Lammergeier at Beachy Head - October 2020

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Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Splash Point - Bank Holiday Weekend

I had been looking forward to the Bank Holiday for some time, mainly as it would surely mean I would be undertaking much seawatching. Despite the conditions not being as good as I would've wanted, there were still some noteworthy sightings, perhaps highlighted by the number of terns passing. 

Due to the wind direction and very clear conditions. most birds were mega distant, though one Pomarine Skua, which happened to have an enormous tail, was relatively close inshore, but the distance factor meant that very few terns were actually identified to species, though the ones that were close were mostly Common Terns. Other highlights involved a single flock of 18 Little Terns, some high-flying Commics with a tight group of seven Black Terns mixed in and a Balearic Shearwater, which was seen relatively well. 

Many thanks to Richard Fairbank for the company over the weekend!

Below are the totals from the entire weekend:

Brent Geese - 301
Mute Swan - 2
Shelduck - 2
Red-breasted Merganser - 1
Common Scoter - 450
Red-throated Diver - 11
Black-throated Diver - 4
Manx Shearwater - 3
Balearic Shearwater - 1
Gannet - 170
Whimbrel - 89
Bar-tailed Godwit - 35
Dunlin - 2
Little Gull - 10
Mediterranean Gull - 68
Sandwich Tern - 156
Common/Arctic Tern - 6140
Arctic Tern - 2
Little Tern - 20
Black Tern - 9
Great Skua - 18
Pomarine Skua - 5
Arctic Skua - 29
Auk sp. - 55

Sunday, 25 April 2021

Stanley & Lynchmere Commons 25/04/2021

A superb morning was had out on Stanley (and Lynchmere) Common, conducting my third Heathland Bird Survey of the season. Since moving to Hampshire, this site, which is only twenty-minutes away, has proved to be one of my favourite local sites and will hopefully reveal the presence of a Wood Warbler next month.

The previous two surveys I have completed have been very much below par, but now the summer migrants are in, this morning was very much above par. Although there was no sign of the Dartford Warbler seen on the previous two occasions, the Common revealed a number of birds in full voice. 

Probably the highlight were no fewer than 17 Firecrests spread over a relatively small area. Also, three singing Redstarts, five Tree Pipits (including a nest-building pair), a singing Woodlark (my first here), 30+ Crossbills, 8 singing Willow Warblers, a Cuckoo and a great view of a male Goshawk were seen. Lynchmere Common was, as usual, poor.



Tree Pipit


Stanley Common

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Splash Point 20/04/2021

A poor seawatch this morning, yet, it feels like it will be any day now that the first Pom will cruise past. Still, a superb pair of Garganey were this morning's highlight. Heavy sea mist probably halted any passage, or birds were beyond the bank of mist to see them, hence the poor quantities this morning.

Totals: 05:45 - 08:45; Wind NE1

Mediterranean Gull - 30
Sandwich Tern - 75
Common Scoter - 124
Gannet - 50
Shelduck - 10
Whimbrel - 20
Garganey - 2
Commic Tern - 16
Arctic Skua - 1
Great Skua - 1
Bar-tailed Godwit - 2
Red-throated Diver - 4
Black-throated Diver - 1
Little Gull - 6


Mediterranean Gulls

Monday, 19 April 2021

Seaford Head & Splash Point 19/04/2021

I started at Seaford Head this morning, and I'm glad I did, as there was a lovely mini 'fall' of Willow Warblers. Approximately 30 birds were present in Hope Gap and Harry's Bush and most, if not all, were males judging by the continuous serenading.

Afterwards, I joined Simon down Splash Point and enjoyed a short seawatch seeing 42 Little Gulls, an Arctic Skua and a couple of Black-throated Divers.

In the afternoon, I took Dad up to Castle Hill NNR, where after a short time, between us we found four flowering Early Spider Orchids, plus many more which will be out next week or the week after. 

