Friday, 25 February 2011

Barwit bonanza and other stuff

on 23 Feb I recorded a pretty impressive number of Bar-tailed Godwits, atleast for the local area. But there was something slightly odd about it. For starters, it was in fog so thick you could barely see 20 metres. secondly, I recorded them all from my bedroom window, in very suburban Seaford. Thirdly, they were all between 22:00 and mignight...

Two flocks moved over the house in an eastwards direction, their beautiful, somewhat haunting calls reverbarating through town, giving it a somewhat more wild feel than the usual fornicating Foxes do. One of these flocks was accompanied by atleast one Dunlin, it's shrill call piercing through the calls of the Barwits. Two Curlew also flew over calling during the night, as did three Redwing.

On the 24th, I was doing volunteer work for the Sussex Wildlife Trust in Stanmer Park, Brighton. Very little to report there though, a Mistle Thrush, a Green Woodpecker and a Kestrel were the best birds, I saw a few Long-tailed Tits and Goldcrests, Common Frogs and Smooth Newts were in the ponds and I heard that very high-pitched little squeak of Voles/Shrews/Mice from the long grass. Probably Bank Voles, which are apparently the commonest of those species in Stanmer. Insects included a few Buff-tailed Bumble Bee and an early Honey-bee. On the train into Brighton I saw 15 Dunlin on the Mill Creek at Newhaven Tide Mills, along with 25+ Redshank, while on the train out (around 4pm) I saw a flock of 30 Fieldfare on the downs near Falmer. Probably my last of the winter and I'm sure they'll be my last sizeable flock. That night another flock of Bar-tailed Godwits flew over, as did a Golden Plover. Both birds have been garden ticks for me in the past few days, as has Curlew.

On the 25th, I've been treated to fly-overs from the resident Peregrines (1 adult) and Ravens (2 juveniles) in Seaford, and a Blackcap briefly sang from near Blatchington Pond. Their are also Common Frogs out in our garden pond, but no Toads or Newts yet.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Splash Point-the one that got away

With the wind coming from the SE, I thought I might try a scouting trip down to Splash Point this afternoon to see what was about. in 50 minutes between 13.30 and 14.20, 51 Brent Geese moved East, in groups of 6, 41 and 4. 13 Gannets went the same way in twos and threes, and six Red-breasted Merganser going east pretty close in (they were 2 males and 4 females) was a nice surprise that made for a pretty worthwhile excursion. In the opposite direction, a Great Crested Grebe passed fairly distantly, I was secretly hoping for a Red-necked but it was too long-necked and slender looking. Residents included 3 Cormorants, 10+ Fulmar and 300+ Kittiwake offshore, a flyby Peregrine and a singing Rock Pipit, with two others nearby. However, the would-be highlight was a probable Skua species. A dark bird, chasing a Kittiwake, with long wings, a slender body and a very agile flight. It looked pretty good for an Arctic Skua, but I don't see skua's all that often, and this bird was only on view for a few seconds before it disappeared behind a wave. Slightly hypocratically, I'd probably count it in April, but they're far more unusual (though not unheard of) at this time of year, so that brief glimpse wasn't quite enough to nail it.
very bad photo of Splash Point's kittiwakes, taken today

marginally better photo of Splash Point's Kittiwakes,
taken in July

edit: I have also updated the Gazeteer now to include Hope Gap/Seaford Head

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

february so far

very little birding has been happening so far this month for me. But Crocuses and Snowdrops are in full bloom, and by now (16th) the first Daffodils are appearing. Not long before Meadow Pipits start moving overhead, Wheatears are at Tide Mills and the first singing Chiffchaff appears somewhere arund Seaford. Two Blackcaps have already made themselves heard, but these were both wintering birds. The Birdsong includes all the usual suspects at the moment, including a few Goldcrests (how a bird so petite survives in -10 temperatures like December I have no idea), three species of finch, Robin, Dunnock, Wren, Blackbird, Song Thrush and Great Tit. Foxes are still keeping me awake most nights, and I have so far seen a Bumblebee (I'm guessing Buff-tailed?) emerging from hibernation, and a rather confused Comma that came out about a month early and started fluttering around my school! Wintering birds include a few Grey Wagtails, but Redwings have all but vanished from Seaford (they've been very sparsely present this year anyway). I haven't seen any more Waxwings since New Year's day. In fact, my best birding has come about as a result of work experience, which allowed me to see a flock of White-fronted Geese and a Heronry. A tale for another day.

