Sunday, 12 August 2018

Dog walks with binoculars (21 July-12 August)

Sunday 12 August. Mill Hill with Cookie. A big clean-out. Yesterday I saw 40 warblers of 7 species, today just a Whitethroat and half a Reed was seen and a Blackcap and Willow Warbler heard. Also a Buzzard and 30 Linnets. Early evening on the Adur were 10 Ringed Plover, a Dunlin and 2 Common Sandpipers. As the light was starting to go and the drizzle turned to rain a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull flew past me and landed amongst the gulls on the sandbar. I walked around to get a closer view although was then looking directly into the rain. Two birds looked to be good contenders but by now views were very poor and I'm not sure iof either were the original bird.
very poor image of a presumed juvenile Yellow-legged Gull on the Adur not showing its pale edges to mantle or any detail of coverts or tertials
the right hand juvenile looked a good contender for Yellow-legged too, I wasn't sure about the left hand bird.
joined by another Herring Gull
Saturday 11 August. Mill Hill with Cookie. Usual warblers: Sedge, 3 Reed, 2 Lesser & 10 Common Whitethroats, Blackcap, 4 Chiffchaffs and 18 Willows. Also 2 Sparrowhawks and 25 Linnets. Later on the Adur were 2 Ringed Plover, 3 Dunlin, a Whimbrel and a Common Sandpiper.
Lesser Whitethroat on Mill Hill
juvenile Greater & Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the Adur
the Lesser above
 Friday 10 August. Mill Hill with Cookie. Just 5 SwallowsSedge Warbler, 4 Whitethroats and 11 Willow Warblers in wet and very windy conditions. Later we drove to Amberely and walked up the South Downs Way to meet Anna & Ruth near Springhead Hill. We then walked back to the Arun. A Wheatear, 4 Whitethroats and 3 Willow Warblers were seen on the Downs in atrocious conditions and 12 Sand Martins near the Arun as the sun came out. 
rainbow over Steyning Round Hill as seen from Mill Hill
Thursday 09 August. A Kingfisher, 5 Common Sandpipers, 9 Dunlin and 6 Ringed Plover on the Adur but no gulls of any note.
presumed juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull on the Adur, it never moved in the time I was watching it, hoping it might reveal itself to be a Yellow-legged Gull but it didn't look mean enough
Wednesday 08 August. Mill Hill with Cookie. Usual warblers: Sedge, Reed, Lesser & 16 Common Whitethroat, 2 Blackcaps, 2 Chiffchaffs and 21 Willows. Also 8 Little Egrets and 8 Grey Herons roosting by the Adur where a late afternoon visits at low tide produced Common Sandpiper and Dunlin, short staying juvenile Yellow-legged and a North Thames colour-ringed Herring Gull. The gulls were against the light which made my reading the ring uncertain.
unreadable North Thames colour-ring
Tuesday 07 August. A Jay in Stanmer Park as I was cycling to work. The last day Great Black-backed Gulls were seen on the roof opposite, an adult and juvenile, the latter seen to fly from one roof to another.

Sunday 05 August. Cissbury with Megan and Cookie. 3 StonechatsReed Warbler, 8 Whitethroats and a Willow Warbler.  

Clouded Yellow at Cissbury
Stonechat at Cissbury
Saturday 04 August. Wolstenbury with Anna, Ruth, Megan and Cookie. Few birds seen but they included my first Spotted Flycatcher of the year and a Raven. Early evening Cookie and I twitched the Pied Flycatcher at Brooklands (my first for two years). Seeing it almost immediately we had timew to look for the Adur Rec bird but a brief look produced just a Whitethroat.
Friday 03 August. Mill Hill with Cookie. Juvenile StonechatReed Warbler, 16 Common Whitethroats, 2 Garden WarblersBlackcap, 2 Chiffchaffs, 4 Willow Warblers and 2 Long-tailed Tits.

Blackcap at Mill Hill
Garden Warbler and Whitethroat at Mill Hill
Cookie keeping to the shade on Mill Hill
juvenile Stonechat at Mill Hill
Part of the Rampion from Mill Hill
Wednesday 01 August. Mill Hill with Cookie. 2 Swallows, a Lesser and 8 Common Whitethroats, 3 Chiffchaffs and 13 Willow Warblers.
adult Great Black-backed Gull being harassed by juvenile ...
... it retreated to a chimney where it couldn't be bothered
Tuesday 31 July. The last day both juvenile Great Black-backed Gulls were seen on the roof opposite. I assumed that one didn't survive the recent storm?

