Sunday, 31 October 2010

back to town. turning 15 and dipping a pec!

With my exciting weekend gone, it was back down to earth for me now, as I returned to school for four more days. Still, I've got half term up in Edinburgh, from where I hope I'll get a few good birds! My school week wasn't totally devoid of birds though...

Mon 18 Oct
A few Siskins going over, and two Chiffchaffs seen. However, the large numbers of thrushes of the past few weeks have tailed off. The only migrant passing over was a single Meadow Pipit, though a Grey Wagtail going low over school might have been a migrant or wintering bird. I found out about a Shore Lark in the Cuckmere, and hoped I might just be able to sneak it in after school one day...

Tues 19 Oct
Once again, a few Siskins moving overhead, and a single Chiffchaff. No other migrants seen though. I've been seeing Jays regularly in Seaford since I returned from Canada, and today one greeted me to a nice flight view, during the most unspeakably crap english essay I have ever had to sit through. A Grey Wagtail was also seen, at South Downs Leisure Centre, walking back from school. This bird has been around for a few weeks now, and look like he's gonna winter here...

Wed 20 Oct
My 15th birthday today! In school a single Chiffchaff, with three Goldcrest around town, the Grey Wagtail seen at The Downs and not a lot else. When I got home, the Shorelark was apparently not showing, but a PECTORAL SANDPIPER had been seen at Arlington Reservoir! Neither are sussex ticks for me, having seen larks at Pett (2004) and Rye (2008), and a pec at Pulborough Brooks (2007). However, both would be local ticks, year ticks and just great birds to see in general! The odds seemed better for Arlington producing, so it was there we headed...
We saw Jake Everitt and Roger and Liz Charlwood on the dam, who greeted us with the dreaded news. The bird, which was acoompanied by two Ruff, had flown off to the other side of the damn! Jake had seen it for literally a few seconds as he arrived, Roger and Liz hadn't seen it at all. It wasn't looking good...
Before long, Bob Edgar arrived, nd we greeted him with the same unhappy news. One of the Ruff came back, but his brother and yankee cousin had both stayed put. A Green Sandpiper was on the other side of the reservoir, just ID'able. But in an hour we never saw the Pec Sand. The only consolation is that we almost certainly wouldn't have seen the Shore Lark either...

Thurs 21 Oct
from what I can remember, a dull day. The only bird of note was a Grey Wagtail on Blatchington Pond (probably the same bird that's been hanging around at The Downs, it's not that far away).

While I would love to tell of Friday, it is a tale of the beginning of a long, two-day drive, which really belongs in another post. So, I bid you farewell with these crappy pictures of the bird that wasn't a Pectoral Sandpiper...

however, it was a yeartick, no. 184 for Britain and 170 for Sussex I think...

Not a Pec Sand, Arlington Res, 20 Oct 2010

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Oop Noorf

Well, I am writing this biref message from Edinburgh. I've come up here to see family for half term, and hopefully get a bit of birding in too! I should be visiting Aberlady, Longniddry and Mussleburgh Lagoons, and on Thursday-Friday, Dad and I are heading up to Kirriemuir, Angus, to stay with my uncle overnight. We might be able to squeeze in a visit to Kinnordy, Vane Farm RSPB or Montrose Basin while we're up there!

I haven't updated since last sunday, when i went ringing at Whitbread Hollow. Since then, I've turned 15, and dipped a sussex rarity on the same day! All part of the rite of passage I guess. I've also seen three yearticks on my way up here, and one on the 20th in Sussex. This brings me to god-knows-what, but probably something around 185 for Britain and 175 for Sussex. Of course, i could have checked the sidebar, and come back to edit this again, but where's the fun in that?

I'll have some proper posts when I'm back home, and can put photos with my posts

Hasta Luego!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

17 Oct-Ringing in the Hollow

Today, at long, long last, almost two months after returning from Long Point and vowing to try it out again, I went up to the ringing at Whitbread Hollow, Beachy Head!

