Friday, 8 January 2016

Return to Hawfinch valley

It was here, in March 2013, that I stumbled across a large gathering of Hawfinches. At its peak the flock numbered between 110-130 birds. Birders travelled from far and wide to see them. Since then, apart from an isolated sighting, none have returned. This morning I can confirm that they still haven't... but, as always, it's a lovely place to while away some time.

Across the valley, in several disturbed areas on the upper slopes of Mickleham Downs, the rare Wild Candytuft grows, at its only Surrey location. This morning I found quite a few plants in flower. In fact, even in the depths of a cold winter it is normal to find a few in bloom.

Last years Bird's-nest Orchids were standing proud, if desiccated, on the slopes of Mickleham Downs under beech woodland. Up to 200 were easily found, all within 100m along the edge of a footpath. Previous forays into the wood away from the few paths on offer tends to throw this species up. There must be four figure counts on this slope.

Hazel catkins were obvious and in plenty.

In the same general area as the Wild Candytuft it is easy to find Stinking Hellebore. Although I have seen greater numbers of fully-grown plants here before, there were plenty of young plants popping up, some in places were I haven't seen them before.


  1. Rufford Park near here always seems to have a few Hawfinch, they don't seem to appear much elsewhere in Notts

  2. 110 Hawfinches! I didn't realise there were that many left Steve!

  3. You must have had the entire British Hawfinch population there Steve.
    Great photos, showing there's more to life than just birds - the first one would make a great header for you.

  4. Simon, Warren, Derek - the Hawfinch count was the highest in Surrey for some 50 years and one of the highest in the UK over the past 25. It was without doubt one of my local highlights of all time.

  5. Those grand old larches in the top pic were the sole known Surrey site for Bacotia claustrella until that pesky Graham Collins fella reared one from a case found on Puttenham Common in 2008. I haven't seen them there since 2010, and a lot of the fallen branches they were on have been removed/burnt. Hopefully the species is still there, maybe the adults come to light??? You got your gennie ready for this summer, Steve?

    1. I remember us combing the branches looking for the cases - me pretending to be looking and you actually doing so...

  6. Of course! Dammit I'm TOO YOUNG to be going senile. I'M NOT READY YET!!!!!