Save our forests....

The National Trust has vowed to play its part in protecting England's publicly-owned ancient woodlands, as the threat of a £250 million Government sell-off looms.
The charity described plans to dispose of the country's 258,000 hectare forest estate over the next decade as "a watershed moment in the history of the nation".
It has put out a rallying call for the public's urgent support to ensure heritage forests such as the Forest of Dean and the New Forest are preserved for future generations.
"If the Government is determined to pursue the course of action it has outlined and the public wish us to, we are ready to play our part in giving them a secure future. It is therefore essential and urgent that everyone who cares for these special places now make their voices heard over what should happen to them."

From what I have read, both Bedgebury Forest ( and Alice Holt Forest have already been ear-marked to be either sold-off or leased to private concerns. Whoever purchases or leases these forests will be looking for a return on their investment and, as far as I can see, this could only be achieved by commercial ventures such as golf courses and holiday parks.
The National Trust, quite rightly, are concerned to protect the ancient forests but there are other areas of woodland and forest that may be affected by the government plans. In national terms, the loss of flora and fauna may be substantial and this does not seem to have been taken into account in these proposals. Species that are already under pressure from habitat loss in Britain will be pushed even further towards the brink of extinction.

It is said that "some 15% of the forest estate, worth an estimated £100m, is already being sold.
The latest consultation could lead to the sale of the remaining 85% 'owned' by the Forestry Commission, totalling 2,500 sq km.
Under the new proposals ancient woodland such as the Forest of Dean could be designated 'heritage forestry' and transferred to and run by a charitable trust."

That seems to me to lack credibility as the maintainence of large swathes of forest would be beyond the means of most charitable trusts.

"Commerically valuable forests will be leased to commercial operators for up to 150 years but under conditions that public benefits of the woods are preserved."

Public access may well be preserved but the value of these woodlands and forests to wildlife does not seem to be a consideration that is being taken into account in these proposals.

Please support the campaign and sign the petition at

before it is too late.


Too important to ignore .....

I am sure that many of you are already aware of the critical situation regarding the WORLD-WIDE BEE POPULATION and it is thought that the situation is probably due to, or exacerbated by, the use of neonicotinoid pesticides.
If you wish to sign a petition to try and get these pesticides banned please go to:


Also, you have probably heard that the government has plans to sell-off of our national forests to private firms. This could mean ancient woodlands are chopped down and destroyed.
Again, there is a petition, SAVE OUR FORESTS, that you may wish to sign at:


Holmethorpe SPs, Surrey ... 19th - 23rd January 2011

The 19th was a fairly quiet day with the only notable birds being a Common Buzzard, a Treecreeper and 3 Rooks (never a common species at Holmethorpe) all found by Kevin Guest.
Things perked up a bit on the 20th with a smart drake GOLDENEYE in the company of two females on Mercers West Pit, a female SMEW at Mercers Lake, a male Shelduck at Spynes Mere and 12 Wigeon at Mercers West Pit. Reasonable counts for the area of 280 Lapwings and 40 Lesser Black-backed Gulls were made by Gordon Hay.

SMEW at Mercers Lake on the 20th January

GOLDENEYE at Mercers West Pit on the 20th January

Kevin Guest found a female SMEW on the Water Colour lagoons and 2 Green Sandpipers at Mercers West Pit on the 21st and Jerry Blumire added 3 Rooks and a Nuthatch to the day’s tally of species.
Jerry saw a Water Rail and a Treecreeper at Fordbridge by the Water Colour housing development entrance on the 22nd and the 23rd saw 3 (or possibly 4) female SMEW with one at Mercers Lake and two at Mercers West Pit in the morning (and three seen on Mercers West Pit in the afternoon by Simon Elson, the Surrey Wildlife Trust's voluntary warden). Also on that date there were 2 female GOLDENEYE on Mercers West Pit, a LITTLE EGRET that flew towards the sewage treatment works, a Common Buzzard, around 60 Skylarks and 35 Yellowhammers at Mercers Farm, 2 Green Sandpipers on Mercers West Pit, 7 Bullfinches, a Kingfisher and a Little Owl.

