Sunday, 29 April 2018

Seaford seawatch (29 April)

Sunday 29 April. I arrived at Seaford at 05:45 slightly ahead of JK. Later we were joined by JMS and JW but not before we'd seen a male Redstart on the groyne arm and a Hobby flying N. We watched to 10:20 seeing the following flying east: single Red-throated Diver and Manx Shearwater, 34 Gannets (and 41 W), 28 Common Scoter (and 16 W), a close male Velvet Scoter with 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, 6 Golden Plover (the first I can recall on a seawatch although they go up quite high), 145 Bar-tailed Godwits, 9 Whimbrel, a Great Skua, 18 Sandwich Terns (and 15 W), 15 Common Terns, 22 auks (one of which was identified as a Razorbill) and14 came Swallows in.
male Redstart at Splash Point, it did not linger
Saturday 28 April. While Megan and I took Cookie around the Trundle a distant flock of birds flying over Goodwood Racecourse caught my eye. Initally thoughts that they might be Ravens were soon dispelled when I looked through binoculars. They were young Herring Gulls except one which was off-white - a juvenile Iceland Gull. They were heading my way but veered off SW before I thought to extract my camera from my bag. It then took ages to find the birds in the viewfinder and they were almost lost to view before I did. I then dropped Megan in Chichester, where she was going to the theatre, and drove on to Pagham stopping briefly at Ivy Lake where I saw 6 Swifts, 25 Sand Martins, 30 Swallows and 40 House Martins. We parked at Sidlesham Ferry and walked to Church Norton and back seeing a Brent Goose, 2 Avocets, 103 Black-tailed and 7 Bar-tailed Godwits, 30 Whimbrel, a summer plumaged Spotted Redshank, 2 Reed and 6 Sedge Warblers, a Lesser Whitethroat and a Raven.
Iceland and Herring Gull from the Trundle

Spotted Redshank on Sidlesham Ferry
Little Egret at Pagham

Sedge Warbler by the Long Pool, one of 6 seen and at least another 4 were heard
Whimbrel in Pagham Harbour

Friday, 27 April 2018

Seaford seawatch (27 April) and Pulborough (25 April)

Friday 27 April. With the only SE forecast in the next 10 days and not working it seemed sensible to seawatch from Seaford despite heavy rain at the entrance to the channel. I arrived at 05:20 just after ME and we were soon joined by NP and JMS. Very little was moving and what was was generally very distant. Some early heavy showers almost caused us to give up but those of us not working stuck it out and were eventually rewarded with a handful of nice birds which made it worthwhile. More rain early afternoon and nothing moving immediately after finally proved enough. Between 05:20-15:00 I recorded the following flying E: 23 Red-throated and a Black-throated Diver, 9 Manx Shearwaters (and 11W but I missed several more), a Shag, 308 Common and a Velvet Scoter, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, a distant falcon, 2 Sanderling, 28 Bar-tailed Godwits, 19 Whimbrel, 21 Arctic Skuas (9 pale & 12 dark), 2 Pomarine Skuas (with superb tailed at 11:05), 116 Sandwich, 73 Commic, 21 Common, 6 Arctic and a Little Tern and 8 unidentified auks (only a fraction of those seen by others). A number of hirundines came in. I saw 3 Sand Martins and 36 Swallows but the only House Martin eluded me and missed as many Swallows as I saw.

Wednesday 25 April. An early morning visit to Pulborough in the hope of seeing Nightingale looked to be going off the rails when I heard but failed to see individuals at Jupp's Viewpoint and the Hangar. A Whimbrel and the Black-winged Stilt were present from Winpenny Hide although the latter soon flew off to the North Brooks. I returned to the hangar where I saw the stilt and Black-tailed Godwit and heard the Nightingale again. Fortunately an hour at Fattengates produced a good view of a Nightingale. I also saw a Swift, Sedge Warbler, 8 Blackcaps and a Bullfinch
early morning Black-winged Stilt from Winpenny Hide

Nightingale at Fattengates

Sunday, 22 April 2018

East beats West (20-22 April)

