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Sunday, 21 July 2019

Knepp Estate, Hailsham and Rickney

After a bright and warm start to my and Darragh's visit to Knepp, the skies drew in and the temperature dropped. However, we did glimpse a couple of Purple Emperors, as well as a Brown Hairstreak and a few Purple Hairstreaks. Birds included a family of three Turtle Doves, a Kingfisher, a Red Kite, a Yellowhammer, two Mistle Thrushes, a Reed Warbler, a Grey Heron, two Great Crested Grebes and a scattering of Whitethroats, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Bullfinches and Treecreepers, etc.

juvenile Turtle Dove at Knepp Wildlands



Just when we were wondering how to spend the last few hours of the afternoon, news emerged of a Red-backed Shrike near Hailsham so I left Darragh to continue the quest for butterflies and shot off for East Sussex without much thought. Once on site, it became clear that I might well not in fact be on site... I realised that the directions were in fact extremely vague and the bird could theoretically have been at any point miles along Hurst Haven. I tried the Hailsham end, logging Cetti's Warbler, Reed Bunting, two House Martins, a Treecreeper, two Swallows and a Sparrowhawk, before deciding the bird was most probably actually seen at the opposite end of the haven. A 15-minute drive later, I only had half-an-hour to spare but checked what habitat I could, coming up with a Lesser Whitethroat, seven Swallows, a Reed Bunting and three Meadow Pipits but again no shrike.

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Goring Gap

A 3.5-hour watch from the block produced a Bonxie, two Common Scoters, four Teal, two Common Terns, two adult Common Gulls, three Turnstones, 36 Gannets, 42 Sandwich Terns and a juvenile Mediterranean Gull. Four Little Egrets and 150 Starlings were on the beach.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Goring Gap, Brooklands Pleasure Park and Adur Estuary

Goring Gap first thing was almost immediately written off by grotty weather, with just two Mediterranean Gulls (adult and juvenile), two Little Egrets, two Sandwich Terns and an Oystercatcher noted before then.

Brooklands Pleasure Park had two juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls among the small number of Larids present. An adult Mediterranean Gull and three Lesser Black-backed Gulls were also present, along with the usual Mute Swan family. A Goldcrest was still feeding juveniles by the stream, where a Green Woodpecker yaffled.

Yellow-legged Gull at Brooklands Pleasure Park (bird 1)

Yellow-legged Gull at Brooklands Pleasure Park (bird 2)

Yellow-legged Gull at Brooklands Pleasure Park (bird 2)

Yellow-legged Gull at Brooklands Pleasure Park (bird 2)

Five minutes scanning the Adur Estuary from the toll bridge produced four Oystercatchers, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, a Little Egret and eight Mute Swans.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Steep Down and West Worthing

A long to-do list sapped most of my inspiration this morning so I ended up just having a short walk at Steep Down, enjoying the songs of Corn Buntings and Skylarks. 17 Linnets and eight Meadow Pipits were present. Two Swallows were visible in the distance, the hedges were busy with Whitethroats. I flushed a pair of Buzzards off some roadkill on the way out, and crossed my fingers that a lorry wouldn't come the other way as one of the birds took off low with the carcass and struggled to gain height. Fortunately it met nothing oncoming!

Walking back from the shops mid-afternoon, I discovered where my local Swifts are nesting, seeing perhaps 20 birds dashing low around a parallel street and some birds entering nest holes or alighting on the edge of eaves. In the evening, an adult Mediterranean Gull flew over the garden.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Pett Level, Pannel Valley NR and Adur Estuary

