Saturday, 24 April 2010

Birding from last couple of weels

With exam revision preventing any reasoable amount of time in which to get a blog post together, I am afraid you will all have to make do with this rather poor attempt at a post, no pictures for now, I will add them at a later date.

To start this post, on 17 April, the last day of the holidays, I was travelling to an undisclosed location (for no reason other than what I discovered there) in central sussex, on a camping trip with the rest of the sussex wildlife trust youth council. My sussex list was, at the time, 130, with my british list slightly better at 134. The first interesting bird of the trip was a House Martin flying over the road by The University of Sussex. It was the briefest of views, but there isn't really anything else sparrow sized with navy-blue colouration and a striking white rump that would fit the bill! That was sussex year tick 131, and british year tick 135. As soon as we arrived at the location, it became clear this was an excellent wood small wood. I could hear Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Garden Warbler chattering away in the treetops, the latter another year tick. A Lesser Whitethroat revealed itself in one of the hedgerows, and commoner birds comprised plenty of Great-spots and Green Woodpeckers, plenty of singing Goldcrests, and lots of Nuthatches and Treecreepers(the latter a sussex year tick, my 133rd). three Fallow Deer were sene very briefly in the early-afternoon, and on a walk around the rest of the area we saw over 200 of them, along with 3 Buzzards and a drumming Great-spot, while butterflies included 2 Orange-Tips and plenty of Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells and Cabbage Whites. In the evening we saw 3 Roe Deer, and a pair of Tawny Owls were too-wit-too-wooing. We had set up some mammal traps, one of which produced a mouse, either Yellow-necked or Field, while we left the others out overnight.

During the night, sleeping accomodations were basic to say the least. A Tarpaulin, tied up between two trees, is hardly a five-star hotel, but sleeping out in the open was a nice experience, even if I barely slept! The benefit of this, though, was that at five o'clock in the morning, I was awake when the first Blackbird started singing in the Dawn Chorus. within two minutes he was joined by two more. A Robin and a Song Thrush followed suite soon after, and before you knew it the air was alive with these three songsters. a cawing Carrion Crow joined the furore, and then several more did. Two Wrens began tacking in the undergrowth, and once they had rubbed the sleep out of their eyes they were positively bellowing at one another. A Green Woodpecker soon yaffled in the background, while the first Chiffchaff of the morning began piping out its tunes. The Tawny Owls mustn't have got to sleep, because soon their strange, haunting cries echoed through the woods, silencing all birdkind for a few seconds before the mini-orchestra recovered its instruments. And soon a charismatic Nuthatch began his peculiar song, if you can call it that. A shrill Treecreeper just about squeezed its call into the range of human ears, and this seemed to trigger a great deal of reaction from five or six Chiffies, who suddenly decided to temporarily drown out all the other birdsong. This in turn invoked Blue Tits and Chaffinches to join the madness, and then I was out of my bed and I had to help making breakfast for the happy campers. This was done in true caveman style, cooking our food over an open fire, and doing Ray Winstone proud by avoiding burning anything other than my fingers. Oh, and a few Sausages! During this time, Blackcaps, Great Tits, Greenfinches and Goldcrests all joined the competition of 'who can sing loudest and wake all the b*s***ds who decided to camp in our wood!' but eventually, the last happy tired camper had to be dragged out of his sleeping bag! I soon heard some mysterious drumming, like a Great Spot but slower and pronounced, you could hear every individual knock on the tree if you listened carefully. I decided I was imagining it, but in the back of my mind I had plenty of suspicions. After breakfast, and packing everything away, these wre confirmed int the most glorious of ways!

We had made several rounds from the campsite to the cars, and this was the last one, taking the last of the limited gear we had taken for camping back. I was walking along through one of the glades in the wood, with a sleeping bag and tonnes of my stuff on my back and my Binoculars and Camera firmly packed away. It was then that a small bird decided to fly accross the path. My immediate thought, based on the size, was a Nuthatch, but it was mainly bacl with some white spotty specklingy things faintly visible. Woodpecker, I thought, but it was absolutely tiny, Great Tit-sized and no bigger! However, Woodepcker turned out to be right, as it landed vertically on a tree about 20 metres away in the wood, before climbing round to the other side of the tree. However, before it went I saw the black and white colouration of its back, and a fairly obvious red crown. A basic view to the extreme, but I was delighted, I had seen a LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER! I didn't bother hanging around for it, having had a good enough view and knowing it would vanish when I unpacked my Bins/Camera. with this, treecreeper, lesser whitethoat, house martin, tawny owl and garden warbler, my sussex year list had suddenly become135, and my british 138.