a few recent pictures, a Woodpigeon dozing off as the sun sets over an out-of focus
car. I'm sure there is some kind of artisitic merit in that somewhere

what happened in January

well, January was by and large a quiet month for me birds wise. The only time I really got out was on New Year's Day, and after reaching 200 last year, I haven't bothered with a yearlist this year. Too much effort, and I found myself focusing on my list more than the actual birds on occasions. Personally, I think birding is a far happier thing to do if you are appreciating the bird for being a bird. For being unusual, fr being commonplace, for being an ID challenge, for being drop-dead gorgeus, for having a nice song, or simply being charismatic. But I don't think a true birder should appreciate birds solely for a tick.

2011 started with an expedition to Pett Levels. A RED-BREASTED GOOSE had turned up here, along with 300+ White-fronts and a few Barnacle and Brent Geese. I thought that was all the geese we would see, but birding can be full of surprises...

Joining me and dad on this New Year's Day trip were Dave, Katie and James Beadle (our company on the canadian trip), Rick Munday and Nick Pope. As our cars drove up to Pett Level, a 300+ strong skein of geese circled over the marshes. Setting up the scope, we quicky found the RED-BREASTED GOOSE, along with 300+ White-fronted Geese, 70+ Barnacle Geese and c30 Brent Geese. Looking at the Brent's closer, we found 11 of them were PALE-BELLIED, a very high count of a very scarce species in Sussex. I then checked the see, which held 50+ Great Crested Grebes and a handful of Red-throated Divers, but not a lot else. The pools and fields had plenty of waders, Lapwing in the thousands, three figure numbers of Curlew and smaller numbers of Dunlin, Golden Plover and Redshank. A few more Dunlin were roosting on the beach with 40+ Turnstone and a few Bar-tailed Godwit. Ducks were also in plentiful supply, with thousands of Wigeon, hundreds of Teal and Mallard and two-figure counts of Pochard, Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Shoveler. A Stonechat flitting around a ditch and fenceposts by the road was a nice find, especially given the December we had had.

What happened next all happened so quickly I can't quite recall exactly what happened. But Rick put up a shout of two BEAN GEESE. No sooner had he put everyone on them than we noticed there were actually six. But they were very distant and difficult to identify. Their short necks and stubby bills immediately excluded Taiga Bean, but they were too distant to see the bill or leg colour on reliably. However, two had silvery-coloured backs, and four where browner coloured, so we concluded they were 4 TUNDRA BEAN GEESE and 2 PINK-FOOTED GEESE. Both rare birds in Sussex, and the Pink-feet a new sussex bird for me.
We walked to get closer, but a Peregrine put everything up. After about 15 minutes the geese came back, and we wanted to try and see they grey geese again. But now there were eight of them! After quite a lengthy debate between Dad, Nick, Rick and myself (the Beadles had departed by now) we eventually decided there were now six PINK-FEET and two TUNDRA BEAN GEESE! However, considering the possibility some of the geese may have been out of sight before they were spooked, and sme mya have come into view, I'd say there were at least six Pink-feet and four Tundra Bean Geese, as we had been confident of our ID's the first time around, there were only two that looked like Pink-feet that time. Oh, and while we were sorting out this great debate, we were having to avoid being distracted by the Red-breasted Goose, which literally seemed to glow amongst its duller companions. And the Black Brant was nice too. And I don't exactly see White-fronts, Barnacle Geese or Pale-bellied Brents every day either! By the end f the day we had ammased the following total from Pett Level

