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

Total Pageviews

Monday, 10 February 2020

The Somerset Levels 5th-7th February

Birding in Sussex has been fairly non-existent recently, although there have only been a few nice days when birding would've been possible. In these nice days, I was co-leading another Naturetrek trip down on the Somerset Levels. Once again, the clients were great company and yet another successful trip was achieved. An excellent gathering of 70 Cattle Egrets spread across three fields around the Ham Wall complex was well worth seeing, as well as the usual late afternoon gathering of thousands of Starlings - the latter once again proving popular among the clients.

Since returning, I have finished my flying/slaving career in the skies, and am now ready to embark on an epic trip to Nepal. This will involve a hike up to Everest Basecamp from Lukla; and then undertaking a 10-day tour of various sites within Nepal. So, I'll be back in business from mid-March, unless I can update regularly out there.

Cattle Egret

Great White Egret

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Lower Cuckmere 30/1/20

An overwintering Ring Ouzel has been by far the highlight this week. First reported last week by an unknown observer, on Tuesday (with Jasper alongside) I glimpsed the bird as it flew out of sight. I tried again yesterday without Jasper, but failed to find the ouzel in its usual spot. So, today with Jasper I tried again, and upon exiting the area, I found the ouzel as it fed in the sheep field. The bird showed for a few minutes, though as usual for this species it was particularly wary of my presence, and it soon flew off. This time though I had my camera ready and managed to get some shots.

Other interesting sightings at the weekend were second-winters of both Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls, and the Water Pipit that was mixed in with the many Rock Pipits - of which some will soon reveal themselves to be littoralis.


Ring Ouzel at Lower Cuckmere

Friday, 24 January 2020

Combe Haven 24/1/20

A quick jaunt over to Combe Haven this morning produced fine views of the four scaup. They had changed area today, frequenting the large lake north of the bypass (in the past few days they had been further down the valley). My last few sightings of scaup in Sussex have been of individuals, and therefore I was more inclined to see this 'flock'. Despite the mild winter, I've seen a good number of long-tailed ducks, a smew, and now these scaup - so not as bad as it could've been.

Last weekend I co-led my first Naturetrek trip down on the Somerset Levels. Below are a couple of images from the levels featuring the incredible roost of starlings.



Four scaup at Combe Haven
Jasper and the haunted/abandoned house

Friday, 10 January 2020

Henfield Levels 10/1/20

After visiting both coastal sites to the east and west this year, today I thought it would be best to venture north. Near Balcombe I was surprised to find a huge congregation of Redwings and Chaffinches feeding in a field. I thought a Brambling could be among the Finches, though judging by the poor winter thus far I wasn't overly confident. However, it didn't take long to find a Brambling, and judging by the number of birds present no doubt more could be within this flock.

Elsewhere a walk around some wooded areas produced the likely species, and with plenty of cloud cover the thoughts of any small woodpeckers emerging somewhat dwindled. When the clouds finally did drift off south, a total of three Goshawks were seen within a two hour time period. A total of 20 Siskins and a single Redpoll also flew through between the periods of little activity. The Goshawks weren't displaying, but as I was getting back to the car, a third Goshawk (a huge female) flew around me for a few minutes resulting in me wanting little else from this epic encounter.

Afterwards I visited Henfield Levels and after much searching and boredom, the assistance of West Sussex compatriots Mike and Karen & Nick and Claire found the Glossy Ibis for me. It flew down the valley and landed at some distance where it became very elusive only showing on the odd occasion in a distant ditch.

Brambling near Balcombe

2nd cal. year male Goshawk




2nd cal. year fem Goshawk

Glossy Ibis at Henfield

Monday, 6 January 2020

West Sussex birdrace 5/1/20

Jasper was being annoying during the night, and being unable to get back to sleep, I decided to leave him with Paula and start my big day. At this point it wasn't my plan to try for a big day list as a Bittern on Drayton certainly warranted time and effort, that therefore meant a big list wouldn't be possible. However, upon starting at Arundel WWT (in pure bird race fashion) and scoring some good birds, I was soon in the mood to smash the totals already made thus far by the other groups. Sadly as I was acting solo my totals wouldn't count, though it wasn't clear at this early stage in the day whether or not my total would surpass others.

On my way to Arundel I stopped for some Long-eared Owl action with little success, and therefore I was soon parked at the Black Rabbit awaiting some form of daylight. I stood approx. 300m down the Arun and during the first 45-minutes of 'light' I saw a nice array of species; these included a ringtail Hen Harrier at 07.40, 2 Barnacle Geese, 7 Mandarins (meaning no stop needed at Swanbourne Lake) and a Cetti's Warbler. I had somehow missed a Woodcock that others had seen at the pub and even more so two Barn Owls. The former is a species I see with regularity at this location.

I wasn't too disheartened with the above omissions and carried on my day hurtling towards the Selsey Peninsular. My first quick stop was Sidlesham Ferry adding the expected birds, but more importantly over the ridge and down the channel was a 'Phalaroping' Spotted Redshank. Down to Selsey I swayed clear of the crowd of birders and quickly found three Slavonian Grebes, a Great Northern Diver and passing Red-throated Divers, Razorbills and Gannets. Little else needed here so I then made a brief stop at Church Norton, and with having already seen the grebes I neglected the beach that saved me lots of time. Just the expected waders were found but pleasing enough were a flock of Avocets and a normally hard 'day-list' bird - a Bar-tailed Godwit. Next up I parked along Rookery Lane and took a footpath to where I could distantly view Marsh Farm. The Cattle Egrets were seen and here I saw my only Reed Buntings and Skylarks of the day, though a pack of Yellowhammers were stunning in the morning sunshine. It wasn't even 10am and I had already seen 70+ species...game on!!

