Tuesday, 31 December 2019


I snuck in a quick look opposite The World's End pub for my 'Northern Treecreeper' (form familiaris), managing a couple of quick views. Five people twitched it in the short time I was there. Bullfinch and Green Woodpecker were among other species recorded.

Monday, 30 December 2019

Rye Harbour

With the promise of a bright day with a modest wind, Phil and I seized the opportunity to bird Rye Harbour in humane conditions and it was most enjoyable. We spent the whole day doing a slow circuit of the reserve, finishing on 79 species (notable omissions included Linnet and Pintail). 48 Dark-bellied Brent Geese included at least 22 young, while other wildfowl included the juvenile Smew, an adult female Goldeneye, and 'casual' counts of 90 Pochards, 250 Shovelers, 155 Gadwall, 145 Teal, 30 Shelducks and 150 Wigeon. A Merlin low overhead was one of the best moments of the day. A Black-necked Grebe was on the Long Pit, along with a Kingfisher. Waders included a vocal Spotted Redshank, 170 Golden Plovers, 290 Lapwings, 31 Grey Plovers, 300 Dunlin, 24 Ringed Plovers, 30 Redshanks, five Curlew, 285 Oystercatchers and three Turnstones. Other birds included three Bullfinches, seven Reed Buntings, three pairs of Stonechats, a Mistle Thrush, 330 Coots, two Green Woodpeckers, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and 12 Skylarks, of which one broke into song.


Five Great White Egrets coming to roost were part of a perfect end to the day at Castle Water, with Cetti's Warblers and Water Rails vocal, and around 70 Fieldfares looking for somewhere to roost while an adult male Peregrine defended its kill against a Carrion Crow, and a Sparrowhawk buzzed the 'mini-murmuration' of 300 or so Starlings. Before dusk, a pair of Marsh Harriers patrolled the reedbeds there and a Buzzard flew over.


Sunday, 29 December 2019

Pulborough Brooks RSPB

A couple of hours with Andrew at Pulborough Brooks this morning was thwarted somewhat by the extent of the recent flooding. The whole site is basically a massive lake and the complete opposite to the parched state it was in earlier this year - it seems like it has to be one extreme or the other! A Harris's Hawk was the least expected sighting, a couple of Egyptian Geese and a few Shelducks were alongside a typical assortment of winter wildfowl, including Pintail. Passerines included a singing Mistle Thrush, a Siskin, a Fieldfare, two Stonechats, a Treecreeper, a couple of Nuthatches and small numbers of Redwings and Bullfinches.

Saturday, 28 December 2019

Lyminster, Patching and Goring Gap

A healthy 53 species during my Sussex Winter Bird Survey in Lyminster included a Green Sandpiper which briefly alighted on a muddy farm puddle (!), a Marsh Harrier, a Chiffchaff, 418 Lapwings, a Golden Plover, an adult Mediterranean Gull, a Grey Wagtail, 55 Redwings, two Reed Buntings, four Cetti's Warblers and 16 Collared Doves. Sadly, the field frequented by the Cattle Egrets last winter has been sown as a crop and the livestock removed.

I thought I'd check out the treatment works at Patching. Parking by the pond, I crossed the road to the underpass opposite The World's End pub. At the metal gate I encountered two Firecrests, followed by an immediately striking Treecreeper. The bird appeared noticeably frosty, with clean white underparts and white shaft streaks on the mantle. The supercillium was clear white and very flared behind the eye. As (minor) supportive features, photographs showed the front claws to be pure whitish and the bill to look relatively short. It seems to fit the nominate race familiaris and this is certainly the first of the many hundreds of Treecreepers that I have which has caught my eye in this way. The warmer rump contrasted with the rest of the upperparts, while the general colour of the back/mantle and head was rather uniform. After losing sight of it, I crossed the road to the treatment works, where there were two Chiffchaffs (one in song), a Bullfinch and a britannica Treecreeper for handy immediate comparison!

apparent 'Northern Treecreeper' (form familiaris) at Patching

Pied Wagtail at Patching

Calling in at Goring Gap for a short time in the early afternoon, I bumped into Stephen Simpson. A 1cy Yellow-legged Gull made a nice change, though there were no Casps again and I fear the cach streak is well and truly over. There were also three Mediterranean Gulls and upwards of 400 Common Gulls.

1cy Yellow-legged Gull at Goring Gap

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Shoreham Fort and Widewater Lagoon

I visited Shoreham Fort this morning, at last catching up with the three Purple Sandpipers on the wooden jetty, along with at least five Turnstones.