Dad and I left the house at about 7.30 AM, arriving at 8.00. Driving the 15 miles, I counted 31 Magpies along the roads! Not exactly the most exciting thing in the world, I know, but I was wondering if the rhyme could be extended that far!...  ;)

The sun was just rising above the sea as we arrived, making a spectacular backdrop. However, I couldn't be faffed to take any photos.

As we walked the short distance from where we were parked to the Hollow, several Stock Doves passed overhead, among a few hundred Woodpigeon. Two Bramblings also passed over, one dropping down into the hollow, and we saw a single Wheatear, probably my last of the year.

Wheatear, Whitbread Hollow, 17 Oct 2010
In the Hollow itself, the first bird we saw was not what we expected. On the football fields, being harassed by several Magpies, was a single juvenile BRENT GOOSE! It had clearly become separated from its family, and had dropped into the fields to graze. No sooner had we seen the bird than we met up with Bob Edgar and Jacob Everitt, just back from a net round. With four people now here, they had a novel, if a tad optimistic, plan, involving the branta. It was feeding very near some football nets. If the four of us could drive it in to them, we would have a rather good bird to ring!

Sadly, the plan, as with all hastily set out plans, went awry. The bird was faster on the mark than us, and flew off about 50 yards, away from any football nets. Worse still, the coldappeared to have  mucked up my cameras batteries! Though after about half an hour in the relative warmth of the ringing hut, they were working again.

We stayed for a few hours to watch the ringing. I didn't get to help out, unfortunately, but it was still good fun watching the ringing and holding the birds, and Bob and Jake, far more used to the early start than us, remained in upbeat moods! They banded about 40 birds, not a great tally, and nothing particularly rare either. However, seeing Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tit in the hand was new for me. They are both truly adorable little birds when you see them up so close! We also caught a few continental Song Thrushes, which Bob very well pointed out the ID features on. Other birds trapped were a male Blackcap, several Chiffchaffs and a little flock of Blue Tits, all of presumed dispersive origin.

male Goldcrest, Whitebread Hollow. sexed by the orange feathers on the crown

Whitbread Hollow, Beachy Head

Whitbread Hollow is a great place to see visible migration too, which was very visible. loads of Siskin were passing over, with smaller numbers of Goldfinch, and a handful of Redpoll and Brambling. A few of the latter were also in some of the bushs in the hollow. 1500+ Woodpigeon also went east, with 30+ Stock Doves among them. One leucistic Woodpigeon was also seen, it was with one flock that flew over and dropped into the hollow, and all four of us got a good look at it, agreeing we hadn't seen anything quite like it before! About 50 Swallows and a few House Martins went over, and thrushes included one Song Thrush, three Mistle Thrushes and four FIELDFARE, my first of  the winter. Meadow Pipit and Skylark were ubuquitiuos as always.

We left at about 11:30 AM. It had really quietened down, with the  last two net runs having returned about five birds!

After the Hollow, we had a brief stop at Belle Tout. I was hoping for third time lucky with the gorgeous Phyllosc, but it had had other ideas, and was believed to have cleared out overnight! There were a few Chiffchaffs around, and a group of Siskin passed overhead, while a Kestrel and several dragonflies kept the camera busy!

This Kestrel posed brilliantly

and while photographing it, I took the opportuity to photograph this male Ruddy Darter (?), who landed on my shoe!

another presumed male Ruddy Darter

while I believe these to both be females of the same species. If Jake, or anyone else, could confirm/correct me again I'd be grateful. Just a hint  (:

Sunday, 17 October 2010

16 Oct-Arlington waders and Beachy warblers

Saturday was a day spent out going after two good birds, with a 50% success rate...

A Curlew Sandpiper had been seen at Arlington for a few days now, so today Dad and I made a quick visit early morning. After walking along to where the Buff-breast was seen, we found two waders along the water's edge. Looking through the scope, it was obvious they were a Dunlin and our target bird. But we were quite a way off, so we walked closer for a better view. And that was when it happened...