Lastly, an evening seawatch (17:25 - 19:25) produced the following:

Little Gull - 40
Bar-tailed Godwit - 380
Arctic Skua - 2
Common Tern - 35
Common Scoter - 25
Mediterranean Gull - 20
Whimbrel - 25
Curlew - 28
Knot - 2
Red-throated Diver - 6

Willow Warbler at Hope Gap

Whitethroat at Hope Gap

Early Spider Orchid

Friday, 16 April 2021

Wilmington Ring Ouzels 16/4/2021

Last night, I received the dreaded phonecall from Dad that my dear Mum had sadly passed away. Although it was expected due to her recent month in hospital, it's still a shock to the system and deeply upsetting. Thankfully, she had her last day at home, where a few members of the family were able to spend time with her before she got sent back to hospital on Thursday evening, where a few hours later, she peacefully passed. 

So, today, I took Dad the short journey to Wilmington to see the excellent flock of Ring Ouzels, which were absolutely superb. Afterwards, a short two-hour seawatch produced 50 Sandwich Terns, 22 Mediterranean Gulls, 12 Bar-tailed Godwits and 16 Whimbrels

Ring Ouzel at Wilmington - phone-scoped

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Arun Valley/Chantry Hill 11/04/2021

On Sunday, Sara and I parked up at Arundel and walked a lovely 16-mile route, taking in the Arun Valley and the Downs up to Chantry Hill, then down to Amberley and back downriver.

There were many highlights along the way, though sadly, and not surprisingly, there was no sign of the Pallid/Montagu's/Hen/Northern Harrier seen on Monday (12th), but we were treated to the wonderful sighting of Boxing Hares! This was a first for both of us and the boxing lasted up to half-an-hour.

Later, whilst walking the ridge between Kithurst Hill and Amberley, I somehow spotted a very high White-tailed Eagle; I later learnt, thanks to LP, that this bird had flown down from Scotland in the preceding few days, being seen in Kent, East Sussex, and my sighting, before arriving back onto the Isle of Wight. The bird stayed in view for five minutes as it got held up by an incoming snow shower.

Elsewhere, seven singing Firecrests were noted along the 16-mile route, but no grounded migrants whatsoever!

Brown Hares

White-tailed Eagle over Amberley

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Northern Mockingbird - Pulborough 08/04/2021

With no sign of the Northern Mockingbird in Devon this morning, it was somewhat nice to know the bird had finally moved on after its prolonged stay. However, who knew it would then turn up at Pulborough the very next day! 

Thankfully, a homeowner managed to release some pictures of the bird late morning, and once it had been re-found by Dave Sadler et al., it was time to get permission to leave the office/kitchen and head straight down. Rather helpfully, the bird obliged the whole time I was there and showed well on numerous occasions, much to the relief of many. It goes without saying that this is the first record for Sussex, and continues this year's American theme with the White-throated Sparrow being seen this year also... what else is lurking out there?

It was also great to see and speak to so many birders who I haven't seen for some time... happy days!

Northern Mockingbird at Pulborough

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Seaford Head 31/03/2021

A quick jaunt up Seaford Head this morning produced my first Willow Warbler of the spring, which gave itself away with its wonderful song. Three Wheatears in Hope Gap and five Chiffchaffs scattered about were also welcome.

Brief spells of seawatching before and after resulted in minor activity, though three Arctic Skuas did go through whilst I was on the headland.

Willow Warbler by Harry's Bush

Wheatear in Hope Gap

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Devon & Cornwall 30/03/2021

It had been a long wait to twitch this fine duo. Jake and Ian joined me for the day and equipped with a step-ladder for the Northern Mockingbird and current buns for the American Herring Gull, we surely couldn't go wrong. 

Both birds were easy and we completed a yank hattrick with a trio of Ring-necked Ducks on our way back. 

Northern Mockingbird in Exmouth

American Herring Gull at Newlyn Harbour

Sunday, 28 March 2021

Splash Point & Seaford Head 26/03/2021

Mum has been in and out of hospital in the past week, and with news of her coming out, I decided to head back down to Sussex on Thursday evening to hopefully see her. Unfortunately, she went back in during the journey down. As I wasn't too far away, I carried on and stayed nearby, so the next morning I did an early morning seawatch before work. 

