Sabine's Gull off Isles of Scilly

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Friday, 21 January 2022

Eastbourne & Lower Cuckmere – 21 Jan 2022

Yesterday evening I drove back down to Sussex to spend the weekend here. So first thing, I went down to Eastbourne seafront and was surprised to find myself alone at the Hume's site. The Hume's Leaf Warbler soon started calling, helpfully from directly above me, and continued to call and show sporadically during the half-hour I was there.

This afternoon during my lunch break, I quickly nipped to the Cuckmere gull flock and picked out two Caspian Gulls (a stunning adult and decent first-winter) and a Yellow-legged Gull

Hume's Leaf Warbler at Eastbourne

Sunday, 16 January 2022

A Weekend in Sussex

What a brilliant weekend it was! 

On Saturday, I didn't feel too great but fancied re-visiting Iping Common to catch-up with my Little Bunting. It took some time to find as the flock were clearly hiding in the long grass, but when they emerged, it was easy to find and showed off for a good length of time. I even managed to encroach it and get some decent pictures. A couple of Dartford Warblers were also present, but the frosty common didn't hold too much else.

I headed north to Stanley Common and walked a long circuit, but now being grey and cold, all I could muster were two each of Brambling and Crossbill.

On Sunday, I had a race early down near Titchfield Haven (I didn't know this until I ran past the site!), finishing a 10K in 36:20. After this excellent start, I wasted no time and headed for Church Norton to hopefully see one of my favourite ducks, the Long-tailed Duck. I positioned myself away from the other birders and enjoyed a successful half-hour here. In order, three Eiders, 12 Slavonian Grebes, two Red-throated Divers, two Long-tailed Ducks, but best of all, a Red-necked Grebe! Although somewhat distant, it was great to see this scarce grebe.

Afterwards, West Dean Woods was my next port of call and from 'my' viewpoint, I enjoyed an hour of bliss as eight Hawfinches showed very well, but a Goshawk flew out of the wood, headed straight for me, and then proceeded to circle around... certainly the best view I've ever had!

Little Bunting at Iping Common

Brambling at Stanley Common


Sunday, 9 January 2022

Pacific Diver... and Somerset – 9th January 2022

It has been many months since I've been on a twitch, and even more months since I've been twitching with the lads. 

Chris, Jake & Ian arrived at mine and I drove us over to Glamorgan where we very quickly found the obliging Pacific Diver. Although I'd seen one in Cornwall many years ago, it showed nothing like this stunning bird. The light was never great but the views were terrific! Many Goldeneye and a Slavonian Grebe were also present.

From here though, it slowly went downhill with no sign of the Penduline Tits, no sign of the Baikal Teal, but pleasingly, we saw the enormous flock of Cattle Egrets, with no fewer than 220 birds present in close proximity to each other! Great White Egrets were also in good supply, with 18 seen throughout the afternoon on the levels. Lastly, a Tundra Bean Goose was a treat to see at last knockings, ending a day which will hopefully bounce me back into action for the year to come.

Pacific Diver at Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir, Glamorgan

Saturday, 1 January 2022

Bishop Middleham, Co. Durham – 1st January 2022

What is now slowly becoming a New Year tradition, today I walked a very long circuit around Bishop Middleham, where Sara's parents live. 

The day started well with 63 species seen up until midday, but it soon went downhill as I only recorded two more species during the afternoon, so I ended up on 65, two fewer than last year! However, highlights were as usual the superb Willow Tit, two very showy drake Goosanders, a nice flock of Pink-footed Geese and the numerous Tree Sparrows

Willow Tit... one year I'll get a decent picture


Tree Sparrow

Friday, 31 December 2021

A Review of 2021

It's been a rather rubbish year in general, with little time for local (Sussex) birding, very few foreign trips, hardly any twitching, and the biggest of all, the death of my dear Mum. 

Thankfully, the year was saved in the latter few months with two trips to Spain (both leading for Naturetrek), some decent finds both in the UK and in Fuerteventura and a short twitch from County Durham for the amazing Belted Kingfisher in Lancashire! Also, seeing over 5000 Razorbills in an hour past Splash Point a week before Christmas was also rather epic.

