Saturday, 22 October 2016

Ashdown Forest (22 October 2016)

Saturday 22nd. I was up too late to consider going to Beachy so tried the Old Airfield on Ashdown Forest instead. In three hours of wandering around the western valley I saw the Great Grey Shrike twice, very distantly and quite distantly, 3 Buzzards, 5 Stonechats, 43 Fieldfares, about 40 Redwings, 2 Mistle Thrushes, 3 Goldcrests, 5 Redpolls and 30+ Reed Buntings. Later, with Megan on a very sunny Mill Hill we saw single Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Mistle Thrush and Chiffchaff. Text from DC of his second absolutely brilliant find of the autumn on Unst (Siberian Accentor, I'm now packing, but off to Ghana early tomorrow not Shetland.
quite distant Great Grey Shrike in Ashdown Forest

Friday 21st
. A short-notice dental appointment meant I didn't get further than the Adur, Megan and I walking around at high tide seeing just a Little Egret.

sunset on my way home on 20th

Wednesday 19th. An early visit to Mill Hill produced Buzzard, 6 Stock Doves, Peregrine, 2 Stonechats, Redwing, 4 Chiffchaffs and a Goldfinch. Later Megan and I walked the 'festival of fungi' trail at Pulborough seeing an impressive selection of well signed mushrooms and puffballs and from Hale's viewpoint the family of 4 White-fronted Geese. 
Chiffchaff on Mill Hill

mushrooms at Pulborough, they were labelled but I've forgotten their name
likewise this puffball

Monday, 17 October 2016

Beachy and Crowlink (17 October 2016)

Monday 17th October. I arrived at Birling at 07:30 where a superb Hunter's Moon was setting behind clouds. Bob Edgar was coming down the lane as I walked up. Neither of us saw any migrants at all although there were at least 8 Corn Buntings in the corner field near the road. I walked over to Belle Tout Wood where Roger Haggar, Bob Smith and Keith Hackett were watching 6-7 Chiffchaffs along the western edge. While talking to Roger I picked out a/the Yellow-browed Warbler which he and Keith saw but unfortunately not Bob. I then continued on to Shooter's Bottom where about 8 Ring Ouzels were keeping well hidden. 2 Blackcaps were the only other migrant seen until I returned to Belle Tout where 8 Swallows flew over. I joined Richard Kelly but the Yellow-browed Warbler did not reappear. I then went to Crowlink but couldn't find the four Ring Ouzels Richard had seen there that morning, 5 Chiffchaffs being the best I could manage. Yellow-browed Warbler and Ring Ouzel made it a good day for Sussex, but Yorkshire is in a completely different league and I sometimes wonder why I bother.
Hunter's Moon at Birling
Sunday 16th October. With a strong southerly wind and some early heavy showers seawatching from Widewater seemed the least worst option. I was there after most of the heavy rain had gone through and from 08:25-10:25 saw a Sooty Shearwater (W at 08:45), Great Skua (W at 09:53), 1-2 Common Scoter and 200+ Gannets (150E:100W). Most birds were distant, as is usually the case from Widewater, that there was anything made a pleasant change! On the Adur before dark 45 Ringed Plover, 14 Dunlin, 2 Greenshank, Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail, a much better visit than the previous evening's.
Greenshank by the Dog's Trust

Kingfisher by the Dog's Trust
it caught a tiddler while I was watching it

Saturday 15th October. A bit of a lie in after yesterdays exertions (it is hard sleeping in the back of Matt's car!) before walking around Mill Hill. It produced a single Ring Ouzel, 20 Swallows flying east and 2 Chiffchaffs. Little was seen on a  late afternoon visit to the Adur, not helped by two bait-diggers, although a Norwegian colour-ringed great Black-backed gull was seen. It had come 950 km SW from Vest-Agder. 

Roe Deer at Mill Hill
First calendar year Great Black-backed Gull JAU09

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Siberian Accentor in Yorkshire (14 October 2016)

Friday 14th October. A long but very enjoyable day started at 01:00 when my alarm went off. I picked JK up at Handcross and we drove to meet Matt and Adam just short of Crawley. matt then took us up to Easington where we arrived before first light. An anxious wait with several hundred others ensued but the Siberian Accentor soon appeared in the old car park and performed almost continuously which was just as well as viewing was somewhat limited and very initially, before the excellent organisation kicked-in, a bit of a scrum. For many years Siberian Accentor had been a species I was very keen to see, probably ever since seeing several others in Nepal many years ago. Although there have been records in Scandinavia the prospect of seeing one in the UK seemed very remote. That changed with a stunning looking bird on Shetland a few days before but it was only there for two days and with its departure the prospect of me seeing one seemed hardly any less remote. That another chance came along so quickly was perhaps not totally unexpected with others seen in Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany and not something to pass up. Having seen the bird I am very glad I went. A big thank-you to Matt for taking us and doing all the driving.