A quick jaunt over to Dell Quay had me lucking into a Kingfisher and several Goldeneye, though there was no sign of the Long-tailed Duck. Again I didn't hang around long and ventured just north to Fishbourne where I had better success. Two Water Pipits showed brilliantly for this species and yet more Spotted Redshanks were seen. I always find this site good for Lesser Black-backed Gull and thankfully a pair were present. A clean sweep of easy waders was had with a single Knot and Black-tailed Godwit present, but despite trying I couldn't find a Greenshank, nor could I flush a Jack Snipe. Still, I had added many 'last attempt' birds here before heading inland.

I whizzed through Chichester and was soon on my way to West Dean where a Raven flew over the car. I stopped in the usual spot and quickly found a Hawfinch, with two others seen not so long later. A passing flock was very helpful as it contained a Marsh Tit and a variety of Thrushes. As I was about to leave one of the trickiest birds on a day list sailed through - a Sparrowhawk. Despite being in good Firecrest territory I still hadn't seen one, so I was relieved when I briefly stopped at Droke car park (east of Charlton) and found one there. A passing flock of Bullfinches and a Treecreeper were even more helpful.

Lavington common was rubbish and still needing Grey Wagtail I visited the weir at Burton Mill Pond and one was walking about and showing very well indeed. If I had bothered getting my camera out today it would've made a lovely photo. It was still early afternoon and I was now into three figures, but this of course means you have to now pick your birds. Chiffchaff was easy at Coldwaltham, and yet to see a Snipe I briskly dodged the cows and flushed two Snipe in an area near Greatham Bridge. Viewed from this bridge I finally saw my first Canada Geese of the day as well.

A brief stop at the Rackham viewpoint in case there was any early owl activity (there wasn't) only had me hearing a Nuthatch (I try and see all my birds on a day list), but with time getting on there was still a couple of targets at The Burgh. Despite recent break-ins I risked leaving my car alone and walked to the valley quickly finding a pair of Grey Partridge, and finally my first and only Fieldfare of the day. Yet more Bullfinches were found upon my return to the car. I had tried viewing the valley south of the approach road but low cloud distorted all features. Thankfully it had now cleared and holding my breath (make or break time) I spotted the three distant Bewick's Swans. This now meant I could relax and take in the views and wonderful raptor display over Amberley, once again viewed from the Rackham viewpoint. The commonest bird I had missed was Nuthatch, and so it was with some embarrassment that I had to tape-lure this species into view, but this only took ten seconds. This along with a patrolling Barn Owl over the brooks, I was on a nice round 110 species seen for the day (112 included two heard-only species), and for once ended at a respectable time, despite leaving my home at 04.15.

It was a brilliant day, although missing the likes of Mediterranean Gull, Dartford Warbler, Siskin, Greenshank and Jack Snipe meant it easily could have been more. Still, it's reassuring to think that the winter bird race record made by Bob, Derek and myself in 2018 will be untouched for hopefully some time to come.

Hawfinch at West Dean

Amberley Wildbrooks

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Whipsnade Zoo 2/1/20

A nice day out with Ian where the long-staying Black-throated Thrush (British & world tick) performed superbly at the zoo. Mammalian highlights consisted of Amur Tigers, a Sloth Bear, two Cheetahs, a Brown Bear and two Lynx. The Cheetah was particularly gripping as despite many visits to Africa between us, this is one cat we've failed to see.

Patagonian Mara



Black-throated Thrush

Amur Tiger

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

New Years Day in East Sussex 1/1/20

A thoroughly enjoyable day out in the east of the county. I started at 4am with my torch, but failed to find any targets before it got light. At daybreak I found myself along Penshurst Lane for the first time where I luckily had two Hawfinches fly east over me, these quickly followed by a Red Kite emerging from its roost. As I headed east, a brief stop at Brede High Woods gave me the expected woodland species and yet more Hawfinches, with one of the two showing nicely in the gloom feeding on beech mast.

Scotney GP was my most easterly site (though as usual I stopped along the way and found a Tree Sparrow at their favoured location) and soon found the superb trio of Long-tailed Ducks. Being low tide I wasn't in a rush to get to Pett and therefore walked inland from near Jury's Gap and found two Green Sandpipers on some excavations. Also of note were four Barnacle Geese with Mute Swans feeding in a kale field.

Pett Level was good as always with a family group of White-fronted Geese (adult and two juvs) being the highlight. A flock of 28 Avocets flew east offshore and a Great White Egret and a Ruff were also found with ease.

Rye Harbour was up next and I walked a long circuit from Winchelsea to Flat Beach taking in Long Pit and the beach road. On Long Pit the Black-necked Grebe was present, and a total of three Goldeneye were found across the various pits, though I failed to locate the Long-tailed Duck. From Denny's hide the Smew was thankfully still present and was a swift reminder that this is my favourite species of duck to see in Sussex. Sadly the flocks I saw at Northpoint GP when I first started birding will no longer exist. A small flock of gulls beyond the Smew consisted of five Greater Black-backed Gulls, and just off to the right sat a very smart second-winter Caspian Gull that soon flew out to sea.

I had intended to finish off at Castle Water for the roost, but with light drizzle I decided to head back home via West Rise Marsh. A quick jaunt provided flight views of two Water Pipits, and probably my best ever views of four Bearded Tits. On my way back to the car I flushed two Water Rails. My final stop was a return to Tide Mills, and armed with my torch I finally found a Purple Sandpiper on the last bit of concrete I checked.

two of three Long-tailed Ducks at Scotney

three White-fronted Geese at Pett Level

Smew


2w Caspian Gull at Flat Beach