Birding in the slow lane

Any birding trip taken close to my home is not going to be one laden with expectation. The woods, heaths and downs are picturesque, brilliant for plants and invertebrates, but are lacking when it comes to birds. Breeding diversity is poor; spring and autumn passage is hit-or-miss (mostly miss); wintering flocks are either feast or famine (mostly famine). But working on the assumption that 'if you don't look you won't see' I soldier on. I can always nip down to the coast if I start to get ornithological stir-crazy.

This morning I visited a completely new site, Great Hurst Wood (above). It is situated between Walton-on-the-Hill and Headley, and is bisected by that modern monstrosity, the M25. A section of the wood is elvated on a hill, the soil here being quite wet, and this is where I came across a small party of three Marsh Tits, whose calls were thankfully not drowned out by the thousands of vehicles only a few hundred metres away. There are quieter sections of the wood, but apart from the expected woodland species, little was seen. It is pleasing to have another northern Surrey outpost for Marsh Tit, these birds being close to those at Headley Heath and Little Hurst Wood. It makes me wonder why the Banstead Woods birds seem to be either on the way out, or already gone.

I returned to Epsom Downs via Walton Downs, where highlights were a covey of 4 Red-legged Partridge and 80+ Stock Dove. I didn't manage to locate the Langley Vale Farm Skylark flock, nor any of the roosting Little Owls. With the skies leadening and the wind quickly picking up, I beat a retreat.


Derek Faulkner said…
3 Marsh Tits will make both you and the new site the envy of many people.
Steve Gale said…
They are hanging on in my part of Surrey, Derek. For some reason the Banstead Woods population seems to be on the way out.
GeoffB said…
The last place I saw Marsh tit at CFBW was Pages Acre Steve about 3 years ago , not since sadly
Steve Gale said…
Alas Geoff, I think they've gone. Even though the populations that are mentioned above are only 3-4 miles away, they don't seem to wander.
Gibster said…
Well you say that Steve, but I've had Marsh Tit on Epsom Common a couple of times in the past 3 years but only in the winter period. Where are they in the breeding season? I also remember Willow Tit on the same site, no sign of them (winter or breeding season) for many years now.
Steve Gale said…
Nice to know that Marsh Tits are still on Epsom Common, Seth. I, too, remember Willow Tits there, but as you say, that is many years ago now.

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