Saturday, 28 April 2018

Canons Farm, South Nutfield and Goring

I stayed at my parents' in Belmont and visited Canons again this morning, highlights being 10 Wheatears in Tart's Field and a Willow Warbler in the farmyard. Driving south along the M23 back to the coast, a Raven flew over the same stretch of motorway near South Nutfield where I saw a displaying Lapwing on 25th. A whizz around Goring Gap early afternoon before work revealed a little arrival of both of these species there, with seven each. My first patch House Martin flew west and five Swallows were noted, along with a couple of Whitethroats. 40 Turnstones and four Sanderlings were on the beach, some of both species coming into fine summer plumage. A couple of Great Crested Grebes were on the sea, a Mallard and a Lesser Black-backed Gull flew over.

male Wheatear at Canons Farm

Willow Warbler at Goring Gap

female Wheatear at Goring Gap

Friday, 27 April 2018

Goring and Canons Farm

I was joined by five others in the shelter at George V Avenue - the forecast looked promising but we didn't witness quite the movement we were hoping for. However, it was awesome to see the first little push of Bar-tailed Godwits go through offshore - 20 in all - along with three Whimbrel and my first two Common Sandpipers for the patch heading along the beach. Other personal seawatch highlights included an Arctic Skua, two Bonxies, 11 Shelducks, a Dark-bellied Brent Goose, three Red-throated Divers, 82 Gannets, a Little Egret, six Dunlin, two Mediterranean Gulls and a Fulmar.

I drove up to Surrey to lead a U3A bird walk at Canons Farm. As it turned out, this was timed perfectly as we found a few juicy migrants. Best of all (for me and the hard-core patchers at least!) was a singing Sedge Warbler by the farmyard, the first spring record at the site and rather incongruous! Four Wheatears in Tart's Field were later joined by a smart Whinchat though we all missed a male Ring Ouzel that Roy W had briefly. I counted 20 Swallows skimming through, plus four Whitethroats and a Blackcap. Five Lesser Black-backed Gulls flew over and a Pied Wagtail was noteworthy. Some 170 Linnets were mainly feeding in the fields south of Canons Farmhouse and a handful of Yellowhammers and Skylarks were scattered around. It really felt quite birdy.

Whinchat at Canons Farm

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Southern Spain, 21-24th April

A short trip to southern Spain with Ed, Matt, Wes and Robin made for a perfect break and my most enjoyable foreign excursion since Sri Lanka. We had a great crowd and I welcomed the relief from taking thorough notes to just simply enjoy the birds and sharpen judgement on distant raptors. Indeed, raptors were our primary target and we enjoyed a couple of days of spectacular movement, with 23rd seeing scores of Booted Eagles, Black Kites, Honey-buzzards and Griffon Vultures moving through, along with Marsh Harrier, a couple of Ospreys and a handful of Egyptian Vultures, Short-toed Eagles, Black Storks and Bee-eaters. On 24th, the majority of the movement we witnessed involved Black Kites, with a strong 4-figure total logged by the other guys.

Egyptian Vulture


Black Kite


Black Kite swarm - though this doesn't come close to doing the spectacle justice

two among a flock of Black Storks

dark morph Booted Eagle

We notched up 122 species on 22nd alone, when we visited some pools and saltpans around Donana and saw Slender-billed and Audouin's Gulls, Caspian and Gull-billed Terns, Kentish Plover, Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stints. Some nice views of Purple Swamphen, Collared Pratincoles, Roller, Western Bonelli's  and Great Reed Warbler were had that day and I connected with my first White-headed and Marbled Ducks. A Black-eared Wheatear shared a fence line with a hepatic Cuckoo, a Woodchat Shrike and a Whinchat. Ed tracked down a displaying Little Bustard and in the evening, some rolling green hills produced nice views of a graceful Black-winged Kite as it hunted.

male Black-eared Wheatear

hepatic female Cuckoo

Gull-billed Tern

squadron of Greater Flamingos

male Kentish Plover

adult Night-heron

Slender-billed Gulls

pair of Red-crested Pochards

singing male Melodious Warbler

drake White-headed Duck

23rd saw us connect with one of my dream birds, Lesser Kestrel, something I've been long awaiting and which I'd not yet been able to track down. That day we also visited a reintroduced Bald Ibis colony and successfully found a couple of Iberian Woodpeckers in the hills, along with a Western Subalpine Warbler.

