Tuesday 21 December. I spent a day birding in East Sussex, starting at Polegate services for the Hooded Crow which appeared at 08:20 after 5 minutes searching. I drove on to Pevensey Bay, parked at the end of the cottages and walked back 500m along the beach looking for the Shore Lark. It was in its usual place, just before the white boat. Offshore were 5 Great Crested Grebes and 4 Red-throated Divers and 7 fairly distant geese flew east that didn't look much like Brents. A quick look at Sovereign Harbour gave amazing views of the Great Northern Diver catching crabs at almost point blank range in the outer harbour. I spent a couple of hours at West Rise Marsh where a flock of 15 White-fronted Geese were a pleasant surpeise.On West Langley Lake were 40 Shoveler, 34 Gadwall, 20 Wigeon, 15 Pochard and 19 Tufted Duck while first & second-winter Yellow-legged and a first-winter Caspian Gull visited. Wandering around I saw 7 Snipe, Water Rail, 6 Stonechats and 1-2 Water Pipits (flight views only) although not the hoped for Bearded Tit. I stopped briefly at High and Over but couldn't find anything amongst the Canada Geese below. I finished at the gull roost in the Lower Cuckmere, approaching from Chyngton Farm. About 1000 large gulls were present in two loose flocks, both being quite distant from the path. In 90 minutes, mostly checking the northern flock, I saw 2 first-winter and an adult Caspian Gull, 5-6 Yellow-legged Gulls (1w, 2w, near-adult and 2-3 adults), 50 Herring Gulls (including 6+ adult argentatus), 200 Lesser and 750 Great Black-backed Gulls. With the Canada Geese were 4 Barnacle Geese, any other time I would assume they were ferals but with last weeks influx who knows. Knowing there had been Short-eared Owls seen around the lagoon I scoped the eastern side of the river and saw 2. A very enjoyable day.
|Hooded Crow at Polegate services|
|only my third in Sussex|
|Shore Lark at Pevensey|
|Great Northern Diver in Sovereign Harbour|
|White-fronted Geese at West Rise Marsh|
|having a fly-around|
|one was out of shot, lagging behind|
|first-winter Caspian Gull on West Langley Lake|
|second-winter Yellow-legged Gull on West Langley Lake|
|argentatus Herring Gull in the Cuckmere, I never did get a better view of the front-right bird |
|first-winter Caspian Gull in the Cuckmere, a small individual, presumably a female |
|first-winter Caspian Gull in the Cuckmere, a large individual, presumably a male|
|adult Caspian Gull in the Cuckmere|
|yellow-ringed gull in the Cuckmere|
|too distant to read the ring and a struggle to identify in the late sunshine|
|size, shape and possibly wing pattern suggested Yellow-legged but the legs didn't|
|Barnacle Geese in the Cuckmere|
Monday 20 December. Megan and I took Cookie to the Adur walking down the airport side and past the houseboats to the Adur Ferry Bridge and back up the east side. The tide was coming in fast with most of the mud covered on our return. I saw 15 Teal, 106 Lapwings, 2 Grey Plover, 20 Redshank, the Greenshank, 5 Grey Herons, 6 Skylarks, 4 Meadow Pipits and 18 Linnets.
|Greenshank in the Houseboat Channel|
Sunday 19 December. I seawatched from Widewater from 07:55-09:05 in murky conditions. Nothing was moving, at least not within my visibility, and the only birds of note were Great Crested Grebe, an auk and 3 Red-throated Divers on the sea. The weather seemed to be improving as I drove home/away from the sea/river, and so Megan and I took Cookie up to Mill Hill which was partly blanketed in low cloud. We saw a Kestrel, 12 Blackbirds, 2 Song Thrushes and 2 Goldfinches. Later I heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker from Shoreham Station while waiting to collect Nessa. She and Megan then went up to Holmbush so I took Cookie for a walk around the block. Annoyingly I forgot to take binoculars as approaxhing the Middle Road/Park Avenue I heard parakeets calling and two flew towards me. A Ring-necked Parakeet which flew off NE and the Lord Derby's Parakeet which returned to the large bare tree where it appeared to be eating buds. After a few minutes watching it I headed home for my binoculars and camera but it had gone, possibly to roost, by the time I returned. A male Sparrowhawk flew in to the same tree providing some compensation.
