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

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Flimwell and Belmont

Sadly, I keep forgetting I've been keeping a Sussex yearlist this year. It was very enjoyable for the first half of the year, although it soon became clear that I'd picked about the worst year possible for a serious attempt. Then autumn came along, full of expectation as usual, but as far as scarce bird finding and twitching has gone, it's fallen flat on its face. My local birding efforts have produced absolutely nothing unusual and seemingly the hours put in my birders across the county have given a similarly poor return, by and large, so there have been very few moments of excitement. There has been hardly anything to go for, and the very little that has occurred has done so at the least opportune times for me.

So it was nice for Sussex to have one small defibrillator hit when farmer Malcolm Phillips found a Serin at his Cedar Farm near Flimwell the other day. I finally managed to get over there this lunchtime, on the way up to my parents' for the weekend, and enjoyed good views of the bird feeding on a track. Only two other visiting birders were present though, and both were from out of the county! Malcolm's keeping the track seeded, so hopefully it will stick around for visitors at the weekend. A Marsh Tit was heard calling.

Serin near Flimwell

When I arrived in Belmont, I was pleased to see Redwings, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds feeding in the usual berry-laden tree in the car park.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Patching, Angmering Park Estate and No Man's Land area

Curious about the Patching area, I headed there this morning. I'd heard bad birding reviews of Patching Pond but looking at the satellite map I thought it worth a go. There was not a single bird on the water but a flock of 23 Long-tailed Tits moved through. On to Patching Hill then. There I found a Firecrest, a Red Kite, two Buzzards, four Yellowhammers, two Bullfinches and three Skylarks. A Song Thrush was in voice. A limited venture into the Angmering Park Estate featured a noisy Raven, a flyover redpoll, two more Firecrests, a Treecreeper, a couple of Nuthatches, etc. A Red-legged Partridge was heard beyond the woodland.

Yellowhammer at Patching Hill

In the late afternoon I visited the downs near No Man's Land. I realised I'd picked a bad vantage point for scanning for raptors but it was too late to change. Two Grey Partridges and four Red-legged Partridges were the best on offer.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Goring Gap

This morning's visit was terribly quiet. I gave the sea a chance but the only birds moving were four Common Gulls west. The beach held a Redshank, as well as a few Grey Plovers, Turnstones, Dunlin and Sanderling but these were pushed off by the tide and dog-walkers before I could count them properly. The highlights were two Firecrests along Ilex Avenue and a pair of Grey Wagtails. A Sparrowhawk and a Kestrel toured the fields, which held 31 Skylarks, 10 Pied Wagtails, a Meadow Pipit, six Mediterranean Gulls and a further eight Common Gulls. 17 Greenfinches was a decent count. Two Stonechats and three Goldcrests were among the other birds noted.

Monday, 11 November 2019

Adur Estuary

A visit during the rising tide this morning produced a Rock Pipit, a Snipe, two Grey Plovers, 20 Teal, a Cetti's Warbler, a Little Grebe, 60 Linnets, six Skylarks, two Stonechats, two Grey Wagtails, a Reed Bunting, 15 Redshanks, 85 Lapwings, a Little Egret, five Grey Herons, two Mute Swans, five Common Gulls, three Song Thrushes, three Meadow Pipits and a Buzzard.


Saturday, 9 November 2019

Banstead Woods

I'd arranged with Darragh for a vismig session from Hither Field but as I drove to the site I realised it was a no-hoper with such thick fog. Nonetheless, it was a good chance to catch up. We did log a Mistle Thrush, 37 Redwings and four Bullfinches. A singing Song Thrush was the first I'd heard in voice for some time.

Friday, 8 November 2019

Brooklands Park and West Tarring Allotments

A Brambling, two Siskins, a Linnet and two Meadow Pipits flew over during my walk around the park this morning. At the lake, a Kingfisher dashed into overhanging vegetation and two Grey Wagtails were vocal. The Mute Swan family was still complete and two Little Grebes were diving at the edges. A Sparrowhawk was bothered by a Carrion Crow and a Grey Heron flew from the stream. Three Cetti's Warblers were heard, though only two were singing, as was a Treecreeper. Two Turnstones were on the adjacent beach. Four Song Thrushes included one with a white longest tertial on its left wing, extensive white feathering on the breast and white 'thighs'. I was surprised to count 10 Chiffchaffs, including a flock of five in the sallow clump, and nine Goldcrests were dotted around. Three Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a Green Woodpecker also made their presence known. I counted at least 28 Coots and seven Moorhens on the lake.

Helping Ingrid out at her allotment at West Tarring in the early afternoon, we disturbed a male Vagrant Emperor from the grass. It landed in a nearby bush before flying off again of its own accord. There seem to be only around 10 Sussex records.

male Vagrant Emperor dragonfly at West Tarring Allotments

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

The Lizard and Porthgwarra

A few hours around The Lizard was fairly uneventful, though two high-flying Great Northern Divers, four u-turning Mistle Thrushes, a Chough, a Firecrest and a Raven featured, as well as singles of Siskin and Grey Wagtail.