A Peregrine swooped down low over the reservoir. I felt sure it would have scared off the two waders. An initial scan seemed to confirm this, but after about two minutes we somehow found them again, in exactly yhe same spot! I can only assume We were so sure ther had gone we totally overlooked them! But anyway, we got fairly close, having some great views through the scope. The Dunlin looked odd, almost Broad-billed Sand-esque, but I'm fairly happy it was just the commonest calidris. I got some record shots of the two feeding together, but they were even more distant than the Buff-breast two weeks ago, so good quality photos were beyond me and my pentax. it is probably worth clicking to

Curlew Sand (left) and Dunlin (right)

Curlew Sandpiper

and finally, one showing the odd-looking Dunlin

After this success, it was off to Beachy, to look for that goddamn PALLAS'S WARBLER!

Around Belle Tout wood were 30+ observers. All scouring the bushes for this Sibe. Among them was Robin Stokes, who it was good to finally meet after 'knowing' him on the web for several months. Hopefully you saw the bird Rob, but sadly I failed miserably!

In the wood were about 20 Chiffchaff, and a handful of Goldcrests. Blue Tits were also pretty numerous, and I think they might have been atleast partly made up of migrants. 20+ House Martins and a few Swallows passed overhead, and two Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk were showing well, and there were a few dragoflies, Migrant Hawkers and Ruddy Darters. But this all got a bit boring, so I headed off to The Hangar, a bit of scrub on the clifftop, to see what I could find. I was hoping for Ring Ouzel and Dartford Warbler, but all I got was a few Stonechats.Walking unceremoniously back, dad greeted me with the horrific news that the bird had been seen while I was gone!

We waited around for another 20 minutes. In this time, the Pallas's was called a few tims, but if they were genuine, the bird moved back into the thick foliage before anyone bar the first obsever got a look at it. Dad said it had only been on view for about three seconds. And this was the first time it had been seen in over two hours!

Here are a few photographs from a pretty disheartening day
Migrant Hawker, Belle Tout

Kestrel, Belle Tout

Stonechat, The Hangar

15 Oct-Beachy Head

On thursday, 14 Oct, a PALLAS'S WARBLER was reported at Belle Tout Wood, Beachy Head. The following day Dad and I went for a look, but we arrived a few hours too late. No Pallas's Warbler, just a few Goldcrests and 15+ Chiffchaff. A huge flock of hirundines were overhead, including about 100 House Martin and 50 Swallow. In Belle Tout were loads of Blue Tits, a Kestrel and a Green Woodpecker. But no sign of the formerly regular Tawny Owls. I suspect there is now so much Ivy on the trees they can hide away undetected.
House Martins and Swallows passing over Beachy Head

photos of Belle Tout Wood, the last with my Dad in the foreground

Thursday, 14 October 2010

14 Oct

a few birds around today. flyovers included two Meadow Pipits, a Grey Wagtail and my first real movement of Siskins this autumn, with about 20 going over in the morning. Also a handful of Swallows, two Goldcrests and a single Chiffchaff, but autumn seems to be coming to a close now...

there is also a video (and photos) of the Rose-coloured Starling here for anyone who is interested. The author of this blog seems to be doing particularly well this year, he is the finder of this bird, the Buff-breasted Sandpiper and the april Bonaparte's Gull!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

second time lucky with the pink one...

Dad and I saw the ROSE-COLOURED STARLING at Castle Hill, Newhaven, today. It showed four times between 16:00 and 16:30, but not after that up until 17:00. It is very, very conspicuous if you see it well, impossible to mistake for a Starling! As well as the obvios colouration differences, the RSC had a more undulating, woodpecker style of flight, to my eyes at least. I had my camera, but didn't get any photographs of the bird. It was my 168th sussex tick for 2010, 181st british yeartick, and lifetick 652 or thereabouts.

Other birds seen where good numbers of Robin, Song Thrush, Dunnock and Blackbird, two Chiffchaffs, nine Swallows and a few Meadow Pipits moving east. There was no sign of the male Ring Ouzel we saw yesterday.

In Seaford today, just three each of Meadow Pipit and Swallow moving over. No Chiffies, no Goldcrests and no large numbers of thrushes or robins at all. However, dad had 2+calling Firecrest and a Redwing at Blatchington GC today, along with a few Chiffchaff and Goldcrest to boot!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

No Rosy, but another Rouzel and a yeartick finch.

