Friday 30 September 2011

Down by the River (late September 2011)

Sunday 25 September.  3 Little Egrets and the white-winged Crow were seen on an otherwise disappointing late afternoon visit to the River Adur.  Mill Hill was better with 3 Buzzards, 4 Stock Doves and a steady easterly passage of at least 300 Swallows. 

One of two or three 'white-winged' crows often seen on the banks of the River Adur.  They are more impressive in flight!

Thursday 29 September.  The Peregrine was seen on Southwick Power Station again while an evening visit to the Adur produced an adult Mediterranean Gull and Kingfisher.  The tide hadn't fallen as much as anticipated as I'd forgotten to add an hour for BST.  78 Lapwings were counted on Shoreham Airfield.

adult Mediterranean Gull on the River Adur

Monday 26 September 2011

Loch of Strathbeg, Ythan Estuary and Blackdog (24 September 2011)

Saturday 24 September 2011: After an overnight drive David Cooper and I arrived at the Loch of Strathbeg Visitor Centre car park just before 7 am to find 8-10 cars already there.  The very friendly RSPB staff told us the bird was being seen from the Visitor Centre but it was full and we'd do better to go to the Tower Hide.  This we promptly did and although it was full a nearby mound gave an excellent view of the area.  We started scanning and soon found the crane.  The light soon improved, although was never good, allowing excellent views of the bird. It was quite aggressive to nearby Grey Herons and Mute Swans.

Sandhill Crane at Loch of Strathbeg, early morning
 The crane flew off north at 07.45 am and after enjoying the spectacle of 10-15,000 Pink-footed Geese.  Also seen were 2 juvenile Whooper Swans, a Barnacle and 4 Grey Lag Geese, 12 Ruff, 3 Greenshanlk, a flock of 13 Lapland Buntings that flew over calling and 3 Tree Sparrows on the walk back to the car.  We then drove north to look for the crane again.  We decided to wait by the stubble field it had been favouring the previous day and after a short wait picked the crane up flying towards us from the north.  It dropped out of sight into a nearby stubble field and we and about 15 others were soon watching it feeding.  It seemed a little concerned by what was described by one of the wardens, in giving directions to someone at the visitor centre, as the big crowd on the hill and always kept at the back of the field often disappearing behind hay bales.  After half an hour it flew back over our heads towards the reserve.  Another dozen of so Lapland Buntings were seen in small groups around a couple of the stubble fields.

Sandhill Crane in one of its favoured stubble fields north of Loch of Strathbeg

Sandhill Crane flying back towards Loch of Strathbeg
We left Strathbeg and drove south to the Ythan.  Here nearly 1000 Eider were around the mouth of the estuary but despite careful scanning we couldn't find anything of note with them.

Ringed Plover and Sanderling on the Ythan
Our final stop was Blackdog where very impressive numbers of birds were on the sea along the coast for as far as one could see.  I estimated there were at least 50 Red-throated Divers, 2000 Eider, 200 Common Scoter, 200 Kittiwakes and 300 Guillemmots along the mile of so of coast we looked at.  We also saw the male Black Scoter well, although it dived a lot and was then sometimes hard to pick up in the troughs.  I saw a single male Velvet Scoter and a Great Skua.  The latter forced a Herring Gull into the sea where it appeared to drown it.  We left Blackdog at 5pm and started the long drive home.  A very enjoyable day even if I would have clocked up almost exactly 1300 miles by the time I got home.

One of the very many Eider at Blackdog

Two weeks after the trip I received an invoice for parking in some service station on the M6 for more than two hours on our way home.  We'd not noticed any signs and had fallen asleep for a couple of hours while there.  Somewhat outraged that we were bring fined £40 rising to £120 for overstaying by an hour a two hour limit in an almost empty car park I did a few internet searches and discovered that despite the official sounding letter it was unenforcable and best ignored.  To proceed they needed to know who was driving and I was under no obligation to tell them.  I held my nerve and left two subsequent letters from them unopened for almost a year.  No threats were proceeded with as it was clear their busioness model revolved around scaring enough people into paying and not following through on threatened proceedings they couldn't win.  I took great satisfaction knowing that it would have cost them a few pounds in buying my registration details from DVLC (althougth it is a scandal that DVLC were subservient to what is barely more legitimate than a scam) and the admin and postage.

