On Tuesday evening, at 20.05hrs, I was taking out the rubbish, when I heard a call from south-west of the house. I froze, knowing what it was at once, but scarcely believing it. I had listened to this call on Xeno-Canto many times, getting ready for such a moment but not really considering it something that I would hear over the back garden. After 15 seconds the call came again from the blackness, now directly over head. Yes, there was no mistaking it! Another 20 seconds it called a third time - now further away to the north-east...


A lazy drawl, part bark, part yelp. A Bittern. Nocturnal flight-call.

I went back inside and played the call on Xeno Canto just to make sure that I had remembered everything correctly. I had. Bloody hell, a Bittern over suburban Banstead! And only a week after an Arctic Skua had blessed me just a mile or so away. Sometimes the birding Gods do smile on you. To some birders these two species are just small fry, mere starters to the main course, but for us inlanders (especially us dry inlanders) these are the stuff of dreams. Once upon a time I would have felt the same, but not now. My birding journey has ended up from where it started, that of being local, and all the better for it in some perverse way. I say perverse, because why would anybody willingly give up coastal hotspots or, at the very least, nearby sewage farms that have a track record of good birding? I don't really know. A sense of adventure? Discovery? Obstinate adherence to a 'green' way?

So, within walking distance from my front door this year I have had the pleasure to see or hear a Bittern, an Arctic Skua, two Quail, a Ring Ouzel, ridiculous numbers of autumn passage Stonechats, five Dartford Warblers and a pocketful of Hawfinches. Not bad, not bad at all. It makes staying local rewarding. Yes, I'll admit to missing out on wildfowl and waders, but the odd trip off-piste can remedy that. It inspires and galvanises to carry on ploughing the local birding furrow, to go where most sane birders fear (or refuse) to tread. I wouldn't have picked such a path a few years ago, but maybe having spent time birding in the rarified heights can allow you to make such choices. It's not a case of 'been there, done that', more a matter of wanting to do something different.

2023? I'm already looking at the local OS maps, seeking out the next Canons Farm or Mogador. But with the odd visit to Beddington and Holmethorpe, to look at some wetland species as well.


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