News broke through yesterday of a ROSE-COLOURED STARLING, in the scrub at the foot of Castle Hill, Newhaven. Dad wasn't home from work til late evening, and I couldn't face cycling through the human-infested sewage canal that is Newhaven, so I just hoped the bird would still be around today.

Thankfully it was, and, despite Dad having to drive his car through 'the town that God forgot', we arrived fairly opstimistic.

However, the bird hadn't been seen for a few hours, and, according to the whispered wisdom of the birders, it had last been seen disappearing over the clifftop. I took this as the cue to for a healthy scramble up the cliff. (for those who don't live nearby, Newhaven Cliffs are mercifully easy to climb, with a gradient barely steeper than any of the hills nearby and loads of footholds)...

This proved fruitless for the Starling, but there were plenty of Song Thrushes and a few Robins and Dunnocks in the limited scrub. Among the Song Thrushes was one all-dark thrush, giving an all-too familiar 'chack' as it flew away. I was already fairly confdent of it's identity, but it took another five minutes before I saw it again. It was a very nice male RING OUZEL, looking resplendent with his white breastband and scaly wings.
With no sign of the RCS up here, Dad and I hastily scrambled down the cliff and joined the other birders down at the bottom. We waited for another half-hour, but saw no sign of the bird, eventually giving up and heading home just before the sunset. However, the wait hadn't been totally fruitless. A BRAMBLING flew over calling (sussex yeartick 167 and brit yeartick 180), 20+ Swallows passed east along the cliffs, there were 2-3 Rock Pipits entertaining all. 45+ Curlew flew east, presumably going to roost somewhere on the undercliff between Newhaven and Brighton, and the Common Starlings were all flocking together in small groups as we left, though their rare relative was nowhere to be seen.

After a while, i got fed up looking for this non-existent bird, and went to photograph the well-posing gulls in the evening light. Cold fingers and tired eyes made using Manual Focus a bit of an arse, but I did my best. The shots are a bit out of focus, but still better than AF in my opinion.

in the end, two very good birds, even If I missed the best one. Driving back, two Cormorants roosting next to the enormous one at Newhaven (I really need a photo to describe this to non-locals!)

as a final note, very few birds in Seaford today. single figure numbers of Swallows passing over, but not a single mipit or chiffchaff.

Monday, 11 October 2010

a few days of autumn

on Saturday (9th October) I was around Seaford all day, mostly in the house (one of those lazy teenage days, ya know!) Over the garden I recorded good numbers of Meadow Pipit, Swallow, Golfinch and House Martin. A few Chiffchaff and Goldcrest were around, as I am now accustomed too. Robins, Dunnocks, Great Tits and Wrens are all starting to sing, marking out their winter territories...

On the night of the 9th, three Redwings and A Song Thrush were heard flying over.

The 10th began with a sussex year tick (no. 165), literally five minutes after I had woken up, when I heard the distinctive call of a Redpoll, flying over the house at about 10:30. During the morning I had plenty of Swallow and House Martin passing over, with small numbers of Meadow Pipit, Skylark and GoldfinchChiffchaff and Goldcrest were both in good numbers around Seaford, with larger than usual totals of Song Thrush, Blackbird and Robin. Interestingly, I have seen far more Goldcrest this autumn than I did last time round. It seems that this cold winter didn't affect them as badly as that of 2008/09, I hardly saw any the following autumn, and neither did anyone else on the South Coast to my knowledge...

At about 1.00, I headed off for Seaford Head, wondering what i might see. The answer was;
-a minimum of 70 each of Swallow and House Martin
-20+ Skylark, in the clifftop grazing fields
-30+ Meadow Pipits
-1 Siskin flew south, sussex year tick no. 166
-a small eastward movement of Woodpigeons, numbering about 50 birds
-20+ Chiffchaffs, 20+ Goldcrest, 2 Firecrest, 2-3 RING OUZEL and a single Blackcap in Hope Gap.