duff Bald Ibis

Birds such as Blue Rock Thrush, 'Spanish Wagtail', Woodchat Shrike, Melodious and Sardinian Warbler, Spanish Sparrow, Zitting Cisticola, Red-rumped Swallow, Pallid Swift, Montagu's Harrier, White Stork, Purple Heron, Glossy Ibis, Spotless Starling, Serin, Cirl Bunting, Chough and Hoopoe were features of the trip and we had encounters with both Short-toed and Calandra Lark. Turtle Doves, Corn Buntings and Nightingales were common. The final day was memorable for finding a Bonelli's Eagle nest below a flurry of Alpine Swifts and Crag Martins, and spotting a Black Wheatear in a suitably rocky field.

we saw a handful of Short-toed Larks

one of several Woodchat Shrikes

Bonelli's Eagle on the nest, a fitting end to the trip!

The dream team - from left: me, Ed, Matt, Robin and Wes

My 140-strong species list for the trip in a rather loose taxonomic follows (lifers in bold):

Greylag Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Marbled Duck, Pochard, Red-crested Pochard, White-headed Duck, Quail, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Great CrestedGrebe, Cory's Shearwater, Balearic Shearwater, Gannet, Cormorant, Night-heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, White Stork, Black Stork, Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo, Osprey, Egyptian Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Black Kite, Black-winged Kite, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Buzzard, Honey-buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Lesser Kestrel, Hobby,  Peregrine, Moorhen, Coot, Purple Swamphen, Little Bustard, Avocet, Stone-curlew, Black-winged Stilt, Collared Pratincole, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Greenshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Little Tern, Sandwich Tern, Caspian Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Rock Dove (feral), Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Turtle Dove, Cuckoo, Little Owl, Swift, Pallid Swift, Alpine Swift, Bee-eater, Roller, Hoopoe, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Iberian Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crested Lark, Short-toed Lark, Calandra Lark, Crag Martin Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Tree Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, ('Spanish')White Wagtail, Wren, Nightingale, Robin, Redstart, Black Redstart, Whinchat, Stonechat, Blackbird, Blue Rock Thrush, Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Zitting Cisticola, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Sardinian Warbler, Western Subalpine Warbler, Cetti's Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Willow Warbler, Western Bonelli's Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Crested Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Woodchat Shrike, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Serin, Corn Bunting

Thursday, 19 April 2018


I was planning on a full day's birding but as things turned out I had to head back home at 08:10 so it was only an early seawatch for me. It was painful to pack up just as four Arctic Skuas flew through, hinting at further promise. One of the other highlights was a flock of 13 Little Gulls which ended up being tracked by observers along the coast as far as Seaford. 140 Common Scoters, three Shelducks, a Whimbrel, a Little Tern, a Fulmar, 65 Sandwich Terns, 16 Gannets, five Dunlin, a Red-throated Diver, four Mediterranean Gulls, three Kittiwakes and 32 Common(/'Commic') Terns also flew through. 97 Linnets flew along the beach.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018


This morning's seawatch from George V Avenue was disappointing, with barely a breath of wind, and abandoned after just over an hour. However, in that time two Little Terns and a Whimbrel were logged of note. I heard another Whimbrel overhead later. A male Firecrest was singing by the sports fields and a male Wheatear was on the beach. Other bits moving, mainly during the seawatch, included 28 Common Scoters, 17 Mediterranean Gulls, seven Black-headed Gulls, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, a Dark-bellied Brent Goose, a Red-breasted Merganser, three Red-throated Divers, 10 Gannets, eight Sandwich Terns, two Common Terns, three Swallows and a Pied Wagtail. 42 Linnets, six Meadow Pipits, five Buzzards and a Kestrel were also noted.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018


I almost stayed in to get some work done this morning but thought I'd head out and have a go at a seawatch. I'm glad I did! Joined my Martin P and Nick B at the George V Avenue shelter, Bonxies were the feature of the day with 46 passing by 11:00 (including flocks of seven and five). Three species were patch ticks for me, with nine Arctic Skuas and a party of six Manx Shearwaters going by, plus an Arctic Tern was feeding offshore for a while. A lone Little Tern went through early on and 85 Sandwich Terns, six Common Terns and 23 'Commics' were recorded. Two Whimbrel flew past and Mediterranean Gulls were still on the move, with 41 birds logged mostly moving east. Later in the watch an adult Little Gull flew the same way. 54 Common Gulls and 18 Black-headed Gulls were also logged. 182 Common Scoters moved through, three Velvets among them, and 62 Dark-bellied Brent Geese were counted. Other species included a Red-breasted Merganser, 28 Red-throated Divers, 14 Fulmars, 64 Gannets, three Dunlin, three Kittiwakes, a Swallow in-off and four Linnets along the beach.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Goring and Ferring

