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.

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