Next stop, on the return journey back to Seaford, was Pulborough Brooks. Here, I got excellent views of Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Whitehtroat and Blackcap almost immediately, laong with a singing Lesser Whitethroat. From the Hangar, there were plenty of wildfowl, with several Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler remaining, 2 Pintail and 2 escapee Snow Geese. at the Hangar dad and I heard a Nightingale, but it remianed elusive. However, the next one, over at Jupp's Viewpoint, was much more showy, rather happily we saw it very well, and thanks to the birder (Dave Smith) who let me borrow his scope to get  good look at it. however, we repayed our debts in a small way slightly later on!

Having seen the Nightingales rather well, we set off for West Mead hide, along the path where we hoped to see Adder. It was at this point that Matt Eade aclled with some brilliant news, a Bonaparte's Gull ar Arlington Reservoir! Fantastic, a bird never before seen in the local area, drat, we are 60 miles away! No worries though, a frantic rush back to the car was in order, in which we ran into Dave Smith and the other birders he was with in the car park, and bestowed them the important news. I never saw them at Arlington, but I hope they did manage to get over to see what was a fantastic bird.

The Gods were with us that day, and as we drove madly along the roads back towards home, we encountered not a single line of traffic, a true miracle in sussex on a sunday! When we arrived, about 30 birders were enjoying the bird. It was at close quarters for now, but before long it had drifted way over to the other side of the reservoir, showing snowy-white underings, a chocolate-brown head and an all-black bill as it went. this, along with the Nightingale, not only made me very happy, but boosted year lists further, 137 for sussex, and 140 in britain. The Bonaparte's Gull was still visible, and those beautifully clean underwings stuck out like a sore thumb from the 30 or so Little Gulls keeping it company. During a brief stay before we left, a pair of Great Crested Grebes were displaying and two Lesser Whitethroats and a Willow Warbler were singing.

That is the first part of my round-up, for a small amount of birind in the week and a brilliant day at Splash Point today, you will all have to keep a look out for when I can next squeeze in the time!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

no more posting for a while

sadly, and due to some hectic revision desperately needed for my first round of exams, I will mosy likely be unable to post anything more for 2 weeks or so. Though hopefully I might manage a small amount of birding in between Periodic Tables and Algebra, so when I get back a gigantic post may be coming your way!

Friday, 16 April 2010

a question?

The last few nights, I have heard a strange, high-pitched, chuckling call coming from some of the surrounding gardens. It sounds quite a lot like the Kiwi calls you can hear on The Life Of Birds. Obviously this is somewhat preposterous, but would I be correct in assuming it is the calls of mating Hedgehogs?

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Birds from the bus

getting the bus into Brighton today, two fairly unexpected surprises

1) A Gannet circling over the water about 400 metres offshore from Brighton Pier

2) a Long-tailed Duck offshore from the beach between Brighton Marina and Brighton Pier, about 30-40 metres offshore, and seen for about three seconds before it dived, by the time it had resurfaced the bus must have carried on past it.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Water Pipit sketch

Hopefully this might come in handy with my description of the water pipit at cuckmere. The same sketch is on my description, minus the background, which I doodled on later. Hardly the work of a professional artist, but combined with the notes I took this should hopefully be enough to convince the local records comittee. I have decided the pipit was most likely in moult, hence the streaking on the breast and a lack of a pinkish flush on a bird which otherwise looked perfect for a summer-plumaged individual.