Purple Sandpipers at Shoreham

Seeing as I was in the area, I stopped at Widewater Lagoon, walking to the west end and back to the car. Highlights included a Kingfisher, an adult drake Red-breasted Merganser which showed very well as it 'snorkled', seven Little Grebes, seven Mute Swans, a female Stonechat and two Redshanks.

adult drake Red-breasted Merganser on Widewater Lagoon

Monday, 23 December 2019

Cissbury Ring and Goring Gap

Ringing with Val and Pete today saw us catch three Redwings, a few Bullfinches, a retrap Firecrest and a small number of Goldcrests. I finally saw a local Woodcock when we flushed one near one of the nets. Other highlights included a Reed Bunting, a Raven, two Meadow Pipits, a Fieldfare (Pete had a flock of 12 over), a male Tawny Owl hooting first thing, and three Kestrels, including superb views of a hunting pair at the top when we had a brief, unsuccessful search for the Great Grey Shrike after packing up.

adult male Kestrel at Cissbury Ring

adult Redwing at Cissbury Ring

A very brief look at Goring Gap on the way home led to me at last connecting with a Red-legged Partridge there. An adult Mediterranean Gull was present among the gulls, mainly Commons, which were present in reasonable numbers, but I didn't have time to count the latter. At least seven Skylarks and six Pied Wagtails were present.

Red-legged Partridge at Goring Gap

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Ferring Rife and West Worthing

Feeling I was overdue a visit to Ferring Rife, that's where I went this morning. It was a rather nice day to be out for once, and highlights included a pair of adult Peregrines, a female Sparrowhawk, a Kestrel, a Grey Wagtail, a Little Grebe (scarce here), a Green Woodpecker, a Grey Heron and 16 Moorhens. The most bizarre sight of the morning was two Cormorants quite happily chilling in the middle of a stubble field despite plenty of more 'normal' positions easily available. I've definitely never seen Cormorants in this situation before. A noisy gang of 17 Magpies was another highlight.


Back at home in West Worthing, garden observations included a Firecrest moving through the gardens at a pace, and two Redwings.

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Goring Gap and Adur Estuary

An early morning visit to Goring Gap was aborted after about 40 minutes. There was simply nothing moving offshore. Flocks of Dunlin, Sanderling, Turnstone and Ringed Plover were moving along the beach and an adult Mediterranean Gull was seen but that really was about it. I returned briefly at lunchtime but today there was no Caspian Gull to be seen, though a Lesser Black-backed Gull was noteworthy, and I counted 49 Common Gulls.

Mid-afternoon, a visit to the Adur Estuary was quiet. The tide level was not ideal for waders. Birds included 11 Oystercatchers, two Ringed Plovers, four Redshanks, two Turnstones, in excess of 600 Starlings, 15 Skylarks, a Reed Bunting and a Meadow Pipit.

Friday, 20 December 2019

Goring Gap and No-Man's-Land area

Another quick look at Goring Gap at lunchtime bagged my third Caspian Gull of the season, and I've only done four or five 'gull drive throughs' so the success rate is very high. This bird was another 2cy, this time unringed. I was pleased to see waders using the roost field for the first time in a while, though they were actively feeding. The fields are very wet and some large puddles are forming so this may add to their appeal for both waders and gulls. There were at least 180 Dunlin, 47 Ringed Plovers and three Lesser Black-backed Gulls of note.

2cy Caspian Gull at Goring Gap

2cy Caspian Gull taking flight at Goring Gap

Later, despite the breezy conditions I couldn't resist a scan over the downs in the late afternoon. Eventually, the regular ringtail Hen Harrier floated through but was quickly lost to view, and other sightings were just about limited to two showy Ravens and two Kestrels, one of which was mobbing a Buzzard.

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Whipsnade Zoo

Today saw my inevitable return to Whipsnade Zoo, this time with Ed Stubbs and Sam Jones, and this time the adult male BLACK-THROATED THRUSH duly performed very well. It divided its time feeding on berries in its favourite bush, and dropping to the ground to pull the occasional worm from the adjacent pig pen.

adult male Black-throated Thrush

Other birds included a Red Kite, a Mistle Thrush and around 50 Redwings. The highlight of the journey back was a flock of around 40 Lapwings near London Colney.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Cissbury Ring

I couldn't get away till quite late in the afternoon today but was then soon joined by Gareth James to twitch the shrike which had made an unexpected second coming. With the day drawing to an end in overcast, breezy conditions we didn't feel that optimistic but eventually spotted the Great Grey Shrike in the scrub near the western yew... A fantastic bird for our 10km Worthing area 'Uber Patch'! A clear but relatively brief view, I'll hopefully get a chance for another look at it before too long, assuming it hangs around. 12 Yellowhammers flying to roost was the most notable other sighting.

