Sunday, 29 March 2015

urban birding (29 March - Alpine Swift and tern-billed Gull)

I really do not enjoy urban birding and it takes something rather special for me to consider it. An Alpine Swift presumed to have roosted on the Virgin Atlantic Building in Manor Royal, Crawley was too tempting despite a poor forecast and a live Grand Prix on the BBC.  I arrived on site at 07:00 BST to find about 20 others gathered but the bird had not been seen.  After a couple of hours with no sign observers started drifting off and soon after 10:00 it appeared that Tony Cook, Gordon Beck and I were the only ones left.  The weather brightened and for a minute the sun broke through but still no sign of the bird along the sheltered side of the building where we were concentrating on watching.   Five minutes later we heard Lee Evans shouting 'did you see it'. No!  It had flown out of the front of the building and off due north. He and another had been in their cars out of view from us.  Lee had heard the other car door slam, which had woken him from a nap, and seen the bird fly directly over.  We had been looking in the wrong direction, bummer.  I assumed that it had gone but as it was not yet raining decided to wait at the Virgin Atlantic building in case it returned.  The others drove off to check other areas but 20 minutes later it came over my head and cruised around the building.  I quickly phoned Lee and Gordon at the bird performed well for an hour or so, disappearing for  20 minutes or so before returning.  It was flying very close to the building looking as if it was trying to land which it soon did, clinging to the top of the brickwork under the eaves.  Very nice.  While waiting for the swift I saw a pair of Grey Wagtails, a Jay and heard a Black Redstart.  It was also nice ot catch up with some friends.  Maybe urban birding isn't so bad after all.

Alpine Swift just visible behind the rain spots roosting on the Virgin Atlantic Building

I was too slow to take identifiable flight images 
not correcting for a light(ish) background didn't help either
much easier when it was still
although its head being in view would have been nice!
 It was low tide when I got back to Shoreham so I had a look at the gulls on the Adur

gulls on the Adur

North Thames H4NT.  Another North Thames bird was present but too distant to read.
 In 2005 there was a Gull-billed Tern on the Adur for several days in late May.  Now almost 10 years later a good contender for a tern-billed gull was present.

Saturday, 28 March 2015


Shoreham Harbour in the fog.  Two Purple Sandpipers and 13 Turnstones were here.  Widewater was no clearer with 7 Sanderling and 2 Turnstones on the beach.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

never ending northerlies saved by a SeO or two

Wednesday 25th.  I wasn't expecting much passage with a cold NNW wind and very clear visibility and so it proved with 105 Black-headed Gulls and a Gannet east and single Red-breasted Merganser and Little Egret west in an hour.  My visit to the end of Shoreham Harbour's West Arm was salvaged by a high Short-eared Owl coming in off the sea at 06:31.  It continued over Shoreham Beach with an escort of Herring Gulls.  At 06:57 a second bird, presumably different, did likewise coming in high from the SW.  A Rock Pipit was on the West Arm and a Peregrine on Southwick Power Station but few gulls were on the Adur at low tide.  A trip to Arundel WWT with Megan was also very quiet, although we heard 3 Cetti's Warblers and heard and saw several Chiffchaffs.

Short-eared Owl coming in high over Shoreham Harbour
it came in quite purposefully once it had shaken the gulls off
a very pleasant surprise on an otherwise very quiet visit

Short-eared Owl in front of Worthing Pier (left hand bird)
almost half an hour later it was almost certainly a different bird

Lancing seafront flats in the background
Harlequin at Arundel WWT - probably my favourite duck
and very active during our visit
unlike the Scaly-sided Merganser which I felt it time to get my annual fix of.  It remains very high on my most wanted list.
fully-winged Mandarin at Arundel
lovely bird
hard to resist a tame Robin

Tuesday 24th.  A Peregrine was on Southwick Power Station as I cycled to work.  Cycling is great, apart from when into a strong wind, in heavy rain or one has a puncture.  The latter is thankfully by far the most infrequent but I had a flat on the way to work and it took me the best part of half an hour to change it - most of it getting the tyre off the wheel.

Monday 24th.  Both Peregrines were on Southwick Power Station as I cycled to work.

Sunday 23rd.  I didn't manage to stick out an hour seawatching at Shoreham Harbour where nothing was going past and the highlight a Mallard inside the entrance.  The Adur was little better although a brief White Wagtail was nice.  In the afternoon Megan and I walked over the lock-gates seeing a Purple Sandpiper from the East Arm and a Peregrine on Southwick Power Station.

