation with small groups of bushes for good measure. I like it - always good for passage chats, pipits and thrushes, plus it can hold good winter flocks of passerines in the fields. It has potential. The pictures hopefully give you a flavour of what it is like. Big skies!

Friday, 13 September 2019

"I've got binoculars, on top of Box Hill"*

* hat doffed to one J. Lydon Esq, Flowers of Romance, PiL

And that is exactly how I found myself at 06.20hrs this morning, ready for a morning of scintillating visible migration watching. By 08.20hrs I came to the belated conclusion that the birds had not read the script.

A force two westerly wind, with 7/8 cloud cover, was never going to be the recipe for a memorable movement, and this was not helped by a 0/8 sky just to the north. Four House Martins heading south and two Swallows west was it as far as 'true' movement went, a pitiful return. And here are the views that were on offer from my vantage point, a third of the way down from the peak, just west of the viewpoint.

Looking east, along the line of the North Downs. Gatwick Airport is out on that flat bit somewhere.
Looking due south across Dorking (cue guffaws from our American friends). The River Mole is just before the closest housing. The Greensand ridge is in the distance - and here be dragons the Leith Hill Tower.
Looking left, across the Mole Gap and towards the continuation of the North Downs at Denbigh's.
I made a run for it to Canons Farm, where there was some semblance of migration, the highlights being a Swift, 50 Swallow, a Yellow Wagtail, three Whinchat, three Wheatear, 10 Chiffchaff and a Reed Bunting.

Ed Stubbs, of Thornecombe Street fame, has just made a valiant stab at trying to explain the why's, wherefore's, maybe's and speculation surrounding why and how birds move through Surrey. Well worth a read here.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019


This morning, while waiting for a big hirundine/pipit day, and daydreaming about big thrush days to come, I spent some time on the shores of the northern lake at Beddington SF, watching a group of four Whinchat, a Stonechat and a female Common Redstart. Another Whinchat was found on the Beddington park border. Not a lot was passing overhead although five Sand Martin and two Common Swift were noteworthy.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Looking down, looking up

Denbigh's Hillside on a warm and sunny morning is a delightful place to be. It has the lot - scenery, plants, butterflies and birds. The main purpose of my visit was to monitor the butterflies that were still on the wing. We are coming to the end of many of their flight times, and, for some species, today may well have been my last chance to observe them in 2019. Numbers were quite low considering how good the weather conditions were, with the commonest 'blue' being Adonis (although they still didn't reach double figures and were by and large tatty) but in contrast the only two Silver-spotted Skippers seen were still very fresh.

It was a good morning for raptors. At least 15 Common Buzzards were in the area, and among them, for a good 10-15 minutes, was a female Goshawk, loafing around before coming in directly over my head and off towards Ranmore Common. This was 'top-trumped' by a Honey-buzzard that appeared with a Common, but then peeled away and purposefully headed westwards (at 12.45hrs). A Common Redstart (below) and a couple of Ravens were also seen.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

More riparian wandering

The Mole Gap is situated in the Box Hill - Mickleham - Leatherhead area, where the North Downs were worn down by a once mighty river, which today is a mere trickle in comparison. My morning was spent meandering along the river banks, across the footpaths and through the copses between Westhumble and Mickleham. This area does have its days of birding numbers, but today was not one of them. 20+ Chiffchaff, a Willow Warbler, four Blackcap, a Common Snipe and a handful of hirundines was about it migrant wise, although the 'residents' livened proceedings up with a Little Egret, two Kingfishers and four Grey Wagtails.

The accolade of 'morning's highlight' went to Apple-of-Peru (below, top two pictures), a species that I rarely come across, with two specimens being found along a fields edge, together with a few Amaranth plants (bottom) that I am confidently identifying as Green. Or Common. Or neither...

Despite the blanket of cloud, it was still warm enough to entice a few butterflies and dragonflies on the wing, including this Banded Demoiselle.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Digital detox

Just binned Facebook.

Cut back on Twitter.

Put phone and iPad to one side (or left them switched off) for longer spells than usual.

I'm afraid I'm one of those weak-willed compulsive sorts. It's all or nothing for me, so when there is fresh information coming up on the feeds then I will look. And look again. Keep checking. It's an illness. The recent Brown Booby overkill has finally made my mind up. If people want to go then it's up to them, if they want to tweet out their success then again, it's their call. But after hundreds - literally - of tweets and retweets it gets repetitive and stale. My own fault, I don't need to look. Same with Brexit. Same with Driven Grouse Shooting. It isn't that I don't care or have an opinion (I do) but I now know how a goose feels being force fed foie gras. What should be a tasty mouthful, full of interest and learning, becomes vomitus. It also steals time, time that could be put to better, more productive tasks.

However, you will be pleased (or dismayed) to learn that my adherence to this blog will stay the same. After all, this stuff isn't forced onto anybody's timeline or pops up unannounced on your screens. You elect to visit. And for that I remain truly grateful.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Penn Field catchfly

Another trip to Langley Vale, this time to have a good nose around Penn Field, where back in August I was able to see Peter Wakeham's Field Woundwort. I spent a couple of hours criss-crossing the site and was delighted to find a minimum of 56 Night-flowering Catchfly plants, the most that I've seen together - there was a loose group of 32 along a 20m strip, the rest scattered across the field in ones, twos and threes.

Most of the plants were in good condition, many in flower and, once my eye was in, easy to pick out even from distance. They really are a different beast to White Campion (of which there was quite a bit).