Siberian Accentor at Easington
one of the best looking accentors in the world, of those I've seen only Rufous-breasted would give it a run for its money 

noticeably slimmer than a nearby Dunnock
After two hours with the Accentor we tried other sites in the area, finding our way down to Kilnsea but arriving there just too late to see a Dusky Warbler in the hand. There were birds everywhere with lots of thrushes and finches flying over, many too quick for me to identify, not helped by a strong easterly wind which made it hard to hear them calling. We saw Olive-backed Pipit, Pallas's Leaf and Yellow-browed Warblers, Shore Lark, Mealy Redpoll (not very well in my case), Woodcock, Jack Snipe, Velvet Scoter, White-fronted Goose, Ring Ouzel, Black Redstart and Tree Sparrow. Very impressive and rather highlighted the gulf between birding on the East and South Coasts in autumn. We had seen more in a morning that I could hope to see all autumn in Sussex.
Shore Lark at Kilnsea

Adam had missed the Purple Swamphen when it was at Minsmere and we returned via Alkborough Flats although it was not performing. It wasn't an entirely wasted journey seeing Water Rail, Marsh Harrier, Avocet, Ruff, Spotted Redshank and Greenshank.

Friday, 14 October 2016

What a bird!

A long day with Matt, Adam and JK that showed, if any demonstration was needed, how much better the East Coast is in Autumn compared to Sussex.

Siberian Accentor at Easington, Yorkshire
more to follow ...

Monday, 10 October 2016

Mill Hill and Pulborough (10 October 2016)

Monday 10th October. An early visit to Mill Hill found at least 3 Ring Ouzels still present. Also 3 Swallows, 11 Song Thrushes, Stonechat, 2 Blackcaps and 13 Chiffchaffs. I then headed for Pulborough arriving just as the Visitor Centre opened at 09:30. Soon after my arrival the/a Yellow-browed Warbler called a couple of times as it flew into the large sallow at Fattengates. It showed well for 2-3 minutes but I then lost it while trying to find it in my camera. It then called from further away but I wasn't sure from where and after 10-15 minutes left. A Marsh Harrier was the only notable bird on the North Brooks with no interesting geese amongst the numerous Canadas and Grey Lags. I then joined ARK in walking to Hale's Viewpoint where we saw the 4 White-fronted Geese, then the 3 Beans, except there were 11, and a Red Kite. A very pleasant morning as it turned out even if I would much rather have been on Shetland. An afternoon dental appointment and the three days in a row at work would have made it difficult although without DC's encouragement (and some epic driving) my appetite for long distance twitching has definitely waned.
Ring Ouzel at Mill Hill
Blackcap at Mill Hill
White-fronted Geese at Pulborough
my earliest in autumn

most of the Bean Geese at Pulborough, my biggest flock since 2006
and my earliest in autumn

 Sunday 9th October. I met JK at the Beachy Head Hotel just after 07:00 and we walked down to the Old Trapping Area before taking the Cliff Path and dropping into Whitbread Hollow. As expected there was no sign of yesterday's bluetail although hearing details of it and some hard luck stories I was pleased to have been at the other end of the county rather than in ignorance at Birling. We returned around France's Bottom and ended up having seen at least 30 Ring Ousels, Merlin, a calling Golden Plover, 50 Swallows, 20 House Martins, Wheatear, a single Redwing, 8 Blackcaps, 32 Chiffchaffs, Goldcrest and 2 Ravens. I also heard a Siskin. Back at the cars JK noticed that I had a puncture, I'd run over a screw. I jacked the car, removed the wheel nuts all read to fit my 'space-saver' but the wheel remained firmly fixed. A call to the AA produced a man with a hammer and a quick few bashes soon had it off.
Beachy Head trip point, I had plenty of time to admire the view while waiting for the AA, who arrived exactly when they told me. JK offered to stay, and would have been better company ...
Saturday 8th October. An early visit to Mill Hill where I saw 95 Swallows, a Stonechat, 8 Ring Ouzels, 27 Blackbirds, 16 Song Thrushes, 10 Blackcaps, 11 Chiffchaffs and 40 Linnets. Megan and I then went to Harting Down and walked along the South Downs Way to Pen Hill. I had hoped for more ring ouzels but saw very little, the highlight being a high flying Mistle Thrush very reminiscent of a pic of DC's from Skaw that I'd seen the previous evening - except for the underwing pattern. I dropped Megan off in Chichester, where she was going to the theatre, and returned to West Dean Woods seeing, after some scrutiny, the Little Owl in its usual tree at Staple Ash Farm, 4 Red Kites, 20 Swallows, 3 Chiffchaffs and enough Pheasants to last a lifetime.
view west from Beacon Hill
Beacon Hill trig point
looking east from Beacon Hill
Little Owl in its usual tree at Staple Ash Farm
obvious from this angle but almost invisible from any oter

rainbow and Swallows over West Dean Woods