Sunday 22 April. I was looking after Cookie but the weather forecast suggested a morning seawatch might be worthwhile. We arrived at 07:30 having had a brief walk around the old brickfields first. JK, SL and ex-regular and now a rare visitor Julian Thomas were present and birds were moving. JK helped me get Cookie over the fence and we then watched to 11:00. For much of this time NP, ASC and others were present. I saw the following flying E: 3 Black-throated and 5 Red-throated Divers, 39 Gannets, 119 Brent Geese, 270 Common, 1 Velvet and 0 Surf Scoter, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, single Sanderling and Dunlin, 120 Whimbrel, 30 Bar-tailed Godwits, 11 Arctic (9 dark & 2 pale) and 5 Great Skuas, 2 Mediterranean (and 11 W), 5 Little and 86 Common Gulls, 63 Sandwich, 43 Common/ic, 8 close Arctic and a Black Tern and a Sand Martin and several Swallows came in. A scoter flock of about 30 included a male Surf Scoter which ASC picked it out but none of the rest of us on the breakwater managed to do so. MO'S had been equally sharp in seeing it from the beach. Frustrating. At 11:00 JK and I decided to try Beachy as the Little Bunting found by LP (very much man of the moment with an Alpine Swift soon after) had been seen again. We looked for 2.5 hours with no success although nice to see John & Doreen and Roger & Liz, the former had seen it and JFC showed us some of his excellent images, grrr. We saw a Tawny Owl, after some searching, which rather salvaged things for us.
Grasshopper Warbler in Seaford

rather obscured Tawny Owl at Beachy

Saturday 21 April. Ruth was over from NZ and Nessa down from London so Megan and I took them and Cookie to Crowlink from where we walked down to the sea, along to Birling and back. It was very quiet, the only migrants seen were 4 Swallows and 2 Willow Warblers although a Peregrine repeated diving on a Raven which flipped itself over to present its talons everytime was fun. As we were returning to Crowlink it is likely a Black Kite flew over unseen by us, LP seeing one over Went Hill shortly after, clearly a better route to take from Birling. 

Friday 20 April. An excellent morning at Old Lodge with Cookie where we saw Cuckoo, 5 Wook Lark (one very vocal, lovely song), 7 Tree Pipits, 4 male Redstarts, 2 Stonechats, 3 Willow Warblers, 2 Jays, 2 Ravens and 2 Redpolls. An after tea visit to dusk visait to Pulborough was in almost complete contrast with just 2 Red-legged Partridges, 2 Green Sandpipers and a heard only Nightingale.

Redstart at Old Lodge

Tree Pipit

Wood Lark

nicely streaked crown

Cuckoo at Old Lodge

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Seaford seawatch (18 April 2018)

Wednesday 18 April. With a light SE forecast and frustrated at missing some good seawatches during the previous few days (local sea mist and work) I arrived at Seaford at 06:00 to find JK and BS had recently arrived. We were soon joined on the front row by JM, JMS, SL and NP with JC, NG and others coming later. Only JK and I stuck it out to 12:00 and during our 6 hours I recorded the following flying East: 32 Red-throated Divers, 5 Manx Shearwaters (1@06:32 & 4@07:30), 17 Gannets, 1 Brent Goose, 7 Tufted Duck, a female Long-tailed Duck (tagged onto the end of a close flock of scoter), 278 Common Scoter, 5 Oystercatchers, 29 Whimbrel, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, 10 Arctic Skuas (8 dark & 2 pale morphs), 4 Great Skuas, 125 Mediterranean Gulls (5 first-summers, 6 second-summers & 114 adults, most very close, a pair directly overhead), 5 Little Gulls (4 adults, all; distant), 9 Black-headed Gulls, 25 Common Gulls, 105 Sandwich Terns, 14 Commic Terns (6 close birds IDd as Arctic & 2 Common), 3 Little Terns and a single distant unidentified auk. Not the numbers witnessed by others on previous days but decent variety. The Med Gulls were splendid and I don't see Manx or Long-tailed Duck very often so it was definitely worth the early start.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Ring Ouzels and the first Cuckoo (11-15 April)

Sunday 15 April. The forecast light SW didn't look too promising for seawatching so I planned to do my early South Downs Farmland Bird Monitoring Survey on a grid square west of the Burgh. Going out of the front door the wind was southerly but it looked quite murky and concious that it had been foggy for most of the previous day along the coast at Shoreham while sunny inland I decided to stick to the plan. It probably wasn't a great move. I arrived at my starting point near North Stoke and heard a Cuckoo as I got ready. Cookie and I then spent almost three hours walking 3 sides of a triangle, the first two being my survey route and the third what turned out to be a very muddy return. I didn't see the Cuckoo initially but did on returning to the car. Other highlights were 3 Red Kites, 5 Grey and a Red-legged Partridge, 3 Yellowhammers and a paid of Gadwall! We continued on to Greatham where we saw a Willow and heard close Cetti's and distant Sedge Warblers. All rather disappointing.
Cuckoo near the Burgh
 Saturday 14 April. The fog horn was going for most of the day with very poor visibility along the coast and, in the morning, by the Adur. Megan and I took Cookie up to Mill Hill were we saw Brimstone, Small Tortoishell and lots of Peacock butterflies but a Chiffchaff was the only migrant. A low tide visit to the Adur was frustrating with the ionly notabel bird a presumed Norwegian colour-ringed Greater Black-backed Gull. The airport side footpath is now closed and it wasn't close enough to the footbridge to read. The light was awful from the east bank and the bird soon disappeared.
Small Tortoishell at Mill Hill
Friday 13 April. A visit to Shoreham Fort wasn't quite early enough as I saw the very pale, almost white second-winter (3CY) Iceland Gull flying away east as I arrived. Nothing else was moving and there were no migrants in evidence. Cookie and I moved on to Widewater seeing 7 Great Crested Grebes on the sea and 3 Sandwich Terns flying W. In the afternoon Megan and I took Cookie to Cissbury Ring where we saw at least 6 Ring Ouzels and a smart male Yellowhammer.
two of the Cissbury Ring Ouzels

