Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Shoreham and the opportunity to escape (26-30 March)

Tuesday 30 March. Another quiet day in Sussex. An hour at Widewater before the wind turned to the south was more than enough for me with just 22 Brent Geese, 8 Mediterranean Gulls and 5 Sandwich Terns seen flying east. None were close and a dreadful haze/glare made even them a struggle to identify. Two Great Crested Grebes and a Seal with a fish were on/in the water and 6 more Sandwich Terns were sat on buoys away to the west. After an early return home Megan and I took Cookie up to Mill Hill. Here we saw a Buzzard, 4 singing Chiffchaffs, 3 Song Thrushes, a Linnet, 2 Goldfinches and a singing Yellowhammer. A Sky Lark was also singing but remained unseen.

Monday 29 March. With the end of Stay at Home I was not the only Sussex birder heading out of the county. I joined several others at Ockley Common where the wintering male Rustic Bunting was in almost full breeding plumage and looking rather special. Despite some seed having been put out it remained out of sight for much of the time I we were there. The two Little Buntings were even more wary and I only saw one in flight. Also seen were Curlew, Sparrowhawk, Red Kite, 2 Buzzards, 2 Wood Larksa male Dartford Warbler, 6 Stonechats, 3 Redpolls, 4 Crossbills and 4 Reed Buntings. The Burgh on the way home produced 2 each of Red-legged and Grey Partridge, 4 Stock Doves, 3 Red Kites, one of the released White-tailed Eagles, 4 Buzzards, 2 Ravens and 6 Yellowhammers. A brief call in at Patching Sewage Works was well timed, coinciding with an appearance of the Yellow-browed and a Willow Warbler.

male Rustic Bunting on Ockley Common

one of the Little Buntings on Ockley Common

Crossbills on Ockley Common

Redpoll on Ockley Common

Yellow-browed Warbler enjoying the sunshine by Patching Sewage Works

Sunday 28 March. I seawatched from Widewater in a cold,  strong SW from 07:30-10:30 being joined by David B and Matt P. I saw 2 Brent Geese, 10 Common Scoter, 8 Red-breasted Mergansers, 5 Kittiwakes, 8 adult Mediterranean Gulls, 3 Sandwich Terns and 5 distant/Red-throated Divers flying east. A second-summer Mediterranean Gull and 33 Gannets flew west, a Great Crested Grebe was on the sea and 14+ Meadow Pipits came in. A pre-high tide visit to Shoreham Fort failed to produce the Purple Sandpipers although 23 Turnstones were on the beach while a Grey Plover, Curlew, 2 Redshank and a Greenshank were seen from the RSPB Adur Saltings viewpoint. The afternoon was spent listening to the first F1 Grand Prix of the season - a real cracker.

Greenshank and Redshank on the Adur Stalings

Saturday 27 March. The Patching Yellow-browed Warbler proved too tempting when I realised it was under 10 miles/20 minutes drive from home. It took a while to show and was then very active making obtaining photos difficult but performed pretty well for the handful of socially distanced observers present. I also saw about 8 Chiffchaffs and a male Blackcap, the latter my first of the year. One of the Chiffchaffs was noticeably paler but to my eye lacked the warm buff supercilium and face that I would expect to see if it were a tristis. It was silent.

Yellow-browed Warbler by Patching Sewage Works
constantly on the move

but usually facing away
fortunately not always

Friday 26 March. I seawatched from Widewater from 07:05-08:50, sheltering in the lee of a beach hut from the strong SW wind. Forecast showers did not materialise and it was very clear. Passage was somewhat disappointing although did include a Little and 17 Mediterranean Gulls, all adults flying east. Also seen were 8 Common Scoter, Great Crested Grebe, 36 Black-headed Gulls, 3 Sandwich Terns, 17 Red-throated Divers, 4 Fulmars and 105 Gannets. At low tide I took Cookie down to the Adur and walked up towards Cuckoos Corner to check the gull flock. Few were present and the one with a ring, a local Herring Gull, flew before I could completely read or photograph it. Two Oystercatchers (the only waders seen - no Redshank), 2 Little Egrets and a Sparrowhawk hardly made the visit worthwhile.

