Showing posts from October, 2019

Mind the gap

To the west of Box Hill you will find a narrow river valley, formed tens of thousands of years ago by the River Mole. It must have once been a mighty river, not the shallow, sluggish water course that it is today. In recent posts you will find maps of the Box Hill area with identified flight lines of migrating birds. I have marked such flight lines along the Mole Gap, but in recent weeks the birds had not been using them - until today. I arrived at my favoured Box Hill vantage point at 06.30 hrs. It is a small area of flat ground on the scarp slope with views eastwards and, most crucially today, westwards, across the Mole Gap and on towards Ranmore. Thrushes were on the move quickly afterwards, a mixture of Redwings and Fieldfares. After approximately 75 minutes I had recorded at least a thousand of both species. By 09.00hrs the Fieldfares had tailed off, with the stream of Redwings more or less coming to a halt by 10.30hrs. An hour later I called it a day. The final totals were: 406

Thrush-bearing cloud

When I stepped out of the house at 07.00hrs the air was laden with moisture. The weather forecast was that of a nagging band of rain stretched across the south-east of England, and unlikely to clear until the afternoon - but it's proposed edge was tantalisingly close to Dorking (according to one satellite image that I had looked at.) So, instead of heading to Colley Hill as intended, I made my way to Box Hill, hoping that the extra few miles west might make a difference in the weather. Arriving at Box Hill made clear that it hadn't. The roads were awash with standing water, although the headlights did pick out a few Song Thrushes having a bathe. The hill top was shrouded in mist, but walking a third of the way down the scarp allowed some semblance of visibility across Dorking and on towards the Greensand Ridge. Looking south-east I could also just about see aircraft taking off and landing at Gatwick Airport, so I was ready for action. The only problem was the persistence in t

Marsh Harrier topping

Colley Hill can be found on the North Downs just west of Reigate. It is quite a spectacular site, with a steep scarp slope that has, along its length, a couple of natural bowls. These are not accessible to most people, so the partially scrubby slopes remain largely undisturbed. I have a longstanding affection for the place, but my birding victories here have been quite meagre, even though my effort has been reasonable over the years - a Ring Ouzel here and a Common Redstart there is not quite reward enough! To the north (and just over the M25, that bisects the area like some poisoned serpent) you will find open farm and grassland close to the village of Mogador. Both of these places have been lumped together as a single site for the purposes of recording any visible migration on Trektellen. This morning I took up position at 'Watchpoint 2' (map above) that has a good uninterrupted view northwards across the farmland. It was very misty to start with, but after an hour th

Box Hill flight lines

I knew I wouldn't be away too long... We are at the height of the visible migration season, or vis-mig if you prefer. Ed Stubbs, over at Thorncombe Street, is having a storming time this week and, apart from basking in the glory of finding a Red-throated Pipit, has written a bit about the recent history of this form of skywatching in Surrey. You can read it here. I have been having a far more modest time, but enjoyable all the same. This morning I went over to Box Hill, and stood on the slopes between 07.15 - 10.45 hrs. My reward was a steady, if unspectacular watch, with Woodpigeons on the move (1,927 south-west), my first three Brambling of the autumn, and back-up from an assortment of thrushes, finches, Starlings, and buntings. It was time well spent. What was educational were the flight-lines that the birds took. They are crudely marked out, in yellow, above. Firstly were the birds that flew from the north and headed south / south-west over and away from the scarp.

Blog end?

“And now, the end is near...” Well, as far as blogging is concerned, it certainly feels like it. As a platform it is certainly ‘old school’ and I get the impression that few people under the age of 40 writes one. The blogs that I follow - almost entirely Natural History themed blogs - are showing signs of having become infected by a general blogging malaise - fewer posts, shorter posts, a big fall in interaction with visitors. I’ve got the symptoms too. My posting exhibits a certain tiredness, not as frequent, lacks imagination, fewer comments being left and fewer visitors. This isn’t a whine, they are just the facts. Is this down to the way our social media functions, in that platforms become passé, attention spans demand short tweets and not wordy lumps of copy? Is it too much effort for visitors to leave a comment, or are the posts not engaging enough? Of course, it could be that if a blogger is dishing up dull material then visitor numbers will fall, as will the number of comme

Trektellen time

Trektellen, the website that collates migration counts, is a wonderful place to while away a few hours.  This Dutch site has spread its wings across Europe, and the number of contributing sites - including British - keeps on growing. As much as most of us think of meaningful visible migration counts coming from coastal sites, there are a number of inland sites that have provided some excellent data. As a county, Surrey is poorly represented. I thought it about time to increase its contribution. Anybody who has visited this blog on a regular basis will know that I love watching migration in action, particularly if it is local to me here in Banstead. It just means more. Luckily I have two sites on my doorstep (one of them literally) that provides such thrills. My garden has a good track record in the autumn - thrush rushes (4,000 Redwings in a day), four figure hirundine days, hundreds of finches, pipits, the odd unexpected bird (Woodlark, Golden Plover, Honey Buzzard, Hawfinch) - and

Where to stand?

I love migration. Birds, butterflies or moths, the privilege of being able to observe it happening is never lost on me. Every session out in the field that coincides with a movement of birds overhead is a treasured session. We are now in the middle of the best time to witness such movements. So, pick your site, go and stand there, look up, and count the birds. Simple. Well, to a point it’s simple, but finding somewhere to stand where you have a good chance of seeing numbers of birds flying through - that isn’t as easy as it might seem. Anywhere can turn up a good bird. Anywhere can provide you with a bit of visible migration. But those sites that regularly host such avian spectacles are fewer. Logic suggests hills and river valleys are the likeliest spots, but even they can be hit or miss. My own search for a North Downs hot spot, on the scarp slope, has been one of failure. Reigate Hill, Colley Hill, Box Hill and Denbigh’s Hillside have all been given the once, twice and thrice-over