Red Kite etc, 10/4/2010

At an undisclosed location in Sussex, a pair of Displaying Lapwings, and two pairs of Little Egrets seen on nests. At Southease station and along the river from there-Glynde, 4 Cetti's warbler, 3 Blackcap and loads of Chiffchaff singing. A Red Kite and a Buzzard flew over the house, the former a year tick, and my 129th sussex species of 2010.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

fantastically bonkers day in the Cuckmere, 9/4/2010

It didn't look like a good day for birds in the Cuckmere. The wind was light S/SW, and by the time I arrived the world and several distant relatives of its had trampled every square metre of my precious patch. Things didn't look very promising at all for the first half an hour, with a pair of Shelduck and a solitary phyllosc (probably a Willow Warbler) the highlights. Things picked up a tiny bit on the east side around the meanders, with this unusual escapee among the Canada Geese.
With the addition of the Bar-headed Goose, my spirits were lifted somewhat, and they went a notch higher with a distinctive wailing 'peeuw' call that I heard from the river. After two minutes of patience and some attempts to call it out (it was a call farly easy to mimic), I got a brief view of a Little Ringed Plover. However, a dog plundering through the saltmarsh sent it back out of view, and it didn't look like it would come out again. Around the back of the scrape, during my first look, I saw a Wheatear and a pair of Stonechats. 2 White Wagtails were feeding on the edge of the scrape, and a Swallow was hawking over the scrape and the surrounding fields. From here I went to check the sea, and I found this dot offshore.

believe it or not, this is indeed a Black-necked Grebe! It was so distant, I only managed to ID it after zooming in on the photos a huge amount, and even then I could only tell it apart from slav grebe by shape. It was a summer-plumaged bird, usually one of the finest sights in birding, but sadly, no matter what angle I tried to look at it from, it was constantly in Silhouette. After taking all these photos, my camera had run out of battery, I didn't think this would be a problem, as I doubted I would see anything much more interesting during the rest of the day.

However, by now it was about 3.00, and a lot of people had eft the Cuckmere. I walked back up to the scrape, and was looking at the White Wagtails again when I turned around and noticed something sitting on a fencepost about ten metres away. On my first look, I could see it was a Pipit, and an odd one at that, with a striking supercilium, an all-black beak and a greyish coloured head. It dived down into a ditch, but reappeared, and this time I got an excellent view for about 15 seconds. I noted that it had a browny-grey back and wings, long legs and a long tail, and a breast with a few pale streaks on the upper breast, but otherwise the breast and throat were very clean white. I had now narrowed it down to Water Pipit or Scandinavian Rock, but luckily I had the old Collins Field Guide with me. What I had seen ooked very much like a typical Water Pipit, but in the book was an illustartion of a rare variation of Scandinavian Rock which was very pale and grey. The illustartion showed it to have a dark malar patch, and when the Pipit appeared again, I checked, and it lacked that patch, leaving me with quite a clear cut Water Pipit! However, before long it flew off, showing white flanks to the tail, another good marker for this species. It called now as well, a sharp, explosive 'tseeeeep', very similar to Rock Pipit but subtly higher-pitched and more drawn out, giving a more evocative feel. Following this, I frantically searched all the small creeks and floodwater around the Scrape. The number of White Wagtails around was now at least six, the Swallow was hawking the fields again, there were plenty of Meadow Pipits, 5 Snipe were flushed from one of the islands on the scrape by a goose plondering through the grass, and a Little Ringed Plover showed well on the scrape. But in all this madness, I couldn't find the Water Pipit, and eventually gave up, heading back up the river towards Exceat Bridge. I heard the other Little Ringed Plover calling away from the river, but it wasn't immediately visible, and I couldn't be bothered searching for it again. However, at ht epoint were the meaders started, a pipit flew up from the bank of the river and landed on the shore of them, uttering exactly the same call as the Water Pipit I had heard earlier. It was indeed the same bird, and, at a happy distance and with no one else nearby, provided good views for five minutes, n the company of a Meadow Pipit and a Reed Bunting. There wasn't much else to look for now I had all the major details, but I piad more attention to its shape. It had proportionately longer legs and tail than the accompanying Meadow Pipit, and had a longer-necked, slender, more upright stance, similar to Richard's Pipit.

Walking back up the river, over the bridge and up Chyngton Farm, I saw the Bar-headed Goose on the meadners, with another Swallow and two Sand Martins hawking above. Two juvenile gulls n the meanders proved to be a Great Blackback and a Yellow-legged, with a nice comparison between the two easy. Finally, I saw two more Swallows over Chyngton Farm, and a group of 7 Shelduck feeding together in the fields below, before heading home pretty much on cloud nine!

Friday, 9 April 2010

Blatchington Gof Course and The Downs, 8/4/2010

on the 8th Apri, a family walk on the downs above Seaford wasn't hugely productive, but did produce four species of warblers and a few Butterflies.

