Saturday, 27 March 2010

Dull day on the Downs

With strong NW winds for most of the day, it was never likely to be a fantastic day's birdwatching, and so it has turned out today.
On Bishopstone Golf Course, four singing Chiffchaffs, (presumably breeding birds), and a fly-over Bullfinch the best birds seen. In Greenway Bottom, there were two more Chiffchaffs, a Grey Partridge and a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker. Around Rachfinny Farm House, a flock of birds on the fields was made up of 50+ Linnets and 20+ Skylarks (the linnets being a year tick), while there was also a singing Corn Bunting (also a year tick). A few Red-legged Partridge also present in these areas, and a pair of Stonechats posed well in the scattered bushes at the foot of Camp Hill, where there were two more singing Chiffchaffs. On Cradle Hill, a roughly acre-sized patch of Wasteland held another pair of Corn Buntings,and there were three Red-legged Partrisdges.

The days total was
Chiffchaff-eight singing males
Grey partridge-one in Greenway  Bottom
Great Spotted Woodpecker-one drumming in Greenway Bottom (in wood opposite Blatchington Reservoir)
Linnet-50+ around Rachfinny Farm House
Skylark-20+ around Rachfinny Farm House
Corn Bunting-singing male at Rachfinny Farm House, pair in Cradle Valley
Red-legged Partridge-3 on Cradle Hill, 4 around Rachfinny Farm and Camp Hill
Stonechat-pair at foot of Camp Hill

I seemed to spend the whole time with my head stuck perpetually skywards, in the hope of finding an Alpine Swift, but alas I had no luck whatsoever.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

sightings 22-26 March

Monday 22nd-an Oystercatcher flew over the house calling at night, the first garden record

Tuesday 23rd-in glorious weather a Chiffchaff calling from the school grounds, and 6 Meadow Pipits flew North

Wedensday 24th-no Chiffchaffs today but 3 Meadow Pipits migrating onwards over my school

Thursday 25th-Sadly confined to bed for most of the day, but saw a Chiffchaff from my window, and there were several more (5-10) calling as they passed Northwards through the surrounding gardens

Friday 26th-2 Meadow Pipits moved North over Seaford
Goldfinch in Back garden-26 March 2010

Monday, 22 March 2010

Photos 21/3/10

Not actually a later date, but about half an hour later, here are the photos from yesterday!
Wigeon in the Cuckmere, there were about 60 of them concentrated along one ditch and the surrounding grassland

one of the three White Wagtails that showed well by the horse paddock

and another one

Some Little Egrets, three were fishing together in one ditch and showing very well for the camera

Also, this morning I got a text from Matt Eade, saying he, Marc Read and Bob Self had seen a Serin flying over Hope Gap! I was on course to arrive at school a few minutes early, so I walked out for a brief circuit of the Golf Course. Unsurprisingly, I saw nothing at all, very jealous, if only every good bird could turn up at the weekend!

No Alpine Swift or Scandinavian Rock but a boreal Jack and White Wags saved the day

On Sunday 21st woke up at a reasonable 10:00, NW winds had rendered Splash Point completely useless for the day, but I still planned an afternoon visit to the Cuckmere to take a look for some Scandinavian Rock Pipits. However, Ian Whitcomb phoned the house at about 10:30, saying he and brother Andrew (his blog has details and a record shot) had seen an Alpine Swift flying over Rodmell! As unlikely as catching up with the bird seemed, Dad and I had to go for a look anyway. We stopped at the garden centre at Kingston, where you get a decent view accross the floodplain, but before long it became apparent there was no Swift anywhere around. However, we did bump into Matt Eade and Marc Read, both out looking for the damded thing too. We all eventually decided to have a quick look from Southease, again to no avail. Matt called Paul Marten (the poor bloke was up in Crawley, trying to act as ambassador for us and the Whitcombs, as none of us had their phone numbers and vice versa!). However, despite rather spoiling his morning, we did gather the Swift had last been over Piddinhoe, heading strongly South. It didn't look promising, and Marc was especially annoyed, he lived in Newhaven and might have managed a garden tick if he'd stayed at home! We all decided on one final search, at the Ouse Estuary Project. Inevitably this didn't pan out well at all, 3 Chiffchaffs and a squealing Water Rail being small consolation, and dad and I left Matt, Marc, and Geoff Gowlett and Charlie Perverett at the Ouse as they searched a while longer, to no avail, while we went home to sulka and keep a look out over the garden! Still, all part of the twitching experience, I suppose!