Great Northern Diver over The Lizard

A quick visit to Porthgwarra secured nice views of the Pallas's Warbler which had been found in the sallows by the car park. A Firecrest, two Ravens, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Sparrowhawk were among the other birds logged during our short visit.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Sennen, Pendeen and Helston Boating Lake

There was no escape from the gank weather in Cornwall, but at least as we stood in the vast, shit-strewn field behind the shop at Sennen, we had an intimate encounter with the heavily moulting, hotly debated PADDYFIELD PIPIT. Surprising flyovers while on site included a Ruff and a Swallow, while a couple of Redwings flew through, a Raven was feeding and the fields were scattered with Skylarks and Meadow Pipits.

2cy+ Paddyfield Pipit at Sennen

An hour-and-a-half of seawatching at Pendeen was filled with auks, mainly Guillemots, probably in their thousands, but with a decent number of Razorbills thrown in. A Long-tailed Duck, a Bonxie, three Red-throated Divers, eight Mediterranean Gulls and the occasional Common Scoter kept interest up but we had to move on shortly after midday.

Helston Boating Lake was twitched for the adult drake LESSER SCAUP, which showed quite well, but we found the juvenile female mooted Lesser Scaup more intriguing. It looked alluringly like the real deal but the contrasting dark mantle was offputting. Frustratingly, it wouldn't reveal its wings in the field but someone dealt the killer blow on Twitter in the evening with an open wing shot, revealing far too much white in the wing bar in the primaries. Also present were 15 Shovelers and a Grey Wagtail.

adult drake Lesser Scaup at Helston Boating Lake

1cy female Lesser Scaup x Tufted Duck hybrid

Monday, 4 November 2019

Annandale Water

It was relentless rain in Edinburgh this morning and I needed to get down to Cornwall in good time so sacked off any ideas about a repeat visit to Musselburgh. The only birding I did do was at Annandale Water services on the A74(M) of all places, where highlights were a couple of Bullfinches and Siskins, and nine flyover Skylarks. The loch itself, overlooked by the dining area, held only a Little Grebe, two Tufted Ducks, a pair of Mute Swans and a few Moorhens and Mallards, but I began to think all service stations ought to create a nature/conservation area of some kind for visitors to engage with.

adult male Pied Wagtail

adult Lesser Black-backed Gull

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Musselburgh Lagoons and Kenmore

Up in Scotland for a do with Ingrid's family, I couldn't resist nipping out first thing this morning to Musselburgh Lagoons despite the wet and windy forecast. I realised that my hopes of finding scarce/rare ducks etc on the sea was rather fanciful given the conditions, and spent most of my limited time enjoying the birds on the scrapes. These included 191 Bar-tailed Godwits, two Black-tailed Godwits, perhaps 1,500 Oystercatchers and over 150 Lapwings. In a hurried look at the Firth of Forth I picked up a drake Long-tailed Duck and a Goosander, small numbers of Velvet Scoters, Eiders, Goldeneyes and Red-breasted Mergansers, while a Rock Pipit was along the sea wall.

The lunch party was in Kenmore, where we spotted three Bramblings, a smart drake Goosander and a couple of Goldeneyes, two Mistle Thrushes, as well as a handful of Siskins, Treecreepers, Coal Tits and Goldcrests.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Goring Gap

It was back to local birding this morning. I didn't have much time so figured a vismig/seawatch from Goring Gap was the best bet. Overhead movement included 390 Goldfinches, 127 Linnets, 19 Pied/White Wagtails and 27 Meadow Pipits. A Rock Pipit feeding on the beach was my first 'on the deck' record here, and two Yellowhammers in the bushes represented my second site record (and first multiple). A flock of 16 Skylarks toured the fields and two Stonechats were in the rough grass. Offshore moved two Wigeon, 19 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, three Razorbills and another three distant auks. Two Common Scoters were on the sea. The beach held a Redshank and small numbers of Grey Plover, Sanderling, Ringed Plover and Dunlin, and a Little Egret.

Rock Pipit

Saturday, 26 October 2019

St.Mary's and Scillonian III

Our last day was uneventful, with a second day of horrid weather, and this time it wasn't even worth seawatching. St.Mary's offered five Black Redstarts, a Peregrine, a 1cy White Wagtail, a Wigeon, an adult Mediterranean Gull, and best of all a 2cy Yellow-legged Gull which flew north past us at Porthloo.

The crossing back to Penzance had limited daylight, especially as it was running half an hour late due to the conditions, but we had a dark morph Arctic Skua, a Bonxie and a few Kittiwakes. I had a couple of frustrating glimpses of a storm petrel sp between the waves.

Despite the mucky end, it was another fabulous week on Scilly with Phil, Ian, Mag and Paul, birding from dawn to dusk and retreating to the pub each night.

Friday, 25 October 2019


It was wet and windy today so we ended up doing little other than a couple of seawatches off Peninnis Head. Besides a handful of Razorbills, Guillemots and Kittiwakes, the only bird I managed to lay eyes on was a Leach's Storm-petrel, which afforded somewhat unsatisfactory views from our vantage point.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

St.Mary's and St.Martin's

An initial look around Porthcressa and The Garrison was quiet, with only a Wheatear and a Kingfisher on the beach of any real note.