Thursday 22 September 2011

Burpham Pallid Harrier (22 September 2011)

Thursday 22 September 2011.  I was very disappointed with my views of the Pallid Harrier on Sunday when the distance led to me coming away thinking it was a Montagu's.  It was being seen with more regularity near Burpham village so I was keen to try again.  I drove into work to allow a quick getaway and left early arriving at Burpham at about 3.30pm where I saw John King.  We saw the bird on three occasions to dusk, firstly from virtually where we had parked on Sunday and twice in the valley leading away NW from the village.  Each time it caught what appeared to be a small rodent and spent several minutes on the ground eating it.  Views were good through a telescope although it never came particularly close.  It appeared so proficient at catching prey that it wasn't seen quartering for very long which was a shame.  JK and I also saw an Osprey flying SE, 2 Red Kites, a distant Marsh Harrier on a post, Peregrine, 6 Kestrels, 50+ Grey and 2 Red-legged Partridges and 250+ Swallows.  Still no Hobby for me with time fast running out ...

Much better views of the Pallid Harrier at Burpham

Even better views of a Sparrowhawk at Burpham

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Newhaven Sabine's Gull (20 September 2011)

Tuesday 20 September.  I drove to work giving me the option to try for the Newhaven Sabine's Gull either during the day or on the way home.  Not something I'd considered yesterday as it was Ruth's last evening before returning to New Zealand.  Lack of news and being busy meant I wasn't able to get away until just before 4pm and I arrived on site somewhat apprehensively after having missed it by half an hour on Saturday and the Brighton Marina bird by the same margin the previous Thursday.  I was understandably delighted to find it was still there and I watched it for 2 hours flying up and down over the surf and twice sitting/standing on the beach for significant periods.  It was hard to leave but increasing coldness and deteriorating light took their toll.  The light was poor even when I arrived but I took nearly 400 photos, the best few follow.  Also seen were a Kittiwake, 2 juvenile Arctic Terns and 2 Rock Pipits.

juvenile Sabine's Gull at Newhaven, a contender for my Bird of the Year in Sussex

Sussex (31 August-19 September 2011)

Wednesday 31 August.  2 Wheatears were on Southwick Beach and the Peregrine on the Southwick Power Station chimney.  An evening visit to the Adur by Shoreham Airport produced a Great Crested Grebe, Kingfisher and Reed Warbler.

Friday 2 September.  The Peregrine was seen on the Southwick Power Station chimney.

Saturday 3 September.  An early visit to Mill Hill produced 2 Sparrowhawks, a Curlew flying over E, 20 Swallows, single Yellow and Grey Wagtails flying over calling, 2 Wheatears, Lesser Whitethroat, 11 Whitethroats, Garden Warbler, 26 Blackcaps, 6 Chiffchaffs and 3 Willow Warblers.  I then had a quick look at the Adur seeing the Great Crested Grebe, Stock Dove and 15 Swallows.  Later Ruth (over from NZ), Mum & Dad and I very much enjoyed a leisurely stroll around Devils Dyke in the sunshine although a distant Buzzard was the only bird seen.

Wheatear on the 'reservoir' at Mill Hill
Sunday 4 September.  Another disappointing visit to Beachy with John King.  Failed again to see a single flycatcher or even a phyllosc!!  Our better sightings were 2 juvenile Shags off Birling, 3 Peregrines, 60 Swallows, Tree Pipit, 6 Yellow and 2 Grey Wagtails, 2 Whinchats, 5 Wheatears, 2 Sedge Warblers, 3 Lesser Whitethroats, just 8 Whitethroats, 5 Blackcaps and 2 Ravens.  Although now seen on more visits than not the Ravens croaking as the fly over still give me a real thrill.

Monday 5 September.  The Peregrine was seen on the Southwick Power Station chimney and a Wheatear on the beach.

Wednesday 5 September.  The Peregrine was seen on the Southwick Power Station chimney and two Wheatears on the beach.  Nothing was seen yesterday suggesting the latter were probably different.

Friday 5 September.  The Peregrine was seen on the Southwick Power Station chimney and three Wheatears on the beach.  Nothing was seen yesterday suggesting the latter were probably different, or I was particularly unobservant then!

Saturday 10 September.  Beachy again when covered most of the area including Cow Gap but not Belle Tout Wood.  Very nice conditions and my best visit to date this year, but unfortunately that isn’t saying a lot as I ended up feeling it should have been better, not helped by a Honey Buzzard being seen departing over Shooter’s Bottom while I was elsewhere.  I saw an Osprey, picked up in the distance by Simon and making up for him and Geoff having seen another earlier, up to 13 Swifts, 30 Sand Martins, 500+ Swallows, 150+ House Martins, 2 Tree Pipits, 53 Yellow Wagtails, 3 Redstarts, 9 Whinchats, 15 Wheatears, 2 Lesser Whitethoats, 46 Whitethroats, 21 Blackcaps, 6 Chiffchaffs, 7 Willow Warblers, Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Ravens.  With no sign of the bad weather that had been forecast I decided to go to Rye to look for the Buff-breasted Sandpiper that was still present that morning.  I arrived to find it had flown off at about the time I left Beachy.  Eight Curlew Sandpipers were some consolation with 2 Ruff also seen.

