The Trouble with Spring

At last Francis and I managed to get out together for a walk and on a glorious day to boot!

Following my purpose of discovering hidden, secret, areas of Surrey  we parked (for free!) in the lower car park at Puttenham Common close to The Tarn lake. Have to admit that for all of my life I had called this whole series of large ponds/small lakes Cutmill and it was only double checking an ordnance survey map  that educated me as to my mistake. All five stretches of water carry separate names and the further irony is that the only one I had never walked near was indeed Cutmill Pond, part of our route!

Cutmill in the sun

Beautiful in the February brief spring we were immediately entranced by a Goldcrest pretending to be a Treecreeper, climbing vertically up a tree. As Francis has written the warmth had encouraged birds to get a little carried away, lots of song and display which included the birds on the water.

Unusual for Surrey was a flock of 11 Goosander, the males in fresh, full on, uniform and the more subdued females paying (not much!) attention to the posturing boys.

Just 3 of the boys

Spectacular certainly but we also caught a glimpse of a Mandarin, Tufted Duck and the ever present Mallards.

Tufted Duck by Steve Duffy

We left the water through gardens and woods where more good fortune found us in the shape of an actual Treecreeper and excitingly , for us, a pair of Marsh Tits. The latter are becoming increasingly rare in Surrey like their close cousins Willow Tits but nobody is quite sure why. Lots of speculation but no clear proof.

Walking through a new landscape is always fun and the countryside we found was really rather lovely and, in places, clearly in good shape. Well managed hedgerows, veteran trees, worked chestnut coppice, protected field trees and peace, blessed peace.

Yep, the glorious weather helped with birds and butterflies all in abundance. Four species of butterfly with Brimstones everywhere.

Brimstone in the sun.

Threaded through the woods and fields were some magnificent trees.

Veteran Oak
Huge outgrown coppice stool

Past, soon to emerge, bluebells and out across the fields near Shackleford, lots to enjoy.

Great hedges

Difficult to fault, honest!

Back through the woods, past lovely wet bits with terrific stands of Alder.

Past glorious gardens and, yes houses, the walk was topped off when arriving back at Cutmill we were greeted with that flash of azure, Kingfisher. Flying over the Goosanders on the lake I am certain there was a pair but I suspect my companion wasn’t convinced!

All this pleasure arising from a long look at an OS Explorer Map and finding a bit of land never walked before. The very best of peaceful fun. A walk to return to in a few weeks when spring has properly arrived.

Lichen jungle on a gate


Make a Difference

For those of you that keep up to date with environmental news, you will be well aware of the decline of many species all over the world and there are various statistics that have been monitoring the decline of our worldwide wildlife for many years now, particularly of more obvious wildlife groups like birds and mammals. These statistics are generally put together by a combination of scientists, conservationists and volunteers and always an estimation of numbers as total population numbers.

In my lifetime I have been involved in sending wildlife records to various wildlife recorders in order for them to be noted to be used to record the status of that species. I have always felt that our wildlife is under recorded and many species true status is not properly recorded.

You may ask yourself what is the reason to send a record in, in the first place? Once a record has been sent in and has been noted by the relevant recorders it can be used to show a number of interesting facts. In the first place a record sent shows that a species is present! This is the most important reason for sending in a record in the first place, to prove a species presence. From being present at a location you can learn if it’s, breeding, visiting, summering, wintering, if it is known from that location or indeed is it new to that location.

Record sending methods have moved on from the days when I used to sit at the end of each month a scroll through my note books and write down the interesting records on a piece of paper and send these, by post, to the relevant recorders for them to add to the status of that particular species. Conservation has not been slow to use modern technology and I have made use of them and have found that since I started using my mobile phone to send in records, I have sent in many more records than I used to. There are a number of wildlife apps that can be downloaded onto a smart phone (if you have one) and can be used to send records in when you are actually out the field or wherever you happen to be. I personally use the iRecord app and every time I send a record from the phone, the date and the exact location, using a GPS system on the phone, are automatically logged. There are other points to fill out on the record including, number present, age, photo, if you got one and a section to comment on the record that you are reporting. When the record is sent it goes to the local recorder. It’s probably a good thing to point out that you should never send a record in unless you are 100% sure it is correct. Records sent in are viewed by experts and if they are unsure of a record you have sent in you will receive an email from irecord saying that they are reviewing the record. You can get similar emails if the species is new to that area. The irecord app also have several other wildlife apps that specialise in Butterflies and Dragonflies.

Early Comma by Steve Duffy

The recording of our wildlife has moved on with the new technology and more people are getting involved and hopefully the knowledge of our wildlife’s status will be increased. If you feel confident with your wildlife identification and want to help the bigger picture, you should get involved. you never know what you might find out there.

The Endless Cycle

The last few days have been unseasonably warm again and I have observed a number of signs that indicate that the season of spring is upon us. If I go back to February 1987 I recall freezing snow and icy conditions that attracted wildfowl and waders to my local area in Kent where I grew up. 2019 has been somewhat different and in the past 2 weeks I have observed classic early spring flowers in bloom and many of the local resident birds were in full song and building nests and even mating if my local Robins and Kestrels are anything to go by! Have these things all been encouraged by the warm winter weather or is it all part of the global warming problem. In all honesty, with the warm winter that we have been experiencing it would seem obvious that this is the case. Despite this I recall that I joked with one of my neighbours during the snow that it was actually spring.

Even in the midst of cold winter weather wildlife is already thinking about the next breeding season. My ‘ joke ‘ with my neighbour was only me thinking about the resident birds of which a number of species were already establishing breeding territory in preparation for when conditions were right to attempt to reproduce. When I spent ten minutes looking out the back the other morning I could hear Song Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Dunnock, Robin, Blue Tit, Great Tit,

GT by Steve Duffy

Goldfinch and Nuthatch

By Steve Duffy

all in full song and noted the Robins and Nuthatches in territorial fights. All of this behaviour is normal and their preparation for the furthering of the species is a big job. Mistle and Song Thrushes establish their territories in winter and will fight and protect these areas over the winter and will only stop defending the territory if there is a prolonged cold weather period. I noted the other week during the freezing weather that many of the birds sang much less presumably to save energy. Early spring and late winter can collide with each other in some years and it has seemed to occurred more often in recent years. It can be a very unpredictable time for nature and as I look towards this week ends’ weather there may be a few flowers that regret their early emergence but some will survive.


The weather patterns at this time of the year can be crucial to the breeding/blooming/success of many species and their resilience to cope with adverse weather conditions that occur whether they be natural or part of the global warming phenomenon that is currently gripping the earths weather patterns.

Sallow burst

They are already saying that it has been the warmest February on record. we shall see what the year brings us and if it stays as it has been so far this year it’s going to be a very interesting year and as I see multiple records of migrant birds in the UK already noted and this very day I observed 4 species of butterfly and I wonder about the forthcoming year and future of these species. Only time will tell and I will continue to observe these changes and see how nature deals with it.