Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Chantry Hill, Clapham and East Preston

A stroll around Chantry Hill was brought to life by the energetic songs of Corn Buntings, Yellowhammers, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits. Red Kites and Buzzards soared overhead, as did at least seven noisy Ravens.

Corn Bunting at Chantry Hill

Driving around later, a Red Kite flew over Clapham and Goldcrest was in song at Haskins Roundstone.

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Goring Gap

A 2.5-hour seawatch this morning did not produce the desired Storm-petrel or Balearic Shearwater, the highlight being a distant flock of nine Common Scoters. Otherwise, it was three Fulmars, eight Sandwich Terns, while a Skylark was singing and a Pied Wagtail flew along the beach...

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Pagham Harbour

Pagham Harbour (brief stops at Church Norton and Ferry Pool) offered 10 Little Terns among the clamour of Sandwich Terns, Common Terns, Black-headed Gulls and Mediterranean Gulls. A singing Cuckoo landed pretty close to me for a few seconds and other stuff noted included a Wigeon, a Gadwall, 22 Shelducks, four Great Crested Grebes, a Little Egret, a Buzzard, 19 Oystercatchers, 15 Black-tailed Godwits, 10 Turnstones, six Ringed Plovers, five Swifts, single Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, two Skylarks, three Swallows, two Reed Warblers, a Chiffchaff, three Blackcaps, and individual singing Lesser Whitethroat and Whitethroat.


Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Picket Post and Sullington

It wasn't a birding day, but on the drive back a Lapwing flew over the main road at Picket Post and while Ingrid was working in Sullington I took my usual walk around the nearby fields, where there were a couple of singing Yellowhammers, a Nuthatch, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a couple of Swifts, a Skylark, a Mistle Thrush and a flyover Black-headed Gull.

Monday, 3 June 2019

Telscombe, Hayle Estuary and St.Gothian Sands

I started the day at Telscombe, in search of the recently reported Quail. A couple of singing Corn Buntings and Yellowhammers, along with a fair few Skylarks and a handful of House Martins and Swifts were among the birds noted. However, my quest was cut short by news of the American Royal Tern's reappearance, this time on the Hayle Estuary in Cornwall.

Things were quickly shifted around and I set off west. News on the bird was positive till late morning and by the time I arrived at the Hayle Estuary at 4pm it had not been seen for over five hours. I wasn't quite sure how to play it but scanned the estuary for a short while, with three Whimbrel, five Wigeon and seven Little Egrets the most noteworthy observations, before taking a punt on looking off St.Gothian Sands, despite the bad light.

At St.Gothian Sands, there was of course orange-billed tern offshore but a steady procession of Manx Shearwaters went by, along with smaller numbers of Fulmar, Gannet, Kittiwake, Shag, Guillemot and Razorbill. A Reed Warbler was singing in the reedbed and another was gathering nesting material nearby. The main pool hosted Little Grebe and 15 Sand Martins, while a Meadow Pipit was in song on the slopes.

Deciding I wasn't in a fit state to drive back home, I crashed out at the Penzance YHA, getting a dorm to myself for £15, perhaps the biggest win of the day.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Cissbury Ring

A quiet morning's ringing at Cissbury featured a few interesting sightings. First of all, I was surprised to see two Shelducks on the downs opposite our ringing station, in the distance. A short while later, they were gone. Once it was starting to get quite hot, a Spotted Flycatcher made a brief appearance by our table, and a Cuckoo which had been singing in the distance flew past us then resumed proclaiming itself a little nearer. A Red Kite and four Buzzards got up towards the end of the session and other sightings included singing Yellowhammer, three Skylarks, a Kestrel, two Bullfinches, Red-legged Partridges, a singing Whitethroat, the Willow Warbler-mimicking Blackcap, a Mistle Thrush, a Swallow, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, and perhaps most unusual of all for Cissbury, a Coal Tit.

In terms of ringing, we didn't make double figures, even including retraps but it was nice to handle a couple of Song Thrushes and my first juvenile Robin of the year.

Spotted Flycatcher


juvenile Robin

Monday, 27 May 2019

West Worthing

Swifts over the garden increased to seven, still not that encouraging this late in May!

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Godalming, Thorncombe Street and Unstead Sewage Farm

An afternoon with Ed Stubbs on his home turf starting with a Reed Warbler singing outside his Godalming flat.

At Thorncombe Street I finally saw a Hobby for 2019, though I still need the species for Sussex. Several Buzzards and the odd Red Kite were also on the wing, as were two Ravens. Two Cormorants and two Greylags flew over. Swifts, House Martins and Swallows were overhead. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was visiting feeders and a Bullfinch called. Bramley Mill Pond had a brood of flycatching Mandarin ducklings and a few Tufted Ducks.

