Tuesday, 18 January 2022

Mostly Shoreham (09-18 January)

Tuesday 18 January. Cookie and I walked from Widewater along the beach to Western Road, Lancing and back. Four Little Grebes and 5 Turnstones on the lagoon and a possible Shag on the outflow platform off Brooklands was all I saw. Absolutely nothing on the sea or offshore, no wader flock despite the tide being quite high and no Black Redstart on the groynes. We diverted to Shoreham Fort on our return seeing 15 Turnstones and a Purple Sandpiper while a quick look at the Adur Saltings determined that the tide wasn't high enough to reveal anything although another 30+ Turnstones were roosting on a boat just south of the Norfolk Bridge. The Lord Derby's Parakeet was in the usual tree near the Park Avenue/Middle Road prior to flying into the nearest conifer, presumably to roost, during a late afternoon walk with Cookie. 

possible Shag with Cormorants on Brooklands outflow, tentatively identified on size

Monday 17 January. I arrived at the Black Rabbit at 06:50 and watched to 08:00 seeing a Tawny Owl, Great White Egret and 2 Marsh Harriers but disappointingly no Barn Owls. At Burpham 11 Bewick's Swans (8 adults) were distantly on the water meadows viewed from just north of the church and 4 Chiffchaffs were around the small sewage treatment works. I continued to the triangle and from there undertook my TQ0310 South Downs Farmland Bird Monitoring Survey managing 34 species while out. Highlights were 4 Grey Partridges, 16 Stock Doves, 2 Marsh Harriers, 4 Red Kites, 9 Buzzards (7 in the air together when back at the car), 3 Ravens, 4 Skylarks, 3 Mistle Thrushes, Fieldfare, 88 Chaffinches, 7 Bramblings, 4 Greenfinches, 45 Linnets and single Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting. Both Ring-necked and Lord Derby's Parakeet were in the usual tree near the Park Avenue/Middle Road during an afternoon walk with Cookie.

Brambling at the Burgh

Ring-necked and Lord Derby's Parakeets in Shoreham
Ring-necked Parakeet
Lord Derby's Parakeet in Shoreham

Sunday 16 January. Megan and I took Cookie to Brooklands where we saw the Mute Swan family (the 5 youngsters not chased off yet), 14 Teal, 19 Coot, 2 Little Grebes, Sparrowhawk, 2 Goldcrests, Stonechat, 2 Chafinches and 13 Goldfinches. In the afternoon we visited our allotment from where I heard the but did not see Lord Derby's Parakeet (its usual tree is just about visible from the allotment and it wasn't in it when we entered and left as the gate is almost opposite).

juvenile Pied Wagtail at Brooklands
first adult mantle feathers coming through

Saturday 15 January. I seawatched from Widewater from 08:05-09:20 hearing a Curlew and seeing 4 Brent Geese, my first Red-breasted Merganser of the year, 2 Kittiwakes, 3 Great Crested Grebes, 105 Razorbills, 290 distant auks, 12 Red-throated, a Black-throated and 4 unidentified Divers and 11 Gannets. I met Megan and Cookie near the Old Toll Bridge and walked to and across the Norfolk Bridge and back seeing 80 Lapwings and a Meadow Pipit on the airfield. The Lord Derby's Parakeet was in the usual tree near the Park Avenue/Middle Road junction on the way home. After lunch I took Cookie up to New Hill Barn to look for the Hen Harrier but was unsuccessful although did see 2 Red-legged Partridges, 90 Stock Doves, 2 Sparrowhawks, 3 Red Kites, 2 Buzzards, 70 Skylarks and 180 Corn Buntings. Some distant shooting had Cookie worried and we left early stopping at the Adur opposite the airport for low tide. Thirty-four Great Black-backed Gulls included my fourth sighting of 50H, hatched in Le Havre in 2010. North Thames Herring Gull Z9TT was my 8th sighting of a bird ringed as a 1CY at Rainham in 2013. Also on the Adur a Grey Plover and 11 Redshank.

Great Black-backed Gull 50H on the Adur 

Friday 14 January. Cookie and I met David Buckingham at the Beeding Hill NT car park at 08:15 and we spent until 11:50 walking the usual triangle (Monarch's Way, up to Truleigh Hill and back along Room Bottom). I saw a below winter average 28 species including 3 Stock Doves, Peregrine, 2 Ravens, 17 Skylarks, 3 Fieldfares, 7 Stonechats, Chaffinch, just 2 Goldfinches, Corn Bunting and 8 Yellowhammers.