St.Martin's offered superb views of what was presumably the same Hen Harrier we saw over Peninnis Head the other day. Today it was identifiable as a juvenile female as it play-hunted sticks and had a half-hearted go at a female Pheasant. We also noted a Whinchat, a Golden Plover, 13 Snipe, 25 Ringed Plovers, a Peregrine, two Ravens, a Skylarks and two Greenshanks.

Once back on 'home turf' in the evening we had another look for the Blyth's Reed Warbler at Rosehill and achieved just-identifiable views before dusk set in. We also managed point-blank views of the adult Whooper Swan which arrived on the island last night, along with a feeding Snipe.

1cy Blyth's Reed Warbler at Rosehill, St.Mary's

adult Whooper Swan at Lower Moors, St.Mary's

Wednesday, 23 October 2019


We completed a circuit of the island today. We enjoyed a tranquil lunch at Watermill Cove in the company of a juvenile SPOTTED SANDPIPER. It was seen off briefly by our first Kingfisher of the trip but soon returned for other birders to enjoy. After carefully comparing images, it seems likely to be a different bird to the St.Agnes individual. Other highlights today included a Black Redstart, two Merlins, three Common Scoters, 75 Sanderlings, a Greenshank, a couple of Bramblings, five Siskins, two Wheatears, a Firecrest, three Skylarks, a Swallow, two Sparrowhawks, two Water Rails and nine Kittiwakes.

juvenile Spotted Sandpiper

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

St.Mary's and Tresco

An initial walk on St.Mary's through The Garrison saw us encounter the BLUE ROCK THRUSH again, showing at much closer range, and a heard-only Yellow-browed Warbler. We scoped across to Samson and counted a record total of eight Spoonbills, while a summer-plumaged Great Northern Diver was feeding just off that island and five Bar-tailed Godwits were in flight with a flock of Curlew. Two Mediterranean Gulls were in The Roads. A Black Redstart was on The Garrison and we had three Wheatears and a Brambling. A Stock Dove on a rock off Porthcressa Beach was out-of-place.

Our day on Tresco was successful, with an ISABELLINE WHEATEAR found by Steve Broyd, a more obliging Yellow-browed Warbler, an adult male Waxwing flycatching from wires, two Black Redstarts, juvenile drake Scaup, two Pochards, 30 Siskins, a Swallow, a Peregrine, three Snipe, three Greenshanks, four Redshanks, a Water Rail and two Wigeon.

Isabelline Wheatear

adult male Waxwing

1cy drake Scaup

Back on St.Mary's in the evening we managed flight views (and more importantly calls) from the RED-THROATED PIPIT found on Peninnis Head, before it cleared off towards Gugh/St.Agnes.

Monday, 21 October 2019


On our third attempt we caught up with the Spotted Crake at Lower Moors, which performed nicely alongside the path. Later on, a first-winter Citrine Wagtail was found at Salakee Farm and we connected with this in the end too as it creeped about a cattle field. Watching a fine male Hawfinch opposite the riding stables in the evening was a fine way to end the day. Other highlights today included two Yellow-browed Warblers, two Pink-footed Geese, two Bramblings, two Merlins, three Peregrines, a Greenshank, a few Snipe, a couple of Water Rails, an adult Mediterranean Gull, a flock of 16 Stock Doves, a Cetti's Warbler, five Swallows, three Wheatears, three Siskins and hundreds of Redwings and Fieldfares.

Spotted Crake at Lower Moors

male Hawfinch at Pelistry

Merlin at Pelistry

Sunday, 20 October 2019

St.Mary's, St.Agnes and Gugh

We headed round to The Garrison before getting a boat over to St.Agnes, at least that was the plan. On the way along Porthcressa beach, we passed Dick Filby and Tim Vaughan who were on their way to Peninnis Head. Not long afterwards - while we were on the Lower Broome Platform - Dick radioed out that they'd had a Chestnut-eared Bunting fly from one of the lower fields on Peninnis! We wasted no time in charging over there, but it soon became clear that they bird had moved through as quickly as it reappeared. We figured our chances of being heroes in relocating the bird were comparable with our odds of finding a new mega on St.Agnes - and there were British ticks on offer on that island for some of the team - so at the last moment we decided to resume the original plan. We were of course the only birders on the boat to St.Agnes, but it turned out to be a good move!

A productive day on St.Agnes saw us connect with the SUBALPINE WARBLER and the SPOTTED SANDPIPER, while we spotted two Lapland Buntings and a Merlin. Other stuff noted included a Spotted Flycatcher, a Whinchat, a Greenshank, a Willow Warbler, 35 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, good numbers of Redwings - with a few Fieldfares mixed in, three Wheatears, a Grey Wagtail, three Siskins and a Skylark. Stepping a few feet onto Gugh paid off with a big Scilly tick when a Yellowhammer flew east over us!
1cy Spotted Sandpiper on St.Agnes

1cy Spotted Flycatcher on St.Agnes

The only birds of note seen and heard on St.Mary's before/after our trip to Aggy were a juvenile Hen Harrier over Peninnis Head, two Ravens over Porthcressa Bay and a Water Rail at Lower Moors, plus a Wheatear on Porthcressa Beach, scores of Redwings and a Grey Wagtail. A Lapwing flew from St.Agnes to St.Mary's while we were on the boat.

