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.

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