Small Pratincole - Koshi River, Nepal (Feb 2020)

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Sunday, 20 September 2020

Cuckmere Haven 20/09/20

It felt good this morning with an apparent drop of Chiffchaffs and a few bits flying overhead. The usual waders were about, which included two Knot, two Greenshanks, 15 Dunlin and a Common Sandpiper.  

The highlight was a smart Ring Ouzel on Haven Brow, and whilst walking the top fields, a Tree Pipit flew over.

Ring Ouzel at Haven Brow


Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Thorney Island 15/9/20

An early start at Thornham Marina today where the stunning juvenile Pallid Harrier flew right past in front of me (and behind the birder who went running down the lane following the pager message... who runs for a Pallid?!) soon after sunrise. It performed for ten minutes before seemingly drifting low north and out of sight. An Osprey also flew over, a Whinchat was out in the reeds and a Firecrest was calling along the east side of the island. There were also a number of Sandwich Terns in the channel.

After a short time guiding two ladies, I quickly went and saw the showy Red-backed Shrike in the south-western corner. 

It's been a tough autumn, so it was re-assuring to see some decent birds today.

This is now the third Pallid Harrier I've seen in Sussex (why didn't I go for the Beachy bird last year!) with other juveniles, both at The Burgh, in 2011 and 2015.

Sunrise at Thorney Island

juvenile Pallid Harrier

juvenile Red-backed Shrike

Friday, 11 September 2020

Beachy Head & Whitehawk Hill 11/09/20

Another tour up on Beachy Head today was a vast improvement compared to yesterday. From the off, Siskins were ploughing west and over the course of the morning I counted 180! Hirundines were also a main feature with thousands along the cliff edge creating a brilliant sight as they whizzed past our heads. A White Stork over Hodcombe created some excitement for the group, but other migrants were in relative short supply, though a respectable list was formed in the end.

Afterwards, I quickly nipped up to Whitehawk Hill and saw perhaps three Long-tailed Blues.

Beachy totals are as follows:

Siskin - 180 W
Grey Wagtail - 5 W
Pied Wagtail - 3 W
Yellow Wagtail - 10
Wheatear - 3
White Stork - 1 W
Meadow Pipit - 30 W
Chiffchaff - 30
Whitethroat - 10
Spotted Flycatcher - 2
Tree Pipit - 2 W
House Martin - c. 2000
Swallow - ca. 500
Sand Martin - 10
Swift - 1

Spotted Flycatcher at Chat Vale

White Stork over Hodcombe

Long-tailed Blues at Whitehawk Hill

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Cuckmere Haven 10/9/20

After a rather disappointing session at Beachy this morning with my Naturetrek group, this evening down the Cuckmere just about revived me. The waders are still keeping interest high, with now four Knot, 25 Dunlin, singles of Green, Common and Wood Sandpiper and three Greenshanks amongst the highlights. As I was walking back up towards the pub, a White Stork flew past me and decided to land on Exceat Bridge... it thankfully stayed long enough for a record shot! 

Today, at Beachy, a raptor watch with LP produced a Marsh Harrier and a distant White Stork - presumably the one seen in the Cuckmere later on. A Swift also flew over plus a small scattering of common migrants.

Four Knot

Saturday, 5 September 2020

Seaford Head 5/9/20

A return to Seaford Head today in far chillier conditions than previous days. Despite the clear conditions, there was little in the way of any overhead migration and it took some time for the grounded migrants to appear. Probably the highlight was a good number of Wheatears present with 45 counted; this included a flock of 28. A smart Pied Flycatcher and perhaps the same Merlin that was encountered down the Cuckmere last night were also noteworthy.

Afterwards, I walked the hills behind Denton, but it was disappointing to find no fields suitable for Dotterel. There were however plenty of migrants about, including a Spotted Flycatcher and a smattering of Whinchats and Wheatears.

Totals from Seaford Head as follows:

Pied Flycatcher - 1
Spotted Flycatcher - 2
Willow Warbler - 10
Chiffchaff - 7
Wheatear - 45
Grey Wagtail - 4 W
Yellow Wagtail - 15
Merlin - 1
Garden Warbler - 1
Blackcap - 35
Whitethroat - 20
Lesser Whitethroat - 2
Sedge Warbler - 1
Reed Warbler - 3
Redstart - 1
Siskin - ca. 10 W 

Pied Flycatcher


Friday, 4 September 2020

Beachy Head & Cuckmere Haven 4/9/20

Another Naturetrek trip to Beachy Head today, this time in thankfully good weather after yesterday's 'hurricane', was far more productive than expected. There was plenty of variety flying over, whilst the usual grounded migrants were present. A couple of clients were keen to see a Grasshopper Warbler, therefore, I took a couple of them down to the gropper field and found four warblers in all.

