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Thursday, 31 May 2018

Ferring Rife

A short evening visit, mainly to keep net rides in check, produced little other than a Linnet, Pheasant, two Moorhens, a Mallard, two Whitethroats and my first fledged Blue Tits of the year.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Goring/Ferring Rife

It was a fairly quiet visit to the patch this morning before domestic stuff called. The Gap had two Sanderlings and three Turnstones, plus an Oystercatcher, 14 Swifts and two Swallows of note. At the Rife, I added another two Swallows and 11 Swifts, plus a Jackdaw, a Pheasant and a Mallard. Three Reed Warblers were actually a patch tick for me, showing perhaps more than anything my recent neglect of the 'secondary half' of the patch which is the Rife.

I saw my fledgling Great Tits of the year at the Gap and Goldfinch was another juvenile year tick at the Rife.

Turnstones at Goring Gap

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

West Worthing

22 Swifts over the garden was a joyful sight in the evening drizzle.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Rainham Marshes RSPB

I met up with Phil W for a jaunt to sunny Rainham Marshes, walking along the Thames and back to the centre for cream tea and a quick explore on the southern path of the reserve before heading back. The high point of the visit was towards the end when we spotted an adult Spoonbill circling above us in the company of two Hobbies and a Peregrine! The Spoonie was one of two which have been seen on the reserve recently. An additional Hobby, four Common Terns, a pair of Marsh Harriers and two Bearded Reedlings were the cream of the other birds noted, and young Shelducks were a duckling year tick for me.

adult Spoonbill

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Goring, Knepp and Belmont

I spent a couple of hours at the Gap this morning, the most notable observation being a Yellow Wagtail calling as it headed north - a rather late individual but incredibly my first of the year on the patch! A Curlew, three House Martins, three Swallows, five Swifts, five Common Scoters, four Shelducks, 55 Gannets, three Black-headed Gulls and two Sandwich Terns were also noted.

Later in the morning I met up with Linda M for a walk around the Knepp Estate. The humidity was a little draining and our birding ended up being a little half-arsed but we heard a couple of singing Cuckoos, a Red Kite flew over and 11 Buzzards were counted. A couple of Garden Warblers and Treecreepers were in song, as was a Reed Warbler in seemingly suboptimal habitat but I've no idea whether they breed here or this is another randomly placed late migrant. A Mistle Thrush and a nest-building pair of Great Crested Grebes were also logged.

Sitting in the pub garden next to my parents' in the evening, a Grey Heron flew over and six Swifts were milling around. It turns out that Phil W had the heron over his garden a couple of minutes earlier

Friday, 25 May 2018

Goring and West Worthing

Sightings at Goring this morning included nine Common Scoters, a Fulmar, two Mediterranean Gulls, seven Gannets, 11 Sandwich Terns, a Little Egret, four Ringed Plovers, three Sanderlings, five Swifts, a Swallow and a singing Goldcrest. I had to double-take when, sitting in the garden later on, I heard a Reed Warbler chuntering away a few gardens along! Late migrants of this species can indeed turn up in strange places. A couple of Swallows flew through and a Goldcrest was singing next door. I guess the latter might be starting second broods.

Little Egret on the beach at Goring

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Goring and West Worthing

A quick round of Goring Gap this morning was met by a slightly grim northeasterly with showers, though it cleared for just long enough for me to check a reasonable amount of the habitat. I was surprised to see a Spotted Flycatcher in exactly the same spot as Monday's bird but presumed it was probably the same individual. This was called into question when I spotted two more crossing the open fields and landing in the central plantation! Seemingly a little arriving, especially coupled with later news from Portland of strong double-figures. 11 Swifts also came in, including two actually seen arriving over the waves together, and four Swallows flew through. In 5-minute seawatch, I recorded 24 Gannets and seven Sandwich Terns (these feeding along the shore). Three Black-headed Gulls were also seen. Sitting in the garden later in the day, a House Martin calling overhead produced another garden tick (a Swallow also flew through and the Swifts were busy) and analysis of my nocturnal sound trap revealed that at least one Oystercatcher flew over at last knockings on 22nd (a Dunlin from 15th also makes its way into our record book this way).

