Saturday 28 April 2012

Seaford to Shoreham (23-29 April 2012)

Monday 23 April:  Herring Gull A4AJ seen at the entrance to the University as I was leaving work, a female Wheatear on Hove Bowling Green and 3 Ringed Plovers on Southwick Beach on the way home, a female Blackcap and a Willow Warbler in our garden at tea time and 2 Little Egrets on the Adur early evening.

Tuesday 24 April:  eight Wheatears on Southwick Beach on the way to work and 5 on the way home with two singing Black Redstarts by the power station - a superb adult male and a presumed first-summer male.  Unfortunately Wednesday was too rough to notice anything.

Thursday 26 April:  two Ringed Plover on Southwick Beach.

Saturday 28 April:  A quiet seawatch with John Bujok, John King and Simon Linington produced just 2 first-summer Mediterranean Gulls and 14 commic terns east from 05:50-07:20.  JK and I went on to Birling where the only migrants in evidence were a Swift and two swallows east although the two Tawny Owls in Belle Tout made the visit very worthwhile.  We went on to Newhaven arriving just before the ferry disturbed the Iceland Gull off its post.  It then followed the ferry out to sea, feeding in its wake, before returning to wash itself and roost on the beach.  No colour-rings were seen on 200+ gulls on the Adur before the tide came in although a loose flock of 12 Whimbrel were nice, eventually flying off high to the NE.

Second summer (3CY) Iceland Gull at Newhaven Harbour

Iceland Gull in heavy moult

looking even whiter than when it first arrived
Iceland Gull - more alert than it might appear
Whimbrel on the Adur, never all looking the same way at once
three of the twelve Whimbrel on the Adur

Sunday 29 April 2012.  Heavy early morning rain prevented an early start and I got to Shoreham Harbour at 07:20.  2 Wheatears were by the Old Fort, keeping out of the wind.  The end of the West Arm was rather exposed and it was  hard to keep my telescope still so after 10 minutes of seeing little I relocated to Widewater seeking shelter by one of the beach huts.  I gave up after a disappointing hour having seen 4 Fulmars, 20 Gannets and 9 Sandwich Terns flying east and one Swift coming in.  A visit to the Adur late morning produced a colour-ringed Herring Gull.  With the wind changing mid afternoon I returned to Shoreham Harbour and seawatched from 15.40-18.35.  This was much better but still not 'busy'.  I recorded the following flying east; 138 Fulmars (a very good count for here), 51 Gannets, 7 Common Scoter, 70 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Whimbrel (and 3W), 5 Pomarine Skuas (quite close at 17:33), 4 Arctic Skuas, 2 distant Bonxies, 19 Kittiwakes, 11 Sandwich Terms (with almost as many W), 3 Commic Terns and a Swift.  4 Purple Sandpipers were also present.

North Thames Herring Gull AW9T on the River Adur by Shoreham Airport
not to be confused with HW9T which had been seen at Shoreham Fort on 19 February

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Apuldram Chiffhcaff and xeno-canto Iberian Chiffchaff recordings and sonograms

With thanks to David Cooper for alerting me to 'Raven Lite 1.0' I've managed to produce the following sonograms from the original recordings made of the Apuldram Chiffchaff on Saturday.  I've also managed to make 'videos' from my original recordings using Windows Live Movie Maker without having to re-record them on my camera.  This reproduces their original quality.  Although it is a fairly quick process loading them onto the blog isn't and I've only managed to do about half of them.  I'm not sure why but I've not managed to produce sonograms of the two videos taken of the bird and posted on my blog previously, not that it was singing any more regularly then.

The songs reproduced as videos here are limited to the first 20 or 30 seconds of each recording although in each case a longer recoding would have just been 'more of the same'.

These recordings made over a two and a half hour period rather confirm the birds variable and erratic song, not at all what I would expect from a pure bird.  Some song bursts are quite short (seeming almost truncated)  but the majority are longer than I would expected of Iberian.  The opening sequence in recording 4 is particularly so.

Added at the bottom are recordings of Iberian Chiffchaffs from Xeno-canto.  They all are much more uniform in delivery with shorter bursts of song more widely spaced apart.  Each song repeats to varying degrees more varied sets of notes, adding to the conformity of their structure.  Sadly nothing similar is apparent in the recordings of the Apuldram bird.