Yellowhammer at Cissbury
its always been a favourite of mine

Wednesday 11 April. I took Cookie up to Mill Hill where we saw single Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Yellowhammer. A day of chores then made it game over until a quick scan of the Adur from Coronation Green revealed the very pale, almost white second-winter (3CY) Iceland Gull sat on the opposite bank. I'd only been going to the building scociety and had left my camera at home. I regretted doing so even more when it flew and landed in the river alongside the Adur Ferry Bridge where it remained long enough for Cookie and me to walk round and admire it. It then flew back to the riverbank and we left it.
a rather poor effort at digi-binning

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Seaford seawatches (6 and 7 April 2018)

Saturday 7th April. DB and I arrived at Splash Point, Seaford at 06:20 to find ME and JK in situ. We were soon joined by SL, NP, JMS and others with mowst of those mentioned staying to 13:00. During that time I saw the following flying (or swimming in the case of the grebe) east: 110 Red-throated and 3 summer plumaged Black-throated Divers, a summer-plumaged Black-necked Grebe, 31 Gannets, 81 Brent Geese, 5 Wigeon, a Gadwall, 40 Shoveler, male Scaup (just after 09:30 in a scoter flock and initially thoughts were of Garganey although perhaps an aythya hybrid couldn't be excluded it seemed extremely unlikely even if I had seen on at th eother end of the county earlier in the week), female Long-tailed Duck (09:05), 939 Common and 8 Velvet Scoter (the latter in a scoter flock at 08:22), 14 Red-breasted Mergansers, a Dunlin, 3 Curlew, 2 Whimbrel, 20 Arctic Skuas, 4 adult Mediterranean, 29 (mostly adult) Little, 17 Black-headed and 12 Common Gulls, 161 Sandwich and 21 Common Terns, 60 auks of which 9 Razorbills and 2 Guillemots were identified. Also 3 Canada and a Brent and later 2 Egyptian Geese and 10 Carrion Crows came in and headed north. Excellent company and another enjoyable seawatch if not quite up to yesterday's standard.

Friday 6th April.  Witha SE wind forecast DB and I arrived at Splash Point, Seaford at 07:00, a bit later than originally planned, and were soon joined on the arm by SL and a few others. SL stayed to early afternoon and ME arrived at 14:00 having been in Berlin that morning (I initally misheard him and thought he said Birling!). DM, ME and I stuck it out to 18:10. The last couple of hours were generally quiet but a road closure on our route home due to a serious accident and the desire to see 2000 scoter kept us there. During the 11 hours there I saw the following mostly flying (or swimming in the case of the grebes) east: 68 Red-throated and 4 summer plumaged Black-throated Divers, a summer-plumaged Black-necked and 7 Slavonian Grebes (2 then 4 in summer-plumage and one in transitional plumage), 120 Gannets, just 12 Brent Geese, 6 Mallard, 3 Gadwall, 17 Teal, male and female Garganey (at 12:10, presumably the paier seen at Dungeness at 13:30), 31 Shoveler, 2025 Common (my highest ever total) and 5 Velvet Scoter (the latter a 2 and a 3), 10 Red-breasted Mergansers, 4 Grey Plover, 4 Dunlin, a Curlew, 4 Whimbrel, 6 Arctic Skuas, a first-winter Mediterranean, 84 (mostly adult) Little, 19 Black-headed and 35 Common Gulls, 584 Sandwich, 42 Arctic and 194 Common Terns and 200 auks of which 92 Razorbills and 6 Guillemots were identified. I saw 6 Swallows coming in (and missed a few others) and 4 Peregrines flew over as did 2 Ravens. Excellent company and a very enjoyable seawatch, particularly the first hour or so during which time it was hard keeping up with what was flying past.

