Sunday, 8 May 2016

Early May disappointments (2-8th)

Sunday 8th.  Another disappointing seawatch when I would have been better off at Seaford, although the forecast didn't suggest much of a change was likely. I cycled down to Shoreham Harbour watching from the west arm from 05:45-08:15 and being joined by David Buckingham half way through. It was very quiet with the light wind having no south in it. What we could see moving was mostly very distant and almost confined to obvious Gannets. I recorded a Fulmar, 82 Gannets, 4 duck sp., 10 Sanderling (one close enough to hear calling), 11 Whimbrel, a pale Arctic Skua, 2 distant skuas which were probably the same, 2 Kittiwakes, 3 Sandwich and 8 Common Terns, 4 Swallows and a distant bat erratically circling round above the water for several minutes. For the third day out of the last 4 a shed load of Poms were seen at Seaford. Note to self - watching from Hove or Shoreham isn't really worth it unless there is an onshore element to the wind to bring birds in close enough for me to see them.  Later Megan and I walked around Mill Hill which was also very quiet.
Peacock at Mill Hill, its antennae looked like used sparklers
Saturday 7th. With SE forecast and Paul James offering me a lift to Seaford we arrived at 05:30 joining Liam, Ewan, Bob, Matt and JK on the arm with old friend Andrew Moon arriving us very soon after. Paul left to do a butterfly survey, which produced a Montagu's Harrier and Andrew kindly offered to give me a lift home when we had finished. We stayed to 15:40 leaving Ewan & Matt to continue. We saw 2 superb close Pomarine Skuas, the second chasing a Kittiwake for several minutes before it disgorged a fish. Certainly one of the best views I have ever had of a Pom. Also a Roseate Tern (well picked up Matt), a very distant Manx (thanks to Matt again but the view was hardly worth having), 3 Red-throated, 2 Black-throated and 3 unidentified Divers, 4 Great Crested Grebes, 94 Gannets, 8 Brent Geese, 2 Shelduck, male Tufted Duck, 96 Common Scoter, 11 Whimbrel, 12 Arctic Skuas, 27 Mediterranean Gulls (including 5 first and 9 second summers), 38 Sandwich, 129 Common, 3 Arctic and a Little Tern and a Razorbill. Excellent company and some quality birds rather than any great quantity of species or birds. The last few hours were more in hope than expectation with long periods of nothing moving although Ewan kept us amused explaining what we were doing to interested/nosy onlookers. He caused one lady to depart half way through his first sentence (the word 'birds' being an instant turn-off) while the next gent was kept for almost five minutes before he could politely get away.
Rock Pipit at Seaford, plumage looked a bit littoralish but it was singing so presumably a resident bird
Friday 6th. Another disappointing seawatch when I would have been better off at Seaford, although I knew that would be the case. 05:45-07:15 in a clear moderate NE 7 Gannets, 12 Common Scoter, 2 Whimbrel and 79 Black-headed Gulls flying east. I should have been in position for the flock of 11 Pomarine Skuas recorded at Seaford at 06:56 and the next 5 at 07:33 but I did not see them.

Thursday 5th. SE winds, no car and meetings at work meant the best I could manage was an hour watching off Hove from 06:15-07:15. Flying east, mostly rather distant in clear visibility, were 3 Fulmars, 27 Gannets, 24 Brent Geese, 3 Common Scoter, 23 Sanderling, 2 Curlew and 40 Sandwich and 3 Common Terns while a Whimbrel flew west. Hardly worth getting up early for and not a patch on Seaford's morning although that started slowly.

Wednesday 4th. I cycled Shoreham Harbour and seawatched from 06:00-08:00. The wind was very light SE but visibility very good and the little that I saw moving was a long way out. I recorded 37 Gannets, 7 Shelduck, 27 Common Scoter, 6 Oystercatchers, 9 Whimbrel, 8 Sandwich Terns and 3 Razorbills flying east. Best of all though were at least 6 Harbour Porpoises swimming west. They made up somewhat for seeing none of the skuas recorded off Seaford during the same period. Later Megan and I walked from High Trees to Truleigh Hill where a Garden Warbler was unexpected.

Southlands Hospital nearing its end
viewed from Northbourne Medical centre
Tuesday 3rd. I heard a Whimbrel as I was cycling by Southwick Beach on my way to work.

Monday 2nd. A day of poor decisions. I woke early and decided to try Seaford as the weather was different, SW rather than W/NW. That one turned out OK although arriving to find very poor visibility and drizzle wasn't great. Trying watching from Splash Point was not conducive to seeing anything with most time spent cleaning lenses. BS had the sense to relocate - to his kitchen initially - leaving JK and myself seeing little. A call that we had missed a Black Tern was annoying ad we relocated to behind the end beach huts. There we missed a flock of 25 before joining BS and others in a shelter. It offered more protection than I had anticipated but watching was hard with tern flocks flying along on the edge of the murk. From 06:10-11:10 I saw the following flying east; 62 Gannets, 13 Common Scoter, 5 Sanderling, a Dunlin, a Bar-tailed Godwit, 5 Whimbrel, 7 Arctic Skuas (2 pale, 5 dark), 24 Sandwich Terns, 870 Commic Terns (the few seen well were Common), 9 Little Terns, 15 Black Terns and a Razorbill while 9 Swallows came in. Just JK and I stuck it out for the last hour but the tern passage had died and it only produced 2 of the Arctic Skuas so we gave up. My second mistake was going onto Seaford Head for 90 minutes. I had hoped a Whinchat or Spotted Flycatcher might be about but the wind had picked up, visibility was poor and I only saw Whitethroats and a pair of Stonechats. Mistake three was going straight home rather than calling back at Splash where Matt was starting a good seawatch. Mid afternoon I headed for Pulborough to look for the Black-winged Stilts. They were present some way in front of Netley's hide although most were at least partly obscured by vegetation. I relocated to the Hanger where they were in full view but more distant. An instant doubling of my Sussex total but a rarity that is becoming much more frequent and it is easy to imagine I will have doubled my total again in a few years. Nightingales were relatively quiet in the cold wind but I saw two well and heard 3 others. worst decision of the day was to turn down eastern Avenue on the way home, not seeing an oncoming Landrover Discovery until too late. My poor Fiesta wouldn't have come off much worse against a tank.

one of the ten Black-winged Stilts at Pulborough
two were white-headed

and the other four

all ten
no way to treat a loyal servant

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