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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.