Sandwich Tern at Goring Gap

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

West Worthing

We've eventually sorted out garden chairs and the weather's nice enough to warrant working outside so I took my laptop out for my shift today. I think I'll do it again as keeping an ear and an eye open resulted in a spate of garden ticks, the least expected being an eastbound Siskin. Three Mediterranean Gulls flew over in the morning, followed by calls from a couple more birds just before dusk. A Greylag Goose tracked west, as did a Cormorant later and three Swallows went through. I also heard a Linnet calling overhead. Seven local Swifts provided constant entertainment (I counted 11 yesterday).

Monday, 21 May 2018

Goring

A stroll around the Gap paid off with a lovely Spotted Flycatcher catching insects in the scrub in the northwest corner. Seven Mediterranean Gulls (including a 2CY and a 3CY) moved west and seven Swallows and two Swifts went through. Five Turnstones were on the beach. It was quiet otherwise, with nothing out of the ordinary recorded. A short seawatch mid-afternoon produced an Arctic Skua, a Bonxie, two Great Crested Grebes, 83 Gannets and a Sandwich Tern.

Spotted Flycatcher

Spotted Flycatcher

Sunday, 20 May 2018

West Worthing and Ladywell

Walking out of the back door first thing, I was greeted by the bubbling of fly-over Whimbrel, a tidy garden tick. I joined the ringers at Ladywell for the morning where we had an enjoyable session featuring a single Sedge Warbler and a number of Reed Warblers. Two Shelducks were apparently a site first and other sightings included two Treecreepers, a Mistle Thrush, four Buzzards, a Red Kite, a Little Egret, two Cetti's Warblers, 12 Swifts and four House Martins.

Whimbrel over my garden

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Beddington Park and Beddington Farmlands

A lazy watch from the Beddington bunker with Kojak, Peter A, Glenn J, Dave S and Nick G... The best was saved till last when a Raven plonked onto the landfill, rather amusingly pursued by just one Carrion Crow. I never saw any of the early 21st Century Ravens here but I am told they caused absolute mayhem among the local birds. The corvids and gulls must have grown used to them in the area now! A female Pintail on the South Lake was unexpected, as was a fly-through Ringed Plover. I noted 11 Buzzards and 12 Swallows, as well as a Shelduck, two Pochards, two Reed Warblers, a Reed Bunting, two Cetti's Warblers, a Skylark, 11 Swifts, three Great Black-backed Gulls and three Egyptian Geese of note.

The walk through Beddington Park featured a Nuthatch and a fly-over Buzzard.

female Pintail at Beddington Farmlands

Friday, 18 May 2018

Canons Farm

An easy day's birding on the old patch, partly in the company of Geoff B... two Red Kites and a Grey Heron flew over during an extended skywatch, along with 18 Buzzards, two Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 315 Herring Gulls, 38 Swifts and five Swallows. I also noted a Kestrel, a Sparrowhawk, Mistle Thrush, a Yellowhammer, a Greenfinch, a Collared Dove, two Whitethroats and three Skylarks.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Castle Hill (Woodingdean)

The only birding I managed to do was an hour's walk here, the highlights being a Corn Bunting, 35 Stock Doves, three Swifts and two Skylarks.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Northern France

Team Chough convened for the first time in too long for a day's birding around Calais. When I did this trip with the Dungeness guys in spring 2016, I had one of my most enjoyable birding days ever, with getting on for 130 species seen during the day and including a number of corkers. This time, the weather was against us (the theme this spring?) but we did manage a singing Marsh Warbler, a Bluethroat, a drake Garganey, four Black Terns together and a handful of Turtle Doves to make the day worthwhile. As well, of course, as the lively company...!

Turtle Dove

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Mole Valley Bird Race

That special diary date came around once more, the annual battle for the coveted MVBR trophy. This year the Nightingales of Laughter comprised just me and Ian J, a MVBR first-timer. We started ridiculously early, climbing up Leith Hill in the darkness for the classic suite of pre-dawn heathland songsters. The choir was a couple short this time, with no Tree Pipit or Woodlark in foggy conditions, but it was magical to hear at least three of both Woodcock and Nightjar, as well as a brief burst of Redstart song and a minimum of five Tawny Owls and three male Cuckoos battling for airtime. Once it was vaguely light we proceeded to walk through some of the woodland on site, adding a singing Marsh Tit and a few Treecreepers. Small numbers of Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler and Whitethroat were in voice and a Hawfinch provided a welcome bonus as it ticked above the canopy (although it didn't count towards the race total as Ian didn't hear it). Two Greylags were notable for the site. Driving towards Capel, the craziest encounter of the whole day ensued as a Barnacle Goose flew from Broom Hall Lake with two Canada Geese! A Red-legged Partridge narrowly escaped becoming an RTA but was nice to get on the day list early.

