Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Depressing Woodcock survey and other bits (June 13-17)

Monday 17 June. I took Cookie to West Mill and we walked out to and along the old railway line. There was still a Nighgtingale singing as was a Turtle Dove on the way out and back giving reasonable views both times. Other sightings included one sitting Lapwing (almost hidden in the growing crop), a Jay, 3 Reed Warblers, 2 Blackcaps, 4 Whitethroats, Nuthatch, 2 Yellowhammers and 2 Reed Buntings. Back home both Great Black-backed Gulls were at Glebelands, one still sitting. Later, on the way to Lavington for my Woodcock Survey, I called into the Arun valley and saw 5 Mandarins, a female Marsh Harrier, 3 Swifts, 2 House Martins, Grasshopper, 2 Sedge and 2 Reed Warblers, 6 Whitethroats, 3 Stonechats and a Reed Bunting. I also heard Cuckoo and Cetti's Warbler but unfortunately no owls. At Lavington a single Woodcock flew over my head calling, my only encounter but at least a good one. Also lots of Nightjar activity with 5 seen and Cuckoo, Tawny Owl, Dartford Warbler and Yellowhammer heard. 
Turtle Dove at West Mill
I've looked for them a few times this year with success (in seeing them, sometimes only heard) around 50%
it seems worth repeated visits as I can't be sure they'll be back next year
it'll be very sad if they are not
view across the levels to Steyning Round Hill and Chanctonbury Ring
male Yellowhammer at West Mill
female Yellowhammer
duller but still very nice when seen well
Large Skipper
Nuthatch by the old railway line
Reed Bunting on the levels
it can be hot on the roof ...
Stonechat in the Arun, an old male or a continental bird?

Sedge Warbler in the Arun, very scarce this year in the lower Adur and another species seemingly in decline

Grasshopper Warbler in the Arun
somewhat unexpected

The Woodcock survey has been going on since 2013. Most years I've made the regulation three visits although only managed two in 2015 (when it wasn't official) and 2016. One counts the number of Woodcock encounters (seen or heard) in a 75 minute period (it was 60 minutes in 2013 and 2014) starting 15 minutes before sunset. Visits are in May and June and have to be at least a week apart. My results shown graphically are:
were it not for 2017 this would show a catastrophic decline, even with it it is very concerning that the most recent two years are the worst in the seven year period. Hopefully the position elsewhere isn't as dramatic. I would be happier doing the survey if the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust were not involved (as well as the BTO). I do not find the GWCT position on Woodcock at all reassuring. It is set out in https://www.gwct.org.uk/advisory/briefings/woodcock/ Included is Q: Why is the GWCT not calling for a ban on woodcock shooting? A: Banning the shooting of woodcock will not reverse declines in the long term and a ban may simply prove counterproductive and Q: How might a ban be counterproductive? A: A ban on shooting may remove the motivation for many landowners to manage their woods in ways that will maintain suitable habitat for woodcock and other species.
Sunday 16 June. I took Cookie up to Mill Hill where we saw 6 Swifts, a Peregrine flying purposefully north carrying what looked like a male Blackbird (destination Beeding Quarry?), Jay, 2 juvenile Blackcaps and 3 Whitethroats. Back home one Great Black-backed Gull was still sitting at Glebelands.
Pyramidal Orchid Mill Hill
Spotted Orchid Mill Hill
Saturday 15 June. Cookie and I walked up the Adur from Cuckoo's Corner seeing 3 Grey Herons and 17 Little Egrets, 13 Sky Larks, 2 House Martins, 3 Whitethroats and 9 male Reed Buntings. I also heard 3 Reed Warblers. Back home one Great Black-backed Gull was still sitting at Glebelands.
Goldfinch by the Adur
easy to take for granted
one of several Reed Buntings in the lower Adur Valley

another Reed Bunting

and another

Friday 14 June. I took Cookie to the Knepp Estate, seeing a Red Kite flying over the Steyning By-pass on the way. There we saw 3 Buzzards, a Turtle Dove, 34 Swifts, Great Spotted Woodpecker, a juvenile Coal, 10 Blue, 17 Great and 8 Long-tailed Tits, a Swallow, Nuthatch, Mistle Thrush and 2 Bullfinches. We heard Nightingale (but not Cuckoo), a Reed and the expected Sylvia Warblers. No sign either of the introduced White Storks, the nest appearing deserted for the second visit running. Back home one Great Black-backed Gull was still sitting at Glebelands.
Turtle Dove at Knepp, my digiscoping definitely needs improvement
not as welcoming as it used to be
Thursday 13 June. I took Cookie to West Mill and walked out to the old railway line. Despite blustery weather a Turtle Dove was showing on arrival and we also saw Red Kite, 3 Lapwings, Swift, Sky Lark, Cetti's Warbler (poorly), 7 Whitethroats, female Stonechat, male Bullfinch, male Yellowhammer and 2 Reed Buntings. Later I went to Pulborough RSPB dodging showers to see the distant (aren't all waders here) Red-necked Phalarope on the North Brooks. Also 6 Egyptian Geese, 4 Gadwall, 5 Teal, 10 Swifts, a Jay and 20 Sand and 2 House Martins. That evening both Great Black-backed Gulls were on the roof at Glebelands.
Turtle Dove at West Mill

male Red-necked Phalarope at Pulborough
my 7th in Sussex but the first further from the coast than Sidlesham Ferry
it is also gave the most distant views, but I expected thaty would be the case.
Great Black-backed Gull from our garden

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