Thursday, 25 March 2021

The year's first Wheatears around Shoreham (22-25 March)

Thursday 25 March. I arrived at Widewater at 06:50 to be greeted by 2 Wheatears on the first rocky groyne. A few days later than usual but still brilliant. My most anticipated event of the year, the joy of seeing the first Wheatear does not diminish, at least not during the first 50 years. Seawatching was again very quiet in light SW winds and very clear visibility. I saw 6 Brent Geese, 4 Common Scoter and 5 distant divers flying east and 5 Shoveler and 3 Red-breasted Mergansers west. Three Great Crested Grebes were on the sea and 8 Gannets offshore. A bit further east on Shoreham Beach were 4 more Wheatears. Megan and I then took Cookie to Dacre Gardens and walked along the river to Bramber along the river, returning on the Downslink. We saw 2 Buzzards, Peregrine, 2 Chiffchaffs (with 2 more heard), single Fieldfare and Redwing and 2 Chaffinches. Later walking up our road with Cookie a Sparrowhawk flew over.

my first Wheatear of the year
one of two at Widewater

Wheatear on Shoreham Beach
four were present

Redwing near Botolphs

Wednesday 24 March.  I seawatched from Widewater for a couple of hours in a very light SW and murky conditions. Little was moving with 31 Brent Geese, 2 Common Scoter and 5 Red-throated Divers flying east. Two Gadwall flew west, east then settled on the sea before flying back west, 5 Great Crested Grebes were on the sea and 2 Gannets were offshore. Still no Wheatears on the beach/groynes at Widewater or at Shoreham Fort where I had to make do with 3 Linnets and a very distant Peregrine. After lunch I took Cookie to the Adur and walked up to Cuckoos Corner to heck the gull flock. Amongst 150 Common Gulls was a Norwegian bird I'd seen there two days earlier along with a 15 year old colour-ringed Herring Gull rescued in Southwick in 2010 and seen on the Adur very intermittently since.

Linnet on Shoreham Fort
Common Gull JP037 was ringed as adult at Tveitevannet, Bergen, Hordaland, Norway in August 2019. I've now seen it three times this month
Cookie waiting patiently while I checked the gulls

Tuesday 23 March. I seawatched from Widewater for a couple of hours in a very light SW and murky conditions. Little was moving with 9 Brent Geese, a drake Shoveler, 18 Common Scoter, 3 Oystercatchers and 10 Red-throated Divers flying east. Three Great Crested Grebes were on the sea, a Sandwich Tern (my first for the year) on a distant buoy before being chased west by a gull and 4 Gannets milling around offshore. Sadly no Wheatears on the beach/groynes. At 09:30 I met Megan and Cookie at Mill Hill and we walked around seeing 3 Buzzards, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a very distant Peregrine, a Chiffchaff and 6 Goldfinches. We also heard Sky Larks and a Cetti's Warbler. I called in at the Adur on my way back and walked up to Cuckoos Corner to check the gull roost. About 250 Common Gulls were present including 3 with Norwegian colour-rings, 2 I'd seen yesterday and the other I couldn't read properly.

Buzzard over Mill Hill
Common Gull JA572 at Cuckoos Corner, broken side on 

Monday 22 March. I seawatched from Widewater for a couple of hours. It was clear with a very light W wind. I saw 219 Brent Geese and 2 distant divers flying E, 5 Great Crested Grebes and 2 Avocets on the sea, the latter were present for five minutes or so flying off east at 07:32. I met Megan and Cookie at Harbour Way at 09:30 and we walked west to the Adur Ferry Bridge and boardwalk and back via the Fort and Sailing Club where the Black Redstart was again present. I called in at the Adur on my way back and walked up to Cuckoos Corner to check the gull roost. There were 300+ Black-headed, 2 Mediterranean and 400 Common Gulls present. Four of the Common Gulls had colour-rings, 3 Norwegian and the other Estonian.