I was out in the field from dawn till mid-afternoon. Three Bonxies flew east during an early seawatch and 70 Mediterranean Gulls flew mostly east, including a squadron of 34. The biggest surprise, though, was an adult hrota-type Brent Goose which flew west late on. Some light Gannet movement was evident offshore in the morning, with 44 birds noted, as well as a Red-breasted Merganser, 24 Common Scoters, a Fulmar, seven Sandwich Terns, two Common Terns and three Great Crested Grebes. Nine Turnstones were on the beach, along with a Sanderling, two Ringed Plovers and a Grey Plover. Four Swallows flew through the Gap and other passerine migrants included eight Wheatears, five Meadow Pipits, a Willow Warbler, two Pied Wagtails, nine Linnets and three Blackcaps. The Chiffchaffs noted were probably established birds, one observed gathering nesting material. Singles of Peregrine and Sparrowhawk were logged, along with a Mallard and a Moorhen.

adult hrota-type Pale-bellied Brent Goose past Goring Gap

male Wheatear at Goring Gap
A stroll along the Rife added two Mallards, a Pheasant, another Sparrowhawk, three Moorhens, three Chiffchaffs, a Pied/White Wagtail and two Linnets. A couple more Turnstones were on the beach there.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Ferring Rife and Goring

A thorough session at the Rife this morning produced my first Whitethroat of the year and a female Wheatear, as well as two Willow Warblers, a Little Egret, four Chiffchaffs, five Swallows, a Blackcap, two Meadow Pipits, four Linnets, two Pied Wagtails, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, four Mallards, three Grey Herons, a Buzzard, a Goldcrest and five Moorhens.

Goring later in the rain revealed little other than three Meadow Pipits on a quick whizz around.

Swallows (male and female) at Ferring Rife

Saturday, 14 April 2018


A brief late afternoon visit produced only a Blackcap, a Chiffchaff, a Meadow Pipit and a Linnet of any real note.

Song Thrush

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Ferring Rife

A casual session revealed a Reed Bunting, two Mallards, a Grey Heron, two Moorhens, two Skylarks, a Chiffchaff, two Blackcaps, a Meadow Pipit and five Linnets among the birds logged.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

West Rise Marsh

Lovely and warm! It felt like spring - for a while - until the sun began to drop and hopes of hearing the Savi's Warbler briefly peaked before fading away. It was a pleasant evening nonetheless, with a nice variety of birds and a good natter with a few new faces. An adult Little Gull hawked over West Langney Lake and other highlights included a Green Sandpiper, a Water Rail, two Sedge Warblers, two Pintails, four Swallows, two Wigeons, five Shovelers, three Reed Buntings, seven Meadow Pipits and a Chiffchaff.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018


I only had a narrow window of time after a shift to head to Goring Gap, successfully seeing the Ring Ouzel which Garry M had found earlier in the day, a splendid bird - as they always are - and welcome addition to my Goring/Ferring list. A late Redwing was feeding nearby and two Mallards were in the ditches. Additional species included a female Sparrowhawk, a Blackcap, a Chiffchaff and a Linnet.

Ring Ouzel at Goring Gap

Monday, 9 April 2018

Goring, Ferring Rife and Carlton Marshes

Starting at Ferring Rife produced my first two Willow Warblers of the year (also a patch tick), as well as a Grey Heron, four Moorhens, a Sandwich Tern, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, a Green Woodpecker, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, four Skylarks, three Chiffchaffs, a Blackcap and five Meadow Pipits. Walking back to the Gap, my first patch and 2018 Little Tern performed offshore and there seemed to be a small arrival of migrants, four Wheatears dropping in and the bushes holding another Willow Warbler and four Blackcaps. The 2CY Iceland Gull showed at close range in the southwestern field. Other birds included eight Red-breasted Mergansers, 32 Turnstones, 50 Sanderlings, eight Sandwich Terns, three Chiffchaffs, two Skylarks, a Goldcrest, a Green Woodpecker, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, three Meadow Pipits and a Linnet.