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Penzance, Scillonian crossing and St.Mary's

While Ian, Phil, Mag, Paul and I waited on the Scillonian III, we enjoyed a summer adult Red-throated Diver fishing just off the boat. A Grey Wagtail and a few Shags were around, then we set off. The way over was quiet, but there was a Sooty Shearwater, three Arctic Skuas and a Bonxie, as well as decent numbers of Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Razorbills and Gannets, and a couple of pods of Common Dolphins.

adult summer Red-throated Diver

Our first day of birding on St.Mary's saw us eventually connect with the BLUE ROCK THRUSH on Peninnis Head after what felt like a painful foreverness, and a couple of near-misses, but in reality we were very lucky compared to others who have truly struggled to see this bird. We connected with no other rarities or scarcities by sundown, but a Whimbrel, a Greenshank, a small number of Wheatears and Stonechats were around, and at Lower Moors in the evening we heard three or so Water Rails.

1cy Blue Rock Thrush on Peninnis Head

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Goring Gap

The sky was quite lively till about 9am when low pressure really moved in and brought some showers. Six Reed Buntings, 430 Goldfinches, 228 Linnets, 87 Meadow Pipits, 51 Pied/White Wagtails, 15 Chaffinches, 83 Swallows, seven House Martins and 14 Skylarks moved through by this point. Of a flock of 15 Long-tailed Tits feeding at the seaward end of The Plantation, 11 suddenly took off, gained height and headed really quite high north, calling excitedly. At the same spot, I was similarly stunned to find a Cetti's Warbler... very out of place! Four Chiffchaffs and four Goldcrests were in the bushes. Seven Dark-bellied Brent Geese were offshore, and the beach had four Grey Herons, three Little Egrets, and small numbers of Grey Plover, Sanderling, Turnstone, Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher, which I didn't manage to count as I was too busy logging finches overhead.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Brooklands Pleasure Park

Clear highlights of the morning were my first Brambling of the autumn, heard over the treatment works access road, where there was a Firecrest. Otherwise, it felt very much a repeat of my last few visits, with two Cetti's Warblers, a Grey Wagtail, nine Chiffchaffs, eight Goldcrests, a Treecreeper, 80 Goldfinches, three Little Grebes, three Teal and the family of Mute Swans...

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Goring Gap

Another slow two-hour seawatch produced 13 Common Scoters, 83 Gannets, a Kittiwake, 13 Common Gulls, seven auks; also seen were two Little Egrets, five Turnstones, a Grey Plover, an Oystercatcher, five Ringed Plovers, three Linnets, 18 Meadow Pipits and an adult Mediterranean Gull.

Friday, 11 October 2019


A seawatch from the pier, before I got turfed off due to the wind reaching Force 8, was slow-going but did produce a juvenile Shag - a Sussex tick for me - and an adult Little Gull heading west, along with a Great Crested Grebe, seven Kittiwakes, 11 Common Scoters, 78 Gannets, a Grey Plover, two Dunlin. Too distant and brief for firm ID were 12 auks and three Common/Arctic Terns. A Red-throated Diver was on the sea. Two Turnstones were on the pier and six Common Gulls and a juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull were noted.

juvenile Shag

Wednesday, 9 October 2019


A magnificent twitch with George Kinnard to Galgorm in Country Antrim saw us connect with the adult male COMMON NIGHTHAWK. Along with a small crowd, including Niall Keogh, Toby Carter, Austin Morley and the Viles crew, we admired the bird for hours at its day roost just by the road, then enjoyed spectacular views of the bird hawking along the River Maine at dusk, often passing within inches of us. We also enjoyed Irish Coal Tit, a flock of redpolls, a Siskin and a Grey Wagtail.

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Brooklands Pleasure Park and Adur Estuary

It was a rather similar visit to last time. Overhead, a Siskin, a Swallow, five Skylarks, three Rooks, 12 Meadow Pipits, 12 Linnets, 49 Goldfinches and six Pied/White Wagtails moved through. At the lake, four Teal, two Little Grebes and the family of Mute Swans were feeding, while two Mediterranean Gulls were loafing and a Grey Wagtail flew across the water. Scattered in the bushes were 24 Chiffchaffs, nine Goldcrests, two Blackcaps, a Treecreeper, a Song Thrush and two Coal Tits. Two of both Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers made themselves obvious.

