Tuesday, February 19, 2019

19th February 2019 - Pagham Harbour, Westdean Woods and The Burgh

A day out with Connor and Eleanor from university proved to be very successful. We started the day at the North Wall at Pagham Harbour and despite the water level being very high due to the rising tide there was still plenty of birds to look at including 500+ Brent Geese and lots of Lapwing, Redshank, Dunlin, Curlew, Grey Plover and a few Black-tailed Godwits. Most interesting of the waders was this colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit which Eleanor has since got the details back for. The bird was ringed on 6th November 2018 at Welwick Saltmarsh which is on the north bank of the Humber estuary. It is the first time this bird has been re-sighted.

Colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit, Pagham Harbour, West Sussex

After the North Wall, walked walked out to the harbour mouth through the caravan park and found 3 Red-breasted Mergansers in the harbour along with several Pintail and a single Great Crested Grebe and 2 Little Grebes. Near the harbour mouth itself was a pair of Stonechat on the salt marsh along with a lone Little Egret. Upon arrival at the beach we were extremely lucky that the Hooded Crow was on view just c25m away we all enjoyed great views of the bird before it decided to fly inland over the caravan park. Along the tideline was several Mediterranean Gulls and roosting on the beach were several Turnstones and Oystercatchers.

Hooded Crow, Pagham Spit, West Sussex

Next stop was Westdean Woods where we hoped to see Hawfinches. Sadly we failed to find any despite walking the whole way up to Monkton Farm and back. However compensation for missing the Hawfinches was c15 Common Buzzards, c10 Red Kites, 2 Ravens and a single Sparrowhawk, Mistle Thrush and Red-legged Partridge.

We finished the day at The Burgh with expectations being quite high and we certainly weren't disappointed. On route we had a quick stop at Burpham but couldn't see any Bewick's Swans. A good start was had at The Burgh with a male Marsh Harrier being near enough the first bird we saw, which proved to be 1 of 4 we would see. But however, the clear highlight at The Burgh was a Short-eared Owl which showed extremely well for around 10-15mins on the deck near a maize strip until it was flushed by a passing quad bike. Once the owl had been flushed, around 10 minutes had passed and the ringtail Hen Harrier made its first appearance of the evening with a brief flyby over one of the nearby hedges. Shortly after we had a flock of 22 Fieldfare perch up in a hedgerow which made for a nice sight. On our way back to the car, Eleanor picked up the Hen Harrier again in flight over one of the fields and this time it gave more prolonged views quartering up and down a maize strip before disappearing over a hedgerow. Near the cottages we saw 3 Grey Partridge and a Barn Owl to round off an excellent day. 67 species in total for the day!

Short-eared Owl, The Burgh, West Sussex

Monday, February 18, 2019

18th February 2019 - Coalhouse Fort, Essex

The second and last visit to Coalhouse Fort in February for the wintering bird surveys on the River Thames in Essex proved to be excellent. 

I started counting from the abandoned radar tower and received a text from Paul Hawkins to say he had just had a 2w Glaucous Gull over the BATA Factory. This had me on high alert but sadly it never reappeared. I then got another text saying that the 4 Twite found over the weekend were showing well near the bush on the sea wall which marks our survey boundary. 

The mudflats on a rising tide followed the norm and were rife with waders. Totals are as follows: 6 Bar-tailed Godwit, 560+ Black-tailed Godwitc1500 Dunlin, 127 Grey Plover, 8 Curlew, 16 Redshank, 1314 Avocet and an Oystercatcher. As well as 46 Shelduck and 617 Teal.

Later in the day I managed to find the 4 Twite in the SSSI area. The birds were spending a lot of time on the large area of extensive salt marsh which runs alongside the Thames, whilst they are here they are near impossible to see. Occasionally they will fly into the SSSI area and feed on the new shoots from the bushes. I was rather lucky to see them just picking them up by chance whilst halfway round my survey. The second time I have seen Twite this year with the last being the 3 at Rye Harbour NR in East Sussex.

1 of 4 Twite, Coalhouse Fort, Essex (Courtesy of Paul Hawkins)

Other birds seen whilst visiting here included a healthy flock of 18 Corn Bunting and another 16 more in the SSSI area. 17 Lapwing were seen in flight coming off the rubbish dump. Around the car park was the usual Mistle Thrush and 7 Greenfinch. The moat around the fort was quieter than last visit just holding 7 Coots.