This evening, with Dad, the Cuckmere was visited with highlights going to an Osprey, Merlin, and the long-staying Knot

Beachy Head totals:

Wheatear - 5
Willow Warbler - 15
Chiffchaff - 1
Redstart - 5
Siskin - 40 W
Whitethroat - 30
Lesser Whitethroat - 2
Grey Wagtail - 4 W
Yellow Wagtail - 20 
Tree Pipit - 1 W
Whinchat - 6
Grasshopper Warbler - 4
Blackcap - 10
Spotted Flycatcher - 1
Swallow - 300 W
Sand Martin - 20 W


Hummingbird Hawkmoth

Osprey over Cuckmere Haven

Thursday, 3 September 2020

Cuckmere Haven 3/9/20

After a disappointing tour on Beachy Head this morning (thankfully two Grasshopper Warblers showed), finding two juvenile Curlew Sandpipers in the Cuckmere was some form of compensation. Also about were a Knot, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, ten Dunlin and five Whinchats. 

Yet again, a visit to Seaford Head failed to find any Wrynecks, both this morning and evening!

Curlew Sandpipers


Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Seaford Head & Ditchling Beacon 1/9/20

I only had a couple of hours this morning before starting work. The area started off relatively quiet, but as the morning wore on, a respectable number of migrants were found. Blackcaps have now arrived in force into Hope Bottom, and Harry's Bush was also somewhat lively with many Willow Warblers and a couple of Chiffchaffs present. A steady trickle of Swallows were flying eastbound, but little else was noted in what seemed like perfect conditions for some hefty diurnal migration. 

This evening, after work, I twitched the trio of Dotterel near Ditchling Beacon (thanks Rich Kelly for putting the news promptly out after a great find!). Initially elusive and static, they soon became mobile and showed well, though they never came too close. 

Totals for Seaford Head:

Blackcap - 50
Willow Warbler - 25
Whitethroat - 25
Yellow Wagtail - 30
Redstart - 2
Chiffchaff - 2
Grasshopper Warbler - 1
Siskin - 2 
Spotted Flycatcher - 2
Reed Warbler - 3
Tree Pipit - 3
Lesser Whitethroat - 3
Wheatear - 5
Garden Warbler - 1

Grasshopper Warbler

Tree Pipit

Garden Warbler


Dotterels at Ditchling Beacon

Monday, 31 August 2020

Beachy Head 31/8/20

The first calm day after the northerly blow meant that for the first time this autumn, today felt very autumnal, and of course, rare. I decided to visit Beachy as I'd driven down from Alton in the early hours, which makes the trip more worthwhile than visiting Seaford Head.

Upon arrival, small numbers of Willow Warblers were moving in the bushes, whilst overhead, Tree Pipits, Siskins and Yellow Wagtails were evident as they moved west. The morning was very enjoyable with ten species of warbler noted, plenty of overhead activity and an excellent variety of other migrants; numbers weren't exceptional however, but this wasn't much of an issue... even Cow Gap had birds! Very few birders seen today! 

After the morning circuit, LP and I commenced a raptor watch from the pub finding only a Hobby for our troubles (our Merlin at Belle Tout turned out to be the highlight!). Ca. 2000 hirundines were present late morning/early afternoon, the majority being Swallows.

Sites visited included the following: Hotel Garden and bushes W to Old Trapping Area, Icky Ridge, Frances Bottom incl. Gropper field, Cow Gap & Gully, Birling Pines and Belle Tout incl. gully.

Totals are as follows:

Willow Warbler - 22
Yellow Wagtail - 60 W
Reed Warbler - 3
Tree Pipit - 8 W
Whitethroat - 50
Siskin - 26 W
Grey Wagtail - 3 W
Whinchat - 6 (2 Hotel Garden, 1 Icky Ridge, 3 Frances Bottom)
Pied Flycatcher - 5 (1 Icky Ridge, 1 Cow Gap, 2 OTA, 1 Belle Tout)
Lesser Whitethroat - 2
Chiffchaff - 1
Bullfinch - 1 (Frances Bottom)
Blackcap - 14
Sedge Warbler - 2
Redstart - 4
Wheatear - 4
Garden Warbler - 1 (Cow Gap)
Grasshopper Warbler - 2 (1 Cow Gap, 1 'Gropper' field)
Cetti's Warbler - 1 (Cow Gap)
Spotted Flycatcher - 3 (Belle Tout)
Merlin - 1 (Belle Tout)
Swift - 4
Hobby - 1

Whinchat at Hotel Garden

Siskins over Icky Ridge

Pied Flycatcher at Cow Gap

Wheatear at Cow Gap

Grasshopper Warbler at Frances Bottom

Pied Flycatcher at the Old Trapping Area

Spotted Flycatchers at Belle Tout

Merlin over Belle Tout Wood

Swift over the pub

Cow Gap gully

Frances Bottom

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Seawatching off Norfolk 29/08/20

 After last weekend's success, but still lacking any real skua movement, I opted on a Saturday morning visit to North Norfolk, coinciding nicely with the near-gale force northerly winds. 

