Thursday 19 January 2017

Serin and Rose-coloured Starling

Today's impromptu outing was due to the Serin being reported at Tidemills again. Two previous visits , one lasting a bone chilling six hours, had resulted in a disappointing dip. When we arrived just a few hopeful birders scanning the skies and the walls of the ruins. After a wait of only about fifteen minutes we were treated to a fly by, the bird calling as it circled us. After a short period it landed on one of the walls and was duly recorded - a UK and Sussex tick simultaneously. The pattern was repeated with the bird feeding and then posing, with quite a crowd the gathering the bird disappeared. We took our leave of the assembled birders and took a stroll along the East Pier, with the tide at almost dead low there were no Purplies to be found so we returned to the car for lunch.

Where next was the question and Martin came up with the Rose-coloured Starling. After a 35 minute journey we were parking in Beachy Road Crawley and just one minute later we spotted the bird - makes a change from our recent dipping episodes. A bit of a difficult subject as it seemed that the Starling was always partially obscured by the many branches of its favourite tree. At least we had good light and we made the most of it.

Wednesday 18 January 2017

Water Pipit

We started the day at the leisurely hour of 0800 and headed west for Warblington, ostensibly for better shots of the Cattle Egrets but mostly because we missed the turning for Apuldram. Only one bird at home and away from the cattle. Our attempts to get close resulted in the bird relocating to the field beyond the cemetery - well out of range. A quick visit to the Nore stream revealed no waders in residence so we finally set off for Fishbourne creek and the reported Water Pipit. Having parked up at the church and passed the time of day with some local birders we headed off down the path, pausing only to record the Yellowhammers on the manure heap by the stable.

Bernie's report for the bird was spot on, there it was on the beach directly in front of the three white yachts - great year tick. However it wasn't too keen to pose for us as it was constantly defending its territory by driving away any Rock Pipits that had the temerity to come close.


By the sewage works we found a Grey Wagtail whose life was being made difficult by the ice on the frozen ditches.  We found three Common Snipe but unfortunately no sign of a Jack Snipe. The channel was full of birds but we studiously ignored them and returned to the Water Pipit for another go, this time a Rocky had held the ground for some time but finally succumbed to the protestations of the Water Pipit.

An odd looking Wren provided us with some excitement, a broad white crown present on its head. Further examination revealed that the patch was really only present on the port side- so not a Bewick's Wren after all.

On down the peninsular - nothing on Ferry Pool, I guess the road works and traffic control don't help, we eschewed a visit to Church Norton and made for the Bill. Nice to meet Owen  who was having a quiet lunch - until we arrived. With the square root of nothing out on the sea, we decided to pay WWT Arundel another visit - hopefully the Great White Egret would be showing again.

Sure enough we had great, if fairly distant, views of the exotic visitor - a Sussex tick for Martin. I had a GWE in exactly the same place in September 2014 - just a tad warmer then.

Not so elegant on the ice!

On round to the Ramsar hide where we had views of the GWE wandering round on top of the ice, my finger remained poised in the shutter release, it would have made a cracking shot if the bird had stuck its head through the ice. Plenty of Common Snipe about, some of them trying to feed in a narrow strip between the shore and the edge of the ice.

Life is difficult when the water is frozen.

Lots of Shelducks roosting here

On the way back to the restaurant for a pot of tea we were alerted to a Water Rail out in the open. Sod's Law - I had stowed the camera  away, I hastily removed it from the case and proceeded to take several frame-filling but totally out of focus shots. If the cold weather persists it might be worth another visit.

