Tuesday, 6 August 2019

West Sussex and Squacco Heron (28 July-06 August)

Tuesday 06 August. I took Cookie up to Mill Hill and while there received a phonecall from JK asking if I fancied going to Pagham for the Squacco Heron that was still around that morning. Mill Hill was quiet with a Lesser and 4 Common Whitethroats and a Blackcap and Pagham sounded more tempting than another low-tide visit to the Adur so it was the push I needed. John picked me up and we drove to Pagham where there was a space at the far end of Church Lane. We walked along the North Wall meeting a couple of birders who told us the Squacco hadn't been seen for almost two hours. We continued and just before its favoured field met Barry and Margaret Collins who told us it had returned and was showing quite well. The Squacco Heron was feeding in the back of field and we watched it for 10 minutes before it flew into/behind the small copse to the west. Fortunate timing we later repeated on a return to the area when after a 15 minute wait it flew around for several minutes before dropping back into its field. This time it stayed in view for 15 minutes before flying a short distance into a ditch. We waited another half hour before leaving shortly before it reappeared. JK hurried back for more distant views but I stayed on the North Wall watching distant waders as the tide was coming in. While at Pagham we saw 2 Cattle and 20+ Little Egrets, 11 Greenshank, 35 Dunlin (most adults), 20 Curlew, 16 Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Sand Martins and 10 Swallows.
Squacco Heron in its favourite field near Halsey's Farm 
my second in Sussex, the first being as recently as 2015

not as obvious in the field as one might expect
Two Cattle Egrets roosting at Owl Point
egrets and a heron
young Great Black-backed Gull investigating a chimney

Monday 05 August. Early rain stopped me visiting Mill Hill but it started to clear coinciding with a decent low tide so Cookie and I headed for the Adur. There I saw a North Thames colour-ringed Herring Gull, the 153rd different colour-ring I've read on the Adur between the railway line and A27. Also on the Adur were one possibly two juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls, 7 Little Egrets, 6 Oystercatchers, a Whimbrel and a juvenile Redshank. 
North Thames Herring Gull S5MT, not one I'd seen before and my first North Thames bird for a while as with the tips closing they are no longer being caught and ringed
assumed juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull. I never saw it do anything, took my eye off it for a while and then it had gone
distant juvenile Yellow-legged Gull
it flew to a nearer sandbar


gulls on the Adur
the white-headed bird looked quite interesting structurally (more so in images than at the time) but that was probably due to the angle
it didn't do anything and was suddenly gone
juvenile Great Black-backed Gull still hasn't left the roof even for the adjoining one.
Sunday 04 August. I took Cookie to Cissbury in the hope of an early migrant or two but it was disappointing with a few common warblers (single Willow and Chiffchaff, a Lesser and 10 Common Whitethroats and 4 Blackcaps) and 3 Stonechats. A distant Raven was mobbing a large raptor with a square tail but it pretty much flew away leaving me wondering, although Common Buzzard would seem most likely.
Kestrel at Cissbury
unidentified raptor at Cissbury

the young Great Black-backed Gull sheltering from a strong SW wind. Earlier it had been vigorous flapping for several minutes and I thought it might be off
Saturday 03 August. My arm was still sore/painful and I thought it best not to drive so Cookie and I visited the allotment. 
young Great Black-backed Gull

Friday 02 August. I took Cookie up to Mill Hill which was rather quiet with 9 Whitethroats, 2 Chiffchaffs and single Willow and Reed Warblers. Later I took Megan down to the station as she was heading for the Eurostar for a long weekend in Paris with Nessa. I then had my rescheduled Pneumococcal vaccine which was fine at the time but later gave me a very sore arm, memories of Typhoid inoculations but worse.
Magpie learning to ride
it helps if you are facing the right way
young Great Black-backed Gull on what remains of its nest after recent storms
Thursday 01 August. I took Cookie to West Mill and we walked out to the old railway line. I saw 5 Kestrels (presumably a family), 2 Ravens, a Willow Warbler, a Lesser and 6 Common Whitethroats, a Bullfinch, 4 Yellowhammers and 4 Reed Buntings. Only the Ravens and Yellowhammers were vocal and I drew a blank on Turtle Dove which I've seen on each visit in June and July. One of the adults regurgitated what looked like a bit of fish tail for the young Great Black-backed Gull which scoffed it before I could go in for my camera. 
Yellowhammer along the old railway line
Silver-washed Fritillary
I can't remember when I last saw one, or any fritillary to be honest

Wednesday 31 July.
Cookie and I went to the south section of Knepp where the camera traps seen along public footpaths on our last visit had been taken down making it feel slightly less unwelcoming. It was very quiet. Two distant Turtle Doves on wires by the south gate were the highlight. I've found this to be the most reliable site for them and usually see one when arriving or leaving. One Whitethroat was seen and a couple of Chiffchaffs the only other warblers, two sizable tit flocks and two Bullfinches. Later I took Cookie down to the Adur and wished I hadn't bothered with just 2 Grey Herons, 3 Little Egrets and an Oystercatcher to show for it. Embarrassingly I also missed my appointment for a Pneumococcal vaccine jab.

Turtle Dove at Knepp

safe journey, hope you'll make it back next year 
our juvenile Great black-backed Gull keeps growing
Tuesday 30 July. I took Cookie to Shoreham Fort where there were 8 Turnstone and a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull but nothing was sheltering from the strong winds and nothing was seen on the sea. Given the tide and the weather we then went to Brooklands where 6 Common Sandpipers were the highlight.
Turnstone (one of 8) on the beach at Shoreham Fort
juvenile Yellow-legged Gull at Shoreham Fort
fish in the stream at Brooklands
I thought this might be a Yellow-legged Gull but it was quite dark and didn't move despite my watching it for 10 minutes
Monday 29 July. Megan and I took Cookie up to Mill Hill where I saw my first Willow Warbler of the autumn. Also 2 each of Swift and Swallow, single Raven and Yellowhammer but only one Whitethroat. A late afternoon visit to the Adur produced single Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper, juvenile Yellow-legged Gull and Swallow and at least 8 distant House Martins and a Buzzard over Lancing College.
Shoreham Airport from Mill Hill
Steepdown, Cissbury and Steyning Roundhill from Mill Hill
bait digger on the Adur
gulls on the Adur
our Great Black-backed Gull
Sunday 28 July. Megan, Nessa and I took Cookie to Steepdown where two loose flocks of Swifts totalling 81 flew west. Otherwise it was quiet with 14 Corn Buntings the highlight. Mid afternoon I dropped Nessa at the station and went on to the Adur. My first returning Common Gull, an adult and 2-3 juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls and a Whimbrel made it one of my more worthwhile visits. 
Nessa and Megan approaching Steepdown
... and Cookie
Corn Bunting at Steepdown

Wayfaring berries and poppies adding to the colour

south from Steepdown
very clear looking towards Belle Tout
Common, Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls on the Adur
I took this to be another Lesser Black-backed Gull but it never woke up
another presumed Lesser Black-backed Gull against the light
it looked quite round headed and small-billed but didn't do anything helpful while I was watching it
presumed Yellow-legged Gull on the Adur
perhaps they might come closer if I took some bread
Yellow-legged (centre) and Herring Gulls on the Adur
another Yellow-legged Gull on the Adur

gulls on the Adur
adult Yellow-legged Gull on the Adur, a bit easier for me to identify than younger birds!

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