Canons Farm isn't exactly a place that is synonymous with large gatherings of birds, but it has its moments. In any normal winter we have come to expect a certain suite of wintering flocks - several hundred mixed thrushes, three figure Linnet counts, clouds of Stock Doves and Woodpigeons sharing the soil with plenty of Starlings, Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Yellowhammers, plus a swathe of corvids, which all means that even on a quiet day there are plenty of birds to look through.

This winter things are different. There are barely any birds on show. All the above are present in disturbingly reduced numbers. To scan across the open fields is an exercise in desperately trying to find something to look at. I have ducked into the neighbouring Banstead Wood for some ornithological respite, but the hoped for roving flocks of tits and crests are also missing in action.

Other sites reflect this morose situation. Priest Hill, Epsom Common, Mickleham, Box Hill, Epsom Downs, Walton Downs, Walton Heath, Banstead Heath - deathly quiet. Where are the birds? It cannot be that this mild winter is to blame. Did the scorching hot summer of 2018 stress the birds too much? Has the bombardment of habitat degredation and chemical overload finally tipped the balance? Even the avian garbage collectors - the gulls and crows - are in shorter supply than usual.

My chums at Dungeness are calling it their 'worst birding winter in living memory'. And that observation is something that can also be applied to the Uber patch.


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