WAXWINGS at nearby Frenches Road in Redhill continue to attract visiting birders with 13 birds present on the 19th, 31 birds reported on the 22nd and 28 birds on the 23rd. A female Blackcap has been seen feeding on the apple tree that the Waxwings favour near the railway footbridge at Frenches Road.

WAXWINGS at Frenches Road, Redhill on the 19th January

A pair of overwintering Blackcaps were in gardens at South Merstham, half a mile or so from the Holmethorpe SPs boundary.

BLACKCAP in gardens at South Merstham on the 23rd January

Holmethorpe SPs, Surrey ... 12th - 18th January 2011

On the 12th, a female SMEW and a female Goldeneye were on Mercers West Pit and on the 13th the female Goldeneye had been joined by a first-winter male that was displaying. For anyone who has not witnessed this display, it involves the bird spectacularly throwing its head backwards until it almost touches its back. The surprise was that, instead of displaying to the female Goldeneye, the first-winter male was trying to impress a Little Grebe!
On the same date, a male Shelduck, a Green Sandpiper and a male Wigeon were also on Mercer West Pit and a Water Rail was heard squealing at Mercers Lake.
No reports were returned on the 14th but the 15th produced the two Goldeneye again and the male Shelduck, that had moved to Spynes Mere, two Wigeon, a Green Sandpiper, a Common Buzzard and, for these days, a good count of 283 Lapwings.
The 16th saw three female SMEW at Mercers West Pit with a female Goldeneye also present there, with the Green Sandpiper and male Shelduck also in the area. There was also a good count of 38 Great Black-backed Gulls around the pits.
The 18th produced the first PEREGRINE of the year, a female, heading north-west over Mercers West Pit, with a Common Buzzard at Mercers Farm and a Sparrowhawk over Mercers Lake completing the day’s raptor list. A pair of Wigeon, a Green Sandpiper and 287 Lapwings were the only other notable records for the day.
The rain over the past week has caused the brooks to swell and there is much flooding on The Moors NR and the water level at some of the pits has risen. The area now looks good to attract even more waterfowl.
The WAXWINGS in nearby Frenches Road in Redhill, which is only a few hundred yards from the boundary of the Holmethorpe SPs recording area, have continued to provide many good photo opportunities for visiting birders with up to 65 birds being seen on the 13th and 74 birds on the 16th.

Holmethorpe Sand Pits, Surrey ... 6th - 11th January 2011

On Thursday the 6th January, local birder Jerry Blumire found the first Green Sandpiper of the year at Mercers West Pit at Holmethorpe and the following day Matt Farmer located a decent flock of over 50 Siskins at Mercers Country Park car park and also had two Rooks fly over. Rooks are never a common species at Holmethorpe, despite the local farmland, and often this species will go unreported for weeks at a time throughout the year. Only a few miles away, at Godstone, there is a healthy breeding population but they don’t seem to stray too far from there. Also on the 7th two female SMEW were reported to have been seen at the pits and Neil Randon reported that up to 30 WAXWINGS were along Frenches Road and Alpine Road in Redhill, only a few hundred yards outside the Holmethorpe recording area..
The 8th produced 3 female SMEW and a female GOLDENEYE on Mercers West Pit and Derek Washington located the flock of WAXWINGS along Frenches Road which had now increased to over 60 birds.
On the 9th, Beddington SF birder Kevin ‘Kojak’ Guest paid Holmethorpe a visit and noted the 3 female SMEW and the female GOLDENEYE and seven Lesser Redpolls and two Siskins amongst others. On the same day, Ian Kehl saw a LITTLE EGRET and Gordon Hay added a Common Buzzard and a Green Sandpiper to the day’s tally. Both Steve Gale and Derek Washington noted 45 WAXWINGS along Frenches Road.
The 10th saw Jerry Blumire add a Nuthatch and 2 Coal Tits to the Holmethorpe year list and 40 WAXWINGS were reported again along Frenches Road. I had the enjoyment of adding WAXWINGS to my garden list when 12 birds flew fairly low over South Merstham.
On Tuesday the 11th, two female SMEW were hiding by the north bank of Mercers Lake and the female GOLDENEYE was still on Mercers West Pit, though distant, also a Green Sandpiper at the same site and a Common Buzzard was seen perched distantly at Mercers Farm.


