Emperor Bird-of-Paradise - Huon Peninsular, Papua New Guinea (July 2019)

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Thursday, 14 November 2019

Seaford Head & Lower Cuckmere 14/11/19

A calm morning followed on from a night of strong southerly winds. There was a small arrival of Crests, with Firecrests equalling the number of Goldcrests present. A surprise encounter when walking down Hope Bottom was a Water Rail that ran across my path. This is only the second Water Rail I've seen on the headland.

As I had time I decided to walk the Lower Cuckmere. I had only got halfway down the western path when a small bird flock stopped me in my tracks. A Warbler that certainly warranted a closer look was flitting around very low down over the ditch and acting suspiciously. I was disappointed in the fact that it wasn't a Dusky Warbler, but also pleased that it was clearly a Siberian Chiffchaff. I enjoyed prolonged views as it fed seemingly unconcerned of my presence, and at times was flitting underneath where I was standing and showing incredibly well. The bird responded very well when I played a short recording of Siberian Chiffchaff. A bog-standard Chiffchaff was also present for a brief time.

Siberian Chiffchaff at Lower Cuckmere

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Newhaven Harbour 13/11/19

After some distant views of the Great Bustard mid-afternoon, I noticed the tide was out and decided to spend the remaining hour of light at Newhaven Harbour. With not much happening I was then surprised to see a Caspian Gull flying in from the east. Its 'hooded' appearance was instantly recognisable from afar and it helpfully landed on the beach confirming my original thoughts. The Gull only stayed for five minutes and nothing else was found up until dark.

1w Caspian Gull

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Lower Cuckmere 7/11/19

A redhead Goosander was among the large numbers of wildfowl in the Lower Cuckmere this morning. It was happily feeding along the channels closest to either of the paths that surround the Cuckmere. There were no yank counterparts of either Wigeon or Teal, and with that not much else of note either.

redhead Goosander at Lower Cuckmere

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Birling Gap - Great Bustard 6/11/19

After a long walk with Jasper around Seaford Head and the Lower Cuckmere, the exciting news of a Great Bustard at Birling Gap was put out on a WhatsApp group. It transpired that Simon and the SOS group had watched the bird fly in from the east and land in the sheep field at Birling. Despite the fact this was most likely going to be one of the Salisbury Plain birds, I was on site within 15-minutes.

The Great Bustard was still present upon my arrival and stayed in the area for another hour before flying off west being harried by a Greater Black-backed Gull. It was bearing a red ring on the left leg with the code '92'. The wings weren't in the best condition that one would hope from a wild bird and therefore I think it's best to assume this bird had been released from a few counties to the west of us.

Turns out this was the case as I received an email from Ruth Manvell who is director of the Great Bustard Group: 'The Great Bustard seen at Birling Gap today is a juvenile female about 5.5 months old from the Wiltshire project. She was released around Salisbury Plain area in mid-August and we last saw her about two weeks ago. She was hatched from an egg imported from Spain back in early May. The females are usually quite shy and nervous. She was released with others but she stayed around until recently and we are not sure where the others are at the moment.' 

juvenile-female Great Bustard
at Birling Gap

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Cuckmere Haven 5/11/19

A very uninspiring morning down the Cuckmere was enlivened by finding a Cattle Egret at the mouth of the river. Initially sat among the saltmarsh, it then flew and landed on the wooden fence joining some Black-headed Gulls. There are currently plenty of Little Egrets feeding along the river as the saltmarsh is flooded and no doubt providing plenty of food. It was no great surprise the Cattle Egret had joined this flock upon my return before taking off for good and flying purposefully north.

Cattle Egret at Cuckmere Haven
Of course my camera was left in the car
as the weather was grim.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Seaford Head & Cuckmere Haven 30/10/19

With today being my last day off from this extended block of days off, I made the most of birding the patch and was rewarded with some great birding.

I started up on Seaford Head but with a stiff ENE breeze there wasn't a great deal happening. An obvious Starling movement was occurring, but other than a few Finches and some Crests I soon moved on and into the Cuckmere. This was a good move as a whole host of interesting birds were found. First up was a small and mobile flock of Barnacle Geese that eventually flew off east. With this cold snap I suspect these Geese were more than likely from the near-continent rather than somewhere dodgy locally. Along the riverbank I was pleased to come across a delightful Snow Bunting that spent the day feeding along the strandline. A superb Merlin then put on a good show (this being a belated year tick) and flew just over my head as it disappeared to the south-west. Last of the quality was when Dad joined me and together we came across a Vagrant Emperor battling against the strong easterly wind. It helpfully landed allowing some photos to be taken before presumably carrying on north upriver where I encountered it again some 30-minutes later. After scanning the enormous Gull flock to the north of the bridge and the smaller flock to the south I came across some presumed Littoralis Rock Pipits around the horse paddocks. On the 'brooks' to the north of the bridge was a Knot mixed in with 18 Dunlin, and 48 Lapwing was also a decent count. A great day out on the patch.

Totals for Seaford Head are:

Starling - 570 W
Brambling - 3 E
Firecrest - 2
Goldcrest - 15
Chiffchaff - 2
Barnacle Geese - 8 W then E

Barnacle Geese circling the area

Merlin at Cuckmere Haven

Snow Bunting at Cuckmere Haven

Vagrant Emperor at Cuckmere Haven
I believe there are less than 5 records in Sussex?

Bar-headed Goose

presumed Scandinavian Rock Pipit

Monday, 28 October 2019

Seaford Head 28/10/19

The coldest morning of the autumn was the result from a very clear night. This inevitably led to a mass clear-out of any remaining migrants, but there was a surprise in the form of an inbound Dartford Warbler that moved north up Hope Bottom, presumably carrying on in that direction. Woodpigeons were also an obvious feature, though nothing like the numbers that were counted 50 miles to the west where 10,000+ were flying in a south-westerly direction. Not a great deal else about and with overhead migrants coming to a halt I soon gave up.

Totals for the morning:

Black Redstart - 1
Brambling - 6 E
Woodpigeon - ca. 750 E
Stock Dove - ca. 50 E
Dartford Warbler - 1
Blackcap - 2
Chiffchaff - 1
Redpoll - 5 E
Goldcrest - 15
Fieldfare - 1 N
Firecrest - 1

Dartford Warbler at Hope Bottom