What with the wind reducing to a manageable force 3-4, and the rain promising to keep away, I thought it was time to go and check the high ground between Dorking and Abinger. I say high ground, but those of you used to more northern latitudes it’s not very high at all - we are talking 734 feet (or 224m in new money) at the most.
I spent the majority of my time zig-zagging up and down across Ranmore Common. It was quiet. This time two years ago I was knee-deep in Hawfinches on these footpaths, and only last February it was easy to locate singing (breeding?) Crossbills. Today I had to make do with c10 Marsh Tits, none of them yet in song which was surprising given the clement weather. The lack of finches this winter is most noticeable, with just a handful of Goldfinch, Chaffinch and even fewer Siskin. A Redpoll or Brambling would be treated like a star prize at the moment.
After a while I came across some decent stands of mature Holly, just like this:
On this part of the downs, Holly understory like this means one thing to me - Firecrests! It only took a minute before one, then two, came into view, foraging in the canopy before dropping down to feed just above the dead bracken. They never let me down here.
I did venture a little further on to check on a known Goshawk site, and my visit was successful, a single bird being briefly seen and heard calling on a number of occasions.