Saturday, 30 May 2015

Red-necked Phalarope (Sidlesham, 30 May)

Saturday 30th.  John King and I decided to head down to Pagham for the morning, the Black-winged Stilt on Sidlesham Ferry being of only moderate temptation after last years breeding pair.  We arrived at the ferry at 07:00 and after a quick scan located the stilt right at the back of the ferry pool.  I watched it and tried some digiscoped shots and after a while John decided to count the Avocets.  He got to the last one and discovered a Red-necked Phalarope swimming around it!  We put the news out and spent 2.5 hours watching it, it was a hard bird to leave especially as it was favouring the near centre of the pool and was in very good plumage.  My first since 2002.  As well as the phalarope and stilt we saw 8 Avocets, 129 Black-tailed Godwits, 15 Dunlin and a Shelduck family and heard a Cuckoo.  It was very cold (I was glad I still had gloves in my coat) and we dragged ourselves away to go to Medmerry with Bob Self where we saw 2 Little Terns, 7 Sanderling, 15 Grey Plover and a Corn Bunting.  At Church Norton were 22 Saderling, 57 Dunlin, 2 Mediterranean Gulls, Red-legged Partridge, Cuckoo and a Spotted Flycatcher.   We returned to the phalarope although by then it was much further away and the light not so good.  It also wasn't a lot warmer.  There were fewer godwits on the ferry but Avocet numbers had almost doubled to 15.  We called in at Ivy Lake on the way home seeing 100+ Swifts and a Long-tailed Tit family.  An excellent day although hearing the gory details of Ads et als recent trip to Scandinavia was rather gripping (as had been Matt's blog of it).  They had been too early for Red-necked Phalarope, a disappointment that was short lived, at least for Ads and Matt.

Black-winged Stilt at the rear of Sidlesham Ferry pool
a very pale legged individual
at least it was large enough to get reasonable digiscoped images

on a rare foray to the near side of the ferry pool, where the mud was much thicker!
Red-necked Phalarope on Sidlesham Ferry
found by John King while I was looking the other way
I thought it was a female
although head-on images are not so convincing
a splendid bird whatever

phalaropes have always been a favourite of mine and a good plumaged Red-necked is the best of them all
Little Tern at Medmerry

one of nine juvenile Long-tailed tits at Ivy Lake
note the wattle-eye
they must have very recently left the nest
Friday 29th.  Two Swifts over the house.

Thursday 28th.  An hour at Pulborough early evening produced a Little Ringed Plover, 30 Swifts, my first Sussex Sand Martin this year(!) and an excellent view of a Nightingale (thanks Gordon).  At Lavington just one Woodcock, two Nightjars, a Cuckoo and 4 Yellowhammers.
Lavington at dusk.  Just one Woodcock flypast was a concern although it was surprisingly cold

Wednesday 27th.  Four Swifts over the house.

Tuesday 26th.  A Peregrine on southwick Power Station chimney on my way to work and two Swifts over the house.

Monday 25th.  A Nightingale was singing and showed briefly at Mill Hill while walking around with Megan.  Also a Corn Bunting and later four Swifts over the house.

Sunday 24th.  During a walk around the southern part of the Knepp Estate with Megan we saw Red Kite, 4 Buzzards, a pair of Turtle Dovves, 3 Cuckoos, Nightingale (one glimpsed and another heard) and Garden Warbler (one seen and 4 heard).  Later four Swifts over the house.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Sussex (12-23 May)

Saturday 23rd.  A pleasant morning in Ashdown forest with John King.  We saw 5 Wood Lark, 5 Tree Pipits, 6 Redstarts, an unexpected Dartford Warbler and 2 Redpolls but only heard Cuckoo.
male Redstart singing from the top of a pine

Tree Pipit

Thursday 21st.  Megan and I dug out an old South Downs Circular Walks book and did one between Steepdown and Cissbury.  Nice but few birds with a Yellowhammer and 5 Corn Buntings best.  Three Swifts over the house.

Tuesday 19th.  A Peregrine was sheltering on the east side of Southwick Power Station as I cycled home into the wind.  One Swift over the house.

Sunday 17th.  Megan and I walked from Crowlink to Belle Tout and back on a gloriously sunny morning.  Spectacular views of the Seven Sisters but few birds with 5 Stonechats and a Raven with two juveniles best.
juvenile Ravens enjoying the sun

Megan on the Seven Sisters
looking west to Seaford Head
Stonechat near Belle Tout

Saturday 16th.  An enjoyable two and a half hours walking around the southern section of the Knepp 'rewilding' was full of birdsong with two Turtle Doves, two Cuckoos and 5 Garden Warblers the most notable sightings.  This and the Norfolk Estate at the Burgh give one an idea of how the Sussex countryside was before modern farming techniques took their toll on wildlife.

Friday 15th.  A Swift over the house.

Thursday 14th.  A seawatch from the end of Shoreham Harbour in a strong, cold, easterly produced just 6 Gannets before I gave up - I wasn't suitably dressed for a long session anyway.  Five Whimbrel on the beach seemed as unimpressed as I was.  Megan and I then walked around Rackham where a Cuckoo and Stonechat were best.  Later 4 Swifts over the house.

