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.