Next up was Capel, where we heard a distant Nightingale singing, as well as three Garden Warblers, and a Cormorant flew over. On the drive out of here near Beare Green, our only Red Kite of the day flew over the main road. Newdigate Lakes, our next venue, always makes for some pleasant birding and the sound of Reed Buntings and Reed Warblers was uplifting both for our spirits and race total. A Yellowhammer sang from an adjacent field and a Sand Martin was seen with a mixed frenzy of House Martins, Swallows and Swifts. Two Little Grebes and 18 Tufted Ducks were counted but we made a hasty retreat when loud machinery made the birding a grating experience.

At Buckland Sand Pits, Ian M served as our guide for a couple of hours. Here we added a Raven, a pair of Grey Wagtails, three Egyptian Geese. Grilling the over-flying gulls paid off with singles of Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed - important day ticks. Seven Sand Martins, a Garden Warbler and a Reed Bunting added to our site tally, while a Grey Heron, two Mistle Thrushes and seven Great Crested Grebes were new for the day. Crossing the road, Lawrence Lane hosted another Yellowhammer and two Red-legged Partridges of note. A short visit to Betchworth Quarry only added a Nuthatch but this turned out to be the only example we saw all day!

Raven at Buckland

Grey Wagtail and Egyptian Geese at Buckland

The weather had closed in by now and was rather damp and miserable so getting to 80 species was looking like a struggle, with passerine activity dulled down. A stroll along the River Mole just south of Leatherhead produced a Little Egret and yet another Yellowhammer (we struggled with this species last year!). After this, we returned to Leith Hill via a blank stop at Friday Street pond (where we hoped to find Mandarin). Searching the Rhododenron Wood and a couple of the car parks, eventually we found a singing Firecrest. A return to Newdigate Lakes seemed fruitless but our two target species showed up at the eleventh hour, a pair of Common Terns passing us, followed by a Hobby which took a break in a nearby tree. Things were looking up. We felt that, considering the weather, we were probably doing well and, now on 80 species, were hoping to add a couple more in the final couple of hours. At Parkgate, it was satisfying to track down a Lapwing, a bird we missed last year, and here we saw another pair of Mistle Thrushes. We were still missing Kingfisher and the most productive thing we could think of doing in the final hour before the 20:00 finishing line was to drive to Brockham and hope that one flew along the Mole. Alas, that did not happen but we enjoyed watching a pair of Grey Wagtails.

Feeling cautiously confident as contenders for the trophy, we entered the pub at 20:00 with the feeling of a job done well, given the challenging weather. It was a bit of a knock down, therefore, to hear team 'Linnet to Win It' once again claimed top prize with 89 species, some eight more than us. A damn fine effort on their part. It seems a strong 90+ total is necessary for any hope of pipping these guys, and some detailed planning for next year's race...

Friday, 11 May 2018

Goring

10 hours of seawatching split were rather profitable and some of the best local wave-gazing I've enjoyed to date. Two Pomarine Skuas went through separately during the first vigil and the later spell produced the stonking group of four which were tracked along much of the south coast. A 3CY Yellow-legged Gull fed offshore and a morning push of 32 Arctic Terns was very enjoyable. Some 21 Arctic Skuas were tallied, plus a lone Bonxie. A nice push of waders included 39 Whimbrel, a Dunlin and three distant Oystercatchers. Other birds recorded over the day included two Little Terns, 102 Common Scoters, a Shelduck, four Fulmars, 686 Gannets, six Kittiwakes, a Swallow, 239 Common/'Commic' Terns (combined), 100 Sandwich Terns, a Common Gull, a Guillemot (and another two distant auks), two Great Crested Grebes, two very distant divers (most likely Black-throated) and four Turnstones. I was variously joined by Gareth J, Garry M, Nick O and Adam B.

Arctic Skuas

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Lyminster, Goring and Ferring Rife

I paid my inaugural visit to my randomly allocated BBS square this morning, just in the nick of time to complete the first of the two required visits. Covering pastoral land just north of Lyminster, the site was a delight, the first birds heard as I got out of the car being a pair of Cuckoos - the bubbling call of females is something I hear so rarely! A Cetti's Warbler, a couple of Reed Warblers and a Reed Bunting were also in voice, while nine Lapwings were a hopeful sight and other highlights included singles of Little Egret, Shelduck, Willow Warbler and Treecreeper, plus two Swifts and six Swallows.