  • c300 White-fronted Goose
  • c70 Barnacle Goose
  • 19 Dark-bellied Brent Goose (branta bernicla bernicla)
  • 11 Pale-bellied Brent Goose (branta bernicla hrota), if I'm not mistaken this is the largest group of this race in sussex for many years
  • 1 BLACK BRANT (branta bernicla nigricans)
  • 4 TUNDRA BEAN GEESE (anser fabilis rossicus)

  • c2000 Lapwing
  • c100 Curlew
  • c100 Dunlin
  • c50 Golden Plover
  • c40 Redshank
  • c40 Turnstone
  • c20 Bar-tailed Godwit

  • c3000 Wigeon
  • c200 Teal
  • c200 Mallard
  • c40 Gadwall
  • c20 Shoveler
  • c20 Pochard
  • c10 Tufted Duck
plus a Stonechat. I feel I should mention that Stonechat.

click on these photos to enlarge them and (hopefully) see where the rarer geese
are amongst the hordes of White-fronts, Barnacles and Brents!

To round off a brilliant day, we saw three WAXWING as we drove through Winchelsea, as they perched on telegraph wires above the road.

After this day, I did very little birding in January. On the 10th I saw 3 Purple Sandpipers at Newhaven East Pier, getting great views of one very confiding bird. But other than that, the only birds were a Stonechat that has wintered in a small little reserve along Seaford seafront, known as the Old Brickfield, a Blackcap seen in a garden walking to school on the 31st and regular singing utbursts from Robin, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Great Tit, Dunnock, Wren, Greenfinch and Goldfinch

Sunday, 13 February 2011


just to say, I have put up a side-page on where to bird locally. I know I have done this in the past and taken it down time and time again but I'm gonna attempt to make it more readable and interesting this time around. So far I have just detailed what birds may be seen in my town, but I will expand and add more sites as time goes on.
Liam... the procees of writing another post, detailing the most sensational flock of geese sussex is probably ever likely to see plus some other stuff...

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Back Blogging

Apologies to my (very, very, very few) readers (in fact I think I'm the only person who ever reads this)  but with schoolwork, GCSE's and general laziness I have largely given up on this blog in recent times. The last time I posted, I was covering birds I had seen on the third of December! Since then, I haven't got out birding all that much but I'll attempt to round up what I have seen recently.

The first few weeks of December where pretty dull. I dipped on a WHITE-TAILED EAGLE by five minutes on the 12th (!), having seen two WAXWINGS in a tree just outside my school two days previously. On the 6th I had gone to Arlington Reservoir with my dad, seeing 40+ Pochard but not a lot else. In Seaford, atleast three Grey Wagtails were wintering, but Redwing numbers were low and Fieldfares were practically non-existent.

At the beginning of December, my british yearlist was ay 194, with the most recent additions being in Scotland at the end of October. I was hoping to reach 200 species by the end of the year, but by December 22nd this was looking very unrealistic, I was still on 194. However, I thought the snow might warrant a walk along the Cuckmere. An Unusual find was six Egyptian Geese on the riverbank! Two adults and Four Juveniles by my assumptions. Maybe the cold weather brought them down from the Arun, or Norfolk, or maybe even from the growing Dutch population. Or maybe they just jumped the net from Drusillas, less than two miles away....  Anyone's guess, and they could easily have been 'wild' (as wild as an Egyptian Goose can be at any rate), but I didn't count them as anything more than an intriguing novelty this time.
However, I did also see a Merlin at Charleston Reedbed, being mobbed by several crows, and outmanouvering them all. And down at Cuckmere Haven were 40+ Barnacle Geese, almost certainly wild given the weather at the time. These two yearticks took me to 196, while I also saw a Water Rail near Charleston Reedbed, 9 Gadwall north of Exceat, and at Cuckmere Haven a Shoveler, a Pintail, 4000+ Wigeon and 200+ Teal. The Wigeon were a very notable count.
The following day (23 Dec)at Cuckmere Haven I saw no yearticks, but I did see 4000+ Wigeon and 200+ Teal again, alng with 3 Pintail (2m 1f), 9 Gadwall, 4 Goldeneye (2m 2f), 40 Pochard, 30 Tufted Duck,
 57 Barnacle Geese, 3 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 4 Snipe, a few Rock Pipits, 10 Ringed Plover, 5 Dunlin, 2 Golden Plover and the highlight, 35 WAXWING in the hawthorns along the side of the A259, present for about five minutes before moving on towards Friston Forest.

