Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Have I got Smews for you

Dodgy pun headlines and poor digi-scoped images - not much has changed this year at 'North Downs and Beyond', I can tell you...

My 2013 campaign (yes, we birders like to harden up our image with military analogies) kicked-off (and sporting ones) with a visit to Holmethorpe Sand Pits. I chose this site as there had been a drake Smew present for the past couple of days, and also a chance to catch up with my good friends Gordon and Graham. All three were year-ticked without any problems at all.

The flooded Moors region revealed a minimum of 8 Jack Snipe - and considering that you cannot access the vast majority of this area (it is behind fencing to stop birder's enjoying themselves), heaven knows how many are actually out there. Two Little Egrets were close by.

A Goldeneye, 8 Egyptian Geese and 200 Ring-necked Parakeets were other highlights.

This photograph is of Mercer's Farm, looking east towards the North Downs. It used to be home to a wintering Lapwing flock of 3,500 during the 1990s, but changes in farming practice soon saw to that spectacle. Today we struggled to find a Skylark. There is a strong chance that this view will soon disappear as there are plans afoot to extract sand. Good news for Smew but not the resident Yellowhammers.

My aim this year is to cover the 'Uber patch' with nothing more than choosing a site because I fancy doing it. The choice may be down to targeting a specific species, due to checking on the current status of a plant, or just because I fancy a walk along a particularly beautiful stretch of the downs. I will keep a running total of all birds, plants and lepidoptera if only to ensure that I try to get involved in some critical identification - some of it may stick. It will be a meandering journey that will take me wherever I end up going. Free-form natural history, if you like.

Whatever you are doing in 2013, above all else, enjoy what you do!


  1. All the best for the year ahead Steve.
    I`m concentrating on a bio-blitz of my garden.

  2. Ah Dean! Great to hear from you. All the best for the coming year and I've bookmarked your blog - I thought that you'd packed the blogging in. Are you still giving the music a good listening to? Any live gigs coming up?

  3. Haven't had a chance to see the Smew yet. Loads of people asking me about the Jack Snipe. Whereabouts did you see them?

  4. Happy New Year Mr Gale.
    Northdowner and Kingsdowner are my favourite blogs so don't you stop!
    Looking forward to hearing your 2013 ramblings.

  5. Neil - they were on the Moors, but for more detail I need to direct you to Gordon....

    Mel - many thanks and I hope that we can do some more plant bashing this summer, if Mr. Kingsdowner is up for it of course!

  6. Cheers Steve. All the best to you too mate. Yes...i`m still attending gigs...and still loving the music. The only planned one so far for this year is the 4 day Rebellion one @ Blackpool in August. But i`m sure there`ll be a few more beforehand.

  7. Presumably wellie boots were in order...

  8. An early contestant for the prize of Most Painful Title of the Year.

    Good to see some fine birds on my old patch!