Wednesday 29 April 2020

Shoreham Long-eared Owl (27-29 April)

Wednesday 29 AprilI cycled down to Shoreham Beach, had a rest then walked along towards Widewater before returning via the Adur. Birds seen flying East (mostly distantly) in variable winds (N-E-S) were 8 Brent Geese114 Common Scoter, 16 Whimbrel, just Black-headed Gull, 17 Sandwich and 8 unidentified Terns, a Great and 5 Arctic Skuas, 9 divers (including 4 Red-throated and a probable Black-throated), 5 Fulmars and at least 200 Gannets (including at least 100 following a trawler). Best by a country mile (or two) was a Long-eared Owl that came in off the sea. My initial impression was of a Bonxie chasing two Herring Gulls but it was immediately apparent that the gulls were the chasers and chased an eared owl. As it came closer DB, who was in earshot at this point, were delighted to realise it was a Long-eared Owl. Before it crossed the coast I even saw the black V on its face. By the time I thought it might be worth photographing it was heading inland quickly and I failed to pick it up and it wasn't any of my speculative shots. It was my first in Sussex since 2010 although I've seen a couple at Dungeness and one on Unst since then. On the Adur were a Whimbrel, 4 Bar-tailed Godwits and 2 summer-plumaged Dunlin. In the afternoon two Stock Doves visited out bird table.

Stock Dove on our bird table

Tuesday 28 April. I cycled down to Widewater, had a rest and came back via the Adur. I'd hoped to get around before the rain came in but was caught at Widewater where the shelter provided by one of the beach huts was most welcome. There was a winter-plumaged Black-throated Diver on the sea which was relatively flat in a light NE  wind. While there a Great Skua flew West and a Whimbrel and 8 Sandwch Terns East. Hardly the movement I was hoping for. I saw nothing on the Adur, possibly due to the presence of a bait digger. It was the first day in a week with no Mediterranean Gulls seen.

Black-throated Diver off Widewater
Monday 27 AprilI cycled down to Shoreham Beach, had a rest then walked along towards Widewater before returning via the Adur. Birds seen flying East in the very light NE wind were 28 Brent Geese30 Common Scoter, 2Black-headed, 8 adult Mediterranean and 3 Common Gulls, 17 SandwichTerns, 2 Great Skuas, 4 Fulmars, 14 Gannets and 7 Linnets.
Asphodel now about my height, I didn't remember this big in Corsica

Sunday 26 April 2020

Shoreham Beach (23-26 April)

Sunday 26 April. Groundhog Day, again. I cycled down to Shoreham Beach, had a rest then walked along towards Widewater before returning via the Adur. Birds seen flying East in the NE veering SE wind were a Mute Swan, 37 Common Scoter, an Avocet, 10 Whimbrel, 9 Bar-tailed Godwits (and one on the beach), 11 Black-headed, 4 adult and a first-summer Mediterranean and 5 Common Gulls, 20 Sandwich, 2 Arctic and 5 Commic Terns, 2 Great and 2 Arctic Skuas, 3 Fulmars, 12 Gannets and 5 Swallows. The 8 Pomarine Skuas seen off the Isle of Wight and Beachy would have past Shoreham Beach while I was there but were most likely too distant to pick up. 

Saturday 25 April. I cycled down to Shoreham Beach, had a rest then walked along towards Widewater before returning via the Adur. Birds seen flying East in the NNE wind were 11 Brent and a Canada Goose, 5 Shelduck and 3 Common Scoter, 4 Whimbrel, a Turnstone, Black-headed and 6 adult Mediterranean Gulls, 31 Sandwich Terns an Arctic Skua, 2 Fulmars, 23 Gannets and 4 Swallows. Six Wheatears were on the beach, but I missed the Whinchat seen at about the same time by DB. The Black-tailed Godwit was still on the Adur.