Mandarin ducklings

Unstead Sewage Farm was visited out of curiosity. I never knew the site in its heyday but changes in management and a depleted birding following means it's generous to say that it is now a shadow of its former self. Singles of Reed Warbler, Bullfinch, Red-legged Partridge, Pied Wagtail and Buzzard were as good as it got...

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Mole Valley Bird Race

I met Ian Jones at a suitably ridiculous hour for the sixth annual Mole Valley Bird Race. As always, pre-dawn on Leith Hill was the plan but a stupid navigational error knocked us back up to 20 minutes and to our horror it was fairly light as we arrived on Duke's Warren to a chorus of at least three Cuckoos, including a female. After an anxious few minutes, a Nightjar churred but we were too late for Woodcock and had missed Woodlark too. A circuit of the heath and the wooded valley to the west added singing Redstart, Willow Warbler and Whitethroat, as well as Stonechat and Siskin. At least three Garden Warblers were in song and we heard a small number of Treecreepers in the woods, as well as a Nuthatch, which can be tricky to locate at this time of year. Juvenile Long-tailed Tits and Robin were my first of the year.

Buckland Sand Pits provided three drake Mandarins, a Sparrowhawk mobbed by a Mistle Thrush, three Egyptian Geese, a Reed Warbler, two Lapwings, a Red Kite, a few Buzzards, a Kestrel, a Pied Wagtail, six Tufted Ducks, Grey Heron, Garden Warbler, two Little Grebes and three Great Crested Grebes, a few Swifts, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, and best of all perhaps 60 Sand Martins which had suddenly taken a liking to one of the cliff faces and were busying around their nest holes. Much smaller numbers of House Martins and Swallows were also around.  At this point we were joined by Darragh Culley for a few hours.

Sand Martin at Buckland Park Pit

drake Mandarins at Buckland Sand Pits

At Betchworth Quarry Ian spotted the old female Peregrine loafing on the grass.

Along the River Mole behind the Dorking Wyevale garden centre, we found a Grey Wagtail with food, plus a Kestrel and two Buzzards.

Leatherhead offered a Black-headed Gull - always a valuable species for this race. Also a brood of five Mute Swans, Grey and Pied Wagtails and a Grey Heron.

Mickleham produced Kingfisher and Little Egret (three) for our day's total, as well as Red Kite, two Buzzards and Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers.

Juniper Bottom was extremely quiet, with Sparrowhawk, two Buzzards, a Kestrel and a Green Woodpecker noted.

Denbies Wine Estate was twitched, yes twitched, for Starling! Far more interesting was the apparent House Martin colony.

Darragh left us and Ian and I headed towards Leith Hill again. We stopped at Chadhurst Farm, adding Red-legged Partridge and noting few birds of any note at all beyond Pied Wagtail, Swallow, Canada Goose, Greylag and Buzzard.

At Leith Hill again, this time we tracked down a pair of Dartford Warblers and heard/saw a Woodlark in spectacular song flight. Sadly, Tree Pipits are not present on the hill this year but it is great to see Dartfords and Stonechats breeding on site again.

At Newdigate Lakes early evening, we had a pair of Mute Swans with seven young, 10 Tufted Ducks, Little Grebe, Kestrel, Reed Warbler, Pied Wagtail, Red Kite, Grey Heron, Red-legged Partridge, a few Swifts, Greylags etc, while Reed Bunting was added to the day list.

Mute Swans at Newdigate Lakes

Our failure was protracted last thing at Capel where we didn't hear Nightingale, but did hear a Reed Bunting and young Great Spotted Woodpeckers.

My worst-ever Mole Valley Bird Race, my team finishing last on 76 species.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Goring Gap, Highdown and Beachy Head

A census of Goring Gap was predictably quiet until a male Blue-headed Wagtail landed on the greensward in front of me as I headed back along the beach to the car. It was, of course, almost immediately flushed by a dog-walker and headed off west. Otherwise, it was terribly quiet for migrants and 'resident' bird activity was low. I noted two Swifts and eight Swallows flying overhead and a Mediterranean Gull called. Song Thrush and Goldcrest were the most locally notable breeders in voice. A Green Woodpecker yaffled and a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers were in the Plantation. Four Skylarks were in the fields. I'm not sure what the overflying pair of Linnets were doing.

male Blue-headed Wagtail at Goring Gap

I planned on raptor-watching from Highdown from late morning but only managed to get up there from about 2pm, logging a couple of Red Kites and five or so Buzzards, as well as a flypast Grey Heron, a singing Yellowhammer, House Martin and three Swifts.

An evening dash to Beachy Head following what turned out to be a suspicious report of yesterday's Crag Martin back on site produced singing Corn Bunting and Meadow Pipit, five Swallows and a Green Woodpecker but no beefy Mediterranean hirundine...

