Lammergeier at Beachy Head - October 2020

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Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Back on the Patch 2/12/2020

After a month away, it was brilliant and revitalising to be back on the patch. I started off at Splash Point where I arrived just as it was getting light and immediately found a Black Redstart, which was soon enjoying the heat of my car and wouldn't come out from underneath it... it finally did once the engine had cooled down.

There was no sign of the Purple Sandpiper, so I visited the Upper Cuckmere and found a trio of juvenile White-fronted Geese on the first field north of the A259. However, despite further searches up and beyond Litlington, I couldn't find any further geese, so I headed to Arlington where the Snow Bunting showed admirably; a Black Redstart was also along the dam wall briefly. 

Lastly, the Cuckmere gull roost produced an adult Yellow-legged Gull and an odd hybrid Caspian-type that looked good for a grim German Caspian, until it revealed a pure dark underwing, so I left it! 

Jasper got a long walk afterwards, before I made the drive back to Hampshire.


Black Redstart at Splash Point

White-fronted Geese

Black Redstart at Arlington


Snow Bunting


Saturday, 28 November 2020

Thursley Common 28/11/2020

Another visit to Thursley Common in a matter of weeks was a success as the Rustic Bunting showed for a brief period late morning. It could have given better views, but it's a striking bird and the views I had were just about good enough. Probably the most belated UK tick I've had in years.


Rustic Bunting


Sunday, 22 November 2020

Crag Martin 22/11/2020

After what has been a terrible autumn for self-twitching, I finally broke, and early on Sunday morning I drove over to East Kent for the Crag Martin that had roosted the previous evening. It was only a two hour journey to Kingsdown and I arrived at 5.30am. It didn't get light for another hour, but soon enough I was standing on the beach with 60 or so other socially-distanced souls in the near-darkness, scanning the supposed roosting perch, to which there was no Crag Martin present!

Once it had got lighter, it was thankfully spotted flying about further down the cliffs and promptly did a couple of fly-bys before landing on the cliffs, this time in view and affording decent scope views. After 15-minutes or so of further flights and landing, it took off south and out of sight, not to be seen again that day. 

Afterwards, Ian, Jake and I separately drove north to where the Eastern Yellow Wagtail had been, but after 20 minutes, we got bored and reconvened at Dungeness. All I saw here was a Great White Egret and two Whooper Swans. A check of the pits to the west and into Sussex revealed nothing (the norm nowadays) and so it was to Rye next. The Shore Lark took some finding, mainly as it was distant and particularly fond of feeding amongst the brackish marsh... it was however a beauty and the highlight of my day!

Lastly, I walked to Castle Water, where all I achieved was laying on the bank and nearly nodding off and scanning the scant gull roost that produced limited quality. Anyway, an exhausting day and I was pleased to arrive home two hours later.

Social distancing...sort of

Crag Martin at Kingsdown

Whooper Swans at Denge Marsh

Shore Lark at Rye Harbour


Thursday, 19 November 2020

Ambersham Area 19/11/2020

I started a bit later than planned today; when I eventually got going, I decided to walk the fields, woods, and eventually, the heaths to the east of Midhurst, ending up conveniently at Heyshott and Ambersham Common. As it was a new area between Midhurst and the commons, it was very enjoyable, although the birds were somewhat lacking. 

Six Bullfinches were found along the way, but at a farmer's field near South Ambersham, I watched a small flock of birds fly in and land, which revealed themselves as Woodlarks! Ten birds were present altogether and showed rather well (30 Skylarks were also spread around the same field); four Crossbills also flew over. On Heyshott Common, a small group of Dartford Warblers were present. The light had sadly gone by mid-afternoon, so I called it a day.



Woodlarks at South Ambersham


Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Stanley Common 17/11/2020

With the appearance of a few Parrot Crossbills in the UK, I thought it was best to scour through the Crossbill flocks of NW Sussex. Stanley Common was the obvious go-to place and before even putting my wellies on, a flock of eight landed above the car. Throughout the morning, I had counted around 80 individuals, including an impressive flock of over 50! A large flock of Siskins were also present, but only a single Redpoll was noted. 

