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