Monday, 1 June 2020

Day at Acres Down

Readers of my blog will know I'm a keen year lister and this year had started quite well until the lockdown arrived for me earlier than most on 9th March. I isolated for a few weeks without leaving the house and filled my birding obsession with garden listing and then with a short walk from the house each day where I managed to tick 55 species but only added three to the year list in this time with my first House Martin of 2020 flying over the garden on 20th April, a Whitethroat on my short walk from home on 23rd April and a Swift over the garden on 6th May. When the first relaxation came into play allowing us to drive again I started to make the short drive to Lee Valley a couple of times a week. I walked the valley at 5am to avoid contact with others but enjoyed the lovely dawn chorus and managed to pick up another 8 year ticks between 14th and 24th May. I picked up a Hobby whilst on a socially distant visit to my brothers in Woodford but I have been itching for a field trip.

In these times you've more to consider than just wanting to do something. Firstly I'd usually take the Jims and this obviously isn't an option at the moment. Then I consider the basic risk associated with filling the car with diesel and luckily my local BP is quite well set up, they have bags attached to the pump so you don't touch the handle and with contactless payment the risk is minimal. My next concern is a breakdown and causing somebody else trouble by my action but again I consider that a manageable risk. The biggest consideration was could I keep to a social distance at the chosen venue and this is why I chose the New Forest.

Perfect isolation
Acres Down..lots of trees, lots of birds....not many people!
I drove down to Acres Down yesterday arriving at 6am to find a single car in the car park with a gentleman asleep in the passenger seat. I walked the forest for a couple of hours and enjoyed wonderful views of several Common Redstart and a single Tree Pipit, lots of Treecreeper and Nuthatch plus a calling Cuckoo.  At around 8am I walked up to the viewing mound and at this point I'd only seen one other person. Arriving at the mound I was again alone and settled down to enjoy the view before being joined by another guy at around 9am who sat about thirty feet away.

I stayed until midday and left as the mound got busier peaking at seven people who all observed good distancing from each other including me thankfully. In my four hour watch I saw a number of Common Buzzard and some excellent views of several Goshawk with some sitting to give good scope views. I had a couple of distant birds that could have been Honey Buzzard but they remained too distant to clinch. I had what appeared to be Turtle Dove fly across the valley which I'm told would be a local rarity. A single female Crossbill flew over the mound and several were heard calling in the woods.

I had another hour before leaving for home so walked the woods again and managed to find my first Willow Warbler of the year, a Spotted Flycatcher  and a calling Wood Warbler. By now the forest was a little busier but the pathways are wide which made keeping a distance easier and more comfortable.  I continue to show restraint in everything I do and I have resisted twitching even the most local birds in order to ensure social distancing isn't breached but these days out are not without risk and need careful consideration and planning in order to stay safe and keep others safe too. I'm certainly not ready for larger crowds and my next outing will be with the same or even more isolation in mind.

I'm sure the year list will reflect the isolation we've endured as by the end of May last year I had 63 birds on the 2019 list that aren't yet on the 2020 list and It's already cost me at least one new bird with the seemingly twitchable ST Treecreeper at Dungeness whilst I was in isolation before the lockdown began but I have found a new balance in my life which I'm currently enjoying although I do still long for some good birding trips like the Highlands and Pembrokeshire etc but let's be thankful to be here and still have the prospect of more birding, some less fortunate don't have that luxury.

Year list now 207

stay safe guys and enjoy your birding however your getting your fix right now


  1. Hi, Brian! Looks like you’ve been lucky enough to bag a fair birding opportunity in the middle of all the gloom. Hopefully things will get better soon, everywhere.
    Greetings from Sri Lanka!

  2. Thanks for commenting and yes let's hope things take a better turn soon