Monday, 26 September 2016

Beachy (24 & 26 September)

Monday 26th. I left home just after 06:00 anticipating arriving at Birling just before sunrise although was stuck in traffic approaching Newhaven for half an hour. After a diversion through narrow streets in the upper part of the town I passed the scene of the accident and someone being attended as they lay in the road. There are many worse things than being delayed. Other than for Chiffchaffs Beachy was rather quiet. Walking around Birling, up to the rides above Whitbread Hollow and back over Long Down I saw 3 Peregrines, 130 Swallows (but no martins), a Whinchat, 27 Stonechats, 3 Wheatears, 2 Whitethroats, 4 Blackcaps, 64 Chiffchaffs, 2 Ravens and 16 Corn Buntings. Nothing other than swallows was flying over although I did see a Siskin, my first of the year(!), during an impromptu stop at Roger and Liz's.
an early Blackcap at Birling
Corn Bunting at Birling. Not the bunting one hopes for at Beachy
Whinchat at Birling, the only one seen in two late September visits (with no redstarts of flycatchers either how poor is that!)
Seven Sisters heading for Dieppe
Beachy Head lighthouse and Peregrine (small dark speck) on the left of the chalk stack
Wheatear at Long Down, just 3 were seen
excitable Jackdaws and other corvids behind Cornish Farm, maybe one of the Peregrines was around
roadworks East of Birling, the old road surface has been completely removed
Sunday 25th. A low tide visit to the Adur produced new two colour-ringed gull sightings, single Grey Plover and Greenshank, 33 Ringed Plover and 18 Dunlin. Not great viewing conditions (low sun and strong wind) and a couple of bait diggers didn't help.
Great Black-backed Gull AT. It appears to be from a scheme in the Netherlands where birds are ringed above the knee to make it easier to read as the colony is in long grass. The image of this ring would have been easier to read if my camera hadn't been set at 1600 ISO, something I only realised when checking these gull images and wondering why they didn't crop very well!
North Thames Herring Gull A6GT 
Saturday 24th. I visited Birling and walked up to Shooter's Bottom and back via Long Down. An enjoyable walk (nice weather and excellent views) but much quieter bird-wise than yesterday with a Hobby, 2 Sand Martins, 170 Swallows, 60 House Martins, 3 Yellow Wagtails,single Wheatear and Mistle Thrush, 3 Whitethroats, 3 Blackcaps and 5 Chiffchaffs. Later Megan and I walked around Mill Hill seeing just 16 Swallows flying east.
Canada Geese over Birling Gap
presumably the Cuckmere flock, there were about 400
most landed in the fields behind Cornish Farm
Seaford Head and the Seven Sisters
Belle Tout Lighthouse
Yellow Wagtail, one of three with cows behind Cornish Farm
a sky full of birds, but on this occasion only corvids were seen. Later a Hobby was seen up with them but it seems doubtful it would have caused a scare?

Friday, 23 September 2016

Birling and Newhaven Tidemills (23 September 2016)

Friday 23rd. Keen to see the Newhaven Red-backed Shrike I thought it a safe bet that if it had stayed overnight it would be there all day. I therefore started at Birling covering the area from 'Sardine' valley (Michel Dene) to Belle Tout. Lots of hirundines (500+ Swallow, 1160+ House Martin and a single Sand Martin) and a sprinkling of common warblers (50 Chiffchaff, 14 Whitethroats and 10 Blackcaps) but not a lot else although the Merlin performed a close flyby. Other birds seen were single Sedge and Willow Warblers and Whinchat, 17 Stonechats, 28 Canada Geese, Great Spotted Woodpecker and 5 Corn Buntings while a Golden Plover was heard flying over. The Red-backed Shrike was still present and I called in on the way home obtaining excellent views over the course of an hour. A very obliging bird. also seen there were 2-3 Whinchats, 8 Stonechats and 2 Whitethroats. Later a walk around the heathland at Pulborough with Megan produced 2 Coal Tits and a Treecreeper.

Red-backed Shrike at Newhaven Tidemills
perhaps the most approachable individual I've ever seen

with cricket
Thursday 22nd. On my way to work a Peregrine on Southwick Power Station was my first sighting there since early May.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Beachy (21 September 2016)

Wednesday 21 September. The 21 September is a special date for me. It is the day I first saw the stunning Yellow-throated Vireo at Kenidjack, Cornwall in 1990 (still one of my 'best' rarities). Closer to home but ten years earlier was perhaps the biggest fall I've witnessed (at Beachy Head, but more of that later). 