It was then onto the patch, starting with a quick circuit of Goring Gap. The best bits there were a/the female Whinchat in the northwest corner, my first British Sand Martin of the year (!), a Peregrine, a Willow Warbler, a House Martin, five Sanderlings, 13 Turnstones, four Oystercatchers, seven Swallows, a Moorhen, a Whitethroat and a Black-headed Gull. A walk of Ferring Rife revealed five House Martins, six Swallows, a Little Egret, two Grey Herons, a Red Kite, two Buzzards, a Kestrel, two Swifts, five Whitethroats, two Lesser Black-backed Gulls, six Mallards, two Moorhens and a Jackdaw.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Goring

A walk around the Gap this morning was pleasant but quiet in terms of passage migrants, just a Willow Warbler and a Meadow Pipit of note till I came back to where I started and spotted a female Whinchat feeding along the fenceline bording the rough field, which made my day! Gareth and Garry came along for a look and a natter. The Sedge Warbler was remarkably still singing around the scrub in the northwest corner. At long last, two Swifts flew over and a suggestion of hirundine movement involved a House Martin and 10 Swallows, while five Jackdaws seemed to move east. Other bits included a Sparrowhawk, five Buzzards, a Moorhen, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, nine westbound Black-headed Gulls, six Oystercatchers, five Whitethroats, four Linnets, three Sandwich Terns and a Goldcrest. I didn't really look at the sea but two Great Crested Grebes were bobbing around offshore.

female Whinchat

male Whitethroat

male Blackcap

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Goring and West Worthing

A short seawatch from George V Avenue first thing in the morning produced an Arctic Skua, a Curlew, a Whimbrel, a Shelduck, eight Sanderlings, two Dunlin, 41 Gannets, a Fulmar, two Sandwich Terns and six Swallows.

Later in the morning, while working I noticed a Swallow and three Swifts over my West Worthing garden, the latter acting as though they were returning local birds. A neighbour tells me they breed nearby.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Ferring Rife and Goring

A hugely frustrating day. I was working for a big chunk of it but I still potentially had time to do a fair bit of seawatching, though somehow managed to waste/misfire on a load of time. Instead of scanning the waves early morning before work (when it transpired some early moving Poms were going through), I decided to walk Ferring Rife which turned out to be utterly useless. I'm all for being philosophical and hugely appreciate the simple joy of being out and enjoying the common birds but I'm reaching the end of my tether this spring as far as 'migrant-seeking' birding goes. Setting the alarm for 04:45 to go out before a 07:00 work start and getting just a couple of Swallows and seven Whitethroats in return just doesn't cut it. Of course, not every visit will yield 'worthwhile results' but when you consider I haven't had the likes of Swift, Lesser Whitethroat, Yellow Wagtail, Whinchat or Redstart on my new Sussex patch this year, my waning patience might be understandable. I'm unable to patch these days with the intensity applied to Canons in years gone by, but I am lucky enough to still have more than my fair share of free time to devote to it and I've certainly been putting in some reasonable hours.

Finishing work earlier than normal in the afternoon, I could have headed out for a seawatch but instead spent far too long faffing about at home, ultimately getting not very much done, before I read reports of Poms moving along the coast while mid-dinner/washing up. The upshot was that I only got to the George V Avenue shelter after 18:00 for a barely two-hour vigil, rewarded by distant views of a lone Pomarine Skua, as well as the regular 2CY Iceland Gull again fairly close in, plus four Arctic Skuas, three Great Crested Grebes, a Kittiwake, a Shelduck, 49 Gannets, an Oystercatcher and four Sandwich Terns. A Whimbrel was heard.

I'm keen to make the most of the spring while it lasts. To do that I think I might have to re-evaluate my approach and ease off the gas a little as the returns have not matched the efforts and compromises I've had to make, and indeed I can sense they have begun to frustrate my overall birdwatching enjoyment.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Banstead Downs, Banstead, Canons Farm, Banstead Woods and Rainham Marshes

I walked through Banstead Downs to get to the patch for the Banstead Arts Festival Tour, noting a few common warblers on the way. A Pied Wagtail flew over the BP station. It was a very enjoyable walk at the patch despite the lack of unusual migrants. The Wheatear was still in Poultry Field and looked rather like a Greenland race individual. A Little Owl was seen at the farm, along with three Yellowhammers and the busy Nuthatch pair was showing nicely for paritipants in Banstead Woods, where a Treecreeper was again singing in the same area.

