Thursday, 28 February 2019


A survey visit produced three Cattle Egrets, three Little Egrets, an adult Mediterranean Gull, a Marsh Harrier, a Red Kite, a Sparrowhawk, two Redwings, a Skylark, a Cetti's Warbler, a Meadow Pipit, a Reed Bunting, eight Wigeon, a Little Grebe, two Egyptian Geese, a Kestrel, a Siskin, 60 Linnets and 600 Starlings.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Goring Gap and Buckland Sand Pits

Goring Gap first thing was extremely quiet. The male Reed Bunting burst into song, two Jackdaws flew east and, the species still thin on the ground on site, a Song Thrush gets a mention. Two adult Mediterranean Gulls and two Common Gulls were present and the sea held the usual Red-breasted Mergansers and Great Crested Grebes, while the usual waders were on the beach.

A tour around Buckland Sand Pits with Ian Magness featured two Lapwings, a Snipe, two Teal, a Grey Heron, a Sparrowhawk, a Raven, six Buzzards, a Red Kite, five Great Crested Grebes, nine Little Grebes, singles of Treecreeper, Siskin and Nuthatch, as well as two Grey Wagtails, three Pied Wagtails, an adult male Kestrel, two of both Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Common Gull.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Goring Gap, Ferring Rife, West Preston and Sheepcote Valley

 It was a lovely morning for Goring Gap, though visibility was terrible out to sea and I didn't bother counting the Red-breasted Mergansers and Great Crested Grebes, though a Curlew did fly east distantly. The day's highlight came when a female Merlin dashed across the roost field before alighting briefly at the pumping station. It soon settled in the big tree in the garden with the pond, remaining for about 10 minutes before it headed towards Ferring Rife. A Kestrel was noteworthy and two Reed Buntings remained. A hint of eastbound movement came in the form of 16 Chaffinches, three Jackdaws, two Rooks and an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull. A Little Egret landing in nearby gardens was the first for a while and a strange context in which to see one locally. Four Mediterranean Gulls, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Turnstones, Sanderlings, Grey Plovers, Dunlin and Ringed Plovers were logged.

female Merlin at Goring Gap

adult Mediterranean Gull at Goring Gap

Walking up and down Ferring Rife produced a Reed Bunting, a male Stonechat, 19 Moorhens, a Chiffchaff, two Mallards, three Pied Wagtails, a Meadow Pipit, three Skylarks, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, two Common Gulls and a Buzzard.

While at Halfords in West Preston, a Grey Wagtail was noted. A quick foray around the Sheepcote Valley in Brighton yielded little other than six Meadow Pipits, a Kestrel and a Skylark.

Monday, 25 February 2019

Canons Farm

After dropping Adrian and Jerry off in Leatherhead last night, I stopped off at my parents' so a visit to Canons Farm was in order. It was a fine day and all the better for catching up with Geoff. Birds were few and far between though, with a flyover Siskin, two Yellowhammers, six Meadow Pipits, two Treecreepers, an adult male Kestrel, two of both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers and six Buzzards of note. Small Tortoiseshells and Brimstones were on the wing.

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Mainland Shetland

After recharging overnight in a nice Air B&B we started at Bixter again; unsurprisingly we couldn't locate the owl but six Red Grouse put on a good show, with two males relentlessly pursuing one poor female. 16 Fulmars occupied the face of a nearby quarry and Golden Plovers were heard singing. A Fieldfare, a Skylark and a Collared Dove were around the plantation but that was all. On the drive out through Whiteness we paused to enjoy a roadside flock of 11 Twite.

A stop in Lerwick produced three juvenile Iceland Gulls, one of which we identified as the bird we were watching yesterday due to staining around the neck. A Redwing and a Grey Heron were trip ticks.

After perhaps an hour's wait at Cunningsburgh, the 2CY Common Rosefinch showed well in its favourite garden. With little time now available to catch our flight, we had to make the two Tundra Bean Geese at Sandwick a mere pit stop and even more criminal was our flying visit to Loch of Spiggie, where the Pied-billed Grebe was still at the south end.

