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

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