Saturday, 23 January 2021

Discovery - 3km (Day 2)

Three kilometres from home is not a big distance. And when you have lived in the same house for over 30 years, you would expect to know all of those three kilometres intimately, in whatever direction that you choose to take from your front door. And you would be wrong. If lockdown has any silver lining it is that our enforced retreat into the home area opens up the possibility of discovery.

When I look at an OS map of my home area, I am familiar with what lies due south (and to a certain extent north) of me - but not so much to the west and certainly hardly anything to the north-east. I have walked thousands of miles from home, quite literally, but for some reason my inner-compass has taken me away from the north-east. Today I went in search of this 'empty quarter'.

I started with a visit to Priest Hill (north-west and 15+ Greenfinch), then Banstead Downs (north and 40+ Redwing), then veered of into the mysterious north-east. Here I hit the edge of my 3km square, hard up against the perimeter fence of the Banstead prisons (ex-asylums). To the south of these is a large area of paddocks and small holdings, crossed by footpaths and little birded. I cannot claim to any great ornithological victory there this afternoon (save for 100+ Redwings), but I felt as if I had stumbled across a hidden gem. I can clearly see that this area has potential. A footpath then travels south-east across Hengest Farm (new ground for me) to join up with the more familiar Park Downs, and then onto Canons Farm. I ended up with a flock of 57 Fieldfare and a Barn Owl at the latter site. My search for Firecrests and Woodcocks this afternoon may have failed, but I ended the day full of hope.

To have been birding, non-stop, for 47 years, and yet be energised and excited by a few fields, hedgerows and copses on my doorstep, is worth celebrating. And all because the wider world is out-of-bounds. Sometimes you need to be forced into seeing what really is of value in our shallow world.

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