The pits have all seen a rise in water levels over the past couple days and Redhill Brook has obviously burst its banks at The Moors NR with quite a bit of flooding across this area. This is not an unusual occurrence during the winter months and does attract wildfowl and Snipe and, hopefully, will attract other species to appear there. The perimeter path, however, is flooded at present in several areas and access around The Moors may be difficult. Most of the area can be viewed from the mound behind the Water Colour Lagoons or by following the path by the railway line to the flooded area.


Holmethorpe Sand Pits ... 5th January 2011

A visit from Beddington birders Johnny 'Badgeman' Allan, Roger 'Dodge' Browne and Frank 'T Bros' Prater this morning to search for the Smew, Goldeneye and Waxwings produced two hits and a miss.

We couldn't find the two Smew on Mercers Lake that I had seen yesterday (although a Water Rail was squealing from somewhere along Redhill Brook) but Johnny suggested that they may have moved to one of the other pits and he was dead right - at Mercers West Pit there were three female SMEW present. Distant views, but good enough for additions to their Surrey year lists. Despite a thorough scan of the pit, no Goldeneye seemed to be present but there were still reasonable numbers of Gadwall and Teal, a pair of Wigeon and two Snipe.

Johnny, Frank and Roger at Mercers West Pit

The three female SMEW together on the ice at Mercers West Pit

We then headed back to scan Mercers Lake again but nothing of note was showing. On past the Water Colour Lagoons, where there were several Great Black-backed and Lesser Blacked Gulls, through the tunnel under the railway line and on through the Holmethorpe Industrial Estate to the footbridge over the railway line by Frenches Road. Soon the Beddington lads were on to eight WAXWINGS perched distantly in a tall tree. Again, not the best of views but good enough for a tick. A female Blackcap was again in a garden near the footbridge.

I returned to the Water Colour Lagoons for a short while after Johnny, Roger and Frank had set off back to Beddington, but apart from a pair of Pochards, not much else of note was on show.

Male TUFTED DUCK and male POCHARD at Water Colour Lagoon 2

I later heard that local birder Jerry Blumire had seen nine WAXWINGS from the same footbridge, so it would appear that there are more birds still present in the area than we thought. By mid-afternoon this was confirmed when Neil Randon saw, from the footbridge, 30+ WAXWINGS feeding on an apple tree in a back garden by the railway line.


Holmethorpe SPs & Redhill again ... 4th January 2011

It seemed to take forever to get light this morning and I didn't get to the local patch at Holmethorpe Sand Pits until 8.45 a.m. The dog-walkers and joggers were already out in force so I decided to walk the few hundred yards past the patch boundary and see if the WAXWINGS were still present in Frenches Road, Redhill. I stood on the footbridge over the railway line for quite a while and, although I could hear the birds trilling nearby, it wasn't until 9.35 a.m. that they showed - eight birds again. They perched in a tall tree by the railway line before dropping down into a back garden to feed on a tree full of rotting cooking apples. A female Blackcap was also feeding on the apples with them. The Waxwings flew off about 20 minutes later but, hopefully, they will stay in the area a while longer as there are still plenty of rotting apples to feed on. I then headed back to the sand pits.