2CY Common Rosefinch at Cunningsburgh

Tundra Bean Geese at Sandwick

Pied-billed Grebe at Loch of Spiggie

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Mainland Shetland

I picked up Adrian Webb and Jerry Warne just off the M25 in Leatherhead on Friday evening and we set course north for Aberdeen. Saturday morning we caught an early flight out to Sumburgh along with a few other hopefuls, following nothing but negative news since Thursday night. We weren't feeling overly optimistic but the sight of jammy Cliff Smith at the airport gate boosted morale!

We were in no massive rush to get to Bixter and as we began to close in on the site, the pager sounded with news that the Tengmalm's Owl was still present! We semi-expected it to still be present, hence our non-cancellation of the flight, but to hear this at such an early stage in the day was so uplifting! A slight dip in the twitching emotional rollercoaster came as we arrived on site - Adrian said 'we might be watching a Tengmalm's in a couple of minutes' but it soon became clear things weren't so simple. Word was that one local had been in the plantation, spotted the roosting owl from below and was in the process of working out how to set a scope up from Jackie's driveway to allow viewing. The next hour or so was tense as the scope was set and the 70-ish birders present queued to go forward in twos and threes to bag a view. We were about halfway down the queue but before too long had secured views of the slumbering TENGMALM'S OWL in a spruce.

The atmosphere calmed and the crowd was full of smiling faces once everyone had had their turn. We re-queued and got further views a couple of times as the crowd diminished, seizing the chance for a less pressured view of the bird! Several Snipe provided a fitting backing track.

Tengmalm's Owl at Bixter

A quick look in Lerwick produced fabulous views of two Iceland Gulls at Shetland Catch: an adult and a juvenile. I've seen very few adults before. A Black Guillemot, two Long-tailed Ducks, nine Eiders, The Kittiwakes (10) and Fulmars (50) provided decent entertainment, and two Ravens flew over. A coffee shop nearby had 13 Purple Sandpipers on the adjacent shoreline. Loch of Clickimin had three Goldeneyes.

adult Iceland Gull at Shetland Catch, Lerwick

juvenile Iceland Gull (right) at Shetland Catch, Lerwick

Fulmars at Shetland Catch, Lerwick

Purple Sandpipers at Lerwick

We returned to Bixter in the evening where the Tengmalm's Owl gave jaw-dropping views as it became active at dusk.

Friday, 22 February 2019

West Worthing

A Siskin flew over my garden and a pair of Herring Gulls looked as though they were setting up shop on a house opposite.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Goring Gap, Tilgate Forest, Sullington, Washington and Hickstead

Goring Gap produced two Common Scoters on the sea, four Red-throated Divers, 11 Red-breasted Mergansers, 10 Great Crested Grebes, two Gannets, a Redshank, five Oystercatchers, 28 Grey Plovers, 22 Turnstones, 23 Sanderlings, 15 Dunlin, three adult Mediterranean Gulls and a singing Skylark.

On the way to picking Ingrid up from Gatwick I stopped at Tilgate Forest, noting two Crossbills, two Lesser Redpolls, six Siskins, two Bullfinches, three Buzzards, three Treecreepers and two Nuthatches.

Ingrid had a job managing a fish tank in Sullington and I roamed the nearby countryside while I waited for her. A Little Owl showed nicely and another called nearby. Six Redwings, two Linnets, three Buzzards and a Green Woodpecker were among the other birds noted.

Little Owl at Sullington

Working our way home, a Red Kite flew over the road as we passed through Washington, and a Treecreeper was singing in the Maidenhead Aquatics car park in Hickstead.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Tilgate Forest, Tilgate Park, Cowdray Forest and Ashdown Forest

It was a bit breezy really but Phil and I met up for some birding at Tilgate Forest. The clear highlight came when Phil realised that he'd left his camera's memory card in his computer at home so went back to his car to drop off his gear. At this moment, an adult female Sparrowhawk touched down in a stream only about 15 yards away from me. I expected her to instantly notice me and spook but she went on to bathe for the next five minutes or so. With a small step or two every 30 seconds, I managed to get in a better position to photograph the bird. Once I'd lifted the camera to my eyes, I dared not switch to binoculars or shift sideways for better light but it was an encounter to cherish nonetheless. Also noted on site were two Crossbills, a redpoll, five Siskins, three Bullfinches, a singing Mistle Thrush (another was singing along the lane as we drove in), a Buzzard and two Treecreepers.

adult female Sparrowhawk

We ventured into Tilgate Park to give a nod to the adult drake Ferruginous Duck from the German reintroduction scheme. An adult drake Mandarin showed nicely on the bigger lake, where a pair of Mute Swans were courting in the sunshine and a Great Crested Grebe fished. A Treecreeper and a few Siskins were also logged in the park.