Apuldram chiff recording 1

Apuldram chiff recording 2

Apuldram chiff recording 4

Apuldram chiff recording 5

Apuldram chiff recording 8

Apuldram chiff recording 10

Apuldram chiff recording 13

Spanish recording of Iberian Chiffchaff from xeno-canto

Dutch recording of Iberian Chiffchaff from xeno-canto

French recording of Iberian Chiffchaff from xeno-canto
Swiss recording of Iberian Chiffchaff from xeno-canto

Sunday 22 April 2012

Seaford/chiffchaff recordings (22/21 April 2012)

Sunday 22 April 2012.  Despite an uninspiring forecast Martyn Kenefick (just back from tour leading in Kuwait) and I decided to do a seawatch from Splash Point, Seaford.  We arrived at 06:30, shortly after John King, and all decided to brave the groyne rather than squeeze into a nearby shelter.  It was slow but we saw just enough to keep us hanging on until 10:30.  During that time we recorded the following heading east: 1 diver sp (probably not Red-throated), 76 Gannets, 49 Common Scoter (and 3 on the sea), 1 Great Skua, 4 Arctic Skuas (all dark phase), 7 Mediterranean Gulls (3 pairs and a first-summer), 3 Little Gulls (a bit distant but including a lovely adult), 32 Sandwich Terns, 6 Commic Terns and a particularly vicious hail storm.  The temperature was only 30 degrees centigrade less than MK is used to!
Splash Point, Seaford with hail storm approaching.  unfortunately no mega evident at the foot of the rainbow
North Thames Herring Gull SH5T was seen on a late visit to the Adur.  I'd seen it previously on 8 October 2011.  Also seen was an unreadable metal ringed Lesser Black-backed Gull.

North Thames Herring Gull SH5T
metal ringed Lesser Black-backed Gull.  A missed opportunity if it wasn't also colour-ringed

Saturday 21 April.  Having hopefully just about mastered the revamped blogger the following are recordings made of the Apuldram Chiffchaff that I was unable to add yesterday.  They were made with a Digital Voice Recorder through its inbuilt microphone .  I took two microphones with me but one had a dud AA battery and I had no spare while the other has an intermittent bad connection which chose to play up.  Despite this the recordings came out quite clearly although the only way I've been able to load them is by making a video of them playing.  The results sound a bit tinny.  I made 13 digital recordings in the 2.5 hours I was there.  4 are presented here along with two poor sound/vision quality videos of the bird singing.

Firstly the bird responded strongly to recordings of Iberian Chiffchaff, even when played quietly for comparative purposes.  It sounded similar to some of the recordings but generally seemed more variable in length and structure so that often one wasn't able to predict what was coming next.   This seems somewhat at variance with the recordings I've heard of Iberian Chiffchaffs from elsewhere but might be within the range of that species?

To me, I was most disappointed that I never heard it sing the typical 3x3 song "chiff chiff chiff tu tu tu weet weet weet" even when responding to such a recording from Spain.  Again this may well not be inconsistent with Iberian Chiffchaff but with hybirds, mixed singers and Chiffchaffs learning IC's song by proximity (and vice-versa) it is not something that I'm comfortable with without other compelling evidence.  Unfortunatly I did not hear the bird call which might have provided it as the thin call of IC is apparently distinctive.

Apuldram Chiffchaff recording 1: 21/04/12 @ 10:43 BST
Apuldram Chiffchaff recording 4: 21/04/12 @ 11:07 BST
Apuldram Chiffchaff recording 9: 21/04/12 @ 12:16 BST
Apuldram Chiffchaff recording 13: 21/04/12 @ 13:15 BST
Apuldram Chiffchaff: 21/04/12 @ 12:40 BST

                                            Apuldram Chiffchaff: 21/04/12 @ 12:13 BST

A few thoughts on the birds plumage, structure and behaviour.

