Monday, 10 August 2009

Weir Wood

Sunday 9th August - A late afternoon visit to Weir Wood where the 5 Wood Sandpipers were still showing nicely on the wet mud in front of the hide. Also 2 Common and 2 Green Sandpipers, 2 Greenshank and a Common Tern. Just a Sparrowhawk and a Grey Wagtail at the dam end though an Osprey was seen after I'd left.

Peregrine and Sparrowhawk seen from the back garden.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

July update

Thursday 30th July - A guided walk on the Selsey peninsular. First stop was Sidlesham Ferry where there were 3 Dunlin, 54 Redshank, 2 Common Sandpipers and a juv Med Gull. A careful search through the gulls on the Bracklesham Bay RSPB reserve turned up ca. 20 Yellow-legged Gulls (all adults), 4 Med Gulls (in a variety of plumages including an adult summer), a Little Ringed Plover and a Common Sandpiper. Church Norton provided a welcome respite from the blustery SW wind (though clouds of dust were blowing across the harbour from the nearby fields) and also great views of 2 Peregrines, one of which caught a Wood Pigeon which it then started to pluck out on the mudflats. Over on the east side of the harbour the Breech Pool held 3 Tufted Duck ducklings (no sign of any adults), 11 Black-tailed Godwits, a Common Sandpiper, two Common Terns and a few Sand Martins passing through. A Buzzard was perched on a fencepost at the back of the pool.

Tuesday 28th July - A pair of Buzzards over the Friston Forest Project area and a clouded yellow (my first site record). Also a Hobby over the edge of Lullington Heath.

Thursday 23rd July
- Two Little Egrets and a pair of Mute Swans with 4 well grown cygnets at Widewater. A pair of Ringed Plovers on the beach.

At Pulborough Brooks in the evening: Ruff, Greenshank, 6 Green Sandpipers and 1 Common Sandpiper on the north brooks. Still one Nightjar churring rather half heartedly on Wiggonholt Common at dusk but not seen. At least 3 Tawny Owls calling but they too refused to show themselves. All rather frustrating.

Tuesday 21st July - Five Egyptian Geese and a pair of Black Swans on Benbow Pond between Petworth and Midhurst.

Thursday 16th July - A Peregrine and a Rock Pipit on the cliffs at Splash Point. My usual circuit round the Friston Forest Project Area turned up a young Tawny Owl which was heard calling in the SW corner and a singing male Greenfinch - my first site record! At Beachy Head the two Lizard Orchid spikes were almost over. Good numbers of Chalkhill Blues and a few Marbled Whites by Horseshoe Plantation.

Wednesday 15th July - A Peregrine over Buckingham Park, Shoreham. Also in the park recently 2 singing Stock Doves, Great Spotted Woodpecker and 3 Jays.

Saturday 11th July - My first local Grey Wagtail of the 'autumn' over Buckingham Park, this evening. Also a singing Blackcap there.

Friday 10th July - A quick look at Arlington Reservoir from the north end of the dam produced a Little Egret, 3 Common Sandpipers, a 'purring' Turtle Dove and a Grey Wagtail. Another Turtle Dove seen as I was walking back across the fields to Arlington Church.

An evening walk at Pulborough Brooks turned up a male Pintail, Little Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Greenshank and 2 Green Sandpipers on north brooks but there was no sign of Thursday's Temminck's Stint. Despite the rain, 2 Nightjars were heard churring on Wiggonholt Common at dusk and showed fairly briefly in flight. Also a Tawny Owl heard calling and a close view of a Roe Deer.

Saturday 4th July - Several Little Terns over the fenced enclosure at the end of Church Norton spit viewed from Pagham spit. Later a female Red-crested Pochard with Mallard on the Breech Pool at Pagham Harbour. Also 16 Teal.

Friday 3rd July - At least 3 churring Nightjars from about 21.45 along the eastern edge of Old Lodge NR - one perched on a branch giving good scope views. Also at least Woodcock roding over the NE corner of the reserve showing exceptionally well. Two singing male Tree Pipits near the car park.

Monday, 15 June 2009

June update

Tuesday 16th June - A pair of Common Terns at Arlington Reservoir and a Turtle Dove purring from the car park.

Sunday 14th June - The strange sight (at least for here) of a Barnacle Goose and 11 Canada Geese heading NE over Phoenix Way, Southwick early evening.

Earlier in the day a walk out across Horse Eye Level from White Dyke Farm turned up a Hobby, 3 Yellow Wagtails and a singing Cetti's Warbler.

Friday 12th June - My second timed tetrad visit to TQ01W (Storrington) today added a handful of additional species taking my total for the two visits to 47. Highlights included singing male Grey Wagtails at two sites, a pair of Corn Buntings and a couple of Lesser Whitethroats, one of which was very agitated. My guess is that there can't be many tetrads in the county that hold both breeding Grey Wagtail and Corn Bunting!

Thursday 11th June - My final visit of the spring to the Knepp Estate and, as always, some nice birds. Pick of the bunch were a Barn Owl that flew out of a nest-box, a Turtle Dove disturbed from a pheasant bin and a Cuckoo.

Sunday 7th June - A rare trip out of the county to The Brecks for Golden Oriole and Stone Curlew. We left Brighton at 05.00 in torrential rain and arrived at Lakenheath RSPB reserve three hours later having been delayed for 40 mins on the M11 due to an accident. Although it was cool and cloudy at least it was dry so we headed west along the river bank to the poplar plantations. A Common Tern flew past, a pair of Marsh Harriers were quartering the reedbeds and a Bittern showed very well in flight. At first it seemed that Golden Oriole was going to be 'a needle in a haystack' bird though our hopes were raised slightly when we saw a small group of birders in the distance with their scopes pointing in the general direction of the third plantation. At first they were not particularly forthcoming with information though after a short wait I found a male near the top of a tree which posed nicely in the scope. After a while it became apparent that they were looking at a nest; through the scope we could see that it contained a female and was constantly moving from side to side in the increasing wind. From here we headed back to the car park stopping at one of the hides where several Bearded Tits gave good views.

Our arrival at Weeting Heath coincided with the arrival of a coachload of 30 people from Stourbridge. With only two hides to choose from, things were always going to be uncomfortable especially as the Stone Curlews were not on view. A family party of stoats were doing their best to decimate the local rabbit population and eventually a Stone Curlew did show though the views were brief before it soon disappeared. It then started raining heavily so we had lunch in the car before returning to the west hide. This time our luck was in with both pairs of Stone Curlew giving good views and at one point interacting with each one. Sadly both had lost their chicks in the last few days - the reason for this are not known though perhaps the stoats had something to do with it!

Friday 5th June - An overcast and windy evening at Old Lodge failed to produce sight or sound of any Nightjars - all rather disappointing! Some compensation was provided by at least two roding Woodcock, several sightings of Redstarts (including a pair with fledged young) and brief views of Crossbill and Redpoll. Several groups of Fallow Deer as we walked round the nature trail.

Friday 4th June - Purring Turtle Doves at Arlington by the church (2) and the reservoir car park (1). Another seen in flight near Chilver Bridge Farm.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Red Kite

Tuesday 26th May - A Red Kite near Chanctonbury Ring - always a great bird to see but increasingly regular in Sussex these days.

Friday, 8 May 2009


Wednesday 6th May - The 3 Dotterel first found yesterday afternoon were still showing fairly well in a bare field on the N side of the South Downs Way between Chantry Hill and Kithurst Hill mid morning. Also 2 Buzzards, a pair of Red-legged Partridge, a singing Corn Bunting and 3 Brown Hares.

Survey work at Knepp earlier in the day turned up a few surprises including a pair of Mandarins along the stream in Alder Copse, a pair of Hobbies (the first I've seen on the estate) and a singing Wood Lark over a stubble field a couple of miles to the north of last year's site. Also Cuckoo, Nightingale, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Bullfinch etc.

Tuesday 5th May - An evening walk round Pulborough Brooks turned into quite an eventful one with a police helicopter circling overhead looking for a man reported to be 'suicidal and full of drink'. It was hardly a surprise with all the noise that the reserve was quiet except for 2 male Shoveler, a male Pintail, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Willow Warbler and Nuthatch. Even the Nightingales were stubbornly quiet though eventually three put on a fine vocal performance, one singing its head off despite 13 people standing only a few yards away! We then headed for the Rising Sun where the big screen confirmed that Arsenal were on their way out of the Champions League losing 3 - 1 to Man Utd.

Saturday 2nd May - My first Swift of the year over Phoenix Way and a Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk over Upper Shoreham Road. A couple of circular walks later in the day, the first to see the Early Spider Orchids at Castle Hill and the second near Adversane taking in North Wood and the Wey and Arun Canal. No birds of note at Castle Hill, a pair of Lapwings and a Cuckoo by the Arun.

Friday 1st May - A sea fret over Friston Forest made walking the butterfly transect a waste of time though compensation was on hand in the form of a singing male Wood Warbler along the north edge of the Forest next to Lullington Heath. Always a nice bird to see especially as I didn't catch up with one in 2008.