German-released adult drake Ferruginous Duck

adult drake Mandarin

A very quick look in the Cowdray Forest off the end of Parish Lane produced a pair of Marsh Tits and another singing Mistle Thrush.

We'd planned on getting to Gills Lap in the Ashdown Forest while still sunny and warm but we arrived much later than planned, by which time the day was meeting a rather dull conclusion. Aside from three Crossbills, 55 Meadow Pipits gathering to roost, three Yellowhammers and three redpolls, there wasn't much to see.

Meadow Pipit

Saturday, 16 February 2019

The Burgh and West Worthing

A misty and quickly aborted visit yielded four Grey Partridges, a male Marsh Harrier, a Red Kite, a Kestrel, two Buzzards, six Skylarks, two Meadow Pipits, two Fieldfares, a Redwing, a singing Mistle Thrush, 14 Pied Wagtails, a Yellowhammer and seven Reed Buntings.

Grey Partridges

As I pulled into my road in West Worthing, two Mute Swans flew over, making me curse that I hadn't quite timed my arrival at the door perfectly in order to add them to the house list!

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Burton and Chingford Ponds, Borden and Goring

Burton and Chingford Ponds this morning produced two Firecrests, three Pochards, 42 Tufted Ducks, three Gadwall, 12 Little Grebes, a Great Crested Grebe, six Great Spotted Woodpeckers, three Green Woodpeckers, two Buzzards, a Marsh Tit, seven Coal Tits, five Treecreepers (one singing), a Nuthatch, 15 Redwings, a singing Mistle Thrush, a Grey Wagtail and five Siskins.

I revisited a nice site I discovered a couple of years ago near Borden, spending a couple of hours there early afternoon. Just as I was about to head off, my target species appeared, with an immature female Goshawk soaring across my view.  Other raptors were a Sparrowhawk, two Red Kites and nine Buzzards, while three Cormorants flew over. I was delighted and somewhat perplexed to find three Woodlarks, a singer and a courting pair, around some arable fields. The singer of the pair followed the other bird within a tree, while both birds bobbed incessently and flicked their wings and tail. Two Crossbills, 30 Siskins, a singing Mistle Thrush, two Treecreepers including a singer, a Redwing, a redpoll, 11 Meadow Pipits, a Fieldfare, six Stock Doves, two Nuthatches and a Skylark were also noted.

immature female Goshawk near Borden

Goring Gap had 10 Mediterranean Gulls and 82 Common Gulls. Another adult Mediterranean Gull was seen along the greensward as I drove home.

adult Mediterranean Gull at Goring Gap

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Pagham Harbour

Church Norton had a Firecrest and a Chiffchaff in the bushes near the car park, while I saw the wintering Whimbrel for the first time this year from the benches. The tide was low, but waders included a Knot, 85 Grey Plovers, nine Ringed Plovers, 800 Lapwings, 47 Oystercatchers, 300 Dunlin and 13 Turnstones. Making my way along the spit, I viewed across the harbour mouth and thanks to over-the-phone directions from Nick and Gareth connected with the Hooded Crow - a bird I thought I'd lucked out on this year. A Sandwich Tern fishing offshore was a pleasant surprise, and other highlights included a pair of Peregrines, five Mediterranean Gulls, seven, Little Grebes, 270 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, seven Pintail, 150 Teal, 50 Wigeon, 56 Shelducks, two Meadow Pipits, five Skylarks, and singles of Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Little Egret and Reed Bunting. A Sparrowhawk flew over the car as I drove out through Sidlesham.

