Monday 27 May 2013

The Burgh & Shoreham (26-27 May 2013)

Sunday 26 May.  Megan and I decided to go for a morning walk around the Burgh.  I wasn't expecting to see much at this time of year but is always a nice area to visit.  After spending five hours yesterday unsuccessfully looking for Turtle Doves on the Knepp Estate I was delighted that it was  one of the first birds seen, rather distantly in a dead tree.  I'd left my telescope at home which was typical but a footpath allowed us to get somewhat closer, into purring range at least.  The decline of this species in the last 10-15 years is a real concern and sadly it is hard to see that reversing.  Make the most of them while there are still some to enjoy.  Also at the Bugh we saw 2 Red Kites (one wing-tagged), 4 Grey Partridges, 6 Lapwings, 15+ Sky Larks, 2 Corn Buntings and a Hare while a calling Cuckoo remained out of view.
Turtle Dove at the Burgh, an ideal digiscoping subject if only I'd had my telescope with me
Red Kite at the Burgh
the wing-tags (yellow on left blue on right) had not been evident when I was watching it although in fairness that was mostly through the camera lens
the tags were more obvious from above

a second, younger, much tattier Red Kite
when is a 'visible' primary not a 'visible' primary?
Sky Lark at the Burgh
An evening visit to the Adur drew a blank, not helped by a family of bait-diggers being present, but 6 Swifts were seen over our road on my return (the first I'd seen all week).

Monday 27 May.  A few hours around Shorehan this morning was generally quiet.  Seven Sandwich Terns and a colour-ringed Herring Gull were seen at Shoreham Fort, 55 Sanderling on the beach at Widewater where the pair of Mute Swans have 6 cygnets, 2 Little Egrets and 2 Reed Warblers by the airport and a Buzzard and 3 Yellowhammers at Mill Hill.

North Thames Herring Gull GT1T
not one I've noted before
part of a flock of  55 Sanderling on the beach at Widewater
they were in a range of plumages with the front right bird one of several in full summer dress
Chiffchaff at Mill Hill

Sunday 26 May 2013

Woodcock surveys & final seawatch (19-25 May 2013)

Sunday 19 May.  After the high of the Margate Dusky Thrush it was back to Seaford for my last chance of a sea-watch of the spring.  It was not to be.  Last year was poor (not many terns and no Blacks) but this year was worse (no Black or Little Terns).  I met John King at Splash Point just after 06:00 and we were just about to give up after an hour of very little (4 Sanderling best) when Simon Linington and John Gowers arrived.  It would have been rude to have left at this point, and Simon is eagle-eyed and not someone one wants to leave anywhere so we stayed.  It was fortunate that we did so as a Hobby came I a couple of minutes later but it as slow going with 13 more Sanderling, a Whimbrel, a very distant Arctic Skua and two second-summer Mediterranean Gulls in two hours.  most entertainment was provided by a Grey Seal that swam past, hauled itself onto the beach and proceeded to have a good scratch.  Meanwhile the local Ravens were raiding nests in the Kittiwake colony.  A Kittiwake pulled one off its nest but to no avail as the Raven returned and stole an egg.  The Kittiwake looked quite distressed returning to find it gone.  A walk around Hope Gap produced nothing of note.

Grey Seal on Seaford beach
Sanderling under the basket at Splash Point, Seaford
Monday-Friday 20-24 May.  A female-plumaged Black Redstart was singing from the timber yard east of Southwick Power Station most days with the Rock Pipit in song by Carot's Cafe on Thursday morning.

Tuesday 21 May.  An evening visit to Graffham Common for my Woodcock survey produced another blank with distantly heard Cuckoo and Tawny Owl little consolation.  Two blank visits are thankfully enough but not knowing when to quit, and finding Woodcock one of our most comical birds, I agreed to survey Lavington Common as i intended going there anyway.

Saturday 25 May.  During five hours walking around the Knepp Estate as far as Knepp Mill Pond I saw 7 Buzzards, 3 Lapwing, 5 Stock Doves, 2 Cuckoos, Nightingale (plus 3 heard), Reed Warbler and 4 Garden Warblers.  I had seen Turtle Dove and Spotted Flycatcher here in 2011 but sadly neither were evident today.

A pleasant still but not overly warm evening produced a brief Wood Lark, 3 singing Tree Pipits and 2 Yellowhammers on Lavington Plantation.  Lavington Common didn't let me down with 10 Woodcock encounters during the 75 minute survey.  In this time I also heard Cuckoo, at least 3 Tawny Owls and a brief and fairly distant Nightjar.  Not to do better with the latter was disappointing but it was rather cold.

Saturday 18 May 2013

Margate Dusky Thrush (18 May 2013)

Monday 13 May.  Female plumaged Black Redstart singing by Shoreham Power Station on the way to work.

Tuesday 14 May.  Excellent views of singing Wood Warbler on a  pre-work visit to Buchan Park on the edge of Crawley.  Not helped by being caught up in an impromptu night closure on the A23 and the parks car park not opening until 08:00.  I was gone by 06:15.  Two Stock Doves, two Swallows and a Blackcap on Richmond Hill and Herring Gull A5HH by the University Sports Centre.

Thursday 16 May.  5-6 Swifts over our road - welcome back.  Mistle Thrush on Southwick Green and Peregrine on the Power Station chimney. 

Friday 17 May.  Sandwich Tern off Southwick and two Swifts over our road.  Went ot bed 11.20pm without looking at my pager.

