Saturday, 12 December 2015
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.