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Pulborough Brooks RSPB

A late morning flying visit to Pulborough Brooks RSPB led to success in connecting with the two Black-winged Stilts from the Hanger Viewpoint, along with a Pink-footed Goose. While racing to and fro the car I heard singles of Treecreeper, Bullfinch and Lesser Whitethroat. Then it was off to Bristol to pick up a Pink Toilet (and sink)...!

Black-winged Stilts

Monday, 20 May 2019

Crossness LNR and Dungeness RSPB

I returned to Crossness LNR in the hope of getting further, improved views of the Great Reed Warbler, encouraged by positive news early in the morning. However, after spending a couple of hours on site and listening to people who'd been there since mid-morning, the bird was not going to sing or show itself again for me. A pleasant visit nonetheless, and a chance to catch up further with the gent that is Ian Stewart. The Lesser Whitethroat was still in song, as were a few Reed Warblers and Cetti's Warblers. One of the Peregrines came into view, two Buzzards soared in the distance and I counted five Pochards and 24 Gadwall. Waders were represented by Redshank and Oystercatcher.

I then set off to Dungeness for another bird I really ought to have already seen in Britain. Thankfully, the adult WHISKERED TERN was performing superbly along with a bonus adult Roseate Tern. Also logged were two Egyptian Geese, a male Marsh Harrier, four Sanderlings, a Ringed Plover, around 60 Common Terns (including a 2CY), a singing male Cuckoo, Cetti's and Reed Warblers and Reed Bunting.

Whiskered Tern (right) with Roseate Tern at Dungeness RSPB

Whiskered Tern at Dungeness RSPB

Roseate Tern at Dungeness RSPB

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Crossness LNR, Westerham and Belmont

Dad kindly picked me and Mag up from the airport and took us directly to Crossness LNR where we met up with Ian Stewart and managed brief views of the GREAT REED WARBLER which was singing in the reedbed. This is a species I have been long overdue to see in Britain. Other birds present included two Peregrines, Pochards, Shelducks and Cetti's Warblers, as well as singles of Lesser Whitethroat, Little Egret and Reed Bunting.

Peregrines at Crossness LNR

Phil arrived and I told my dad to head home as I'd get a lift back with him. Unfortunately, the sky darkened and there was no further sign of the Great Reed. On the way back to Sutton, we saw a Red Kite over the M25 at Westerham, and at my parents' I was pleased to see Swifts back, though concerned that there only seemed to be two present. Admittedly, it was a quick glance as I got through the door.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Toronto and journey to Point Pelee

We landed late afternoon in Toronto and after waiting seemingly hours for our luggage to get out and getting stuck in a massive traffic jam, we eventually reached our digs at Point Pelee at about midnight. On the way, lifers from the car included Red-winged Blackbird, Turkey Vulture, Common Grackle and American Herring Gull.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

West Worthing

The first four Swifts of the year were back over the garden this morning.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Cissbury Ring/Steep Down

An hour's walk with Ingrid featured two Grey Partridges, Bullfinch, three House Martins, Stonechat, Yellowhammer, a couple of Green Woodpeckers and a few Buzzards, Swallows and Red-legged Partridges.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Canons Farm, Banstead Woods, Ashdown Forest and Litlington

Another day, another tour. It was harder work though. We located the Little Owl again distantly on the east side of Horse Pasture at Canons, and enjoyed small numbers of Swallows and Yellowhammers, while Banstead Woods added a Mallard on Piddly Pond, a couple of extra Buzzards and nice views of Nuthatch but little else.

I met up with Christian at the Long car park in Ashdown Forest for a quick catch up. Here we had nice views of singing Redstart, Dartford Warbler, Tree Pipit and Garden Warbler, while Stonechats were busily feeding young and a few Siskins and Willow Warblers were around.

Tree Pipit at Ashdown Forest

An evening twitch saw me join Dan and Mike at Litlington, where the Red-rumped Swallow showed nicely in the evening light amid a flurry of Swallows, Sand Martins, House Martins and Swifts. Reed Warbler and Cetti's Warbler sang.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Canons Farm and Banstead Woods

Leading a tour round the old patch, the farm had good site records of two Sand Martins and a singing Lesser Whitethroat, while other highlights included Little Owl, four Mallards and five Whitethroats. In Banstead Woods a late flock of 16 Black-headed Gulls flew over and we noted singing Treecreeper.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Goring and Henfield Levels

The engine was starting to twitch the Surf Scoter found on the sea off Selsey when news came through that the flock was now heading east. This was at once disappointing and exciting. The latter emotion was evoked by the realisation that I might be able to get it off the patch. However, once I arrived at George V Avenue and saw that visibility (due to heat haze) was atrocious and most birds were moving far out, I soon lost hope. I did technically see the bird, though, at least that was the reasonable assumption when a flock of 34 what-would-have-otherwise-been-noted-down-as Common Scoters flew past half an hour or so after the bird had been reported as setting off east from Selsey with 33 Common Scoters. A mile or two out and obsured by wavy air, however, there was no chance in hell of singling out which was the surfie. Otherwise, only a distant diver, a Bar-tailed Godwit, a heard-only Whimbrel, three in-off Swallows, 18 Sandwich Terns, a 2CY Common Gull and three Gannets, then it was back home to resume work...

