Sunday 24 April 2016

Short-eared Owls and Nightingales (23-24 April)

Sunday 24th April.  Very little was moving at Shoreham Harbour from 06:10-07:40 which was perhaps not unexpected in a cold northerly wind. Up to 9 Gannets were offshore, a Brent Goose, 4 Greylag Geese, 4 Whimbrel and 7 Sandwich Terns flew east with 2 of the latter and 2 Common Scoter west. Very slim pickings but it was a worthwhile visit as a Short-eared Owl came in, struggling somewhat against the stiff headwind and dodging the attention of a couple of gulls. It finally disappeared behind Southwick Power Station at 06:55. As I was leaving two Wheatears, a male and female, were on the beach. Nothing was on the Adur and Chiffchaff was the only notebook entry from a walk around Cissbury Ring with Megan although views to Beachy, Ashdown, Woolbeeding, Butser Hill, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight were superb.

Wheatear at Shoreham Fort

Saturday 23rd April. A couple of years ago I volunteered for South Downs Farmland Bird Monitoring requiring a not very onerous two visits to 'my' square just west of the Burgh. The first is in April to mid May and it seemed a good idea to do it on a day when there wasn't likely to be much passing on the sea (all too frequently the case this spring). I spent a couple of hours at Greatham first where the expected warblers performed well, a Short-eared Owl a pleasant surprise and no Cuckoos a disappointment.  My square produced a Red Kite, Grey and Red-legged Partridges and a single Yellowhammer - about par for the course. Afterwards I called in at Pulborough for a couple of hours and had good views of one Nightingale skulking under bushes and superb views of another that spent most of its time in the open.

Short-eared Owl at Greatham

the only Yellowhammer seen in TQ0310
Mistle Thrush
this is how Nightingales normally perform for me
sometimes they show a lot worse
this more showy individual was enjoying a bit of sun while standing on one leg!
and at times feeding on the grass - had it not read the book on expected Nightingale behaviour?

the same bird back on one leg

a rare view of a Nightingale's toenails
Grasshopper Warbler

one of my favourites

Thursday 21 April 2016

Poms past Shoreham (21 April)

Thursday 21st. A cold NE wind was uninspiring and thoughts of completing my first Downland Bird Survey of the year were soon put to one side. A seawatch from Shoreham Harbour was quiet with 7 Whimbrel east the only notable passage during 06:30-07:30 although a Wheatear on the beach when I arrived was nice, as was a Hobby heading north as I left. I continued to Mill Hill where a Red Kite flew low east, my first in the Shoreham area. Also Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Blackcap and 2 Lesser Whitethoats. A message on my pager of 10 Pomarine Skuas east off somewhere in Hampshire was encouraging but before I could return to the car to check where it was on a map a text came in from Matt telling me it was Gosport. Not far from Sussex and worth a go. Seaford would be the best place to look but I didn't fancy the drive so headed back to Shoreham Harbour. further news that 9 had gone past Selsey at 09:14 was encouraging. At 10:18 I picked the flock up as they steadily flew east. They past us (by now I had been joined by Dave Sadler) at 10:21. Brilliant, although a little distant - pale adults, some with superb spoons. Between 09:30 -11:30 I also saw 25 Whimbrel, 50+ Bar-tailed Godwits, Sanderling and 9 Sandwich Terns. Leaving at high tide 2 Purple Sandpipers and 19 Turnstones were roosting and there were now 2 Wheatears on the beach making it my best visit in along time.
Purple Sandpipers roosting at Shoreham Harbour
the left hand bird was starting to look quite colourful
roosting Turnstones
Kestrel on Shoreham Fort
it was rather approachable although appeared alert
we wondered if it might be a tired migrant

a very smart bird when one actually looks at them
 Wednesday 20th. Just an Arctic Skua and 5 Brent Geese east from Seaford during 06:30-07:30, not even a Sandwich Tern. Seaford Head was better with a first-summer Hobby overhead and 3 Lesser Whitethroats in the bushes. Early evening low tide on the Adur produced the Greenshank, a Whimbrel, 2 Swallows and 2 North Thames colour-ringed Herring Gulls that I had previously recorded.
Oystercatcher on the groyne at Splash Point, was facing west enough to count? 
Seaford Bay, a superb view
Herring Gull X6NT on the Adur
Little Egret with breeding plumes
Whimbrel on the Adur
Greenshank on the Adur

Monday 18th. Driving back from Gloucester we saw 2 Red Kites over the A34 while a walk in the grounds at Hinton Ampner produced Coal Tit and Nuthatch with 2 sand Martins and 15 Swallows over a flooded field nearby.

Gloucester Docks and Rugby World Cup figure
Gloucester Catherdal, even I thought it quite impressive
Egyptian Goose on Benbow Pond
Sunday 17th. We collected some of Nessa's stuff before leaving Bristol and drove to Slimbridge arriving at 10:00. It was my first visit since 1988 and was much changed from my memories of it! There were Black Crowned ,Common and Red-crowned Cranes in the collection, 27 Avocets and 100+ Black-tailed Godwits on the Dumbles and I saw 6 Mediterranean Gulls without trying (a pair flew over the car park calling). Two fully-winged Bewick's Swans were on the main lake and we also saw Common Sandpiper, Kingfisher and Cetti's Warbler. Of Tree Sparrow, which used to be 'guaranteed' there was no sign but my favourite place, the Tropical House was as good as ever. Later we drove to Gloucester and wandered around the town.
Bewick's Swan

First-summer Mediterranean Gull
another, this one was colour-ringed, something NPT 
Moorhen family
Black-tailed Godwits
Java Sparrow. One of the few species depicted in the Brooke Bond Tropical Birds series that I'm still waiting to see
Red-crested Turacos, an Angolan endemic I am very unlikely to see
Chestnut-backed Thrush from the Lesser Sundas
very pleased to have seen this one
Orange-headed Ground Thrush has been a favourite of mine ever since I first saw one in the Tropical House in the mid 1970s. I find them just as stunning today.
Saturday 16th. We visited Bristol to see Nessa. Encountering heavy sleet on the M4 west of Swindon was unexpected, and unwelcome, but fortunately the weather improved. We visited Tyntesfield seeing Nuthatch and Jay in the grounds.

Bristol from the top of the Cabot Tower
looking East
SS Great Britain
Friday 15th. Local Herring Gull A4AH was eyeing up my bike when I left work.

Thursday 14th. A steady trickle of birds flying east kept my interest at Seaford between 06:20-08:20 recording an unidentified diver, 2 Gannets,129 Brent Geese, male Mallard (that was really worth getting up for), 3 Shelduck, 101 Common Scoter, female Red-breasted Merganser, 3 Arctic Skuas, 161 Sandwich, 113 Commic and a Little Tern. All commics seen well appeared to be Commons. Also 4 Canada Geese and 13 Oystercatchers flew west. Moving on Seaford Head was very quiet with a pair of Stonechats, 4 Swallows and 5 Whitethroats.
superb view towards Newhaven from Seaford Head
Meadow Pipit by the cliff edge
Stonechat on Seaford Head
Southlands Hospital continues to shrink