Great Grey Shrike

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Goring Gap

There was only time for a brief bit of birding again today, so I had just under an hour at Goring Gap at lunchtime. In fact, I only stayed that long because I came across a beautiful 2cy Caspian Gull in the southwest field. Like my recent 1cy, after a few minutes I realised it was ringed. This time it was yellow, XCJV, from a German project.

Most significant about this bird is, after a strong run of 1cy individuals, this is at last the first older bird recorded at the Gap. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before we complete the set. I'm particularly looking forward to an adult dropping in...

2cy Caspian Gull

Also present were two adult Mediterranean Gulls and 36 Common Gulls of note.

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Whipsnade Zoo

A novel location for a twitch, or rather a brutal dip. Arriving just after midday, we missed the Black-throated Thrush at its favourite bush by about half an hour. I staked it out but Ingrid soon went off exploring around the zoo. Over two hours later news came through that the bird had been relocated by the railway - the crowd rushed over but literally just as we got there the bird flew. It hadn't necessarily gone far but almost an hour later there was no sight of it and Ingrid understandably wanted to call it a day. Damn frustrating it was, my idyllic plan for the day of eyeballing a Black-throated Thrush then a day snooping around the enclosures and exhibits, scuppered. We did see a couple of Red Kites (more en-route and on the way back), a Grey Wagtail, a Fieldfare and perhaps 30 Redwings...

Saturday, 14 December 2019

Goring Gap

Feeling I was overdue a visit to Goring Gap, but not having much time, I gave it about an hour first thing this morning. There were not many birds on the beach, and there was very little going on offshore. The beach held a Redshank, six Grey Plovers, 44 Dunlin, 48 Sanderlings, 24 Turnstones, seven Oystercatchers and an adult Mediterranean Gull. On the sea were two Red-breasted Mergansers.

Monday, 9 December 2019

Rye Harbour

A shamefully hurried visit to a gusty Rye Harbour saw me connect with the redhead Smew which has been viewable from the Denny Hide for a few days. It kept drifting out of sight into a distant corner at first, but after a bout of relentless dives it eventually drifted nearer to the hide and took some time out, affording much better views. I didn't have time to do much else, but there were well over 400 Golden Plovers on view, along with 17 Grey Plovers, an adult Dark-bellied Brent Goose and a couple of Pintail, while along the path there was a loose gathering of Reed Buntings and Skylarks. A Rock Pipit flew up from the saltmarsh on the way back to the car.

redhead Smew

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Canons Farm and Banstead Woods

I led the CFBW Bird Group's Winter Tour this morning. It was popular as ever, with 20 participants enjoying the birds on offer. It was a fairly quiet walk, but winter sights included 60 Fieldfares, 30 Redwings, 11 Yellowhamers, 200 Linnets and 150 Chaffinches. At least 14 Rooks were present, and a Bullfinch calling in Canons Farmyard was unusual for its location. A Grey Wagtail was the most notable bird for the site, flying over the Watchpoint. We heard a Little Owl nearby and other sightings included three Buzzards and a Common Gull.

A brief foray into Banstead Woods offered participants views of Nuthatches, Coal Tits and Goldcrests, while a Bullfinch was seen in flight and a Treecreeper called.

Friday, 6 December 2019

Worthing and Goring Gap

In Salvington early morning I heard a Firecrest near Rogate Road. I've been trying to find the time to drop in to Goring Gap at lunchtime (i.e. gulltime) for weeks and just haven't been able to. Today I finally managed to swing by for a few minutes. There were not many gulls in the fields - and no waders - but I've found that, for some reason, locally the goodies are often in with small groups. Anyway, immediately obvious on the outskirts of the gathering was a smart 1cy Caspian Gull - result! When I moved angle, I noticed it had a black ring on its right tibia reading 'TL', part of a Dutch scheme. A few minutes later it flew off. Two adult Mediterranean Gulls were also present.

1cy Caspian Gull bearing Dutch darvic ring

Thursday, 5 December 2019


The only birding today was an hour's stroll near Sullington while I waited for Ingrid at a tank maintenance call-out. The usual trees hosted a pair of Little Owls, while other birds included 19 Fieldfares, a Mistle Thrush, a Grey Wagtail, two Yellowhammers and a Kestrel.

