Friday 31 December 2021

The year fizzles out (25-31 December)

Friday 31 December. Not having seen a Black-necked Grebe for two years I'd had it in mind to try Hayling Oysterbeds after Christmas but weather forecasts were always better the day after next and I kept putting it off. Until, that was, today. My mistake was believing the improved forecast for Shoreham would also apply to Hayling. It didn't and I arrived at dawn to find winds gusting 20mph and driving rain. It did improved but not by much. I saw 5 Goldeneye (including 2 superb males), 30 Red-breasted Mergansers and eventually 2 Slavonian Grebes disappearing into troughs which initially raised my hopes before giving decent views. Several hundred Oystercatchers and Grey Plover and 1-2000 Dunlin were roosting at high tide but visibility wasn't improving even if the rain had become annoying drizzle and I left. A brief stop at Dell Quay produced 14 Red-breasted Mergansers but no Goldeneye or any waders. I continued on to Pagham parking at the end of Church Lane. I walked down to the lagoon (a female and 2 immature Goldeneye and 3 Tufted Duck) and the harbour entrance (6 Mediterranean Gulls). As I returned around the east side of the harbour waders were flying in to frantically feed on the mud exposed by the receding tide. I counted 129 Golden and 200 Grey Plover, 15 Bar-tailed and 290 Black-tailed Godwits, 300 Knot and 1000 Dunlin. Back on the North Wall there were 17 Tufted Duck on the Breach Pool but little else. I attempted to head for Marsh Farm but turned back on the direct route with a Wellington full of water in a deeper than expected flood before reaching Halsey's Farm. The footpath along the side of Owl Copse was higher but again flood water prevented me reaching Marsh Farm from the south. Looking across from the east there were Cattle Egrets in two fields. The rear field was partly obscured but fortunately those in it joined those in the nearer field - in total there were 48 Cattle (a record for me) and 2 Little Egrets present. A long and tiring day, tinged with disappointment but I'd seen some nice birds. Probably a fitting end to 2021. HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone, let's hope 2022 sees a return to something approaching normality.

most of the Cattle Egrets at Marsh Farm

Thursday 30 December. Visibility was very poor when I arrived at Widewater at 08:05 and hadn't improved half an hour later by which time I'd seen single Great Crested Grebe, Turnstone and Gannet. A walk to Eastern Sands produced 30+ Ringed Plover and 140+ Dunlin roosting on the beach before I headed back and joined Megan, Nessa and Cookie on Mill Hill. An hour on our usual circuit in no better weather was virtually birdless with Buzzard seen and Chiffchaff heard. Leaving Mill Hill Megan punctured her rear left tyre and parked beside the road at the bottom of the hill. I drove her, Nessa and Cookie home then returned to change the wheel. Not quite the 2 seconds the Red Bull pit crew were regularly managing but a fairly credible 20 minutes to put on the space saver. I drove home and then took Megan back to her car, seeing the Lord Derby's Parakeet on a television aerial in Park Avenue on the way. Me returning home for the third time, Megan to go to Kwik-fit as our usual garage was closed. Later I took Nessa to the station and went on to the Adur with Cookie. Gulls were disappointing with only 23 Great Black-backs and 350 Herrings (including my 18th sighting in 11 years of Southwick ringed A6XY) although I did see my first Mediterranean Gull there since the start of the month. Also 123 Lapwings, Grey Plover and 14 Redshank.

Nessa and Megan on Mill Hill

Wednesday 29 December. A miserable day with heavy drizzle most times I ventured out with Cookie, I would have probably have stayed in otherwise. I saw the Lord Derby's Parakeet in its usual tree in Middle Road, a Jay and 20 Goldfinches in Buckingham Park and with Megan the Long-tailed Duck along Southwick Canal.

Tuesday 28 December. I visited Widewater with Cookie, arriving just after Matt Palmer at 08:45. There was just enough happening to keep my interest and in a couple of hours I saw 3 Great Crested Grebes, 4+ Kittiwakes, 45 auks (including a Guillemot and 4 Razorbills on the sea), 40 unidentified auks3 unidentified and 8 Red-throated Divers and 30 Gannets. A Grey Plover was on the Adur with 25 Great Black-backed and 400 Herring Gulls (including A6XY). Later a Sparrowhawk flew over our garden and the Lord Derby's Parakeet was in its usual tree in Middle Road. I finished the day on Beeding Brooks looking for Water Rail for my local year list (I heard one distantly). I also failed to pick out the Cattle Egret when seven egrets flew south to roost from the field it had been feeding in (I was on the wrong side of the river to see much of the field), only heard a Raven which appeared to fly over my head and failed to hear any Tawny Owls.

