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Spiritual

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That giant of contemporary nature writing, Richard Mabey, has reportedly said - “I really don’t understand what the word ‘spiritual’ means. I am deeply a materialist; I don’t want to have a metaphorical relationship with something beyond its reality.” That surprised me, because, as an avid reader of Mr. Mabey’s words, I have always thought of him as ‘spiritual’. Is my understanding of what ‘spiritual’ means incorrect, or is it that I am just out of synch with the great wordsmith? Spiritual . According to one of the many available dictionaries, it can be defined as: ‘relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.’ I readily identify with the idea of spirituality, which, coming from an unquestioning atheist, possibly suggests that I would be very much at home with the druids and pagans. I do see, and feel, the wonder in our natural world (and, of course, the unfathomable cosmos beyond it), but can also be moved by places that show the scars

Less is more

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Several times over the past few years I've looked at my attempts to identify and record all orders of the natural world and have shaken my head at my futile exercise. It is just all too much. Yes, I am lucky enough to have time on my hands to try such a thing, but in reality all that I end up doing is water down any proficiency that I have in my 'favourite' orders. Take birds for example... Up until the late 1980s I would read almost everything that was published regarding bird identification, and without wanting to come across as big-headed, was more than proficient in the field. I then started to take more interest in moths and plants, orders that boast thousands of species. My mind wandered away from birds and was immersed in these new worlds. There was much to learn, and my time was spent trying to be able to identify such things as the different pugs and crucifers that were now being revealed to me. The birds took a back seat, and because of that I slowly became rusty.

The Great Northern Diver question

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As I have already mentioned in the last post, on the morning of November 11th, while recording a strong movement of Chaffinches over Porth (just outside Newquay) in Cornwall, I observed five Great Northern Divers, seemingly flying on a similar line along with the finches. I think it is worth elaborating on these birds and try and understand what they were up to. I was looking almost due north, along a cliff-line that runs down from Trevose Head until it meets Porth (on a NNE-SSW axis), where the coast suddenly kinks away and heads WSW. Not quite a 90 degree turn, but abrupt all the same. The first bird appeared at approximately 09.00hrs, and was picked up coming in off of the sea, at a fair height. Obviously a heavy Diver, scope views were able to confirm it as a Great Northern. I was somewhat surprised when the bird carried on with its S or even SE bearing, shunning the coast and heading inland, gaining height as it did so. I was quite excited by this. My pulse quickened even further

Cornwall in November

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Two weeks on the north Cornish coast in November? To me, that suggested plenty of wind, chilly temperatures, rain, wet clothing and plenty of reading indoors to escape the weather. Our ‘postponed’ family holiday could not have been any different - apart from the odd flurry of drizzle it was dry; the temperature was never anything other than remarkably mild (I even found myself dressed in a t-shirt whilst sitting on an exposed headland one balmy morning); and the wind did not get up above force 4, many days remaining in the 1-2 region. Although not a birding holiday, the bins, scope and tripod came along, and every day saw me wander off to do a bit - on a few occasions more than just a bit. 80 species were recorded in our 12 days, not bad for the time of year and all seen within walking distance from our base. I went everywhere on foot, exploring the coastal headlands, valleys, set-aside fields and winding lanes that characterise the Porth area, a small town east of Newquay. We were sta

The 'always learning' curve

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We are almost at the end of the autumn visible-migration season, and, so far, it has been pretty decent. Following on from a massive Redwing day, and a more than passable Fieldfare-fest, I have spent the past two mornings at Colley Hill, on the North Downs just above the town of Reigate. Here are the two watches in detail, taken from my postings on Trektellen: Friday's session was four-and-a-half hours of birding that had its rewards, although the bird stream didn't really get going. Of the thrushes, it was three flocks of Blackbird (50, 27 and 25) that were the most interesting, as I cannot recall watching this species visibly migrate through the county before, certainly not beyond the odd one or two. The four Hawfinches were in a flock and briefly alighted. Watching many of the birds as they moved westward was instructive. Most arrived from the east, flying parallel with the scarp slope, maybe 100-200m out (to the south). Plenty just carried on through towards the Mole Gap, b

Fieldfare frenzy

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It's happened again! Another back-garden thrush rush, but this time, instead of the slim silhouettes of several thousand Redwings I was watching the chunkier, more stately shapes of Fieldfare, that most regal of thrushes. I was stood outside at 06.45hrs, wrapped up against a keen NNW wind. At first, just a few Redwing flew over westwards, but as their flock sizes increased so did the odd cameo appearance from Fieldfares, until they took over as the main thrush component (at about 09.00hrs). I was able to latch onto a few tremendous flocks - 300, 100, 90 - and ended up with a grand total of 1,684, backed up by 747 Redwings. Just checking on my previous best Surrey vis-mig counts, this is just higher than my 1,658 (north) at Box Hill on 29 October 2019 and 1,558 (west) at Banstead on 13 October 2020. Needless to say, Wes Attridge eclipsed my Fieldfare count today by recording a new county record of 10,390 from Leith Hill Tower, although he was virtually frozen to the spot at the end

Something old, something new

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"I must go down to Beddington again, to the pungent mud and the sky, And all I ask is a Green Sandpiper and a glass to watch her by" With profuse apologies to the living descendants of John Masefield Yes, I've been up to my old tricks, that of flirting once again with my original patch, the place where I cut my ornithological teeth, Beddington Sewage Farm (or Farmlands as it has been rebranded recently). My presence has been noted there three times in the past 10 days, and I can see it becoming a regular haunt again - I say again, as I have made more comebacks at the sewage farm than Frank Sinatra did in his career. So why the sudden interest? Well, for a start, my perverse adherence to the north Surrey 'dry' downland has taken its toll, or rather this awful autumn has. Plenty of birding has taken place and plenty of disappointment has come my way. I craved wildfowl and waders, something that are rare treats on the downs. And, it must be admitted, a few good birds