Fieldfare on Beeding Hill

Stonechat on Beeding Hill
possibly the roundest one I've seen 

Thursday 13 JanuaryMegan and I took Cookie to Dacre Gardens and walked to the old cement works then up a misty Adur to Bramber. We saw 2 Common Sandpipers, Redshank and 4 Stonechats

Wednesday 12 January. Megan and I took Cookie up to Mill Hill where we saw a Chaffinch, 2 Bullfinches and 2 Greenfinches. Later the Lord Derby's Parakeet was in the usual tree near the Park Avenue/Middle Road junction. 

Lord Derby's Parakeet still in its tree

Tuesday 11 January. Poor visibility aborted a walk from Lancing Ring Car Park towards Cowbottom and I took Cookie to Tottington Wood instead. It was rather muddy but at least the poor visibility didn't make so much difference and it didn't actually rain. In a couple of hours I saw 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 15 Blue, 8 Great and 3 Long-tailed Tits, 3 Goldcrests, 4 Nuthatches, Treecreeper, 10 Fieldfares, 15 Redwings and 5 Mistle ThrushesAn afternoon walk with Megan and Cookie produced the Lord Derby's Parakeet in the usual tree near the Park Avenue/Middle Road junction. 

 Monday 10 January. Another quiet day. I seawatched from Widewater seeing 3 distant Scoter that might have been Velvets, 4 Great Crested Grebes, a Razorbill and 14 unidentified auks, 18 Red-throated and 3 unidentified Divers and 13 Gannets. I met Megan and Cookie and we walked around the Adur seeing 60 Lapwings, 2 Grey Plover, 13 Redshank and a Kingfisher. I went back to look more closely through the gulls but could do no better than 54 Great and 3 Lesser Black-backs with 13 Skylarks and 14 Linnets feeding in the saltmarsh. An afternoon walk with Cookie produced both the Lord Derby's and Ring-necked Parakeets in the usual tree near the Park Avenue/Middle Road junction.

Kingfisher opposite Ropetackle


Sunday 09 January. A very quiet day compared to yesterday's excitement but the weather was a lot better. I woke up to a message from Wayne Turner that yesterday's Caspian Gull was XCLM rather than ACLM I'd originally thought I'd read through a telescope, although viewing images I'd got the A wrong. Wayne had seen it, an East German bird, on Guernsey between mid September and mid October. Back to reality, but feeling like I'd won a small prize I seawatched from Widewater for an hour but only saw an unidentified auk and 3 Red-throated Divers passing and 7 Little Grebes on the lagoon. I met Megan and Cookie at Harbour Way and we walked to the Adur Ferry Bridge and back along the boardwalk. A Guillemot in the harbour entrance was the only bird of note. I stopped at the Adur on the way home but only noted 3 Great Black-backed Gulls. The Lord Derby's Parakeet was in its usual tree near the Park Avenue/Middle Road junction but a late afternoon visit to Southwick Canal with Cookie failed to find the Long-tailed Duck although 2 Peregrines on Barratt Steel roof were some compensation.

Peregrines on the crane and railing (upper left and upper right) at Barratt Steel

Saturday, 8 January 2022

Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls on the Adur (06-08 January)

Saturday 08 JanuaryI took Cookie to Widewater where we seawatched from 08:30-09:45 seeing 6 Brent Geese (2 then 4 flying west), 2 Kittiwakes, 3 Razorbills, a Fulmar and 21 Gannets. With the tide low we tried Harbour Way but disappointingly very few gulls roosting there. We had more luck at the Adur sandbars on the way home although conditions were atrocious, looking into almost horizontal rain for the most part. In a couple of hours struggling with my equipment I saw 94 Great Black-backed Gulls (including 2 with Norwegian colour rings although only one was readable), 600+ Herring Gulls (including an adult argentatus virtually lacking head-streaking), a first-winter Caspian Gull (with a coded yellow ring), an adult Yellow-legged Gull and 5 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls (one a graellsii). The Caspian was the last of the more interesting birds to be seen and the one I spent most time on but by then the weather was deteriorating and my optics were becoming quite wet. I watched it for almost an hour during which time a rather bedraggled Tony Benton arrived and I was able to get him onto it. As the tide came the sandbar shrank and the gulls were pushed off as it disappeared. The Caspian was one of the last to go - a benefit of its long legs! A late afternoon dog walk around Park Avenue failed to find the Lord Derby's Parakeet but waiting for the rain to stop I definitely left it a bit late.

