Wednesday, 11 January 2023

Mostly Shoreham in poor weather (06-11 January)

Friday 06 January. Taking advantage of a decent day I took Cookie to Brooklands where I eventually had reasonable views of the wintering Dartford Warbler. Also the immature male Shoveler, 2 Stonechats and single Goldcrest and Chaffinch. On the beach opposite were 34 Ringed Plover and 200 Dunlin

Shoveler on Brooklands, what a bill

Saturday 07 January. A seawatch from Widewater produced 29 Brent Geese west then 20 east, single Kittiwake and Red-throated Diver west and 3 Gannets. Later on a very blustery Lancing Ring with Megan and Cookie I saw a Goldcrest and my first Wren for the year!

sunrise at Widewater

Sunday 08 January. Cookie and I visited Goring Gap briefly while Megan had an appointment in Worthing. We saw 6 adult Mediterranean Gulls but only 4 Dunlin on the roost fields. The Lord Derby's and Ring-necked Parakeets were around the Middle Road roost tree just before 16:00.

Polish Black-headed Gull T4T2 at Goring Gap, it's been seen here, at Littlehampton and Southwater previously 

Monday 09 January. Megan and I took Cookie to Harbour Way and walked to the Adur Ferry Bridge and back via the Fort. A single Turnstone was the only bird I noted in very blustery conditions.

Cemex Go Innovation leaving Shoreham Harbour

Tuesday 10 January. I heard the Lord Derby's Parakeet while walking Cookie along Park Avenue. Later I spent 4 hours at the Cuckmere gull roost seeing over 1150 Great Black-backs (including a first winter with an unread Norwegian colour-ring), 20+ Lesser Black-backs (including an adult with an unread red colour ring, possibly the Suffolk bird seen there in December), 150 Herring, 5 adult Yellow-legged and eventually an adult Caspian. Most of the gulls were adults.

an adult Yellow-legged Gull in the Cuckmere, it did eventually stand up
another adult Yellow-legged Gull in the Cuckmere

after several false starts this one looked promising and after checking the following images when I returned home I felt it met the criteria for an adult Caspian Gull without doing a trait-score

Wednesday 11 January. Eight Mute Swans, a few commoner gulls, 30+ Lapwings, 2 Grey Plover and 8+ Redshank were seen during a quick walk along the Adur with Megan and Cookie. It was then time for some final packing before catching a couple of buses to Heathrow and flying to India with Nick and Paul for a Covid-delayed trip to the south.

Friday, 6 January 2023

The first 100 (01-05 January)

I hope to see 200 species in Sussex each year. I usually manage to do so but not every year, and it doesn't get any easier with more species becoming trickier to find than are easier. I'm also less inclined to travel to the ends of the county than I used to.

Sunday 01 January. I started the year at Shoreham Fort (no Purple Sandpiper but 3 close Guillemots and a Kittiwake flying west during an otherwise quiet seawatch were some compensation). A brief look at Widewater produced a smart male Red-breasted Merganser and then it was time to meet Megan and Cookie at Mill Hill. A pair of Peregrines were circling over the upper car park as I arrived, and appeared again an hour later as we were leaving, but it was otherwise very quiet. On the way home and walked an extended circuit of the Adur seeing a Grey Plover by the railway bridge, a colour-ringed Great Black-backed Gull from Town Quay and 4 Brent Geese that circled the saltings before continuing west. After lunch Megan and I took Cookie to Buckingham Park where Blue Tit and Goldfinch took my year list to a rather disappointing 40 although a flock of 350 Jackdaws flying to roost was impressive. My best ever start to the year was 89 seen at Selsey, Pagham and West Dean woods in 2009 but I've always considered birding to be a marathon rather than a sprint.

Red-breasted Merganser at Widewater
Peregrine over Mill Hill

issues at the pumping station

Monday 02 January. I've only seen 100 species by the 2nd of January three times in Britain, my best being 107 seen in Sussex/Kent in 2010. Despite having a full day on the Selsey Peninsula with David Buckingham there was little chance of that changing. We seawatched for an hour from the end of Grafton Road at Selsey where I saw 2 Common Scoter, 6 Red-breasted Mergansers, 3 Slavonian Grebes (with 4 or 5 more missed), 18 Red-throated and a Great Northern Diver. We moved on to Church Norton were we watched distant waders as the tide started to come in before walking out along the spit. Highlights were 2 distant and hard to be certain of immature Long-tailed Ducks, a Goldeneye, 5 Avocets, 1000 Golden Plover, 4 Knot, 40 Mediterranean Gulls, Red-throated Diver, Red Kite, Kingfisher and Peregrine. We drove around to Pagham, parked at the end of Church Lane and walked down to the lagoon. The very confiding Snow Bunting was being watched as we arrived. Definitely one of my all time favourite species but taking 1000 photos of it was a bit OTT. Another Kingfisher was nearby with the earlier or a different Goldeneye in the main channel. We walked back and along the North Wall for dusk seeing 1000 Brent Goose flying into the harbour, Water Rail, a Bar-tailed and 800 Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Marsh Harriers, a Stonechat and with the light almost gone 2 roosting Cattle Egrets taking me to 80 species seen.