Wednesday 11 January 2017

WOW - Waxwings, Owls and Warbler

Today was a planned trip into Kent, Strood for a banker Waxwing, another go for the Stejnegers Stonechat at Dungeness and possibly the Red-necked Grebe at Camber, sundry geese had been reported both at Pett Level and Scotney so we were in for a long day. Rail strikes and local traffic conditions meant an early start so we left at 0630. Unfortunately a 13 car pile up on the M23 meant a considerable delay but as we arrived in Strood the Waxwings showed immediately. Very flighty birds - flying in to a group of golden rowan trees, grabbing several berries and then retreating to a higher perch in a nearby ash tree to digest the food. Waxwings tend to be inconsiderate in that they always seem to be in awkward places for photography, normally a local school. This venue was no different, main road, sheltered accommodation and a gathering crowd of keen photographers - conditions that make me feel uncomfortable - so it was grab a record shot and get away ASAP.

Just need to get them down into Sussex with some sunny weather!

On to Dungeness where we wanted to record the Long-eared Owl that we had dipped the previous week. Great news - not one LEO adjacent to the dipping pond, but two and in a reasonable location for a record.

On the way out we located the Ring-necked Duck but as it was no closer than on our last visit we decided to spend the time on the Stejnegers - same result the bird had gone AWOL - it must have known we were coming. Shades of the infamous Little Bunting episode - seven trips without a result.

A short stop at Scotney gave views of the usual feral Barnacle Geese with the Emperor Goose crosses mixed in. Another stop at Pett Level and a diligent search of the geese out in the field resulted in Martin finding the five Taiga Bean Geese, a long way off and the scope on maximum magnification to resolve the ID.

We completed the day on Pevensey Levels looking for a Short-eared Owl, unfortunately a no show and with both the light and the temperature dropping we called it a day and headed for home.

The previous day had been a foray around the local patch, with the rail strike and local road works the traffic was horrendous and any long distance was out of the question. First up was Petworth Park, invariably there are Goosanders on the lower lake and always the chance of an Egyptian Goose. When we arrived a lone Goosander was on the lake but as always he kept his distance. There are always better chances for Goosander shots, particularly at Eyeworth or even the Widewater at Shoreham. So I left Martin trying, with consummate fieldcraft, to get closer to the bird whilst I stalked the Fallow Deer. I say stalked, these deer are used to a host of dog walkers and joggers, as you approach they just drift away to a comfortable distance.

I heard the familiar sound of antler on antler and found two bucks half heartedly engaged in "combat", every now and then they would break off, have a graze then have another go, the rutting season has long passed but I guess they like to keep their hands in.

I returned to the lake and found that three more birds had flown in, rather than settling things down it made the birds much more wary and finally they departed, probably for the upper lake.

Next a trip the Sussex commons where we obtained our yearly fix of Dartford Warbler, unfortunately never close and never stationary but a record shot nevertheless.





Thursday 5 January 2017


It has been a steady start to the new birding year, plenty of birds to be seen, most at a good distance so the opportunities for a photograph have been slim - until yesterday. We started at Pagham North Wall where all the usual suspects were present, just in lower numbers than last week. We added Golden Plover to our slowly growing tick list. A trip to the other side proved almost as fruitless with just two Stock Doves being the outstanding species. Next up was Swanbourne Lake at Arundel in search of a couple of Mandarins - alas lower water levels meant that tree cover was well above the shoreline and we failed to locate the birds.  On up the hill above Offham Farm where we found the five Bewick's Swans out in the field. No sign of the Great White Egret on the river so we paid a visit to the WWT Wetland Centre. Most of the lakes had a thin covering of ice - just enough to prevent ducks falling through and of course putting Kingfisher feeding on hold. However, there were several small patches of open water and the Kingfishers were trying their best to find prey. One bird, adjacent to the path, had decided that human onlookers were less of a threat than starvation and gave stunning views to a host of onlookers.



Another bird at the "normal" distance.

The other inhabitants of the reserve were also feeling the effects of the freeze, particularly the Teal. Great to watch the surprise of one bird landing as it skidded across the ice.

Some record shots from our first trips out this year.

The 1st winter Scaup on Ivy Lake....

......a Curlew with a crab at Church Norton.....

....two of the eight  Cattle Egrets at Warblington, unfortunately a fair distance away....


and finally the Ring-necked Duck at Dungeness.

Don't mention the Stejneger's Stonechat