Little Owls

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Dell Quay, Pulborough Brooks RSPB, Coldwaltham, Rewell Wood and Amberley Wildbrooks

Having been knocked out of action for some time by a nasty chest infection, I was delighted to get back in the field today. The intention was to ease back into birding but it ended up being a full day out! First up was Dell Quay, where I spent an hour scanning the waders and wildfowl. Most importantly, the Long-tailed Duck was still present, diving frequently to the south, near three Red-breasted Mergansers. 300 or so Dark-bellied Brent Geese were present, along with good numbers of Teal and Wigeon. Waders included singles of Spotted Redshank and Bar-tailed Godwit, as well as numbers of Grey Plover, Dunlin, Redshank, Curlew, Oystercatcher and Lapwing. A Kingfisher was hunting from moored boats and a Peregrine flew over.

Long-tailed Duck at Dell Quay

I met up with Phil Wallace at Pulborough Brooks mid-morning but this turned out to be an unwise choice of location as the floods were shrouded in heavy fog. We did hear a Golden Plover fly over, though, and the calls of Snipe and Wigeon were evocative in the mist. A Mistle Thrush, Fieldfares, Redwings, four Bullfinches and a Treecreeper were noted along the trail. Throughout our visit a noisy Raven was touring the site.

Coldwaltham sewage works was visited fleetingly in the hope of some Chiffchaff action, though just three were seen and all were collybita. A Grey Wagtail broke into song, a handful of Fieldfares and Redwings were seen, plus a Bullfinch.

Sherwood Rough mid-afternoon produced at least three distant Hawfinches, plus a Yellowhammer, a Marsh Tit and three redpolls.

As the light faded, we managed to squeeze in a visit to Amberley Wildbrooks, looking from the Rackham Viewpoint. Through the mist we caught sight of a ringtail Hen Harrier, a Short-eared Owl, three Buzzards and a Kestrel while hordes of Wigeon and Teal called.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Gills Bay-St.Margaret's Hope ferry and Alness Bay

The ferry back from Orkney was quieter, with small numbers of Black Guillemots, Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Shags, Razorbills, Guillemots, Wigeon, etc, plus many Grey Seals.

We stopped at a service station overlooking Alness Bay and a quick scan revealed three Pink-footed Geese, a Red-breasted Merganser, and a good assortment of waders including Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit and Golden Plover.

Monday, 18 November 2019

Gills Bay-St.Margaret's Hope ferry and Papa Westray

With George Kinnard, John Lees, Liz Costa and Hugh Price in tow, I boarded the Gills Bay-St.Margaret's Hope ferry after a long overnight drive from Sussex. Black Guillemots, Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Shags, Long-tailed Ducks, Eiders and a flock of six Great Northern Divers welcomed us to Orkney. To my shame, this is my first time on the islands. We then drove to meet our boat charter at Kirkwall, Will taking us to Papa Westray. About an hour's bumpy ride later we disembarked and met Jennifer, the kind islander who has been ferrying visiting birders in her electric car to St.Bonniface Kirk, the eider's favourite spot. Fred Fearn had already been watching the bird before he lost it drifting south. I was initially unperturbed but as the sun began to approach the horizon and the bird was nowhere to be seen, my mind began to wander to thoughts of having to stay on the island overnight with few facilities. Having walked a mile or so south, George and I returned to the others at St.Bonniface, where Jennifer was collecting our cash to deliver to the charter skipper as we sent him away, resigned to a night on Papa. Just after Jennifer drove away, George picked up the 1cy drake STELLER'S EIDER in his scope. It was quite distant for us, but close in at its favoured by north of the kirk. Elation and deep sighs of relief all-round, we went on to enjoy the bird for the rest of the usable daylight, calling Jennifer and the boatman to change plans so that we could get back to mainland Orkney that night after all! Other stuff on Papa included Purple Sandpipers, Great Northern and Red-throated Divers, Red-breasted Mergansers, Black Guillemots, Long-tailed Ducks, Eiders, Raven, Common Scoter and so on. A filling curry in the evening was a fitting celebration.

1cy drake Steller's Eider off Papa Westray

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Banstead Woods, Canons Farm, Banstead and Belmont

I caught up with Ian Magness for a couple of hours this morning. Initially we had a quick look at the 'new lagoon' at Banstead Woods, where a Grey Wagtail flew over, followed by a walk around Canons Farm. There, we couldn't find a Brambling among the mixed flock of Chaffinches and Greenfinches (150+ and 15 respectively) but I did hear one fly over near the farmhouse. Remarkably, another Grey Wagtail flew over Broadfield (this is a rather scarce bird for CFBW). Other highlights included a Cormorant, a big female Sparrowhawk, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, five Rooks, four Meadow Pipits, six Yellowhammers, a Bullfinch, a flock of around 100 Linnets, a Pied Wagtail, 25 Skylarks, 35 Fieldfares and small numbers of Redwings. Three Buzzards and 30 Stock Doves were also noted.