At around 2.30, I set out for cuckmere, in the hope of seeing  Scandinavian Ripit or two. Immediately noticeable was the continued presence of at least 120 Wigeon in the valley, while also counted fairly easily where at least 50 Meadow pipits and 7 Chiffchaffs. In the horse paddock and saltmarsh the Scandies are supposed to be, there were three White Wagtails among their pied friends. From here on I searched up and down the riverbank and horse paddock several times. two Blackcap were chacking away from inside a Long-tailed Tit flock, but there was nothing else of note, bar a Curlew and a few Little Egret. However, in one final burst of activity, I was walking the horse paddock for the last time before leaving, when three feet in front of me, a small wader burst out from a patch of tussocky grass, flying out over the bridge in a low and direct manner.
 I assumed at first it was a Snipe, but it had been very diffiult to flush, and as it was flushed it didn't make their usual rasping call. It also looked quite small for the five seconds I saw it, with two bright yellow stripes visible along its back as it took off. Comon Snipe, when flushed, also tend to cartwheel off into the sky and carry on going until they quite a distance away. It finally occured to me that I had seen a Jack Snipe!! I had been cautious about it at first as Jack Snipe typically fly into the nearest bit of cover and then aren't seen ever again, but I soon realised this was just about te only cover in the horse paddock. I presumed it was an exhasuted and grounded migrant, that had perhaps stopped to feed on the saltmarsh, as winter birds generally pick more suitable habitat! I took a few photos during the day, which i will add at a later date.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Garganey, a Glaucous and everything else!

After a successful seawatch this morning, I had had my birding 'fix' for the day, which included two year-ticks and loads of other good birds at Splash Point. However, that all changed thanks to a phone call from my dad. Apparently there were two Garganey showing very well on the Ouse Estuary Project! I'd spent almost everyday around there in late March 2009 without seeing one! I rushed down as fast as my bike could carry me, and upon getting there the Garganey were showing brilliantly. It was two drakes in all their beauty, hanging around with a flock of Teal. My best photo attempts are below;

Also present on the wetlands were 60 Teal, 30+ Snipe, a Lapwing and a Curlew. Winter obviously isn't quite over yet. While I was there, dad mentioned there were five Mediterranean Gulls in the gull flock on the floodwater. Almost immediately, I heard the cooing, Eider-like sound of one, and picked out one in the 200 or so gulls. I then noticed something else flying overhead. It was biscuit-coloured, with a creamy-pink bill and blackish-brown speckling, and it looked quite big. In the back of my mind I thought "Glaucous Gull", but I had just found a possible Yellow-legged Gull in the flock, so I put it out of my mind, convincing myself I had seen a Herring Gull looking odd in the light. Anyway, the Yellow-legged Gull turned out to probably be a juvenile Great Blackback (though I'm not totally convinced, and if I find it does look like a Yellow-leg or Casp in the gull books I'll put a picture of it on here). But getting back to the story, Mum and Dad had gone to sainsbury's for the shopping, and I was currently at home. So imagine how annoyed I was when dad rushed through the door, saying he had gone back to the Ouse Estuary and seen... a Glaucous Gull!!! We got down there, and checked through the gull flocks, to no avail (although I did manage to see four Mediterranean Gulls). Still, I am now sure I saw the Glauc before, and since I cathink of no reason why a bird you only identify a few hours after you've seen it shoudln't count, it now goes on my year list, which, with the addition of Garganey as well, is now on 114!!

Finally, a quick two pictures, of flocks of Brent Geese flting very close inshore at Splash Point this morning.

Splash Point 20 March

with a strong wind coming from the S/SE today, my first spring seawatch was fairly good, though others have reported greater variety and numbers in the past week. Also at Splash Point today were Bob Self, Geoff Gowlett and two other birders whose names I don't know. The highlights, from 06:30-09:00, were 300 or so Brent Geese (with flocks of 100 and 120 flying very close inshore), around 30 Common Scoter and 25 Red-throated Diver, 2 Mediterranean Gulls, 2 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Pintail, 4 Eider, 1 Whimbrel, 20 or so Gannets, 3 Shelduck, 1 Whimbrel, 1 unidentified diver, and nice performances from the resident Rock Pipits, Peregrines and Kittiwakes. No sign of the Black Redstart reported here recently. All the seabirds were passing east, while 4 Meadow Pipits came in off the sea. None of the hoped for Sandwich Tern and Garganey, although I still got two year ticks, Eider and Whimbrel. Many of the birds seen passed cose inshore, with good views of most of the brents, the two Pintails, several summer-plumaged Red-throated Divers and the Eider. A good day, though well down on Thursday, when other birders reported a Red-necked Grebe, a Black-necked Grebe, larger numbers of Scoter (including one Velvet), a few Little Gulls and Sandwich Terns, and almost 800 Brent Geese.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Birding Seaford from 15-19 March

I'm keeping notes of interesting birds I see from Monday-Friday this week, and will add them onto this post as I go

15 March-a Song Thrush heard singing from the garden.

16 March-two Goldcrests singing around the Downs Lesiure Centre, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker calling here.

