Friday, 31 July 2015

dull July days in West Sussex

Friday 31st.  It is easy to forget how good Sussex was in June and at the start of July (Bee-eaters, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Terek Sandpiper and Squacco Heron) but for me at least it has been exceptionally quiet since then.  Now, just as the first returning migrants are starting to appear along the coast, I am away for a couple of weeks or so.  About 30 Swifts put on good display this evening over the garden.  Watching over our house has given e a lot of enjoyment this month. Tonight was my last chance to see them this year as they will be gone when I'm next home.

Thursday 30th.  Most of the day packing, given with some respite by a walk around the houseboats with Megan where 3 Little Egrets and an Oystercatcher were seen.  Lots of Black-headed Gulls circling around high over the house, maybe there are some flying ants about?  At least 20 Swifts overhead too and at least 14 shooting around at dusk.  Brilliant.

Wednesday 29th.  Megan and I walked around the Burgh but with the hedges grown up a lot this year views across the fields were greatly restricted in some places.  Despite this we saw 6 Red Kites (and 1 over the A27 north of Highdown), 2 Marsh Harriers (a female and juvenile), 40 Grey and a Red-legged Partridge, 70 Swifts and a Raven.  Just one Buzzard and no buntings though.  Later a low tide visit to the Adur was very quiet - four Little Egrets, no notable gulls and no waders.

Raven at the Burgh
Marsh Harrier
Red Kite at the Burgh

Burgh butterflies

Tuesday 28th.  A Peregrine on Southwick Power Station Chimney and 6 Swifts over our house in the evening.

Monday 27th.  A Sparrowhawk in Stanmer Park.  No Swifts seen in the evening but it was still raining. 

Saturday 25th.  Hard to work up enthusiasm for more than a cycle down to the Adur. I was rewarded with four Sandwich Terns (one a juvenile) and three Oystercatchers (2+1).  Later 14 Swifts over the house.
Sandwich Terns on the Adur

nice dark edges to the juveniles covert and mantle feathers

Thursday 23rd. A visit to Arundel WWT with Megan.  Just one Scaly-sided Merganser seen on the Icelandic enclosure, very high water levels from the main hide with no waders and just a single Swallow seen.  Ten Swifts over the house in the evening. 

Wednesday 22nd.  Megan and I walked around Cissbury before an almost as exciting visit to Lidl!  The views from Cissbury were superb, as usual, but no evidence of any return passage with the possible exception of a single Swift.  Otherwise we saw 2 Buzzards, a noisy Green Woodpecker, 3 Yellowhammers and a few butterflies.  Later nine Swifts over the house.

Common Blue
it was our first blue of the year although we later saw a Chalkhill Blue
view to Lancing Ring, Southwick Power Station and, distantly in the murk, Belle Tout
one of several very vocal Sky Larks
Tuesday 21st.   A Peregrine on Southwick Power Station Chimney and 3 Swifts over our house in the evening.

Monday 20th.  20+ Swifts screaming over the house.
Sadly they won't be with us for much longer.

Sunday 19th.  A cycle around the usual sites in the Shoreham Area (the Adur for low tide, Widewater and Shoreham Fort) hardly elicited a notebook entry. Very few gulls, an Oystercatcher the only wader and Reed Warblers still active in the ditches.  Later 
27 Swifts screaming over the house.  As I get older I appreciate them all the more.

Saturday 18th.  Megan and I visited Kingly Vale, for me for the first time in fifteen years and a couple of blank visits looking for Golden Pheasant.  I first saw Golden Pheasant creeping around under the Yews there in June 1986, a single male.  I thought it much more impressive than a couple of males I had previously seen in the Brecklands in 1977 and 1978 although at that time I had not seen wild pheasants in Asia and fully appreciated how good (and skulking) they were.  Subsequent visits to Kingley Vale were almost always successful with peak counts of six males on 31 December 1987 and five males a female and two juveniles on 30 September 1989.  In December 1990 I saw five males including a flavescent bird that was to remain until 1998 when I last saw it, alone, on 31 January.  During the 1990s I saw Golden Pheasants 19 times at Kingley Vale and each time the flavescent bird was seen - perhaps helped by it standing out like a beacon on the dark forest floor. Worryingly I saw no females during this time, and only two in the 1980s, and numbers of males slowly dwindled so it was no surprise that they eventually disappeared.  A male in West Dean Woods in 2000 was the last I saw in Sussex while a female in China in 2010 is my only non-introduced sighting.  Back to the present, Megan and I saw no Golden or even Common Pheasants, no raptors, one Whitethroat and two Yellowhammers.  Views from Bow Hill were superb and we saw a good selection of butterflies.  I dropped Megan in Chichester, where she was going to the Theatre, and drove down to Pagham Harbour were I saw 80 Black-tailed Godwits, 3 Whimbrel, an adult Mediterranean Gull and 65 Sandwich Terns.  The tide was too high for the Hudsonian Whimbrel to be feeding and I had to leave to collect Megan before it had dropped enough for it to do so although I later discovered that it flew back to Church Norton as I was returning to the Visitor Centre.

