Puffin at Hermaness, Unst

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Sunday, 26 July 2020

Cuckmere Haven 26/7/20

A brilliant evening spent with the Little Stint that showed extremely well. The Wood Sandpiper was also still present. There were plenty of Sand Martins moving south and a Hobby also dashed through, chasing a couple of Swifts as it went. 




Little Stint at Cuckmere Haven

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Cuckmere Haven 25/7/20

After an unproductive seawatch with Bob Self this morning finding only a Manx Shearwater flying west, I went down the Cuckmere for my first visit in a long time.  

The highlight by a long way was finding a Wood Sandpiper on the AGP pool. Unlike all the others I have seen in the world, this individual did not budge as we stared at each other no more than 15 metres apart. Having no camera was a major issue, so I ran back to the car to grab it and walked all the way back. Fortunately, it was still about, and adding to a nice list of waders for the morning/day. 

Late morning, Ian & myself visited the same Violet Helleborines I saw last year in mid-Sussex; the 10+ spikes encountered were mostly in good condition. 

Just as I thought my day was done, Brian Cox found a Little Stint in the Cuckmere, which meant another visit this afternoon with Dad. Despite the tipping rain, the stint was still present and a Little Ringed Plover was on the scrape. 

Last night, at Newhaven Harbour, a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was present.

Totals:

Wood Sandpiper - 1
Green Sandpiper - 1
Common Sandpiper - 2
Little Stint - 1
Dunlin - 11
Turnstone - 1
Black-tailed Godwit - 7
Little Ringed Plover - 1
Whimbrel - 1



Wood Sandpiper

Black-tailed Godwits

Little Stint

Little Ringed Plover


juvenile Yellow-legged Gull at Newhaven Harbour

Monday, 20 July 2020

A Lammergeier Weekend

On Friday, after an excellent day leading for Naturetrek on Ashdown Forest, I was all poised to spend the night driving and hiking up into the Peak District for the long-standing Lammergeier. Rather stupidly, I checked the Peak's weather forecast for Saturday and found that it was going to be foggy and raining for most of the day... not ideal for a large raptor.

My flatmate and I quickly re-evaluated our plans and instead, drove into the Cotswolds (no where near the Peaks) on Saturday morning for a long walk. Several notifications and tweets confirmed there to be little in the way of fog (or rain), therefore meaning we would've found the bird with ease and obtained excellent views! 

So, after our 10-mile walk in the Cotswolds, I drove up to the Peaks and parked up at Ladybower Reservoir. We then hiked uphill for 90-minutes to near where the vulture was meant to be roosting, though it was seemingly clear that the bird wasn't going to fly into its roost this evening. We descended back to the car, only stopping for a Spotted Flycatcher feeding in the near-darkness.

We found some simple provisions for dinner, then went to our erected tent at the Fox Hagg Campsite a little way down the road. Sleep was hardly on the menu due to noise around the campsite, so when the alarm went off at 2am, it was fairly easy to awake and drive back to Ladybower. 

We started the ascent in complete darkness, although the sky to the east was getting lighter as we got halfway up the hill, though the comet was strangely out of sight. Approaching Back Tor, it was now light enough and we wasted no time in making our way to the roost sight, though it soon became clear it hadn't roosted last night... not much of a surprise! So we walked back to Back Tor with Sara now absolutely freezing and me just in my shorts feeling fine, therefore we basked on Back Tor and waited and waited. It felt unlikely the Lammergeier would appear so we started descending, with news coming through that it was visible again by the main road. A brisk walk turned into a mini jog and we made our way quickly to Strines joining the endless line of vehicles along a small road (much to the dislike of the park ranger, though Bill Oddie was there so I felt compelled not to move) and started to scan. 

Eventually we clapped eyes on the Lammergeier and although distant, it was mightily impressive as it circled low down and came down to land on some rocks. It perched in view for a prolonged period, but as we made our way up a nearby hill to get closer, it took flight and was seen to thermal up to a great height and disappear off to the west. Although views could've been better (well much better), it was great to have seen it and it was still an impressive sight.

