The ramblings of an all-round naturalist based in north Surrey
A few for the pan list
The hoverfly Eristalis pertinax
A day spent 'pottering' about (what a great middle-aged word 'pottering' is). The upshot of it was I found 10 pan list ticks for myself, all of them common. I spent a fruitful half hour checking the flowering heads of Hogweed that had attracted a fair number of insects. If you can spot any schoolboy errors, please let me know. New pan-list total is now 3092.
Last week, the Surrey Bird Club sightings section on the website announced that 100+ Bramblings had been seen along Clifton's Lane, just off the A25, between Reigate Heath and the North Downs scarp slope - it is an area that I know well and bird a few times each year. There was no need for me to weigh up the pros and cons of paying a visit - it is a place I love to wander and a species that I particularly enjoy watching. Friday afternoon saw me saunter up the aforementioned lane, looking out for a 'field with crops' that the birds had been frequenting. The first that fitted that description, beyond the railway bridge, was a right old mixture of brassica, peas and arable 'weeds' (below). There were no birds within the field, but the trees that lined the western side were full of them, hundreds of finches perched on the bare tops. I was able to get a decent viewpoint and could count 400+, many of them Brambling! I could not fail to be aware that more birds were in the
The West Sussex South Downs seem a wilder place than 'my' Surrey North Downs - more open than the wooded north, with steep slopes either side of the narrow ridge which suggests higher ground, and thus the views are spectacular, whichever way you look. It is also full of birds. I'd intended to park at the the top of Kithurst Hill, but a road closure sent me on my way to Amberley. After parking the car and making my way up the hill, a Marsh Harrier appeared above my head, heading off towards the Wild Brooks - a good start to the day. The footpath took me up to Amberley Mount, where I followed the South Downs Way eastwards. The open grassy fields here were full of Common Gulls, in their hundreds, feeding on the turf along with Starlings. Any scan southwards would find more gulls, mostly drifting east, often dropping down or wheeling above the hidden valleys that are cut into the undulating farmland, the land resembling the swell of a vast grassy ocean. The path also undulated,
The past few months have been a bit of a struggle for me. It started last summer, when a very close family member became ill, and we had an unpleasant and uncertain spell when their treatment was being discussed and the possible outcomes were uncertain. You never want to see someone that is so close to you frightened and in danger. Fortunately, touch wood, we seem to be in a good place right now, thanks to the wonderful staff at the Royal Marsden Hospital. Our NHS is nothing short of wonderful when the chips are down. Throughout this whole episode I was able to keep it all together, to stay strong and positive - but it has come at a price. I'm now shot to pieces. My confidence has never been lower. My mojo has shrivelled up. Anxiety and worry rule my days. This has manifested itself in many ways, turning my ever-so-mild OCD into a fully blown case. After 63-years on this earth I am finally able to understand that those suffering from mental health are not in a good place at all. It