17 March-One Goldcrest singing around my school today, with presumably the same bird seen briefly in flight. Several more chattering away around Seaford, they are getting much more active as March progresses.

18 March-a different Goldcrest singing from conifers on the opposite side of school today. a Song Thrush again singing from the backgarden, and a Green Woodpecker calling around school.

19 March-three Goldcrests singing in Seaford, and a Song Thrush again heard singing from my garden.

Carrion Crow from garden-18 March 2010

an assortment of Woodpigeon and Starling on a nearby rooftop-15 March 2010

Monday, 15 March 2010

14 Feb 2010-Bittern and some other stuff

I didn't expect much birding today on mother's day, but sometimes you can get really surprised!

I started at the Cuckmere, with some of the pictures I took shown below.

In the Cuckmere Valley between Charleston Reedbed and Litlington, totals of 60 Wigeon, 30 Teal, 7 Redshank, 5 Snipe, 2 Shelduck, and a possible Yellow-legged Gull with the gull flocks, a record shot of which is shown below.

This gull was seen with a small flock of Common and Black-headed Gulls just south of Litlington. Dad and I decided it was probably a juv Herring Gull, but it didn't look quite right, and may have been a Yellow-legged. Comments welcome on it. If it was a Yellow-legged, it wold be the second good gull around here this March, after the Glaucous Gull seen by Steve Dawson at the start of March

After this, and at the slight annoyance of mum, dad got a phone call from Nick Pope, who had found a Bittern at Deans Farm Pond (actually a flooded field) with some reeds around the edges. As ridiculous as it sounded, when we got there, the bird was showing very well. I got a few record shots, but the evening light, the bitterns camoflage and my shivering hand in the cold evening all made a steady and focused photgraph a less than easy task! My best effort is shown below.

Note* A better photo of the Bittern can be found on Matt Eade's blog

Saturday, 13 March 2010

13 March 2010, two year ticks and many signs of spring!

A day that always promised a lot of birding activity, and in whcih I got to use my newly acquired camera quite a lot!

It started in the early morning, with a few Redwings still present around Seaford, along with a calling Great Spotted Woodpecker from my back garden, while I managed some nice photos taken of one of the local pigeons and a dunnock which has taken up territory in a very obliging bush on the corner of the street, and often shows very well.

After this, I cycled up to Seaford Head, hoping perhaps for a few migrants, but more for some camera-practice. Things started well, a few efforts to photograph crows in the fields at South Hill Barn coming out like this

Crows are among my favourite birds, being inquisitive, cunning and intelligent, however, I have already discovered this intelligence makes them difficult to photograph, They will stay put as long as you are moving, but stop and pull out a camera and in the time it takes to turn it on, the crow will prbably be a distant dot flying away on the horizon, or perched in a field too far away to photograph. However, the Carrion Crows in the latter picture posed well, being at just the right distance to feel 'safe', while the Magpie in the former picture was just luck and some heavy cropping at home as it disappeared over a hill! Also in the fields just to the north of South Hill Barn, a Fox ran through the sheep, causing momentary havoc, annoyingly it was gone before I could get a snap.

The next interesting thing I saw was a Peregrine flying strongly overhead, North over South Hill Barn. I was locking my bike up at the time so I couldn't photograph it, but it was so close I could hear the noise made by its wings as it rushed past!
At the small pond by South Hill Barn, frogspawn was a sure sign of spring around the corner (and for once the weather did feel like this today!), while the usual pair of Mallard posed well for some photographs.

In the pastures East of South Hill Barn, there were 300+ Starlings, with each sheep attracting its own small flock (see picture below), while two more Magpies where slightly more photogenic than the last one

I also took a photo of the sheep, just for the hell of it!