With success, we decided to drive back home that took just under four hours and it was fair to say, I was beyond tired!

Other birds seen included several Red Grouse, Golden Plover and a male Merlin. 









Friday, 17 July 2020

Ashdown Forest - 17/7/20

It's been an excellent week leading several tours on Ashdown Forest. 

Dragonflies have been observed daily, with several Golden-ringed Dragonflies performing well and a couple more Brilliant Emeralds also showing. Brown Hawkers have also been particularly numerous, though only a couple of Southern Hawkers have been found. 

The undoubted highlights this week have been several surprising encounters of a male Honey-buzzard, including on one occasion when it was seen wing-clapping. Today, two Honey-buzzards were watched being attacked by a Hobby, whilst earlier on in the morning a huge female Goshawk was also found. On one day, we counted 12 Dartford Warblers spread across two sites, as well as a few Tree Pipits and many Lesser Redpolls.

female Goshawk

Honey-buzzard

Hobby mobbing a Honey-buzzard

Golden-ringed Dragonfly

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Ashdown Forest 13/07/2020

The hot and sunny weather brought out the many species of Odonata that Ashdown is renowned for. Although I didn't go searching in the areas that Black Darters normally frequent, I still managed a respectable ten species. As always this time of year, the highlight was a superb Brilliant Emerald that posed brilliantly; I didn't try to use my macro lens, though I still got some decent photos with my longer lens. 

Bird wise, a male Honey-buzzard and the usual suspects were found on what was a sweltering day.

Unfortunately, my settings were still set for the comet!

After a quick re-jig, the results still weren't great - male Honey-buzzard



female Brilliant Emerald

Keeled Skimmer


Comet Neowise


Saturday, 11 July 2020

Knepp Estate 11/07/20

A day spent at Knepp leading another Naturetrek tour proved to be an excellent day. Although birds were difficult to find, we discovered a variety of butterflies, including a superb Brown Hairstreak and a few Purple Emperors; all in all a total of 19 species were seen. The White Storks pleased the crowd too!


Brown Hairstreak

Purple Hairstreak

Beautiful Demoiselle



White Storks

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Recent Stuff

The past few days I've been back in Sussex as I'm leading several Naturetrek tours within the county; one tour yesterday and plenty more in the coming days/weeks.

On my way over on Sunday, I nipped into one of the traditional sites for Green-flowered Helleborines in West Sussex. Finding a couple of orchids proved to be nice and easy, though getting a decent picture meant laying in the middle of the main road! A Turtle Dove was seen nearby too.

Yesterday, a guided walk on Ashdown Forest produced the normal heathland specialities, though Odonata was most noteworthy with plenty of Golden-ringed Dragonflies, Small Red Damselflies, and a freshy emerged Black Darter.

On Tuesday evening, a walk with Jasper along Peacehaven undercliff produced a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull in with a small gull flock... though they quickly flew off west.

Poplar Hawk Moth at Naturetrek HQ


Green-flowered Helleborine in West Sussex


Golden-ringed Dragonflies at Ashdown Forest

Black Darter at Ashdown Forest

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Bempton Cliffs RSPB, Yorkshire

A busy week at work meant I had little or no chance of getting to Yorkshire for the Black-browed Albatross before the weekend. Friday morning was the time to be there as there were some crippling photos emerging; by midday the bird had seemingly disappeared and there was no further sign up until dark. 

The sporadic nature of this bird meant that a visit on Saturday morning was worthy of an attempt, despite the odds very much against a successful twitch. Unfortunately, despite an 8-hour vigil, there was no sign of the albatross. As disappointing as this was, it was still great to view all of the regular occurring seabirds that frequent these steep-sided cliffs. 

Noteworthy sightings for the day was a splendid Long-eared Owl, many Tree Sparrows, and a couple of Harbour Porpoise, the latter directly below the viewpoints. 

Razorbills

Gannet
Puffin

Kittiwake

Razorbill

Guillemots on the edge

Tree Sparrow