Monday, 31 January 2022

Razorbilllllls (24-31 January)

Monday 31 January. I seawatched from Widewater from 07:45-09:00 in a cold NW wind. Auks and Gannets were streaming west almost continually for the while period (making keeping on top of their numbers difficult) and I was sorry to leave to meet Megan. Flying west I counted 3 Shelduck, 3 Great Crested Grebes (and 4 on the sea), 14 Kittiwakes, 3900 auks of which the closest 2140 were identified as Razorbills, 805 Gannets and a flock of about 190 Cormorants. The Razorbills were brilliant with a small proportion (1 in 100?) in summer plumage. Megan and I then took Cookie around the Adur seeing 2 Grey Plovers and single Skylark, Stonechat and Meadow Pipit. Slipping out to retrieve my telescope from my car I heard then saw a Raven flying low over the house and heading east. Definitely a garden first and something I would never have dreamed of seeing when we moved in in 1989, then it was to be 10 years before my first in Sussex. How tthings have changed, and not all for the worst.

Sunday 30 January. With 3 Tundra Bean Geese having joined the flock at Iford I thought it worth a return visit and was not disappointed seeing them, the Pink-foot and 15 White-fronted Geese amongst the Canadas and Greylags. They were towards the end of the track on the south side at a reasonable range but the bright light wasn't ideal. Also seen were a Cetti's Warbler, 2 Grey and 22 Pied Wagtails and at least 2 Reed Buntings. Nice to catch up with some old friends too.

Pink-footed Goose at Iford
two of the Tundra Bean Geese at Iford
all three and a White-front

Saturday 29 January. Megan, Nessa and I too Cookie to the Desert Garden along Worthing seafront and walked to Goring Gap and back. I saw 20 Ringed Plover, 14 Dunlin, 8 Turnstones and 7 adult Mediterranean Gulls (none locally for me so far this year). In the afternoon Megan and I visited the allotment with Cookie seeing the Ring-necked and Lord Derby's Parakeets in the usual tree. 

Friday 28 January. I met David Buckingham in Steyning at 07:00 and he drove me to Pagham, my first visit this year. At Sidlesham Ferry we saw an Avocet, 20 Black-tailed Godwits, 12 Common SnipeSpotted Redshank, Kingfisher and 3 Stonechats. We continued to Church Norton from where the harbour looked pretty quiet on a falling tide. We walked out along the spit, our most notable sightings being 2 Goldeneye, 5 Red-breasted Mergansers, 43 or 44 Avocets (I kept coming up one short) and 350 Knot in the harbour and in the far distance beyond the North Wall 24 egrets roosting in a dead tree. Scanning the flat calm sea we picked up 2 Long-tailed Duck, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers and 12-14 Great Crested and 24 Slavonian Grebes (my highest count since 1999). The latter were made up of 3 which were relatively close offshore giving decent views and a raft of 21 further out off the harbour entrance which weren't. Half an hour watching off a hardly recognisable Selsey Bill (lots of work going on including a digger in the car park) produced 6 Red-breasted Mergansers and a Great Northern Diver with a crab. Our final stop was Thorney where a Barnacle Goose was with 500 Brents, 55 Pintail and 10 Tufted Duck on the deeps, a Chiffchaff singing from some willows, a probable Water Pipit which dropped into a wet reed-edged field. Towards dusk we saw 3 Short-eared Owls between the deeps from the western sea wall and as we were leaving a ring-tailed Hen Harrier flew south. A great end to an excellent day.

Kingfisher at Sidlesham Ferry

Short-eared Owl at Thorney Deeps

Thursday 27 January. I seawatched from Widewater from 07:55-09:20. Eleven Great Crested Grebes were on the sea while 6 Oystercatchers2 Red-throated Divers and a Fulmar flew east and 34 Kittiwakes, 108 Razorbills and 232 unidentified auks and 92 Gannets west. A large flock of about 120 Cormorants flew west soon after I arrived with 88 flying back east 20 minutes later. I met Megan and Cookie near the Old toll Bridge and we walked down the east side of the river, across the Norfolk Bridge, around the Rec and back along the side of the airport. Little was seen with 114 Lapwings, 2 Grey Plover and 24 Great Black-backed Gulls best. In the afternoon I took Cookie around Park Avenue seeing a Sparrowhawk carrying what I assumed was a House Sparrow and the Ring-necked and Lord Derby's Parakeets together in the usual trees. 

