Saturday, 13 June 2015

Water Rails and Whimbrel (9-13 June)

Saturday 13th.  I went to Woods Mill to look for Water Rails expecting it might take a while, and not really sure where to go, but on arriving at the bridge near the car park on flew across the stream and started feeding on the other side.  Soon one, then a second, juvenile appeared and the other adult. One or more were on view almost continually for the three hours I was there giving some brilliant views.  Also Cuckoo, Turtle Dove and Cetti's Warblers were heard.
juvenile Water Rail, the first I've seen!

although sexes are similar the male is bigger and has a brighter bill, making it the left hand of the two

this juvenile had a maroon bald patch

good swimmers from an early age
good runners too

making itself even rounder
their favoured stretch of riverbank

Friday 12th.  A Ringed Plover on Southwick Beach on my way to work and 3 Sandwich Terns offshore and a Peregrine on the corner of the Power Station when I came home where 8 Swifts were over the house.

Thursday 11th.  Back to Pagham hoping for better views of the Hudsonian Whimbrel of which I was only partly successful, and then only after 11 hours.  I decided not to get there particularly early as the light wouldn't be very good and although the bird was showing distantly when I arrived on site at 07.15 and continued to do so for two hours it did not fly in that period although Ewan, who had been there from dawn, told me it had done so 2-3 times before I arrived.  It appeared again briefly just before 10:00 but I missed it and was reported a couple of times during the middle of the day. It wasn't until 16:00 that I saw it again and then just its head and neck when it stretched, having decided to roost pretty much out of view at the back of a small grassy 'island'.  At 17:00 it got up and walked around, stretching its wings a bit, and at 17:30 it finally flew and became more active.  It had taken me over 10 hours to improve on my previous views. Just after 18:00 it flew around but ended up dropping down over towards the North Wall.  It seemed a good time to leave.  It was only in the last hour or so that I realised I was standing next to Dave Gibbs, one of my contemporary birding heroes who had done all sorts of pioneering trips in the 1980s.  I had no excuse for not recognising him as we'd met in Turkey three years earlier.  My excuse was that I wasn't paying much attention to other birders while I was looking for the bird!  The Ferry Pool had been nice on the way out with Green Sandpiper, Greenshank, 2 Little Ringed Plovers, 8 Avocets and 110 Black-tailed Godwits but the light was awful when I returned.  I did however see a Red Kite flying over the A27 east of Tangmere.

Great Crested Grebe and large youngster 

almost falling off!
Hudsonian Whimbrel on my second visit
the best I could manage in over 12 hours of trying

the generally more buffy plumage showed up in evening sunlight
our Whimbrel were much more contrastingly white below, and easier to see!
Wednesday 10th.  One of my days off but I'd agreed to go out with Megan so the Whimbrel would have to wait.  We walked around Highdown seeing Red Kite, Sparrowhawk, Goldcrest, Jay, 3 Bullfinches and a Yellowhammer.

Red Kite over Highdown

Tuesday 9th.  Jake Everitt kindly phoned to tell me a Hudsonian Whimbrel had been found at Church Norton by George Kinnard (thanks Jake).  A brilliant find of an ultra-rare, if somewhat debatable species, never previously seen in Sussex.  I was working and had a meeting all afternoon, to delay me further I was on my bike so it would take an hour to get home and by then traffic would be at its worst.  Also the tide would be at its highest before I arrived which would likely push it off.  Bummer.  I left work immediately after my meeting, cycled home in almost record time and drove over, arriving on site at about 19:15.  It had dropped into long grass in the middle of the harbour before I arrived and was infrequently sticking its head up.  After 15-20 minutes a contender appeared but it was hard enough to be sure it was a Whimbrel let alone the Hudsonian.  After 20 minutes of trying to convince myself it was it, the Hudsonian Whimbrel flew from behind the one we were looking at and further up the harbour.  Fortunately it was quite distinctive in flight!  it landed on the edge of the grass in full view but rather more distantly although I walked closer and had reasonable scope views before it flew again landing further back.  I'd seen it, had identifiable views but it was hardly satisfying.

the best I could manage of Hudsonian Whimbrel on the first evening
Monday 8th.  A male Mallard flew over the house as I was getting my bike out to go to work.  Six Swifts were flying around in the evening.

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