I eventually made it over to East Sussex this morning after battling through the usual traffic. An initial scan over Pett Level revealed a family of Marsh Harriers, three Whimbrel keeping just out of a flock of 53 Curlew and a couple of Common Terns. But best of all was a Common Sandpiper. My first of the year no less - I'm not quite sure how I managed not to see one for so long. Most of the Aythya ducks were hanging out on the eastern pool, so I spent a good while scanning through the ensemble, made up of Pochard, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Teal and Gadwall, all in alternate plumage. One more scan, however, and almost to my surprise there was the reported FERRUGINOUS DUCK in all its glory. It was distant, and was mostly sleeping, but it was a fine, pure drake. As I moved on, nine Sand Martins and a couple of Swifts flew through.

drake Ferruginous Duck at Pett Level

Feeling somewhat elevated, I set out along the canal at the west end towards the enigmatic Pannel Valley Nature Reserve, encountering a Lesser Whitethroat and a handful of Sedge and Reed Warblers along the way, plus a flyover Raven. It is years since my last visit here, due as much to an - I suppose - unfounded sense that visitors are not particularly welcome, as the testing journey. I entered the first hide and quickly picked up the beautiful adult Curlew Sandpiper feeding opposite, as well as three Little Ringed Plovers (including a juvenile). Another birder joined me briefly before trying the other hide. After a few minutes, I followed him over and he gave me the inevitable news that the Pectoral Sandpiper had just shown for him before flying back towards the hide I'd just left. Without wanting to start to merry dance to and fro, I opted to stay put, enjoying establishing the presence of three Greenshanks and eight Black-tailed Godwits. Thankfully, soon the Pec appeared in flight and touched down for a few seconds to our left before settling on the far side, where it was dwarfed by a moulting male Ruff.

Lesser Whitethroat at Pett Level
Curlew Sandpiper at Pannel Valley NR

Pectoral Sandpiper at Pannel Valley NR

After walking back and taking a few minutes for lunch, I called back at Pett Pools for another look at the 'Fudge'. It was nowhere to be seen, and was presumably still in the reeds at the back, where it had drifted when I left it earlier. After hearing several earlier in the day (and at Rye in the early spring), though, I was glad to finally lay eyes on a male Bearded Tit as it flew over the vegetation. Two Common Gulls, an adult and a 2cy, were my first of the season, and six Sandwich Terns flew over.

On the way home, to break the monotony of the rush hour traffic I pulled off to have a quick scan of the Adur. I barely added to what I'd seen from the A27, with three Little Egrets and a count of 12 Mute Swans the most noteworthy sightings.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Goring Gap, Adur Estuary and West Worthing

I only gave it half-an-hour or so at Goring Gap first thing, and indeed it felt quiet but I did record the first Grey Wagtail, Redshank and two Swallows of the autumn, along with 78 Gannets, two Sandwich Terns, three Swifts and two Mediterranean Gulls (one juvenile).

A very quick stop at the toll bridge overlooking the Adur Estuary produced little other than two Little Egrets, nine Mute Swans, two Oystercatchers, a Sparrowhawk, a Skylark, a Linnet and two Pied Wagtails.

While sitting in the garden having dinner early evening, at least two Mediterranean Gulls hawked overhead with Black-headed Gulls.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Brooklands Pleasure Park

I almost didn't end up birding at all today but couldn't resist popping in to Brooklands Pleasure Park mid-afternoon for a quick look through the gulls. Lo and behold there was a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, as well as a 2cy Mediterranean Gull, two adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls and increased numbers of fledged Herring Gulls. A Goldcrest was busy feeding two young. Two Green Woodpeckers, including a juvenile, were by the stream. Mallard broods of nine and 11 were present, and the pair of Mute Swans with their four juveniles were also on show.

juvenile Yellow-legged Gull

juvenile Green Woodpecker

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Goring Gap, Adur Estuary and Brooklands Pleasure Park

The first Willow Warbler of the autumn called at the seaward end of the Plantation, where the Treecreeper also announced itself. A (the?) juvenile Yellow-legged Gull lingered offshore. Two Dunlin and a pair of Common Scoter flew east, while 64 Gannets also flew past. Five Mediterranean Gulls and six Little Egrets were seen, and 120 Woodpigeons flocked in the fields. A short walk produced three Whitethroats and a Blackcap.