My best finds for this year were in short supply, but did comprise the following:

  • Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll on Shetland
  • Little Bunting in Sussex
  • Leach's Petrel in Sussex
  • Wryneck at Tide Mills (the start of an invasion)
  • the stunning Honey-buzzard at Beachy Head simultaneously found with Laurence
Other excellent highlights from the year in Sussex were the White-throated Sparrow at Barcombe, a few Pomarine Skuas and an incredible passage of Common/Arctic Terns past Splash Point, the insane re-find of the Northern Mockingbird at Pulborough and thorough investigation to find the whereabouts of the Monkey Orchid near Arundel!

Away from Sussex, Shetland provided much enjoyment, with a spring visit producing the goods with a Snowy Owl, an adult Long-tailed Skua, two Rose-coloured Starlings and the amazing Storm-petrel experience on Mousa. Finding my last UK dragonfly species (the Azure Hawker) with Dad in Highland was epic, as was the encounter of a Golden Eagle we had in the Findhorn Valley. A number of butterflies and other orchids were also seen.

One of the most adrenaline-fueled moments was being within touching distance of a Red Helleborine in the Chilterns... absolutely epic stuff.

Anyway, the following pictures make-up my stand-out moments of 2021:

Northern Mockingbird... mega re-find!

White-throated Sparrow - thorough investigation work meant
I could enjoy this yank mega all to myself the day after its discovery!

Snowy Owl on Unst - watching this beast with Dave Cooper
late in the evening was class!

Monkey Orchid - Tracking down where this single specimen grew 
was most rewarding when I set eyes on it.

This delightful Fox family in Peacehaven brought much joy

Red Helleborine - the rarest orchid in the UK

Black-browed Albatross

Clifden Nonpareil - finding this at work and
unbeknown to its size was awesome

Azure Hawker - my last UK Odonata species to see

Northern Emerald - probably my best dragonfly photo!

Photographing Common Dolphins on the 
Scilly pelagics was just as much fun as 
watching all of the seabirds.

Little Bunting - an amazing inland find at Iping Common

Tuesday, 21 December 2021

Lower Cuckmere - 21st December 2021

A long while since my last visit, and today I only had a short time before having to head back for work, but this was still plenty of time to find three Caspian Gulls in the gull flock. There were also quite a few each of Yellow-legged Gull and argentatus Herring Gull too, but I didn't have time to hang around and count.

Two first-winter Caspian Gulls at Lower Cuckmere

Saturday, 11 December 2021

Little Bunting at Iping Common - 11th December 2021

It's been a relatively hectic few months with guiding for Naturetrek, and now with my feet firmly on the ground for a few weeks, this has enabled me a fraction more time to go birding. Of course, I remain loyal to Sussex and so I had planned a short circuit for this morning around the north-west of the county.

I started at Stanley Common but this was exceptionally quiet with just a handful of Brambling being the only noteworthy species. A short drive away near to Milland, a short walk produced a decent view of a male Goshawk and five male Crossbills.

I was going to give up on the day, but with Iping Common just over the hill it seemed silly not to give it a quick visit, especially as I had Great Grey Shrike on the brain. Sadly none of these, but entering the common, I soon mulled over how similar the habitat appeared to that at Thursley Common, and quickly, the thought of finding a rare bunting entered my mind. Literally seconds later, whilst looking at a Reed Bunting atop a Birch Tree, a smaller bunting popped up next to it showing off bright, chestnut-coloured cheeks (Orange-cheeked Waxbill like ;-)). Being at a distance and without a scope or camera, it wasn't easy viewing but the obvious dark flecking on the breast was enough for me. Thankfully though, and to clinch the identification without seeing the black border to the ear coverts, the Little Bunting flew and started calling... BOOM!

After a couple of circles overhead, the bunting flew off but I knew it'd be back, so I went and grabbed the scope (I left the camera with three flat batteries!) and returned to the same spot. After wandering and checking every bunting, the Little came back into view and showed well for ten minutes allowing some more video and photos to be taken. I then called it a day and returned home, but delighted with finding a scarcity so far away from the coast, with the added highlights today of a Goshawk, Crossbills, Brambings and Dartford Warblers.

Little Buntings in Sussex have been somewhat frequent in recent years, with three this year and two last year, but this is still a pleasing 'find tick' and very unexpected.

Little Bunting at Iping Common