With positive news from Suffolk, it was action stations and I headed to London to pick up Magnus A en-route to Carlton Marshes. Our timing was epic, the AMERICAN BITTERN taking flight with a Bittern just as we drew up to the crowd, most of whom had been waiting 10+ hours! Two Barn Owls were a welcome bonus, a couple of Marsh Harriers were quartering, five Snipe took flight and a Swallow flew through before we headed home triumphant!

male Wheatear at Goring Gap

2CY Iceland Gull at Goring Gap

American Bittern (left) with Bittern at Carlton Marshes

Sunday, 8 April 2018


A short walk around the Gap was rewarded with an unexpected patch tick in the form of a showy male Yellowhammer near the pumphouse. Other bits included three Redwings, two Red-breasted Mergansers, a Pheasant, four Great Crested Grebes, six Turnstones, 98 Sanderlings, seven Sandwich Terns, two Lesser Black-backed Gulls, eight Stock Doves, a Green Woodpecker, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, three Skylarks, four Chiffchaffs, three Blackcaps, seven Meadow Pipits and a Pied Wagtail (not many of these lately).

male Yellowhammer


Saturday, 7 April 2018

Goring and Ferring

With southeasterly winds blowing, Nick B and I teamed up for a seawatch from the George V Avenue shelter. Overall it was slightly underwhelming considering the conditions but a flock of eight Velvet Scoters was sufficient reward in itself, along with my first two patch Whimbrels and six Greylags also being new. Other results included 113 Common Scoters, 22 Red-breasted Mergansers, a Fulmar, five Great Crested Grebes, a Guillemot, four Common Terns, 40 Sandwich Terns, 56 Common Gulls and a Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Following a report from the Gap of a flock of six westbound Garganey, I headed to Ferring Rife in the vain hope that they might have dropped in there. The site was generally quiet, with notables limited to four Mallards, a Pheasant, nine Moorhens, two Green Woodpeckers, three Skylarks, three Chiffchaffs, seven Meadow Pipits and two Linnets.

Back at the Gap, a quick walk produced my third patch tick of the day, a 2CY female-type Black Redstart in the same spot it was found my local birder Dave S yesterday. Other bits included five of both Meadow Pipit and Linnet, plus two Jackdaws heading east, a Chiffchaff, a Blackcap, seven Skylarks and a Green Woodpecker.

Black Redstart at Goring Gap

Friday, 6 April 2018

Old Lodge, Gills Lap, Splash Point, Swanbourne Lake, The Burgh and Church Norton

Bob from the States was back and it was a full on day of birding! First up was Old Lodge, with highlights of two Ravens, five Siskins, six Lesser Redpolls and a Bullfinch. A walk around the Old Airstrip produced an early Tree Pipit, two Stonechats and a flock of 20 Siskins. We then drove to Splash Point and marvelled at the hundreds of Kittiwakes, a couple of Fulmars and enjoyed fabulous views of a hunting adult male Peregrine, as well as a Raven on the clifftop. Swanbourne Lake was our next stop, offering up a singing Marsh Tit but little else so we pressed on to The Burgh. Here we instantly connected with four Grey Partridges and a Red Kite. Mid-afternoon we spent an hour or so at Church Norton, rewarded with highlights including a Whimbrel, a Goosander, a Dark-bellied Brent Goose, two Bar-tailed Godwits and small numbers of Sandwich Terns and Mediterranean Gulls. Checking in to Ferry Pool on the way out, two Green Sandpipers and seven Wigeon formed last minute additions to the day list.

Whimbrel at Church Norton

Green Sandpipers at Ferry Pool

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Beddington Farmlands, Canons Farm, Banstead Woods and Chiphouse Wood

Despite being a low Beddington lister it's not often that I get a site tick! I gave a talk to the Banstead U3A Wildlife Group on bird migration last night so took the chance to visit first thing this morning. I joined Kojak and Dodge to walk through Beddington Park and get on site, hearing a singing Treecreeper in the process and thinking little of it. As we neared the Farmlands perimeter and I heard more Treecreeper calls, though, I knew I was quids in and we ended up with nice views of two just along the very edge of the recording area - a good start! After chatting with the guys near the hide for a bit, I took myself off to check the South Lake, the mound and the Southeast Corner. The first reward came with nice views of a summer-plumaged Water Pipit on the enclosed lagoons - possibly the first time I've seen the species in such attire in Britain. A Green Sandpiper was nearby and on the way back I had the surprise of a singing Sedge Warbler by the South Lake.