Great Black-backed Gull J52CE, it was ringed as chick on Gjevekolla, Mandal, Vest-Agder, Norway in July 2020 and was seen at Balgzandpolder, den Helder, Noord-Holland, The Netherlands in March 2021 and Katwijk Binnenwatering, Zuid-Holland, The Netherlands in May 2021

adult Yellow-legged Gull on the Adur

first-winter Caspian Gull on the Adur. None of my digiscoped photos were good enough to enable the ring to be read. Very frustrating as I thought I'd got it through my telescope but checking online none of the schemes I could find started with the same letter
on some images it is hard enough to see it has a ring (unfortunate positioning of rain drop) 

initially picked out by its pure white head and all black bill

this image shows, with some imagination, its small eye, greyish mantle with some dark feather centres, dark tertials with thin white edges,

switching to my camera for a more natural colour

impossible to keep the rain of its lens
showing a bit of white underwing, it was gleaming when it flew
looking through my photos the Glaucous Gull like bill of this first-winter Herring Gull caught my eye. Had it I would have checked its undertail very closely! 

Friday 07 January 2022. I took Cookie to Widewater where we seawatched from 08:15-10:00 seeing 5 Brent Geese (4 'parties' flying west), 3 Great Crested and a Slavonian Grebe, 13 Kittiwakes, 103 Razorbills and 24 to distant to be sure of, 5 Red-throated and an unidentified Diver and 5 Gannets. We stopped at the Adur on the way home seeing 2 Grey Plover, 12 Redshank, 33 Great and 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and local Herring Gull A6XY. An afternoon dog walk around Park Avenue failed to find the Lord Derby's Parakeet but perhaps I left it a bit late.

Thursday 06 January 2022. An early visit to Southwick Canal was successful with the Long-tailed Duck seen at its new favourite place by the small boats just east of Shoreham Oil Terminal. Three Greenfinches flew over as I was returning. I then went with Megan and Cookie to the Adur seeing Grey Plover, 42 Turnstones, 31 Great Black-backed Gulls and a North Thames colour-ringed Herring Gull between the Old Toll and Norfolk Bridges, 6 Meadow Pipits and a Chaffinch by the airfield and 40 Teal, 15 Redshank and the Greenshank in the Houseboat Channel. The Lord Derby's Parakeet was in its usual tree as I cycled by on my way to Specsavers in Worthing as well as a guestimate of 50 Ringed Plovers and 150 Dunlin on the upper beach at Eastern Sands. Three Little Grebes were seen on Widewater on my return, a much easier ride than heading west into a wind I'd under-estimated the strength of.

Southwick Canal Long-tailed Duck just east of Shoreham Oil Terminal
perhaps it exhausted the supply of weed opposite Barratt Steel?
no shortage of weed here

Herring Gull X2HT on the Adur. My 5th sighting since March 2020. It was ringed as 1CY at Pitsea in October 2013 and before appearing on the Adur was seen at Dannes, Pas-de-Calais in February 2014, North Greenwich, Greater London in July 2015 and Hove in January 2018 and August 2019. 

Wednesday, 5 January 2022

The first hundred (01-05 January)

I like to get the year off to a decent start and my first milestone is usually seeing the first hundred species in the UK. I've never managed to do so on 1st January§ (89 in West Sussex in 2009 was closest). Three times I've done so by the end of 2nd January (reaching 107 in 2010), 4 times by the 3rd, 3 times by 4th and including this year 3 times by 5th. The latest it took me was until 1st August 1982 (Spotted Flycatcher on Howden Moors, Yorkshire a couple of days too late for Britain's first Marmora's Warbler after I had spent over six months birding in Asia).            § I did see 149 species on 1st January 1978 but that was in southern Kenya.

Wednesday 05 January. After I made another abortive attempt to see the Southwick Canal Long-tailed Duck we took Cookie up to Devil's Dyke and wandered along the South Downs Way enjoying the sunshine and views over the Weald and to the sea. Six Skylarks and 3 Corn Buntings was as good as it got. Returning home before lunch I made a sandwich and headed to Whiteway's Lodge for a determined assault on the handful of species I still needed for the first hundred. There Coal Tit, Nuthatch, 5 Chaffinches and 3 Bramblings got me over the line. Moving on to Sherwood Rough I added Pheasant (!!), 2 Hawfinches and a Linnet. Finally around Burpham I saw 6 adult Bewick's Swans, Grey Partridge, Marsh Harrier, 3 Red Kites, 4 Buzzards, Chiffchaff and Mistle Thrush taking me to 107 species seen for the year. Exactly 100 short of the number I saw in Sussex in 2021 (and only 360 days to do so).