|somewhat bedraggled Kestrel on Mill Hill|
|Lord Derby's Parakeet in Shoreham, the best I could manage with my phone|
Saturday 18 December. I arrived at Pulborough Brooks RSPB just before 08:00 and immediately headed for Fattengates to look for the male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker that had been appearing intermittently for a week or two. I had a poor naked-eye flight view of what was almost certainly it flying into the top of a nearby tree quickly followed by a flock of noisy Jackdaws. I didn't see it again for almost four hours when I picked it up feeding in the top ogf an Elm beside the path up to the church. Fantastic bird, but it dropped from view after a couple of minutes - at about the time I was thinknig of getting my camera. Also at Fattengates I saw Red Kite, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, 2 Coal and 12 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Nuthatches, Treecreeper, 2 Fieldfares, Redwing, 2 Chaffinches, 2 Bullfinches, 4 Greenfinches, 2 Lesser Redpolls and 11 Goldfinches and heard Green Woodpecker and Raven. I'd hoped to get away from Pulborough by 11:00 and was behind schedule so I returned to the car park and drove to Whiteways Lodge. A brief sally into Houghton Forest produced at least 20 Chaffinches, 15 Brambling and quite a few people so I didn't linger and continued to Rewell Woods where I spent an hour at Sherwood Rough. There I saw Woodcock, Goshawk, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 2 Redwings, 2 Mistle Thrushes, 19 Bramblings, 5 Hawfinches, Bullfinch, 6 Greenfinches and 5 Siskins. My final stop was Arundel WWT where I spent half an hour in the Scrape Hide. It was almost dusk before I saw any Marsh Harriers, the first two appearing to continue south. Five later came into the reedbed including a smart male. Back at the car just beofre the reserve closed at 16:30 a Tawny Owl called twice. I moved my car outside and walked along the road towards the Black Rabbit and was fortunate to see a Tawny Owl silhouetted on a low branch ahead of me. Less frtunate was that a car drove past and disturbed it before I could get into torch range. Being out of the local area made a nice change and all in all it had been a very good day.
|one of many Blue Tits seen around Fattengates, impossible to know how many were visiting|
|one of at least two Coal Tits at Fattengates|
|it really is a smart bird when seen well|
|Nuthatch at Fattengates|
Friday 17 December. Cookie and I drove to Small Dole and walked around a muddy Tottington Woods. Birds were few and far between but I did see Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, 6 Long-tailed Tits, Chiffchaff, 2 Nuthatches and a Treecreeper. Both the last two were my first within five miles of home for several years.
|Nuthatch in Tottington Wood|
Thursday 16 December. I seawatched at Widewater from 07:50-09:20. It was almost flat calm with little moving. I saw 2 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Guillemots, a Razorbill and 5 Red-throated Divers on the sea with another 5 Red-throated Divers flying west and 3 east although they may include some duplication. I was joined by Megan and Cookie and we walked to Lancing although the male Stonechat was our only noteable sighting. Before dusk I took Cookie to the Adur at high tide but there were many fewer gulls around than recently. I saw 45 Lapwings, a Curlew, 8 Redshank and North Thames Herring Gull Z9HT for the second time in three days (or seventh time in almost as many years).
|Stonechat at Widewater|
Wednesday 15 December. I seawatched at Widewater from 08:00-09:20 in light SW winds and visibility bordering on poor. The only passage noted were 2 Great Crested Grebes and 13 Red and a Black-throated Diver flying west. All were close, they had to be as anything more distant would have been in the murk, the Red-throats included a nice flock of six. I met Megan and Cookie at Harbour Way and we walked our usual circuit to the Adur Ferry Bridge and back along the boardwalk to the Fort. Six Turnstones on the wooden jetty looked to be the highlight (2 Purple Sandpipers having been seen there before we arrived) until a gathering of gulls on recently exposed mud at Harbour Way included an adult argentatus Herring Gull. I returned to Widewater to look for a Goosander found on the west lagoon after I'd left. I'd chosen to spend my limited time seawatching rather than looking at the lagoons. It was a mistake in hind sight as I couldn't find the Goosander although good views of the smart male Stonechat made returning worthwhile. A stop at the Adur on the way home was disappointing as the falling tide hadn't revealed any sandbars and few gulls were present, just 75 Lapwings. I returned to the Adur with Cookie mid-afternoon for the low tide seeing about 400 Herring, an adult Yellow-legged, 7 Lesser and 40 Great Black-backed Gulls on the sandbars opposite the airport as the light faded (not that it had been very bright all day)
|argentatus Herring Gull at Harbour Way|
|photogenic Stonechat at Widewater|
|Norwegian colour-ringed Great Black-backed Gull on the Adur|
|regretably I could only read the first 4 characters - J45A|
|adult Yellow-legged Gull on the Adur|
|the same or a different adult Yellow-legged Gull|