Tuesday 26 June 2018

Worrying Woodcock (21-27 June)

My final Woodcock survey at Lavington this year (all in decent weather) produced just one bird and 3 Nightjars. Maybe I was unlucky but my three survey visits this year totalled just 3 Woodcock encounters. In previous years when I was able to make 3 visits total encounters were 19 (2013), 24 (2014) and 21 (2017). If it is a real decline and reflected elsewhere then it is seriously worrying.

June 21-27. A very quiet week prior to going away, the Great Black-backed Gull family were seen each day, the two chicks growing quite quickly. They will be gone when I return. Hopefully the Swifts will still be around. Up to 10 were seen and heard most evenings, some low over our garden which is always brilliant to see. Otherwise a bit further afield for a concerning Woodcock survey (see below) and a couple of dog walks. 

Sunday 24 June. A walk around Mill Hill with Megan and Cookie produced single Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat and 20+ Marbled Whites. Later I took Cookie to the Adur for a low tide visit seeing 2 Little Egrets, 2 Oystercatchers and a first-summer Mediterranean Gull.
our front lawn
Great Black-backed youngster, hardly a chick anymore
first-summer Mediterranean Gull on the Adur
Friday 22 June. Megan and I took Cookie for a walk along the South Downs Way from Ditchling Beacon towards Blackcap. Lovely clear views and a nice bank of Pyrimidal Orchids. Birds were about all one could expect – 3 Buzzards, 2 Sky Larks, 7 Meadow Pipits and 4 Yellowhammers. Early evening I called in at Greatham seeing a silent Cuckoo, a single Lapwing (on a small amount of exposed mud), a Gadwall family with 5 ducklings and 4 Reed and a Sedge Warbler. A Cetti’s Warbler remained heard only as did a Dartford Warbler and Tawny Owl at Lavington. 
South Downs Way
growing Great Blck-backed Gulls
Nightjar at Lavington
Thursday 21 June. Mistle Thrush on Southwick Green.

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Royal Tern (19 June) & Turtle Doves (20 June)

Tuesday 19 June. Just over a year since the Elegant Tern at Church Norton news came through that it had returned to Church Norton. Nice I thought, I'm not working tomorrow I could wander down then. At about 18:40 we learnt that it was in fact a Royal Tern. I was still dithering when JK phoned to say JFC wanted to go immediately. This was the kick up the backside I needed and spurred me into action. Cookie finished my tea while I grabbed my bins and scope. I met JK and JFC at a bus stop in North Lancing at about 19:10 and thanks to very light traffic we were at Church Norton just before 20:00. The bird was on view when we arrived and remained so until we left at just before 21:30. The Royal Tern was in amongst the mainly Sandwich Terns and Black-headed Gulls on Tern Island. It gave decent scope views but rarely showed its legs and when it did only from the knees up (this was relevant as it was ringed, below the knee, highly suggestive of it being the ringed bird of the North American race present on the other side of the channel for much of the year). It flew once, although I was slow to get onto it, and a couple of times raised its wings showing the darker shadows on the outer primaries. Also seen while watching the tern were at least 5 Mediterranean Gulls, 10 Little and 3 Common Terns. Otherwise all my attention was solely on the Royal. Nice to see some faces I'd not seen for a while, all of us looking that bit older ...
Royal Tern on Tern Island, quite a brute compared to last year's Elegant
being eyed-up by an incoming Mediterranean Gull
perhaps it always wanted to be a Caspian Tern?
a Black-headed Gull practising a vertical-take-off flight 

Wednesday 20 June. I took Cookie to the Knepp Estate where in a couple of hours I saw 3 Turtle Doves, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, up to 17 Mistle Thrushes, a Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Garden Warblers and 5 Jays (with 2 more on the drive home). The Cuckoos seen there on earlier visited were either silent or gone.
Fallow Deer on the Knepp Estate
one of 17 Mistle Thrushes seen, many like this one were juveniles. Several singles and groups of 2 or 4 were flying around so there may have been some duplication in my total
Turtle Dove at the Knepp Estate
this one was very vocal
it looked like a lot of effort

Sunday 17 June 2018

Little of note in West Sussex (11-17 June)

Sunday 17 June. A three hour circuit on the Downs above Lancing with Cookie produced only my third sighting of a House Martin this year (!!), a Grey and 2 Red-legged Partridges, a Buzzard, 2 Kestrels, 19 Swifts, a Swallow, 17 very noisy Sky Larks, 3 Meadow Pipits and 13 Corn Buntings. The two Great Black-backed Gull chicks on the roof behind our garden continue to grow with one or both adults always in attendance. In the evening 4 Swifts were seen over the garden.
Corn Bunting

Red-legged Partridge near Cow Bottom
Saturday 16 June. We tried a seawatch from Shoreham Fort in the morning but 5 Sandwich Terns and a flock of about 10 distant presumed Common Scoter were all that was seen moving. Very little was on the Adur and later at Mill Hill Megan and I saw a Buzzard, a Swallow and some Pyramidal Orchids and heard Whitethroat, Blackcap and Chiffchaff. Five Swifts over the garden in the evening and the Great Black-backed Gull family opposite.
Great Black-backed Gull chicks

gulls on Shoreham Beach. Nothing picked out amongst them although with most sitting down they could have been wearing a selection of colour-rings 
Pyramid Orchid at Mill Hill
Friday 15 June. Megan and I took Cookie up onto the Downs above Southwick seeing 3 Buzzards, 4 Swifts, 3 Whitethroats, 2 Yellowhammers and a Corn Bunting. Just one Swift over the garden in the evening and the Great Black-backed Gull family opposite.

