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.