In the late afternoon I met up with David Darrell-Lambert for a quick look at the Adur Estuary before his evening talk for the SDOS. Highlights were a 1cy Yellow-legged Gull, two Canada Geese (locally uncommon), three Little Egrets, eight Oystercatchers, 19 Ringed Plovers, a Turnstone and seven of both Common Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Monday, 7 October 2019

Cissbury Ring

After my failed attempt yesterday, I returned to Cissbury Ring in somewhat calmer conditions to search for Ring Ouzels, and I certainly found some. I encountered a few small flocks, though none settled for very long - around 20 birds in all, some giving that delightful burbling call. Not a touch on some recent counts elsewhere, but I was equally pleased to count 50 Song Thrushes, mostly actively migrating overhead. There were also two Mistle Thrushes again around the yews, and a single Redwing over. Three Golden Plovers and a Siskin also passed overhead, along with 34 Skylarks, four Reed Buntings, a House Martin, eight Swallows, 65 Meadow Pipits, 33 Linnets and 54 Chaffinches. A Firecrest, 15 Goldcrests, 18 Chiffchaffs, nine Blackcaps and five Stonechats were on the ground. Other birds included three Yellowhammers, two Bullfinches, a Treecreeper, a Nuthatch, two Green Woodpeckers, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Kestrel and 30 Long-tailed Tits.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

West Worthing, Widewater Lagoon and Cissbury Ring

My first Redwing of the season, a little overdue, was heard over my garden this morning but with clear skies and a strong breeze it was no surprise that my attempt at vismig otherwise fell a bit flat, with four Pied/White Wagtails, five Meadow Pipits and three Goldfinches moving. A Goldcrest and a Coal Tit were calling next door and a Common Gull overhead was a fairly uncommon sight from the patio.

I took Ingrid to Widewater so she could go for a dog-walk with a friend from Brighton and I went off to look for birds for half an hour. A Kingfisher alighted for a few minutes on a little boat at the back of someone's house, and a fine adult female Sparrowhawk was doing the rounds of the waterside gardens while a Kestrel hovered nearby. Two Teal, five Mute Swans and five Little Egrets were on the water and the beach had a Turnstone. I also noted a Grey Wagtail, four Linnets, a House Martin and six Meadow Pipits.

With the windy conditions, a long to-do list and man-flu recovery still underway, I'd otherwise written off the day for birding but it was a busy day on the pager and I wondered whether I should have got out and done something purposeful for the first few hours of the morning. In the afternoon, loads of Ring Ouzel reports came through from Sussex and I figured there simply had to be some at Cissbury Ring, so went for a quick look. All small birds seen were diving straight into deep cover but grilling the yew trees revealed two Mistle Thrushes. Deflated, I headed back to the car - though I was cheered on the way by bumping into Nick and Claire - I figured they'd find some ouzels shortly after I went, and of course they did! All I noted otherwise was a couple of Kestrels and Blackcaps, and a Goldcrest.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Brooklands Pleasure Park

The highlights of a couple of hours at Brooklands were three Siskins, 42 Meadow Pipits, 19 Pied/White Wagtails, two Grey Wagtails, six House Martins, 12 Swallows and a Skylark overhead. 11 Goldcrests and 20 Chiffchaffs were scattered in the bushes. A Treecreeper and three Coal Tits, two Green Woodpeckers and a Great Spotted Woodpecker were also noted. The lake held the whole Mute Swan family, a Little Grebe and four Teal.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Goring Gap and West Worthing

With a northwesterly breeze I thought I'd give some vismigging at Goring Gap a go, though the clear blues skies did not particularly help. Passerines included two Reed Buntings, 344 Meadow Pipits, 61 Pied/White Wagtails, a Grey Wagtail, two Sand Martins, 121 House Martins, 33 Swallows, 53 Linnets, 12 Chaffinches, 40 Goldfinches, four Skylarks and two Jackdaws. On the ground was a Wheatear, six Stonechats, two Song Thrushes, seven Goldcrests, three Whitethroats, three Blackcaps, nine Chiffchaffs. Offshore, Dark-bellied Brent Geese were returning from Siberia, with 122 heading west, along with a flock of seven Shelducks. A Whimbrel, a Redshank, three Grey Herons, 16 Little Egrets, eight Ringed Plovers and 19 Turnstones were on the beach. Also around were two Kestrels, a Sparrowhawk, two Mediterranean Gulls and three Common Gulls. Three Great Spotted Woodpeckers included two so embroiled in a silent and note particularly violent face-off that they argued just feet away from me.

Casual observations around and over the garden in West Worthing included singles of Chiffchaff, Meadow Pipit, Coal Tit and Sparrowhawk.

Monday, 30 September 2019

West Worthing, Brooklands Pleasure Park and Adur Estuary

With much to do around the house, I reluctantly stayed in this morning but kept an eye on the skies whenever I popped into the garden, noting 22 Meadow Pipits, 23 Swallows, two Chiffchaffs, a Goldcrest and a garden-tick Little Egret.

In the afternoon I squeezed in flying visits to Brooklands Pleasure Park and the Adur Estuary. At Brooklands highlights included a Grey Wagtail, a Little Grebe, five Teal, a House Martin, 11 Chiffchaffs, two Lesser Black-backed Gulls, three Goldcrests, a Little Egret and the entire Mute Swan family still going strong.

