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

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Sunday, 15 September 2019

Beachy Head 15/9/19

Another 9.8km walk around some of my favourite sites at Beachy Head was eventually rewarding, though with plenty of common migrants about it was always enjoyable. An adult Nuthatch in Francis Bottom was a surprise and looked extremely lost perching on top off hawthorns. After a very birdy session in Cow Gap a trio of Coal Tits were seen on the western slopes of Whitbread Hollow (first seen by Kris along the cliffs), and in the rides and the trail running parallel to Long Down were again plenty of common migrants including some Redstarts and Spotted Flycatchers.

I had finally reached the Old Trapping Area where Simon had also just arrived, and within five minutes he had spotted a Hobby, but more importantly a juvenile ringtail Harrier, and with the recent presence of a juvenile Montagu's either in the Beachy area or further west, I was praying for this bird to be that bird. It soon became apparent it was a juvenile Montagu's Harrier with prolonged scope views (thanks Simon for the use of your scope!!) for us both, and prolonged bins views for John and Doreen. After a depressing few weeks having dipped this bird a few times and spending many hours in search of it, the relief of finally connecting with a Sussex Monty was brilliant.

Nuthatch at Francis Bottom

Spotted Flycatcher

Juvenile Montagu's Harrier over
Beachy Head

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Cuckmere Haven 11/9/19

With the arrival of many Yank Waders up north I was hoping for something similar today. Maybe next week once things start to filter down. There was a surprising amount of Gulls on the west side but out of my range, so it was handy a first calendar year Caspian Gull was sat on the river. A same aged Little Gull was also on the scrape, whilst the three remaining Bar-tailed Godwits were still present. Three Wigeon were my first of the autumn.

1cy Caspian Gull

1cy Little Gull

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Cuckmere Haven 10/9/19

After a fruitless morning and early afternoon spent at Beachy Head where no Montagu's Harrier was to be seen, a walk down the Cuckmere this evening was more worth my time, as at long last the Waders have arrived. A juvenile Ruff was the main highlight as it closely associated itself with a large flock of mobile Dunlin.

Totals are as follows:

Ruff - 1 juv
Dunlin - 20
Ringed Plover - 6
Greenshank - 4
Bar-tailed Godwit - 3
Whimbrel - 1

Whinchat at Belle Tout

Ruff (far right) among
Dunlin and Ringed Plovers.

Ruff (top right)

Greenshank & Ruff

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Cuckmere Haven 5/9/19

I wanted to continue the trend from the previous two years of seeing a yank Wader in the Cuckmere in the first week of September. Unsurprisingly this wasn't to be but a ringed White Stork provided some minor excitement, whilst the Waders of note consisted of singles of Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit and two Whimbrel.

A Clouded Yellow and a radiata Small Copper were also great to see.

A ringed White Stork

Black-tailed Godwit &
Bar-tailed Godwit

Clouded Yellow

radiata Small Copper

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Kynance Cove, Cornwall 4/9/19

With an unprecedented influx of Boobies currently taking show in Cornwall (this influx involving a total of two Brown Boobies), it was only a matter of time that the tedious but somewhat satisfying annual Cornwall twitch was going to occur.

Despite the first Brown Booby (this being a sub-adult type) being in my eyes nearly impossible to catch up with at St. Ives, the discovery of a more obliging and therefore twitchable individual resulted in a plan being hatched, and during the late evening and the gruesome early hours of Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, I was driving John King and Chris Glanfield down to The Lizard, situated on the far flung parts of Western Cornwall.

We arrived before it got light and emerged after a short snooze to join the 50 people already scanning the rocky stacks below us. With many eyes awaiting a Booby entrance, I concentrated on seawatching but could only muster some reasonable sized flocks of Manx Shearwaters. Time passed the expected arrival time of the Booby with only a group of six Choughs to keep us occupied. The mood changed and an imminent dip was on the cards, let alone the early signs of hypothermia as I cleverly was wearing shorts and looked very much out of place in the very blustery and chilly conditions.

Mercifully the young Brown Booby flew in from the west and passed close to the headland on which we were standing upon and spent the next twenty minutes feeding in the bay to the east, at times affording excellent scope views, and despite the strong wind engulfing the ragged coastline, the Booby was seen hunting. Not quite as striking as the adults I've encountered in Taiwan or California, but a special bird to see in UK waters, and no doubt a unique experience that won't occur again anytime soon.

I arrived home at 4.30pm having left the site half hour after the Booby arrived as it landed out of site. Many thanks to John, Chris and Test Match Special for keeping me awake on the way back.


immature Brown Booby

immature Brown Booby

Kynance Cove

The bay to the east where the 
Brown Booby was feeding.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Beachy Head 31/8/19

Just like this time last year, I'm starting to venture over towards Beachy a few more times, more so just to keep the enthusiasm up. 
Over a five hour period I had an enjoyable circular walk covering in order: Hotel Garden, Icky Ridge, Francis Bottom, Cow Gap, Whitbread Hollow, Rides above Hollow, path linking Beachy Road to Cornish Farm, Shooter's Bottom and the Old Trapping Area. Unfortunately there wasn't a great deal of new arrivals around, and not a great deal moving over either with the highlight here being 10 Grey Wagtails moving west. 
Other noteworthy species included two Grasshopper Warblers in the 'Gropper Field', and three Red-legged Partridge in Cow Gap. All the Wheatears were encountered inland south of the path (with the two Redstarts along this path), whilst Shooter's Bottom held most of the Reed Warblers encountered this morning, and a Spotted Flycatcher was also seen here. I didn't try for the Wryneck as I arrived quite late at Shooter's and felt it wasn't worth trying.

