I do sometimes wonder if I suffer from SAD - Seasonal affective disorder - a type of depression that is brought on by the shorter days of winter and a lack of sunlight. The latter may affect a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which suppresses its ability to produce melatonin and serotonin. A lack of these chemicals can cause sleepiness and affect your appetite, mood and sleep. The continuing dull weather, with darkness starting to nudge daylight as early as 2.30pm, is wearisome. The temperature may be mild, but give me frosty, cold and sunny days anytime. My mood has been on a downward swing since October, and I've never been a fan of January and February, so it could be an interesting few weeks. But these are minor things to quibble about.

This afternoon saw a brief, but enjoyable visit to Priest Hill, a Surrey Wildlife Trust reserve just a 12 minute stroll from my front door. I have posted about this place before. Historically it has been farmland and municipal playing fields. There are no real reasons for it being a reserve other than the land has been given to the Trust on the understanding that a small part of it can be built upon. Residential housing is currently being constructed, but you will need a tidy sum to buy one (they start from £1.4 million!) Affordable housing doesn't come into it. For that money you get a view across open ground towards the west of London, and if you are (un)lucky, you might get to see me from time to time - counting the (few) birds present...

Anyway, back to today. The hoped for wintering Stonechats were located (just a male and female), a flock of 50 Meadow Pipits were good value, and 18 Skylark and 35 Fieldfare (above) were noteworthy. The site is at a high elevation (for Surrey) and undoubtably gets a dribble of passage migrants. I'll be intrigued to see what a bit of hard weather does - if we ever get any this winter - I reckon the vis mig here might just be notable.


I'm finding the 230pm sunset really annoying as well! It's not enough!
GeoffB said…
nine days guys then the days start to lengthen , wish we would move to parity with our continental neighbours , the Scots could stay on the current regime.
Completely agree with you, Steve. It really is hard work to muster any enthusiasm when it's so gloomy. Great to read about the local Marsh Tits and today's wintering Stonechats. Would be glad of either ;-)
Gibster said…
Keep an eye on those Stonechats, Steve. Used to get the odd Dartford Warbler associating with Stonechats in nearby Warren Farm (back end of Nonsuch Park) a few years back. Maybe still do? Reckon you'll get one early next year. Either that or some drossy old Brown Shrike.
Gibster said…
Oh yeah - and Ring-billed/Caspian Gulls on the pitches. I think that was my other prediction after my first recce? Woodlark over is also entirely likely I'd think. Go get 'em :)
Steve Gale said…
Simon: it'll soon be Spring!

Geoff: nice try, but the lengthening day doesn't seem to kick until February...

Lucy: a few bright, crisp days would really help all round.

Seth: I was thinking Dartford Warbler! Seen 'em with Stonechats at Beddington and Holmethorpe, both just a stone's throw. Not had a good gathering of gulls there since New Year's Day. Woodlark? Yes please.
Derek Faulkner said…
Steve, I've suffered with SAD for years, either that or I'm just naturally a miserable bastard. But seriously, I've always had a problem with these short and gloomy winter days which I've put down to SAD. It's noticeable how, on the odd sunny day in the winter how my mood takes an impressive up-swing.
I've always been amazed at people who say that they love the winter, not that we actually get them these days, what's nice about the shit that we're getting at the moment. Basically we're down to two seasons these days, a six month Spring and a six month Autumn.
Steve Gale said…
A six month Spring and a six month Autumn. You're right Derek, I hadn't thought of it like that. Our seasons are certainly not what they used to be.

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