Hidden pockets


I might not live by the sea, or alongside a reservoir, or close to a major river valley, but I cannot complain about the area around my home. Within a 20-30 minute walk I can be at Epsom Downs, Epsom Common, Banstead Woods, Banstead Downs, Priest Hill, Howell Hill, Canons Farm and the banks of the (modest) River Hogsmill at Ewell. These may not be places that are associated with birds, but at these sites I have seen Little Bittern, Ring-necked Duck and Dotterel (among others) and have experienced some amazing days of migration. However, what it lacks in birding prowess is more than compensated by the tremendous list of plants, butterflies and moths that can be found - nationally notable species in profusion! No, I cannot complain.

And then there are the many areas off the beaten track, in between the named sites above - pockets of farmland, grassland, copses and horse paddock, criss-crossed by footpath and, at times, abandoned to the wild flowers and accompanying invertebrates. Both pictures here are from the ex-agricultural fields at Howell Hill, that run all the way to Priest Hill. Although I didn't loiter here this afternoon, these fields have an interesting flora and I will return in the next few days to have a good look. Within such places there are hidden gems, it just needs a bit of effort and luck to unearth them. And you never know - that Bee-eater or Black Kite might just deign to coincide a fly past with such a visit.

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