Thursday 14 June. Seven Swifts over the garden in the evening and the Great Black-backed Gull family opposite.

Wednesday 13 June. Megan and I took Cookie along the beach from Widewater to Lancing Beach Green and back. We saw 6 Little Egrets, a Kestrel and just one Mute Swan cygnet. Four Swifts over the garden in the evening and the Great Black-backed Gull family opposite.

feeding time for Great Black-backed Gull chicks

it didn't look very appetising

yarn-bombed beach hut at Widewater
flowers on the beach were just as colourful
as was this Yellowhammer on Southwick Hill

Monday/Tuesday 11/12 June. At least 10 Swifts over the garden in the evening and the Great Black-backed Gull family opposite.

Sunday 10 June 2018

Barn Owl & Great Black-backed Gulls (4-10 June)

Sunday 10 June. Megan was going to London for the day so I took Cookie for a walk from Woods Mill towards Streatham Manor. There were still two Nightingales singing along the footpath on the way out onto the brooks and a third a short way along the footpath to the north. I saw two of the three which seemed a good return. Certainly better than my none out of two heard Cetti's Warblers. A Barn Owl was hunting just east of the old railway line at Streatham Manor, coming close on a couple of occasions. It was almost certainly the same day-flying bird I'd seen there on 18 May. Lapwings were much in evidence over one of the barer fields - I saw at least 12 and three almost full-grown chicks. Other warblers included 2 Reed (one carrying a metal ring) and 2 Lesser Whitethroats and I saw 3 Reed Buntings and a Yellowhammer. An enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours. Later I took Cookie down to the Adur for low tide. Few gulls, and most sitting ruling out any ring reading, and 2 Oystercatchers the only waders. Otherwise 19 Mute Swans and 2 Little Egrets. Back home the Great Black-backed Gull family were on the roof behind and so far just 2 Swifts.
Barn Owl near the old railway line
I had seen one here on my previous visit (18 May) and it seemed likely it was the same bird
it being the same was confirmed when I saw it too had the same missing primary
although it wasn't always obvious
today I saw the owl flying from approximately 09:25-09:30, 10:00-10:15 and at 10:30.
it has always been one of my favourite birds and good views in daylight are brilliant, focusing on it (sometimes) with a bridge camera even better
missing feather showing particularly well
Nightingale at West Hill
in the darkest corner possible
Saturday 9 June. Megan and I took Cookie to Cissbury seeing 2 Lesser Whitehroats and single Swift, Green Woodpecker and YellowhammerBack home the Great Black-backed Gull family were on the roof behind. Later at Greatham I saw Cuckoo, Cetti's, 7 Reed and a Sedge Warbler but then failed to find any Woodcock at Lavington. Four Nightjars there were some compensation, although views could have been better. A Green Woodpecker and Yellowhammer were also seen and a distant Tawny Owl was heard.
Sky Lark at Cissbury
walking around Cissbury on a warm day was thirsty work
Lavington plantation
 Friday 8 June. Megan and I took Cookie to Wolstonbury seeing very few birds but Fly and Greater Butterfly Orchids and Twayblades were nice. At home the Great Black-backed Gull family were on the roof behind and at least 19 Swifts were seen.
Fly Orchid at Wolstonbury

commoner orchids at Wolstonbury
Greater Butterfly Orchid

Sky Lark at Wolstonbury
looking E from Wolstonbury
looking NE from Wolstonbury
Great Black-backed Gull adult and chick
 Thursday 7 June. A Hobby flew low over the lock-gates as I was cycling home. At home the Great Black-backed Gull family were on the roof behind and at least 7 Swifts were seen.
Great Black-backed Gull chicks back on the nest before dusk
Wednesday 6 June. I took Cookie to Lancing where we walked to Cow Bottom and back via Steepdown. 31 Swifts feeding over the Downs and I also saw 4 Buzzards, 2 Grey Partridges, 2 Swallows, a House Martin (only my second record this year), 15 Sky Larks, 4 Meadow Pipits, 4 Whitethroats and 7 Corn Buntings. Back home in the evening the 2 Great Black-backed Gull chicks had left the nest and were on the roof under supervision of the adults.
Corn Bunting at Steepdown

Meadow Pipit at Steepdown
rarely have I been as impressed seeing one
Great Black-backed Gull - adult and chick
both chicks, one showing its enormous feet
Tuesday 5 June. Two Great Black-backed Gull chicks were on the nest with both adults in attendance but only 4 Swifts were seen over the garden during a couple of brief looks.
Monday 4 June. One of the Great Black-backed Gulls was still sitting on the nest of the roof behind our garden while the other looked on. Later an impressive 30 Swifts were chasing around high above us.
Great Black-backed Gulls with the two chicks just about visible in the nest
Great Black-backed Gull was proved to breed in Sussex for the first time in 2000 although was strongly suspected of having done so in the previous two years. This is now the second year that a pair has bred on a roof behind our garden ...