With no news of it on the 15th or 16th, it looked as though this was one that had got away, but on the 17th I received a text message in the late afternoon from Beddington SF legend and Surrey's top year-lister, Johnny Allan, that the Hoopoe was apparently still at Farthing Down.
It was impossible for me to get there and Johnny, along with Roger Browne, Frank Prater and David Campbell went for the bird and notched up a good Surrey tick for the year. Several other birders tried for it later in the day but it was not relocated, as far as we know.
Johnny kindly sent me directions to where they had seen it and Paul picked me up at 7.25 a.m. on the 18th and we were on site at Farthing Down by 7.40 a.m.
We saw another birder who was just leaving and he had seen the bird 20 minutes before we arrived but it had been flushed by a dog-walker and had flown some distance. Other birders arrived but it wasn't looking promising as, despite scouring the area, there was no sign of it.
We bumped into Holmethorpe and Surrey birder Neil Randon who had been there since 6 a.m. He hadn't connected with the Hoopoe but had seen a Whinchat.
We all went searching in different directions and then Roy Dennis, one of the Beddington birders, arrived. We chatted for a while and Paul went off on an exploratory sortie, returning later with negative news.
Eventually, we decided to head back towards the car park but, Paul wanted one last walk back along the road, just in case.
At 10 a.m., we noticed Roy looking intently through his scope at something and so we headed his way. Sure enough he was on to the HOOPOE but it had disappeared into long grass. Roy phoned Neil on his mobile and soon we were all back in a group again waiting for the bird to show. Dave Long joined us and eventually a group of cattle flushed the bird and it flew and perched in a tree in the valley and some distance away.
We got as close as we dared to it and managed a few poor photos before a gentleman walked close to the tree and flushed the bird. Fortunately, it didn't go too far and landed by a grassy path. We approached slowly, but it spotted us (or the nearby dog-walker) before we spotted it and it took flight again, this time disappearing behind some trees. We waited for a while before deciding we had been lucky to have seen it at all.
Graham & Paul
Just around the Spynes Mere area there were 11 Chiffchaffs, 7 Common Whitethroats, a Lesser Whitethroat, a male Blackcap and, best of all, Paul noticed a young SPOTTED FLYCATCHER by the path along the southern side of the reserve, the first of the year here at Holmethorpe.
Other birds noted in this area were a Nuthatch, 9 Swallows (many being young birds), about 15 Sand Martins, a House Martin, 4 Yellowhammers, 2 Bullfinches and, on Spynes Mere, 4 Egyptian Geese and 91 Greylag Geese.
Swallows and a Sand Martin
At Mercers Farm, 3 Little Owls were perched out at the sheep paddocks.
Two of the three Little Owls at Mercers Farm
We then headed to the Water Colour Lagoons where 2 Meadow Pipits were on the island (they have been scarce locally this year) and a Common Sandpiper flew to the bank by the path.
Paul & Graham
Richard Bartlett had kindly offered to take me there to search for Silver-spotted Skippers and we found about six of these pretty butterflies along with a couple of Silver-washed Fritillaries. There were plenty of Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers with singles of Peacock and Common Blue.
The highlight of the visit though, was a huge Hornet Robber Fly Asilus crabroniformis, a nationally scarce species, with Richard managing to get the photo below.
Hornet Robber Fly
We found a few moth species, including Yellow Shell, numerous Treble-bars, a Black Arches and several Pyrausta nigrata.
In the woodland, there were quite a few Broad-leaved Helleborines, all well past their best and on the grassy slopes a couple of Autumn Gentians were coming into flower.
One Common Lizard was seen scurrying through the grass and old Roman Snail shells were plentiful but no live ones were found.
Birds were not numerous, but a Marsh Tit was seen and heard early on in our visit and a Common Buzzard flew low from the trees along the escarpment into the woodland. Nuthatches seem plentiful in the area if the calls are anything to go by.
A fascinating area to explore, even if the birding is somewhat limited, and well worth a visit.