... but after attending to some business nearby I couldn't resist exploring Henfield Levels in the evening. What a promising area! First of all, three Nightingales were in song along one short stretch of hedgerow, including two in a half-hearted confrontation which showed very nicely. Five Lesser Whitethroats were in song, as was my first Cuckoo of the year which remained unseen. Reed Buntings, Yellowhammers, Skylarks, Lapwings and singles of Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Cetti's Warbler and Meadow Pipit were also in voice. A Snipe was something of a surprise, five Little Egrets were counted and a Mute Swan was incubating. Skylarks performed over the fields, a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers included a drummer. As I walked back to the car in the twilight, a pair of Tawny Owls kicked off.

Nightingale at Henfield Levels

Monday, 29 April 2019

West Worthing

An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull low over my road, calling, was the first around here for some time.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Cissbury Ring

This morning saw a ringing session with Val and Kath - special guest from Canons Farm. We didn't catch a huge numbers of birds but among the number were of couple of Chiffchaffs still with pollen horns and a Whitethroat. While ringing, a Lesser Whitethroat was singing by our station and a Red Kite flew over. The male Tawny Owl piped up and other bits included a couple of Bullfinches, Buzzard, Kestrel, drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker, etc. By ear I suspected a Long-tailed Tit nest nearby and Kath spotted it in a bush by the table. A Blackcap was incorporating Willow Warbler phrases into its song. A flyover Lesser Black-backed Gull was noteworthy. Unfortunately, I won't be able to get out much over the next week or so (then I'm off to Canada shortly afterwards).

Friday, 26 April 2019

Beachy Head

I was catching up with some desk-based work today when news came through of a subalpine warbler at Beachy Head. I wrapped things up pretty quickly and headed over there but somewhat predictably there was no sign of the bird in the couple of hours I gave it. A Peregrine sliced through the air overhead, a couple of Swallows flew through, a Lesser Whitethroat was in voice and a Raven was continually hassled by Carrion Crows.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Goring Gap and West Worthing

A brisk SSE/southerly breeze saw me down at the Gap again for dawn for another decent seawatch. I was joined for the last hour or so by Gareth. A flurry of terns included my first eight Little Terns of the year, as well as my first 2019 Arctic Terns, at least three among 58 'Commics', which included at least 24 Commons. Skuas came through at a gentle pace, with 20 Bonxies and 12 Arctic Skuas but no Poms. Two Manx Shearwaters were great to see, as was a flock of seven Velvet Scoters. Whimbrel and Bar-tailed Godwits were down, with 21 and 22 respectively, though two of the latter honoured the beach with their presence. My first Swift of the year tracked east offshore, and other highlights included 218 Common Scoters, four Fulmars, 206 Gannets, six Red-throated Divers, 29 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, five Guillemots/Razorbills, 44 Mediterranean Gulls and eight Common Gulls.

Bar-tailed Godwits

Back home in West Worthing, singles of Swallow and Meadow Pipit flew over.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Goring Gap

I arrived at dawn for what turned out to be a steady but hugely satisfying seawatch. Waders were soon on the move, mainly Bar-tailed Godwits and Whimbrel (72 and 24 in the end, respectively), with singles of Dunlin and Grey Plover thrown in. Skuas soon started as well, though never reached any lofty numbers, with four each of Arctic Skua and Bonxie. One of the Bonxies lingered offshore the whole morning, at one point shredding a gull/tern corpse on the water's surface, which it may well have killed. More importantly, one of the Arctic Skuas was tagging along with a group of three Pomarine Skuas in the distance as they tracked east. Despite the great range, they were in decent enough view for a minute or so and a very pleasing way to get my first of the year. These birds weren't picked up further west beforehand, at least not today, but made it to Splash Point 45 minutes later. Other seawatch highlights included 48 Mediterranean Gulls, 11 Common Scoters, a Red-throated Diver, two Fulmars, 50 Sandwich Terns, 28 Gannets and a Swallow. Two Yellow Wagtails flew over, as did 17 Linnets and a further five Swallows. The beach held 21 Turnstones, a Dunlin, two Sanderlings and four Oystercatchers. A quick walk around the Gap revealed just three Blackcaps, two Chiffchaffs, a Green Woodpecker and a Whitethroat, though a Whimbrel flying over the fields was nice.

