Saturday, 26 January 2013

inland West Sussex (26 January 2013)

26 January 2013: Taking advantage of a nice sunny day John King and I decided to head for the Arun Valley to look for the Bewick's Swans.  A Barn Owl just north of the Adur flyover as it was getting light was an excellent start.  The herd of Bewicks, now 30 adults and 9 juveniles, were by the road before Warningcamp.  It seemed worth going on to Burpham to see if there were any geese further up the valley and a quick stop at the 'triangle' first produced two red Kites and 8 Grey Partridges.  Looking back from just down the road located some distant grey geese in front of Arundel Castle and at least two had white fronts.  From near Burpham Church we were close enough to identify eleven White-fronted Geese with a few Grey Lags while another Barn Owl was flying around opposite us.  Next stop was Arundel where Water Rail, Firecrest and two Bullfinches showed well along the Mill Stream.  The White-fronts couldn't be seen from the riverbank but over 600 Fieldfares were some compensation.  Having seen all we'd hoped to in the Arun valley and feeling on a bit of a roll we decided to push our luck a bit and head over to West Dean Woods.  Here the Little Owl eventually showed itself (well spotted John) while two Hawfinches showed briefly above us as we started up the track to Monkton Farm (I only saw them in flight which took the edge of it somewhat).  Few finches were in evidence although a Woodcock flew by almost at ground level.  Little was seen from the clearing at the top of the track until we were leaving when four Hawfinches flew over and landed in the top of a tree opposite.  They were on view for 10 minutes or so and when the last one flew off away down the valley it picked up four others on its way.  A few minutes later, just as I had put my scope down again, two more flew in and landed in tree tops opposite.  Finally after these flew off in the same direction as the others another, probably our tenth, flew over and kept on going.  We called in at Greatham Bridge on the way back seeing three Barn Owls hunting over Coldwaltham Brooks and another distantly out on Amberley Wildbrooks.  Six Barn Owls in a day, that is more than I usually see all year!

Bewick's Swans at Warningcamp
a family group?
very nice views although the early morning light was poor
distant Barn Owl from Burpham Church

Little Owl in its usual tree at Staple Ash Farm
it was enjoying the mid-day sun although ducked back in its hollow at one stage and was probably out of view when we arrived
Hawfinch from Monkton Farm clearing
distant, but nice scope views

Barn Owl perched by the railway line at Greatham Bridge
where are my wire-cutters when I need them

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Shoreham & Beeding (19-20 January 2013)

20 January 2014.  The snow started the moment I left the house and set out on my bike on the usual circuit.  Things immediately looked up with a pair of Gadwall on the River Adur by the Airport and 12 Wigeon nearby, 2 Redwings flew west over Ropetackle and a Razorbill did a couple of flypasts while I was on the end of Shoreham Harbour.  Walking back around the Fort I put up a calling Wood Lark which flew off west, one of my favourite birds with probably my favourite song, brilliant.  One Song Thrush and 10+ Meadow Pipits were also present.  A flock of at east 80 Fieldfares were in a berry tree in a front garden near Fort Haven with 5 west over Widewater while a Golden Plover flew west along the beach.  Also on Widewater was a male Pintail, male Tufted Duck and the usual Coot.  On the way back I decided to try Cuckoos Corner where 1000 Wood Pigeons, 7+ Stock Doves, 250 Jackdaws, 120 Chaffinches and 2 Yellowhammers were feeding in and around a maize field between interruptions first by Peregrine and then Sparrowhawk.  A Water Rail dashed across a ditch twice and 6 Reed Buntings and a flock of 40 Sky Larks were also in the area.  A final look at the gulls at low tide produced a Southwick Herring Gull A6XY that I'd seen there on November 2010 and March & September 2011 (it had been ringed and released as a 4CY following injury in July 2010) .