Nearby to Stanley, I spotted a large Chaffinch flock in-flight when driving, so I quickly pulled over. Being close to a school wasn't ideal, so I didn't stay long and daren't got the camera out, however, when the birds took flight (they were out of sight when feeding) I counted five Bramblings in amongst them (including some spectacular males). With the West Dean flock last week, I wonder if this year will see Sussex getting a big flock. The last big Brambling flocks I saw were at Kithurst Hill and West Dean... good times!


Common Crossbills



A large-billed Common Crossbill, 
though admittedly, it does
look Parrot-like, but I think I'm correct.

Calocera viscosa

The Brambling field



Friday, 13 November 2020

West Dean Woods 13/11/2020

As this afternoon was so pleasant, I decided to drive half an hour down to West Dean Woods, arriving around 1pm. I walked a large circuit and at some point ended up near the South Downs Way. At around 2.30pm, a large flock of Hawfinches flew into the trees above me and continuously fed and flew around for at least another half an hour. I obtained some superb views of them, and at one point, a minimum of six Bramblings flew in too. 

The birds then flew off, but I was certain that I was close to their roost site, as soon after, another flock of seven came into the same area, resulting in no fewer than 34 Hawfinches! 






Hawfinches at West Dean Woods

Brambling at West Dean Woods


Monday, 9 November 2020

Thursley Common 09/11/2020

After last weekend's failure to see the Little Bunting at Thursley Common, I was keen to give it another go today where I was hopeful that very few people would be present and I would have the bird to myself... if I could find it. The bunting, from last weekend onwards, had re-positioned to another side of the reserve, so I waited here for maybe two hours finding only a handful of Reed Buntings and several flyover Woodlarks and Crossbills. 

Another birder came up to me and said he had seen it briefly before it flew high and south, so despondently, I slowly ambled back towards my car on the opposite side of the common. Now back at the moat where the bunting was first located many weeks back, I mused to myself as to why there would be a reason why it wouldn't have returned here, and moments later, that metallic ticking call sounded from the stretch of boardwalk I had concentrated on last weekend. Immediately, the Little Bunting was on view and showed respectively for five minutes before an annoying couple came along a dead-end path and flushed it. 




Little Bunting at Thursley Common


Sunday, 1 November 2020

Dusky Warbler 01/11/2020

After an early start travelling down to Splash Point for some patch action, I left somewhat disappointed with the lack of return for my efforts. Thankfully, the Dusky Warbler was obliging on my way home from saying farewell to the family (and Jasper) for a month; the bird showed almost immediately on the outskirts of Crawley and was heard calling on a few occasions. Sadly, it was typically elusive in amongst the foliage, therefore, my pictures were somewhat poor.

So, that's it for a month! Hopefully I'll get some December 'gulling' in after lockdown, but between now and then, it's bonjour to you all.

p.s. Hoping for the Stonechat results this week, that's if the sample didn't get lost in the post!


Two clear and identifiable photos of
today's Dusky Warbler!




Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Day 8 of 12 - Medmerry RSPB 21/10/2020

Last night, the exciting news of a potential Stejneger's Stonechat found by Peter Alfrey filtered its way to me (thanks Josh Jones for the initial shout). 

Although the forecast for this morning was far from ideal, I arrived at the car park at first light with full hope of a sighting. I'd meant to have brought along with me a few pots to store any faecal matter for DNA analysis - currently the BBRC only accepts records of Stejneger's where DNA has been retrieved - therefore, I knew it could be a long and wet day.

Around 9.30am, accompanied by Richard Fairbank, I spotted the Siberian mega on a semi-distant hedge and we enjoyed prolonged views as it fed in a flycatcher manner. It's dark peachy rump was immediately obvious, as was the white throat, pale wing panel and generally paler peachy underparts. Although Peter had obtained some images the previous evening, I was keen to get some better shots and soon approached the bird within maybe 15-20 metres and managed to get some respectable shots. I quickly retreated and watched the bird from a distance in the field to the SW of the main car park, where it stayed for the majority of the day.

With rain persisting, we went back to the cars to dry out, which became a theme of the day to be honest, and by the end, my camera, bins and scope were all hopeless in their function! Anyway, after an eight hour vigil, Lee Evans and Ian Wells saw the bird drop one. I quickly got directed to the spot, found the faecal matter, and placed it in a pot that Jake had lent me. Job done... I drove home and the sample shall be posted tomorrow bound for Aberdeen University where hopefully it won't be a Goldfinch!





potential Stejneger's Stonechat
at Medmerry RSPB

The most important poop I've owned

Monday, 19 October 2020

Day 6 of 12 - Rye Harbour 19/10/2020

A day of guiding at Rye Harbour meant searching for migrants was few and far between, though I squeezed in a quick look at Fairlight where little was seen. 

