Saturday, 24 March 2012

Shoreham & Rackham (19-25 March 2012)

Monday-Friday 19-23 March. Still 36 Great Crested Grebes off Hove on Monday and a Rock Pipit on the beach there. 1-2 Peregrines on Southwick Power Station Chimney each day and a pair of Ringed Plovers mating on Thursday.

Saturday 24 March. A morning spent at various inland sites with John King produced excellent views of two very vocal male Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers at a traditional site.  Fantastic.  Three Wood Lark were seen well and occassionally heard singing at another where a flyover Crossbill was also recorded.  We then went to Pulborough RSPB but the hoped for early migrants were limited ot Chiffchaffs.  the Pink-footed Goose remained, perhaps now too long, on the North Brooks,  where a pair of Pintail were present with reasonable numbers of Teal, Shoveler and Wigeon, and a Peregrine showed well in its tree from the Hangar. It looked enormous which made me realise just how high up those on Southwick Power Station are - even taking account of seeing them each day through 8x20 bins. Few gulls were seen on an evening trip to the Adur although they did include my second ever colour-ringed Common Gull and a calling Curlew flying south, unfortunately without wingbars.

first male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, ladders on back indistinct
first male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

second male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, this one with distinct ladders on its back
second male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker drumming, video unfortunately shows the limitations of hand held digiscoping

Wood Lark, probably my all-time favourite songster

Peregrine at Pulborough, looking enormous when not seen halfway up Southwick Power Station chimney
Common Gull AE21 on the River Adur at low tide and in poor light, it had been ringed as a pullus near Kiel in Germany on 22 June 2010

Sunday 25 March.  Little was moving off the Fort first thing with 8 Gannets and 12 Sandwich Terns offshore, 7 Great Crested Grebes and 9 Common Scoter on the sea and 5 Brent Geese and 2 scoter flying E.  Both Peregrines were on Southwick Power Station chimney.  Nothing of note was on the Adur at low tide.

A slow worm was warming itself inside one of the composters on our allotment but unfortunately I'd not taken a camera with me.  It is the first I've seen for many years.

new security gates on the west arm of Shoreham Harbour

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Greater Black-backed Gull ages

The three colour-ringed Greater Black Backed Gulls below were digiscoped on the River Adur opposite Shoreham Airport in the last couple of weeks - I find looking for and digiscoping local "CR" gulls strangely addictive, but I'm sure there are worse vices!  All were colour-ringed as chicks so their ages are known.  They make an interesting comparison.
49G  on the River Adur on 11 March 2012
48G on the River Adur on 17 March 2012
JH350 on the River Adur on 18 March 2012

JH350 is a second-winter (3CY), having been ringed as a chick on 09/07/10 at Grodholmen Lillehavn, Lindesnes, Vest-Agder, Norway.  It was seen on 01/07/11 at Heemskerk Strand, pole 47, Noord-Holland, The Netherlands and on 03/03/12 at Chouet Landfill Beach and landfill, Guernsey, Channel Islands.

As 48G and 49G are consecutively numbered it is no suprise to discover that they were ringed together from the same nest (on a building in Fécamp, Seine-Maritime, Normandie).  Looking at their bulk it is also no surprise that they are sister and brother.  They were hatched on 19/05/10 making them in their second-winter (3CY) too, so despite appearances all three birds are the same age.   JH350 is more faded than the French birds but might have been further south to winter under a brighter sun?

It is usually first and second-winter Greater Black-backed Gulls that I find can look similar.  49G particularly makes me realise that some second and third-winters are not straight-forward to age either. 

49G was hatched at Fécamp, Seine-Maritime, Normandie on 19/05/10, ringed there on 17/06/10 and seen on 22/09/10 at Le Havre, on 05/05/11 back at Fecamp and on  21/06/11 at Saint Aubin-sur-Mer (48G was also seen here on this date).

48G was hatched at Fécamp, Seine-Maritime, Normandie on 19/05/10, ringed there on 17/06/10 and seen on 23/05/11 at Veules-les-Roses, on 26/05/11 and 21/06/11 at Saint Aubin-sur-Mer, on 27/06/11 back at Veules-les-Roses and on 06/07/11 at Saint Aubin-sur-Mer again.  All French locations are in Seine-Maritime.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Shoreham (12-18 March 2012)

Monday 12-Friday 16 March.  Brief stops at the King Alfred on the way to work produced up to 44 Great Crested Grebes each day with a flock of 70 Brent Geese flying east on 17th and 3 Sandwich Terns west and a Razobill on the sea on 18th.  1-2 Peregrines were on southwick Power Station chimney each day too.  My bike chain broke on Wednesday just as I arrived at work.  Ever since the same thing happened last year and I ended up walking halfway home I've carried a spare link and extractor so was readily able to fix it. 