Thorney, Hayling and the Isle of Wight from Kingley Vale at high tide
Peacock at Kingley Vale, one of many butterflies seen, one of the few I was confident of identifying!
looking northwest from Bow Hill
the Devil's Jumps from Bow Hill
Friday 17th.  A Peregrine on Southwick Power Station Chimney and 7 Swifts over our house in the evening.

Thursday 16th.  Megan and I did a circular walk from Steyning up around the Round Hill. 15 Swifts were over Steyning Church, and later 15 over our house, and 3 Yellowhammers on the walk. 

Wednesday 15th.  A low tide visit to the Adur produced a Ringed Plover and Whimbrel. There were 15 Swifts over our house in the evening.

a moth in my room that I eventually identified as a Small Magpie 
Tuesday 14th.  A Ringed Plover on Southwick Beach, a Peregrine on Southwick Power Station Chimney and 15 Swifts over our house in the evening.

Monday 13th.  A low tide visit to the Adur after work but very few gulls and just 3 Little Egrets. There were 7 Swifts over our house in the evening.

Sunday 12th.  A low tide visit to the Adur with Megan where a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was seen twice rather briefly.  Both times it flew before I could photograph it.

Saturday 11th.  A Buzzard and a Swift on a walk around Mill Hill with Megan and 11 Swifts over our house in the evening.

Friday 10th.  A Ringed Plover on Southwick Beach and 10 Swifts over our house in the evening.

Thursday 9th.  A Peregrine on Southwick Power Station Chimney and 11 Swifts over our house in the evening.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

a few days in the North East (4-8 July)

Megan and I spent a few days in the North East, driving up to Northumberland on Saturday 4 July and breaking the journey at Brodsworth Hall near Doncaster and eventually passing the Angel of the North.  We reacquainted ourselves with Alnwick where we had spent an enjoyable family holiday in 2009 and stayed for a night in a very nice B&B just off the A1 a few miles further north (the Coach House at Brownieside).  After breakfast we walked from Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle where a flock of 8 Goosanders flying south were an unexpected bonus.  We then drove to Seahouses and booked on the midday trip landing on Inner Farne.  The birds were as brilliant as I remembered, with large numbers of Puffins, Guillemots and Arctic Terns vying for attention.  A few Black-headed Gulls were breeding on the island and chased any approaching Puffin carrying food.  To avoid the gulls the Puffins almost flew right into their burrows, belly-flopping into the entrance and disappearing before a gull could reach them.  Our visit to the Farnes was all too soon over and we drove south to Amble where, at 60x magnification, I managed to pick out about 8 Roseate Terns, perhaps with a bit of imagination!  We continued south to Teeside where we spent three nights with Nick Preston in Redcar.  Nick and I hadn't managed to co-ordinate any trips together this year so this would be it.  On Monday Nick took us to Rievaulx Abbey and back across the North York Moors to Saltburn and on Tuesday to Durham.  Megan and I returned home on Wednesday breaking the journey at Bolsover Castle near Chesterfield.  A very enjoyable break to a part of the country we would visit much more frequently if it wasn't so far.

Brodsworth Hall gardens
Dunstanburgh Castle
 impressive ruins in a superb setting

looking south from Dunstanburgh.  Coquet Island is just visible on the central horizon, Craster in the middle distance
seabird cliffs at Dunstanburgh
Razorbills off Dunstanburgh
Swallow breeding on Dunstanburgh Castle ruins
Bamburgh Castle from the Farnes
Longstone Lighthouse, made famous by the exploits of Grace Darling

Grey Seals

Arctic Tern keeping an eye on us
its young chick was nearby
hard to imagine it flying to Antarctica in a few months time
adult and older juvenile

another meal for a hungry chick

having failed to see any spring Arctic Terns in Sussex this year (no great surprise as I didn't manage double figures of Commics) it was very nice to see them so well on the Farnes
Sandwich Tern colony on Inner Farne
Guillemots were still present in good numbers, although we were told that at least half had already left the Farnes.  Based on this sample about 1 in 6 were bridled and 1 in 30 pretending (not very convincingly) to be a Brunnich's
bridled Guillemot

Razorbill (and Kittiwake)

Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island
Puffins and Guillemots on Inner Farne

they are what most visitors most want to see and we were no exception
photographically irresistible

what took you so long!
leaving the Farnes on St Cuthbert III
Inner Farne from Seahouses
Seahouses Harbour

Eider in Seahouses Harbour
Coquet Island from Amble
the Roseate Terns I saw were in front of the right hand end of the white building
Redcar seafront and (not very far) offshore windfarm

Nick and Megan at Rievaulx Abbey

Rievaulx Abbey from Rievaulx Terrace
Doug, instillation art hoping for a home
Aunty Gravity

impressive as this bird was its almost £10k price tag made it unlikely it would find a home soon!
unlike this Wood Pigeon at Rievaulx, yours for a handful of seed
Redcar windfarm from Saltburn
Red Grouse near Danby

Durham Cathedral

weir on the Wear
Bolsover Castle being prepared for an episode of the Antiques Roadshow, something we were very pleased to miss by a day