Tuesday 04 January. During a morning around Shoreham with Cookie I saw 7 Brent Geese, 2 Shelduck, an Eider (on the sea), 3 Common Scoter, 8 Little Grebes, 2 Kittiwakes, a Razorbill and 2 unidentified 3 auks and 3 Red-throated and an unidentified Diver at Widewater. A Purple Sandpiper was on the wooden jetty at Shoreham Fort and a big tide revealed 43 Teal, 2 Curlew, 89+ Common Snipe, 53 Redshank, a Greenshank, a Meadow and 2 Rock Pipits and 2 Reed Buntings on the Adur Saltings. A brief stop in middle Road failed to produce any parakeets while 25 House Sparrows were seen on an afternoon walk along Southwick Canal with Megan and Cookie.

mainly Common Snipe on the Adur Saltings
a few Redshank too

Monday 03 January. I met David Buckingham in Steyning for a wild swan chase, him having seen a distant pair with 3 juveniles on the floods south of Henfield the previous afternoon. They had flown out of sight behind Rye Farm before he could be sure of their identity and he couldn't relocate them. We parked in Henfield and walked south along the Downslink to overlook the floods but only saw Mute Swans. Returning almost to Henfield we took a footpath to the west towards Buckwish Farm which overlooked the western floods. There we found the wild swans asleep but it wasn't until the woke and stuck their necks up that we were sure they were Bewick's Swans, two adults and three juveniles. Other waterfowl, mostly on the eastern flood, included 3 Egyptian Geese, 20 Shoveler, 70 Wigeon, 50 Teal and 30 Pintail.  We also saw Great Spotted Woodpecker, Goldcrest, Treecreeper29 Fieldfares and 4 Redwings.

Bewick's Swans on Henfield Levels

Sunday 02 January. I seawatched at Widewater from 07:50-09:15, being joined by Matt Palmer not long after I arrived. I saw 3 distant auks and 6 Red-throated and a distant Diver flying east, 10 Brent Geese, 3 Eider, 47 Kittiwakes, 3 Red-throated and 2 distant Divers and 33 Gannets flying west and 3 Great Crested Grebes and a Red-throated Diver on the sea. I then met Megan and Cookie and we went for a walk around Lancing Ring and Steepdown. There I saw 4 Stock Doves, Buzzard, Raven, 15 Skylarks, single Redwing and Stonechat and 40 Corn Buntings. On the way home I stopped in Middle Road where both Lord Derby's and the Ring-necked Parakeet were in the favoured tree. In the afternoon we visited the allotment and I saw the Lord Derby's again as well as a Sparrowhawk and my first House Sparrows of the year.

Corn Bunting on Steepdown
Lord Derby's Parakeet in Middle Road, Shoreham

with Ring-necked Parakeet

Saturday 01 JanuaryDavid Buckingham and I spent virtually all day at Pett and Rye. We arrived at the former soon after dawn with little apart from a superb sunrise seen on the way.  A brief seawatch from the sea wall at Pett produced a flock of 150-200 distant Common Scoter, 2 Great Crested Grebes and single Red-throated Diver, Fulmar and Gannet. An unpleasantly strong wind made viewing difficult and we soon concentrated on viewing the levels. Highlights were 2 Brent Geese, 1500 Lapwings, 110 Curlew, 2 Ruff, 2 Great White Egrets and 2 male Marsh Harriers. We continued to a busy Rye Harbour where the flat beach at high tide was teeming with waders including 400+ Oystercatchers, 2000 Lapwings, 3000 Golden Plover, 180 Curlew, a Bar-tailed Godwit, 3 Ruff, 10 Sanderling, 500 Dunlin, and 6 Common Snipe. Also seen were a distabt first-winter Caspian Gull, the long staying Spoonbill and a Great White Egret. We walked the long circuit around to Castle Water to the viewpoint seeing a high flying Pink-footed/Tundra Bean Goose (heading south then west), 150 Shoveler, 120 Gadwall, the Black-necked Grebe, a second-winter Mediterranean Gull, a Scandinavian 'argentatus' Herring Gull, 4 Ravens and 2 Stonechats along the way. From the viewpoint we saw 200+ Cormorants, 3 Great White Egrets, a flock of a 3 Little and a Cattle Egret , a Sparrowhawk and male and female Marsh Harriers heading to roost. An enjoyable day, a pity Rye isn't closer or it didn't take so long crossing East Sussex to get back.

Bexhill sunrise
Golden Plover on the Flat Beach at Rye arbour

Spoonbill on the Flat Beach at Rye Harbour. While watching the waders someone came up and asked us if a distant egret was a Great White, not having seen one we asked where it was. Near the Spoonbill was the reply. We'd not seen that either! He was right about the Great White Egret too.

 was completely out of sorts digiscoping so only a poor image of the Caspian Gull is shown below but it gives a reasonable impression of the bird. seeing 70 or so species each and hearing a few more (DB does better in this respect than I do).