A scan of the Adur Estuary from the toll bridge revealed two Avocets - an adult and a juvenile - along with an Oystercatcher, two Little Egrets, a 3cy Mediterranean Gull, a House Martin and a Kestrel. Juvenile Herring and Black-headed Gulls were present.


Avocets (juvenile left) on the Adur Estuary

Late afternoon I called in to Brooklands Pleasure Park. An adult Yellow-legged Gull was the main feature - I was looking for juveniles but a local adult is a far rarer treat so I spent a fair while enjoying this mighty bird. Also present were a Little Grebe, a Little Egret, a 3cy Mediterranean Gull, three adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a Tufted Duck, a House Martin, two Swifts, a couple of Goldcrests and three fledged Herring Gulls. A female Mallard had a brood of nine young ducklings and a Coot pair had three youngsters. Four young Mute Swans with a lone adult are now full juveniles.

adult Yellow-legged Gull at Brooklands Pleasure Park

Mallards at Brooklands Pleasure Park

Mute Swans at Brooklands Pleasure Park

Monday, 8 July 2019

Goring Gap, Pulborough Brooks RSPB, Warnham LNR and Ifield Mill Pond

Goring Gap first thing produced another juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, this one flying east offshore. Gannets increased, with 51 past during my hour's vigil, along with seven Mediterranean Gulls and 30 Sandwich Terns (including several juveniles following their parents).

adult and juvenile Sandwich Terns at Goring Gap

The rest of the day was just brilliant, spent in the company of my oldest birding friend Phil. We spent seven hours at Pulborough Brooks, notching up 63 species. We enjoyed a couple of incredibly exciting encounters in the first half-hour, with a recently fledged juvenile Cuckoo being fed by its Dunnock parents being followed by an adult male Peregrine tucking in to a juvenile Green Woodpecker it had just caught (we later saw the rest of the family in the same tree!). I was really hoping for waders, and was pleased enough with four Green Sandpipers, 60 Black-tailed Godwits, six Avocets, four Little Ringed Plovers, two Dunlin and 21 Lapwings. Four adult Mediterranean Gulls sailed silently overhead and a family party of Egyptian Geese on the North Brooks included five young. A Mandarin, 11 Sand Martins and 12 Teal were also at the North Brooks and further raptors included a Red Kite, four Buzzards and two Kestrels. A Lesser Whitethroat sang by the Hanger Viewpoint and other birds included a Grey Wagtail, seven Pied Wagtails, four Reed Buntings, six Swallows and a handful of Treecreepers and Nuthatches.

juvenile Cuckoo with Dunnock 'foster parent' at Pulborough Brooks RSPB

juvenile Cuckoo at Pulborough Brooks RSPB

Black-tailed Godwits at Pulborough Brooks RSPB

adult male Peregrine with juvenile Green Woodpecker at Pulborough Brooks RSPB

Warnham LNR was visited on a whim in the mid-afternoon. Here we enjoyed a male Kingfisher, eight Common Terns (including two juveniles, though one seemed stuck outside the raft), a Little Grebe, two Great Crested Grebes, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, a Mandarin, two Treecreepers, a House Martin and a Reed Warbler.

male Kingfisher at Warnham LNR

Mandarin at Warnham LNR

On a further whim we stopped briefly at Ifield Mill Pond, where the best on offer included three Great Crested Grebes (a pair and a full-grown juvenile), a Grey Wagtail, four House Martins and a Nuthatch.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Goring Gap and West Worthing

At Goring Gap early morning, my first juvenile Mediterranean Gull of the year flew east with an adult. A Goldcrest was calling at the seaward end of the Plantation and a Pied Wagtail flew over. 15 Gannets and two Sandwich Terns flew past offshore. A Grey Heron flew west and eight Swifts were overhead. Two Oystercatchers and 12 Little Egrets were on the beach. Blackcap, Skylark (three), Green Woodpecker and Song Thrush were heard.