Saturday 18 May.  Woken at 5 am by my mobile.  Got up to look and it was John King.  The land-line rang while I was in the toilet, still in a daze.  Megan answered it thinking it might be an emergency.  Dusky Thrush in Kent - it was!!.  I arranged to meet JK soon after 05.30, texted DC in case he'd not heard and was off.  JK and I arrived at about 07:25, just before the Coopers.  We watched the bird for over two hours getting excellent views and some reasonable digiscoped images - as will be appearing on many blogs tonight!  Both JK and I had to be back, me for a family engagement do at our house, so we left at 10 am very satisfied.  My first new bird in Britain for nearly two years, potential quackers excepted.

even when hiding there was often something of interest to note, here the claws showing no obvious evidence of wear

Friday 17 May 2013

CORSICA May 2013: Bonifacio and prehistoric sites of south-west

Friday 10 May.  Our plan was to drive to Bonifacio, walk to Cape Pertusato (me in the hope of seeing some migrants) and, after a look around town, take an afternoon ferry to Santa Teresa-Gallura in northern Sardinia.  An early evening return would hopefully be good for shearwaters.  That was the plan.  We'd not taken account of it being the hottest day we were away, Bonifacio being crowded as many took the day off to make a long weekend and an increasing wind which made Megan feel queasy just looking at the sea.  The reality was a walk to the Semaphore Station (not quite as far as the Cape) with any migrants keeping their heads well down in the freshening breeze although we did see Mediterranean Shag, Sardinian Warbler and four Ravens.  A look around town wasn't ideal in the heat and crowds but two fine Alpine Swifts amongst many Pallids and what looked like a pucka male Spanish Sparrow were bonuses.  
showy Sardinian Warbler

view to Cape Pertusato
lighthouse at Cape Pertusato with Sardinia in the background
panorama of above view
view back to Bonifacio
panorama from the Semaphore Station
Bonifacio from afar

approaching Bonifacio showing impressive citadel walls

narrow street within the citadel
motorbikes are a popular form of transport
Bonifacio cemetry
Yellow-legged Gull
 We returned to Santa Giula after an abortive attempt to get to the end of the Chiappa headland and later had an enjoyable walk along the beach to the lagoon where a male Red-footed Falcon did a brief fly-by.  The lagoon also hosted the only duck of the trip, two Mallard.

Hooded Crow
Santa Giula bay
Megan returning from the lagoon
Saturday 11 May.  I was up before dawn to drive back down to Bonifacio and Capo Pertusato for a couple of hours of seawatching/looking for migrants.  I parked at the Semaphore Station and walked to the Cape finding some shelter from a strong wind behind low bushes along the cliff top.  I wasn't used to sea-watching from much above sea-level but within 10 minutes I'd seen both Scopali's and Yelkouan Shearwaters heading north at a moderate distance and ended up seeing 33 and 59 of each respectively - the wind was clearly in my favour!  After an hour, during which time a female Peregrine cruised north along the cliff top, I tried to find some migrants but had to settle for a single Spotted Flycatcher and a couple of presumably resident Sardinian Warblers.  A gulley north of the Semaphore Station went down to a beach where offshore a few Yelkouan Shearwaters were on the sea with some Mediterranean Shags.  I'd parked near the cliff top and the car decided to do a rendering of 'panpipes of the Andes' as the wind whistled loudly through its roof-rack - at first I thought it was a nearby camper with a radio on full volume!
juvenile Mediterranean Shags with diagnostic pale underparts

Scopoli's Shearwater

Yelkouan Shearwaters

with Yellow-legged Gull
migrant Spotted Flycatcher
view north from Cape Pertusato showing Semaphore Station and Bonifacio in the distance
Bonifacio in early morning sun
I returned to Santa Giula soon after 9 a.m. and we headed off towards Ajaccio with a few ancient sites to look at on the way.  The first was in many ways the most impressive, the Alignements de Palaggiu.  Twelve kms down a dead-end minor road and then a 1.5 km walk along a gravel track through the maquis, they were not the sort of place one found without really wanting to visit.  The standing stones, over 3500 year old, were impressive and lined up as they were amongst the vegetation made the visit very worthwhile, more so as we saw 12 Bee-eaters and a Long-tailed Tit on the walk back to the car.
someone reluctant to be lined-up at Alignements de Palaggiu
Standing Stones in natural overgrown habitat

Wall Lizard
Nearby were Megalithes de Cauria, a half hour circuit encompassing two more lots of even older (1900 BC) Standing Stones (Stantari & Renaggiu) and a burial chamber made up of giant slabs of rock (Dolmen de Fontanaccia).  They didn't seem quite as natural with detracting fencing around some of them.  We saw the only Wheatear of the trip at Stantari.
Standing Stones at Stantari
the better preserved stones had faces and weapons.  Others were thought to have been worn away by animals rubbing against them although the barbed wire was more to keep tourists out.
Renaggiu looked more like an old graveyard ...
... with some very big gravestones
Dolmen de Fontanaccia, neatly fenced off ...
The final stop of our ancient heritage trail was Filitosa, half-way back to Ajaccio.  This was rather more commercialised, and busier, than the other sites but although the stones themselves were more impressive and the setting very nice (Hoopoe and Corsican Woodchat in the grounds) piped music and audio commentaries in a choice of languages made the place seem rather more like a theme park.  We found our hotel and drove into Ajaccio for a pizza.
one of the better preserved stones at Filitosa
faced stones at filitosa

Corsican Woodchat Shrike, lacking a white primary patch
this was the only one we saw

Sunday 12 May.  We returned the car first filling it up with diesel.  We'd driven almost 1100 kms in our week and the fuel gauge hadn't quite reached the red.  I was expecting it to have a huge tank but 73 Euros filled it up!  Our flight was on time and thanks to Oakhurst park-at-my-house we were back home in Shoreham within two hours of touching down at Gatwick.  A very enjoyable holiday that exceeded our expectations, and I'm not aware that I missed anything crucial locally while I was away.