The first few hours was particularly enjoyable, with skuas constantly moving east and consisting of three species. There was also a huge westerly duck movement, again another enjoyable aspect of the morning. By 10am, the rain had arrived, and strangely, the passage dropped considerably. With little now moving, by 11am I was packed up and ready to go home. 

Not quite the ending I wanted, but it was great to get another seawatch in.

Totals from Sheringham:

Great Skua - 36
Arctic Skua - 34
Teal - 500
Manx Shearwater - 3
Common Scoter - 30
Scaup - 1 drk
Wigeon - 48
Tufted Duck - 5
Little Gull - 2
Eider - 1
Long-tailed Skua - 2
Pintail - 8
Shoveler - 5
Mallard - 2
Gadwall - 1

Sheringham Beach

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Seawatching off Cornwall 22-23 Aug 2020

Since early last week, I had been eyeing up this weekend as a potentially decent weekend to be on a clifftop in West Cornwall. Thursday and Friday were looking the most productive , however, it was Wednesday that turned out to be a good day. With a distinct lack of seabirds on the Friday, I somehow plucked up the courage and drove down after work and arrived at Porthgwarra car park just before it got dark, not feeling optimistic one bit.

After a good nights sleep in the car, I positioned myself on Gwennep Head (meeting Steve & John), but after an hour, I had only seen a Great Shearwater, a Cory's Shearwater and four Sooty Shearwaters. News of a Wilson's Storm-Petrel and other good seabirds from Pendeen meant I swiftly left my position and dashed north. I spent most of the day here and enjoyed a good range of seabirds and a minimum of 15 Ocean Sunfish! An estimated, but calculated, total of 40,000 Manx Shearwaters passing was also somewhat noteworthy. Probably my favourite sighting were four superb adult Sabine's Gulls. I left at 6pm as the passage and light had worsened, but maybe I should've stayed as a Band-rumped Petrel (aka Madeiran Storm-Petrel) flew through later on... ah well, another spectacular fail for the day. I did though see the adult Spotted Sandpiper at Drift Reservoir, this being my first UK spotty Spotted Sand!

I opted to stay down in Cornwall and entailed another sleep in the car, this time near to Pendeen. Although the wind had abated from yesterday, eventually a good range of seabirds were found. The passage was steady with several Storm-Petrels passing relatively close and another wonderful adult Sabine's Gull, but it was at 11.13 when Justin Carr picked out a Wilson's Storm-Petrel. I was out of position, but somehow I managed to get straight onto the bird (this being despite my struggle over the weekend to pick out many close Stormies... I tend to look further out) where it showed off its pale carpel area and all dark underwing, as well as its prolonged gliding-like flight. This sighting certainly made my weekend, and well done to Justin who had been closely examining the petrels all weekend. 

A short while later, Justin picked out another Wilson's, this time slightly further out, but alongside two European Storm-Petrels; again, I managed to get onto it quickly and even witnessed it bouncing off the water and gliding to its next bounce. I couldn't make out the underwing on this bird, although the pale carpel area was just about visible! A Blue-finned Tuna also breached a couple of times, which was another excellent sighting. With my ambitions full-filled, I left Pendeen and drove straight home.

Highlights for the weekend are as follows:

Cory's Shearwater - 1
Sooty Shearwater - 17
Great Shearwater
European Storm-Petrel - ca. 75
Balearic Shearwater - 8
Sabine's Gull - 7 (all adults)
Great Skua  - 15
Pomarine Skua - 1
Arctic Skua - 8
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 2

Spotted Sandpiper - 1 adult at Drift Reservoir
Ocean Sunfish - 16
Harbour Porpoise - 1
Blue-finned Tuna - 1

Looking up to Pendeen Lighthouse

Balearic & Manx Shearwaters

Sooty Shearwater

juv. Gannet

Manx Shearwaters

adult Spotted Sandpiper at Drift Res.

The three rocks off Pendeen