Sunday, 18 May 2014

Seaford seawatch & South Downs monitoring (17-18 May)

Sunday 18 May.  The forecast of a south-easterly, albeit a light one, made me feel that a final spring seawatch might be worthwhile.  I arrived at 05:40, a minute before John King, and an hour later was wishing I'd stayed in bed.  That all changed when a superb pair of Garganey flew east just off the beach at 06:47.  The morning got even better when two pale Pomarine Skuas flew east close inshore at 07:13 (they were clearly motoring as they were seen passing Birling 9 minutes later).  John King and I ended up staying for 7 hours.  Being in the company of Bob Self for much of it helped pass the time as passage was fairly slow but I ended up noting Red-throated Diver 1E, Gannet 22E, Shelduck 1E, Garganey 1 pair E,  Eider 1 imm male on sea, Common Scoter 415E, Sanderling 15E, Knot 1E (winter plumage), Whimbrel 1E, Pomarine Skua 10E (all pale, 2@07:13, 09:07, 09;10, 10:14, 11:11, 3@11:37 & 12:12), Arctic Skua 4E (all pale, after 11:00), skua sp. 1 on sea (landed at 12:00 before it could be unidentified but Pom suspected), Black-headed Gull 35E, Sandwich Tern 85E:3W, Common Tern 14E, Little Tern 3E, Guillemot 1E, auk sp. 3E, Swallow 1 in and Raven 1.  Similar totals for many species to the Beachy blog although only the first Poms were seen there.  The next two were a bit further out but the 10:14 bird was close, although put down on the sea a couple of times off Seaford and so did not appear to be in a hurry.  The others would have been after observations stopped at Beachy.  Less good for us was not seeing any Black Terns (Birling had 8).

Saturday 17 May.  My South Downs monitoring square near the Burgh was due its first visit.  It included an area where I had seen Turtle Dove last year which seemed a good reason to choose it.  No luck on this occasion but I did see 8 Grey Partridges, Red Kite, Cuckoo, 4 Mistle Thrushes, Marsh Tit (!), Yellowhammer and Corn Bunting. Less pleasant was a Magpie in a Larsen trap, not illegal but disappointing in an area that appears to do a lot for wildlife although seeing comments on Martin Casemore's excellent Ploddingbirder blog ( perhaps puts my squeamishness in context.  I'm also told authoritatively that Larsen traps are the least worst method of control so maybe I would not have seen Yellowhammer or Corn Bunting if they were not being used?

I went on to Littlehampton West Beach but had misjudged the tide which was higher than anticipated and there was no sign of the Kumlien's Gull.  Twelve Sanderling were on the remaining exposed sand and I heard a Cetti's Warbler behind the Golf Course but the only possible sign of migrants were 3 Swallows.  A walk around Lancing Ring and Steepdown with Megan produced more Yellowhammers and Corn Buntings than I had managed around the Burgh.

approachable Red Kite near the Burgh

Cuckoo near the Burgh
Corn Bunting

Magpie in a Larsen trap near the Burgh.  Their use is not illegal provided strict guidelines are followed and Magpies do take many nestlings but watching this bird almost constantly jumping around trying to escape made me feel that there must be a better way to control them but I'm told this is the least worst way (see above).

Friday 16 May.  The warmest day of the year so far seemed a good evening for a Woodcock survey at Lavington.  On the way I called in at the Adur seeing North Thames Herring Gull TM9T and two Ringed Plovers, then Greatham seeing a pair of Mandarin but not a distantly calling Cuckoo.  I probably saw 3 Woodcock at Lavington in what I felt was a disappointing session. Three Nightjars were calling, two quite close, but I failed to see them. Three distant Tawny Owls were also calling.

this gull caught my eye but so many immatures are looking very faded now
North Thames Herring Gull TM9T on the Adur.  I had seen it in March & July 2013.  It had been ringed Pitsea Landfill (Essex) as 1CY on 05/09/10, seen Dungeness on 17/11/10, Crayford Creek, N Kent on 21/01/11, Boulogne-sur-Mer Harbour, Pas-de-Calais on 18/11/12 and Holland Haven (Essex) on 17/12/12

Monday-Friday 12-16 May.  A Peregrine was on the Power station chimney most days with a Rock Pipit by the lock-gates twice and 2 Wheatears on Southwick Beach on 14th.  At dusk on 12th there were 19 Swifts over our road and we had a pair of Stock Dovves in the garden on 15th.

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