This afternoon I unsuccessfully completed my 18th hour of searching for the juv Montagu's Harrier north of Telscombe in the various valleys up towards Balsdean and Swamborough Hill. Being at a close vantage point the only birds I could find were five Buzzards (including a smart juv with an obvious white upper tail, and an older bird with a single white central-tail feather that from a distance looked like a white upper tail) among many other expected birds of prey. The Harrier was seen a few times today before my arrival after a few days of absence and therefore hopefully I still have a chance to see it.

Totals for the morning:

Whitethroat - 40
Willow Warbler - 5
Yellow Wagtail - 33 W
Reed Warbler - 7
Blackcap - 40
Lesser Whitethroat - 5
Grey Wagtail - 10 W
Grasshopper Warbler - 2
Tree Pipit - 2 W
Whinchat - 2
Red-legged Partridge - 3
Chiffchaff - 2
Wheatear - 9
Redstart - 2
Spotted Flycatcher - 1

Grasshopper Warbler in the 'Gropper Field'


Whinchat opposite Shooter's Bottom

Western end of Cow Gap

Looking back to Francis Bottom &
the 'Gropper Field'

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Seaford Head 29/8/19

After regretfully working over one of the best periods of the autumn migration, this was my first chance in a short time to visit the patch. Annoyingly the winds were now sourcing from the west, which presumably led to just the standard migrants being seen this morning.
Warblers were much scarcer compared to last week in Hope Bottom, though its still good to see that Willow Warblers are far outnumbering Chiffchaffs, although these days seem numbered. Whinchats were scattered in more than average numbers for this site, and my first Grey Wagtails of the autumn flew over, as did a smart adult Golden Plover.

Totals for the morning:

Grey Wagtail - 4
Whinchat - 7
Willow Warbler - 17
Whitethroat - 30
Yellow Wagtail - 16
Wheatear - 8
Reed Warbler - 4
Blackcap - 35
Chiffchaff - 2
Lesser Whitethroat - 5
Golden Plover - 1 adult W
Spotted Flycatcher - 4
Redstart - 2
Sedge Warbler - 1
Garden Warbler - 1

Golden Plover

Spotted Flycatcher

Spotted Flycatcher


Sedge Warbler


Thursday, 22 August 2019

Seaford Head 22/8/19

Another calm and sunny morning followed on from a clear night meant that fewer migrants were around today. Once again some good variety was around but by the time mid-morning arrived the area was very warm and bird activity died quickly, although a large roaming flock of Blackcaps in Hope Bottom were still evident late on. Still no Flycatchers for me this autumn (although this is only my third visit), but with the east coast getting many Pieds, its hopefully only a matter of time before the drift migrants hit the south coast.

As mentioned earlier there was a large flock of Blackcaps well over the 50 mark, and mixed in were plenty of other Sylvia Warblers. Willow Warblers were well down in numbers, but once again quite a few Hirundines were noted.

Afterwards I went round Mum and Dads as a squadron of Jersey Tiger Moths had been trapped overnight. I counted 14, but 17 were present early doors.

Totals for the morning:

Garden Warbler - 4
Willow Warbler - 10
Whitethroat - 45
Reed Warbler - 7
Tree Pipit - 1
Lesser Whitethroat - 9
Yellow Wagtail - 20
Blackcap - 60
Sedge Warbler - 5
Sand Martin - 35
Green Sandpiper - 1 W
Nightingale - 2
Whinchat - 2
Wheatear - 5
Redstart - 2

Garden Warblers

Lesser Whitethroat & Whinchat

Jersey Tiger Moths

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Seaford Head 21/8/19

For once a calm and bright morning has coincided with a day off, and so I made the most of the morning and completed my first circuit of the headland this month. Plenty of migrants this morning and lots of variety, though little was moving overhead bar the exception of a tight flock of four Snipe and quite a few Hirundines. The area was dominated by Common Whitethroats, though every patch of scrub seemed to hold a Reed Warbler, whilst the highlights consisted of a showy Nightingale and a Hobby.

Totals for the morning:

Wheatear - 4
Hobby - 1
Sedge Warbler - 3
Willow Warbler - 18
Whitethroat - 60
Yellow Wagtail - 19
Swift - 8
Blackcap - 25
Reed Warbler - 16
Redstart - 2
Lesser Whitethroat - 7
Nightingale - 1
Tree Pipit - 1
Sand Martin - 21
Snipe - 4
Garden Warbler - 1
Whinchat - 1
Chiffchaff - 2

Reed Warbler


Willow Warbler

four Snipe

Sedge Warbler

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Ragget's Hill (Mid-Sussex) 7/8/19

After some prime investigative work by linking Lang's dotted distribution map to an OS map, I was able to pin point an area of mainly Beech and Oak woodland for Violet Helleborines in Mid-Sussex. The area was the complex of woodlands at Ragget's Hill (north of Ansty) and I was overjoyed to find ten spikes, six of which were very robust. Orchid hunting at its best!!

With the continued strong winds on my days off and working when its calm, August birding has been non-existent for me. The post below outlines the exciting Wader extravaganza in the Cuckmere from a few weeks back.

Violet Helleborines

Jasper enjoying his woodland stroll

Classic Beech woodland