On the Golf Course between Seaford and Denton, singing Chiffchaffs were in abundance, with at least 20 singing males. There were also a few greyer coloured Warblers with different calls, Willow Warblers, and four of them, and I heard a singing Whitethroat and a Bullfinch. Among the butterflies, both Comma and Peacock were common and I got a few photos of each.
In Greenway Bottom, on the south downs, 5 singing Chiffchaffs, 2 more migrant Willow Warblers and a singing Blackcap finished off a good walk, in which I got one year tick (Whitethroat)

*note-I also heard a Coal Tit on Firle Road, Seaford, my first record from in town, and perhaps a continental bird

Thursday, 8 April 2010

warblers from the back garden

yesterday, Blackcap and Chiffchaff were singing from gardens backing onto ours. A small Phyllosc just appeared on a brief fycatching sortie, but disappeared before I could ID it.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Willow Warbler

while lounging about in my room, enjoying the teenagers privelige of being incredibly lazy, I saw a phyllosc flitting about in one of the trees I can see from my back window. It was quite jumpy, flicked its wings constantly, and not once could it be seen to dip its tail. A Willow Warbler, a year tick, and which takes my sussex list up to 121, and my british to 125. Sometimes, I really, really like year-listing!

Splash Point, seaford

in an two and a half hours of seawatching at Splash Point today, SE winds looked promising, and we saw some good birds, but it wasn't a classic day.

Dad and I started at 7.00, with the first bird we saw being...

a White Wagtail!
It was walking in the middle of the road, 30 yards back from the carpark at Splash Point, as we drove along. First priority, don't run it over(!), second priority, have a closer look at the pied wagtail, which is now deeply indebted to us, and realise it is in fact the Pied's much scarcer cousin! Sharifin Gardiner and Dick Gilmore were alreadt at Splash, and had seen an Arctic Skua and a few other things without us. During an hor and a half until 9.30, To start with, we saw mainly Common Scoter (we saw about 150 overall), and they were by far the most numerous species during the moring. We also saw 25 Sandwich terns, a similar number of Brent Geese, 5 Red-breasted Merganser, 2 Mediterraena Gulls, 2 Teals and a Velvet Scoter, along with 2 Meadow Pipits, amd presumably the White Wagtail, coming in off the sea. Some o the Common Scoter were close in, and I managed to separate males and females within the flocks that were reasonably close in, the male/female ratio was approximately 3/1, though I don't remember very specifically. One flock of 10 Common Scoter settled 100 yards offshore, giving excellent views throgh the scope, with the males yellow bills very noticeable. Another flock of about 15, flying high above the sea a dn also about 100 yards out, had a female Velvet scoter in it, the first time I have seen this species locally and only the second time I have managed to pick one out in a scoter flock. the two Mediterranean Gulls were passign with 5 Sandwich Terns, which went through in small groups of 4-10 througout the morning. One flock of Brent Geese, seen from the car as we were leaving, were flying directly over the beach, and it looked like they would go directly over the groyne and the watching Dick Gilmore and Matt Eade, but taking one look at the two men with binoculars they came to their senses, and dramatically swerved around the groyne at the last possible moment. However, despite their impressive flight co-ordination and escape manouveres, Matt still managed a photograph, see here.

photos from the past few days

on the cliffs of Seaford Head on 1 April 2010, there were, as usual, plenty of crows, some being very photogenic, as you can see below

This Carrion Crow was just taking off when I got the photot

a Jackdaw that must have seen something interesting

'wotcher lookin'at?'

I can't think of a caption that suits this better than the previous one, wonder if anyone else can?

this particular crow was fantastically tame, it was approachable up to just two metres...

pulling up grass, presumably for nest lining, without a care in the world for the kid with the camera

I realise you're probably all fed up of Crow photos now, but they are one of my favourite bird families, and one more photo won't do anyone any harm!

This Skylark was on Seaford Golf Course. Although there were many singing, this bird looked tired, and only flew off when one of the golfers came incredibly close and flushed it, grrrr! Because of this, I think it was a migrant
A Magpie seen in my back garden

a Ramshorn Snail, found in our pond(don't worry, I pt it back straight afterwards!)

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Gropper and Crest

With winds SW mostly today, my initial plans to go to Splash Point were hampered, but, still determined to see something interesting today, I went up to Seaford Head today, whcih prived an inspired decision.