Back to the reality of a so far very disappointing autumn and I hoped a slight change in the weather might lead to some improvement. Bob Self recording a 'personal worst' at Seaford Head the previous day was not encouraging but having stayed local on Monday when I could have gone to Beachy I didn't want to risk making the same mistake again. It turned out to be the right decision as I had a good day. Not a great one but very enjoyable with enough birds to keep my interest from 06:30 to 15:30 when I had to leave. I walked around Birling then up to the rides above Whitbread Hollow and back via Long Down. Beachy Head Road was closed from Birling to the car park west of the Beachy Head Hotel for resurfacing (due to last up to 8 weeks) although I would have walked anyway. During my visit I saw a juvenile Honey Buzzard (flying steadily SE over me on Long Down at 14:05, continuing out beyond the para-gliders over the cliff edge, no pics as I couldn't find it in the viewfinder when I finally decided it might be a good idea to take some), 7 Buzzards, 4 Sparrowhawks, 9 Sand Martins, 1050 Swallows, 550 House Martins, an adult White Wagtail (on hotel roof), 2 Redstarts, 6 Whinchats, 21 Stonechats, 4 Wheatears, a flushed Grasshopper, Sedge and 3 Reed Warblers, a Lesser and 27 Common Whitethroats, 31 Blackcaps, 40 Chiffchaffs and 18 Corn Buntings (in bushes at Birling).
Whinchat at Birling

another Whinchat
the first Redstart I have seen this September
the second Redstart this month and hopefully not the last, a smart male, 
juvenile female Green Woodpecker
Tuesday 20th. Wheatear was on Southwick Beach as I was cycling to work.

Monday 19th. After a disappointing visit to Beachy on 18th I stayed local visiting the Adur for the early morning high tide (just 9 Ringed Plover and 13 Dunlin) before walking around Mill Hill. I faced my usual dilemma, wanting it to be reasonably good to make it worth going but not too good to make me wish I'd gone to Beachy. It was heading towards the former with 5 Brent Geese (west over the sea at great distance trying out a different telescope), 110 Swallows, 14 House Martins, 5 Whitethroats, 21 Blackcaps and 12 Chiffchaffs but a Spotted Flycatcher tipped it towards the latter and by all accounts there were a lot of birds at Beachy. Later I saw a Wheatear on Southwick Beach as I was cycling home from the dentist.
Song Thrush at Mill Hill
Spotted Flycatcher at Mill Hill

Journey through the past

21 September 1980. Marsh Harrier 1, Hobby 1, Turtle Dove 4, Little Owl 1, Swift 9, Sand martin 50+, Swallow 2000+, House Martin 500+, Tawny Pipit 6, Yellow Wagtail 10, Blue-headed Wagtail 1 male, Redstart 7, Whinchat 250, Wheatear 200, Ring Ouzel 6, Sedge Warbler 1, Lesser Whitethroat 2, Whitethroat 15+, Garden Warbler 5, Blackcap 30, Chiffchaff 25+, Willow Warbler 5, Goldcrest 2, Firecrest 2, Spotted flycatcher 16, Pied Flycatcher 2.

In September 1980 I was 26, had seen 364 species in Britain (which at the time seemed like quite a lot!) and 1650 in the World thanks to birding trips to Morocco, Kenya, Thailand, Nepal and Canada. It all seems a very long time ago now.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

September in Sussex but where are all the migrants?

Sunday 18th. Megan and I walked from Crowlink to Belle Tout seeing 70 House Martins, just over 100 Meadow Pipits, 10 Wheatears, a Whichat, a Lesser and 4 Common Whitethroats, 6 Chiffchaffs and 5 Ravens. A somewhat disappointing return although better than our previous visit at the start of the month and the views were superb. an evening low tide visit to the Adur produced a Knot, 6 Ringed Plover and 4 Dunlin. The Knot had its left leg caught in something resembling a ball and chain. I walked around and approached it with the optimistic notion that I could catch it and remove whatever it was. Although it had trouble dragging the ball around when in the mud it flew off strongly when I approached within 15m.
Raven at Birling
a familiar sight and sound in Sussex these days
it was not the case 20 years ago when a sighting of two would have been exceptional. I saw my first in Sussex in 1999 (at Beachy) and they bred for the first time in 50 years in 2001 (at Beachy) 
Knot dragging a ball and chain