Swift numbers over the garden increased to a quite impressive 35 screaming birds in the evening!

Friday, 5 July 2019

West Worthing

A fabulous late evening display from 25 Swifts over the garden was truly spirit-lifting, especially after low numbers over the late spring/early summer. How many of these birds are genuinely breeding is another question, but I'm certainly going to savour them while they're still here.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Thorney Island

A visit out of curiosity more than expectation, I stuck to the north end of the island and didn't pass through the security gates, so it wasn't a particularly adventurous visit. This defnitely seems like a promising autumn venue though and I will be back ready for a longer walk round. Birds included five Black-tailed Godwits, a showy Common Tern, two Mediterranean Gulls, two singing Lesser Whitethroats, 10 Sand Martins, 72 of both Curlew and Redshank, a Cetti's Warbler, three Great Crested Grebes, a Sparrowhawk, a Buzzard, four Swallows, 10 Skylarks, seven Little Egrets, two Reed Warblers, five Meadow Pipits (a couple performing song-flights), two Kestrels, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, several Whitethroats including fledglings and two Shelduck chicks with their parent.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Goring Gap and Ferring Rife

The first juvenile Yellow-legged Gull of the season was at Goring Gap today, while movers there included a Meadow Pipit, a Pied Wagtail, 10 Swifts, four Common Terns, two Mediterranean Gulls and a Gannet. Seemingly typical here for the time of year was a dispersing Treecreeper in the Plantation, and a Green Woodpecker called. Seven Little Egrets, Skylark, Whitethroat and Chiffchaff were also logged.

juvenile Yellow-legged Gull at Goring Gap

Ferring Rife provided a few highlights, including a Grey Wagtail, a surprising eight Reed Warblers (two fledglings), 10 Swallows, a Reed Bunting, a Grey Heron, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, a Coal Tit, a Song Thrush, three Mallards, two Moorhens, a Swift, five Whitethroats, a Blackcap, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Green Woodpecker, a Linnet, and a Sandwich Tern offshore.

juvenile Reed Warbler at Ferring Rife

Skylark at Ferring Rife

Swallow at Ferring Rife

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Lyminster, Long Furlong and Cuckmere Haven

My late BBS visit to Lyminster featured a pair of Mute Swans with four cygnets, a Little Egret, two Buzzards, two Lesser Black-backed Gulls, three Swifts, a Green Woodpecker, two Kestrels, three Skylarks, six Swallows, a Pied Wagtail, a Reed Warbler and a Reed Bunting.

While driving Long Furlong, I clocked a Red Kite.

Walking with Ingrid at Cuckmere Haven in the afternoon we had eight Oystercatchers including two youngsters, an Egyptian Goose, five Shelducks, three Grey Herons, six Little Egrets, a Redshank, a Kestrel, eight Skylarks, two Swallows, a Lesser Whitethroat and four Meadow Pipits.

Oystercatcher with two young at Cuckmere Haven

Friday, 28 June 2019

Goring Gap, Brooklands Pleasure Park and Adur Estuary

Goring Gap was very quiet first thing today, with just a 3cy Mediterranean Gull, four Swifts and two Little Egrets of note. Brooklands had a flyover adult Mediterranean Gull, a Grey Heron and six Swifts. Half-an-hour from the bridge over the Adur at Shoreham produced a Sand Martin, seven Swifts, an Oystercatcher, 11 Mute Swans, an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Skylark.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Woods Mill SWT

Woods Mill was my first port of call this morning; although it was rather breezy I enjoyed fine views of a purring Turtle Dove in a dead tree. A Sparrowhawk, two Kestrels, five Greylags, a Buzzard and 29 Swifts, moving into the wind, were among the other birds noted.