Wednesday 26 January. Megan and I took Cookie to Arundel and walked around Swanbourne Lake seeing 3 drake Mandarins, 30+ Gadwall, 19 Tufted Duck and a female Bullfinch. We left Cookie in the car for under an hour while we walked around Arundel WWT. Two Water Rails gave brilliant views by the entrance to the scape hide while highlights in the collection were Scaly-sided Merganser, Spectacled Eider, Harlequin and Trumpeter Swan. In the afternoon I took Cookie around Park Avenue seeing the Ring-necked and Lord Derby's Parakeets together in the usual trees. 

Mandarin on Swanbourne Lake

Water Rails at Arundel

Tuesday 25 January. I was keen to go to Iford but decided to leave it until after rush hour to avoid being caught for too long in the Falmer Drainage works. Before leaving I took Cookie to Park Avenue where both the Ring-necked and Lord Derby's Parakeet were in the usual tree. We walked out along the permissive footpath from just west of Iford Church, somewhere I'd not been before, and out on the levels saw 14 White-fronted and a Pink-footed Goose on one side of the track and 2 White-fronted Geese on the other. A fly over Raven was the only other species of note. After lunch I heard that the drake Goosander had been seen again on the Adur south of Dacre Gardens. As the drake last winter (perhaps the same bird?) had given me a real run around I went straight away, crossing the South Downs Way footbridge and walking down the west side. The Goosander was on the long straight section opposite Coombes Farm but did not allow close approach. I ducked down behind the bank to get ahead of it but it sussed me quickly. Seeing two walkers beyond it but heading my way I sat down hoping they might push it my way. They did for a while then it took flight, away from me and around the bend in the river towards Dacre Gardens. I followed seeing Common Sandpiper and Grey Wagtail opposite the entrance to the Downslink and then the Goosander drifting slowly upstream opposite Dacre Gardens. This time sitting down as others walked towards me produced better views and I left it swimming back towards Dacre Gardens.

Goodander on the Adur near Dacre Gardens

looking very much as if Southern Water had been discharging more effluent into the Adur

Common Sandpiper at Dacre Gardens

Monday 24 January. I seawatched at Widewater for 90 minutes seeing 7 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Oystercatchers, 116 Kittiwakes, 140 distant auks of which the closest 8 were identified as Razorbills, 14 Red-throated and 3 unidentified Divers and 70 Gannets. Megan and Cookie joined me and we walked to Lancing Beach Green and back adding nothing. I stopped at the Adur on the way home, a low but rising tide. Fifty-one Great Black-backed Gulls included 2 colour-ringed birds while 130 Lapwings (an exact count), Grey Plover, Curlew and 3 Lesser Black-backs were also present. In the afternoon I took Cookie around Park Avenue seeing the Lord Derby's Parakeet in its usual tree. 

Great Black-backed Gull H174 on the Adur
the third time I've seen this individual on the Adur this winter. It was ringed when a chick on Fohr, one of Halligen islands off Schleswig-Holstein, Germany
Great Black-backed Gull 99M on the Adur. A Le Havre bird I'd not seen before. My 199th colour-ringed gull on the Adur between the A27 and railway.

Sunday, 23 January 2022

A day in East Sussex (19-23 January)

Sunday 23 January. Megan and I took Cookie to Mill Hill where we saw 3 Song Thrushes, a Stonechat, a female Bullfinch and 2 Goldfinches. Later we saw a Sparrowhawk and the Lord Derby's Parakeet from the allotment. 