Friday 24 April. I cycled down to Shoreham Beach and walked along towards Widewater before returning via Cuckoos Corner and the Adur. Birds seen flying East in the Northerly wind were single Shelduck and Common Scoter, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, 3 Whimbrel, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits, 69 Black-headed, 195 Mediterranean and 11 Common Gulls, 7 Sandwich Terns and 4 Gannets. Other birds were doubtless missed as a lot of the time I was scanning to the West anticipating the next gull flock. Today's Meds were 33 first-summers, 12 second-summers and 150 adults and took my total passing Shoreham this month to 1033. At Cuckoos Corner I saw a Buzzard, 7 Sedge Warblers and 6 Reed Buntings and heard Cetti's and Reed Warblers. On the exposed margins of the Adur were 2-4 Whimbrel and the long staying Black-tailed Godwit. Still no House Martins over Lancing College.

Thursday 23 April. I cycled down to Shoreham Beach for a spot of self-isolating, immediately finding my 'lost' cycle-lock key on the pebbles where I'd sat the previous morning. Flying east were 30 Brent Geese, 2 Shelduck, 2 drake Eider, 2 Common Scoter, a Red-breasted Merganser, 4 Avocets, 42 Whimbrel, 9 Bar-tailed Godwits, 251 Black-headed, 318 Mediterranean and 12 Common Gulls, 39 Sandwich and 2 CommicTerns , a very distant Great Skua, another smaller distant skua (probably Arctic), a Red-throated Diver, 27 Gannets, a Great White Egret and 18 Swallows. Unbeknown to me at the time Owen Mitchell saw 2 Great White Egrets flying east off Climping half an hour before my sighting. did one veer off somewhere else or did I miss it? Mine was high and only picked up when straight out/going away so perhaps I did. The egret was only the second I have seen on a seawatch, the other, first picked up by Simon Linington, was at Seaford exactly three years earlier. Today's Meds were 22 first-summers, 7 second-summers and 289 adults. Nothing was seen on the Adur on my way home
Mediterranean Gulls flying East high over the sea
the last of a group of four adults almost slipping through unseen as they flew East behind me. Others certainly did as three times I heard Mediterranean Gulls calling but couldn't locate them

Wednesday 22 April 2020

Misadventure with bicycle (18-22 April)

