Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Ticking along nicely

The last couple of weeks have been spent on an unashamed ticking exercise, it happens most years when we get to thinking we had better get some of those winter birds that won't be hanging about for long. The problem for me is that I end up with a stack of unconnected photographs that I need to publish but have no central theme attached to them.

Today it was all about recording the pair of Snow Buntings that were located on East Head at West Wittering. However, rather than go direct to East Head we decided to kick off at the North Wall at Pagham. Compared with recent years this has become the "Nothing Wall", all too often Breech Pool has been almost devoid of birds and today was no exception. There is no obvious explanation for the dearth of birds, perhaps it's water level, whatever, the birds seem to avoid the place. On the bright side, a scan from the sluice revealed at least four Bar-tailed Godwits in the stream and as we made our way back to the car the familiar sound of a Firecrest was heard when we were adjacent to the stables. A frantic pursuit of an extremely active bird ensued and I finally managed to get a positive ID. So, even with a lack of birds we had two ticks in the bag but unfortunately no photographs.

Next stop was West Wittering and a long walk to the point failed to result in the Snow Buntings. On the way back some waving from some friendly birders had us on the birds and we followed them along the strandline. Poor light and a mean easterly wind didn't help but at least I managed to record both birds - three ticks and not even midday.

 It was nice to be able to record some friendly Skylarks, hunkered down on the edge of the dunes to avoid the blast from Siberia.

We decided to give Selsey Bill a visit and on the way down a  brief stop at Ferry Pool gave views of a large number of Wigeon but precious little else. We were developing a bit of a theme as the sea at the bill was empty so we cut back to Church Norton in search of the long staying Whimbrel, another bird that everyone sees but that has given us the slip during recent visits. As we came out of the entrance tunnel there it was, as bold as brass but in no mood to be photographed. Not much out on the harbour save a male Red-breasted Merganser that persisted in lots of sky pointing to a disinterested bunch of Oystercatchers.

We completed the day up on the Burgh, plenty of Red Kites, a vociferous Raven but no sign of a Grey Partridge. If the wind was cool at Wittering it was definitely of an icy nature as we stood by the gate at the triangle - time for home and a steaming cuppa.

Yesterday had seen us making a third visit to the Cuckmere in search of the Twite, on our first visit we had been slightly out in our location but at least we had seen the Ridgways Cackling Geese. Our second visit had been a no show with nothing to ameliorate that depression of a dip. Today's third visit was met with success - well just - as we had just a minute on the bird, enough for a positive ID and a couple of long range shots.

 On the way home we decide to give the Tidemills Serin another visit but there were plenty of birders present - enough to discourage us as we weren't going to get any better shots than on our previous visit. So we opted for the reliable Purple Sandpipers on East Pier. Probably half a dozen in attendance and two very obliging specimens.

Serin - looking even better.


A very pleasant day's birding and nice to meet Bob, Dick and Trevor.

Recently, visits to WWT Arundel have been quite rewarding. Always the chance of a Bullfinch or Firecrest but just lately it has been Kingfishers - happy to capture yet another bird.

A trip down to the New Forest is always rewarding and Blashford is always good for a Brambling but unfortunately the powers that be have elected to put the most awful blue glass in the woodland hide. No photographs and nearly no sighting - very poor indeed - must be a real numpty in charge. Oddly enough at the "normal" style hide all the windows open but the birds are always at a great distance - seems the place is built upside down.

Eyeworth Pond is another annual pilgrimage, Mandarin and Goosanders are usually about, this year an addition in the form of a pair of Wood Ducks. Yes, I know they are plastic but it is nice to be able to photograph them in a decent setting. A whole host of other birds can be found here due to the generosity of those who provide feed for Great, Marsh, Blue and Coal Tits, Nuthatches, Chaffinches and Robins.


Earlier visits in the other direction to Dungeness and Scotney had provided sightings of Red-necked Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Taiga Bean Geese, White-fronted Geese, Pink-footed Geese and of course the Barnacles.

Pink-footed Geese front centre, Greylags in background

The regular Barnacles

Emperor x Barnacle

Good to catch up with some Bearded Tits at Pett Level, unfortunately they were hyperactive resulting in only a couple of acceptable records.

 Back at home the garden tick list is also progressing- now standing at a healthy 28 species. With the recent cold weather the garden population has grown and the predators have taken advantage.

So the birding year is ticking along nicely - long may it continue.

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.