Scanning the North Lake before I exited, I picked up a 2CY Iceland Gull on the North Lake. Other birds noted during the visit included nine Mute Swans, three Shelducks, 18 Gadwall, 13 Teal, 25 Shovelers, three Pochards, 64 Tufted Ducks, a Cormorant, 15 Little Grebes, a Sparrowhawk, two Snipe, 10 Great Black-backed Gulls, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Cetti's Warbler, two Chiffchaffs, two Blackcaps, a Grey Wagtail, three Meadow Pipits, 12 Linnets and two Reed Buntings. Going back through Beddington Park, I heard a Nuthatch.

Water Pipit at Beddington Farmlands

2CY Iceland Gull at Beddington Farmlands

Having physically struggled to break out of Beddington, I met up with Geoff B outside Canons Farmhouse a bit later than planned. Our tour of the fields produced a Mallard, eight Buzzards, a Sparrowhawk, 15 Stock Doves, two Kestrels, three Skylarks, two Nuthatches and 50 Linnets. We strayed into Banstead Woods, adding a Pheasant, three more Buzzards, a Kestrel, two Treecreepers, a Nuthatch and four Linnets. We also took in a bit of Chiphouse Wood, noting two of the same Buzzards and another Nuthatch.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Goring, Lavington Common, Ambersham Common/Heyshot Heath, Westdean Woods and The Burgh

The first few hours of the morning were spent at Goring Gap and produced the regular 2CY Iceland Gull, two Wheatears, three Linnets, five Skylarks, two Meadow Pipits, four Chiffchaffs, a Goldcrest, two eastbound Jackdaws, 170 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, three Common Scoters, a Fulmar, three Gannets, seven Great Crested Grebes, a Sparrowhawk, a Moorhen, six Oystercatchers, nine Turnstones, 13 Sandwich Terns, a Lesser Black-backed Gull and three Mediterranean Gulls.

Nick B turned up and we headed off on a whistlestop tour of a few West Sussex sites, although the weather was that yucky cold and breezy stuff with a bit of rain that seems to quash any birding results. First was Lavington Common/Plantation but we noted little other than Nuthatch and Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Ambersham Common came good with a male Dartford Warbler accompanying a pair of Stonechats. We checked out adjacent Heyshot Heath but found little other than a Kestrel, although Nick heard a crossbill briefly.

Westdean Woods was a good one to 'put a face to'. Here we found a singing Marsh Tit upon parking up and had three distant Ravens, along with at least four Buzzards. Three Red-legged Partridges were seen, along with a Red Kite, a Meadow Pipit and a Nuthatch. The Burgh was another site that I've long heard about but not got around to visiting, until now... it was great to see a Grey Partridge and hear another, while other birds logged included a Lapwing, three Skylarks, a Meadow Pipit, three Red Kites and a singing Red-legged Partridge.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Goring/Ferring Rife

Ian J came down for a visit. Spring's still holding back and migration was in little evidence but it was a refreshing jaunt nonetheless, made all the more fun by Ingrid coming out and laying an Easter egg hunt for us! A Peregrine over the sea and a Firecrest in the Plantation were the highlights, along with a hint of early morning movement with fly-over Grey Wagtail and Linnet followed by two Grey Herons. On the sea were 65 Great Crested Grebes and 27 Red-breasted Mergansers, while a Shelduck, 24 Brent Geese, two Common Scoters, two Sandwich Terns and eight Gannets were pretty much the sum of the movers. Wader numbers are much diminished now and on the beach at low tide were 53 Sanderlings, seven Oystercatchers, 35 Turnstones, a Dunlin and three Grey Plovers. Two Meadow Pipits and two Skylarks were logged.

At the Rife we added a Buzzard, another Grey Heron, a Snipe, four Mediterranean Gulls, a Chiffchaff, a Green Woodpecker, four Skylarks, two Jackdaws and 10 distant Rooks.