Saturday, 18 April 2009


The Dotterel found earlier in the day at Climping was still showing reasonably well early afternoon when we got there frequenting a large ploughed field behind the sea wall. Unfortunately it was probably the dullest plumaged Dotterel I've ever seen in spring but still a nice bird. Also 2 Wheatears there. Later at Pulborough Brooks a splendid Red Kite (untagged) flew past The Hanger at 16.40 disturbing all the ducks on the north brooks before departing east. Not much else to get excited about - a Nightingale singing in the hedge by the zig-zag path, a few Swallows and Sand Martins, and 2 male Shoveler on the north brooks.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

This week

Friday 17th April - A Chiffchaff singing in Kingston Lane and a Stock Dove on the roof of Southwick Church.

Thursday 16th April - An hour or so spent seawatching at Splash Point was largely disappointing despite the seemingly promising conditions. The highlight was a dark phase Arctic Skua but otherwise not much - 2 Teal, Red-throated Diver, 10 Whimbrel, 2 adult summer Med Gulls and a trickle of Brent Geese, Common Scoter, Commic and Sandwich Terns. A Sparrowhawk was over the Friston Forest Project Area and a Nightingale was singing at Waltham Brooks after dark.

Wednesday 15th April - A misty start at Old Lodge but eventually the sun came out. There was no sign of the Little Bunting but compensation was provided by a Cuckoo, Wood Larks in song in 5 different areas of the reserve, at least 3 singing Tree Pipits, 3 singing male Redstarts (one of which posed nicely in the scope), a pair of Stonechats, Willow Warbler, and a Crossbill and several Redpolls that flew over calling. Also 3 Fallow Deer.

Tuesday 14th April - A beautiful spring morning at Knepp and far more birds in song than a week ago including my first Cuckoos of the year (2) and at least 4 Nightingales (one of which gave excellent prolonged views). Also a Barn Owl, several Whitethroats and Blackcaps, 4 Redpolls in an oak tree, a Bullfinch, a Reed Bunting and at least 3 (probably 5) Roe Deer.

Monday 13th April - A late start at Selsey Bill revealed that there was virtually nothing moving except 2 Mergansers, 1 Fulmar, 1 Gannet and 1 Sandwich Tern. Three Great Northern Divers and an adult summer Med Gull were on the sea, a Sparrowhawk flew out high to the south and a few Swallows were coming in. At East Beach there was a Wheatear on the shingle and 4 Willow Warblers and a Chiffchaff in the trees by the pond. A couple of visit to the RSPB reserve at Bracklesham Bay were well worthwhile turning up 45+ Shelduck, single pairs of Gadwall and Tufted Duck, a surprise in the form of a male Garganey, a pair of Grey Partridge, a Little Egret, single pairs of Oystercatcher and Ringed Plover, 2 Ruff, 2 Whimbrel, 3 Curlew, 3 Med Gulls, a Sand Martin and 2 Wheatears. A Buzzard flew N over Selsey pursued by the local gulls - shame it wasn't a Black Kite though we did see a Red Kite briefly near Goodwood on the way home.

Saturday 11th April - A walk in the rain north from Mile Oak Farm towards the South Downs Way turned up my first Common Whitethroats (2) of the year and a Buzzard that flew out of a tree with a large nest in it.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009


Wednesday 8th April - Very slow going at Friston Forest today in sunny but blustery conditions - just a pair of Buzzards and a couple of singing Blackcaps and a complete absence of any butterflies along the transect despite the sunshine. A Speckled Wood in the garden was my first this year.

Tuesday 7th April - A pair of Jays by Southwick Church early morning. Survey work at Knepp was a bit slow in the blustery conditions with Blackcap and Chiffchaff the only summer migrants recorded. Otherwise several Buzzards (inc a pair over Hartsgravel Wood), Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatch, Bullfinch etc. At the Millpond there were 17 Cormorants (inc the pair on a nest), 8-9 nests in the heronry and a pair of Greylags.

Monday 6th April - A quick visit to the Ternery Pool at Rye Harbour produced masses of Mediterranean Gulls and Sandwich Terns but very little else.

Sunday 5th April - An early morning start at Wednesday's LSW sites drew a complete blank at one and a very brief view at the other. A pair of Mandarins was at the first site where a pair of Shelduck flew over. The second site held a pair of Teal (a possible breeding site?), ca. 10 Redpolls, a male Blackcap, Treecreeper and an adder that slid off into the undergrowth. Next stop was a nearby area of heathland where we were rewarded with a singing Wood Lark (though not seen), a song-flighting Dartford Warbler and lots of noisy Siskins. The highlight however was a superb sand lizard - a Sussex first for me. We then headed back to the first LSW site where a female showed very well, even doing its 'butterfly' display flight. Both calling and drumming were heard. Also a Grey Wagtail. Later, a couple of Buzzards flew high over the beer garden of the Rising Sun at Nutbourne and what looked suspiciously like a White Wagtail perched briefly on the roof. A male Orange-tip in the road outside was my first of the year.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

This week

Thursday 2nd April - Survey work in the Friston Forest Project Area turned up a stunning Firecrest (my first site record), a Tawny Owl hooting at 12:35 and a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers. The murky conditions were slow to clear but eventually I set out on the butterfly transect recording 4 species: Peacock (5), Brimstone (3 males), Comma (1) and Red Admiral (1).

Wednesday 1st April - There can be few more agreeable places to be in Sussex on a glorious spring morning than Burton Mill Pond and so it was to prove today as 13 SOS members met up with me for a walk round the nature trail. We noted 45 species – a respectable total for an inland site. Waterbirds included Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Tufted Duck and Great Crested Grebe on Burton Pond, Little Grebe in breeding plumage on Black Pond, and Shelduck, Gadwall and Teal on Chingford Pond. Several Buzzards were seen overhead as the day warmed up while in the wooded areas we saw or heard Stock Dove, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Song Thrush, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Long-tailed, Coal and Marsh Tits, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Bullfinch. A Grey Wagtail was seen briefly at Chingford Pond and a male Reed Bunting perched at the top of a beech tree round the back of Burton Pond. Wildlife interest was not restricted to birds – several male Brimstones were on the wing in the spring sunshine while some interesting plants included Marsh Marigold, Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage, Wood Sorrel and the inconspicuous Townhall Clock.

At long last I managed to catch up with Lesser Spotted Woodpecker with a brief view of a male at one site (heard calling a couple of times) and a second bird calling repeatedly and drumming at a new site for about 10 minutes though not seen.

Tuesday 31st March - The Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming on its' favourite telegraph post, the Green Woodpecker was heard calling and a Stock Dove was prospecting Southwick Church.

Survey work along the transects on the Knepp Estate produced all the usual suspects, the pick of the bunch being 4 Teal, 4 Sand Martins flying N, 4 Bullfinches together and a male Reed Bunting along the transect south of Countryman Lane. Although the Millpond is not part of my survey area, I stopped by to count the nests in the Heronry. This year the birds seem to have deserted the nests in the tree canopy and have moved to the end of the 'dog leg' where they are nesting much lower down and in some cases just above the water. I counted 9 occupied nests. Of greater significance were 11 Cormorants perched in the trees including a pair of Continental birds occupying an apparent nest. This is a potential new breeding site, the only other sites in Sussex being Castle Water and Lewes Brooks. Also a pair of Mandarins, a male Gadwall and 2 Great Crested Grebes.

Monday 30th March - The usual early morning circuit with the dogs was enlivened by a Great Spotted Woodpecker knocking seven bells out of a telegraph post, a Green Woodpecker (scarce locally) on the spire of Southwick Church and a Jay.

Sunday 29th March - A 'walk in the woods' right up to the Surrey border failed to deliver LSW or Friday's Willow Tit - all rather disappointing. Three Marsh Tits heard singing and a pair of Buzzards were the only birds of note.

Three Buzzards together beside the A283 at Wiston.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Spoonbill & Willow Tit

Saturday 28th March - The Spoonbill found by Matt Eade on the scrape at Cuckmere Haven early morning was still present early afternoon in the fields on the west side of the river south of the Golden Galleon. In true Spoonbill fashion it spent most of the time asleep though at one stage went for a short walk revealing a yellow flag on the left leg and a green colour ring on the right. The combination of rings indicates that it is of Dutch origin. Also in the area 5 Shelduck, ca. 6 Little Egrets, 2 Curlew and a Green Woodpecker. A very heavy rain shower at Arlington Reservoir brought down 5+ Swallows and a Sand Martin though by the time we'd done the whole circuit they'd moved on. Not much else there - 5 Tufted Duck, Buzzard, 2 Green Woodpeckers, Mistle Trush, 3 Chiffchaffs (2 singing) and Nuthatch (h). No sign of the 'pole hunting' Long-eared Owl in a short search after dark - perhaps it's moved on?