Pomarine Skuas (left/lower) and Arctic Skua [phonescoped]

Whimbrel flying over land

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Goring Gap, Ferring Rife, Highdown and West Worthing

Goring Gap was quiet this morning, though a flock involving two Shovelers and seven Teal flew east, as did a Whimbrel and 16 Mediterranean Gulls. Eleven Linnets flew over and later on a Greenshank - only my second record for the patch and my first seen - was on the beach, making the visit worthwhile. Also noted were three Great Crested Grebes, a Grey Heron, 12 Turnstones, four Sanderlings, a Swallow and two Blackcaps.

House Sparrows at Goring Gap

Ferring Rife added two Reed Warblers, a Reed Bunting, four Whitethroats, a Song Thrush, three Linnets, a Willow Warbler, a Chiffchaff, five Swallows, 12 Moorhens and singles of Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers.

A wander around Highdown produced a House Martin, two Lesser Whitethroats, a Red Kite, six Buzzards, three Mallards, two Green Woodpeckers, a Kestrel, two Yellowhammers and small numbers of Whitethroats, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. Four pairs of Long-tailed Tits were going about their business.

Chiffchaff at Ferring Rife

Red Kite over Highdown

Later, a Linnet flew over my West Worthing garden.

Monday, 22 April 2019

West Worthing and Horse Eye Level

A flock of 13 Mediterranean Gulls flew over as I got into the car to head to Horse Eye Level. We arrived to news that the two Cranes had flown off and were nowhere to be seen but things took a rapid turn for the better when they appeared in flight in the distance, heading northwest! The pressure was off, so Ingrid and I spent a pleasant hour exploring the level, with the sound of Whitethroats, Sedge, Reed and Cetti's Warblers and displaying Lapwings, while we also logged a Great White Egret, a Yellow Wagtail, a Red Kite and a Swallow.

Great White Egret at Horse Eye Level

Saturday, 20 April 2019

West Worthing, Winchelsea and Rye Harbour

A Meadow Pipit flew over my West Worthing garden as I left for Rye Harbour this morning. En route, a Red Kite flew over as I passed through the fields between Winchelsea and Rye.

By the time I'd arrived at my destination, there was news of two Black-winged Stilts at Dungeness, so I knew I was bound to dip as these were undoubtedly the birds which had been at the harbour for the last couple of days. Nethertheless, as I got out of the car to a beautiful, pleasantly warm day, with Mediterranean Gulls yowling overhead and Whitethroat singing, I felt a currently very welcome serenity and spent three very pleasant hours birdwatching around the reserve. As well as watching the antics of the breeding Sandwich Terns, Mediterranean and Black-headed Gulls, passage waders such as a trio of Spotted Redshanks, a Whimbrel, four Bar-tailed Godwits, a scattering of Dunlin and four Grey Plovers were enjoyed. Avocets, Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers were of course generously dotted about, along the a Curlew here and there. Three Wheatears included two song-flighting males, something I've not seen in a very long time. Three Little Ringed Plovers flew around excitedly and three Common Terns were a low-key presence. Two Yellow Wagtails flew over, the occasional Swallow zipped through and straggling winter wildfowl included Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Wigeon and Teal. A fine pair of Common Gulls were among the denizens of Ternery Pool. A few Sedge Warblers and Whitethroats, fewer Reed Warblers and five Lesser Whitethroats were in voice, along with three Cetti's Warblers. Fresh in, a migrant Willow Warbler sought refuge in a tiny bush by the red-roofed hut. One of the biggest surprises of the day was a Grey Partridge which erupted from beside the path before alighting a short distance away and giving a few screeches - I'm sure I've never seen one at Rye before. My first Holly Blue of the year passed me while I was trying to get a view of a Lesser Whitethroat.

Spotted Redshanks at Rye Harbour

Bar-tailed Godwits at Rye Harbour

male Wheatear at Rye Harbour

Friday, 19 April 2019

West Worthing

In the garden, a Willow Warbler sang and a Goldcrest called, while flyovers included Mediterranean Gull and Sparrowhawk.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

West Worthing

Freshly arrived Willow Warbler and Blackcap singing in the garden indicated that today probably wasn't a good one to be stuck indoors again...

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Cissbury Ring

A gentle-paced and enjoyable morning's ringing with Val. We caught a small number of Blackcaps and a few Long-tailed Tits, a couple of Song Thrushes, etc. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming all morning and a couple of Green Woodpeckers yaffled. A Tawny Owl hooted briefly. Skylarks were in voice in the surrounding fields and a walk around the top later on revealed a pair of Stonechat and half a dozen Yellowhammers. A Red Kite and seven Buzzards soared overhead.

adult male Blue Tit, ringed as a juvenile in 2014!

male Blackcap


Monday, 15 April 2019

Cuckmere Haven

I was unable to escape yesterday so the first order of the day was to visit Cuckmere Haven in the slim hope of the Kentish Plover still being around. Of course, it had indeed moved on but a pair of Little Ringed Plover was a year tick, and other waders included Greenshank, Bar-tailed GodwitWhimbrel, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover and three Dunlin. Singles of Peregrine and Rock Pipit were logged, along with a pair of Black Swan. A hunting adult male Kestrel afforded superb views as I got back to the car.