Wednesday 22 April. I cycled to Shoreham Beach where I saw 17 Mediterranean Gulls (16 adults and a first-summer), 10 Sandwich Terns, a close dark morph Arctic Skua, 14 Whimbrel and 2 Bar-tailed Godwits flying East, although the highlight was 2 Slavonian Grebes on the sea in full summer-plumage as well as 3 of the more usual Great Crested Grebes. No waders on the Adur and I continued cycling up the old railway line on the Downs Link seeing little other than Blackcaps as I went. Near Streatham Bridge I chained my bike up only to immediately realise when it clicked shut that the lock's key was missing. I walked to West Mill hearing 2 Nightingales and a pair of Tawny Owls and seeing 4 Lapwings, a Cetti's Warbler and 2 Lesser and 3 Common Whitethroats. I phoned Megan, who was now back from the allotment and told here were a spare key might be, having forgotten I'd moved them. She kindly drove up to collect me, saving a very long walk and I found what I was pretty sure was the spare key in the garage. Later I emptied my boot and took my car back to Woods Mill and walked back to the bike seeing one of the Nightingales and a Red Kite on the way. Moral of the story - best not to venture too far from home. Postscript. The following morning I found my bike lock key on Shoreham Beach, fortunately I'd been sat just above the high-tide mark. 
Mediterranean Gulls approaching Shoreham Beach
Nightingale at West Mill
a very vocal individual
Tuesday 21 April. Very little seen while at Widewater with 3 Whimbrel, a Bar-tailed Godwit, 6 Sandwich and 3 Common Terns, a Fulmar and 7 Gannets flying East. The Black-tailed Godwit and 2 Whimbrel were seen on the Adur and a Swift (my earliest in the UK by a day) and 2 Blackcaps at Mill Hill where a Nightingale was singing loudly.
one of several Grizzled Skippers seen at Mill Hill, nice butterfly, rubbish photo but its the only one I have
Monday 20 April. With a hint of East in the strengthening Northerly wind I cycled down to Widewater. It was very clear and little was moving. I saw 5 Brent Geese, about 12 very distant Scoter, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, 7 Whimbrel, 13 Black-headed, 2 adult Mediterranean and 6 Common Gulls, 15 Sandwich Terns, 4 Fulmars and 17 Gannets flying East. An unidentified auk flew west and a Carrion Crow and Swallow came in. I returned by the Adur seeing the Black-tailed Godwit, a Whimbrel and a colour-ringed first-summer Mediterranean Gull.
Mediterranean Gull 3NJ1 on the Adur
over-exposed image making the ring harder to read than it was, it was ringed as a chick at Zwin, Knokke-Heist, West-Vlaanderen, Flanders, Belgium on 16 June 2019 and seen there 10 days later
Black-tailed Godwit on the Adur
Whimbrel on the Adur, another ARK catch-up?
Sunday 19 April. The continual Northerly winds were getting to me so I deserted the coast and took Megan and Cookie up to Lancing Ring and Steepdown. The car park had been closed by the Council so everybody was parked along the roads outside. Quite a few people were walking dogs, cycling or jogging but it was easy to obey social distancing rules. Sky Larks were singing everywhere (I saw 11) but otherwise it was rather quiet. I saw 2 Buzzards, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers (and heard a Green), Chiffchaff, Blackcap, 4 Stonechats, a female Wheatear, 4 Meadow Pipits and 6 Corn Buntings.
Corn Bunting at Steepdown
a pair of Stonechats at Steepdown. Another male and female were seen at Steepdown but being 150m apart might not have been a pair
Saturday 18 April. I cycled to Widewater, Shoreham Fort and Beach, New Salts Farm and the Adur. There were at least 11 mobile Wheatears on the rock groynes at Widewater, easily the day's highlight. Eight were visible on one scan and several looking good for Greenland. A newly arrived Willow Warbler quickly worked its way up a groyne and 8 Swallows came in as did a Yellow Wagtail although I failed to see it. Although or maybe because visibility out to see wasn't great a number of birds were moving. Flying east I counted 22 Brent Geese, 56 Whimbrel, single Bar-tailed Godwit and Sanderling, 12 Black-headed, 2 adult Mediterranean and 6 Common Gulls, 2 Red-throated Divers, 3 Fulmars, 32 Gannets, 86 Sandwich, 170 "commic" and a Little Tern, a dark-morph Arctic Skua (my first skua of the year, it felt long overdue) and a Grey Heron. Although most were close few of the commics were identified as they were passing too quickly (or perhaps more likely I'm slowing down). Nine were considered to be Arctics and 29 Common Terns. Twenty-six Turnstones were roosting on the wooden jetty by Shoreham Fort at high tide, Cetti's and my first Reed Warbler were heard at New Salts Farm and on the muddy margins of the Adur (it was a very modest high tide) were two Bar-tailed and a Black-tailed Godwit.
male Wheatear at Widewater
female Wheatear at Widewater
warship off Shoreham, possibly a River Class Patrol Vessel but hard to tell
a second warship off Shoreham, looking much like the first but both were on view at the same time
godwits on the Adur - bar, black, bar
the original Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits seen yesterday

joined by the second Bar-tailed seen by ARK yesterday. I thought I'd caught up with him to find he'd also seen a Whimbrel today. Always one step behind ...

Friday 17 April 2020

waiting for a skua, any skua ... (Shoreham-by-Sea 14-17 April)

Friday 17 April. I cycled to Shoreham Beach and from there walked along to Widewater where I was pleased to be sheltered for a couple of heavy showers. Flying east I saw 37 Brent Geese, 3 Gadwall, 77 Common Scoter, 2 Red-breased Mergansers, a Grey Plover, 34 Whimbrel, a Bar-tailed Godwit, 3 Dunlin, 12 Mediterranean Gulls, 148 Sandwich, 2 Common and 17 Arctic Terns and 111 Gannets. With a stiff northerly wind more was probably passing too far out for me to pick up although a good proportion of the waders, gulls and particularly terns seen were flying close to the beach which might have offered them some shelter? Still waiting for my first skua and I'm really missing seawatching at Seaford with its Kittiwake soundtrack, another species I've not seen this year. The Mediterranean Gulls were a pair, two pairs, a pair, another pair and two friendly second-summers. A Hobby came in, four Wheatears were on the beach and I caught the back of a Yellow Wagtail flying low over it. At least two of the wheatears looked good for the Greenland race leuccorrhoaI stopped at the Adur on the way home. The Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits seen yesterday were opposite the airfield, this time in the same field of view if one didn't zoom too much.
adult Mediterranean Gulls passing Shoreham Beach
Wheatear on Shoreham Beach
Great Crested Grebe on the sea off Shoreham Beach
Arctic Tern off Shoreham Beach
Gannet off Shoreham Beach, some were coming much closer than usual
presumed Greenland Wheatear at Widewater

