First stop was Canons Farm. One large finch flock (on the otherwise correctly named Skylark Field), comprised 200 Linnets, 60 Chaffinches and a lone male Brambling. I stood and scoped them in between their frequent bouts of taking to the air, but couldn't string anything rare.
Holmethorpe Sand Pits was next. Where do I start? I really like the place - large waterbodies, farmland, hedgerows - but it's so bloody difficult to bird! All the water is fenced off and 90% of the fencing has mature vegetation between it and the water, making observation nigh on impossible. The pit known as Mercers West can be viewed only from a small gate, and a bramble bush the other side of this gate has now grown to about the same size and shape as the field of view that we once enjoyed. Spynes Mere is just about viewable from the northern flank (because the path rises high above it), but all the good habitat is safely kept clear of the birder by several fences, thorny growth and quick growing trees. An assault course couldn't be better designed. At least the Watercolours Lagoons are viewable - wrong! Again, copious planting (behind more fencing) has matured so that hundreds of metres that were once birdable are now not. Whoever got the fencing and planting contract from the Surrey Wildlife Trust must have been able to retire on the proceeds. In the few places where I could peek at the water I did see a drake and duck Red-crested Pochard and 29 Wigeon. I will most probably wait until all the leaves have fallen from the trees before going back. A note to the SWT - please cut back this preposterous vegetation. Or are you trying to discourage the public from looking at open water? A clear view might actually encourage some of them to engage in the natural world rather than just snag their clothing on barbed wire and brambles. This habitat shouldn't just be available to a few souls who populate the monthly work party! There are people out here who would love to be able to record the wildlife that the area undoubtably holds in a meaningful way and share the results with you and the recorders! This reserve is the most observer unfriendly I've ever visited! There are no viewing ramps, hides or easy access for the able bodied, let alone anybody who is disabled. Come on, it cannot be that difficult to organise. If you haven't got the budget then you shouldn't have spent so much on fencing, hawthorn plugs and guelder rose bushes. And yes, this is critical, but hey, criticism happens - I get it at work and at home, it's just a part of life. I'm not anti-SWT at all, I think that they have some cracking reserves and their series of books are excellent.
Lastly, calm. I love Colley Hill and spent a couple of hours skywatching. Only a couple of Common Crossbills of note (no wing-bars or parrot bills) but that was good enough for me.
|Colley Hill: looking east. The Crossbills flew down into the wood at the bottom of the slope|
|Colley Hill: looking west. I've always fancied a Ring Ouzel along the top bushes. That's not asking too much, is it?|