Snow Bunting on Pagham Spit

Tuesday 03 January. I took Cookie to Shoreham Fort and Widewater. Still no Purple Sandpiper but a Kingfisher by the car park was some compensation. A reasonable seawatch at Widewater followed with a superb juvenile Little Gull flying west along the surf with 4 Kittiwakes, 11 auks of which the closest was a Razorbill, 4 Red-throated Divers and 14 Gannets further out. Late afternoon one or both parakeets were seen poorly in a roost tree from last winter. My year list
 had stalled on 82.

female Kingfisher at Shoreham Fort
Little Gull off Widewater

Wednesday 04 January 2023. An winter adult Mediterranean Gull was pretty much all that was seen off Widewater in poor visibility. Cookie and I then called in that the RSPB Adur Saltings viewpoint. It was approaching a moderately high tide but few birds had been pushed into view although they did include 11 Common Snipe, 20 Redshank and the Greenshank. On a mid morning walk to Buckingham Park we saw the mixed female Lord Derby's and male Ring-necked Parakeet pair in a tree in Park Avenue Open Space. Buckingham Park produced just a small flock of Goldfinches until, as we were leaving the parakeet pair flew over heading north. In the afternoon I drove to Small Dole an spent an hour or so walking around a pretty birdless Tottington Woods, until encountering a mixed flock of a Coal, 20 Blue, 10 Great and 4 Long-tailed Tits. I also saw Great Spotted Woodpecker and Redwing and heard a distant Nuthatch. Very few gulls were seen on the Adur just before dusk although the tide wasn't far enough out to reveal any sandbars. Ninety-five Lapwings was my highest count this winter and the Kingfisher was seen again. My year list increased to 89, a 
shame the best looking bird was excluded as an escape, but it now felt that 100 was within my reach. 

Lord Derby's and Ring-necked Parakeets in Park Avenue Open Space
female Lord Derby's
male Ring-necked

Thursday 05 January. I had a plan to reach 100 species and arrived at the Black Rabbit in the dark. I soon heard a Tawny Owl calling from back down the road towards Arundel WWT and heading in that direction managed to see it perched against the sky on a bare branch. It was just light enough to see some plumage detail but it soon flew off. It was very slow getting light with mist hanging over the hills, not ideal for surveying near the Burgh so I decided to delay starting and walk around Swanbourne Lake first. Highlights were 3 Mandarins, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Marsh Tit (heard), 14 Long-tailed Tits, 3 Goldcrests and 3 Mistle Thrushes. Burpham Sewage Treatment Works added 6 very ordinary looking Chiffchaffs, and 2 Yellowhammers were in the hedge on the way up to the triangle leaving me on 99. The survey was hard going although 2 Ravens brought up my 100, 7 Grey Partridges were most welcome and 2-3 Red Kites seemed to be continually in the air. Halfway through the survey while passing Canada Barn I noticed several raptors circling to the west. Initially there were a couple of Buzzards and 3 or 4 Red Kites but as I continued in that direction first one then two immature White-tailed Eagles appeared. Although I'm usually quite dismissive of dodgy (re)-introductions these were rather impressive as they flew around together for about an hour, at one stage with 9 very small looking Red Kites in tow. The White-tailed Eagles attempted tallon grappling several times without quite pulling it off. Later they both carried sizeable sticks and after one had discarded theirs the other attempted a 'stick pass' but it wasn't caught or perhaps was considered not worth trying. Very memorable and the year's highlight so far even if of no use to my year list! I dragged myself away seeing another Grey Partridge but little else. Back home I took Cookie along Middle Road to Park Avenue and both parakeets flew in at 16:05 prior to roosting. I'd seen my first 100 species in Sussex, and without seeing a Wren! Hopefully I'll see 200 before the end of the year.  

drake Mandarin on Arundel Mill Stream

my survey site TQ0310, the hedge has grown up while I've been doing it making it harder to see birds in the adjoining fields between gaps. This hedge, like most here, had recently been industrially trimmed (but not enough to allow me to easily view the field) which may also be a reason why so few birds were seen in them.
a gap in the hedge showing more of my survey site, note the 'trimmed' hedges around the distant fields, hopefully the one in the middle distance isn't next
Red Kite at TQ0310
White-tailed Eagle attempting tallon grappling
a bit more co-ordinaion required

impressive birds when seen up close

dwarfing the local Red Kites

stick carrying