The tide was still a little high on the Adur and I only stayed a few minutes, noting four of both Little Egret and Turnstone, a Ringed Plover and a Mute Swan. I've got a reputation for losing and breaking things but have a hitherto respectable track record of keeping my notebooks safe, but this evening I do seem to have lost my current 'edition'. It received a thorough soaking at Spurn and was still recovering from that so had evidently become ill-fated.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Goring Gap

It was rather gusty this morning but some passerines struggled through, namely four Yellow Wagtails, six Pied/White Wagtails, six Swallows and 65 Meadow Pipits. Offshore my first two local Dark-bellied Brent Geese of the autumn headed west, along with two Common Scoters and 13 Gannets. As the tide rose, 84 Turnstones, four Sanderlings, 31 Ringed Plovers and a Dunlin gathered in the roost field, only to be spooked by a passing Sparrowhawk. A Kestrel was flung along the beach by the breeze. Three Skylarks were by the coast road and a Chiffchaff was calling from the seaward end of The Plantation.

Friday, 27 September 2019


I only had a couple of hours before I had to leave, and DDL kindly dropped me in Hull. Getting in the field provided a last-minute headline bird, with a Red-rumped Swallow south past Numpties some 20 minutes after it flew over the observatory less than a mile away. The highlight at sea was a reluctant Manx Shearwater which kept pitching down. Little Gulls flocked in the far distance and the usual Red-throated DiversCommon Scoters and auks passed by. The swallow diverted our attention to the amazing vismig action, with Meadow PipitsReed Buntings and Tree Sparrows piling through, while I also noted singles of Yellow WagtailGrey Wagtail and Yellowhammer. I heard a Greenshank on the Humber.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Spurn and Keyingham

Another day of unfavourable conditions. A Sooty Shearwater, a Swift, a Merlin, a Hobby terrorising Starlings, a Fulmar, four Wheatears, two Yellow Wagtails, a Whimbrel, four Sand Martins, several Red-throated Divers and Common ScotersRazorbillGuillemot, a Greenshank, two Avocets, a Snipe and some Golden Plovers in-off, and nine Pintails were among the day's highlights.

We saw a Hobby over nearby Keyingham.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019


Conditions were far from ideal. Today's highlights included two Pied Flycatchers, an Eider, three Red-breasted Mergansers, 19 Pink-footed Geese, 11 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, seven Wheatears, five Yellowhammers, a Grey Wagtail, a Yellow Wagtail, two Lesser Whitethroats, hundreds of Meadow Pipitsand Golden Plovers, a Willow Warbler, 30 Skylarks, a Peregrinehunting over the Humber, two of both Arctic Skuaand Great Skua, dozens of Little Gullsand Mediterranean Gulls, a Snipeand an Avocet.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019


Again I can't present a particularly impressive return from the day's birding at Spurn, and today's excuse is our rather foolhardy decision to walk The Point. There were virtually no migrants to be found, the best being a flyover Tree Pipit. A look around the Humber and Kilnsea Wetlands produced a typical assortment of common waders and wildfowl, including 30 Dark-bellied Brent Geese and a Greenshank, but the day was only salvaged somewhat by another enjoyable, though in reality quiet, seawatch in the evening. This produced an Arctic Skua, a few Red-throated Divers, a minor movement of Common Terns and Sandwich Terns, and four Snipe in-off. A Pied Flycatcher was in the bushes around The Warren with a Redstart.

Monday, 23 September 2019


A gentle start to our Spurn trip saw David Darrell-Lambert and I have a quick seawatch, though we saw little other than two Red-throated Divers and a Guillemot in half an hour. Kilnsea Wetlands and Beacon Ponds were very quiet, with the tide way out, but over 500 Teal and 100 Wigeon were present, along with three Knot, a Snipe and an Avocet. Tree Sparrows were in the obs garden. No serious birding really, just settling in. A walk down The Point is planned for tomorrow.

Sunday, 22 September 2019


Recently I began to wonder why I hadn't tried seawatching from Worthing Pier. In fact nobody seems to have done so in the time that I've lived here. I figured it might be a wise option on days with strong onshore winds, when seawatching would be the inevitable focus and vismig or migrant-seeking would be a dead loss. Today's forecast didn't expect any particular blow but it predicted a reasonable onshore breeze with showers, so I walked to the pier for a test watch this morning. Frustratingly, the forecast was misleading and there was only a light easterly (though it did veer southeast) with no sign of any showers. It dawned on me I should have been vismigging or migrant-seeking... I really should know by now that the given wind speed and rain outlook figures generally ought to be at least halved.

It was quiet, but somehow I managed to happily while away over two hours, mainly spent counting Gannets: 423 in total, with a roughly even split heading each way. The highlight was a close adult Red-throated Diver, but otherwise three Kittiwakes and six Common Scoters were the best on offer. 24 Mediterranean Gulls, two Common Gulls, 10 Sandwich Terns, nine Swallows and, oddly, a Grey Heron also flew past offshore. Two Grey Wagtails and four Meadow Pipits were heard overhead. In addition, a Little Egret was feeding on the beach and a Turnstone could be heard at roost below the pier. It was satisfying to hear a tannoy early on a Sunday morning telling a dog-walker to get off the beach, as it's now a no-dog zone. If only the powers that be would prioritise conservation over neurotic hygiene for sweaty beachgoers and make areas like Goring Gap a no-dog zone instead.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Adur Estuary