As I reached Nutfield Road, I stopped off at Fordbridge, over Redhill Brook, and watched a Kingfisher skim along the brook on whirring wings. This is a regular spot for Water Rails but none were showing today, although one was squealing later at Mercers Lake. I walked the path along the southern side of Mercers Lake but it seemed very quiet. A scan of the lake from the eastern end didn't produce the Smew I was hoping would still be present, so I headed on towards Mercers Farm, where a flocks of around 60 Goldfinches and 23 Redwings were present, plus 9 Yellowhammers.
Heading on to Spynes Mere, the male SHELDUCK was showing again and a Snipe was asleep on the island. A couple of Pochard, a few Gadwall and a pair of Teal were the only other birds of interest that I could find there. Four Reed Buntings were in the nearby typhus reedbed.

At Mercers West Pit it took 35 minutes to locate the female GOLDENEYE, which is amazing as much of the pit is still frozen over and the area of open water is limited at present. This duck spends more time underwater than on the surface and can be frustrating to spot. Better numbers of Gadwall and Teal were present here, 15 and 23 respectively, and 102 Lapwings were roosting on the ice.

Heading back and walking the north path of Mercers Lake in a last-ditch attempt to locate the SMEW turned out to be the right decision as two were present, hiding together under the overhanging branches near the bank. Heading on down the path, there is one small patch of hedge that is thin enough to be able to view part of the filter beds at Merstham Sewage Treatment Works. Twenty Pied Wagtails and one Grey Wagtail were busy feeding..

Not having bothered to bring food and drink with me, my rumbling stomach told me it was time to head home.


Holmethorpe SPs and Redhill, Surrey … 3rd January 2011

A wander round the local patch at Holmethorpe Sand Pits with fellow local birders Gordon and Ian produced the female GOLDENEYE again, a male SHELDUCK, three Water Rails, two of which were seen, the other being heard squealing, a Common Buzzard, six Wigeon and 2 Little Owls together in one oak tree with another calling a few hundred yards away.
There were still good numbers of Gadwall and Tufted Ducks with a few Shovelers and Pochards on show.

Just outside our recording area, eight WAXWINGS were perched in a tall tree by the railway line near Frenches Road in Redhill and were viewable from a footbridge over the railway line (TQ285515). They often flew down to a back garden by the embankment to feed on rotting apples and, at times flew off some distance down Frenches Road, disappearing behind the houses, only to return a while later.

It has certainly been an exceptional winter for this species but, no matter how many are seen, I doubt many birders would tire of watching them. A touch of the exotic to brighten up a cold and dreary winter’s day.


Holmethorpe Sand Pits, Surrey … 27th December 2010 – 2nd January 2011

Redhead SMEW have been a feature over the past couple of weeks or so. They have been mainly seen at the eastern end of Mercers Lake with up to three females present at times.
A female GOLDENEYE remains on Mercers West Pit, although it did visit Mercers Lake for a while when Mercers West Pit froze over. At least three Water Rails have been seen and heard quite often recently and there are obviously a fair few more than three in the area. A Common Buzzard is regularly being seen in the Mercers Farm area and a LITTLE EGRET has been frequenting The Moors NR area.
A Green Sandpiper was present on the 27th December and a WAXWING flew over calling on the 1st January and two JACK SNIPE were seen in flight on the same day. Kingfishers are being reported on a daily basis and a large flock of Yellowhammers has gathered at Mercers Farm along with a flock of about 60 Skylarks, we're hoping for a Lapland or Corn Bunting amongst them.
On the 2nd January, Gordon Hay reported a male SHELDUCK at Spynes Mere.
A couple of male BRAMBLINGS turned up locally before the end of 2010 and, just a few hundred yards outside the bird recording area at Holmethorpe, a flock of up to 25 WAXWINGS are presently frequenting a private garden. Last year being a record year for the patch listers at Holmethorpe SPs. The patch year list totalled 142 species and Gordon Hay managed to tick 133 of them.
The local birders have already noted 77 bird species in just two days, so we are off to a good start.
For daily sightings at Holmethorpe SPs, visit

Wishing you all a very happy New Year.