Saturday, 13 April 2019

Goring Gap and Rustington

There was nothing moving offshore first thing, other than two Sandwich Terns, a Gannet and a procession of 19 adult Mediterranean Gulls so I set off on a walk around the Gap to start mapping out breeding bird territories. This was very enjoyable, the biggest surprise being a pair of Jackdaws entering a cavity in a tree in The Plantation - they certainly didn't breed here last year but I'm not sure what their historical status is at the site. Light overhead movement involved 15 Linnets, three Meadow Pipits and a Pied/White Wagtail. Four Willow Warblers, four Chiffchaffs and five Blackcaps were logged on my route, along with a Green Woodpecker, three Skylarks, a couple of pairs each of Jay and Stock Dove. Other birds noted included a Sparrowhawk and a 2CY Common Gull.

Garry Messenbird texted with news of a summer-plumaged Red-necked Grebe on the sea off Rustington. Despite connecting with a bird off Goring the other day, have a soft spot for this species and fancied seeing one loitering so drove the 10 minutes over there. It was nice to catch up with Garry, and indeed the grebe, while other species seen included five Whimbrel, a Bonxie, five Red-breasted Mergansers and a Great Crested Grebe.

Red-necked Grebe off Rustington

Friday, 12 April 2019

Weir Wood Reservoir

After work, I dashed up to Weir Wood Reservoir, where the Black Tern first reported yesterday was still hawking around off the dam, accompanied by two fine adult Little Gulls. About 15 Swallows and a couple of Sand Martins were skimming the surface, too, Great Crested Grebes were displaying and two Egyptian Geese and a Grey Wagtail were present.

Black Tern

adult Little Gull

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Hastings Country Park and Pett Level

I met up with Christian for a look round Hastings Country Park and Pett Level, both sites which will hopefully soon be local to him. I'd only briefly visited a small part of the country park before so a proper explore left me very impressed with the potential of the site. Highlights there included a Red Kite, a Siskin, a Raven, two Bullfinches and several Yellowhammers; offshore were 14 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, two Fulmars, a Curlew, three Sandwich Terns, 21 Common Scoters, seven Great Crested Grebes and two Gannets.

The wind put us off staying long at Pett Level but we witnessed a Marsh Harrier food pass and noted singles of Mediterranean Gull and Avocet.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Goring Gap and Ferring Rife

An hour at Goring Gap first thing produced my first patch Swallow of the year, a Little Egret, a Red-throated Diver, four Common/Arctic Terns, five Mediterranean Gulls, 27 Linnets (mostly moving east), two Gannets, 11 Sanderlings, eight Turnstones, three Oystercatchers, two Meadow Pipits, two Green Woodpeckers, a singing Skylark, a Goldcrest and Pied/White Wagtails.

Ferring Rife added my first patch Willow Warbler of the year, 27 Linnets, a Mediterranean Gull, a Pheasant, four Mallards, two Chiffchaffs, two Blackcaps, a singing Goldcrest, four Meadow Pipits and a Green Woodpecker.

Friday, 5 April 2019


I arrived at George V Avenue for sunrise and was soon joined by Gareth. The following four hours made for some of my best Goring seawatching. Skuas started before long, finishing on six Bonxies and eight Arctic Skuas east, with three Bonxies west, two of which were perhaps earlier birds backtracking. All of the Arctic Skuas so far this spring have been dark morphs. Common Scoters went through at a steady pace, my personal total finishing on 630 east. A trio of Velvet Scoters - seen at various other points along the coast today - flew east, along with 12 Teal and six Red-breasted Mergansers. To my particular delight, having basically resigned myself to having to see this species in the early winter now, was a Red-necked Grebe which tracked east at 7.30am. A 2CY Little Gull was another nice year tick and a forerunner to a strong push of Sandwich Terns and Commic Terns, which finished on 337 and 122 respectively. 39 of the Commics came within reasonable range to assign them as our first Common Terns of the year. Wader passage involved a Bar-tailed Godwit, two Whimbrel, two Grey Plovers and two Curlew. A Shelduck, 11 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 215 Gannets, 20 Red-throated Divers, 14 Fulmars, five Kittiwakes and six Great Crested Grebes were also logged. Two Linnets and a Meadow Pipit flew over.

dark morph Arctic Skua

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Goring Gap and Rye Harbour

An excellent 4-hour seawatch from the car at Goring Gap this morning produced 10 Manx Shearwaters west (a group of eight, then two singletons) and three Arctic Skuas east (both year ticks), as well as five Bonxies, 232 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 33 Common Scoters, a Shelduck, eight Red-throated Divers, 28 Fulmars, two Great Crested Grebes, eight Kittiwakes, a Guillemot, 37 Sandwich Terns and an eastward flurry of 24 Mediterranean Gulls. It was great to witness a busy sea again, and the onset of spring migration along the Channel!