So far this year I'd managed to avoid any Greenshank on the Adur Estuary so I was pleased to see one in flight this morning, while waders were otherwise represented by a Dunlin, 20 Ringed Plovers, a Redshank and 24 Turnstones. Four Mistle Thrushes, which felt like my first in ages, flew over, and I was surprised to rack up six Song Thrushes. 40 House Martins drifted through well above the 13 Swallows logged. Five Reed Buntings were in an adjacent field, along with a Stonechat, and 20 Meadow Pipits travelled east. Two Whitethroats, six Blackcaps and seven Chiffchaffs were in the riverside bushes, some of these being in with a flock of 15 Long-tailed Tits. A young female Sparrowhawk drifted over and a Kestrel was also seen. Two Kingfishers shot along the river and other birds included a Grey Wagtail, seven Pied Wagtails, four Mute Swans, three Little Egrets, a Grey Heron, two Mallards and nine Collared Doves.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Highdown and Steep Down

A morning walk at Highdown featured a Reed Bunting, six Stonechats, four Yellow Wagtails, 62 Meadow Pipits, two Bullfinches, seven Goldcrests, a Whitethroat, 10 Blackcaps, nine Chiffchaffs, nine House Martins, 24 Swallows, a Sand Martin, two Skylarks, a Buzzard, a Kestrel and two Mallards.

male Stonechat at Highdown - an influx today

Late in the afternoon I took a brief stroll around Steep Down, logging another six Stonechats, six Meadow Pipits, a Corn Bunting, 70 Linnets, 30 Goldfinches, a Whitethroat, two Blackcaps, two Chiffchaffs, two Kestrels and a Buzzard.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Goring Gap and Pagham Harbour

A walk around Goring Gap produced a Reed Bunting, a Spotted Flycatcher, a Treecreeper, a Yellow Wagtail, two Wheatears, a Grey Wagtail, 33 Meadow Pipits, nine Chiffchaffs, nine Swallows, a Whitethroat, six Goldcrests, an eastbound Rook, six Jackdaws and a Little Egret.

I met up with Phil at Pagham Harbour's North Wall late afternoon and we ended up whiling away the evening. We dipped the Lapland Bunting but as the tide ebbed, revealing the mud, there was a pleasing array of waders to pick through in the distance. From our admittedly not ideal viewing position we picked out a Curlew Sandpiper, 20 Knot, a Common Sandpiper, seven Snipe, 55 Grey Plovers, 35 Ringed Plovers, a Turnstone, four Greenshanks, 80 Dunlin, 38 Lapwings, 19 Black-tailed Godwits, a Bar-tailed Godwit, 65 Oystercatchers, 60 Redshanks and 30 Curlew. An Osprey offered fantastic views as it played at fishing - my first of the year. 14 Pintail were also in the harbour, along with small flocks of Wigeon and Teal. Other birds included three Cattle Egrets, nine Great Crested Grebes, eight Little Egrets, 20 Great Black-backed Gulls, five Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a couple of Yellow Wagtails (I missed a big flock seen earlier), a Kingfisher, a Sparrowhawk, a Buzzard, five Mediterranean Gulls, a Cetti's Warbler, 80 Swallows, two Sand Martins, a Reed Bunting, a Wheatear and a Lesser Whitethroat.
Cattle Egret at Pagham Harbour

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

West Worthing and Pagham Harbour

In the garden today I heard Coal Tit and Chiffchaff. I was astonished when a female Brown Hairstreak landed on the edge of our pond!

female Brown Hairstreak in my garden

This evening's visit for Wryneck was a dip, sadly, but two Whimbrel, a Bar-tailed Godwit, a Yellow Wagtail, two Wheatears, a Cetti's Warbler, three Teal and three Little Egrets were some of the birds that caught my attention while searching.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Cissbury Ring and Farlington Marshes

Val kindly agreed that I could go ringing but shoot off at 9am as I'd played it cool with the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler yesterday and was beginning to worry. It turned out to be a productive ringing session, with Spotted Flycatcher and Reed Warbler the headline birds caught by the time I left. At this point we had also processed 39 Blackcaps, 15 Goldcrests and six Chiffchaffs. Birds noted included a juvenile Peregrine, three Siskins, a Tree Pipit, seven Yellow Wagtails, a Grey Wagtail, 15 Meadow Pipits, two Yellowhammers, a Bullfinch, 40 House Martins, 10 Swallows, two Ravens and a Tawny Owl.

Spotted Flycatcher at Cissbury Ring

After eventually getting parked at Farlington Marshes, the EASTERN OLIVACEOUS WARBLER gave itself up nicely to the appreciative crowd, with a Garden Warbler nearby and two flyover Yellow Wagtails.

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler at Farlington Marshes

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Hastings Country Park, Pett, Pannel Valley NR and Dungeness RSPB

Highlights at Hastings Country Park with Christian included a Grasshopper Warbler, a female Redstart, four Lesser Whitethroats, two Spotted Flycatchers, a Whinchat, a Wheatear, three Tree Pipits, three Yellow Wagtails, two Grey Wagtails, 100 Meadow Pipits, a Bullfinch, three Yellowhammers, seven Stonechats, a Nuthatch, eight Whitethroats, 40 Blackcaps, 30 Chiffchaffs and good numbers of hirundines, including 14 Sand Martins. Sandwich Tern and Gannet were offshore and raptors included eight Buzzards and a Sparrowhawk.