In the afternoon Megan and I braved Beeding Brooks seeing a Barn and two Short-eared Owls, 30+ Fieldfares and a female Bullfinch.  A fitting end to what had been a very enjoyable day.
Shoreham Harbour, wooden jetty and west arm
Shoreham Harbour west arm
Shoreham Airfield in the snow, no arrivals or departures today
Herring Gull A6XY back on the Adur
unfortunately gulls are not all that uses the sandbars at low tide
Beeding Brooks, snow trying to hide the sun (only partly successful)
Megan on Beeding Brooks
Short-eared Owl (imagination required)

19 January 2013.  The usual circuit was disappointing with little evidence of any cold weather movement.  Two Song Thrushes and 14 Meadow Pipits were on Shoreham Fort with 4 Greenfinches nearby.  The latter used to flock regularly along Shoreham Beach and I saw 400 in December 2005 and 120 in November 2010 but these are my first here this year (in six visits).  One to enjoy while one can?  Seventy Common Scoter were fairly close on the sea off Widewater but nothing could picked out amongst them.  A female Wigeon was on the River Adur by Shoreham Airport with seven Sky Larks and two Reed Buntings feeding by the tideline.  Despite a low tide few gulls were present.  Called it a day as weather wasn't improving and I was getting cold on the bike in the strong easterly wind.

16 January 2013.  A lunchtime walk in Stanmer Woods produced Mistle Thrush *two seen and one singing), Nuthatch, Treecreeper and nine Long-tailed Tits.  Very nice.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Shoreham area & Burton MP (12-13 January 2013)

13 January.  I gave the bike a rest and drove to Shoreham Fort for dawn.  With little wind I was hoping to see the Black Redstart but no joy.  Very little was moving on the sea so I went to Widewater to check the scoter flock.  With a tide only half-way in and a calm sea they were much easier to see but the closest 70 were all Common (and just one a male). a more distant 30-40 appeared to all be Common too.  Three Red-throated Divers were on the sea and six flew east as did a handful of unidentified auks.  Four Red-breasted Mergansers (all female/immatures)  were on the lagoon and seven Sanderling on the beach. 

Late morning Megan and I walked from Goring Gap to Ferring and back.  We saw five Mediterranean Gulls at the former, eight Grey Plover at the latte and nothing between.

In the afternoon I met up with John King near Beeding.  I was a bit early and saw an adult Mediterranean Gull while waiting.  We looked at Amberley Wildbrooks (7 Ruff, 300+ Black-tailed Godwits but no hoped for Bewick's) and Burton Mill Pond.  A Bittern flew into the reeds in the NE corner at 4.40pm but disappeared.  We stayed on, moving to the viewing platform, feeling that there was a good chance it would climb the reeds to roost.  It gave good views, albeit in worsening light, as it did so ten minutes later.  After five minutes it flew a bit closer and almost next to it a second bird climbed the reeds about 40m from us.  Eventually with the light almost gone this bird flew to the NW corner of the mill pond.  A superb end to what had been a frustrating weekend (no pics:-().

12 January.  Rain and a strong SE wind made deciding to cycle my usual circuit the wrong option.  The tide was high but no Purple Sandpipers could be found around the Harbour where there was very little other than a good easterly passage of Brent Geese.  Widewater offered more shelter from the wind but the scoter flock were constantly disappearing in troughs and so hard to check.  A single Wigeon with them was all I could pick out. Brent were still moving with 335 seen in the two hours I was looking intermittently along the coast.   Four Red-breasted Mergansers (one adult male)  were on the lagoon and two Sanderling on the beach. A very high tide revealed at least 80 Teal and 50 Snipe on the Adur Saltings.