Saturday 17 March.  With poor weather forecast it didn't seem worth going very far so I concentrated on my local circuit around Shoreham.  Six Purple Sandpipers were on the inner side of the west arm when I arrived at 06.30 and seawatching for the next hour of so produced 109 Brent Geese flying east (including two flocks of over 40), a Sandwich Tern east, a Red-breasted Merganser west and a Razorbill on the sea.  Back on the inner arm were now ten Purple Sandpipers, a record for me, and a probable Scandinavian Rock Pipit.  Halfway through the seawatch a lone Brent Goose flew past and landed on the sea off the harbour entrance.  The sentementalist in me was very pleased when it flew off to join the next flock (of 13) that flew by 15 minutes later, although it took it several minutes to catch up with them.  A quick look at Widewater produced a small duck out on its own that momentarily had me thinking might be a Garganey, until I got my bins up to see it was a female Teal - a reminder, if i needed one, that my WW is Widewater and not Weir Wood!

I'd only been back home 15 minutes when I received a text from Paul James letting me know there were 3 Wheatears at Shoreham Fort which was rather annoying as I'd only been there just over an hour earlier.  I was going out again anyway to check the Adur at  low tide so brought my plans forward and cycled back to the Fort.  No sign of the wheatears in deteriorating weather.  I continued west, part walking along the beach, part cycling on the track until Brooklands without success.  The return was much better with 2 rather bedraggled looking Wheatears on the beach almost immediately and another by the beach huts on Lancing Green.  Also the wind/rain was behind me.  So I saw 3 wheatears but not the ones I'd set out to look for.  A reasonable number of gulls on the Adur on the falling tide included two with colour-rings, a North Thames herring and a normandie Greater Black-backed. 

All in all a satisfying day despite the weather, made even better by replacing the Rear mechanism on my bike (it not changing gear very well) being relatively straight forward.  Wear and tear on the bike isn't too surprising given the milage it does.  I'm just short of 1500 trips to work, equivalent to one and a quarter times around the Equator (but unfortunately without the exotic species that would go with it).

Purple Sandpipers at Shoreham Harbour, the ten recorded is my biggest ever flock here

North Thames Herring Gull YK7T, my first sighting of this bird although I've seen YW7T here in November 2010 and November/December 2011
Normandie Greater Black-backed Gull 48G on the Adur, another first sighting for me although I was expecting it to be 49G that was on the Adur last Saturday!
Sunday 18 March.  An early morning visit to Shoreham Fort was rewarded with a female Black Redstart and male and female Wheatears.  Seven Purple Sandpipers were on the inner arm with somewhat better views of the Scandinavian Rock Pipit there too.  40 Brent Geese and 4 scoter flew east but at great distance and 2 Sandwich Terns and a Gannet were the only other species noted offshore.  Both Peregrines were on Southwick Power station chimney.  A quick look at Widewater produced nothing of note while a low tide check of the gulls on the Adur later in the day revealed a Norwegian Greater black-backed.

poor shot of Scandinavian Rock Pipit at Shoreham Fort

female Wheatear at Shoreham Fort
male Wheatear at Shoreham Fort, few spring migrants are as eagerly anticipated

and few are as stunning

Norwegian Greater Black-backed Gull JH350 on the Adur at low tide

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Shoreham and Ferring (05-11 March 2012)

Monday-Friday 05-09 March.  A least one Peregrine was seen on Southwick Power Station chimney nestbox each day this week while cycling to work with both sitting on it on Tuesday 6th.  Also on Tuesday 78 Great Crested Grebes and a Common Scoter were on the sea off Hove Lagoon with 76 grebes off there on Friday.  An estimated 2000 gulls on Southwick Beach at low tide on Thursday evening (nice to have  made it in daylight!) included 4 adult summer Mediterranean Gulls while 60 Pied Wagtails were pre-roost gathering by the lockgates.

Saturday 10 March and a light northerly/non-seawatching wind made me think I should be looking for Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers but 06:30-10:30 at a site near Crawley was unsuccessful as was a brief look at an area I've seen them in before near Horsham.   At the former site I heard a Crossbill flying over as I got out of the car and saw 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 4 Marsh Tits, 3 Coal Tits, 2 Nuthatches, 65 Siskins, 3 Redpolls and 4 very nice Bullfinches.  A Peregrine and a Fieldfare were the highlights near Horsham.  A late afternoon visit to the Adur for low tide got me there just ahead of a bait digger but all the gulls (mainly Black-headed) took flight before I could look through them.  In hindsight a return to Southwick Beach would probably have been more productive, although the gulls are often disturbed by dogs there.

