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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.

Lapwings

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.