these Egyptian Geese protested against Mubarak several months early, by refusing
 to go back to their Pen in Drusillas  -22/12
I spent Christmas in Worcestershire with family. At my aunt's house I passed some of the hours staring out the window, from which I saw all the common garden stuff. Long-tailed Tits were regular, as was a male Blackcap that often took complete control of one of the peanut feeders. I also saw a Coal Tit (common for most but very rare in my local area). Redpolls and Siskins were regular fly-overs, and we found a small flock of both in the Alders further along their road. My aunt's five-acre orchard also held a lot of thrushes, mainly Fieldfares, with smaller numbers of Redwing, quite a lot of Song Thrushes and atleast three Mistle Thrushes.
On Boxing day, after a night where it reached -25 C, the River Severn five miles away froze over. This was the onyl the third time in the last hundred years that had happened, following the winters of 1947/48 and 1962/63. It was spectacular, althugh not quite ice-skatingly thick as I tried to convince everyone it was! A Mandarin on an unfrozen part of the river was yeartick 197, a Kingfisher flew around, wondering what the hell it was going to eat, and Tufted Ducks and Mallards were waddling about on the Ice. On Dec 27th we drove back to Seaford, seeing a few Red Kites as we went.
Blackcap that terrorized a peanut feeder

well if you don't know what this is why read a birding blog? ;)

taken, fittingly, on December 25th

blue baby-feeing device

Black-coloured baseball hat

the River Severn, after the coldest of weather spell since 1962- 26/12

shaky shot of a Mandarin- 26/12

On the 29th, Dad and I went down to Cuckmere Haven again, seeing 74 White-fronted Geese (yeartick 198)
 and 51 Barnacle Geese, along with a drake Goldeneye and 15 Dunlin. In Seaford, we saw 13 Waxwings in a crabapple tree in Vale Close, about five minutes walk from our house. The following day, with a day to spare, I got to 200, with the addition of Knot and Purple Sandpiper at Newhaven Tide Mills. Here, I also saw 50+ Dunlin, 25+ Redshank and a single Dark-bellied Brent Goose, while at Piddinghoe Pond I saw a redhead Goosander, a Grey Plover and a Common Sandpiper.

The last day of December, I spent out with my Dad and some friends. Dave, Katie and James Beadle (who we stayed with much of the time on our Canada vacation), Brian Cox and Rick Munday. We started out at Arlington Reservoir, where we saw 2 Goldeneye (1m 1f), 70+ Pochard, 100+ Wigeon and another redhead Goosander. Following that, we visited a site near Alfriston, hoping to see Jack Snipe. There were none here, but we did flush up abut 20 Common Snipe, sparking one memorable chase between a Snipe and a pursuing Peregrine. We also all got one hell of a fright flushing up a Pheasant from the middle of the watermeadow! We then saw my Drusillas-origined Egyptian Geese near Litlington, and at Cuckmere Haven, a Common Seal was hauled up on the bank, a few Dunlin were along the river, and the meanders still held around 20 Pochard.

Goosander at Piddinhoe- 29/12

Brent Goose at Tide Mills- 29/12

Very blurry Knot at Tide Mills- 29/12

Common Seal-phocas lethargicus 31/12

blurry photo of Pochards, Little Grebes and Wigeon - 31/12

slightly less blurry photo of some Pochard -31/12

Atleast my next post will be concerning 2011!  Ever-optimistic, signing out and unsure when I'll be back...

my 2010 yearlist ended on 201 birds, with six added in the last nine days of the year, as follows;

195. Merlin- 22/12
196. Barnacle Goose- 22/12
197. Mandarin -26/12
198. White-fronted Goose-29/12
199. Knot-30/12
200. Purple Sandpiper-30/12
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