Friday, 17 May 2019

Mostly seawatching (13-17 May)

Friday 17 May. I seawatched from Splash Point, Seaford from 05:00-09:00 hoping more Pomarine Skuas would be on the move. I was partially successful seeing 4 (two pale and a dark morph at 06:20 and a pale morph at 06:25), but missed a 5th that was seen a bit later by JFC at Beachy. I'd hoped for more (one always does) but they were all close with good tails. I also saw 2 Shelduck, 38 Common Scoter, a Great Crested Grebe, 79 Gannets, 3 Whimbrel, 7 Turnstones, 13 Sanderling, 15 Dunlin, a first-summer Mediterranean Gull, 12 Sandwich and 69 Common/Arctic Terns, 2 unidentified skuas (very distant Poms or Bonxies, possibly including JFC's 5th bird), a Razorbill and 7 unidentified auks.I thought one distant flock of Commics included at least 2 Black Terns but they remained stubbornly above the horizon where all looked fairly dark but Dungeness had 60 by 10:00 including a very impressive flock of 45. With no news of birds moving further down the channel I gave up and tried Seaford Head where a Black Redstart was my only notable sighting.
a Carrion Crow was my only companion at Splash Point
it gave me the evil eye rather than helping spot Poms 
Côte d'Albâtre approaching Newhaven
Seven Sisters and Birling Gap from Hope Gap
Black Redstart in Hope Gap
always nice to see
Stonechat in Hope Gap

Seven Sisters and Birling Gap
Thursday 16 May. A somewhat chaotic day. It started with a dull seawatch at Shoreham Fort. I strolled up at 06:35 to find the harbour arm was locked so sat on the beach and in the next two hours recorded the following: 2 Shoveler, 42 Common Scoter, 2 Fulmars, 23 Gannets, 5 Whimbrel (and another heard), 2 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Turnstone, 4 Kittiwakes, 3 Sandwich and 7 Common/Arctic Terns, 3 auks, 4 Swifts, 2 Swallows and 3 Bottle-nosed Dolphins. I returned home and Megan and I took Cookie to Rackham seeing 4 Buzzards, a Coal and 9 Long-tailed Tits, Nuthatch and Treecreeper. Back home we had lunch and I checked my phone at 14:00 to learn 10 Pomarine Skuas had flown past Selsey Bill at 13:35. I immediately returned to Shoreham Beach, settling for the nearest part at the end of Mardyke Road. I arrived at 14:15 and the flock of 10 Pomarine Skuas came by at 14:32, a bit distant and in light glare but still very nice. I waited to 15:15 but only saw 7 Gannets, a Fulmar and 3 Sandwich Terns. With no news of any more down channel I returned home via the Adur but 2 Little Egrets, 2 Oystercatchers and a Swallow (sadly a typical visit) didn't detain me for long. Back home again further news from Selsey of 3 Pomarines mid-afternoon (turns out they were at 15:35) and 5 late-afternoon (15:55) had me returning to the beach at Mardyke where I arrived at 16:45. The light was much better with the sun further round and the glare much reduced.I was sure I'd missed the 3 but at 16:54 2 distant Pomarine Skuas came through with 6 close stunners at 17:00. Presumably 3 + 5 had become 2 + 6 but with Poms you never know. Things then went a bit pear shaped with Selsey seeing 8 at 17:24 which were not picked further along the coast. Selsey had another 5 at 18:30 which were seen at Worthing and past me rather distantly at 19:33. Selsey had 3 at 18:48 which came close past me at 19:59. Selsey also had 3 singles which I failed to pick up. I watched from 16:45-20:40 and as well as 16 Pomarine Skuas saw 49 Gannets, 4 Grey Plover, Whimbrel, 13 superb summer Knot, 2 Sanderling, 18 Sandwich Terns and 3 Swifts. A very enjoyable day.
sand dredgers off Shoreham Harbour, incoming on its Plimsoll Line, outgoing not
Rampion Windfarm. During quiet spells seawatching I count how many turbines are not going round. This week it has varied from 4 to 7 out of 116 (wind strength probably has something to do with it). The middle one here was not working, not pointing into the wind probably not helping.
Red-legged Partridges at Rackham
Wednesday 15 May. I took Cookie back to the South Section of the Knepp Estate seeing similar birds to the previous visit, namely 2 introduced White Storks (one on the nest), 3 Stock and 2 Turtle Doves, 3 Cuckoos, Jay, Coal Tit, Garden Warbler and Mistle Thrush. I also heard the other common warblers and 3 Nightingales. In the evening I visited Lavington Common for the first Woodcock survey. Conditions appeared ideal but the heathand looked noticeably drier than previous visits with more rhododendron clearance along the eastern edge. I only encountered one Woodcock, seen very much by chance flying well outside my 'recording area'. None were heard and I drew a complete blank with Nightjars. Hopefully the latter hadn't arrived although I saw and heard three on the same date last year. No Tawny Owls were heard either, although Cuckoo and Dartford Warbler provided some compensation.
Cuckoo at Knepp
another Cuckoo at Knepp
Turtle Dove at Knepp
another Turtle Dove at Knepp
introduced White Stork with Jackdaw escort
practising synchronised flying
Woodcock survey site at Lavington Common 
the only bird seen was flying over the far woodland, although somewhat later than this image was taken
the first time I undertook this survey, in 2013, I had 10 encounters here but it has been downhill ever snce
very dry with little undergrowth
Rhododendron stumps on the left
Nightjar time, but not today
Tuesday 14 May. I took Cookie up onto the Downs walking a circuit from Lancing College to Cowbottom, Coombe Head and Steepdown. We saw 4 Buzzards, 3 Grey Partridges, 2 Swifts, 8 Sky Larks, 7 Swallows, 16 House Martins (confirmation from yesterday), 6 Whitethroats, 2 Mistle Thrushes, a Stonechat and 3 Corn Buntings.
view east from Steepdown circuit
Mistle Thrush near Lancing College
Monday 13 May. Seawatching at Widewater from 05:50-07:50 was hard work with little moving. I recorded 3 Little Egrets, 3 Gannets, 3 Ringed Plover, a Whimbrel, 8 Dunlin, 29 Black-headed Gulls and 15 Sandwich Terns flying east and 2 Swallows coming in. Later  nothing of note was seen on the Adur although I suspected that 20 hirundines flying around over Lancing College were House Martins.

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