1cy Buzzard at Canons Farm

Other locally notable stuff included a Grey Heron over the A217 at Banstead and a Green Woodpecker audible from my parents' flat in Belmont.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Leith Hill

We bid a fond farewell to Leith Hill Tower and all-round Mole Valley stalwart David Stubbs by way of a tower watch (though I could only bear turning up for the tail end, not because of the company, but I didn't fancy freezing for hours, seeing nothing!) followed by lunch at The Plough in Coldharbour. It was very quiet for birds, my notebook including singles of Fieldfare, Bullfinch, Siskin and Kestrel, plus two Marsh Tits and eight Redwings.

Friday, 15 November 2019

Beddington Farmlands and Carshalton

A look around the hides at Beddington produced a 1cy Mediterranean Gull, a Bullfinch, a Chiffchaff, two Snipe, two Cetti's Warblers, a Grey Wagtail and two Lapwings of note. Wildfowl included 43 Gadwall, 10 Shovelers and 10 Teal. Nearby, 15 Egyptian Geese were on the pond by Manor Road North; this species' population really is booming.

1cy Mediterranean Gull at Beddington Farmlands

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Flimwell and Belmont

Sadly, I keep forgetting I've been keeping a Sussex yearlist this year. It was very enjoyable for the first half of the year, although it soon became clear that I'd picked about the worst year possible for a serious attempt. Then autumn came along, full of expectation as usual, but as far as scarce bird finding and twitching has gone, it's fallen flat on its face. My local birding efforts have produced absolutely nothing unusual and seemingly the hours put in my birders across the county have given a similarly poor return, by and large, so there have been very few moments of excitement. There has been hardly anything to go for, and the very little that has occurred has done so at the least opportune times for me.

So it was nice for Sussex to have one small defibrillator hit when farmer Malcolm Phillips found a Serin at his Cedar Farm near Flimwell the other day. I finally managed to get over there this lunchtime, on the way up to my parents' for the weekend, and enjoyed good views of the bird feeding on a track. Only two other visiting birders were present though, and both were from out of the county! Malcolm's keeping the track seeded, so hopefully it will stick around for visitors at the weekend. A Marsh Tit was heard calling.

Serin near Flimwell

When I arrived in Belmont, I was pleased to see Redwings, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds feeding in the usual berry-laden tree in the car park.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Patching, Angmering Park Estate and No Man's Land area

Curious about the Patching area, I headed there this morning. I'd heard bad birding reviews of Patching Pond but looking at the satellite map I thought it worth a go. There was not a single bird on the water but a flock of 23 Long-tailed Tits moved through. On to Patching Hill then. There I found a Firecrest, a Red Kite, two Buzzards, four Yellowhammers, two Bullfinches and three Skylarks. A Song Thrush was in voice. A limited venture into the Angmering Park Estate featured a noisy Raven, a flyover redpoll, two more Firecrests, a Treecreeper, a couple of Nuthatches, etc. A Red-legged Partridge was heard beyond the woodland.

Yellowhammer at Patching Hill

In the late afternoon I visited the downs near No Man's Land. I realised I'd picked a bad vantage point for scanning for raptors but it was too late to change. Two Grey Partridges and four Red-legged Partridges were the best on offer.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Goring Gap

This morning's visit was terribly quiet. I gave the sea a chance but the only birds moving were four Common Gulls west. The beach held a Redshank, as well as a few Grey Plovers, Turnstones, Dunlin and Sanderling but these were pushed off by the tide and dog-walkers before I could count them properly. The highlights were two Firecrests along Ilex Avenue and a pair of Grey Wagtails. A Sparrowhawk and a Kestrel toured the fields, which held 31 Skylarks, 10 Pied Wagtails, a Meadow Pipit, six Mediterranean Gulls and a further eight Common Gulls. 17 Greenfinches was a decent count. Two Stonechats and three Goldcrests were among the other birds noted.

Monday, 11 November 2019

Adur Estuary

A visit during the rising tide this morning produced a Rock Pipit, a Snipe, two Grey Plovers, 20 Teal, a Cetti's Warbler, a Little Grebe, 60 Linnets, six Skylarks, two Stonechats, two Grey Wagtails, a Reed Bunting, 15 Redshanks, 85 Lapwings, a Little Egret, five Grey Herons, two Mute Swans, five Common Gulls, three Song Thrushes, three Meadow Pipits and a Buzzard.