Sunday 29 July. Mill Hill with Megan and Cookie. Just 2 Chiffchaffs in poor weather.


Saturday 28 July. Devils Dyke to Truleigh Hill with Anna, Ruth, Megan and Cookie. Very ordinary with 5 Sky Larks, 2 Meadow Pipits and 3 Corn Buntings.


Thursday 26 July. Mum passed away peacefully at about 9pm, about the time I realised that our local Swifts had gone too. A species that will now always remind me of her.


Wednesday 25 July. Knepp Estate with Cookie. A Green Sandpiper and a Moorhen with 6 chicks from the Green Lane tower. Also seen 2 Turtle Doves, 2 Green Woodpeckers and a Swallow. In the evening 6 Swifts were seen over the house, None were seen subsequently.

Turtle Dove at Knepp
Sunday 22 July. Rackham with Megan and Cookie. Mainly somewhere with shade to take Cookie. Very few birds, I saw a Chiffchaff and heard a Green Woodpecker.

Saturday 21-Tuesday 31July. 2 juvenile and 1-2 adult Great Black-backed Gulls seen on the roof opposite each day.



one of the juvenile Great Black-backed Gulls on 25th July
 Saturday 21-Tuesday 24 July. 2-8 Swifts seen over the house each evening.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Flora Fairbank, my mum

My mum, Flora Fairbank passed away peacefully on 26 July, she was 92. My sisters (Anna and Ruth) and I couldn't have hoped for a more loving, caring or supportive mother and we feel so lucky to have had her (and our dad who she survived by just under a year) for so long. Mum's passing came as a shock, as much as it ever is for someone of her age, but she times it well as she was happiest when everyone was homeRuth was over from New Zealand (having arrived four days earlier) I had been in Peru until just under a week before while Anna and other family members had recently visited. Mum was particularly fortunate in having Elisabeth and Ildiko taking turns to look after her (and dad) and provide companionship so caringly in her final years. They enabled her to stay in the 'family home ' despite her failing eye-sight to the end.

From a personal point of view the timing of mum's passing was significant. From mid July when home I look out for the local swifts which often fly over the house in the evening. I'd seen them every evening since returning from Peru but there were none on 26 July.when I looked just before 9pm. Ruth phoned 45 minutes later to tell me that mum had slipped away. I will forever think she went with the swifts (as I saw none on subsequent evenings either) and whenever I see swifts in future will think of her.

Flora Wall (as she was then) a month before her fourth birthday (February 1930)
family holiday on the Isles of Scilly (August 1964)
mum & dad in Botswana (mid 1980s)
mum & dad in the Alps (late 1980s?)
mum with daughters, step-daughter and first two (of five) grand daughters (summer 1990)
mum & dad in the Alps (early-mid 1990s?)

mum October 1994
mum on her 89th birthday (March 2015)
mum & dad
mum with Ildiko and Elisabeth (24 July 2018). Mum enjoyed sitting in the front garden watching passers by.  



Northern Peru (28 June-20 July 2018)

Almost a year ago Mike Catsis was planning a return trip to Northern Peru with a long time friend and Peruvian bird guide Juvenal CCahuana Mirano and asked me if I'd be interested in joining them. It was a destination I was thinking seriously about visiting anyway and so had no hesitation in agreeing. Nick Preston took little persuading to come, likewise Chris Gooddie. The trip went very smoothly due in no small part to Juve's excellent organisation and guiding. His intimate knowledge of the birds and sites enabled virtually all of our target species to be seen. I was a bit slow off the mark at times and didn't always have the views or take the photos I'd hoped for but it was nevertheless a very enjoyable trip. Best birds for me included Long-whiskered Owlet, Marvelous Spatuletail, Rufous-capped Nunlet, Scarlet-banded Barbet, White-masked, Lunulated & Plataforma Antbirds, Pale-billed, Rusty-tinged & Ochre-fronted Antpittas, Maranon & Elegant Crescentchests, Lulu's Tody-Flycatcher, Tumbes Tyrant, Peruvian Plantcutter, Fiery-throated & Scarlet-breasted Fruiteaters, Bar-winged Wood-Wren, Maranon Thrush and after 34 years of wanting White-capped Tanager. 
male Ochre-fronted Antpitta Alto Nieva 04 July 2018
Scarlet-banded Barbet Plataforma 11 July 2018
me, Nick, Juve, Chris & Mike at Yurimaguas Airport 14 July 2018
A full write up will appear here in due course ...

