Saturday, 31 October 2015

Beachy (31 October)

Saturday 31st.  After the excitement of recent visits it was back to normal at Beachy.  A pleasant but rather quiet morning walking around with David and John Cooper, Brenda Kay and John King.  Highlights were Tawny Owl, Black Redstart, 3 Redwings, at least 4 Dartford Warblers, 19 Goldcrests, 570 Goldfinches and 2 Redpolls.  I then walked around Crowlink which was even quieter (single Goldcrest and Raven) before calling in at Seaford Barn where the Snow Bunting was keeping its head down in long grass and the dung heap. Last stop was Southease where I arrived just too late to see the Osprey on the riverbank feeding on a fish.  Fortunately I heard some gulls calling as I was approaching the river and saw the Osprey flying away down river being harried by gulls and still carrying its fish.
Dartford Warbler above Belle Tout Wood, at least 4 were flicking around 

two of the Dartford Warblers

Tawny Owl at Beachy

Raven on Seaford Head Barn
Snow Bunting on Seaford Head

Thursday 29th.  Megan and I visited a very quiet and damp Rackham where a Treecreeper was instructional (short bill and white flanks) but 4 Goldcrests.  Seven Egyptian Geese were on Parham Park pond.
Autumn colours at Rackham
Three of the seven Egyptian Geese at Parham
Parham pond in drizzle
Wednesday 28th.  Very little seen on the Adur (twice), Widewater or Brooklands.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Short-toed Treecreeper at Beachy (27 October)

While at work on Tuesday morning I received a phone call from David Cooper to say that John had found an interesting looking treecreeper in the Old Trapping Area at Beachy Head.  It had responded to recordings of Short-toed Treecreeper and had buffy flanks. He was going over and did I want a lift?  I quickly sent an email to work colleagues suggesting I might be late for a meeting that afternoon and was ready to go.  At least this time, unlike the Squacco Heron dash from work, I had my 8x20 binoculars with me.  

We arrived at Beachy at about 11am to find a number of birders assembled and the bird not having been seen for 20 minutes.  With no further sign and the bird missing for longer than any time previously we became increasingly anxious that it had left the isolated clump of bushes.  At about noon it was seen again, much to our relief, and I saw it at eye level on the side of one of the nearer trees where it remained in view, partially obscured, for 2-3 minutes. I was struck by its long bill with pale lower mandible and extensive warm-buff flanks.  It flew further into the clump and wasn't seen again despite us searching for a further three hours. I particularly felt for Jake who arrived just too late for the last sighting, cruel luck.  I would have been in a similar position had David not given me a lift ...

There was some debate about the birds identity helped by some very convincing photos taken by John Cooper.  The best is reproduced below, more are on John's blog

Short-toed Treecreeper at Beachy 27 October (John Cooper).  To me this image shows the full suite of features pointing towards Short-toed - long bill with completely pale lower mandible, short hind-claw, white throat, greyish washed breast and belly, very warm buff flanks, only very indistinct supercilium in front of the eye, small white tip to alula which has a continuous pale outer edge, fairly even stepped shape to outer edge of golden wingbar with saw-shaped inner edge, dark outer edges to tertials and small white tips to primaries with p6-8 evenly spaced and a big gap to p9 &p10. 
A more detailed analysis of this bird is on David's very informative blog, see  My feeling is that while none of the plumage features may be diagnostic the overwhelming impression is of everything seen being very suggestive of Short-toed Treecreeper.  Add to this Roger Haggar (and others) hearing the distinctive call and Doreen considering its response to the tape to be identical it seems on call and a suite of characters to be a safe identification.

The bird was in the most isolated group of bushes on Beachy Head and one of the nearest to the lighthouse so it is easy to imagine it being the birds first landfall, rather than a wanderer from further inland.  The area's unsuitablility for the species - and one a local wanderer is unlikely to venture into? - perhaps being demonstrated by it seeming to have moved off after its final sighting.  Several treecreepers have been seen on Beachy Head, although they are less than annual, none in the Old Trapping Area and none that I have seen were really worth much more than a second glance, unlike this bird ...

A similar, although shorter-billed bird was in Essex in April 2005.  It was heard but not trapped and was accepted by british birds in 2006.  Photos are on Birdguides (see  Birding World did a page spread on it in volume 18 number 4 (p145)

Congratulations to John Cooper on finding another new bird for Sussex.  Thoroughly well deserved for all the visits made to Beachy, the more recent ones often under adverse conditions.

To cap our visit we eventually saw the Pallas's Leaf Warbler along the western edge of Belle Tout Wood although the views were not great.  Having spent most of Sunday 25th at Beachy and checked the wood a couple of times hoping to find a Pallas's I had been somewhat disappointed when it was found on Monday lunchtime.  

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Beachy Bluethroat (25 October 2015)

Sunday 25th.  Ten hours at Beachy in very pleasant conditions and mostly with the usual suspects but birds were thin on the ground.  A Bluethroat at Shooters Bottom was an excellent find for Bob and Keith, fortunately it was later refound nearby by Neil.  I also saw Golden Plover (my first of the year), 30 Stock Doves, 2 Short-eared Owls, Black Redstart, Wheatear, Ring Ouzel, Fieldfare, 3 Dartford Warblers, 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Goldcrests, 3 Brambling and 30 Redpolls.

Bluethroat at Shooters Bottom.  In focus but looking away ...
looking the right way but blurred - not helped by my running up when Neil refound it and kindly called us over
Black Redstart by Belle Tout Lighthouse

Small Copper, one of several butterflies still on the wing
Saturday 24th.  Megan and I visited Pulborough.  The Pectoral Sandpiper was giving distant views (as one expects at Pulborough) from Hale's viewpoint.  We also saw a Green Sandpiper and 40 Fieldfares while Highland cattle roaming free in the woodland nearby added some interest along with a couple of deer and some fungi past their best.  A late afternoon low tide visit to the Adur for more digiscoping practice produced a new colour-ringed Great Black-backed Gull, assumed to be from Guernsey.
Pectoral Sandpiper just visible, with some imagination, at the rear right of the pool.
Great Black-backed Gull 6AA9
Lesser Black-backed Gull on the Adur

gulls on the Adur
this one caught my eye
quite a striking bird, it had me scratching my head ...
is it a Caspian as this image might suggest
or Yellow-legged as it appears to lack a paler inner primary window?
or a hybrid?  Comments welcome

Thursday 22nd.  Megan and I walked around Cissbury which was rather quiet.  We could not find any Ring Ouzels although two Mistle Thrushes, perhaps those seen on our previous visit, were nice.  Otherwise Blackcap and Yellowhammer were best.  A low tide visit to try some digiscoping with my new compact camera was equally quiet with another sighting of North Thames Herring Gull UU7T and a Curlew notable.
Mistle Thrushes at Cissbury
Herring Gull digiscoped on our roof
North Thames Herring Gull UU7T on the Adur
previously seen on the Adur in June, ringed as a first-winter at Rainham in December 2011.
Little Egret
Memorial ribbons on the Old Toll Bridge

Sunday 18th.  Megan and I visited Sheffield Park, perhaps not the best idea on a Sunday as despite arriving only ten minutes after it opened the car park was almost full!  Superb autumn colours, interesting fungi and Treecreeper, Nuthatch and Jay made for an enjoyable visit.