11 January.  Lunchtime in a very quiet Stanmer Park produced single Goldcrest, Coal Tit and Jay.

08 January.  Herring Gull A4AH footpaddling at the University of Sussex.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Shoreham area (05-06 January 2013)

Saturday 5 January.  Cycled to Shoreham Fort, Widewater and the Adur.  Low tide is never the best time for Shoreham Harbour and today was no exception although 2 Purple Sandpipers were seen briefly below the woden pier.  7 Red-throated Divers flew past as did an adult Mediterranean Gull.  At Widewater eight Sanderling were seen n the each before eing disturbed by a dog.  The Coot was still present but the Mute Swan pair seemed to have chased one of their youngsters off and were moving in on another.  It was my first low-tide visit to the Adur for a couple of weeks.  the weather was too calm for a lot of gulls but I got my colour-ring reading year off to a good start with a presumed German Mediterranean Gull and two I'd seen before, North Thames Herring Gull KT4T and Dutch Black-headed Gull R3. 

Mediterranean Gull AKRK although I never got a readable photo
AKRK had been ringed as a pullus (too small for a colour-ring) at Pionierinsel Lühe on the Elbe near Hamburg, Germany on 14 June 2008.  On 23 May 2012 it was caught in a colony on a flat roof in Hamburg and the colour-ring fitted.  Two similarly coded Med Gulls (AAZE &AHTK) seen on the Adur in 2010 had also been ringed at Pionierinsel Lühe.  Med Gulls often appear with Common Gulls on the Adur, interestingly the colonies around Hamburg where they breed are mainly Common Gulls too.
Black-headed Gull R3.  Ringed as a first-year in Holland in November 2009, this bird was on seen by Jake Everett at Southwater Country Park in December 2009, on the Adur in December 2011 and at Widewater in September 2012.  
Herring Gull KT4T.  Ringed as a 2CY at Pitsea, Essex on 5 March 2011, it waa first seen on the Adur a week later.  since then I've seen it in December 2011 and March and July 2012.
Sunday 6 January.  A rather distant Long-tailed Duck flew east off Shoreham Harbour as did a Red-throated Diver, 4 Brent Geese and 5 Common Scoter.  Another Brent Goose was on the lagoon at Widewater but only the pair of Mute Swans remained.  The gulls on the Adur at low tide included two Meds and a North Thames Herring.

Second-winter Mediterranean Gull on the Adur
Adult Mediterranean Gull on the Adur

Herring Gull ZX7T on the Adur, not one I've encountered before

Saturday, 5 January 2013

2012 Highlights- abroad

Turkey.  Nick Preston and I decided to take advantage of the extra Bank Holiday in early June and spent a week in central Turkey.  Kruper’s Nuthatch, Radde’s Accentor and Caspian Snowcock where my three targets and we saw all three quite easily along with all the other feasible new birds for us and some other excellent species (e.g. White-throated Robin, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater), most of which proved photographable.  Turkey was a superb country and our visit was enhanced by meeting other British groups also taking advantage of the Queen’s Jubilee.  I saw 168 species of which 143 were new, we drove 2250 km and the trip cost me £800 door to door.  The only disappointment was that we didn’t have longer.  On a two week trip we could have tried for Caucasian Black Grouse and Grey-necked Bunting …
Kruper's Nuthatch near Uzuncaburc on 3 June
Radde's Accentor at Demirkazik on 4 June, this along with the previous species were my most wanted birds in Turkey.  They did not disappoint. 
Asian Crimson-winged Finch at Demirkazik on 4 June.  It was just over 35 years since I'd seen the African variant in Morocco, I'd forgotten how chunky they were.
Rock Thrush at Demirkazik on 4 June.  Time Sussex had one that everyone could enjoy. Beachy this spring please ...
White-throated Robin at Demirkazik on 4 June. What a performer!