Later, Gareth and I headed to Rye Harbour for a late session. We started with a scope around the Flat Beach from the John Gooders Hide. Surprisingly, we picked up the three Twite feeding to the south of the hide - surely these birds with move to their breeding grounds soon! Singles of Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot and Turnstone lurked around the edges, along with small numbers of Grey Plover, Ringed Plover and Dunlin. Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls argued the toss as on their breeding islands, while Avocets (a year tick for me!) sweeped the water's surface close to the hide. Lone Dark-bellied Brent Goose and Egyptian Goose were also present.

Avocet at Rye Harbour

We moved on to Castle Water, where a Willow Warbler was singing behind the viewpoint and a more distant Sedge Warbler was heard chattering away. A group of around 40 hirundines headed through, mostly Sand Martins but with around five Swallows were in the midst, the latter being my first of 2019. The Bittern we'd heard booming on our last visit thankfully erupted from nearby reeds before long then proceeded to boom a couple of times. A couple of Bearded Tits were heard calling but remained unseen. A Marsh Harrier patrolled the reedbeds, and we also logged a couple of Cetti's Warblers and a Peregrine.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Goring Gap, Sheepcote Valley and Chantry Hill

An hour at Goring Gap early morning produced eastbound Whimbrel and Curlew, a female Wheatear, 41 eastbound Dark-bellied Brent Geese, a Sandwich Tern, 11 Linnets overhead, a Sparrowhawk, two Mediterranean Gulls, a 3CY Common Gull and five Great Crested Grebes. The beach held an unusually tight flock of 73 Turnstones, along with 32 Sanderlings, a Ringed Plover and two Dunlin.

Canada Geese on the sea off Goring Gap then launching themselves on to the beach

I dropped Ingrid off at work then took a route around the Sheepcote Valley, yielding a delightful but brief male Redstart but little else of note - just small numbers of Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and Linnets, and a sole male Stonechat. I also saw my first Speckled Wood of the year.

male Redstart in the Sheepcote Valley

A late afternoon visit to Chantry Hill with Gareth saw us cross paths with a spectacular Short-eared Owl. A few Yellowhammers were present and later we heard a Barn Owl and up to four Tawny Owls.

Short-eared Owl at Chantry Hill

Monday, 1 April 2019

Canons Farm

A walk around my old patch this morning produced a female Wheatear, a pair of Little Owls, a flyover Siskin, 37 Fieldfares, five Redwings, 20 Linnets, a Buzzard, three Green Woodpeckers and a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker.

female Wheatear

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Lyminster and West Worthing

A walk along my transects in Lyminster produced a Little Owl, two summer-plumaged Golden Plovers, 26 Lapwings, two Meadow Pipits, two Shelducks, two Little Egrets and singles of Cetti's Warbler, Reed Bunting, Treecreeper, Skylark, Mistle Thrush, Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, etc.

At home in West Worthing, a Chiffchaff was in the garden and a Meadow Pipit flew over.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Rye Harbour

A good few hours spent at Rye Harbour with Gareth were full of good birds. We spent most of the time from the viewpoint at Castle Water, where a Bittern was booming at regular intervals but refused to show itself. A Bearded Tit briefly called but also remained unseen, while a pair of Marsh Harriers kept us entertained for much of the day. Other raptors included a pair of Peregrines, a Sparrowhawk and a Buzzard. Spring migrants were few and far between, with just a single Sand Martin, a Blackcap and a couple of Chiffchaffs.

To break up the Bittern stakeout we took a stroll over to the hide at the other end of Castle Water, and on our return we clocked a smart drake Ring-necked Duck in the company of a few Tufted Ducks and Pochards. There had been a report of a probable here yesterday but we hadn't thought too much about it as our main quarry was Bittern and Bearded Tit, though it certainly was a welcome bonus to our day's birding!

drake Ring-necked Duck on Castle Water

A Great White Egret, two Egyptian Geese, weed-dancing Great Crested Grebes, mating Oystercatchers, two Water Rails, a Kingfisher, a few Cetti's Warblers and Reed Buntings, a Snipe and a couple of Curlews were among our other observations. I counted 23 'sitting' Cormorants and one poor female Gadwall was hounded by 10 drakes.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Slindon Park and Goring Gap

Slindon Park made for a lovely walk this morning, with no fewer than nine Firecrests, a Siskin, a redpoll, seven Great Spotted Woodpeckers, three Green Woodpeckers, a Kestrel, two Marsh Tits, eight Coal Tits, three Blackcaps, six Chiffchaffs, four Goldcrests, five Nuthatches, two Treecreepers, a Mistle Thrush, nine Song Thrush, six Meadow Pipits and a Bullfinch, among 43 species logged.