Friday 27th March - Despite the less than ideal conditions, Bridget and I headed inland in search of LSWs. In the cold wind there was very little woodpecker activity - not surprisingly we failed with LSW though a major bonus was a male Willow Tit which was singing continuously (pee-oo pee-oo) from the canopy of an area of oak and hazel coppice. Like the West Dean birds it was very mobile continually flying from tree to tree though I did manage to get a good (if somewhat brief) view of it. Also in the area were at least 3 (possibly 6) Buzzards, a male Bullfinch and a male Reed Bunting. Chiffchaff, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Yellowhammer were all heard.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Stock Doves

A pair of Stock Doves between Southwick Green and the church. Looks as if they are going to breed locally again.


Tuesday 24th March - A few birds on my early morning circuit with the dogs - Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming into a telegraph pole and a pair of Jays.

Walked both the transects at Knepp for the first time this spring. A surprise was a pair of Grey Partridge (my first on the estate). Also several sightings of Buzzards plus a nice selection of common birds including Stock Dove, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Sky Lark, 3 Redwings, Chiffchaff, Marsh Tit, Nuthatch, a pair of Bullfinches, Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting. Two Commas in the spring sunshine and a fine display of wild daffodils in the recently thinned Coate's Furzefield.

Monday, 23 March 2009


Monday 23rd March - A singing male Blackcap in the 'Yellow-browed Warbler' garden in Phoenix Crescent.

Sunday 22nd March - Harlequins 38 Sale 20. A Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming on the way to the Stoop and 2 Ring-necked Parakeets after the game.

Saturday 21st March - A beautiful spring day but few birds around on Beeding Brooks where a circular walk turned up just a handful of Sky Larks and Meadow Pipits and 3 Reed Buntings (2 singing).

Friday 20th March - A singing Chiffchaff and 23 Mute Swans at Hove Lagoon and a female Peregrine sunning itself at the front of the nestbox on the power station chimney.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Last few days

Thursday 19th March - Warm and sunny again after a cold and frosty start. An early morning vigil from 6 a.m. produced lots of woodpecker activity with 2 pairs of Great Spotted and a pair of Green in the same tree but sadly no sight or sound of Lesser Spotted. Lavington Plantation was much better with a pair of Wood Larks, a big mob of noisy Siskins, 3 Lesser Redpolls, a pair of Crossbills that gave great views in the bright sunshine and several Yellowhammers. Across the road was very quiet, despite the warm and still conditions, though we did eventually manage brief views of a Dartford Warbler which gave a couple of bursts of song. Also a pair of Kestrels and a pair of Mistle Thrushes. The Dartfords were more obliging at our next stop with a pair accompanying a pair of Stonechats on Heyshott Common and a singing male on Ambersham Common. Also a pair of Buzzards and a Marsh Tit. The Egyptian Goose family in nearby Petworth Park had reduced to 5 goslings (previously 8). Also Shelduck, 3 Great Crested Grebes (2 paired up), several Stock Doves, Mistle Thrush and a Brambling that flew by calling. At Pulborough Brooks yesterday's Garganey had been seen earlier from Winpenny hide before flying towards The Hanger. North Brooks seemed the logical place for them to be but all we could find were 2 Little Egrets and the same 21 Black-tailed Godwits as yesterday. Winpenny hide produced 4 Little Ringed Plovers together and 4 Dunlin while the field opposite held 4 White Wagtails feeding round the cow pats. Nuthatch and Redpoll were in the trees by the car park.

Exceptional views of a Long-eared Owl 'pole hunting' after dark but please don't ask where...

Wednesday 18th March - News of 3 Garganey at Pulborough Brooks (part of an influx into Sussex today) seemed like a good excuse for a walk round the reserve on a beauliful still evening. The Garganey did not co-operate though I did see 2 Little Ringed Plovers, 21 Black-tailed Godwits and a Swallow on the North Brooks and 2 Little Egrets from Winpenny hide. The Swallow was my earliest ever in the UK.

Tuesday 17th March - The morning started well with brilliant views of a Barn Owl that flew through the pub car park. Although a reliable site for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in recent springs we had to be content with distant drumming and all the usual woodland birds including 4 Treecreepers. A pair of Mandarins flew past us calling and a loose flock of ca. 20 Fieldfares was up in the tree tops.

We then moved on to Burton Mill Pond where LSW again failed to show though our walk round the nature trail did turn up 3 Gadwall on Chingford Pond, a pair of Buzzards, a Great Crested Grebe with a large fish, Kingfisher and an obliging pair of Grey Wagtails at Burton Pond, 3 Redpolls and, best of all, a delightful pair of Wood Larks on the heathland area showing down to a few yards. A number of brimstones (all males) were on the wing in the warm and sunny weather.

Monday, 16 March 2009


Monday 16th March - A pristine Comma in the garden.

Sunday 15th March - A quick look at the mill stream at Arundel turned up 3 Mandarins (2 males), single pairs of Gadwall and Tufted Duck, and a Kingfisher. The Hawfinches nearby continue to oblige with good views of at least 3 birds, also a Sparrowhawk overhead (ignored by a Hawfinch), a Stock Dove and a couple of Nuthatches. The guided walk round the perimeter of Thorney Island in the warm spring sunshine was another success, the highlights being a Barnacle Goose with the Brents, a Whimbrel and 3 summer plumaged adult Med Gulls in Emsworth Channel, Bearded Tit and Cetti's Warbler heard calling at the Little Deep, 2 Greenshank at the west end of the Great Deep, 75 Sanderling and a brief Corn Bunting at Pilsey and a Short-eared Owl over the saltmarsh at Longmere Point. Despite a lot of human disturbance, the roosting waders - Oystercatchers, Grey Plover, Knot, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwits (one summer plumaged bird) and Redshank - put on a good show either side of high tide as did several hundred Brent Geese. Birds of prey were largely absent - just 2 Buzzards and a Kestrel.

Spring is here!

Saturday 14th March - A dull and overcast start to the day resulted in a fall of Wheatears all the way along the coast. At Widewater there were 6 splendid males on the beach beside the cycle track. Also the long-staying Black Redstart, a White Wagtail, 4 Little Grebes and a Little Egret. A Ringed Plover and 11 Turnstone on the beach.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Last few days

Quiet again locally, the only birds of note being the pair of Peregrines at the power station, a pair of Mergansers on Southwick Canal and 8 Purple Sandpipers on the inner west arm of Shoreham Harbour at high tide (my highest count there this winter). The Peregrines were seen mating on the chimney ring next to the nestbox.

Wednesday 11th March - A 'round the block' walk with the dogs at first light turned up a Heron over the rooftops, 4 Redwings flying N and a singing Goldcrest in Kingston Lane. Heading inland, a walk through the woods produced all the usual woodland birds (Buzzard, Stock Dove, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Goldcrest, Marsh Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper etc) and also Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers drumming in two areas. Although one sounded fairly close, we were unable to track it down, much to everyone's frustration. Three Greylag Geese and a Grey Wagtail flew over calling and 2 Red-legged Partridge scurried across a field before flying off. Our next stop was the heathland restoration area at Wiggonholt Common where we saw ca. 20 Redwings, a singing Mistle Thrush, 2+ Siskins and, best of all, a party of 9 Crossbills (including several fine males) perched at the top of an oak tree. Pulborough Brooks was a little disappointing, the highlight being a female adder basking beside the trail in the warm spring sunshine. A couple of Little Egrets, 2 Pintail, 2 Sky Larks, a party of Redwings, Mistle Thrush, a singing Nuthatch and a flock of ca. 20 Linnets were the only birds of note. A quick stop where we'd heard one of the LSWs drumming earlier drew a blank though 3 Roe Deer that slipped away into the woods were some consolation. On to Arundel where at least 2 Hawfinches gave some excellent views despite a lorry arriving and dumping a large mound of sand in the car park and various noisy tractors trundling past. A Peregrine flew overhead heading north.

Sunday 8th March - A quick look at Church Norton in the afternoon turned up two flocks of Knot on the beach totalling perhaps 200 birds and 16 Med Gulls, mainly adults in full summer plumage. The tide was way out so there was no sign of any divers, grebes or sea duck.

Friday, 6 March 2009


Friday 6th March - Flushed a Woodcock during survey work at Offham Marshes today. Also Stock Dove and Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers there. Despite seemingly promising conditions for an early Wheatear, Newhaven Tidemills was devoid of birds except for 2 Kestrels and 3 Stonechats.

Monday, 2 March 2009


Sunday 1st March - Gareth and I got up early and visited two sites for Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers. We drew a blank at both possibly due to the dull and overcast conditions. At the first site we saw Nuthatch and Treecreeper and heard 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming. Also 2 Roe Deer. At the second site a flock of 50 Siskins and a Lesser Redpoll, 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers together and a Nuthatch. In the afternoon, Bridget and I took the dogs for a walk on the Downs. It was very quiet apart from a Short-eared Owl in the same area where I saw 2 last Sunday.