That night, three more Redwings and a single Song Thrush flew over the house calling.

these unidentified red dragonflies were everywhere

edit: ID'd as a Ruddy Darter

view out to ea from the top of Seaford Head

view out to sea from the top of Hope Gap

I'm fairly sure this dragonfly is a Broad-bodied Chaser

edit: Ruddy Darter again!

view of the Seven Sisters from Seaford Head Holf Course

 today (Oct 11th) was quiet around Seaford, with a few Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, Meadow Pipit and Swallow, but nothing like the numbers of the last week or so. However, a bird 'chacking' away in a bush near school sounded suspiciously like another RING OUZEL, sadly I never saw it, as I was in a bit of a rush to get to school. One that got away I guess!

Friday, 8 October 2010

Thrushes Galore!

Last night, I heard several Song Thrushes flying over, but not a lot else, despite the clear conditions...

Today, they were the most conspicuous bird by far. I counted about 15 in my corner of Seaford, a fairly good count. Other migrants were just a handful of Meadow Pipits, Swallows, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests. There was also a small movement of Goldfinch and Chaffinch overhead, but nothing substantial and no other finches...

Tonight, I heard my first REDWING  of the autumn, always a fairly pivotal moment I feel. I also got a great view of one of the cub foxes raised locally, as I was walking my dog.

It's 21:47 now, and I've decided to keep my windows open tonight, and see how many more Redwings I count before I drift off.

Til then, hasta manana!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Seaford on 07 Oct. Good vis-migging day!

from the title, you can gather what the theme of today was. I only had time to be looking up at the sky for about 1 1/2 hours today, walking to and from school, and keeping one eye/ear trained at the sky during lunch and break. My approximate totals were;

100 Meadow Pipits
70 Swallows
20 House Martins
2 Skylarks
1 Grey Wagtail
1 plover sp. by the laws of probability it was almost certainly a Euro Goldie but I didn't get a good enough view to rule out Grey Plover (or American/Pacific GP for that matter!) I presume it came from Cuckmere, as it flew over school, heading SW towards Splash Point. Interestingly, I saw a flock of 70 Golden Plover at Splash Point on 1 Sep last year, that followed almost exactly the same flight route, before flying out over the beach and east along the shore.

Dad saw a few Siskins and a Brambling flying over today too, but I didn't see any finches. An interesting observation though was that about 30 Meadow Pipits appeared to have been feeding on an allotment I walk past on the way to school. Not altogether unusual but I had never considered that it happened before.

AUTUMN IS HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

: )

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

seaford stuff: 06-Oct

in the appalling weather this morning, 12 Meadow Pipits and 32 Swallows flew over. Just a single Chiffchaff and 3 Goldcrests on the ground.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Birds o' the day

the most obvious avian presence today was Meadow Pipits, with 30+ S over school. The only other bird of note overhead was a single Swallow. Other migrants were 5 Chiffchaff and a single Blackcap. A Grey Wagtail was around school, and a few Goldcrests were calling. a few Great Tits were once again singing, as was a single Blackbird.

Surrisingly, I have yet to hear any typical October migrants going over, such as Skylark and Siskin. I'm waiting with baited breath until for the first of each, though a good clear day seems a long way off right now!

Monday, 4 October 2010

my school crest

follwing my first of the autumn, at Preston Park yesterday, there was another Firecrest calling from conifers around school today. Other birds in seaford were 3-4 Goldcrests, 3 Chiffchaffs, and 10+ Meadow Pipits moving overhead. On the singing front, small numbers of Robin, Great Tit and Dunnock continue to pipe out their tunes again.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

untitled  read... ; )

Preston Park, Brighton

went to visit grandparents today in Brighton, and had a brief escape out into the rain, walking around Preston Park. Birds seen/heard were

2 Treecreeper
6-7 Chiffchaff (one singing)
singing Robins and Great Tits again
the tit flocks included a few Long-tailed Tit and one Coal Tit
one group of regulus including four Goldcrest and one Firecrest!

for a suburban brighton park, in heavy drizzle, this was an absolutely brilliant walk. The Firecrest was the first definite bird I've seen this autumn too.

spring coming round again?