A brief mid-afternoon watch at Goring Gap with special guest Ed produced two Common Scoters, four Gannets, four westbound Black-headed Gulls and a Great Crested Grebe. Chiffchaff and Skylark were in song and a Grey Seal was just offshore.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Goring Gap, Waltham Brooks SWT and Burton & Chingford Ponds LNR

All was quiet at Goring Gap first thing this morning, save for a seemingly new Reed Bunting calling at the seaward end of The Plantation. 12 Red-breasted Mergansers were on the sea but there was literally nothing else. On the beach were 36 Sanderlings, a Ringed Plover, nine Oystercatchers and 15 Turnstones. Two Linnets, a Meadow Pipit and a singing Skylark were also noted.

I cut my losses after an hour, heading to Waltham Brooks, where I joined Chris and Juliet in admiring a handsome - but sleepy - drake Garganey on the flood. Three Sand Martins flying over provided another year tick. A Cetti's Warbler, a Raven, a singing Treecreeper, a couple of Reed Buntings, a Bullfinch, a singing male Stonechat, a Water Rail, a Buzzard and three Meadow Pipits were among the other birds recorded.

drake Garganey at Waltham Brooks

A visit to Burton and Chingford Ponds produced a singing Firecrest, my first Blackcap of the year, six Little Egrets, a Water Rail, two drumming Great Spotted Woodpeckers, six Little Grebes, three Great Crested Grebes, 56 Tufted Ducks, two Treecreepers, three Nuthatches and six fly-over Meadow Pipits.

Monday, 25 March 2019

Ashdown Forest

On the way back down to Worthing today I stopped to bird the Ashdown Forest for a couple of hours, calling in at Old Lodge and Gills Lap. It was a little breezy but a nice day nonetheless, and I reluctantly slapped on some factor 30 for the first time this year, having got away without it for about a month later than usual!

Highlights included a close - but backlit - encounter with the Great Grey Shrike at Wren's Warren, singing Woodlark, Crossbill and Dartford Warbler, a few Siskins and redpolls, five Buzzards, three Kestrels, a pair of Bullfinches, a Red Kite and a couple of Treecreepers.

Great Grey Shrike at Wren's Warren

Friday, 22 March 2019

Goring Gap, Ferring Rife and Worthing

I was joined by Ralph Simpson at the Gap this morning. Movement was limited but included a nice flock of four Eider (one adult drake), 56 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, four Common Scoters, five Sandwich Terns, a Curlew, 31 Meadow Pipits, four Pied/White Wagtails and two Gannets. 27 Red-breasted Mergansers and five Great Crested Grebes were on the sea, while the beach held a Redshank, three Oystercatchers, a Grey Plover, 40 Sanderlings, 28 Turnstones, four Dunlin and a Little Egret. Seven Mediterranean Gulls and three Common Gulls were logged. Other birds included a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Green Woodpecker and a singing Skylark.

A walk up Ferring Rife and back down again produced two Water Rails, three Chiffchaffs, the singing male Reed Bunting, two of both Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Pheasant, two Mallards and 22 Moorhens. Five Skylarks were counted and a singing Coal Tit was notable for the site. An additional nine Dunlin were on the adjacent beach. I also logged 58 Meadow Pipits, a singing Song Thrush and a pair of Long-tailed Tits.

As I got through the door at home in West Worthing, a Meadow Pipit flew over the garden. Later, after dark, poking my head out revealed a steady stream of Redwings calling overhead.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Goring Gap and West Worthing

Meadow Pipits and Pied/White Wagtails were in evidence overhead again today, even more so in fact, with 59 and nine respectively. Three Wheatears arrived, including a female on the beach who was so reluctant to make the final hop to firm ground that she kept sitting tight till the tide rose to her belly and pushed her off. A female Stonechat was in the fenced area, three Chiffchaffs were singing and a Redwing might well be the last bird of the spring. Song Thrush is still thin on the ground so one was notable, the same applying for singles of Linnet and Goldcrest.

one of two male Wheatears

female Wheatear in the sea...

...she then hopped to the next rock as the tide flowed, and so on

Two Canada Geese which circled the Gap before heading north were by far the rarest bird for the site, though, and my first record there. A pair of Long-tailed Tits was still busy gathering nest-building material near the seaward end of The Plantation. A Green Woodpecker called while a Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed and four Skylarks were in the fields. Two Lesser Black-backed Gulls flew west, 10 Mediterranean Gulls and three Common Gulls were in the roost field and a juvenile Woodpigeon was seen. A Sparrowhawk dashed through and the beach held 25 Turnstones, 19 Sanderlings, three Grey Plovers, 12 Oystercatchers and four Dunlin. On the sea were four Great Crested Grebes and three Red-breasted Mergansers.

Canada Geese!

no wonder this Carrion Crow has such poor quality wing feathers...

female Greenfinch

At home in West Worthing, two Redwings were heard calling in the darkness.