Saturday 28th February - A quick look at Beeding Brooks turned up a Little Egret, a Peregrine perched high on one of the pylons and 2 Chiffchaffs (one singing weakly) in the hedge by the sewage works. In the afternoon Bridget and I walked up to the Chattri memorial and then back to the car via Lower Standean. An area I hadn't been to before with a few birds - a pair of Buzzards, 3 Stock Doves, ca. 20 Yellowhammers (at the Chattri) and 7 Linnets.

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Long-eared Owl

Friday 27th February - Having failed in all my previous attempts to see LEOs this year, Gareth and I finally caught up with one today. An after dark spotlighting trip up on to the Downs was rewarded with close views of a LEO hunting over a rough grassy slope next to the road which Gareth was able to pick up in the spotlight.

Earlier in the day I made my late TTV to TQ01W (Storrington). Although not the most exciting tetrad in the county, I took my species total for the two visits to a creditable 48. The highlights today were 2 Red-legged Partridges, Buzzard, Kestrel, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Sky Lark, Marsh Tit, 2 Treecreepers and 3 Nuthatches. A quick look round the Rackham area afterwards was more memorable for butterflies (7 male Brimstones and a Peacock) though I did see Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and a single Siskin.


Thursday 26th February - A late afternoon dog walk at Widewater turned up 9 Teal and 15 Little Grebes on the lagoon and 9 Sanderling on the beach.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Red-breasted Goose

Wednesday 25th February - Conscious that any improvement in the weather would lead to the departure of the Red-breasted Goose with the Brents, I set off for East Head where the bird was showing well and calling frequently on the mudflats out from Snowhill Creek. Not too much else there apart from a Little Egret, a Black-tailed Godwit and a Ruff at Snowhill Marsh, an Eider and the usual scattering of Mergansers in Chichester Channel looking out from Ella Nore, and a herd of 10 Roe Deer. The goose had been pushed off by the rising tide as I walked back so I decided to head inland for Lavington Common. The newly cleared area on the other side of the road was very quiet (just a Kestrel and 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers) though uphill from the car park was more productive where a pair of Stonechats and a singing male Dartford Warbler gave good views. Next stop was Coates Common (nothing of note) and then Arundel where, after a short wait, 2 Hawfinches gave good views in the trees next to the car park and a Siskin flew over. A quick stop for the Goring Waxwings drew a blank.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Seaford Head

A circular guided walk from South Hill Barn via Seaford Head golf course, Hope Gap, Cuckmere Haven and the Golden Galleon in dull and misty conditions produced good numbers of Kittiwakes back on the cliffs at Splash Point, Fulmars, a Shag on the sea, both Peregrine and Raven, some close views of Sky Larks and at least 5 Rock Pipits along the cliff edge. The Cuckmere Valley was fairly quiet apart from 8 Shelduck, 2 Gadwall, 6 Little Egrets, a Sparrowhawk and a Green Woodpecker. A Golden Plover flew over calling but was not seen. Nothing at the Ouse Estuary Project except a Little Egret and 2 Reed Buntings though Rodmell was more interesting with Little Egret, an adult male Merlin that flashed by in pursuit of a passerine, Grey Wagtail, ca. 20 Redwings, a flock of 40+ Corn Buntings and a few Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Local area

Not much to report today, just an adult Med Gull moulting into summer plumage and 3 Turnstone by Hove Lagoon, a Peregrine in the power station nestbox and an out of place Oystercatcher on the grass apron on the north side of Southwick Canal. Seven Ringed Plover and a Grey Plover by the footbridge at Shoreham.


Sunday 22nd February - A visit to a new Long-eared Owl roost failed to produce any birds though Dave was able to collect a bag of pellets from the thicket for later analysis. We did however have nice views of a couple of Short-eared Owls, one of which obligingly perched on a fence post in the late afternoon sun, and two different Woodcock. Also at least 2 Buzzards in the area (one a strikingly pale individual), a roost of 50+ Magpies, 5 Linnets, 2 Yellowhammers and a Brown Hare. A Magpie was perched on a sheep's head!


Thursday 19th February - Walked from Harlyn Bay along the coastal path to Trevose Head and on to Treyarnon Bay. A couple of Corn Buntings were in a hedgerow with Chaffinches at Harlyn Bay and a pair of Ravens at Cataclews Point. At Trevose Head the previously reported Lapland Bunting was seen and heard calling in flight with some Sky Larks while a rough field nearby held a flock of about 20 Corn Buntings suggesting that the RSPB's attempts to conserve this bird in North Cornwall are succeeding.

Wednesday 18th February - No sign again of the Cattle Egret in the Pentireglaze Farm area though looking for it saved me from going body boarding (in February!) with Bridget and Gareth. Given the state of them after half an hour in the water I think I had a lucky escape. An afternoon stroll along the Camel Trail from Padstow turned up 22 Shelduck, 7 Little Egrets, a big flock of Dunlin and 3 Grey Plovers but not the rare overwintering Nearctic vagrant I was hoping for!

Tuesday 17th February - A long circular walk today from Rock along the coastal path via Polzeath, Pentire Point and Rumps Point. Probably 4 different pairs of Ravens were seen, one of which showed exceptionally well between Daymer Bay and Polzeath, where there was also a pair of Stonechats. A shrieking Peregrine flew overhead at Corn Point and the Great Northern Diver was again in the channel by the Rock Ferry. Two Grey Seals were under the cliffs at Rumps Point. Failed to find the Cattle Egret at Pentireglaze Farm.

Monday 16th February - A couple of text messages saw us heading for West Cornwall and the Snowy Owl which had been seen the previous afternoon. We arrived to find the area devoid of birders though eventually someone pointed us in the general direction of where the bird had been seen. On reaching the top of Trendrine Hill we met a small group of birders who'd seen the bird and were moving position to get a better view. We followed on behind them to the top of a granite tor from where the Snowy Owl could be seen about 200 metres away perched on a raised bank constantly moving its head around and sometimes staring directly at us. What a bird! Having had our fill of 'Hegwig' we headed for Newlyn where both the 1st winter Glaucous and Iceland Gulls were on the beach by the outfall. Also an adult Med Gull there. Given the choice of the Ring-billed Gull at Helston or another look at the owl, there was no contest so we headed back to the moors at Amalveor Downs. The bird hadn't moved in the time we'd been away and, although it was a little more distant, we were able to see all of it from our new vantage point. Three Ravens and a flock of 50 Golden Plover flew over. To see a video clip of the Snowy Owl, click here

Sunday 15th February - A circular walk along the coastal path from Padstow via Trevone Bay, Gunver Head and Stepper Point. No repeat of the 2007 white Gyr unfortunately, just a couple of Ravens and a Great Northern Diver in the channel near Padstow.

Saturday 14th February - A hastily arranged week in Cornwall and a chance to stop at Radipole to see the long-staying drake Hooded Merganser which was in the channel by the Visitor Centre. A very smart bird but its habit of consorting with the local Mallard just feet away did nothing to make me believe that I was looking at a wild bird. Also a female Marsh Harrier seen several times and a couple of Cetti's Warblers heard calling. Later, at Padstow, a Raven (a bird I've missed in Sussex in 2009 so far) and 3 Shags.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Survey work

Arrived at Offham Marshes to find the whole site under several feet of water with the wooded area resembling a flooded forest in the Amazon and the ponds having been swallowed up under a huge sheet of water! A couple of Siskins were high up in an alder, a Buzzard flew over and Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard calling. I then went to Kingston to complete the late winter visit to TQ30Z. A couple of hours wandering around the village and up onto the top of the Downs was largely uneventful, the only birds of note being a pair of Buzzards, 40 Common Gulls, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers and a couple of Redwings. My two winter visits to the square produced 36 species.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Beeding Brooks

The Brooks were very flooded today making access difficult so it was probably no surprise that I did not see any Short-eared Owls. More than adequate compensation was provided by a large bird of prey which I initially took to be a harrier though closer views as it soared overhead showed it to be a male Goshawk, the protruding chest, long tail with a rounded tip and long, broad wings with a bulge in the rear edge creating a distinctive silhouette and confirming its identity. The upperparts appeared greyish and the underparts pale and washed out suggesting an adult. Although there was no doubt in mind that it was a Gos, it was nice to see a female Sparrowhawk at similar range a few minutes which looked tiny by comparison. Also 3 Little Egrets, a Buzzard, a Peregrine perched high up on a pylon and 7+ Sky Larks. The fields on west side of the river were deep in flood water and on the floods were at least 16 Pintail, 12 Wigeon and 2 Shoveler. A noisy pair of Greylag Geese flew over. A quick look at Beeding Hill on the way home produced brief views of the 3 Tree Sparrows and a Kestrel on a post above the dung heap.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Local area

Fairly quiet again today with no sign of the Iceland Gull. A few highlights included the pair of Peregrines at the nestbox on the power station chimney, 2 Rock Pipits on Southwick Beach, a Kingfisher on Hove Lagoon (perched on the watersports centre roof), 3 Purple Sandpipers on the inner west arm of Shoreham Harbour and 13 Little Grebes at Widewater.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009


Locally, 5 Mergansers on Southwick Canal and a Jay in Oldfield Crescent. An adult Med Gull at the seaward end of Hillfield Road, Selsey. At Fishbourne Creek at high tide 19 Goldeneye, Little Egret, Sparrowhawk and Peregrine.