Saturday, 9 November 2019

Banstead Woods

I'd arranged with Darragh for a vismig session from Hither Field but as I drove to the site I realised it was a no-hoper with such thick fog. Nonetheless, it was a good chance to catch up. We did log a Mistle Thrush, 37 Redwings and four Bullfinches. A singing Song Thrush was the first I'd heard in voice for some time.

Friday, 8 November 2019

Brooklands Park and West Tarring Allotments

A Brambling, two Siskins, a Linnet and two Meadow Pipits flew over during my walk around the park this morning. At the lake, a Kingfisher dashed into overhanging vegetation and two Grey Wagtails were vocal. The Mute Swan family was still complete and two Little Grebes were diving at the edges. A Sparrowhawk was bothered by a Carrion Crow and a Grey Heron flew from the stream. Three Cetti's Warblers were heard, though only two were singing, as was a Treecreeper. Two Turnstones were on the adjacent beach. Four Song Thrushes included one with a white longest tertial on its left wing, extensive white feathering on the breast and white 'thighs'. I was surprised to count 10 Chiffchaffs, including a flock of five in the sallow clump, and nine Goldcrests were dotted around. Three Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a Green Woodpecker also made their presence known. I counted at least 28 Coots and seven Moorhens on the lake.

Helping Ingrid out at her allotment at West Tarring in the early afternoon, we disturbed a male Vagrant Emperor from the grass. It landed in a nearby bush before flying off again of its own accord. There seem to be only around 10 Sussex records.

male Vagrant Emperor dragonfly at West Tarring Allotments

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

The Lizard and Porthgwarra

A few hours around The Lizard was fairly uneventful, though two high-flying Great Northern Divers, four u-turning Mistle Thrushes, a Chough, a Firecrest and a Raven featured, as well as singles of Siskin and Grey Wagtail.

Great Northern Diver over The Lizard

A quick visit to Porthgwarra secured nice views of the Pallas's Warbler which had been found in the sallows by the car park. A Firecrest, two Ravens, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Sparrowhawk were among the other birds logged during our short visit.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Sennen, Pendeen and Helston Boating Lake

There was no escape from the gank weather in Cornwall, but at least as we stood in the vast, shit-strewn field behind the shop at Sennen, we had an intimate encounter with the heavily moulting, hotly debated PADDYFIELD PIPIT. Surprising flyovers while on site included a Ruff and a Swallow, while a couple of Redwings flew through, a Raven was feeding and the fields were scattered with Skylarks and Meadow Pipits.

2cy+ Paddyfield Pipit at Sennen

An hour-and-a-half of seawatching at Pendeen was filled with auks, mainly Guillemots, probably in their thousands, but with a decent number of Razorbills thrown in. A Long-tailed Duck, a Bonxie, three Red-throated Divers, eight Mediterranean Gulls and the occasional Common Scoter kept interest up but we had to move on shortly after midday.

Helston Boating Lake was twitched for the adult drake LESSER SCAUP, which showed quite well, but we found the juvenile female mooted Lesser Scaup more intriguing. It looked alluringly like the real deal but the contrasting dark mantle was offputting. Frustratingly, it wouldn't reveal its wings in the field but someone dealt the killer blow on Twitter in the evening with an open wing shot, revealing far too much white in the wing bar in the primaries. Also present were 15 Shovelers and a Grey Wagtail.

adult drake Lesser Scaup at Helston Boating Lake

1cy female Lesser Scaup x Tufted Duck hybrid

Monday, 4 November 2019

Annandale Water

It was relentless rain in Edinburgh this morning and I needed to get down to Cornwall in good time so sacked off any ideas about a repeat visit to Musselburgh. The only birding I did do was at Annandale Water services on the A74(M) of all places, where highlights were a couple of Bullfinches and Siskins, and nine flyover Skylarks. The loch itself, overlooked by the dining area, held only a Little Grebe, two Tufted Ducks, a pair of Mute Swans and a few Moorhens and Mallards, but I began to think all service stations ought to create a nature/conservation area of some kind for visitors to engage with.

adult male Pied Wagtail

adult Lesser Black-backed Gull

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Musselburgh Lagoons and Kenmore

Up in Scotland for a do with Ingrid's family, I couldn't resist nipping out first thing this morning to Musselburgh Lagoons despite the wet and windy forecast. I realised that my hopes of finding scarce/rare ducks etc on the sea was rather fanciful given the conditions, and spent most of my limited time enjoying the birds on the scrapes. These included 191 Bar-tailed Godwits, two Black-tailed Godwits, perhaps 1,500 Oystercatchers and over 150 Lapwings. In a hurried look at the Firth of Forth I picked up a drake Long-tailed Duck and a Goosander, small numbers of Velvet Scoters, Eiders, Goldeneyes and Red-breasted Mergansers, while a Rock Pipit was along the sea wall.

