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!


  1. Probably best not to tick the one with a brown head won't count!

  2. from the man who claimed it had flown away when I arrived!

  3. got you worried for a few moments though, didn't it.


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