Monday, 9 February 2009


Sunday 8th February - A muddy walk round the Knepp Estate was rewarded with a few birds including a Great Crested Grebe on the lake, several herons back on their nests, Sparrowhawk, probably 5 different Common Buzzards, Barn Owl, Grey Wagtail, a flock of 100 Redwings with a handful of Fieldfares, and a Treecreeper. A quick stop at Beeding Brooks as the rain set in produced a Barn Owl (my 7th of the weekend) which put on a very good display hunting at close range and a calling Cetti's Warbler in a reedy ditch which was less cooperative and refused to show itself.

Saturday 7th February - Another early start and another very cold day with a dusting of snow from Hastings eastwards. The sea off Pett was calm for once and on it were several large and mobile flocks of Common Scoter totalling perhaps 400 - 500 birds, a couple of Red-throated Divers and the usual groups of Great Crested Grebes close inshore. A Marsh Harrier was perched on a bush in the reeds by one of the lakes. From here we headed to Rye Harbour and set off on a circular point via the viewpoint, Castle Water, Long Pit and Narrow Pit. Despite the cold weather, the birding was on the slow side though we did see at least 8 Ruff with the Lapwing at the north end of Castle Water, several Snipe and the usual wildfowl from the hide at Castle Water, a Marsh Harrier that flew over mobbed by a crow, a hunting Barn Owl, and a pair of Goldeneye and a redhead Smew on Long Pit. We checked both Long-eared Owls roosts but drew a blank (again). Next stop was the Dungeness RSPB reserve where things were much quieter than a month ago though we evehtually saw 2 redhead Smew, 9 Ruddy Duck, both the Black-necked and Slavonian Grebe, two Marsh Harriers over Dengemarsh together and a couple of Tree Sparrows by the start of the entrance track.

At this point some of the group left but the rest of us headed for the Midley Cottages area of Walland Marsh where we hit a 'purple patch' seeing 4 Bewick's Swans (2 juvs), an adult male Marsh Harrier, 3 Barn Owls (2 in the scope with the harrier), a nice flock of Fieldfares and at least 40 Corn Buntings all in the space of a few minutes. The highlight of the day however was undoubtedly the harrier roost with probably 10 different Marsh Harriers and 3 Hen Harriers (2 adult males) dropping into the reedbed as the sun went down. Also a Common Buzzard, a probable Merlin perched on a bush, yet another Barn Owl and both Water Rail and Cetti's Warbler heard calling. By now we were all freezing cold so the roaring fire and cheesy chips in the Woolpack Inn were an especially welcome end to the day.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Iceland Gull

The Iceland Gull was still on Southwick Beach early afternoon resting with other gulls on the outfall opposite the sewage treatment works. Also A Pergrine in the nest box on the power station chimney.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Warnham Mill Pond

Wednesday 4th February - A frustrating morning spent at Warnham Mill Pond scanning through the very large numbers of gulls present in search of the recently reported Caspian Gulls. Things are very different there today compared with 40 years ago when there was no car park, visitor centre, boardwalk, hides or Little Egrets! Despite a couple of potential candidates, we failed to nail a Caspian Gull, photographs of a 3w bird showing it to be nothing more than an unusual Herring Gull. Can't help thinking it's about time that an indisputable Caspian Gull settled down in Sussex for a few days for all to see! Also 2 Pochard and a Little Egret there.

A quick look for Willow Tits at an undisclosed site drew a blank. The habitat did however look very suitable for them - perhaps there are other similar sites in north Sussex that are never visited by birders where Willow Tits could still cling on? A Buzzard flew over calling while other birds in the area included Great Spotted Woodpecker, Treecreeper, a pair of Marsh Tits and ca. 10 Siskins feeding in the alders along the stream.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Not much to report....

A rapid thaw today after the heaviest snow since 1991. Not much to report - just 18 Mute Swans and an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull on Hove Lagoon, no sign of the Iceland Gull along Southwick Beach and a pair of Mergansers on Southwick Canal.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Heavy snow

Woke up to find that heavy snow had fallen overnight resulting in the inevitable travel chaos (A27 closed between Southwick and Lewes), virtually no buses or trains and lots of school closures. A walk up on to Southwick Hill produced a Sparrowhawk and Kestrel and perhaps 10 each of Meadow Pipit and Sky Lark. A few small parties of Fieldfares passed over the rooftops on the way back as did a couple of Redwings. Early afternoon Bridget and I walked down to Southwick Canal where the Iceland Gull was still around following a fishing boat through the lock gates and then on the water at close range by the Lady Bee Marina. We lost it when it flew east towards Hove Lagoon. Otherwise it was quiet though 7 Lapwings and 9 Fieldfares flying west were further evidence of a cold weather movement. A Rock Pipit and a Song Thrush were on the east arm of Southwick Canal, the latter no doubt having just arrived in off the sea.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Fishbourne Creek

Sunday 1st February - A very cold day with a bitter easterly wind and frequent snow flurries in the afternoon producing a dusting of snow by dark. Bridget and I made a lunchtime visit to Fishbourne Creek to coincide with the rising tide. A Sparrowhawk flew over Kingston Lane as we were leaving Southwick. As usual there were plenty of birds at Fishbourne, the pick of the bunch being a Black Brant and a Pale-bellied Brent Goose with a small flock of Dark-bellied Brents on the water's edge north of Dell Quay, 10 Goldeneye (4 adult males), a pair of Mergansers, Little Egret, Kestrel, a Little Stint feeding with Dunlin in the creek where the Lavant enters the harbour, Whimbrel, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, female Stonechat and Jay.

Saturday 31st January - Two flocks (or perhaps the same flock) of 8 Ring-necked Parakeets flew over the Stoop as Harlequins beat Northampton 27 - 6.

Friday, 30 January 2009


Routine fare at Widewater this morning, a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers, a Kingfisher by the tamarisk island, 2 Meadow Pipits and a pair of Stonechats being the only birds of note. A quick look out to sea produced 8 Brent Geese and a Merganser flying east and a single auk west though the combination of a choppy sea, the low sun and a cold southeasterly wind did not encourage me to linger.

In the afternoon I stopped at Hove Lagoon and scoped through the gulls that were present, my efforts being rewarded with a 1st winter (2nd cal year) Yellow-legged Gull. Both Peregrines were roosting on the power station chimney at dusk though there was no sign of the Iceland Gull.

Thursday, 29 January 2009


An early morning text message from Nick Ellis to say that the Waxwings were still at Windmill Hill convinced me that it was time to make another visit over there. This time the birds (20) were on view when I got there, sitting in the top of an ash tree and calling almost continuously. Unfortunately a couple of photographers were rather too near the bushes so that the birds never came down to feed before they finally flew off eastwards. Torn between standing around in a pub car park or moving on elsewhere, I decided to go to Newhaven Harbour where, perhaps unsurprisingly, there was no sign of the injured Glaucous Gull. Ten Fulmars on one short stretch of cliff and 4 Rock Pipits were the only birds of note. Brighton Marina looked like being a waste of time until I reached the far end of the east arm where there was a juv Shag resting with Cormorants on one of the pontoons, 9 roosting Purple Sandpipers and a splendid adult Little Gull patrolling close to the seaward side of the arm. By the time I reached Southwick Beach the tide was up so there was no sign of the Iceland Gull. It had however been seen earlier.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Iceland Gull

Wednesday 28th January - The 1st winter (2nd cal year) Iceland Gull found yesterday afternoon on Hove Lagoon was showing down to a few feet in the pouring rain this morning on the beach at Carats Cafe with a large mob of Herring Gulls.

Tuesday 27th January - An attempt to have a look round the area before today's walk in the Arun Valley was curtailed by dense fog which made birding all but impossible. By the time I got to Burpham the fog had started to clear revealing that there were no Bewick's Swans on the adjacent watermeadows. A pair of Mistle Thrushes was on the cricket pitch and a Great Spotted Woodpecker in the trees by the car park. With much of the valley flooded and fog lingering to the north, it was decided to head for Swanbourne Lake instead. A party of Long-tailed Tits in the trees between the road and the trout farm held a Goldcrest and a Firecrest and also a Treecreeper (which I missed). Also an agitated pair of Mistle Thrushes in the same area. On the lake were the usual waterbirds including some very close views of Mandarins (6+), male Shoveler, Little Grebe, a pair of Great Black-backed Gulls and both Black-headed and Common Gulls perched in the trees on the island.