Wheatear at Beachy

Juvenile Stonechat in the Old Trapping Area, Beachy Head

Whinchat at Beachy

Curlew Sandpiper at Rye

Sunday 11 September.  Seawatching off Widewater from 07:15-08:45 produced single Shoveller and Common Scoter, a few Gannets and terns including one juvenile Arctic and a few Sand Martins and Swallows.   A Wheatear was by the Adur and a flock of 7 Ruff were on Shoreham Airfield until the birdscarer flushed them off.  Had I been much further west they would more likely have been Buff-breasts!  Walked from Goring Gap round Ferring Rife and back with Megan seeing 18 Little Egrets roosting, an adult Mediterranean Gull and 4 Wheatears.  Finished the day in a dash up to Weir Wood Reservoir to see a very distant putative Red-necked Stint.  Interesting plumage but structurally appearing identical to the slightly larger juvenile Little Stints it was with.  Male Little Stints are smaller and brighter than females which would seem to explain all the anomalies.  20 Mandarin and 2 Green Sandpipers were also seen.

Monday 12 September.  The Peregrine was seen on the Southwick Power Station chimney.

Tuesday 13 September.  The Peregrine was seen on the Southwick Power Station chimney with a Wheatear near Hove Lagoon.  An evening visit to the Adur produced 51 Lapwings, a Bar-tailed Godwit, colour-ringed Greater Black-backed and Herring Gulls.  I'd seen both on the Adur previously, the Herring Gull A6XY being a rescuee from Southwick seen a couple of times last winter while it is the thrid winter I've seen the Greater Black-back which was ringed in Normandy. 

Normandy Greater Black-backed Gull A26 on the Adur for its third year

Wednesday 14 September.  The Peregrine was seen on the Southwick Power Station chimney with a Wheatear near Hove Lagoon.

Thursday 15 September.  The Peregrine was seen on the Southwick Power Station chimney.  I called in at Brighton Marina on the way home hoping to see the Sabine’s Gull which had been found that morning by John King but it had flown out to sea half an hour before I arrived.  A Wheatear was scant compensation.

Saturday 17 September.  Started at the Adur at low tide seeing Bar-tailed Godwit, 3 Common Sandpipers, an adult Mediterranean and colour-ringed Greater Black-backed and Herring Gulls (two of each), Kingfisher, 15 Sand Martins and 10 Swallows.  Finished the day with a trip to Newhaven where what turned out to be another Sabine’s Gull had been seen.  Again I was half an hour late, only seeing a Mediterranean Gull.  I dropped in at Brighton Marina thinking it might have returned there (this was before it had been established that it was a different individual).  No luck but a Grey Phalarope feeding in the surf was almost as good.

North Thames Herring Gull NM8T
local Herring Gull A7RF
likely Normandy Greater Black-backed Gull 93E with hidden ring
Norwegian Greater Black-backed Gull JY22 had also been seen in Denmark

Sunday 18 September.  I had agreed to meet John King in North Lancing to go to the Burgh to look for the Montagu’s type harrier that had been seen there intermittently since Thursday.  Being a raptor an early start didn’t seem necessary so I briefly looked at the Adur first, seeing Kingfisher, Sand Martin, Wheatear and Chiffchaff.  At the Burgh David Cooper picked out the harrier sat in a field at considerable distance.  After 15-20 minutes it started flying around and appeared to lack a pale collar and show a dark leading edge to the underside of the primaries leading us to conclude erroneously that it was most likely Montagu’s. albeit with no dark trailing edge to the underside of the primaries.  We tried to get closer but it disappeared before we were able to.  JK and I stayed until 2pm but failed to see it again.  At the Burgh we saw Marsh Harrier, c60 Grey and 6 Red-legged Partridges, Redstart, 3 Wheatears and a Raven but not Red Kite, male Hen Harrier or 2 Hobbies that were seen by others.  Very frustrating, especially as the Newhaven Sabine’s was seen again although supposedly flew off east, then being reported east at Seaford.  I had the afternoon with Ruth but perhaps should have taken her over as the Seaford bird was probably a red herring as the Sabine’s performed well that afternoon.

Very distant Pallid Harrier between the Burgh and Burpham

inexplicably poor shots of grey Partridges at The Burgh