Firstly I never saw the bird dip its tail in the manner frequently done by chiffchaffs.
Apuldram Chiffchaff looking encouragingly green above and almost slivery white on the belly but is this an effect of the light?  Note that although not black the legs appear uniformly dark, more so than one might like.
Apuldram Chiffchaff looking more ordinary?  Note the fairly solid ear coverts and uniform supercillium, features ore akin to Chiffchaff than Iberian?
The Advanced ID guide gives Iberian Chiffchaff's primary projection (past the longest tertial) as 70% or more than the length of the exposed tertials.  In Chiffchaff it is about 60%.  This photograph suggests the birds primary projection is a lot closer to 60% than 70%

Summary:  Voice.  This bird appears to be neither a typical Chiffchaff nor an Iberian Chiffchaff.   Despite its song at times being similar to some IC recordings, although to me is less structured and more 'all over place', its varied repertoire never included the 3x3 song I consider (based on very limited experience) to be typical, even when responding to such a song.  Neither did it manage more than a couple of notes of normal Chiffchaff.  Unfortunately it did not call.  Without knowing the range of variation within IC song I would not like to rule this bird out as an IC on voice but it was nowhere near as explosive or repetitive as I was expecting and left me feeling somewhat underwhelmed by it.

Behaviour.  The bird wasn't seen to dip its tail which is perhaps a point in favour of Iberian Chiffchaff.

Plumage.  Generally too Chiffchaff like, with a fairly uniform supercilium and solid ear coverts.  The plumage was not as right as one might hope, neither were the legs as pale.  Perhaps it falls within the range of variation but as for the voice it left me feeling somewhat underwhelmed.

Structure.  Perhaps most against this bird as an Iberian Chiffchaff is the short primary-projection apparent in the above image.

Conclusions.  It is not a typical bird but perhaps has too many anomalies to be considered a pure Iberian Chiffchaff.  While suggesting it is a hybrid might be seen as an easy option, it is one that might best fit in this case?  Hopefully we will get the opportunity to see a more distinctive individual in the county before too long.

Saturday 21 April 2012

Selsey to Shoreham (21 April 2012)

I started at Selsey where 2 Common Scoter were the only birds moving in three-quarters of an hour before the rain came in although 3 Great Northern Divers and a handful of terns including 3 Little and 2 Arctic were offshore.  A showy Cuckoo was calling repeatedly at Church Norton and another behind Sidlesham Information Centre while a Little Ringed Plover was on Sidlesham Ferry.  The perplexing chiffchaff was showing and stuttering well at Apuldram where a less contentious Mediterranean Gull was heard flying over.  Pulborough was quiet with two Nightingales heard briefly and a single Barnacle Goose consorting with the now rather too long-staying Pink-foot.  Three colour-ringed Herring Gulls were on the Adur by Shoreham Airport at low tide.

Mallard at Church Norton
Pheasant at Church Norton
Little Ringed Plover on Sidlesham Ferry
Sedge Warbler at Sidlesham Ferry
Apuldram chiffchaff, unfortunately my only digiscoped image making it look quite green above

Apuldram chiffchaff looking somewhat browner
Sussex Herring Gull A6MT roosting on the Adur
North Thames Herring Gull LU7T roosting on the Adur
North Thames Herring Gull M8BT still present on the Adur

Monday 16 April 2012

mostly Shoreham (14-17 April 2012)

A few bits from the bike during the last week included 1-2 Peregrines on Southwick Power Station chimney most days, a singing Rock Pipit by Carat's Cafe on 12 April and a male Wheatear on Southwick Beach on 11 April.

Saturday 14 April.  Seawatching from the end of Shoreham Harbour from 06.45-08.15 produced the following in a stiff ENE wind:  Great Crested Grebe 2 on sea, Gannet 3E:1W, Common Scoter 9E, Grey Plover 2E, Great Skua 1E (at 07:40), Arctic Skua 1E, Mediterranean Gull 2 adults E, Kittiwake 7E, Sandwich Tern 23E:12W and Common Tern 4E.  A Willow Warbler was calling near the car park, a Peregrine on the power station chimney and 6 Purple Sandpipers and 37 Turnstone on the harbour's inner arm.

I later joined John King to walk around Cissbury, my first visit in absolutely years, but we were unable to find the Ring Ouzels seen there recently and 2 Green Woodpeckers, 2 Blackcaps, 3 Long-tailed Tits and a Yellowhammer were the highlights.

We called in at the Adur at low tide and, avoiding bait diggers, was a colour-ringed Herring Gull and an Avocet. 