Turtle Dove

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Cliffe Pools RSPB

I spent a couple of hours from the viewpoints this morning in hope of connecting with the Marsh Sandpiper but was caught off-guard by the chilly conditions and cut my losses rather than loiter for hours more. Black Barn Pool 3 held an incredible 21 Little Ringed Plovers, along with six Ringed Plovers and 12 Black-tailed Godwits. Among other highlights were a Green Sandpiper, two Curlew, a male Ruff, two Dunlin, a Raven, two Cetti's Warblers, a Lesser Whitethroat, Sedge and Reed Warblers, a Marsh Harrier, two Wigeon, 16 Gadwall, three Shovelers and 51 Teal. Avocets, Black-headed Gulls and Redshanks had well-grown or fledged young.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Cissbury Ring, Chorleywood and Sutton

First thing I walked the fields north of Cissbury Ring, noting two Ravens, Yellowhammer, two Bullfinches, eight Whitethroats, a few Skylarks, a Swallow and a Kestrel.

Non-birding wanderings produced Grey Wagtails at the Tropical Marine Centre in Chorleywood and in Sutton High Street.

Monday, 24 June 2019

West Worthing

It was pleasing to see an apparent increase to 18 Swifts over the garden in the evening.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Cissbury Ring and Medmerry RSPB

During a morning's ringing at Cissbury, singles of Garden Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat were in song and flyovers included two Ravens, 15 Swifts, three Swallows and a Grey Heron. We also noted two Bullfinches and two Whitethroats. The best catch was a juvenile Treecreeper.

juvenile Treecreeper at Cissbury Ring

I planned on heading to Cliffe Pools for the Marsh Sandpiper but ended up helping Ingrid on the allotment for a few hours before heading to Medmerry to listen to (and maybe see) the Quail. I didn't manage to lay eyes on it but there was no problem hearing the bird! This quest became rather secondary when Mike Booker pointed out a distant 'Marsh Harrier' which turned out to be a 2cy female Montagu's Harrier! After a relatively short initial view, the bird pitched down and an anxious wait followed as locals arrived. Thankfully, it went on to show very nicely for much of the following hour.

The evening held a third Sussex year-tick, with a mobile and vocal Green Sandpiper. A Spoonbill was a nice bonus and 11 Black-tailed Godwits, a distant singing Cuckoo, a few Mediterranean Gulls, a Cetti's Warbler, three Yellowhammers, two Reed Warblers and a Reed Bunting were among the other species logged.







2cy female Montagu's Harrier at Medmerry RSPB

Saturday, 22 June 2019

West Worthing

A Cormorant overhead was a notable garden record...

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Partridge Green-Dial Post and Sheepcote Valley

I spent the entire morning in the area between Partridge Green and Dial Post for the SOS Turtle Dove survey. Alas, I found no Turtle Doves but the area is huge and has several areas of good habitat, so I have little doubt that they will be present in the tetrad. Hopefully I will record them in the later survey visit. It was, however, an interesting morning, with 53 species recorded; that's not too bad for a basically random bit of countryside in mid-June. Among these were two Lesser Whitethroats, two Reed Warblers, a Garden Warbler, two Siskins, a Reed Bunting, a Red Kite, 11 Buzzards (including a juvenile heard), two Kestrels, a calling Sparrowhawk, 10 Great Spotted Woodpeckers (including juveniles), five Green Woodpeckers, 15 Yellowhammers, three Bullfinches, 18 Linnets, 20 Swallows, a House Martin, 10 Swifts, six Skylarks, 22 Blackcaps, 17 Chiffchaffs, 11 Whitethroats, Goldcrest feeding young, six Treecreepers, nine Nuthatches, eight Coal Tits, two Grey Herons, six Mistle Thrushes, 11 Song Thrushes, five Pied Wagtails (two juveniles) and two Mute Swans. Among the few butterflies seen was a Purple Hairstreak.

