Crushing news this week, with the sudden death of my father on Thursday, a few days after his 89th birthday. My usual eloquence has rather deserted me. I owe him so much and we’ll miss him so much.
(He was also responsible for about half of the hits on this website.)
Here’s a picture from this time last year of Dad in his favourite place: surrounded by his family.
With migration beginning to tail off, and most of the available birds seen, the focus is a bit more on walking than birds, underlined by my early morning seawatch on Friday, that was practically dead. On Saturday we had a walk with a bird targeted: the Turtle Doves at Woods Mill. It was a lovely pre-dawn walk, but a bit cool and cloudy. We got to Woods Mill at 0600, having walked through Beeding Brooks, continuously accompanied by Cuckoos. Unfortunately the Turtle Doves didn’t get the memo, and never turned up. Nevertheless, it was a very pleasant 25 mile walk. A shorter walk today had more butterflies than birds.
Karen had an outbreak of sanity, deciding a start at 2:00 am was too silly and decided to leave me to it. Obviously she was right, so the plan changed and I left at quarter past midnight instead. A brisk walk got me to my fist stop at half past three (with a Nightingale belting out its song at 2:30) and the Nightjars were already churring and the Woodcocks roding. The views were shocking, but it was great to hear them back. Next stop for another early morning specialist, Grasshopper Warbler and found three in one location and at least three in another. Job done, and a good supporting cast to boot, it was back home, still quite early. It was a long walk, but for the majority of it I didn’t see a soul.
Steyning is a bit farther away than we normally go at the moment, but it has the nearest Nightingales to home (the clear skies have meant we have had no migrating birds from the house this year). To maximise distancing and to get there at prime singing time we decided on a dawn raid, leaving the house at 0430. We certainly weren’t up before the larks, which were singing as we walked up the down, but we were up before the sun – that came up about four miles into the walk.
At Steyning, after a glorious but decidedly cold pre-dawn walk, we had arrived before the Nightingales had thawed out. We had a bit of a wait, but when they did one gave us a fantastic serenade. To relive the experience, stand in a blast chiller for about an hour before playing the recording on a loop for about 10 minutes, during which time you can look at the picture for no more than 5 s.
We then moved on to our next target: a bluebell wood. There’s not many in lockdown distance and our first try had only a few bluebells. On the way home, though we stumbled across a tiny, but beautiful one.
You’re desperate for a haircut, but you’ve gripped your wife off on consecutive days on real quality birds: do you dare ask her? Given that there was no cut-throat razor available, I thought I’d take my chances. It was a bit of a committee job, but I think I got away with it. Given that the trimmer was a lockdown purchase, it’s the most expensive haircut I’ve ever had, but it’s certainly not the worst.
I wasn’t offered anything for the weekend, though.
My best moment as a birder: finding a Hoopoe on my patch.
My worst moment as a birder: watching it fly out of view before Karen got a chance to see it.
There has been an unprecedented influx of Hoopoes into Sussex this month (about 15 birds so far) but the lockdown has meant that even those birds that have hung around have been out of reach, which has been frustrating. Having been religiously checking paddocks, vicar’s lawns and all short grass around us it was a massive surprise to flush one out of long grass in the evening. It landed on some cut wood and scrub about 100 m away and sat there for a while: long enough for some record shots. Before Karen could get to it, it upped and left and we couldn’t refind it. Having done the same to her the night before with a Turtle Dove, it’s not the best time to ask her to cut my hair.
Here are the dreadful Hoopoe shots and a few other things from the last week.
It’s been quiet on the bird front since Saturday, with only a noisy Ring-necked Parakeet adding itself to the house list for the year on Saturday evening. It’s nice to see, but I hope it doesn’t linger. Moth trapping has been slow so far – we get very few moths at the start of the season – but Saturday’s haul included a second Brindled Beauty for the house and a first Dotted Chestnut. In the garden a small Grass Snake has taken up residence.
Our walks continue to be productive, with a good crop of raptors, including our local Peregrine. A check under the pylon says that it’s partial to a Black-headed Gull. The local Little Owl has started sunning itself, and on Thursday evening it even had a go at its neighbour, a Barn Owl. This morning we had more success with a male Pied Flycatcher and a couple of Ring Ouzels, who refused to be photographed.
Having had the day’s exercise, I was scoping out of the window and I noticed some movement on the down. It turned out to be three Hares, not new for the house, but scarce enough to be interesting. It turned out very interesting, as they started boxing. It turns out that Mad March Hares are also out of sync this year. Here’s a terrible digiscoped picture of them. The female is on the bottom, with her partner between her and the interloper.