Snow Petrel - Antarctic Ocean 2016

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Monday, 16 January 2017

Newhaven Tide Mills 16/1/17

I had just arrived at the Cuckmere and started scanning a small group of Gulls when Paul James kindly phoned me saying he had re-found the male Serin at Tide Mills. I quickly gave up on the Gulls (nothing there) and headed straight there seeing it straight away. The bird was constantly singing and seen showing well on the deck.

male Serin at Tide Mills

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Pett, Scotney & East Grinstead 14/1/17

A semi-relaxing day with Paula was planned in the east of the county, but as usual the birds ruled the day and it turned into a bit of a rush. Pett Levels was first where the normal Geese were present. News then came through of a single Waxwing at Fairlight, and despite getting there 10 minutes later there was no sign so we continued onto Scotney. More Geese and a Black-necked Grebe at the Sussex end, and annoyingly a Great White Egret was just inside the Kent border.

Back at Northpoint news came through of a flock of Waxwings in East Grinstead. We contemplated the idea over a sausage sandwich and hot chocolate at a café in Rye Harbour. I cracked and 90 minutes later we were watching a superb flock of Waxwings, that roughly half hour later took off not to be seen for the rest of the day. A walk around Gill's Lap after produced just a few Redpolls.

Highlights today are:

Taiga Bean Geese - 5
White-fronted Geese - 15
Marsh Harrier - 1

Scotney GP
Tundra Bean Geese - 3
White-fronted Goose - 18 (17 on back pit)
Black-necked Grebe - 1
Great White Egret - 1

East Grinstead & Gill's Lap
Waxwing - 33
Redpoll - 7

 2 Tundra Bean Geese at Scotney
 single White-front & Beans at Scotney

33 Waxwings at East Grinstead - surely not the last flock this winter, but good to get them out the way

Friday, 13 January 2017

Splash Point & Lower Cuckmere 12/1/17

After the school run I went down Splash Point for my first seawatch of the year. It wasn't too bad but I was hoping for some cold weather movement or at least a white-winged Gull.

Totals between 9.05-10.05 Wind SW 3-4:

Common Scoter - 15E
Auk sp. - 144W (all very distant)
Red-throated Diver - 4E + 10W
Gannet - 56W

Afterwards I decided to check if there were any Gulls in the Cuckmere. Approaching from Chyngton Farm I was pleased to see a large gathering in front of me, and was even more pleased when I found a juvenile Glaucous Gull mixed in. Setting up the scope a further scan produced 2 Caspian Gulls (1w & 2w), but then all the Gulls got flushed and most headed inland, some out to sea with only a couple of hundred remaining, that included the second-winter Caspo. I didn't see the Glauc again, but thankfully ADW found presumably the same bird at Arlington roughly half-hour later.

On the 11th I was on standby and decided to wait up at LGW right on the Sussex border. I found a pair of Ring-necked Parakeets straight away but they were in a tree bang on the border and the branch they were on seemed to be overhanging into Surrey. My best attempts couldn't get them to fly south, so I had to keep on walking around. Fortunately it didn't take too long before another pair done the decent thing and flew into Sussex.

 juv. Glaucous Gull in Lower Cuckmere
2w Caspian Gull in Lower Cuckmere (apologies for two horrendous phone-scoped pics)

Saturday, 7 January 2017

West Sussex Birdrace 7/1/16

A day out with Bob Self where we managed to record a total of 108 species including 3 'heard only'. Every site we visited we were greeted with plenty of luck, including only spending five minutes at Lavington getting Dartford's and Crossbills straight away without any effort required. One of the top birds for the day was a stunning drake Goosander at Petworth Park. The many highlights are listed below.

Barn Owl - Shoreham
Bewick's Swans, Mandarin, Firecrest - Arundel WWT
Great Grey Shrike - Coldwaltham Brooks
drk Goosander - Petworth Park
Dartford Warbler, Crossbill - Lavington Common
2+ Hawfinch - West Dean Woods
4 Spotted Redshank, Water Pipit - Fishbourne
Scaup, Long-tailed Duck - Ivy Lake
Great Northern Diver - Selsey
3 Long-tailed Duck, 15 Slavonian Grebe - Church Norton
11 Avocet, 5 Knot - Pagham Harbour

Hawfinch at West Dean Woods - very few photos taken today due to rushing around, but thankfully I had the camera for this beauty that showed within 10 minutes of being on site. Atleast two birds were along the road leading up the hill between Stapleash and Moncton Farm.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Newhaven Harbour 6/1/17

Two visits to this site today thankfully yielded in the end a stonking first-winter Caspian Gull. It remained on site for over an hour as the tide slowly came in. Further scans produced a presumed second-winter, though a couple of features leave me in some doubt, though at the time this bird looked very promising.