The lunch party was in Kenmore, where we spotted three Bramblings, a smart drake Goosander and a couple of Goldeneyes, two Mistle Thrushes, as well as a handful of Siskins, Treecreepers, Coal Tits and Goldcrests.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Goring Gap

It was back to local birding this morning. I didn't have much time so figured a vismig/seawatch from Goring Gap was the best bet. Overhead movement included 390 Goldfinches, 127 Linnets, 19 Pied/White Wagtails and 27 Meadow Pipits. A Rock Pipit feeding on the beach was my first 'on the deck' record here, and two Yellowhammers in the bushes represented my second site record (and first multiple). A flock of 16 Skylarks toured the fields and two Stonechats were in the rough grass. Offshore moved two Wigeon, 19 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, three Razorbills and another three distant auks. Two Common Scoters were on the sea. The beach held a Redshank and small numbers of Grey Plover, Sanderling, Ringed Plover and Dunlin, and a Little Egret.

Rock Pipit

Saturday, 26 October 2019

St.Mary's and Scillonian III

Our last day was uneventful, with a second day of horrid weather, and this time it wasn't even worth seawatching. St.Mary's offered five Black Redstarts, a Peregrine, a 1cy White Wagtail, a Wigeon, an adult Mediterranean Gull, and best of all a 2cy Yellow-legged Gull which flew north past us at Porthloo.

The crossing back to Penzance had limited daylight, especially as it was running half an hour late due to the conditions, but we had a dark morph Arctic Skua, a Bonxie and a few Kittiwakes. I had a couple of frustrating glimpses of a storm petrel sp between the waves.

Despite the mucky end, it was another fabulous week on Scilly with Phil, Ian, Mag and Paul, birding from dawn to dusk and retreating to the pub each night.

Friday, 25 October 2019


It was wet and windy today so we ended up doing little other than a couple of seawatches off Peninnis Head. Besides a handful of Razorbills, Guillemots and Kittiwakes, the only bird I managed to lay eyes on was a Leach's Storm-petrel, which afforded somewhat unsatisfactory views from our vantage point.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

St.Mary's and St.Martin's

An initial look around Porthcressa and The Garrison was quiet, with only a Wheatear and a Kingfisher on the beach of any real note.

St.Martin's offered superb views of what was presumably the same Hen Harrier we saw over Peninnis Head the other day. Today it was identifiable as a juvenile female as it play-hunted sticks and had a half-hearted go at a female Pheasant. We also noted a Whinchat, a Golden Plover, 13 Snipe, 25 Ringed Plovers, a Peregrine, two Ravens, a Skylarks and two Greenshanks.

Once back on 'home turf' in the evening we had another look for the Blyth's Reed Warbler at Rosehill and achieved just-identifiable views before dusk set in. We also managed point-blank views of the adult Whooper Swan which arrived on the island last night, along with a feeding Snipe.

1cy Blyth's Reed Warbler at Rosehill, St.Mary's

adult Whooper Swan at Lower Moors, St.Mary's

Wednesday, 23 October 2019


We completed a circuit of the island today. We enjoyed a tranquil lunch at Watermill Cove in the company of a juvenile SPOTTED SANDPIPER. It was seen off briefly by our first Kingfisher of the trip but soon returned for other birders to enjoy. After carefully comparing images, it seems likely to be a different bird to the St.Agnes individual. Other highlights today included a Black Redstart, two Merlins, three Common Scoters, 75 Sanderlings, a Greenshank, a couple of Bramblings, five Siskins, two Wheatears, a Firecrest, three Skylarks, a Swallow, two Sparrowhawks, two Water Rails and nine Kittiwakes.

juvenile Spotted Sandpiper

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

St.Mary's and Tresco

An initial walk on St.Mary's through The Garrison saw us encounter the BLUE ROCK THRUSH again, showing at much closer range, and a heard-only Yellow-browed Warbler. We scoped across to Samson and counted a record total of eight Spoonbills, while a summer-plumaged Great Northern Diver was feeding just off that island and five Bar-tailed Godwits were in flight with a flock of Curlew. Two Mediterranean Gulls were in The Roads. A Black Redstart was on The Garrison and we had three Wheatears and a Brambling. A Stock Dove on a rock off Porthcressa Beach was out-of-place.