On the way home I quickly called into Mercer's Lake in Surrey to look for the juvenile Black-throated Diver. After some helpful advice on where to park from David, I managed to find the lake and the bird in no time and enjoyed fantastic views. It seemed quite active and dived quite frequently and luckily at one stage the it surfaced no more than 20m from where I was standing! Other birds seen whilst visiting here was a single Ring-necked Parakeet, 4 Great Crested Grebes, several Coots and Tufted Ducks as well as a Nuthatch

Juvenile Black-throated Diver, Mercer's Lake, Surrey

Sunday, February 17, 2019

17th February 2019 - Beachy Head

Not strictly a birding trip but Sophie and I ventured over to Beachy Head in East Sussex and enjoyed a lovely walk in glorious sunshine from Birling Gap to the pub at Beachy Head. Sightings of note on our walk included several Fulmars and Ravens as well as a Common Buzzard and lots of Skylark in song on the headland.

Sophie enjoying the sunshine at Beachy Head
The clear highlight from our walk was a lovely cheese and onion pasty in the Birling Gap cafe!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

14th February 2019 - Goring Gap

A circular walk around Goring Gap mid afternoon at low tide was quiet as I expected. The beach was heavily disturbed and I only managed to muster a pitiful 2 Redshank and a single Sanderling. The roost field held c500 Common, c250 Black-headed and 7 Mediterranean Gulls. Whilst other counts of note on my walk included 11 Greenfinch, 4 Stock Dove, 8 Skylark, 2 Redwing and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. However a nice afternoon to be out!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

12th February 2019 - Pagham Harbour

I set off for Pagham from Worthing at 09:30 arriving in good time. I parked up at Church Lane and walked straight out to the harbour mouth on the Pagham Lagoon side and was pleased to find Nick already watching the Hooded Crow. We both enjoyed good views of the bird and had great fun trying to get David onto the bird over the phone who was viewing from the Church Norton side.

Hooded Crow, Pagham Spit, West Sussex

There was plenty of birds in the harbour itself and I managed to find a single Bar-tailed Godwit in the harbour on way back to the car as well as a Spotted Redshank in White's Creek. Other birds seen at the North Wall included lots of Brent Geese and Lapwing along with Curlews, Black-tailed Godwits and Redshanks

After the North Wall I decided to call into Church Norton which proved successful with the Whimbrel showing nicely near the benches and I also managed to find a single Knot looking left from the benches with a large flock of Dunlin. Also the Peregrine was on its usual island in the harbour. 

Whimbrel, Church Norton, West Sussex

Last stop of the day was a quick visit to Grandma (Beryl James) in Selsey where it was nice to have a catch up and a cup of tea. 

Monday, February 11, 2019

11th February 2019 - Coalhouse Fort, Essex

Today saw the first of 2 visits for the month of February to Coalhouse Fort for the wintering bird surveys on the River Thames in Essex.

Today's count was at low tide and despite there being a presence of waders all were recorded in low numbers, this is often the case at low tide. Totals are as follows: 4 Bar-tailed Godwit, 150 Black-tailed Godwit and 147 Dunlin, 51 Grey Plover, 17 Curlew, 16 Redshank and 3 Avocet. As well as 41 Shelduck and 649 Teal and 9 Wigeon.

Glorious morning for surveying at Coalhouse Fort, Essex

Other birds seen whilst visiting here included a Barn Owl hunting over the fields out the back of the car park, the second time I have seen this bird here. 2 Egyptian Geese flew in off the river and over the fort which was a new bird for me at this site. Sadly only 4 Corn Bunting the lowest count for a while and around the car park was the usual Mistle Thrush and also 3 Redwing. The moat around the fort was again quiet holding only 16 Coot and 3 Little Grebe.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

10th February 2019 - Shoreham, Brighton Marina and Telscombe Cliffs

An early morning walk with Mum up the eastern side of the River Adur was quiet and sadly didn't produce any Common Sandpipers. The only bird of note seen was a Peregrine which was perched on the cement works chimney.

Later in the day I went out again with Dad and we headed to Brighton Marina. There was very little of note, the highlights being  a young Peregrine along the cliffs behind Asda and a sinensis Cormorant in the inner section of the marina from the undercliff path. A handful of Gannets and Red-throated Divers passing out at sea. At Telscombe Cliffs there was a female Black Redstart in the Southern Water compound below the Smugglers Rest but no sign of LC's adult male from yesterday. A pair of Stonechats in scrub to the east of the Smugglers Rest and another Peregrine over the cliffs.

At the Amex last night, a Peregrine had the right idea. It flew into the stadium at 17:35, took one look and then wisely decided to go elsewhere!