Earlier in the week I managed to get over to the east of the county with the following highlights seen:

Red-necked Grebe - Camber
Hen Harrier - Scotney GP
Tree Sparrow - 20 at East Guildford
Taiga Been Geese - 5 at Pett
Pink-footed Geese - 4 at Pett + Barnacle Geese & Ruff
Cattle Egret - 2 at Tarring Neville

a huge first-winter Caspian Gull that showed well for over an hour

presumed second-winter Caspian Gull - the pale iris and shorter-legged appearance is slightly concerning but in the field the profile looked very promising. Yellow-legged Gull is the other option.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

New Year Opener 1/1/17

The usual start to a year trying to see everything one would expect. The day was reasonably good though inevitably species were missed. A slight change of plan late on new years eve as my car suffered a flat tyre meant I was to drive Paula's tiny car, much to its, and probably her disgust. Still, we spent the day together meaning she could keep an eye on me driving her car around the county. I ended the day with a respectable 92 species, not bad considering the conditions.

Highlights for the day are:

Rose-coloured Starling - Crawley
Egyptian Goose - Petworth (no sign of the Goosander)
Scaup - Ivy Lake
Water Rail - Siddlesham Ferry feeding out in the open
Great Northern Diver - Selsey
Long-tailed Duck - Church Norton
Mandarin - Arundel
Bewick's Swan - Offham
Grey Partridge - The Burgh
Jack Snipe - Tide Mills
Purple Sandpiper - Tide Mills

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Antarctic Voyage Part 7 - The Drake Passage/Cape Horn

We still had several hours of watching after leaving the South Shetlands, but the bird activity was low with probably the highlight being several Chinstrap Penguins leaping out of the water. Certainly our last Antarctic Petrel of the trip was seen, again mixed in with several Cape Petrels.

My intentions for my last full day in the open ocean was to be spent up on the bridge. The famous Drake Passage had thankfully not lived up to its name and we got through the full day without a fuss with blue skies and relatively calm seas allowing a pleasant day. Our closest Grey-headed Albatross of the trip looked superb in the terrific light conditions. Also, we were now starting to see the Great Albatrosses again, all looking huge after seeing only Black-broweds for the previous few days.

On our last full day, I was up early, mainly because during the night I spent most of my time rolling from one side of my bed to another. The swell was crazy and sleep was almost impossible. Thankfully the swell had calmed down by the morning and we were treated to sublime views of Southern Royal Albatrosses that were flying right underneath the bow. Also one of very few Diving-Petrels seen during the day turned out to be a very well marked Magellanic. This meant only one thing, South America was right in front of us. Land meant Penguins, and Tom spotted two Penguins sat on the water that looked initially like Thick-billed Murres, but were in fact Rockhopper Penguins.

Due to such an early arrival to near the entrance of the Beagle Channel, it was arranged for us to sail west and get within three nautical miles of Cape Horn. We sailed extremely slowly but this worked out very well. Tom having been on pelagics off New Zealand, expertly picked out a surprise Westland Petrel. Although the sea remained calm for the day, a good range of species were seen. Peale's Dolphins finished off our voyage by performing for Simon and myself off the bow doing some exceptional displays. The evening was spent saying fair well to an excellent crew and all the people we had got to know over the 19 days. After dinner a final flurry of Dolphin activity and a spectacular sunset whilst thinking back to an overwhelming couple of weeks was very fitting. I hope one day I get to return to the southern oceans in the way I did here, but if not, I'm so pleased the opportunity arose and I will never forget what I experienced.

Highlights for the last few days are as follows:

Gentoo Penguin
Chinstrap Penguin
Rockhopper Penguin
Magellanic Penguin
Wandering Albatross
Southern Royal Albatross
Northern Royal Albatross
Grey-headed Albatross
Black-browed Albatross - huge numbers
Northern Giant Petrel
Antarctic Petrel
Blue Petrel
Slender-billed Prion
Magellanic Diving-Petrel
Westland Petrel - 1
Manx Shearwater
Great Shearwater - 1 and only bird of the trip
Chilean Skua

South American Sealion
Peale's Dolphin
Dusky Dolphin
Fin Whale
Humpback Whale

That is it now for my epic 5 week trip. I hope at least someone has enjoyed it and also now strongly considers the option of going down to Antarctica, and if you do.......go to South Georgia while you're there.

 an adult Grey-headed Albatross
 leaving the South Shetlands Cape Petrels were in good numbers
 our second and last Antarctic Petrel
 a heavily cropped Magellanic Diving-Petrel - showing the white collar patch and clean white underwing
 Southern Royal Albatross - amazing views of this gentle giant
 Northern Giant Petrel
 Peale's Dolphins
 Chilean Skua
 yet another close encounter of an Albatross - this time a Black-browed Albatross

 Cape Horn - the southern tip of South America

 Peale's Dolphins having a great time
our final sunset on board the MV Plancius.