Driving past the Sheepcote Valley, a Swallow flew over the car.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Goring Gap, Cuckmere Haven and Lavington Common

Feeling considerably re-enthused, I got to the Gap first thing. Three Little Egrets and an Oystercatcher were on the beach, while three Sandwich Terns were offshore (one carrying a fish back to Pagham Harbour) and 12 Swifts moved east, possibly related to the incoming storm. Skylark, Whitethroat and Chiffchaff were in song. An adult Mediterranean Gull was on the greensward.

A stroll through Cuckmere Haven in the afternoon featured a Hobby, a Little Ringed Plover heard calling, two Egyptian Geese, six Teal, a scattering of Little Egrets, a juvenile Stonechat, a few Reed Buntings, Whitethroats, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits, and a Swallow. I saw a Painted Lady too.

Meadow Pipit at Cuckmere Haven

juvenile Stonechat at Cuckmere Haven

In West Worthing later, a Jackdaw heard calling was notable for home.

An atmospheric evening at Lavington Common, a site with wonderful echoing acoustics on a calm night like this, made for a satisfying close to the day. Five Nightjars were singing, all but one (heard across the road from the car park) in the northern section, so the entire site must host a considerable population. A pair of Cuckoos, a roding Woodcock, two Tawny Owls and dusk-singing Dartford Warbler and Stonechat were other stars of the soundscape. An Indian Peafowl was also heard, and is perhaps worth noting in light of the paper on the species' status in this month's British Birds.

Monday, 17 June 2019

The Burgh and West Worthing

A circuit around The Burgh featured two singing Corn Buntings, 20 Skylarks, five Lapwings, a singing Cuckoo, three Red Kites, six Buzzards, two Grey Partridges, a Swift, eight Swallows, four Kestrels, my first juvenile Whitethroats of the year, a couple of broods of Pheasant and my first Marbled White of the year.

At home, a Coal Tit was calling near the garden.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Combe Valley Countryside Park

It was hardly the weather for it, but I drove over to Hastings to see Christian's new flat and explore his new patch, Combe Valley Countryside Park, with him in the early evening. It's an impressive site, like a little Stodmarsh! We opted against staying after dark to listen for rare crakes due to the conditions but we did have a hawking Hobby, a singing Cuckoo and a scattering of Cetti's, Sedge and Reed Warblers, as well as Reed Buntings, and singles of Little Egret, Buzzard, Kestrel, etc. It would be nice to revisit on a more birdable day.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Pulborough Brooks RSPB

Unfortunate timing of various commitments meant I could only get to Pulborough at last knockings this evening, seeing the Red-necked Phalarope by the skin of my teeth as it drifted out of the corner for less than a minute, as darkness descended. Two Avocets and eight Egyptian Geese (including six young) were also out on the North Brooks.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Pagham Harbour and Carshalton

I was up bright and early at Pagham Harbour's North Wall following news last night of a Squacco Heron there. Disappointingly, only three or four other birders turned up - including regular Pagham birder Ian, with whom I had a nice chat - and rather predictably there was no sign of the heron. Two Whimbrel, a Dark-bellied Brent Goose and a Wigeon were some of the best birds out in the harbour and a couple of Cuckoos were singing, as were two Lesser Whitethroats. A Barn Owl quartered north of the wall, two Avocets were on the Ferry Pool and other waders included six Grey Plovers, 35 Black-tailed Godwits, six Dunlin and 12 Lapwings. Also noted were two Cetti's Warblers, a couple of Sedge and Reed Warblers, seven Gadwall, 10 Swifts, Mediterranean Gull, a Mistle Thrush, Common and Sandwich Terns, etc.

I was in Carshalton in the evening for a curry with birthday-boy Christian, and Magnus, where we saw a Grey Wagtail outside the restaurant.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Chantry Hill, Clapham and East Preston

A stroll around Chantry Hill was brought to life by the energetic songs of Corn Buntings, Yellowhammers, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits. Red Kites and Buzzards soared overhead, as did at least seven noisy Ravens.