Next up was Amberley Castle where yesterday's 27 Bewick's Swans had fallen to three (all adults) which posed nicely on the flood water. Also 6+ Meadow Pipits. Then on to The Burgh where 3 Buzzards were up together and a Barn Owl flew out of the barn. Birding here was quite slow though we did eventually see ca. 30 Grey Partridge (including coveys of 8 and 10), 2 Red-legged Partridge, a couple more Buzzards (one a strikingly pale individual eating something in a field), 3 Kestrels, a Barn Owl perched on a fence post, several Sky Larks, a Reed Bunting and 3 Corn Buntings. Also 2 Brown Hares.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Adur Valley

Torn between a trip over to Windmill Hill for the Waxwings or some local birding, I eventually opted for the latter. The flooded Beeding Brooks was my first destination where a few bits and pieces included 6 Pintail, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, a Peregrine that flew up and perched on one of the pylons, Snipe, ca. 15 Sky Larks (one in full song), ca. 10 Meadow Pipits, ca. 20 Redwings and half a dozen or so Fieldfares. A quick stop at the cement works produced 2 Common Sandpipers on the west bank of the river while at Shoreham Harbour there were 6 Purple Sandpipers roosting with ca. 50 Turnstone at high tide on the inner west arm. Also a Great Crested Grebe and a Guillemot on the sea there. At Widewater, the Black Redstart perched on the fence at the end of the car park before flying off west below the cycle path. Also a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers, 9 Little Grebes and a pair of Stonechats but surprisingly no Little Egrets. Up on Beeding Hill the 3 Tree Sparrows flew up from the dung heap, did their best to conceal themselves in a small bush, but eventually gave good views. A Buzzard and a Kestrel there and a mixed flock of Corn Buntings and Yellowhammers.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Glaucous Gull

Atrocious weather today (driving rain and strong winds) led to the postponement of the planned walk at West Dean Woods. Gareth and I went over to Newhaven instead to look for the Glaucous Gull. No sign so we went to the Tidemills and took the dogs for a walk out to the beach though this was rapidly curtailed by the stinging rain coming straight in off the sea. We then went back to the West Beach car park where the 2nd winter Glaucous Gull was perched on a post by the river mouth. Later we saw it on the sea in the harbour. Also a pair of Fulmars on the cliffs.

Our Big Garden Birdwatch produced 11 species: Wood Pigeon - 5, Wren - 1, Dunnock -1, Robin - 1, Blackbird - 4, Blue Tit - 2, Great Tit - 2, Starling - 4, Greenfinch - 1, Goldfinch - 2 (the first for several months) and House Sparrow - 2.

Saturday, 24 January 2009


Watched Harlequins beat the Scarlets 29 - 24. Had a quick unsuccessful look for Egyptian Geese in Bushy Park on the way to the game. A Ring-necked Parakeet flew over as we parked the car near Twickenham Green and later we saw another five pass noisily overhead. A Buzzard flew over the A23 north of Gatwick at dusk on the way home.


Friday 23rd January - A day out at Dungeness with Nick Ellis and the ecology team from Capita Symonds. First stop was Jury's Gap where a quick look at the sea failed to produce the King Eider or indeed anything else of note. We then headed for Dungeness and the Hanson ARC hide where the usual wildfowl (Shelduck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler, Pochard, Tufted Duck) and good numbers of Lapwing were present, also 3 female Goldeneye, a female Marsh Harrier and at least 4 adult argentatus Herring Gulls. By the time we reached the Visitor Centre the rain and wind had set in making birding unpleasant though at least we had the hides to shelter in. From the Makepeace hide were 3 Goosanders (an imm male and 2 females) which showed well before flying off. Bird of the day was an excellent Bittern which flew out of the reeds near Scott hide and made laboured headway into the strong wind before dropping down out of sight. The 2 female Red-crested Pochard flew in and landed on the water in front of Christmas Dell hide and a redhead Smew was on New Excavations on the way back to the Visitor Centre.

A herd of about 80 Bewick's Swans and 10+ Corn Buntings were near Midley Cottages followed by an excellent lunch in the Woolpack. In the afternoon we went to Brede High Woods which was almost birdless except for a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Bullfinch (heard). Our final stop at the Horseshoe Inn, Windmill Hill failed to produce the Waxwings (they had been seen an hour earlier) though we did see a Great Spotted Woodpecker perched on top of a telegraph post.

Thursday, 22 January 2009


A Grey Wagtail on the rooftops in Southwick Square and a Grey Heron low over Cross Road at dusk.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009


A Sparrowhawk over the Old Shoreham Road this morning and it or another over Phoenix Way in the afternoon. Yesterday, a Kingfisher by the lock gates (BDJ) and a Goldcrest in the back garden.

Monday, 19 January 2009


Sunday 18th January - Today's guided walk was moved from West Dean Woods to Pett, the aim being to finally catch up with the King Eider. Gareth and I arrived at Winchelsea Beach at 08.15 to find the tide miles out, hardly a birder to be seen and no sign of the bird - not an ideal start to the day. We headed back to Cliff End where there were several small parties of Common Scoter offshore (but no Velvets), an almost constant westward movement of Red-throated Divers including a party of 15 (683 W past Dungeness in 2 hrs) and a kid of about 10 who told me he'd seen all the world's divers including Pacific! We then met up with the rest of the group and decided to head for Rye Harbour before returning to Pett after lunch when the tide would be on its way up. For a change we entered the reserve from the Winchelsea Beach end walking via the Long Pit and the 'Wood' to Castle Water. The Long Pit held a pair of Goldeneye and the 'Wood' a Great Spotted Woodpecker close to a newly excavated hole. A Stoat showed well on the way out to Castle Water but we could not find any Long-eared Owls. Lunch in the hide produced a male Marsh Harrier, a couple of Snipe through the scope and the usual wildfowl including Gadwall and Shoveler. The highlight at Rye was three male Scaup that showed nicely with the Pochard flock at the west end of Long Pit on the way back to Winchelsea Beach. A large mixed flock of Curlew, Dunlin and Lapwing at the east end of Pett Level held about 15 Ruff but back at Cliff End there was still no sign of the King Eider. We then walked north along the Royal Military Canal where there there about 30 White-fronted Geese in a field with Greylags and a distant Marsh Harrier though our quest to see the Great Grey Shrike in the Pannel Valley was soon aborted by a phone call from Tony Cook to say that there had been a report of the King Eider off Jury's Gap. By the time we'd walked quickly back to the cars Dave Green had phoned to say that he was watching it and that he would stay with the bird until we arrived! The usual Sunday motorists meant that the drive to Jury's Gap was a frustratingly slow one but fortunately the bird was still there showing reasonably well in the wave troughs about 250 yards offshore. Relief all round. Once everyone had had scope views we headed back to Pannel Valley where there were 2 Little Egrets, 2 male Marsh Harriers floating around as dusk approached and an excellent Barn Owl that flew past just as we left the hide. Water Rail and Cetti's Warbler were both heard.

Saturday 17th January - A quick look for the Bramblings on Chantry Hill was successful with 5 birds perched in a bush by the dung heap. Also plenty of Yellowhammers though difficult to count in the windy conditions. A circular walk from Coates via Lords Piece, Sutton End and Burton Mill Pond was rather spoilt by the news that the King Eider was back at Pett though we did manage to see a reasonable selection of birds including Buzzard, 3 Mistle Thrushes, Coal Tit, Marsh Tit (singles at Coates and Burton Mill Pond) and, at Crouch Farm, 3 Little Egrets, ca. 20 Bramblings, a couple of Lesser Redpolls and a big flock of Linnets. Another flock of ca. 60 Linnets and a flyover Redpoll were at Coates.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Beeding Hill

A damp, dreary and instantly forgettable day. An attempt to see the Tree Sparrows on Beeding Hill was largely futile on account of the hill fog and rain which made seeing anything virtually impossible. All I could manage was a Brown Rat on the compost heap and a couple of Starlings so I quickly headed for the Adur. Despite checking both up and downstream from the cement works, I failed to find any wintering Common Sandpipers - just a Little Grebe and 2 Redshank.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Shoreham Harbour

Thursday 15th January - An afternoon high tide count between Hove Lagoon and the footbridge at Shoreham was relatively unproductive, the highlights being 26 Mute Swans on Hove Lagoon, 4 Purple Sandpipers roosting with 23 Turnstone on the inner west harbour arm at high tide, a Peregrine flying up to the power station chimney, ca. 400 Herring Gulls (mainly immatures) milling around on Southwick Beach (but nothing rarer with them), a Kingfisher posing nicely in the Lady Bee Marina and a Rock Pipit on Southwick Beach. Later at Widewater at least 12 (possibly 16) Little Grebes, 3 Teal, a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers, a Ringed Plover, and ca. 35 Turnstone and 2 Redshank roosting on the beach at high tide.