Hooded Crow (left) with Carrion Crow


Sunday, 10 February 2019

Lizard Point

A full 10 hours of scanning the sea, following eight hours off Porthgwarra yesterday. The only notables offshore were five Red-throated Divers, a Bonxie and five Shelducks, with only Fulmars, Gannets, Kittiwakes, Guillemots and Razorbills making up the numbers. An adult Mediterranean Gull and 50 Lesser Black-backed Gulls were offshore. Two Chough and a Raven flew over, and two Rock Pipits kept us company, one occasionally bursting into song.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Porthgwarra and Hayle Estuary

With news of a Black-browed Albatross off Lizard Point the previous evening, the first morning of my weekend in Cornwall at Liam's started at Porthgwarra. We felt pretty optimistic that it might well pass through, and a Sooty Shearwater (plus another seen by others) early in the morning further inspired us. I logged a surprising seven Manx Shearwaters - and this was only about half of the birds called - as well as a Great Northern Diver, a Bonxie, four Curlews, and of course Rock Pipits, good numbers of Fulmars, Gannets, Shags, Razorbills, Guillemots and Kittiwakes.

We felt safe enough to leave at about 3pm to look through the gulls at Hayle Estuary, picking out the regular 3CY Caspian Gull and three Yellow-legged Gulls (a displaying pair of adults and a near-adult). Also there was a Greenshank and 220 Curlew, plus Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Wigeon, etc.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Goring and Holmethorpe Sand Pits

A seawatch from George V Avenue produced a Fulmar, 21 Dark-bellied Brent Geese (13 west), seven Red-throated Divers, a Great Crested Grebes, 16 Gannets, a Kittiwake, 37 Razorbills/Guillemots and an adult Mediterranean Gull.

On the way to Cornwall, I stopped at Holmethorpe Sand Pits where the juvenile Black-throated Diver was showing at last knockings on Mercers Lake.

Thursday, 7 February 2019


A seawatch for almost an hour and a half off George V Avenue first thing produced the first local Fulmar of the year, two Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 23 Red-throated Divers, a Great Crested Grebe, 12 Gannets, two Kittiwakes, 18 Razorbills/Guillemots and a small handful of Red-breasted Mergansers.

I had grand plans for the day but was put off by the gusty conditions in the end, so the only other birding I did was to pop over to the Gap at high tide, where there were 11 adult Mediterranean Gulls (some in fine nick), 74 Common Gulls, three Grey Plovers, 15 Ringed Plovers, 20 Dunlin and four Skylarks.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Burpham/The Burgh and Cuckmere Haven

It was a case of revisiting old friends this morning, with the 10 Bewick's Swans again west of Burpham church, and the Siberian Chiffchaff showing nicely with 10 Chiffchaffs at the sewage works. I walked a little bit of The Burgh too, and in my meanderings logged a Cetti's Warbler, a male Stonechat, two Marsh Harriers (including an adult male), 16 Fieldfares, three Redwings, three Yellowhammers, six Reed Buntings, 23 Linnets 20 Skylarks, three Grey Partridges, 65 Lapwings, two Greylag Geese, six Mute Swans, etc.

Bewick's Swans and Mute Swans

Siberian Chiffchaff (left) and Chiffchaff

Siberian Chiffchaff

Cuckmere Haven was too misty and a bit of a waste of time, though 300 Wigeon, six Redshanks, a Sparrowhawk and a Redwing were logged through the murk.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Goring Gap, Adur Estuary, Shoreham Harbour and Brooklands Pleasure Park

Starting at Goring Gap was very uneventful, with visibility at sea limiting observations to a sole Red-breasted Merganser and two Great Crested Grebes, though a short walk produced the two male Reed Buntings, a Redwing, a Green Woodpecker and a Song Thrush.

A look from the bridge at the Adur Estuary produced four Redshanks, a Curlew, 11 Lapwings, a Rock Pipit, a Meadow Pipit and two Little Grebes. At Shoreham Harbour, I enjoyed watching the showy male Black Redstart flitting around the fort, where there were two Meadow Pipits, and a glance offshore revealed good numbers of Razorbills and Guillemots flying by, along with a Kittiwake and a few Gannets.

adult male Black Redstart at Shoreham Harbour

Brooklands Pleasure Park had a Firecrest, six Goldcrests, a Little Grebe, a drake Pochard, seven Teal, two Grey Herons and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Returning to the Gap briefly around midday, the roost field contained 66 Grey Plovers, 19 Ringed Plovers, 136 Dunlin, nine Sanderlings and two adult Mediterranean Gulls.