Back at Rainham (to pick up my car which had been locked in the previous night - my own stupid fault!), a quick scan revealed four hunting Hobbies, a nice flight view of a singing male Cuckoo and a male Marsh Harrier.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Canons Farm, Banstead Woods and Rainham Marshes

I teamed up with Adrian S early morning then we were accompanied by attendees of the CFBW's Spring Migration Tour for a mooch around the patch. Few migrants were around but we managed a Wheatear, a Mistle Thrush and a Pied Wagtail of note at the farm, along with fly-overs of six Cormorants and five Mallards. Eight Whitethroats and three Treecreepers were counted. Two Bullfinches showed nicely at Heathside and four Yellowhammers performed well. In Banstead Woods, we found a pair of Nuthatches lining teir nest and heard another Treecreeper. A Whitethroat in the Harholt Plantation is notable these days, and two Bullfinches were there.

I took my old schoolfriend Panos to Rainham Marshes in the afternoon to introduce him to some birding. It was a rewarding outing and he loved it. The pick of our sightings included a Greenshank, seven Whimbrel, three Ruffs, two Common Sandpipers, two Marsh Harriers, two Bearded Reedlings, two Common Terns, my first Swift of the year and several Reed, Sedge and Cetti's Warblers.

Greenshank at Rainham Marshes

Whimbrel (centre) with Redshank and Greenshank (right) at Rainham Marshes

Friday, 4 May 2018

Sandwich Bay, Pegwell Bay and Oare Marshes

I teamed up with Christian C and Magnus A at first light for a day birding in Kent. We started at Sandwich Bay, where highlights included my first Lesser Whitethroat, Cuckoo, Reed Warblers (two) and Yellow Wagtails (five) of the year, as well as three Corn Buntings, a Yellowhammer, two Rose-ringed Parakeets, 11 House Martins, six Wheatears and a Rock Pipit. Lapwings and Greylags had young and offshore were two Fulmars, a Gannet, 12 Great Crested Grebes and 12 Common Scoters. Four Avocets were on the Restharrow Scrape, along with six frisky Shovelers.

After lunch, we visited Pegwell Bay, finding a Spoonbill on the sandspit and seeing two Dark-bellied Brent Geese, four Whimbrel, a Yellow Wagtail and 85 Shelducks of note, as well as hearing a Cuckoo and a handful of Sedge and Reed Warblers.

Spoonbill at Pegwell Bay

We headed home via Oare Marshes, which had disappointingly high water levels. However, we logged a Hobby, a male Ruff, 200 Black-tailed Godwits, two Knots, a Peregrine, a Water Rail, six Whimbrel, five Avocets and a Bearded Reedling.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Goring

A painfully quite evening walk around Goring Gap in terms of passerine migrants. A male Wheatear, a Swallow, four Whitethroats and six Blackcaps topped the bill.

male Wheatear

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Goring

In a strong SSW breeze, I headed down to the George V Avenue shelter for a 4-hour vigil. Despite the conditions being challenging and the visibility being very poor from a couple of hours in, I stuck at it and was rewarded with a distant reappearance from the 2CY Iceland Gull, my first patch Tufted Duck, seven Manx Shearwaters, nine Arctic Skuas, 13 Bonxies, three Whimbrel, three Shelducks, five Kittiwakes and a trickle of Sandwich and Common(+'Commic') Terns. Some 20 Fulmars, 293 Gannets, 40 Common Scoters and 29 auks (five of which were within identifiable range and revealed themselves to be Guillemots). A couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls were on the sea.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Goring and Ham

A short visit to the Gap early in the morning produced a Whimbrel and a male Wheatear. Later on, another circuit was rewarded with a singing Sedge Warbler in the northwest corner, along with a couple of Willow Warblers. Today I also noted a Swallow, nine Oystercatchers, three Turnstones, three Gannets, two Sandwich Terns, a Moorhen, four Blackcaps, four Chiffchaffs and a Mallard.

Ingrid and I twitched the Stone-curlew at Ham near Sidlesham but failed to spot it in the fading light, although it called loudly three times. A Barn Owl was hunting, as was a Sparrowhawk and a few Red-legged Partridges were around.