Our day on Tresco was successful, with an ISABELLINE WHEATEAR found by Steve Broyd, a more obliging Yellow-browed Warbler, an adult male Waxwing flycatching from wires, two Black Redstarts, juvenile drake Scaup, two Pochards, 30 Siskins, a Swallow, a Peregrine, three Snipe, three Greenshanks, four Redshanks, a Water Rail and two Wigeon.

Isabelline Wheatear

adult male Waxwing

1cy drake Scaup

Back on St.Mary's in the evening we managed flight views (and more importantly calls) from the RED-THROATED PIPIT found on Peninnis Head, before it cleared off towards Gugh/St.Agnes.

Monday, 21 October 2019


On our third attempt we caught up with the Spotted Crake at Lower Moors, which performed nicely alongside the path. Later on, a first-winter Citrine Wagtail was found at Salakee Farm and we connected with this in the end too as it creeped about a cattle field. Watching a fine male Hawfinch opposite the riding stables in the evening was a fine way to end the day. Other highlights today included two Yellow-browed Warblers, two Pink-footed Geese, two Bramblings, two Merlins, three Peregrines, a Greenshank, a few Snipe, a couple of Water Rails, an adult Mediterranean Gull, a flock of 16 Stock Doves, a Cetti's Warbler, five Swallows, three Wheatears, three Siskins and hundreds of Redwings and Fieldfares.

Spotted Crake at Lower Moors

male Hawfinch at Pelistry

Merlin at Pelistry

Sunday, 20 October 2019

St.Mary's, St.Agnes and Gugh

We headed round to The Garrison before getting a boat over to St.Agnes, at least that was the plan. On the way along Porthcressa beach, we passed Dick Filby and Tim Vaughan who were on their way to Peninnis Head. Not long afterwards - while we were on the Lower Broome Platform - Dick radioed out that they'd had a Chestnut-eared Bunting fly from one of the lower fields on Peninnis! We wasted no time in charging over there, but it soon became clear that they bird had moved through as quickly as it reappeared. We figured our chances of being heroes in relocating the bird were comparable with our odds of finding a new mega on St.Agnes - and there were British ticks on offer on that island for some of the team - so at the last moment we decided to resume the original plan. We were of course the only birders on the boat to St.Agnes, but it turned out to be a good move!

A productive day on St.Agnes saw us connect with the SUBALPINE WARBLER and the SPOTTED SANDPIPER, while we spotted two Lapland Buntings and a Merlin. Other stuff noted included a Spotted Flycatcher, a Whinchat, a Greenshank, a Willow Warbler, 35 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, good numbers of Redwings - with a few Fieldfares mixed in, three Wheatears, a Grey Wagtail, three Siskins and a Skylark. Stepping a few feet onto Gugh paid off with a big Scilly tick when a Yellowhammer flew east over us!
1cy Spotted Sandpiper on St.Agnes

1cy Spotted Flycatcher on St.Agnes

The only birds of note seen and heard on St.Mary's before/after our trip to Aggy were a juvenile Hen Harrier over Peninnis Head, two Ravens over Porthcressa Bay and a Water Rail at Lower Moors, plus a Wheatear on Porthcressa Beach, scores of Redwings and a Grey Wagtail. A Lapwing flew from St.Agnes to St.Mary's while we were on the boat.

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Penzance, Scillonian crossing and St.Mary's

While Ian, Phil, Mag, Paul and I waited on the Scillonian III, we enjoyed a summer adult Red-throated Diver fishing just off the boat. A Grey Wagtail and a few Shags were around, then we set off. The way over was quiet, but there was a Sooty Shearwater, three Arctic Skuas and a Bonxie, as well as decent numbers of Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Razorbills and Gannets, and a couple of pods of Common Dolphins.

adult summer Red-throated Diver

Our first day of birding on St.Mary's saw us eventually connect with the BLUE ROCK THRUSH on Peninnis Head after what felt like a painful foreverness, and a couple of near-misses, but in reality we were very lucky compared to others who have truly struggled to see this bird. We connected with no other rarities or scarcities by sundown, but a Whimbrel, a Greenshank, a small number of Wheatears and Stonechats were around, and at Lower Moors in the evening we heard three or so Water Rails.

1cy Blue Rock Thrush on Peninnis Head