Along the cliffs between Splash Point and Seaford Golf Course were loads of Kittiwake, several Fulmars and 3 territorial Rock Pipits. As I was walking past Seaford Golf Course, along the clifftop, something flew up from the long-grass on the cliff-top side of the path, flew accross the path, and landed in some long grass on the opposite side. I had flushed up a few Meadow Pipits already, but I immediately knew this wasn't one. It was smaller than a mipit, with a longer tail. Its wings were shorter and it had a less direct flight. In flight, it also had its head bowed forward, rather than holding it straight like a mipit. As it flew away from me, I could see it had an olive-brown coloured back, with some streaking just about visible. I already had my suspicions, and they were happily confirmed when, the millisecond before it landed and disappeared for good, it fanned its tail out, revealing a row of white spots. I may not have seen it brilliantly, but this was a fairly typical view of a Grasshopper Warbler! It is very early for Groppers (the colloqiual south-east nickname for Grasshopper Warbler), to be back, but the earliest ever sussex record was on 2 April 2002, and last year one was seen at Selsey Bill and 4 April, so it does happen! However, aside from 50+ Meadow Pipits scattered accross the head, this looked like the only migrant. I did manage to see a fantastic sight in a Peregrine dive-bombing the pair of Ravens and 20 or so Jackdaws, which had seemingly come along to egg on their big cousins. However, the Peregrine won quite easily, and soon all the crows, even those double the falcon's size, had scarpered away over the cliff, leaving the Peregrine to lazily flap around in a victory parade.
I met a few other birders around Hope Gap, all of whom had seemingly had no luck whatsoever, seeing nothing in the gap. A tiny bit dissuaded, I carried on with my regular walk of the patch nontheless, and near the top of Hope Gap, in the small trees on the west side of the path, heard a tiny, shrill song, just on the edge of hearing range. It sounded like a Goldcrest, but lacked its jingly, melodic feel, leaving only one real alternative, a Firecrest, which showed incredibly well! I have only seen one well once(though I have seen plenty not very well at all!), and that was in a slightly worn plumage, being present on Seaford Head last October. However, this bird was immaculate, with an incredibly bright crest he was puffing up (not the right term I know but erecting just sounds wrong!), a crisp black and white facial pattern, lime-green wings and back and a slight orange tinge to its upper breast. I would have got a photo but sadly my camera point-blank refused to focus on it when there were so many branches to intercept its focus, and the bird's attempts at staying still for longer than a microsecond were absolutely pathetic.

Finally, walking back along the path on the western side of Hope Gap, I saw two gamebirds running accross the field to my right. For a brief, heart-stopping moment, I thought they were Quails, but looking on closer inspection they turned into the inplexably bizzarre and avant-garde plumes of two Red-legged Partridges. Where they had come from, I have no idea, they are probably the result of one of the farmers releasing them nearby, but maybe, just maybe these two had decided to cross the channel, and turned up on my patch!

Thursday, 1 April 2010

photos from recently

Robin seen in my back garden-27/3/10
This rather curious Goldfinch was in the garden on the same date
while there are also now a good number of Toads in the pond, Dad introduced* them back into the pond about seven years ago, and since then they have spread into much of the surrounding area

* They are not introduced in the same way as pheasant/little owl or other such wildlife, rather we have just established a small, self-sustaining population of them, where they would most likely have been anyway before a town was built here, and hopefully they will continue to do well, since (when we first put toadspawn in the pond) they were quite a rare sight locally, although they may be recovering now, I'm not sure. They are, as far as I'm aware, the only population of Toads in Seaford, with the nearest presumably being in the river valleys or the pond on Seaford Head.
a close up of one of the toads firey, umber-coloured eyes.

One of the Stonechats I saw on 27 March on Camp Hill
I also found this eggshell at the foot of Camp Hill. I'm not sure what bird layed it, is anyone out there good at ID'ing eggs? It was in the same area as the Stonehchats, though since both male and female were out in the open, displaying, singing and mobile I very much doubt they have made a nest yet. However, it was about the size of egg a Stonechat-sezed bird would make. Does anyone have any ideas?

Finally, I have no idea what this beetle is, but I'm probably just a magpie who is drawn to anything shiny and metallic!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...