Monday 27 DecemberI took Cookie to Widewater where where we joined Matt Palmer and seawatched in the rain for an hour. I saw 8 Brent GeeseGreat Crested Grebe, 4 Kittiwakes, 9 Razorbills, 10 unidentified auks, 7 Red-throated Divers, a Fulmar and 20+ Gannets. Low tide on an equally wet Adur on the way home produced Grey Plover, 2 Dunlin and 69 Great Black-backed and 150 Herring Gulls (including 2 adult 'argentatus'). In the afternoon Megan and I took Cookie around the block and saw just the Lord Derby's Parakeet again.

  argentatus Herring Gull on the Adur

parakeet window

Sunday 26 December. I took Cookie to Widewater where I seawatched for two hours. I saw 10 Shelduck, 3 Great Crested Grebes, a Dunlin, 3 Kittiwakes, an adult Mediterranean Gull, a Guillemot, 70 Razorbills and 150 unidentified auks, 19 Red-throated Divers and 38 Gannets. Low tide on the Adur on the way home produced 6 Oystercatchers, Avocet, 126 Lapwings, Grey Plover, 14 Redshank31 Great Black-backed and 300 Herring Gulls (including 2 adult 'argentatus') and a Grey WagtailIn the afternoon Megan and I took Cookie around the block and saw just the Lord Derby's Parakeet again.

Avocet on the Adur

argentatus Herring Gull on the Adur

Lord Derby's Parakeet in Middle Road

Saturday 25 December. Megan, Nessa, Josh and Cookie jpoined me at  the Adur and we walked down to and across the Norfolk Bridge and around the houseboats. I saw 10 Teal, 40 LapwingsGrey Plover, 12 Redshank, 33 Great and 7 Lesser Black-backed GullsKingfisher, 6 Long-tailed Tits, a male Stonechat and Grey Wagtail (heard). In the afternoon I took Cookie around the block and saw the Lord Derby's Parakeet again, but not the Ring-necked Parakeet that had been with it on the previous three days.

Great Black-backed Gull H174 on the Adur. I'd seen it on the Adur on 30 November, its first sighting since it was ringed as a chick on one of the Halligen islands off Schleswig-Holstein, Germany in early July
Grey Heron on the Dog's Trust channel
Kingfisher on the Dog's Trust channel

Friday 24 December 2021

Gulls and parakeets around Shoreham (22-24 December)

Friday 24 December. Cookie and I seawatched from Widewater from 08:00 and were joined by David Buckingham. I saw 9 Brent Geese, female Red-breasted Merganser, 2 Great Crested and a Slavonian Grebe, 13 Kittiwakes, 2 Guillemots, 26 Razorbills, 41 auk sp., 16 Red-throated Divers, 17 Gannets and a Shag. Most were flying west, the Slav appeared to be drifting that way although was only seen twice briefly. After 90 minutes what little passage there was started drying up and we left for the Adur at 09:50. There were a decent number of gulls on the exposed sandbars but the tide was coming. There were about 500 Herring Gulls, 42 Great Black-backs but just 6 Lesser Black-backs. Closer examination revealed a first-winter Great Black-backed Gull with a Norwegian colour-ring, my 50th different colour-ringed Great Black-back between the railway and A27. It, J08AJ, had been ringed on Ă…lesund, off the west coast of Norway on 1 July. More interesting was another unfamiliar colour-ringed gull that I couldn't put a name to. Thinking it most likely an argentatus Herring Gull I was surprised to learn the scheme was from a Czech colony of Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls. Continuing to check the flock, as birds were fairly mobile, we picked out an adult argentatus Herring Gull, an adult Yellow-legged Gull and a first-winter Caspian Gull, although the latter wasn't an absolute classic. In the afternoon I took Cookie for a walk and saw the parakeets again in their usual tree,

Czech gull 618:U

presumably a hybrid, I hope to learn more from the scheme involved

argentatus Herring Gull on the Adur

Yellow-legged Gull still on the Adur
first-winter Caspian Gull on the Adur

looks like the parakeets will be spending Christmas together

Thursday 23 December. Megan, and I took Cookie to the Adur walking down the east side into town and back by the airfield. At least 500 gulls were on the sandbanks before the tide covered them. They included 67 Great and 22 Lesser Black-backs and an adult Yellow-legged. Also 90+ Lapwing and the 2 Grey Plover. Later a Sparrowhawk flew over our garden and I took Cookie to look for the parakeets with both Lord Derby's and Ring-necked present.

Yellow-legged Gull on the Adur

Lord Derby's Parakeet, Middle Road, Shoreham
with much slimmer Ring-necked Parakeet

Wednesday 22 December. I went to Widewater with Cookie arrivung just afyter 08:00. I seawatched for an hour then walked to Eastern Sands, cutting the visit short when notified of a delivery slot for a Christmas parcel which started in 25 minutes. A Brent Goose was on the lagoon, 2 Great Crested Grebes on the sea and 15 Kittiwakes, 24 auks (the closest 6 identifiably Razorbills), 14 Red-throated and 2 distant Divers and 6 Gannets flew mostly east. My auk numbers were particularly disappointing given over 2000 Razorbills were seens passing Seaford. Late afternoon Megan, Cookie and I went to the allotment, me armed with camera and binoculars on the off-chance the Lord Derby's and Ring-necked Parakeets were in their favourite tree opposite the entrance. They were, although my attempts at photography left a lot to be desired.

Brent Goose on Widewater
Lord Derby's and Ring-necked Parakeets, Middle Road, Shoreham

Ring-necked Parakeet

Tuesday 21 December 2021

Shoreham and excursions west and east (15-21 December)

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 Shoveler34 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