The seawatch was fairly decent for a south-westerly wind, but no doubt many birds had now been held up due to the ongoing poor conditions so it was bound to be OK. It was great to see my first skuas of the year, but when I left, Liam took over and the passage picked up, and by the end of the day, between us, we had accumulated a respectable tally.

Splash Point: 05:45 - 08:30, Wind SW 3

Red-throated Diver - 45
Sandwich Tern - 67
Common Gull - 89
Common Scoter - 122
Mediterranean Gull - 33
Brent Geese - 80
Gannet - 60
Shelduck - 2
Whimbrel - 1
Teal - 2
Arctic Skua - 3
Pintail - 2

After work, I quickly nipped up onto Seaford Head as large numbers of Wheatears were being seen elsewhere. I was delighted to find three superb males close to Harry's Bush. 

So, on Saturday morning I drove back to Hampshire along the coast, stopping off at Patching for the superb Yellow-browed Warbler, and then at Ivy Lake where I counted 60 Sand Martins

Wheatear on Seaford Head

Thursday, 18 March 2021

Little Bunting & Lesser Spotted Woodpecker


Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

Little Bunting at Warnham LNR

Friday, 26 February 2021

'Birding to Base Camp' - Birdwatch Issue 345

I was pleased this month to get a 4-page article into Birdwatch magazine, featuring my Everest trek from last year and the many exciting birds seen along the Khumbu Valley: Himalayan Monal, Blue-fronted Redstart and Tibetan Snowcock to name a few. Thrown in for good measure are a number of scenic shots of Everest itself.

The magazine, if you wish to purchase it, can be bought online.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Splash Point & Lower Cuckmere 23/02/21

On Sunday, I had to drive back to Seaford to offer my services to my parents who are still unable to get out. Of course, I decided to make the most of it, arriving at Splash Point for first light where only a trio of Shags were present offshore and the odd passing auk and Common Scoter.

Afterwards, I parked up on Seaford Head and walked the Cuckmere. No doubt the highlight was three Water Pipits which were present on the west side, and at one point, feeding together. Also present were a handful of Scandinavian Rock Pipits, two Knot and a Bar-tailed Godwit. The gull flock was fairly poor although it did contain a good number of adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Scandinavian Rock Pipit in flight

Water Pipits in Lower Cuckmere

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Bob Izzard RIP

Today, I found out the saddening news that local birder, and overall good friend, Bob Izzard, sadly passed away a couple of days ago.

Bob could often be encountered down Cuckmere Haven where he spent countless hours watching and photographing the birds. It was during many of these sessions that Bob would find the odd good bird too. Two that spring to mind straight away are the following: Sabine's Gull at Cuckmere and the very popular Corncrake at Beachy Head. The latter was enjoyed by many during the course of its three-day stay.

Overall though, Bob was a true gent and always had a smile on his face and was generally a joy to be around with. In recent years I sadly didn't see Bob too often due to his illness, but every Spring, he would often tap me on the shoulder as I sat down Splash Point and we'd have a nice chat.

Condolences to Bob's family, and lastly to say, Bob will certainly be missed by all the local birders who were fortunate to know him.

Bob Izzard

Corncrake - April 2013

Sabine's Gull - September 2011

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Lynchmere & Stanley Commons 20/2/2021

Today, I entered Sussex for only the third time this year to embark upon my season of a heathland bird survey on Lynchmere & Stanley Commons. They are far from the classic West Sussex commons which I'm used to, however, there is always a healthy Crossbill population here. The Brambling flock that I found in December has sadly dispersed; in fact, very few finches were present other than some flyover Lesser Redpolls and Siskins.

I found a superb viewpoint that overlooks many wooded valleys which lie to the west of Blackdown, and if I'd given it more time, no doubt a Goshawk would have emerged from this pristine habitat before too long.

A Dartford Warbler was a surprise find on a miniscule segment of heather on Stanley, but it was the Crossbills that once again provided the avian highlight of this area; otherwise, it was just overwhelmingly thrilling to be out and about in Sussex again.

Crossbills at Stanley Common - 
this male was in full song!