Monday, 26 May 2014

West Sussex Stilts and Turtle Doves (25-26 May)

Monday 26 May.  I started on the Adur at low tide on the off-chance I might get a confirmed reading of yesterday's presumed Buckinghamshire Herring Gull.  It was not amongst the few gulls there although another North Thames Herring Gull was, along with 5 Ringed Plover.  I met John King and we drove to Earnley.  We had not been to Medmerry from this side but had not picked the best day to go - so much for the pre-weekend forecast.  It was an impressive area and we saw the pair of Black-winged Stilts, 5 pairs of Avocets (two sitting, the others 3 with 3, 1 and 1+ chicks), a pair of Little Ringed Plovers with 2 chicks, single Greenshank, Sanderling and Dunlin and 2 Curlew.  Despite continual light rain the walk there and back produced 2 Cuckoos, 4 Yellowhammers and a Corn Bunting.  We called in at Church Norton to take advantage of a brief improvement in the weather and a falling tide, seeing 36 Sanderling, 15 Dunlin, a summer-plumaged Knot, 40+ Ringed Plovers, a Bar-tailed Godwit and two each of Little, Common and Sandwich Terns.  The rain restarted as 2 Red-legged Partridges scuttled across the churchyard.  There were 6 Avocets and 9 Black-tailed Godwits on Sidlesham Ferry and 300 Swifts and 25 House Martins over Ivy lake.  An enjoyable day despite the weather.
Black-winged Stilt on nest at Medmerry
the eggs were left unattended (but guarded by RSPB volunteers) for several minutes between shift changes.  it seemed a long time in the cold wet weather.
the nest seemed to have involved no building or scraping at all and was rather too close to the waters edge for comfort, at least on a wet day
those legs were not designed for sitting on
it was surprisingly well camouflaged when sitting, although the dull weather doubtless helped
North Thames Herring Gull F9BT on the Adur.  Now in its third calendar year, I had seen it on the beach at Widewater in February 2013
Sunday 25 May.  With a stronger wind than forecast I seawatched at Widewater from 06:30-07:30 seeing 57 Gannets, 66 Common Scoter and 20 Sandwich Terns.  There was no enough visibly passing to keep my interest but it looked like another day that I would have done better going to Seaford.   Back on plan I headed for the Knepp Estate.  In much nicer weather than my previous visit I heard then saw 2 superb Turtle Doves, 2 Cuckoos and a Garden Warbler.  I also saw 2 male Mandarins, 2 Red Kites, Lapwing, 3 Stock Doves, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers at a nest hole, 9  Mistle Thrushes, 2 Jays, Treecreeper and 4 Bullfinches.  I also heard Nightingale and Yellowhammer.  Taking advantage of the nice weather Megan and I walked up Southwick Hill to Thundersbarrow where 15 Swifts and a House Martin were flying low over the fields.  a later afternoon low-tide visit to the Adur produced two colour-ringed Herring Gulls, North Thames TM9T that I'd seen there on 16 May (and in March and July 2013 following sightings in Essex, Kent and Pas-de-Calais) and what appeared to be 0956, likely from Gerrards Cross Landfill in Buckinghamshire.
Fallow Deer on the Knepp Estate
Turtle Dove on the Knepp Estate
When I started birding I rather took Turtle Doves for granted.  Without trying I averaged about 50 per year from the early 1970s to the mid 1980s (including over 200 in 1981) but numbers have been falling increasingly rapidly ever since.
I saw just 6 Turtle Doves during 2010-13.  Maltese hunters are probably not entirely responsible for the decline but they can not be helping.  Where are the EU when you need them?  Full marks to Chris Packham for highlighting their plight, the most worthwhile thing he's done so far IMHO!
colour-ringed Herring Gull considered to be 0956, I couldn't be certain of the 9 and while moving closer the bird stepped into a hollow obscuring the first two digits.  It then flew off as a bait-digger approached.  Previously on the Adur I had seen two birds ringed at Gerrards Cross Landfill (Bucks), 0977 in July and November 2012 and 0595  in November 2006.  It is a good bet this is a third.
Saturday 24 May.  A weekend day in late May, potentially what could be better in Sussex, but after a seawatch from Shoreham Fort which produced a Fulmar, 2 Gannets and 11 Sandwich Terns I returned home and spent much of the rest of the day scanning old holiday pics.

Monday 19-Friday 23 May.  Cycling to and from work I saw the Power station Peregrines twice, once the male was on the 'ring' directly above the female and he looked tiny.  One or two Ringed Plover were seen most days with possibly 4 birds involved, a Stock Dove visited our garden regularly with up to 5 Swifts seen over our road each evening.  Less usual from the bike were 3 Gannets off Brighton seafront and a Sparrowhawk over our house, both on 23rd.

Stock Dove on our bird table

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