We stopped at the quirky Tic Tocery cafe in Pett where House Martins were still attending active nests, and a Sparrowhawk and a Kestrel battled for airspace.

Pannel Valley NR was depressing, with the scrape dry, but we did note two Bearded Tits, a Marsh Harrier, a Raven, a couple of Sparrowhawks, a Sand Martin among further hirundines moving, 95 Lapwings, a Cetti's Warbler, two Shelducks, two Whitethroats, a Grey Wagtail, three Meadow Pipits, a Wheatear, three Nuthatches and a Reed Bunting.

Dungeness RSPB offered a fine end to the day. The ARC Pit offered four Garganey, two juvenile Black Terns, an adult Little Gull, a Cattle Egret, a Great White Egret, two Snipe, four Dunlin, four Ruff, three Black-tailed Godwits, 160 Golden Plovers, two Common Sandpipers, a Greenshank, three Pintail, a Sedge Warbler, etc. Burrowes Pit provided a Black-necked Grebe, two 1cy Caspian Gulls, two Yellow-legged Gulls (2cy and 1cy) and a further Great White Egret. Three Cetti's Warblers were heard. The entrance track had three Whinchats and two Wheatears for our way out.

Whinchats at Dungeness RSPB

Cattle Egret at Dungeness RSPB

Golden Plovers at Dungeness RSPB

Great White Egret at Dungeness RSPB

1cy Caspian Gull at Dungeness RSPB

Friday, 13 September 2019

Kipping's Cross, East Guldeford, The Midrips and Rye Harbour

My short East Sussex break began at Kipping's Cross services with a Red Kite. East Guldeford was frustrating as I couldn't find a legitimate way on to the levels, with singles of Marsh Harrier and Yellow Wagtail the best in my limited watching. Out of curiosity, I popped in to The Midrips, which was even more disappointing. A Marsh Harrier was over the fields at the back and the beach held Turnstone, Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher but the only waders on the pools were three Redshanks. Nine Sandwich Terns and two Gannets were offshore.

Christian joined me for an evening at Rye Harbour, where birds seen included 50 Sandwich Terns, 10 Common Terns, a Kingfisher, three Yellow Wagtails, two Grey Plovers, a Golden Plover, eight Knot, 60 Curlews, 90 Oystercatchers and nine Wigeon, to pick out a few.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Ferring Rife

A walk along the Rife produced three Yellow Wagtails, 13 Meadow Pipits, 210 Swallows and six House Martins overhead. A Spotted Flycatcher, a Willow Warbler, a Goldcrest, two Whitethroats, a Blackcap and five Chiffchaffs were in the bushes. A Sparrowhawk nearly nabbed one of two Grey Wagtails. A Little Egret was feeding and two Grey Herons were seen. Seven Collared Doves, four Jackdaws, 30 Goldfinches, a Buzzard and a Green Woodpecker were among the other birds logged. There was a single gathering of perhaps 150 House Sparrows, which was a pleasure to watch.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Goring Gap and Pulborough Brooks RSPB

I didn't end up staying long at Goring Gap first thing, but noted three Yellow Wagtails, two Ringed Plovers, four Sanderlings, a Common Gull, a Skylark and eight each of Gannet, Little Egret and Oystercatcher.

Having only had a fleeting look at the Red-necked Phalarope at Pulborough Brooks RSPB in the spring, news of a juvenile on the North Brooks had me heading over to the reserve. It was of course distant, but this smart bird could be enjoyed for much longer than the last one, as it span crazily on the nearer pool. A juvenile Little Ringed Plover, two Black-tailed Godwits, two Green Sandpipers, a Common Sandpiper, two Dunlin, 15 Lapwings and three Snipe shared the pools. A Marsh Harrier quartered and singles of Whinchat and Wheatear added to the scene. Over 200 House Martins streamed through in the time I was there, with the odd Sand Martin and Swallow thrown in. A flock of 10 Pintail was an unexpected sight and Teal numbered 160, though a Mandarin and two Shoveler were just about the only other ducks. A Grey Wagtail flew over and other birds noted included two Nuthatches, two Treecreepers, a Goldcrest, two Green Woodpeckers and a Lesser Black-backed Gull.

juvenile Red-necked Phalarope at Pulborough Brooks RSPB

Pintail flock at Pulborough Brooks RSPB

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

West Worthing and Highdown

Along my road today, a Chiffchaff was calling from gardens and a Meadow Pipit flew over.

The morning's highlights at Highdown were three of both Spotted Flycatcher and Redstart, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Sand Martin, two House Martins, 27 Swallows, seven Whitethroats, 13 Chiffchaffs, 20 Blackcaps, 10 Meadow Pipits, five Bullfinches, a Red-legged Partridge, three Skylarks, a Goldcrest, a Sparrowhawk, a Kestrel and two Nuthatches.

female Redstart

female Redstart

1cy male Redstart (right) and Spotted Flycatcher

Spotted Flycatcher