Wednesday 14th January - A Great Spotted Woodpecker and a pair of Stock Doves in Meadway Court were slightly unexpected birds on my morning dog walk. Also Dunnock and Greenfinch in song.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

West Sussex

Tuesday 13th January - A walk with the dogs before it got light produced an urban Fox in Phoenix Way and the Song Thrush and a Robin in full song in Cross Road. Fortunately the dogs didn't see the fox (though they must have smelt it), otherwise the whole of Phoenix Way would have been woken up at 6.30am by their barking!

Another very successful guided walk at Fishbourne Creek where some 60 species on a rising and very big tide included 650 Wigeon, a handful of Pintail and Shoveler, 10 Goldeneye (including 3 adult males), 4 Red-breasted Mergansers, 8 Little Grebes, 6+ Little Egrets, Sparrowhawk, Grey Plover, several Snipe, Black-tailed Godwits, Whimbrel (heard), Spotted Redshank, adult Med Gull, ca. 6 Rock Pipits, Grey Wagtail, Stonechat, Goldcrest, Siskin, 3 Yellowhammers and 2 Reed Buntings. Also a single Roe Deer on the edge of the reedbed. After a drink in the Crown & Anchor at Dell Quay, we headed for West Dean Woods parking, just up the hill from Stapleash Farm. A small covey of Red-legged Partridge was along Houlter's Lane and also a completely albino Pheasant that I missed. We couldn't find the Little Owl in the usual tree at Stapleash Farm nor any Bramblings with the Chaffinches though a Grey Wagtail showed nicely on the roof of one of the farm buildings - an unusual downland location. Two Hawfinches flew high overhead but were only recognisable as such by their distinctive silhouette. Fortunately however I quickly found two more in a bush in the horse field opposite the farm which showed very well before being joined by a third. We then walked a little way up the track from Yew Tree Cottage towards Monkton Farm where we saw a couple of Buzzards and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. The 3 Hawfinches flew over on the way back and perched in the top of one of tall trees by the sharp bend, allowing good scope views before they flew off. A quick stop at an undisclosed site produced fairly brief views of 2 Red Kites before they dropped below the treeline out of sight. We just had time to make it to Burton Mill Pond where, after a short wait, a Bittern appeared at the edge of the reeds in the SE corner giving good scope views in the fading light - a great finish to an excellent day. Also several Gadwall, and a Water Rail heard squealing.

Monday, 12 January 2009


A Song Thrush in full song at dawn in Cross Road, Southwick - no doubt appreciating the return to more mild conditions. Work commitments prevented me from going over to Pett first thing - as it happens a good move as the King Eider did not show today. Hopefully it will reappear when the wind drops and the sea is less rough...

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Pagham and Chi Pits

Our decision to go west was not a good one with news reaching me of a drake King Eider at Pett just as we arrived at Pagham. BJY did however report that it had drifted out to sea and been lost to view. From the car park we walked out to the hide on Pagham Spit from where we could see 6 Goldeneye (including an adult male), Pintail and about 40 Med Gulls in the harbour. There were at least another 40 Med Gulls at the entrance to the harbour and probably 100 or more in the whole area. Also 7 Tufted Duck on Little Lagoon and 2 Little Grebes in the harbour mouth. We then headed north past Slipe Field to the North Wall seeing 3 Pochard in the harbour, a Green Woodpecker, 4 Stonechats and a flock of 200 - 300 Linnets on the way. At the North Wall the fields were packed with Wigeon and a very large flock of Brent Geese that repeatedly commuted to and from the harbour. At one stage the Brent Geese landed on the water close to the North Wall allowing me to pick out a Black Brant that showed well before the flock took off again. Also 2 Common Buzzards and a Rock Pipit but surprisingly only one Black-tailed Godwit. The walk back to the car produced a tightly packed flock of Knot in the harbour and a Merlin hotly pursuing its prey, probably a small wader.

At Chichester Gravel Pits the 2 Whooper Swans were fast asleep on the ice at Runcton Lake and steadfastly refused to wake up the whole time that we were there. Fortunately the 3 Tundra Bean Geese on Ivy Lake were more obliging showing well on the ice near the island. Also a female Ruddy Duck, Gadwall, Shoveler and a big mob of gulls (mainly Black-backs) though I couldn't find anything interesting with them. A phone call from Paul Marten confirmed that the King Eider had been relocated and was showing well though with only 2 hours of daylight left we would have struggled to get there in time. Hopefully it will still be there in the morning...

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Winter wonderland

The postponement of Harlequins game against Worcester due to a frozen pitch (the first time in 12 years) resulted in an unexpected opportunity to go birding. A Grey Wagtail flew over the house as I was clearing the ice from the car windscreen. An early morning visit to Widewater found the Adur Valley covered in thick haw frost, a stunning sight especially with fog lingering over the river. The Black Redstart eventually showed itself (at the 5th attempt) on the beach just west of the beach huts along with a pair of Stonechats down to a few feet, a couple of Meadow Pipits, a Grey Plover on the beach, and 5 Red-breasted Mergansers (1 adult male) and a Great Crested Grebe on the sea.

Later Bridget and I went over to Ferring Rife where a Jack Snipe flew up from one of the marshy areas, showed nicely by circling round a couple of times before returning to the same spot. Also 2 Common Snipe, a Grey Wagtail flying over and 2 Stonechats.

At Swanbourne Lake at least 8 Mandarins showed well round the island on the south bank. Also 4 Shelduck and 2 male Shoveler plus lots of Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Pochard and Coot. As usual there were Black-headed Gulls perched in the trees on one of the islands, something I can't recall seeing elsewhere in Sussex. Very few small birds however.

Friday, 9 January 2009

East Sussex

Survey work at Offham Marshes was quite productive following a hard overnight frost. Three different Woodcock were flushed and 5 Snipe flew up from one of the newly created ponds. A Water Rail was heard calling by the railway embankment where there were also 2-3 Bullfinches. Other birds included Sparrowhawk, Great Spotted Woodpecker and a party of Long-tailed Tits.

I then went to Glynde where the Reach was still completely frozen. Despite walking at least a mile along the river, there was no sign of the Great Grey Shrike, just a Buzzard, 2 Kestrels and 10 Fieldfares. Arlington Reservoir was also almost completely frozen. On the ice there was a family of 5 White-fronted Geese (up until midday only), 19 Greylags and what I assume was a Greylag x Canada hybrid. A small area of open water held 27 Great Crested Grebes while a scan through the gull roost produced an adult Mediterranean Gull. A Little Grebe and a piebald Coot were also seen but there was no sign of the recent Red-throated Diver. Late afternoon there were 2 Lapwing on the Holmbush roundabout at Shoreham!

Shoreham Harbour

A low tide count yesterday afternoon covering the area from Hove Lagoon to the footbridge at Shoreham (including Southwick Beach) was relatively uneventful: 27 Mute Swans, 1 Little Grebe, 30 Cormorants, 1 Little Egret, 2 Oystercatchers, 4 Ringed Plover, 4 Dunlin, 2 Redshank, 6 Turnstone (on the ice at Hove Lagoon), 72 Black-headed Gulls, 5 Common Gulls, 4 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 197 Herring Gulls, 10 Great Black-backed Gulls, 1 Meadow Pipit and a male Stonechat (by the footbridge). The Black Redstart at Widewater eluded me yet again, even though another birder who was walking away had just seen it! All I could muster up were 2 Little Egrets, 1 Kestrel, 1 Ringed Plover, 1 Sanderling with 4 Dunlin, and 3 Redshank. A total of 43 Cormorants flew up the valley to roost.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Beeding Brooks

The cold spell continues with the overnight temperature at Portslade down as low as -5C (-11C at Guildford) and large stretches of the Adur towards Stretham Manor frozen over. This morning Bridget and I walked from Upper Beeding along the Adur and across the frozen fields to Stretham Manor and back. Almost immediately we saw a Fox but birdwise it seemed generally quiet. We did however eventually end up with a reasonable species list including 3 Greylag and 4 Canada Geese, 4 Wigeon with 60 Mallard on an unfrozen stretch of the river, male Gadwall, 17 Teal and 2 Little Egrets at Stretham Manor, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, ca. 210 Lapwing, 12 Snipe, 15 Meadow Pipits, male Stonechat, a handful of Fieldfares and Song Thrushes (but no Redwings), 2 Jays, 8 Bullfinches (more obvious in the cold weather?) and 4 Yellowhammers.