White and Pied Wagtails on the Adur
the White flew off before I could get better images, typically the Pied remained but I wasn't too interested in it.  The White shows a pale grey mantle, back and rump, clean flanks and a clear cut black nape.
Purple Sandpiper

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Seaford and Cuckmere (21 March 2015)

Saturday 21 March.  I met John King at Splash Point, Seaford where a very quiet seawatch (it was clear and northerly) produced a Slavonian Grebe on the sea and a Red-throated Diver, 16 Brent Geese, 3 Common Scoter and a Mediterranean Gull passing east.  A Rock Pipit and an alba Wagtail were on the breakwater and two colour-ringed gulls nearby.  We drove to the barn and walked a short circuit to the edge of the golf course and back up Hope Gap seeing only Meadow Pipits.  The Charleston Reedbed area was better although the wind had picked up and the more interesting birds were not overly co-operative.  The pair of Garganey were distant and often out of sight in vegetation, a Ruff only appeared out of a ditch once and the Great Grey Shrike although close was only seen briefly before dropping behind the riverbank.  A very low tide tempted me to try the Adur at dusk for more colour-ringed gulls but none were evident amongst the estimated 800 Common, 500 Black-headed and 300 Herrings gathered there.
local Herring Gull A7UZ at Splash Point, Seaford.  The second gull I looked at.
North Thames J1MT at Splash Point, Seaford.  The third gull I looked at.  The next hundred or so were unexceptional.
White Wagtail on the breakwater at Splash Point, Seaford (DC encouraged me to be bold!)
Brent Geese passing Seaford the easy way
Egyptian Goose with four of its five small goslings

drake Garganey north of Charleston Reedbed
the female was less obliging
Great Grey Shrike opposite Charleston Reedbed
it quickly dropped out of sight below the riverbank and did not reappear in the time we were there - presumably having found somewhere more sheltered.
gulls roosting on the Adur at low tide
Mediterranean Gull on the Adur.  Low tide was at dusk and the light was poor.

Friday 20 March.  A Peregrine on Southwick Power Station on my way to work.

Thursday 19 March.  A Peregrine on Southwick Power Station on my way to work.  A low tide is always welcome on the way home with hundreds of gulls gathering before roosting on the sea.  I estimated 700 Common, 500 Herring and 300 Black-headed but could pick nothing out amongst them with my 8x20s.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Sussex in mid March

Wednesday 18 March.  Three superb male Wheatears came in at Shoreham Harbour, two landing on the west arm and one on the east, before working their way north.  For me the first Wheaters are one of the year's most anticipated highlights and one that grows with each passing year, no matter how far behind the first arrival they are.  In this case 10 days later than birds seen at Pagham.   Also passing Shoreham Fort between 06:25-08:25 were 131 Brent Geese, 7 Shoveller, 7 Eider, 3 Common Scoter and a Red-breasted Merganser while 2 Rock Pipits were on the west arm and 2 Purple Sandpipers were under the wooden jetty.
early morning at Shoreham Fort
Friday's eclipse would show well in similar conditions
just arrived
the first Wheatear is always eagerly anticipated
and rarely disappoints
photogenic Turnstone
Teal at Widewater
Stock Dove in the garden
Tuesday 17 March.  Two Rock Pipits by Carats Cafe, 2 Peregrines on/near Southwick Power Station chimney and 40 Brent Geese flying east offshore.  Also local Herring Gull A4AH at the University.

Sunday 15 March.  A quiet hour at Shoreham Fort with just 2 Common Scoter and 2 Red-breasted Mergansers moving east and two Purple Sandpipers under the wooden jetty. Later Megan and I walked a circuit from Lancing Ring to Cowbottom and Steepdown seeing 4 Buzzards, 22 Sky Larks (many in song), 3 Fieldfares and a Raven.  My mum's 89th birthday.
Enid Collett leaving at high speed - someone in the sea off Worthing which proved to be a false alarm
trying out the new camera following its repair
it seemed to have been successful
although this Turnstone was a very obliging subject
Purple Sandpiper on the west arm

Rock Pipit on the west arm
the white tips to the median and greater coverts might be suggestive of littoralis
the same could be said of the white ground colour to the underparts
Raven over Coombes
Saturday 14 March.  A visit to Newhaven and the Cuckmere with John King.  At the former we saw 18 Snipe, Kingfisher, Richard's Pipit and Stonechat. John picked out the Great Grey Shrike north of Exceat Bridge and south of it we saw single White-fronted, Greylag and Barnacle Geese, a Norwegian colour-ringed Greater Black-backed Gull, 20+ Rock Pipits, 2 Chiffchaffs and best of all a smart Firecrest.

Richard's Pipit on the Ouse Estuary Project

Great Grey Shrike north of Exceat Bridge
one of the rare occasions it wasn't sheltering from the cold NE wind
the 'bandit' mask always looks good head on
juvenile White-fronted Goose, lower Cuckmere

Norwegian Greater Black-backed Gull, presumably J7426, lower Cuckmere

Friday 13 March.   Herring Gull A5HH at the University's Sports Centre.

Thursday 12 March.  The lock-gates were open for a boat on my way home so I went on to the east arm seeing 12 Turnstones but not the hoped for wheatear.

Wednesday 11 March.  An Eider flying east saved an hour at Shoreham Harbour from being almost birdless, an adult Mediterranean Gull and returning North Thames Herring Gull were seen on the Adur at low tide while a walk around Mill Hill with Megan produced a single Buzzard.
North Thames Herring Gull F9BT.  Seen by me at Widewater in February 2013 and on the Adur in May 2014.  It had been ringed as 1CY at Pitsea Landfill (Essex) in October 2012 and was seen (not by me) on the Adur in April 2013.

Monday 9 March.  A Peregrine on Southwick Power Station chimney.