Inverness to Eastbourne in 6 hours isn't too bad. The Slavonian Grebe was on show straight away, though it never came close enough for a decent picture. A Firecrest was also around the south side of the lake.
A spa break with Paula was superb. The Palace Spa Hotel in Inverness was great with views over the river and the castle, as well as the multi-coloured bridge at night, and of course all the luxuries of a spa hotel.
On the 29th we drove down to Fort William not knowing how close it was to Inverness, allowing plenty of time to take in the scenic views of Loch Ness & Urquhart Castle, as well as the snow-covered mountains around Ben Nevis. It was hear we saw signs for the mountain gondola, and rather excitedly, we were on our way up to 2100ft.
Superb views greeted us in most directions, except from up as the dark clouds surrounded the peak, but these did bring some snow. The trip up was well worth it, but after spending over an hour up there we headed back down and to the hotel.
The 30th saw us back at Loch Flemington where the American Coot was on view straight away, and 8 Goldeneye and some flyover Pink-footed Geese were seen.
On the sea at Fort George were several Long-tailed Ducks, Eiders and a Red-breasted Merganser.
A walk around the west side of the river this morning produced the same birds from previous days. The juv. Spoonbill showed well in one of the ditches closest to Harry's Bush, and the Brent Geese were among the big Gulls. The 3 White-fronted Geese were again viewable from the Galleon car park hanging around the 1st meander.
A sea watch after produced a good passage of Divers with very little else seen.
Splash Point 11.00-12.00 SE 2 Red-throated Diver - 93W & 4E
Teal - 8
Common Scoter - 2
Auk sp. - 73W & 44E
A long time since I have been to this reserve near Horsham, and that fact was immediately obvious as I got lost and ended up somewhere even Jake hadn't heard off nearby. Anyway, I made it and ten minutes from the Woodpecker Hide, the Common Redpoll put on a good show on the niger seed.
Other bits were some stunning male Lesser Redpolls and the usual bird feeder crowd.
A brilliant afternoon down the brooks this afternoon. All was quiet up until 4pm with just a Marsh Harrier, CommonBuzzards and a Kestrel of note. However, around 4pm a Short-eared Owl was spotted successfully hunting along ditch near to the river, and out of nowhere a second SEO joined the now not very hungry first Owl.
Then, the same Marsh Harrier came into view and immediately caused distress amongst the Owls, both of which started a 10 minute battle with the Harrier, which was later seen flying high to the south. One Owl drifted high north, whilst the other came down and perched pretty close to us giving great views. Hopefully they will linger for some time, and more will join them.
Persistence finally paid of this morning. There are a select few birders in Sussex who regularly spot Caspian Gulls, and fair play to them. However for a Gull novice (me), I was particularly excited to find a stonking first-winter Caspian Gull in amongst the Gull flock today.
I had scanned the flock a couple of times and only found a couple of argentatus, when out of nowhere a Gull dropped right into view, and straight away it was obviously a Caspo. I quickly got many photos and ran over in my mind as many features as I could remember, and they all fitted.
This was the fourth or fifth day running of looking at a series of Gull flocks, so I spent two hours watching the bird, later being joined by Chris Glanfield who had pretty good views. The Spoonbill was also seen on the east side preening on the 2nd meander.
1st winter Caspian Gull in Cuckmere
Due to not being able to upload videos, here is a still taken
With the phone showing the white underwing coverts.
Lovely weather today meant a trip down to West Sussex was due. Visited various sites seeing pretty much everything I targeted. Pagham was a let down, which is why I didn't spend too much time here. Plenty of good birds seen today which were:
The Great Grey Shrike at Coldwaltham Brooks was on view straight away.
11 Bewick's Swans on Amberley Brooks were a surprise in a brief stop, viewed from the Sportsman Inn. A couple of Pintail were also consorting with the other wildfowl, and was surprisingly a year tick.
2 Hawfinches were seen within 10 minutes of my arrival to West Dean Woods. I always have good success rate with these, and today proved no different. The Little Owl was in its usual tree, and at long last a Jay was seen, yet another surprising year tick.
News on the pager regarding the Red-crested Pochard on Ivy Lake came through, so I shot off down there, alas no sign of this, though 2 Whooper Swans were preening on one of the wooden jetties. As there was no sign of the Pochard, I decided to stay in the area so I could check it later on. So, Fishbourne Creek was next where the tide was falling. 2 Spotted Redshanks and a Greenshank were added, but nothing else much was seen.
News then filtered through to me that the R-c Pochard had been seen on a different pit, and sure enough, the female Red-crested Pochard was found, and showed well. With light now fading, a quick stop at Swanbourne Lake produced 3 Mandarins.
A south easterly wind this morning was somewhat disappointing. I was expecting a huge movement of Brents, but it wasn't to be. Actually, most stuff was moving in low numbers. If only it was two months later, it would have been mayhem.
Scotney GP was next where the Bean Geese were quickly located, however they were ten metres the wrong side of the border line, so a gruelling 2.5 hr wait in the freezing cold wind began when the Beans finally took flight straight into Sussex.
The Long Pit at Rye Harbour was the last stop where the stunning drake Scaup put on a good show. Whenever I see this duck, they are always asleep, but this time it was happily feeding. A Long-tailed Duck was also present.
