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