While walking along the path that runs along the eastern edge of this field, I saw a bird perched in one of the tallest bushes in the semi scrub (a mixture of tall-ish bushes and untamed brambles) to my left. It took off with a bouncy, loloping flight, similar to a Thrush or Woodepcker, and as it disappeared from view I got a brief glimpse of a white rump. a Wheatear!! It was my first of the year, the first in sussex this year (as far as I'm aware), and one of the first to be seen in Britain as a whole this year! (They have been much later arriving than in recent springs, it seems.) They tend to prefer open ground, but I theorized that this individual had probably been doing exactly that before the dog-walking mob descended on the cliffs, and had since taken shelter in the low-lying scrub of Hope Gap. I searched for it for twenty minutes or so, but could not relocate it.
While I was looking, I got this photo of a Jackdaw on the clifftop, presumably enjoying the sea view!
I had planned to walk along the clifftop in a vain search for more Wheatears, or perhaps a Black Redstart, but as I walked along the bottom of Hope Gap, where the sea is easily viewable, I saw two birds in the distance, I thought they would be gulls, but the looked diferent in shape, even from that range, and my suspicions were confirmed when they simalteneously dived, not typical gull behaviour! Walking down the steps at Hope Gap to the undercliff, I got a closer look and they turned out to be a pair of Great Crested Grebes. A few of these can often be seen from the coast in spring as the migrate east, but unlike other migrants, they never seem to be in a hurry, simply swimming along and letting the waves to most of the work for them. These two were no different, and thanks to a bit of running, followed by some crouching behind the strategically located boulders found on the undecliff, I got close enough for a few photos. These are very blurry, but you can clearly see that it is a pair, partaking in some pre-season courtship.

I followed the two of them along the undercliff, and as a result found a Fulmar nest above me, and got photographs of Oystercatcher and Curlew on the rockpools that were revealed with the tide. There were also several Rock Pipits along the cliffs holding territory, but I didn't get any photographs, hopefully within a month a walk along here might be greeted by their fantastic but often underlokked display flight.

Here the dedicated male is regurgitating food for his mate, presumably busy incubating their eggs

A Small oystercatcher in a big sea

While I was photographing the Curlew, a soft, whistling sound became apparent in the distance, which I identified as Wigeon. Gradually, it came closer, and closer, until eventually I saw about 100 of them flying out of Cuckmere Haven and out to sea. About 50 of these continued onwards and departed east, with the other 50 remianing offshore, at a distance of about half a mile, from whcih I somehow got this very distant record shot

After walking along the undercliff for about an hour, I eventually arrived at Cuckmere Haven. I didn't see anything else hugely interesting, but got a few decent photos, shwon below

a few Black-headed Gull images, taken from in the Cuckmere, with #1 being taken on the main river and#2 on the ditch that runs parallel to it on the West Side

and a nice chance to get Redshank and Oystercatcher in the same shot.

And finally, ending as I started, with an inquisitive looking pigeon in the dovecote at South Hill Barn!!

I also saw a migrating Meadow Pipit fly NW over the car park as I was unlocking my bike for the ride home.

However, I haven't quite ended. I saw a Tawny Owl, caught in our car's headlights on the way back from Brighton at about 7.30 pm. After the hard-earned year tick a few hours ago, this was somehwat luckier and somewhat easier!!! My yearlist is now 109 species., with the addtion today of Wheatear and Tawny Owl.

My Highlights of the day, as follows;
Red Fox-1 ran accross sheep fields near South Hill Barn
Peregrine-1 flying low NE over South Hill Barn
Starling-300+ in sheep pastures south of South Hill Barn
Common Frog-six clumps of Frogspawn counted in the small pond by the car park
Wheatear-1 in Hope Gap
Great Crested Grebe-a pair observed in courtship as they drifted east past Hope Gap, stopping off in Cuckmere Haven and still present in the bay when I last saw them
Wigeon-100 departing out to sea from the Cuckmere, with about half continuing east and the rest sitting on the sea half a mile offshore for atleast 10 minutes. 
Meadow Pipit-1 NW over the car park at 13:55

Friday, 12 March 2010

A few more photos

Some edited photos, unedited versions where put on yesterday

A new one taken today, this herring gull was perched on the roof of the house backing onto ours, and shaking its wings in the rain.

Thursday, 11 March 2010


A few pics I've taken over the last few days. Please note the camera is new, and its been almsot constantly windy, so it is difficult to hold a camera remotely steady

A Collared Dove taken from my bedroom

Several Herring Gull photos, also taken from my garden

A Magpie and a Jackdaw, also from my back garden
Starling on the aerial on our roof
Canada Geese at the Cuckmere, 10/3/10

Other sightings from the last few days, at the Cuckmere on 10th March 100 Wigeon, a sign winter isn't over yet, while a Goldcrest singing in Seaford for the first time since the weather was last nice(over a month ago!) was a sure sign spring is just around the corner!
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