Monday, 4 February 2019


I re-learned the lesson that seawatching in a constant-rain forecast is a hiding to nothing, turning up at the George V Avenue shelter at first light. After half an hour, 16 Gannets, six Red-breasted Mergansers and a Kittiwake, I realised I really ought to use today to get other stuff done...

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Goring Gap and Cuckmere Haven

An enjoyable seawatch for 1.5hrs this morning yielded 3600 Razorbills/Guillemots, 101 Red-throated Divers, 163 Gannets and three Kittiwakes. Again, I didn't get round to counting the Great Crested Grebes and Red-breasted Mergansers on the sea, though both were present in moderate numbers. Two Redshanks were on the beach and the roost field contained 14 Ringed Plovers, two Dunlin and six Skylarks. A Meadow Pipit flew east.

After taking Ingrid to a brief bit of fishkeeping work in Brighton, we popped over to Cuckmere Haven but were just too late to pick through the gulls, the pre-roost departing as we arrived. Besides the usual Wigeon, Shelducks, Teal, Shovelers, etc, little was seen.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Goring Gap and Ferring Rife

As I got out of the car, two Ravens announced their presence as they flew west, a long-awaited patch tick! These were followed by two Redwings, a species thin on the ground at the Gap recently. The Snow Bunting was still on the coast path. Huge numbers of auks, mostly or exclusively Razorbills were instantly evident when I first looked out to sea this morning. I kept up counting as best I could for an hour, racking up some 6,600 individuals in that time, mostly heading east. Three Eiders (an adult drake, a 2CY drake and a female) flew east together, and 24 Common Scoters added some quality. Gannets were hard to keep track of, I'd logged 100 east and 25 west before a scattered feeding flock of 500 or so materialised. Eight Red-throated Divers were on the sea and another 44 flew past, including a flock of 32. A Kittiwake flew past. Decent numbers of Red-breasted Mergansers and Great Crested Grebes were also on the sea. 10 Ringed Plovers, 58 Dunlin and four adult Mediterranean Gulls were in the roost field, and a male Reed Bunting flew from the fenced rough.

Ferring Rife had a Little Grebe - my first locally, so my second patch tick of the day - 13 Golden Plovers in a field on the west side. Two Water Rails were showing on the north side of the road bridge. A Chiffchaff, a Grey Heron and two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Redwing, a female Stonechat, a Meadow Pipit and two Jackdaws were among the other birds logged.

Little Grebe at Ferring Rife

Golden Plovers at Ferring Rife

Chiffchaff at Ferring Rife

Collared Dove at Ferring Rife

Friday, 1 February 2019

Goring Gap and Ferring Rife

Off Goring Gap this morning were six Dark-bellied Brent Geese, five Red-throated Divers, 21 Red-breasted Mergansers, 27 Great Crested Grebes, a Kittiwake, 114 Gannets and 80 Razorbills/Guillemots. On the beach at Goring Gap was a Redshank and 27 Grey Plovers, along with a few Dunlin, Sanderling and Turnstone. 17 Ringed Plovers were in the roost field, along with an adult Mediterranean Gull, 45 Common Gulls (just one 2CY) and 20 Skylarks. The female Stonechat was in the rough patch.

Grey Plovers and Dunlin on a snowy beach at Goring Gap

Common, Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls at Goring Gap

Skylark at Goring Gap

I teamed up with Gareth for a walk along Ferring Rife, where we clocked nine Golden Plovers and 35 Lapwings apparently freshly arrived, looking for somewhere to pitch down. Also noted was a Snipe, three Chiffchaffs, two Reed Buntings, five Meadow Pipits, a male Stonechat, eight Moorhens, a Buzzard, a Grey Heron and two Great Spotted Woodpeckers.

Lapwings over Ferring Rife

Golden Plovers over Ferring Rife

Grey Heron at Ferring Rife