Before Rye, I quickly looked at Pett Levels and was delighted to pick out the two adult White-fronted Geese in the distance beyond the pools.

Highlights for the day included a Merlin, Great White Egret, a Yellow-legged Gull and two Caspian Gulls. The gulls were around Castle Water, some on the main body of water and on the fields at Camber... I couldn't stay too long with the gulls as clients don't get much of a kick out of them the same way I do!


adult Caspian Gull at Castle Water


Sunday, 18 October 2020

Day 5 of 12 - Beachy Head & Roedean School 18/10/2020

 Another morning at Beachy Head was thankfully a shorter version than yesterday as I'm rather exhausted. Again though, it felt good and with seemingly just Laurence and myself working the area, the chance of a self-find lifted spirits somewhat.

I started at Birling and Belle Tout, then drove up to the hotel and walked down to Cow Gap, Whitbread Hollow and some of the rides above before calling it a day. There were very few finches moving due to the lighter winds.

Totals as follows:

Chiffchaff - 15
Dartford Warbler - 2
Goldcrest - ca. 40
Firecrest - 2
Redwing - 2
Blackcap - 4
Crossbill - 1 E 

Afterwards, I twitched the Pallas's Warbler at Roedean School found by Jamie Wilkinson in the morning. It performed rather well and a nice Siberian double with the Yellow-browed yesterday. A quick look at a few locations on my return proved fruitless.




Pallas's Warbler at Roedean School


Saturday, 17 October 2020

Day 4 of 12 - Beachy Head 17/10/2020

I decided to hit Beachy Head hard today and cover as much of the area as my legs and enthusiasm could take. This turned out to be a good move as it was an extremely enjoyable session with plenty of interesting birds flying overhead, and seemingly, fairly busy in the bushes too!  

I started at Birling Gap walking up to the pines before covering the Belle Tout area (excluding the wood) where the highlight was a Lapland Bunting flying west over the gulley and two Dartford Warblers in the gorse here. A Black Redstart was also at Birling Gap. I drove up to the hotel and walked straight down into Cow Gap via Icky Ridge and into Whitbread Hollow. Bob and Paul were ringing and had trapped a Mealy Redpoll earlier on! Throughout this walk I had seen five Ring Ouzels, three Firecrests and another Dartford Warbler, but overhead was where the interest really was as a Crossbill and amazingly, three Bearded Tits flew over!

I then parked up at Shooters Bottom and half-heartedly searched for the blythi Lesser Whitethroat with limited success, although another Dartford Warbler and a flyover Woodlark were good to see. I then walked up to Long Wood, back through Cornish Farm, rough field and into Belle Tout Wood, where finally, I found a Yellow-browed Warbler on the eastern edge of the wood. It was only present for a mere 30 seconds before vanishing. I walked back to Shooters and briefly checked Harry's Bush on my way back where other than more Goldcrests, little was seen. 

Totals for Beachy are as follows:

Goldcrest - ca. 50
Firecrest - 5 (2 Birling, 1 Cow Gap, 2 Whitbread)
Redpoll - ca. 40 E
Lapland Bunting - 1 W 08.15 (Belle Tout Gulley)
Dartford Warbler - 4 (2 Belle Tout, 1 Whitbread, 1 Shooters)
Chiffchaff - 25
Grey Wagtail - 1 E
Common Scoter - 5 offshore (Cow Gap)
Bearded Tit - 3 E (Whitbread)
Crossbill - 1 E
Fieldfare - 4
Ring Ouzel - 6 (4 Cow Gap, 1 Whitbread, 1 Shooters)
Stock Dove - 25 E
Woodlark - 1 W
Black Redstart - 1
Yellow-browed Warbler - 1 (Belle Tout Wood)

There were lots of Swallows and House Martins, plus a few thousand Starlings at Birling first thing. Linnets, Siskins and alba Wagtails were also conspicuous overhead!

Yellow-browed Warbler

Firecrest

Starlings


Ring Ouzels



Bearded Tits - my first ever high-flyers