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5.5k of nests

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Yesterday I met up with Joe Hobden on a cloudy and cool Bank Holiday Monday morning. The main aim of the outing was to check on the large numbers of Bird's-nest Orchids that can be found on the southern slope of Mickleham Downs, between White Hill Car Park and Headley Warren. Joe is on a bit of an orchid odyssey at the moment and I needed little persuasion to join him in his infectious enthusiasm. The slope along the 1km length of our search is steep, with little in the way of clearings amongst the - at times - dense woodland of Yew, Beech, Ash (dying back), various conifers and Box. Yes, the Box here, in its natural environment, takes on the guise of tree rather than ornamental hedge. We estimated that, at a minimum, 5,500+ spikes of Bird's-nest Orchid were located. The majority of them (c5,000) were found on the steepest of the slopes above Cockshott Cottage, in an area that could have taken up no more room than a couple of full-sized football pitches. Unlike previous years w

10 days in May - Staycation (Part Two)

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May 16th     Day 6     13.6k walked     96 species cumulative total An afternoon session at Holmethorpe SP which had me covering the whole area via the many footpaths, also taking in the open, grassy Nutfield Ridge, which commands fine views across the sand workings, refuse tip and nearby North Downs. It was at this latter site that a group of nine Red Kites were watched, wheeling above the refuse tip as they joined the gathered scavenging corvids. They were not the only raptor highlight, with three Hobby hunting newly emerging odonata above Spynes Mere and the neighbouring Mercer's Farm, where the majority of the 80+ Sand Martins were found, along with a handful of Swifts and House Martins. A Lapwing, two Common Terns, a Sedge Warbler, a Lesser Whitethroat, two Garden Warblers and a Yellowhammer were further highlights. May 17th     Day 7    33.9k walked     103 species cumulative total A big day as far as shoe leather was concerned, with a whopping 33.9km walked. Parking at the t

Half-way House

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Last year, at the end of May, I took the decision to have a natural-history themed holiday at home, rather than go to the expense and faff of travelling elsewhere. As I've gotten older my wish to remain close to home has strengthened and my curiosity as to what can be found 'from my doorstep' increased. It was a rewarding exercise - I left the car at home and walked miles each day, sometimes exploring footpaths that were unknown to me - and although the birding was quiet (it was early June) some plant and insect discoveries were notable. So, it it was so much fun, why not do it again? And this time, being mid-May, why not just make it about the birds... Surrey birds! There was one change however, and that was that I would use the car at times to head out south-westwards to explore parts of the county that I had no visited for a long, long time. With such thoughts being energising, I expectantly waited for the starting gun to sound, announcing the start of my 10 day Surrey B

Greensand

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They say a change is as good as a rest, so rather than visit one of my many local patches, yesterday afternoon I took myself off to the Greensand Ridge of southern Surrey. It is an area that I do know in parts but have not visited for several years. Armed with the trusty OS map, I parked at Friday Street and made my way to Leith Hill via a number of footpaths, some that I had walked before and others that were unfamiliar. Several loops were taken in the name of 'exploration', a good couple of hours were spent on the open heathland of Duke's Warren (above), with the whole expedition ending with a magical strike out northwards from Broadmoor along the achingly beautiful Tilling Bourne valley. I have a confession to make. I'm not a great fan of the Greensand nor heathland. As I walked across, up and down the said area in question, I quizzed myself as to why that was. My most obvious dislike is of conifer plantations, especially when they are planted on dry, sandy soil. The

Woodchat Shrike

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It's funny how a day can flip on its head within seconds. I had just completed going through the moth trap (uneventful) and was daydreaming about my proposed uberpatch birding blitz planned for tomorrow when I checked my phone which had just blurted out a WhattsApp alert.  Woodchat Shrike at Beddington!  Now, I am not well known for dropping everything and heading hotfoot to the said rare bird, but a combination of this particular species and one of my old patches was too good to resist, especially since those kind Beddington Farmland Birding Group members had arranged for all-comers to gain entry behind the locked gates. I was on site by 10.00hrs to be greeted at the Mile Road gate by the smiling face of the birds finder, Mark Bravery. He ushered the few gathered birders onto the inner footpath that ran between the North and South Lakes, and onwards for 200m to where the shrike was still present, on a bramble-choked western facing slope, tucked out of the stiff breeze. The bird be

50 years

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With Easter about to be celebrated it has come to my attention that a personal landmark is fast approaching. During my school Easter holidays of 1974 I experienced a Damascene ornithological moment that instantly turned me from somebody that thought little about birds into an obsessive. That event occurred 50 years ago, or, if you want to make it sound more like ancient history, half a century. I do have to come clean that Easter 1974 happened in mid-April, so the anniversary is three weeks away yet, but with the holiday fast approaching it seems like a good time to reminisce. I have written about 'that moment' before on this blog (and you can read a fuller account if you so desire by clicking on the 'ND&B publications' tab above and then visiting the 'Of My Time' account. Here's an abridged taster: And there it was, on the garden lawn. A Jay. I involuntarily held my breath, keeping completely still, so as not to spook the bird with sudden movement. Igno

PSL complete

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Back in the mists of time (or at least the turn of the millennium) I sat down and worked out my UK list of lifeforms that I had identified. This was primarily made up of birds, plants, butterflies and moths, although I was able to dig up plenty of additional filler, such as dragonflies, easy to identify insects and a whole host of miscellaneous creatures that I could remember having seen. I kept it in a notebook and now and again would suddenly remember something from the past and add it to the list. The list was purely for a bit of fun, and as far as I were aware there was nobody else that kept such a pointless tally - but I was so very, very wrong. I cannot remember the moment that I became aware of other 'lifeform listers' although I'm pretty sure that the name Mark Telfer was involved. He, too, kept such a list and not only that, he was on the lookout for other like-minded souls, to gather (and publish) a league table of totals. Even though my competitive listing days w