Just about managed to arrive at Castle Water in time to see no Bitterns leave the roost. However, a couple of MarshHarriers were floating about and some Ravens flew over. Pett was as lively as the dead body at Camber Sands.
Carrying on from the dead body, the 4 SnowBuntings showed well, and Northpoint GP had 3 GreenSandpipers on it.
Scotney finally played host to some wild Geese, these being White-fronts........a whole 9 of them. The Long-tailedDuck was a beauty but never stayed up for long. A brief visit to Rye afterwards produced a couple of year ticks, but nothing special. Arlington Gull roost had zero large Gulls in it.
The past few days have had their ups and downs. Fortunately, the birds have all been showing. Yesterday I caught up with the GlaucousGull at Shoreham Harbour, however getting there involved in my car breaking down. This happened at 2pm, and I arrived home at 8pm after the AA guy had replaced the wrong part, and that meant I had to get towed back home. Further inspection today has concluded my car will be back in action on Monday. An argentatus HerringGull also roosted alongside the Glaucous Gull on Shoreham east arm, just glad I had broken down in a reasonable spot.
Today, I had permission from Mum to use her car, and so I nipped over to West Rise Marsh and saw the drake Smew which had done a disappearing act for a few days previous. The Cuckmere produced a decent Gull flock for a change with nothing interesting in it, but the Spoonbill was still present on the meanders.
Afterwards, a JackSnipe was seen near Newhaven, so all in all not a bad couple of days.
The seawatch this morning took some time to get going, but out of nowhere, a small Auk was spotted at the bottom of my scope, which showed a large, orangey toned bill, no more then 150 metres offshore. Panic now set in, I lost the bird, but when I scanned back west, I spotted the bird sat on the sea in all it's glory.
It was a winter-plumaged Puffin. I was completely stunned by this sighting, so much that I obtained the worst possible pictures (which can be seen below, don't mistake it for a King Eider!!). It was great to watch it dive into the large waves and pop out the otherside, and at one point, a Bonxie flew through the field of view, and nearly flattened the bird. I phoned as many people as I could who were in the local area, but unfortunately, it flew off East and out of site. A truly brilliant experience.
Totals between 8.05-11.05 are:
Puffin - 1 8.24-8.29
Bonxie - 1
LittleGull - 4 adults
Kittiwake - 61
Auk sp. - 126
Guillemot - 52
Brent Geese - 35
Red-throated Diver - 13
Diver sp. - 1
Afterwards down the Cuckmere the Spoonbill was again roosting on the meanders and 2 Firecrest were along the western path.
Managed to dip the Glaucous Gull at Shoreham this afternoon, but did see 2 Purple Sandpipers.
Puffin off Splash Point - trust me on computer it is just a Puffin
I started the day off down the Ouse Estuary Project in superb cold and crisp conditions. Couldn't find any Bearded Tits from the screen, however I did find a superb SiberianChiffchaff behind the screen. First picked up by it's slightly different call, I didn't have to wait long for it to show itself. It was a very pale individual with a brilliant 'Bonelli's Warbler' wing panel. Annoyingly, I didn't have my camera with me, and by the time I had fetched it, the bird had long gone. 3 WaterRails were also heard.
A seawatch at Splash Point afterwards from 11.00-12.00 produced the following:
I soon arrived at Hove Lagoon after the news was released of a GreyPhalarope being present. I have never seen one show so well, and could not equally believe it when it spent a lot of the time in the kids paddling pool. If it wasn't so cold I may have joined it for a swim. A 1st winter LittleGull was also present offshore.
3rdDecember - went and saw the pair of WhooperSwans at Ivy Lake, Chichester.
Petworth Park - a superb drake Goosander and many EgyptianGeese.
EastHead - DartfordWarbler in the marrams. Good to see lots of BrentGeese on the fields.
SidleshamSewageWorks - by far the highlight of the day was finding a WillowWarbler here. A smart chappy as well, and it also called a couple of times. Word of warning here is do not park in the compound like I did, because when I went to leave, the gate was locked, and after a wait of 40 minutes I was very fortunate to see a worker arrive......phew. Whilst waiting for my rescue, the 2 RuddyShelduck were picked out on the Ferry Pool.
SelseyBill - a seawatch with Ads and Sam Hill produced 2 VelvetScoter past and an Eider offshore.
ChurchNorton - 3 Long-tailedDucks offshore and lots of Eider. No Waders as very high tide.
Plenty of other bits seen today despite the horrid conditions. Even more horrid however are the phone-scoped pictures below.
- started off down the Cuckmere where the Spoonbill was still present, but not a lot else. I visited a couple more sites but no luck with anything else.
- a seawatch around midday produced a Bonxie and a good stream of Brent Geese.
- most of today was spent on Old Lodge where the group of Parrot Crossbills remained and showed relatively well. Also the flock of Brambling around the Beech Trees gave good views. A Woodcock was flushed and a Woodlark performed well.
- the afternoon was spent around the coast. Still very few Gulls around, but on Newhaven east pier were 4 Purple Sandpipers, and an immature drake Eider was in the harbour. A stunning Black Redstart was also around the factory buildings.
Not a bad start to the yearlist, only 362 days to go!!
a not so impressive female alongside an impressive, but obscured male Parrot Crossbill