Saturday 22 January. To make a change from visiting local sites and in the hope of seeing a few different birds I spent the day in East Sussex. The Polegate Services Hooded Crow appeared as soon as I got out of my car, feeding on the petrol station forecourt. I continued on to Eastbourne, parking on King Edward's Parade opposite Staveley Road. I wasn't quiet certain where to look but fortunately someone was on site who had been watching the Hume's Leaf Warbler and within five minutes we heard it calling and soon were watching it although views were never prolonged and usually obscured. The only photo I managed only had the rear half of the bird in view. Unsure where to go next I drove to West Rise Marsh and had just put my wellingtons on when I saw Neil Greenaway who told me they'd done a WEBS count but not seen a lot. That and news the Shore Lark had been seen had me changing out of my boots and heading for Pevensey Bay. Jon Curson was already there and between us we worked out where the bird was. As it happened it was exactly where I had seen it before Christmas. After a brisk walk we had good views, nice through my scope although my digiscoping efforts were poor. After half an hour or so, and for no apparent reason, it flew up and inland over the line of bungalows. I drove back through Eastbourne and on the Birling Gap where I walked to Belle Tout hoping for something in the wood, wildly optimistic I know. I heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker in the wood and saw 3 Stonechats and heard a Corn Bunting at Birling. My final stop was the Cuckmere Haven and I parked by Chyngton Farm and walked down to the gull roost on the west side. There were almost 1000 gulls in two flocks and I spend a couple of hours going through them. I estimated 750 Great and 15 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 150 Herring (including at least one adult argentatus), a first-winter and briefly seen probable adult Caspian and 2 or 3 Yellow-legged Gulls. Four Barnacle Geese were in amongst the Canadas. I walked down the riverbank, still on the west side, but couldn't see any Short-eared Owls despite regular scanning across to the east. A photographer on that side seemed to be having no luck either.

Hooded Crow at Polegate Services

half a Hume's Leaf Warbler in Eastbourne
Shore Lark at Pevensey Bay

juvenile Grey Heron in the Cuckmere

in the Cuckmere roost this preening gull caught my eye 
its pure white head even more so
despite the bill not being wholly black it looked pretty good for a first-winter Caspian Gull to me 

impressive legs too
quick bit of stick carrying
it had a red colour-ring on its right tibia which I thought was "TV" or "TY". It seems it is from a Dutch Caspian/Herring Gull colony, the ring placed above the knee to help reading it in long grass.

probable adult Caspian Gull in the Cuckmere. I briefly saw it standing and noted long, thin straw coloured legs but it sat down and put its bill in as I was reaching for my camera. It also had a long, thin washed out bill and visible dark eye. The flock flew shortly after and although most returned or joined the other flock I didn't see it again
with its dark mantle and extensive black in the primaries I thought this bird most likely a third-winter Yellow-legged Gull. It never moved, until it was gone

Friday 21 January. I took Cookie to Widewater where we spent over two hours, the first seawatching. There were a couple of feeding frenzies right on the horizon, too far out to see/identify much other than Gannets (75 a significant under-estimate) and literally hundreds of larger gulls. I saw 7 Great Crested Grebes, 2 identifiable Kittiwakes, at least 300 distant auks and 3 divers (2 closer were Red-throated). We walked to Lancing Sailing Club and back hoping a Black Redstart might pop out but it didn't. On the outflow off Widewater one of the distant Cormorants looked distinctly smaller and slimmer and was probably a Shag. Otherwise 6 Little Grebes on the lagoon were the highlight. In the afternoon I took Cookie around Park Avenue seeing the Lord Derby's Parakeet in its usual tree. 

Thursday 20 January. I took Cookie up to Knepp where by prior arrangement I met Chris and John Hamilton. In finding a new home for their long run of Sussex Bird Reports they had kindly saved for me the two I was missing, the recipient of the others already having them. At Knepp I saw Egyptian Goose, 5 introduced White Storks, Buzzard, 2 Tawny Owls, Kingfisher, 2 Great Spotted and a Green Woodpecker, 3 Jays, 10 Long-tailed Tits, Nuthatch, 3 Treecreepers, 2 Redwings and a Bullfinch. In the afternoon I took Cookie around the block seeing the Lord Derby's Parakeet in its usual tree.  

Tawny Owl enjoying the sunshine at Knepp

Wednesday 19 January. I took Cookie up to Steyning Round Hill for another look for the ring-tailed Hen Harrier that is occasionally seen up there this winter. We watched from the Langmead memorial but after an hour or so some erratic and distant shooting started and we slowly headed back to the car, slower than Cookie was happy with. In two hours I saw 90 Stock Doves, 2 Red Kites, Kestrel, 16 Skylarks, 22 Linnets and 7 Corn Buntings. Back home a Stock Dove was feeding on our lawn and a walk to Park Avenue with Megan and Cookie produced both Ring-necked and Lord Derby's Parakeets.