Sunday 11 March.  I visited the local Shoreham sites first thing.  Was surprised at Shoreham Fort to see that most of the old coastguard station had been knocked down.  Part of the Fort restoration.  Three Slavonian and 9 Great Crested Grebes were on the sea some distance to the west, 2 Purple Sandpipiers and 23 Turnstone in the Harbour (despite the tide being right out), both Peregrines on Southwik Power Station chimney and a few Gannets and Kittiwakes well offshore.  Little was seen at Widewater with 9 Little Grebes and 2 Little Egrets while the gulls on the Adur included an adult Mediterranean and colour-ringed Herring and Greater Black-backed.

Megan and I then walked from Goring Gap to Ferring greenswards and I managed a quick view of a/the Red-necked Grebe as well as over 300 Great Crested Grebes and 30 Red-breasted Mergansers although the highlight was 4-5 distant dolphins.  Four Little Egrets flew over the Adur flyover as wer were returning for a family gathering.

'restoration' work on Shoreham Fort
starts with the demolition of the old Coastguard Station
Gulls on the Adur, colour ringed Herring to left, Greater Black-backed to right
North Thames Herring Gull KT4T, this bird was also seen on the Adur last year almost to the day - on 12 March 2011
Normandie Greater Black-backed Gull 49G on the Adur
Mediterranean Gull on the Adur
... always nice to see locally

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Worthing, The Burgh & Shoreham (03-04 March 2012)

Saturday 3 March.  A day out in West Sussex with John King started in central Worthing where thte Yellow-browed Warbler showed well, ensuring that I wouldn't have two 'two phyllosc' only years in a row.  We moved on to Ferring in worsening weather but managed to pick out the Red-necked Grebe on the sea (my first for a couple of years) along with 50+ Great Crested, 2 Slavonian and 60+ Red-breasted Mergansers.  38 Brent Geese flew E while 60 Sanderling were feeding on the beach as the tide dropped.  After sitting out heavier showers we continued on to The Burgh.  Here in improving weather, although still with a cold wind, we had good but distant views of the Rough-legged Buzzard, a female Merlin, 3 Red Kites, 12 Common Buzzards, 11 Grey & 5 Red-legged Partridges ad two vocal adult Mediterranean Gulls.  Initally the Rough-leg landed on a distant fence post that was reasonably approachable but we were still over half a mile away when it flew.

Yellow-browed Warbler in central Worthing
distant Rough-legged Buzzard showing displaced primary
Rough-legged Buzzard at The Burgh
Sunday 4 March.  A quick look at Shoreham Harbour in the rain produced 6 Purple Sandpipers but little was evident on the sea with 25 auks (2 identified as Razorbills), 45 Gannets and 3 Fulmars between drying optics.  One Peregrine was seen distantly on Southwick Power Station Chimney.  A planned mid afternoon visit to the Adur for low tide was abandoned due to the continuing rain.

Purple Sandpipier at Shoreham Harbour

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Whetstead Gravel Pits (01 March 2012)

Wednesday 29 February.  Opportunities to see birds on 29 February don't come that often so I was pleased to see 2 Peregrines on Southwick Power Station Chimney on the way home.  A pre-roost gathering of about 60 Pied Wagtails by the lock gates were even better.

Thursday 1 March.  Having only seen the Radipole Hooded Merganser, albeit also on Sidlesham Ferry, and a very tame one on a boating lake in Scarborough the temptation to try for a potentially better one finally proved too great.  With days becoming noticably warmer a wild bird might soon be tempted to leave so I drove to work ready to go mid afternoon if it was seen.  Two adult Mediterranean Gulls in Stamner Park were a good start but an anxious morning ensued with no news on the merganser until 12.30pm.  I left work as planned but traffic was dreadful and I didn't arrive on site until 5pm by which time the sun was starting to dip.  It was a beautiful mild still evening and, surprisingly, I had the place to myself.  The light was starting to go and digiscoping became a compromise between shutter speed and ISO with the results a little disappointing.  The bird was slowly swimming around the whole time, appeared quite alert, but wasn't actively fishing (it didn't dive at all).  At about 5.40pm it became a bit more active lookig around more and I took a short video.  After reviewing this I returned to look at the bird but it appeared to have gone.  Ten minutes of searching failed to locate and I suspected it had flown off.  Very annoying to have misse dit if it had as it had only lifted its wing once while I was watching it.  As to its origins, who knows?  Provided it doesn't do anything to disgrace itself there would seem a reasonable chance of it being accepted as it seems no worse than some previous records that have been (e.g. the previous Kent bird).

Hooded Merganser at Whetstead Gravel Pits
Friday 2 March.  42 Great Crested Grebes on the sea off King Alfred on the way into work.