It seems rather bizarre, I know, but I think the breeding season must be upon us again! The last few days have seen regular singing bouts from Robin, Dunnock and Great Tit! The most likely explanation, to my mind, is that I have a few local migrants. Robin and Dunnock could well have hopped over the channel (last autumn there were a few days I counted 70+ of each at Hope Gap, around this time of year), but I'm not entirely sure where Great Tits would arrive from. Local dispersal or from further afield? Or just a resident bird getting his territory staked out early? I'd be interested to hear any thoughts...

and another thing
I can't remember seeing a Blackbird in seaford since early July! I've seen Ring Ouzel more recently!

taken from this post, on 30 Sep. However, on Friday 01 October, within a day of that, I had broken my duct! It was a brief view in seaford, but I was just relieved to have finally seen one again. I only realized this when a friend came over from New Zealand, and commented on the notable lack of Blackbirds! It just goes to show, how easy it is to underlook common birds...

Oh, and just cos I'm in a random mood right now, here are some more facts on Buff-breasted Sandpiper;

  • there have been four in Sussex this year, the best year on record for them in the county.
  • they are, I believe only the 11-14th seen in Sussex. We get very few due to our south-easterly location
And, for the record, I predict a Wilson's Phalarope in sussex this year before the end of October!

Saturday, 2 October 2010


for those interested, the Buff-breasted Sandpipe was the 650th bird on my life list. Number 550 was Red-tailed Hawk, the first bird I saw in Canada, and number 600 was Semipalmated Plover, on 21 Aug.

and attached is my attempt to paint the Buff-breasted Sand. The wing details on such a bird are a nightmare for me, so I just attempted a head profile. If people think these are any good these may become a more regular part of the blog.

also looking at the counter, I only need another 14 hits to reach 5000! thank you everybody who has visited this site!

Buffy-ruffy-breasted duffy

the title is in  honur of mi madre's attempts to remember the name of the bird Dad and I went to see this morning.

I got a call from Matt Eade yesterday at about 18:00. Saying there was a Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Arlington Reservoir! However, I had walked home in much the same weather prevailing at the time, and had no intention whatsoever of seeting foot out there again!

Thnakfully, the weather had cleared up by this morning, so Dad, Nick Pope and Me all headed off for Arlington about 08:30. A soon as we arrived, a group of about 25 birders could be seen on the dam about 100 metres away. The BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER was showing stunningly well, although a brown bird walking about on mud can be elusive if you take your eye off it! It showd down to about 20 metres most of the time, in the company of two Dunlin, a Ringed Plover and a not-so-healthy looking Avocet, while a Pochard was on the water with 20+ Tufted Duck. All the birds in red were site ticks for me, with Avocet and Pochard being great local birds. Both, Pochard especially, are very hard to pin down in the local area, with my only previous record beinng two on 17 Jan this year at Cuckmere Haven. At Arlington were a few Swallows, (but no House Martins), with about 150 of them counted between Arlington and Seaford from the car.

The twitch was a light-hearted affair, even by sussex's genial standards. However, one unlucky birder dropped a lens cap. And it bounced down the dam, flushing the Buff-breast from a rather convenient spot it was feeding on! Without much doubt the best accidental flush I have ever witnessed!!

However, apart from attacks my stray lens caps, the bird showed in full glory. BB Sand is a lifer, and quite possibly the most gorgeous looking wader in the world in autumn attire! The creamy plumage, streaky head, mustard yellow legs and delightful looking wing-patterning all make this one good-lookin' bird. We never saw any in Canada, but they are rare on migration here. In fact, I'd be prepared to wager the Atlantic coast of Ireland or The Scillies are the most reliable sites in the world for autumn Buff-breasted Sandpiper. The majority, like American Golden Plover, have a migration route that swngs out ovr the atlantic and back down to South America, hene these two birds are highly likely to be blown off course.

But enough of the education, here are some classic Pentax X70 style photos!

The Buff-breasted Sandpiper

The not very healthy looking Avocet. It was either moulting or had lost feathers some other way

and one more of the Buff-breasted Sandpiper


anyone fancy having a go at these birds, photos taken in Canada





these were all taken the first few days of the holiday. one should be quite easy, so should two, three should be fairly easy if you have experience with american birds, four is a bit more tricky, and five is pipsqueak.

I'll give the answers in the comments box, in five days.

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