Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Shoreham, West Mill and Knepp (10-13 May).

Wednesday 13 May. During the lockdown I've only used my car a couple of times a week to take Cookie for a dog walk somewhere less busy than the local parks, and then no further than I've been cycling. Now the lockdown has been eased and we are told it is OK to drive 'as far as one likes' to exercise (or play golf or go fishing) for 'as long as one likes'. I trust little this government tells us, if it is not downright lies it is massaged figures or double counting, but solo birding is a social-distancing activity and the Knepp Estate is a bit far for me to cycle to so I took the government's message at face value, drove to Knepp and stayed alert. Alert for the call of a Turtle Dove, alert for a glimpse of a singing Nightingale and definitely keeping 2m away from the few other people seen. During the morning I saw 4 Cuckoos, 3 Turtle Doves, 5 Buzzards, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Jay, 5 Swallows, 2 Chiffchaffs, Blackcap, 3 Garden Warblers, a Lesser and 5 Common Whitethroats, 4 Mistle Thrushes, a Nightingale, female Grey Wagtail and male Bullfinch. More of most of the above were heard but a plethora of signs discourages straying from the footpath, unless one really needs to. Also, with varying degrees of dissatisfaction surrounding their origin, 6 Greylag and 2 Egyptian Geese, a female Mandarin, a Red Kite and 7 White Storks (including a pair bill-clacking and more on their nest). 
Garden Warbler at Knepp
pretending to be a Spotted Flycatcher
or something more interesting with shading
Lesser Whitethroat at Knepp
look, no legs
Mistle Thrush at Knepp
Turtle Dove at Knepp
the most distant of the three seen but at least it didn't fly off immediately
deer at Knepp

Red Kite, a reintroduction that has done very well although one might argue too well given the numbers roaming the south west at present
Egyptian Geese at Knepp, an introduction that took a long time to reach Sussex but now seems to be everywhere, more's the pity.
White Stork, a very recent introduction that has yet to successfully breed in Sussex, maybe this year 
hard to miss with obvious nests
and bill-clacking which can be heard half a mile away

nice to see but now we'll never know if they would have colonised the UK naturally as various southern herons and egrets are doing or is the channel is too big a barrier?

all birds seen well enough to tell had rather discrete colour-rings, not easy to see on most fly-overs

five or ten years ago a sight like this in Sussex in May would have had one quite excited, no more
hedge trimming an integral part of Knepp re-wilding?
Tuesday 12 May. I cycled up the Downslink to Streatham Bridge, about as far as I'm comfortable going on my bike, and walked over to West Mill. The best birds encountered were only heard, namely Turtle Dove (distantly), Mediterranean GullCetti's Warbler and Nightingale. I saw 2 Swifts, a distant Cuckoo, 5 Lapwings, 12 House Martins, a Sedge and 3 Reed Warblers, 5 Whitethroats, a male Stonechat, 2 male Yellowhammers and 2 male Reed Buntings. Back on the Adur was a Whimbrel and a colour-ringed Herring Gull
Cuckoo at West Mill, it wasn't close
then flew as I was approaching
male Stonechat at West Mill with spider (or similar prey item)
the same Stonechat with caterpillar, doubtless a nest nearby 
Yellowhammer at West Mill
colour-ringed Herring Gull on the Adur, it flew before I could photograph it standing and promptly sat on the water 
almost readable, a North Thames bird
Monday 11 May. I cycled down to Shoreham Beach. Little was passing in a strong NE wind with 26 Sandwich Terns, a Fulmar, 27 Gannets and 5 Swallows flying East and a pair of Mediterranean Gulls West. Back home a Stock Dove visited our bird table. Still no further sign of any local Swifts or Great Black-backed Gulls.
River Class Offshore Patrol Vessel off Shoreham
Sunday 10 May. With the wind firmly in the North I had a bit of a lie in and went down to Shoreham Beach with Megan and Cookie to take advantage of a particularly low tide. While there a flock of 26 Whimbrel flew East as did a Turnstone and 10 Swallows while 2 Sandwich Terns were off-shore.
gulls on Shoreham Beach

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