Corn Bunting at Chantry Hill

Driving around later, a Red Kite flew over Clapham and Goldcrest was in song at Haskins Roundstone.

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Goring Gap

A 2.5-hour seawatch this morning did not produce the desired Storm-petrel or Balearic Shearwater, the highlight being a distant flock of nine Common Scoters. Otherwise, it was three Fulmars, eight Sandwich Terns, while a Skylark was singing and a Pied Wagtail flew along the beach...

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Pagham Harbour

Pagham Harbour (brief stops at Church Norton and Ferry Pool) offered 10 Little Terns among the clamour of Sandwich Terns, Common Terns, Black-headed Gulls and Mediterranean Gulls. A singing Cuckoo landed pretty close to me for a few seconds and other stuff noted included a Wigeon, a Gadwall, 22 Shelducks, four Great Crested Grebes, a Little Egret, a Buzzard, 19 Oystercatchers, 15 Black-tailed Godwits, 10 Turnstones, six Ringed Plovers, five Swifts, single Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, two Skylarks, three Swallows, two Reed Warblers, a Chiffchaff, three Blackcaps, and individual singing Lesser Whitethroat and Whitethroat.

Cuckoo

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Picket Post and Sullington

It wasn't a birding day, but on the drive back a Lapwing flew over the main road at Picket Post and while Ingrid was working in Sullington I took my usual walk around the nearby fields, where there were a couple of singing Yellowhammers, a Nuthatch, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a couple of Swifts, a Skylark, a Mistle Thrush and a flyover Black-headed Gull.

Monday, 3 June 2019

Telscombe, Hayle Estuary and St.Gothian Sands

I started the day at Telscombe, in search of the recently reported Quail. A couple of singing Corn Buntings and Yellowhammers, along with a fair few Skylarks and a handful of House Martins and Swifts were among the birds noted. However, my quest was cut short by news of the American Royal Tern's reappearance, this time on the Hayle Estuary in Cornwall.

Things were quickly shifted around and I set off west. News on the bird was positive till late morning and by the time I arrived at the Hayle Estuary at 4pm it had not been seen for over five hours. I wasn't quite sure how to play it but scanned the estuary for a short while, with three Whimbrel, five Wigeon and seven Little Egrets the most noteworthy observations, before taking a punt on looking off St.Gothian Sands, despite the bad light.

At St.Gothian Sands, there was of course orange-billed tern offshore but a steady procession of Manx Shearwaters went by, along with smaller numbers of Fulmar, Gannet, Kittiwake, Shag, Guillemot and Razorbill. A Reed Warbler was singing in the reedbed and another was gathering nesting material nearby. The main pool hosted Little Grebe and 15 Sand Martins, while a Meadow Pipit was in song on the slopes.

Deciding I wasn't in a fit state to drive back home, I crashed out at the Penzance YHA, getting a dorm to myself for £15, perhaps the biggest win of the day.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Cissbury Ring

A quiet morning's ringing at Cissbury featured a few interesting sightings. First of all, I was surprised to see two Shelducks on the downs opposite our ringing station, in the distance. A short while later, they were gone. Once it was starting to get quite hot, a Spotted Flycatcher made a brief appearance by our table, and a Cuckoo which had been singing in the distance flew past us then resumed proclaiming itself a little nearer. A Red Kite and four Buzzards got up towards the end of the session and other sightings included singing Yellowhammer, three Skylarks, a Kestrel, two Bullfinches, Red-legged Partridges, a singing Whitethroat, the Willow Warbler-mimicking Blackcap, a Mistle Thrush, a Swallow, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, and perhaps most unusual of all for Cissbury, a Coal Tit.

In terms of ringing, we didn't make double figures, even including retraps but it was nice to handle a couple of Song Thrushes and my first juvenile Robin of the year.

Spotted Flycatcher

Shelducks

juvenile Robin

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.