Nick at Demirkazik on 4 June, the best travelling companion one could hope for
Iraq Babbler at Birecik on 6 June.  A recent colonist that doesn't quite live up to its billing
Eastern Rock Nuthatch at Durnalik on 6 June.  Another new nuthatch, superb.
See-see at Birecik on 7 June.  A bird I feared that we might struggle to see but we ended up seeing six in our time around Birecik 
Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters at Estagfirullah on 7 June, two of about  37 seen around the village and on the small volcano shaped hill immediately to the east
Cinereous Bunting at Nemrut Dagi on 8 June, they were common here
Kurdish (Red-tailed) Wheatear at Nemrut Dagi on 8 June.  One of  eight seen during our two days in the area.
Pale Rockfinch at Nemrut Dagi on 8 June, another new bird that was fairly common here.
Sarawak and Sabah.  A planned return to West Papua in 2012 fell through so Nick and I decided to revisit Sabah in late July.  With Blue-banded Pitta our most wanted bird we decided to add a few days at Kubah National Park in Sarawak at the start.  Yeo Siew Teck, a famed bird guide (and very pleasant company) who knew the pitta well, was available for our first morning which seemed too good an opportunity to miss even if only to show us the better areas to concentrate on for the rest of our stay.  In the event his knowledge and determination gave us excellent views of the only Blue-banded Pitta we saw all trip.  It was my bird of the year.  Kinabatangan River was disappointing as we didn’t even hear Bornean Ground Cuckoo despite 4 attempts along the river with Robert Chong.  The forest at Danum Valley was superb but it had been so dry that birds were not very active and so hard work to find.  I saw 13 pittas in our week there including Bornean Banded that I’d not seen previously.  Poring Hot Springs was disappointing while a twitch to Sepilok for Bornean Bristlehead looked like it was headed the same way until Nick spotted a party from one of the canopy towers on our third morning.  This left us two and a half days at Mount Kinabalu where we saw a reasonable selection of endemics and, on our last day along the Mesillau Gate, trail my two targets – Everett’s Thrush and Friendly Warbler.  I saw 221 species of which just 9 were new (Nick got just 6).  The trip cost me £2200 for just over three weeks in Borneo.  Many thanks to Nick Preston for being such a brilliant companion and appreciating how important seeing Bristlehead had become for me that he was happy for it to be the main focus of our last week.  Not seeing the Ground Cuckoo was hard, especially as others saw it before and after we’d tried.  Success at this time of year seemed to be less than 50%.  No Hose’s Broadbill at Poring was disappointing too, although they were not being seen this summer, as were the limited photographic opportunities - not helped by my not taking my normal telescope or tripod.
Blue-banded Pitta at Kubah on 24 July.  Photo taken by Yeo Siew Teck who found the bird, Nick and I were too intent on watching it to consider pictures even though it was on view for 20 minutes.  Bird of the year, no contest.
Hooded Pitta on the Kinabatangan River on 30 July, nice but unfortunately the best Robert Chong could conjure up for us
mother and infant Orang at Danum Valley Field Centre on 5 August
Whiskered Tree-swift at Danum on 5 August, the only bird I photographed here
Black and Yellow Broadbill at the Rainforest Discovery Centre, Sepilok on 8 August.  A nice enough distraction from looking for Bristleheads, at least it was on the first day ...

Bornean Bristlehead from the canopy walkway at Sepilok RDC on 10 August, not as easy here as we were expecting, it took 27 hours before Nick spotted a small party moving through the mid-storey.  Fortunately they were moving slowly and were with us for half an hour.
male Fruithunter on the Messilau Gate trail at Kinabalu on 12 August
a rather tired but very happy me on the Messilau Gate trail at Kinabalu on 12 August, having seen Everett's Thrush and what until then I'd referred to as the Kinabalu Unfriendly Warbler
Somme.  A week with the family in early September staying at St. Valery-sur-Somme allowed some pleasant birding in the immediate vicinity with highlights being Crested Tits in pretty much every patch of coniferous woodland, 104 Jays migrating south on our last morning (including a loose flock of 54), a Spotted Crake, 3 Hen Harriers, 2 White Storks, 120 Spoonbills and 5 Serins.
Spotted Crake seen near Baie de Somme on 6 September
one of two White Storks seen near Baie de Somme on 6 September
one of six Black-winged Stilts seen near Baie de Somme on 9 September