Hove Lagoon was still completely frozen over early afternoon though the usual gang of 20 Mute Swans was there waiting to be fed. Two Ringed Plover and a Turnstone were feeding along the margins of the lagoon while further evidence of the stresses that waterbirds face with the cold spell was provided by the sight of ca. 70 excessively tame Dunlin feeding on the mud in the inlet by the Dogs Trust at Shoreham. Twenty Teal were on the opposite side of the road and a couple of tame Lapwing on the grass verges adjacent to the A259. At Widewater I saw neither the Water Rail nor the Black Redstart (again) though both were reported to still be around. I did manage 2 Little Egrets, Kestrel, 2 Meadow Pipits and a female Stonechat and a couple of Sanderling feeding with the Turnstone on the strand line along the beach. A quick look at the gulls on the Adur by the orange windsock produced 6 adult Lesser Black-backs and 2 adult argentatus Herring Gulls, one of which stood out like a sore thumb and the other rather more subtle. Two Snipe were along the edge of the airfield just inside the fence by the road.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Southwick Canal

I work up feeling sick with a pounding headache so I quickly aborted my plans to do any survey work. By lunchtime I was feeling a little better so I decided to get some fresh air with a walk along Southwick Canal and then over the lock gates out to the east arm of the harbour. Although very cold (1C) it was brilliantly sunny and clear with views along the coast to Belle Tout and Beachy Head. Southwick Canal was very quiet (there weren't even many gulls around) though a Kingfisher showed briefly in the Lady Bee Marina. Both adult Peregrines were on the power station chimney, one in the nestbox and the other sunning itself out of the wind on the SW face of the chimney. An Oystercatcher and a Turnstone were on the boulders on the seaward side of the east arm and a Little Egret flew W along Southwick Beach into the harbour.

Monday, 5 January 2009


Widewater is not the most inspiring of locations though there is usually something to look at even today when it was bitterly cold (2C) with a raw northerly wind. A quick look round late afternoon turned up 5 Teal (all ducks), 2 Little Egrets, Ringed Plover, 3 Dunlin and 3 Redshank. A even more brief look out to sea revealed a few Gannets flying east a long way out over the choppy sea. Also single Sparrowhawks over Southwick and West Hove and 9 Redwings at the top of Kingston Lane, Shoreham.

Rye Bay birding

Sunday 4th January - My first guided walk of the year yesterday and a highly successful one. I got to Pett just as it was getting light to find the pools frozen and the levels covered in frost. Scanning from the sea wall there were about 20 White-fronted Geese mixed in with the Canadas and Greylags while out at sea were several large rafts of Great Crested Grebes, a Red-throated Diver (with 2 more flying by) and 4 Common Scoter. An adult Mediterranean Gull and 2 Peregrines flew overhead out to sea, the latter causing havoc with the large Lapwing flock that was on the beach. A walk along the road produced 2 Water Pipits that flew round calling but refused to settle and, as I was almost back at the car to thaw out (it was -4C), a hunting Barn Owl. By 08.30 everyone in the group had arrived so we headed back onto the sea wall. Two Barn Owls were hunting along the Royal Military Canal at the back of the marsh and a male Marsh Harrier flew by. One of the Water Pipits was much more cooperative playing 'hide and seek' in the reeds by the road and entertaining us by sliding around on the ice. Two Stonechats were eking out an existence in the same area. At Rye Harbour the Long-eared Owl did not appear to be in its usual roost at the Narrow Pit, indeed the only birds of note we saw at Rye Harbour were a pair of Goldeneye on the largely iced over Long Pit. We then headed for Scotney Pit where a Marsh Harrier flew over and a large mob of Canada and Greylag Geese was present. With them were at least 60 Barnacles, presumably feral despite the recent extreme weather in Holland. A quick look for the Bean Geese at Lydd was unsuccessful with most of the geese hiding out of view behind some reeds. We did see a small flock of Golden Plover and a couple of Fieldfares as well as hearing from one of the local farmers about the damage Wood Pigeons and grazing Mute Swans cause to his crops.

The RSPB reserve at Dungeness provided a chance to warm up in the Visitor Centre and also some excellent birding from the hides. Bitterns were much in evidence with several sightings of probably three different birds flying over the reedbeds in front of Christmas Dell hide. Also on the reserve were single Black-necked and Slavonian Grebes, a male Red Crested Pochard, 4 Smew (2 superb adult males), 6 Ruddy Duck, Little Egret, 2 Marsh Harriers and 2+ Tree Sparrows in the garden of the house at the entrance to the reserve. Both Water Rail and Cetti’s Warbler were heard calling. The fields around Lydd held a herd of ca. 60 Bewick’s and an adult Whooper Swan from Robin Hood Lane and a very large flock of geese (now much closer) from Dennes Road including 4 Tundra Bean, perhaps 100 White-fronts and 20 Barnacles. Our final stop on Walland Marsh was a very cold one though persistence paid off with 5 Marsh Harriers in the air together, 2 Buzzards, Sparrowhawk, Water Rail and Cetti's Warbler heard calling and, just as we were about to give up and go home, a superb adult male and a ringtail Hen Harrier that flew in and quartered the reedbed, before finally dropping down to roost. A fitting climax to a superb day’s birding.

Bridget and Gareth visited Swanbourne Lake where there were 7 Mandarins and large numbers of Gadwall.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

East Sussex

A very cold but brilliantly sunny day spent with Dave Green and Gareth. Our first destination was Glynde Reach which was almost entirely iced over, an increasingly rare sight in Sussex. The Great Grey Shrike present since 27th December failed to show though we did see a couple of Kingfishers (one of which showed very well by the bridge), 2 Buzzards, a Kestrel and a Stonechat not to mention a Mink that ran across the iced up river and 2 Brown Hares together. A brief stop at Arlington Reservoir produced 6 Pintail and a feral Barnacle Goose with the Canadas. A stomp round a wet area in the Cuckmere Valley failed to dig out any Jack Snipe though we did flush 15 Common Snipe while 2 adult Peregrines shrieked noisily overhead. A Rock Pipit was the only bird of note at Splash Point so we quickly moved on to the Ouse Estuary Project where a hunting Kestrel prompted the Bearded Tits to start calling from the reeds. It took us a while to get good views but we eventually saw three birds (two males and a female) feeding quietly on reed seeds. Also there were ca. 80 Teal, Little Egret, Water Rail (heard), 4+ Common Snipe, a Kingfisher that posed superbly almost the whole time we were there, and Green Woodpecker. A walk round Newhaven Tidemills produced nothing more than 10 Sky Larks and 4 Stonechats so we quickly moved on to Glynde where the shrike continued to be uncooperative with none of the other birders present having seen it. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over. We finished the day at Rodmell with 3 Little Egrets, Kestrel, Green Sandpiper, Stonechat and a handful of Redwings on the way out to the river where a Peregrine cruised past heading south. It was nice to see good numbers of farmland birds in the stubbles: 40+ Sky Larks, 50+ Reed Buntings, 60+ Corn Buntings and a big flock of Linnets. A calling Water Rail was glimpsed in the ditch by the block house.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Out with the dogs

A cold early morning dog walk up the Adur Valley from Cuckoo Corner produced a few bits and pieces including 3 Teal and 2 Little Grebes on the river, Little Egret, ca. 30 Lapwing, Redshank, 2 Stock Doves and a male Stonechat. Although quiet for birds, the walk turned out to be an eventful one with one of the dogs (Toby) mistaking a frozen duckweed covered ditch for terra firme. To my horror I found him frantically thrashing around in a small area of open water surrounded by ice with no obvious means of escape. I managed to break up the ice with a stick but still had to wade into the ditch to grab him before he went under. At this point the other dog (Crystal) decided she would jump in and help with the rescue effort resulting in two very cold and muddy Westies and their owner soaked from the thighs downwards. Having emptied my wellies of freezing cold water and wrung my socks out, I aborted the walk and headed back to the car and a hot bath.

Later a Grey Wagtail over The Level in Brighton and, at Brighton Marina, 19 Ringed Plover and 5 Purple Sandpipers, the latter seen from the west arm roosting on the boulders at the end of the east arm.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

New Year's Day

A leisurely start to 2009 with a look round the local area with Bridget. Another very cold day (4C) with variable amounts of cloud and a light NE wind. At Widewater the resident Water Rail was showing well on the tamarisk island having earlier flown and then swam to the north bank of the lagoon. Also of note were 3 Teal, 6 Little Grebes, 2 Little Egrets, Ringed Plover, a superb Kingfisher perched on a wall at the far end of the western lagoon next to one of the Little Egrets, and a pair of Stonechats (though the Black Redstart that was associating with them yesterday did not show). On the beach there was a mobile flock of Sanderling and Turnstone while on the sea close in was a Red-throated Diver. Three Purple Sandpipers were on the inner arm and a Great Crested Grebe in the harbour mouth at high tide. Southwick Canal was very quiet as was Hove Lagoon where there were 19 Mute Swans and several Black-headed Gulls coming into summer plumage. A male Sparrowhawk over Southwick was my second of the day having earlier seen a female from the bedroom window.

A late afternoon visit to Beeding Hill was rewarded with 9 Corn Buntings resting on the wires above the cement works quarry with a large mob of Starlings. We then went to a downland coombe where we have seen Long-eared Owls in the past but, despite staying until dusk and hearing a lot of Blackbird alarm calls, we drew a blank. Three Roe Deer were on the slopes below us and Bullfinch and Sparrowhawk gave brief flight views.