Saturday 17th. I drove up to Chantry Hill in the hope the Pallid Harrier seen there recently might put in an appearance but a tree had fallen in the wind and was completely blocking the road halfway up the scarp slope. Gordon and Tony were coming up as I returned and we diverted to Kithurst Hill and walked to the Lee Farm shelter belt. In a unexpectedly cold NW wind for which I was ill prepared the shelter was most welcome. In over three hours of scanning we saw 3 Red Kites, 4 Buzzards and 2-3 Kestrels but no harriers. A loose flock of 9 Ravens playing around in the valley were nice, a few hirundines flew over (mainly House Martins) and partridges were everywhere. I saw 16 Greys and in the shallow valley north of Lee Farm counted 240 Red-legs. How many of those would be shot over the winter? The way some were behaving would make them hard to miss. Later a low tide visit to the Adur before dark produced just 16 Ringed Plover, 24 Dunlin and a bait-digger.

Friday 16th. An afternoon visit to Pulborough was heading for disappointment with no waders and only 60 House Martins until back by the visitors centre Gordon spotted a Hobby flying away. As it was low tide I called in at the Adur on my way home and was pleased to see the Curlew Sandpiper was still present, with a Knot, 37 Dunlin and 28 Ringed Plover.

Curlew Sandpiper on the Adur opposite Shoreham Airport

Greater Black-backed Gull 6AA9. It was ringed as chick Lihou Island, Guernsey in June 2014 and that August was seen on Chouet Landfill Beach on 16th and Dawlish Warren on 25th. I then saw it on the Adur six times during October-December 2015.
Harvest Moon. Not one of my most played Neil Young albums (give me On the Beach any day) but it has its moments 
Wednesday 14th. Megan and I walked around Cissbury but hardly a migrant was in sight with a single swallow and 10 Chiffchaffs. Mid September and I'm not sure I remember a poorer autumn for migrants. A afternoon low-tide visit to the Adur was more productive with 63 Ringed Plover, 26 Dunlin and a smart if often distant Curlew Sandpiper. 
Curlew Sandpiper on the opposite bank
legging it out-of-sight on my side
I'd padlocked my bike to a 20 mph sign right by the airport perimeter road and while on the riverbank noticed two cars and several people around it. Looking to see what they were doing I realised it was this Mute Swan that had attracted their attention. It was still there forty-five minutes later when I returned to my bike. It was standing right next to the road and allowed me to approach to within touching distance. I tried to herd it back towards the river but after a short while the grass became rather tall and anyway I would have to negotiate a small path between a fence and ditch. It let me pick it up from behind (quite a handful) and carry it to the riverbank where I put it down and it walked to the water's edge 
... and swam away, hopefully none the worse for its experience
Monday 12th. A Wheatear was seen on Southwick Beach as I was cycling home.

Sunday 11th. A day touring West Sussex with John King. We started at the newly discovered Shripney Flood Pools joining Gordon and Dave B scanning the visible 2/3rds of the pool. In a couple of hours we saw a Wood, 2 Green and 6 Common Sandpipers, 2 Little Ringed Plover, 2 Greenshank, a Knot, 14 Ruff and 30 
Black-tailed Godwits. We (and Gordon and Dave) continued to Thorney where the Red-necked Phalarope was on view on the Little Deep. Also there were one or more probably two Ospreys, 9 Greenshank, 20 Black-tailed and a Bar-tailed Godwits and 25 Yellow Wagtails. Gordon and Davve went on to Titchfield but we headed back calling in at Fishbourne Creek where we saw about 250 Mediterranean Gulls (I counted 246 and undoubtedly missed a few), 12 Greenshank and 26 Black-tailed Godwits. Next stop was Pagham North Wall which produced 2 Curlew Sandpipers, 2 Ruff, 75 Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Greenshank, 6 Spotted Redshanks and about 150 Yellow Wagtails. Back at Shripney we joined Gordon and Dave again but there was still no sign of the Pectoral Sandpiper. We called it a day, my best for waders for a long time.
Wood Sandpiper at Shripney
first views of Red-necked Phalarope on the Little Deep at Thorney (morning sun not helpful)
nice 'scope views
but digiscoping could have been more successful
Yellow-legged Gull at Fishbourne
Chichester Catherdal from Fishbourne creek