Monday, 1 April 2013

A beginner's guide to Holmethorpe

Mercers Lake, the 'Daddy' waterbody of the area. I've seen Great Northern and Black-throated Diver, Red-necked, Black-necked and Slavonian Grebe, Scaup, Smew, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Scoter, Bewick's Swan, Iceland and Little Gull on here, not bad for inland Surrey

Holmethorpe Sand Pits are situated close to Redhill and Merstham, nestling between the natural features of the North Downs and Nutfield Ridge plus the man-made M23 and railway link between London and Brighton. Fullers Earth and sand have been quarried from the area since Roman times, although birdwatchers have only been paying attention since the first flooding of pits took place from about 1960. Recently extraction has stopped, although there are applications to carry on doing so across Mercer's Farm. What has been left is a series of deep pits and floods (Mercer's Lake, Spynes Mere, Mercer's West, Watercolours 1 and 2 and The Moors) of varying sizes. These waterbodies are largely difficult to watch - all water is fenced off and Mercer's West has viewing only from the eastern edge. Manic planting of trees around the edge of Mercer's Lake in the 1960s and 1970s has resulted in an impenetrable barrier of mature growth along 90% of the banking. Add to that the obsessive use of fencing, it is not birding friendly. Recent reclamation of the works has seen further habitat creation alongside residential development at Watercolours. The ridge at Nutfield gives height to the observer, where you stand on ground that was once landfill - an active site is still nearby and does attract thousands of gulls to the area. The small band of regular patch workers, led ably by Gordon Hay along with such stalwarts as Graham James, Ian Kehl and Neil Randon, has resulted in much of ornithological interest being recorded, despite the difficulties. I've been a 'regular irregular' since 1991 and have seen my fair share of goodies. There is potential here for any visiting birder. There is a website where you can catch up on the latest sightings here.
Adult Mediterranean Gull on Spynes Mere last Friday.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks Steve. The cheque is in the post. Seriously though, like Jono Lethbridge says, your blog goes from strength to strength - and to think you 'used to be a birder'! You write about nothing else at the moment - excellent stuff.

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  2. Very kind words indeed Neil, thank you. One reason that the birding is at the forefront of current posts is down to the weather keeping all plant growth supressed and rendering lepidoptera comatose. Having said that, I'm enjoying the birding again...

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