Tuesday 5th April. I took Cookie to Medmerry feeling the weather wasn't great for seawatching and seawatching not great for Cookie. I'd misremembered where the car park was but soon found it. On the Stilt Pool we saw 63 Avocets, 4 Little Ringed Plovers (acting as 2 pairs), at least 26 Mediterranean Gulls and an aythya hybrid. A quick look at the sea produced 22 Brent Geese, 4 Sandwich and 2 Common Terns making me realise that enjoyable as Medmerry was seawatching might have been a better option after all. On the way home we called in at Fishbourne Creek which was very muddy (more so for Cookie than me) and a single Black-tailed Godwit was the only species of note.
Avocets and Mediterranean Gulls at Medmerry

aythya hybrid at Medmerry
male Tufted andn female Pochard seems its most likely parentage

Monday, 2 April 2018

Bank Holiday weekend in West Sussex (30 March-2 April)

Monday 2nd April. I seawatched from Widewater from 07:00-09:35, the wind was SE rather than the southerly forecast the previous evening and the rain much less although I was glad of the shelter provided by hut 32. Visibility wasn't great and most birds were quite distant. I saw 6 Red-throated Divers, a Great Crested Grebe on the sea, 7 Gannets, a flock of 29 Brent Geese east and then 32 west, 2 probable Teal in a scoter flock, male and female Garganey, about 400 Common Scoter (345E:11W:60 on sea), 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, 3 Oystercatchers, an adult Mediterranena Gull, 67 Sandwich and 7 Common Terns and a male Wheatear on the beach. What were probably the Gargeney arrived at about 08:30 from the west with the Red-breasted Mergansers but landed on the sea before I had  a decent view. At 08:47 two Garganey flew past, a male and female, the female identified 'by association'. What were presumably the same male and female were seen at Seaford at 09:48 (where I likely would have been had the BBC forecast not changed from SE to S). I went on to Shoreham Fort where in a brief visit 2 distant Red-throated Divers and about 60 Common Scoter (perhaps those seen earlioer on the sea off Widewater) flew East. Also there a single Purple Sandpiper below the wooden jetty and a superb male Firecrest and a Chiffchaff in a pine by the car-park (thanks to JMS). In the aftgernoon I visited my mum in Hove and saw a Chiffchaff and female Blackcap in her small front garden.
Wheatear at Widewater
welcome bnack
off Widewater
Firecrest at Shoreham Fort

Sunday 1st April. Cookie and I spent the morning visiting West Sussex Commons looking for Wood Lark although our most unusual sighting was a male Tufted Duck flying low across the A283 just north of the Adur flyover. We started at Coates where I used to see them regularly but drew a blank. The ground vegetation was very much shorter than I remembered, the dog walkers much more although admittedly I was adding to them and a herd of cows were grazing. We saw a pair of Mandarin flying over, 4 Coal Tits and 2 Yellowhammers. We tried Burton Black Pond where a pair of Egyptian Geese had 3 small goslings and the woodland produced a Marsh Tit and 2 Treecreepers.  At Lavington  Common/Plantation we eventually heard then saw 2 Wood Larks as well as 2 more Coal Tits and Yellowhammers but no Dartford Warblers, perhaps a result of February's very cold weather? In the evening I tried Shoreham Harbour for roosting gulls but there were few on the lock-gates and I couldn't pick anything out of the 500+ mainly Herring Gulls on Southwick Beach before they flew out to sea to roost.
Egyptian Goose and goslings, Burton Black Pond

Saturday 31st March. A very quiet day around Shoreham with 3 Sandwich Terns in and a
Sparrowhawk over Shoreham Harbour, 2 Reed and 3 Corn Buntings at Steepdown and Little Egret and a Sparrowhawk by the Adur but very few gulls.

no gulls on the Adur, I wonder why?
Friday 30th March. JK and I joined ME and NP at Splash Point Seaford at 07:00 and stayed on to 12:30. I saw 42 Red-throated Divers, 4 Great Crested Grebes, 41 Gannets, 25 Fulmars, 126 Brent Geese, 11 Shoveler, 506 Common Scoter, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, an Oystercatcher, 7 adult Little Gulls (at 11:51), 92 Common and 32 Black-headed Gulls, 88 Sandwich and 3 Common Terns and an unidentified auk. Virtually all were flying East.

Thursday 29th March (continued). After the morning's Iceland Gull at Harbour Way and the Eastonain and Norwegian colour-ringed Common Gulls on the Adur the previous evening I tried the gull roost there again. The pair of Shelduck was still present as was a first-winter Mediterranean Gull
Mediterranean Gull on the Adur