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Worrying Woodcock (21-27 June)

My final Woodcock survey at Lavington this year (all in decent weather) produced just one bird and 3 Nightjars. Maybe I was unlucky but my three survey visits this year totalled just 3 Woodcock encounters. In previous years when I was able to make 3 visits total encounters were 19 (2013), 24 (2014) and 21 (2017). If it is a real decline and reflected elsewhere then it is seriously worrying.

June 21-27. A very quiet week prior to going away, the Great Black-backed Gull family were seen each day, the two chicks growing quite quickly. They will be gone when I return. Hopefully the Swifts will still be around. Up to 10 were seen and heard most evenings, some low over our garden which is always brilliant to see. Otherwise a bit further afield for a concerning Woodcock survey (see below) and a couple of dog walks. 

Sunday 24 June. A walk around Mill Hill with Megan and Cookie produced single Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat and 20+ Marbled Whites. Later I took Cookie to the Adur for a low tide visit seeing 2 Little Egrets, 2 Oystercatchers and a first-summer Mediterranean Gull.
our front lawn
Great Black-backed youngster, hardly a chick anymore
first-summer Mediterranean Gull on the Adur
Friday 22 June. Megan and I took Cookie for a walk along the South Downs Way from Ditchling Beacon towards Blackcap. Lovely clear views and a nice bank of Pyrimidal Orchids. Birds were about all one could expect – 3 Buzzards, 2 Sky Larks, 7 Meadow Pipits and 4 Yellowhammers. Early evening I called in at Greatham seeing a silent Cuckoo, a single Lapwing (on a small amount of exposed mud), a Gadwall family with 5 ducklings and 4 Reed and a Sedge Warbler. A Cetti’s Warbler remained heard only as did a Dartford Warbler and Tawny Owl at Lavington. 
South Downs Way
growing Great Blck-backed Gulls
Nightjar at Lavington
Thursday 21 June. Mistle Thrush on Southwick Green.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Royal Tern (19 June) & Turtle Doves (20 June)

Tuesday 19 June. Just over a year since the Elegant Tern at Church Norton news came through that it had returned to Church Norton. Nice I thought, I'm not working tomorrow I could wander down then. At about 18:40 we learnt that it was in fact a Royal Tern. I was still dithering when JK phoned to say JFC wanted to go immediately. This was the kick up the backside I needed and spurred me into action. Cookie finished my tea while I grabbed my bins and scope. I met JK and JFC at a bus stop in North Lancing at about 19:10 and thanks to very light traffic we were at Church Norton just before 20:00. The bird was on view when we arrived and remained so until we left at just before 21:30. The Royal Tern was in amongst the mainly Sandwich Terns and Black-headed Gulls on Tern Island. It gave decent scope views but rarely showed its legs and when it did only from the knees up (this was relevant as it was ringed, below the knee, highly suggestive of it being the ringed bird of the North American race present on the other side of the channel for much of the year). It flew once, although I was slow to get onto it, and a couple of times raised its wings showing the darker shadows on the outer primaries. Also seen while watching the tern were at least 5 Mediterranean Gulls, 10 Little and 3 Common Terns. Otherwise all my attention was solely on the Royal. Nice to see some faces I'd not seen for a while, all of us looking that bit older ...
Royal Tern on Tern Island, quite a brute compared to last year's Elegant
being eyed-up by an incoming Mediterranean Gull
perhaps it always wanted to be a Caspian Tern?
a Black-headed Gull practising a vertical-take-off flight 


Wednesday 20 June. I took Cookie to the Knepp Estate where in a couple of hours I saw 3 Turtle Doves, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, up to 17 Mistle Thrushes, a Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Garden Warblers and 5 Jays (with 2 more on the drive home). The Cuckoos seen there on earlier visited were either silent or gone.
Fallow Deer on the Knepp Estate
one of 17 Mistle Thrushes seen, many like this one were juveniles. Several singles and groups of 2 or 4 were flying around so there may have been some duplication in my total
Turtle Dove at the Knepp Estate
this one was very vocal
it looked like a lot of effort