Wednesday 13th.  Just managed to do my first Downland Bird Survey ahead of the mid May deadline.  Highlights from the area immediately west of the Burgh, although not all part of the survey, were 2-3 Red Kites, 13 Grey Partridges, Lapwing, 7 Stock Doves, Cuckoo, 9 Sky Larks and single Yellowhammer and Corn Bunting.  I then called in at Pulborough seeing a pair of Pintail, 2 Little Ringed Plover (probably also a pair), Cuckoo, 2 Nightingales, Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Garden Warblers, Spotted flycatcher and Bullfinch.  A Dunlin was on the Adur (the only notable bird so far all month) and 9 Swifts were over the house in the evening.

Tuesday 12th.  A Ringed Plover was on southwick Beach when I cycled home with 7 Swifts over the house in the evening.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Seaford and Holkham (10 May)

Sunday 10 May.  My third successive morning with John King seawatching at Seaford in the vain hope of seeing some Pomarine Skuas.  Even one would have been nice.  Each day was successively worse and the first was pretty poor to start with.  Two hours was about all we could take and we decided to try Seaford Head before giving it another go.  Matt Eade had a similar idea but was an hour ahead of us and reappeared at Splash Point just as we were thinking of leaving.  We saw at least 4 of the spotted Flycatchers he had had in Harry's Bush and scoped the Spoonbill but a pager message about a mobile and elusive Citril finch in Norfolk had us heading back to Splash in the hope of more positive news.  Little was forthcoming in an even quieter hour's seawatch then it was reportedly seen again in the same area.  Matt and JK were keen to go and it didn't take much twisting of my arm to join them.  Matt drove, so we made excellent time, stopping to pick up Mick Davis at Pease Pottage.  We arrived at Lady Anne's Drive just before 3pm and then had a 25 minute route march to where the bird had been seen.   It was all I could do to keep up with Matt and was very glad he decided not to run!  We arrived and had just found a position when the bird was picked up flying towards us.  It did a big circuit showing its colours but no critical detail before dropping out of sight.  We had seen the bird but it wasn't really an acceptable view. Fortunately it was relocated about 10 minutes later when it gave good 'scope views and allowed me to get the record shots below.  We then left, calling in on a trip of Dotterel just SW of Titchwell after rather more diversions for a closed road that would have been necessary with adequate signing. The Dotterel were distant, in haze, and at the brow of a field.  There were/had been 24 but the most I could convince myself of counting in a single scan was 21 and 2 of those might have been stones - although they appeared to have moved on a later scan.  Certainly at least 19.  Matt drove us back to Seaford with a Barn Owl on the way and I was home by 22:20.  An excellent day (thanks for twisting my arm and some epic driving Matt), great company and a superb bird.  Much better than seawatching!

Citril Finch at Holkham.  It spent almost an hour feeding unobtrusively in a fairly open glade at the extreme western end of the pines allowing good scope views - better than these images suggest!  It was unringed and in immaculate plumage.

the olive green rather than a brownish mantle rules out Corsican Citril (see below)
Corsican Citril, Col de Sorba, 9 May 2013 (see

My seawatch records for 8-10 May are as follows.  My arrival on 8th being just too late to pick up 2 Avocets that were flying east while I later missed two Swifts.

08-May-15 09-May-15 10-May-15 10-May-15
06:40-14:30 06:15-10:15 06:15-08:15 10:00-11:00
diver sp. 1E
Great Crested Grebe 1E
Fulmar 40+
Gannet 7E:7W 10E:3W 18E:3W
Brent Goose 1E 2E
Shoveler 2E
Eider 1m on beach
Common Scoter 154E 38E 8E:9W 34E
Red-breasted Merg 2E:3W
Marsh Harrier 1f in
Peregrine 1
Oystercatcher 24E:1W 3E:8W
Grey Plover 3E
Knot 3E
Sanderling 2E
Whimbrel 42E 1E
Bar-tailed Godwit 29E
Great Skua 1E 2E
Arctic Skua 4E (1p3d) 1E (d)
Black-headed Gull 15E
Kittiwake 400+
Sandwich Tern 40E 18E 13E:3W
Common Tern 3E
Little Tern 1E
auk sp. 2E 1E:1o/s
Swallow 47 in 21 in 14 in
House Martin 2 in 2 in
Rock Pipit 1
Raven 1

Thursday, 7 May 2015


We had not managed a family holiday with Nessa and Josh (now both in their 20s) for several years but tempted them to join us in western USA, made possible by cheap Air New Zealand flights to Los Angeles.  I was very keen to see Olive Warbler as it is in a family of its own but it was not a birding trip as such.  The Grand Canyon was an obvious draw and we fitted in a few other places too, some birdy and some not.  A few pics follow, more posts will be done when time allows.

Western Gull on the beach near LAX
Las Vegas - not quite as bad as I was expecting but an evening was more than enough for me. 
Vermillion Cliffs - easy to guess what it is a site for

Grand Canyon
Western Bluebird at the Grand Canyon
Monument Valley
Petrified Forest
Rock Wren - it was feeding on the radiator of our first car
ghost town of Fairbank
White-crowned Sparrow at San Pedro House
auto-focus failing badly on Red-faced Warbler in the Santa Catalinas
Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum

Cactus Wren chicks

Bobcat at the Salton Sea
Joshua Tree National Park