North Thames Herring Gull AX2T
Avocet on the Adur
with tasty morsel

Sunday 15 April.  Seawatching off Shoreham Fort from 06:30-07:45 was poor, not too surprising in the cold NW wind, producing just 10 Gannets and 19 Sandwich Terns east and 1 Shelduck and 5 Sandwich Terns west.  59 Turnstones were on the inner arm at high tide but only 1 Purple Sandpiper was with them.  A North Thames colour-ringed Herring Gull was seen twice around the harbour but on both occasions flew off before its ring could be read. An early afternoon walk around Mill Hill with Megan was even less productive with just two Chiffchaffs heard.   The presence of bait diggers, visible from Mill Hill, ruled out a visit to the Adur.

Tuesday 17 April.  News of an Iberian Chiffchaff at Apuldram Church got me cycling home early.  How often is it against the wind when I'm in a hurry!  I finally left home at 5pm but just as I hit traffic on the Shoreham fly-over I received a phone call from DC saying it wasn't all he was expecting (in song or plumage).  This news, the solid traffic ahead of me and knowing the tide was low caused a timely diversion onto the airport and a look at the Adur.  Two new for me colour-ringed gulls, a Normandie Greater Black-back and what is presumably a North Thames Herring.  Also my first Whimbrel for the year and a presumed first-summer Lesser Black-backed Gull providing my usual struggle to age as its mantle appears to be older than the coverts.  Still, beats being stuck in traffic from Lancing to Worthing, and Arundel and around Chichester ...
Normandie Greater Black-backed Gull 18E, a female ringed as a chick at F├ęcamp, Seine-Maritime in 2009 and seen there three times in 2011 
18E in a rare moment when not preening
Herring Gull M8BT
a North Thames bird sporting one of their new rings
Lesser Black-backed Gull, presumbly an advanced first summer?

with first-summer Herring Gull
distinctive crown stripe of a ...
... Whimbrel, my first this year

Monday 9 April 2012

Seaford seawatch (09 April 2012)

Seawatching with Martyn Kenefick at Seaford from 06:50-10:50 produced the following going east:  2 unidentified divers, 174 Brent Geese, 222 Common Scoter (although most were too distant to have identified any Velvets amongst them), 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, 5 Great Skuas, 5 Arctic Skuas (all dark morphs), 21 Mediterranean Gulls (most adults), 50 Sandwich Terns and 4 unidentified auks.  Six Swallows also flew in.  Thanks to Mick for suggesting we'd be better off watching from the Martello shelter rather than on the groyne at Splash Point as we wouldn't have lasted 4 hours in such unpleasant conditions otherwise.

Saturday 7 April 2012

Shoreham & Downs (07-08 April 2012)

Saturday 7 April.   Seawatching from 07:00-08:30 off the end of Shoreham Harbour was quiet with 30+ Brent Geese, 1 Common and 16 Sandwich Terns flying east and 5 Great Crested Grebes on the sea.  Two Wheatears arrived and briefly landed on the west arm.  Little was seen on the Adur at either low tide.

recently arrived Wheatear on the west arm of Shoreham Harbour

Wheatear on the fence by the new coastguard lookout
continuing demolition of the old coastguard building

This very dark bodied Herring Gull was seen on an evening visit to the Adur.  Unfortunately it wasn't seen at all well in flight.  

Sunday 8 April.  A seawatch from 07:00-07:30 in wet and murky conditions produced no passage at all with 7 Turnstone on the west arm and a Little Egret inside Shoreham Harbour the only notebook entries.  A yellow colour-ringed Herring Gull was seen on the Adur although viewing conditions (into the rain) were difficult and photos very poor.  A North Thames red-ringed Herring Gull was also seen but frustratingly only well enough to get the first and last of the 4 character code.  No sign of the very dark bird seen last evening.  A pair of Shoveler were on the Adur too with a male Wheatear by the old Toll Bridge.  

Megan and I saw 4 slow-worms on our allotment composters and 14 Stock Doves, 18 Sky Larks and 5 Corn Buntings on a Lancing Ring/Coombes Head/Steep Down circuit. 
Herring Gull 2X3B, seemingly from a ringing scheme based in Kings Lynn
my first yellow-ringed Herring Gull, I was hoping it might have come from further afield

Slow worms attracted to the warmth of our allotment composters