'Slowly, slowly, catchee monkey...'
That was going to be my approach to birding locally during 2016. Once again I was going to ignore the birding hotspots of Beddington (helped by having given up my key) and Holmethorpe (which was getting good coverage) and concentrate on the places seldom visited. I had tried something similar in 2015, but there was a poor return and I most probably did too much in the spring which resulted in burn-out and disappointment. If I were going to survive the year and not end up all bitter and twisted about it, then I needed to reduce expectations, not try too hard, and just go with the flow. And as it turned out, it all went very well indeed...
May, June and July quietened down, and the local birding time reduced, due to a combination of switching allegiances to plants, moths, butterflies and Dungeness! However, a few Firecrest were found singing on the north downs and a pair of Raven seemingly resident.
A Spotted Flycatcher (right) at Mogador on 28th August was the only one of the year. One of the most unexpected happenings of the 12 months did not involve rarity, when a gathering of geese occurred on farmland at Walton Downs on the morning of September 26th - 188 Canada and 151 Greylag were exceptional for the area. Nearby, a gathering of 750 Stock Dove was one of the highest historically recorded in the county. I abandoned the local scene throughout October and into November for the shingle of Dungeness. On my return I had a number of target species missing from the year list. Some of these gave themselves up without a fight - Barn Owl (Canons Farm, November 22nd), Little Egret (Ewell, 25th November), Water Rail (below, left and Common Snipe (Ewell, 9th December) and Woodcock (Walton Downs, 19th December).
The year list currently stands at 106 species, not bad for a virtually dry section of a northern spur of the North Downs. The full list can be seen by clicking here. There were very few Redpolls and Siskins during the year. No Lesser Spotted Woodpecker or Common Crossbill. And my success with passage migrants was largely muted (no Cuckoo, Black Redstart, or species acrocephalus warbler). But the unexpected certainly happened. What began as a project to not have to get into a car to go birding has blossomed into one that is driven (excuse the pun) by a wish to visit those largely un-birded areas that can, with a bit of effort, unearth birds. They ARE there. It has been a very enjoyable journey indeed.