not such a bright bird
two rather wet Wheatears at Widewater, both looking good for  leuccorrhoa


both godwits on the Adur in the same field of view is certainly a first for me
Black-tailed to the left and Bar-tailed to the right
Thursday 16 April. I cycled to Shoreham Beach, walked along to Widewater and returned via Shoreham Fort, New Salts Farm, Adur Rec, Cuckoos Corner and the River Adur. It is surprising how much ground one can cover on a bike compared to walking. An enjoyable morning, the highlights being an adult Iceland and 159 Mediterranean Gulls flying east, as were a Brent Goose, 11 Whimbrel, 44 Sandwich Terns and a Swallow. A Wheatear was on the beach at Widewater, 2 Sparrowhawks copulating in the pines on Adur Rec, 2 Reed Buntings at Cuckoos Corner and single Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits on the Adur. I saw the Black-tailed Godwit distantly on the east back of the Adur from the airport side on my way to Cuckoos Corner. Pushing my bike back under the A27 I saw what I expected to be the same bird on the 'island' opposite Ricardos. It was soon apparent that it was a Bar-tailed Godwit and a superb individual at that. It made me wonder if I'd been mistaken earlier but cycling across the Old Toll Bridge and down the east side the Black-tailed Godwit was still there. Probably the first time I've seen both godwits on the Adur at the same time even if one was above and one below the Old toll Bridge. The Iceland Gull was my first adult in Sussex for many years and was quite close to the shore but flew steadily east and so wasn't in view for long. The Meds were brilliant and included two flocks of 20 and one of 21. Virtually all the Mediterranean Gulls were travelling in pairs, or groups of pairs, all but one if two of the adults were paired with second-summers. Migrating in pairs is not something other gulls appear to do regularly. Perhaps doing so has enabled Mediterranean Gulls to spread as quickly as they have?
Wheatear on Shoreham Beach
superb summer Bar-tailed Godwit on the Adur

it found several worms while I was watching it

back to the river to wash off the mud
Black-tailed Godwit on the Adur

Asphodel in our garden
in May 2013 at Col de Sorba in central Corsica Megan and I 'rescued' three Asphodels that had been dug up, presumably by pigs after their tubers. We brought them home and planted them in our garden not sure if they would survive. A few leaves appeared each year but we'd given up on them doing anything more, until now ...
Wednesday 15 April. I walked to Truleigh Hill via New Erringham Farm and returned by way of Southwick Hill. I saw a Red Kite, 4 Buzzards, 19 Sky Larks, 2 Swallows, Willow Warbler, 2 Whitethroats, Wheatear, 2 Meadow Pipits, 4 Greenfinches, 7 Corn Buntings and 2 Yellowhammers. It was the first time I've done this circuit although I'd previously been on all the footpaths used. I'm hoping lockdown won't last too long so I won't feel the need to do it again.
Swallow at New Erringham Farm
Wheatear near New Erringham Farm, this looked a pretty ordinary one to me
lambs on the downs
Meadow Pipit near Truleigh Hill
its mate
Whitethroat on Southwick Hill
female Yellowhammer at Southwick Hill
male Yellowhammer at Southwick Hill, not much further away but much more affected by heat haze
Tuesday 14 April. I saw my first Whitethroat of the year at Mill Hill, also single Swallow, Long-tailed Tit and Chiffchaff and two Blackcaps. Earlier at Shoreham Beach 7 Sandwich Terns, Red-throated Diver, 2 Fulmars, 2 Gannets, a Swallow and 16 Linnets.
displaying Great Crested Grebes on the sea off Shoreham Beach
Chiffchaff at Mill Hill
Linnet at Mill Hill
Chaffinch at Mill Hill

Whitethroat at Mill Hill
my first of the year
Carrion Crow at Mill Hill