Sunday, 29 January 2012

Selsey peninsular and Blackdown (28-29 January 2012)

Saturday 28 January.  John King and I had a day out in West Sussex.  First stop was Ivy Lake where a look from the road added Gadwall, Pochard, Tufted Duck and Coot to my year list!  We drove on down to Selsey Bill where there were 5 somewhat distant Great Northern Divers and 8 Red-breasted Mergansers on the sea.  A few auks were buzzing past well beyond identifiable range and a probably Black-throated Diver flew west but it was rather quiet so we moved on to Church Norton where the tide was just starting to come in. Three Slavonian Grebes were seen on the sea and 6 Goldeneye, 2 Avocets, 500 Golden Plover, 1000 Knot and a Black-tailed Godwit in the harbour.  With the tide 1/3 of the way in we moved on to Fishbourne but were somewhat dismayed to find most of the creek already filled.  Nine Goldeneye were in the channel and eventually a Spotted Redshank and Little Stint were found amongst the other waders present, the latter creeping around in vegetation rather than being on the water's edge.  Next stop was Burton Mill Pond to look for the bittern but just as we got into the car park I got a call from home saying a friend had phoned to say there was a Parrot Crossbill at Blackdown. Not knowing where - it is a big area - and not having their number it seemd a long shot but we decided we might as well go as although it was gone 3pm we were only 15 miles away (less if we'd not taken a wrong turn).  We aimlessly wandered around in fading light but there was no sign of any crossbills, or other birders.

Great Northern Divers off Selsey
breeding plumage Cormorant at Pagham
London Plane at Apuldram church, note the spherical fruits
Sunday 29 January.  Having found out where the Parrot Crosbill had been seen I met John King north of Shoreham and we drove back to Blackdown.  The crossbill visited the area around the drinking pool, off the Sussex Border Path, twice during the morning.  It remained in the area for 20-30 minutes on each ocassion but was usually obscured and always in poor light.  Consequently digiscoping efforts were poor and frustratingly I never caught it in full profile although it gave reasonable scope views.  Two wing-barred male Crossbills were also present amonst the 40-50 birds seen.  We left at 2pm and stopped on the main road just east of Pulborough to scan the geese on the North Brooks.  Here we picked out two distant groups of White-fronts (13 birds in each) and the Pink-foot.  Feeling lucky we dropped down to Amberley and found 3 Ruff on the Brooks although they too were distant.  I then finished at Beeding Brooks in fading light were I saw 2 Short-eared Owls and 9 Little Egrets flying south to roost.

unfortunately most of my Parrot Crossbill photos are like this
inflated bill visible with some/a lot of imagination
even when side on it managed to hide its bill
a more typical view, showing the thick neck and large head or is that wishful thinking?

3 video stills when its head was in profile
male wing-barred Crossbill
female Crossbill
Short-eared Owl at Beeding Brooks in fading light

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Pulborough & Newhaven (22 January 2012)

Sunday 15 January. A morning low tide visit to the Adur was all I could manage following a bout of illness. 146 Greater Black-backed Gulls (including 70E) and 7 Lesser Black-backed Gulls were seen.
Normandie Greater Black-backed Gull 70E still in the Shoreham area

Sunday 22 January. Megan and I had a morning walk around Pulborough Brooks RSPB reserve. A Water Rail seen regularly from the Visitor Centre was my ulterior motive but it wasn't on view when we arrived as someone had just cleaned the windows and disturbed it!  We walked around the reseve but the expected tranquility was shattered by a continual barrage of gunshots from further down the valley. Unsurprisinngly no geese and not much else were on the South Brooks although 24 Black-tailed Godwits from the West Mead hide were nice.  The North Brooks were a different story with 1000+ Wigeon and at least 100 Teal, 25 Pintail and 30 Shoveler.  A Ruff had been seen but i coiuldn't locate it although another 72 Black-tailed Godwits were in one of the nearer pools.  I saw a Pink-footed Goose briefly in the very distant goose flock of at least 200 Canadas and 40 Greylags but I couldn't make out any Whitefronts.

Water Rail by the Visitor Centre at Pulborough Brooks
A phone call from John King telling me that the Iceland Gulls found by David Cooper at Newhaven the previous afternoon had been seen again firmed up my plan to go over when we got back from Pulborough.  One of the two, the second winter, gave excellent views.  Perhaps it as the bird that had avoided me at Shoreham Fort earlier in the month? 

second winter Iceland Gull at Newhaven Harbour
The hope of finding an Iceland Gull on the Adur on the way home was not realised as a fisherman, 2 canoeists and the tide not being as low as anticipated meant that virtually no gulls were in evidence.

Stowaway trip (21 January 2012)

John King, Frank Lambert & I had a day in Hampshire seeing as many as possible of the stowaways and other interesting birds that unfortunately just missed Sussex.  We started at Calshot,  near the mouth of Southampton Water, at 08:15.  Here a male Spanish Sparrow has been present for up to two years and it is easy to imagine it coming off a boat.  It is a fine bird however it arrived and it appeared almost immediately after we reached its favoured hedge, although most of the time it was partially obscured. 

Spanish Sparrow at Calshot

We moved onto Hawkhill Inclosure on the edge of the New Forest near Beaulieu.  Here a Slate-coloured Junco has been in residence since at least Christmas.  We got several reasonable views soon after arriving but it was quite mobile and never came as close as we'd hoped.  We waited another hour for better views but didn't see it again although a Wood Lark, 2 Ravens and 6+ Crossbills made the wait worthwhile.

Slate-coloured Junco at Hawkhill Inclosure - hiding its dark eye

Crossbills at Hawkhill Inclosure
Next stop was Beaulieu Road Station where a Great Grey Shrike was wintering at Bishop's Dyke but we were unable to find it in a quick walk and scan from the bridge.  A Dartford Warbler was reasonable recompence for a brief visit.  Walpole Lake in Gosport was our next stop, and half-way back to Sussex.  It has hosted a Ring-billed Gull for several winters although none of us had seen it before.  We found the site without too much difficulty although it seemed as if everyone was heading into the centre of Gosport at the same time as us making it a very slow journey.
Frank at Walpole Lake

Ring-billed Gull showing its better side

Ring-billed Gull with some irritation on its right cheek

Ring-billed Gull at Walpole Lake, Gosport

By now time was definitely against us and we decided not to go into Portsmouth to look for an Iceland Gull but continue on to Hayling Island Oyster Beds instead.   Here a Shore Lark had been present for several days although a strengthening wind made viewing conditions difficult.  A falling sun and low tide reduced the chance of seeing Black-necked Grebe in the channel and we soon gave up -  it was hard enough identifying Great Crested Grebes and Red-breasted Mergansers.
Shore Lark keeping its head down at Hayling oyster beds

Final stop of the day was Warblington Church near Emsworth but the Cattle Egret, probably the one we'd seen at Thorney in the autumn, had most likely gone to roost.  A walk to the edge of the harbour produced 500 vocal Brent Geese, 200+ Shelduck, 2 male Goldeneye, 8 Red-breasted Mergansers and 100 Black-tailed Godwits on the nearby mudflats and creeks.