Walking has been a bit patchy of late, with less light and worse weather limiting opportunities. A couple of good days this weekend meant we could get out. On Friday evening we had a walk to our favourite restaurant, and 4.5 miles back in the dark after a superb meal (and perhaps some drink). On Saturday I decided I would walk to Burton Mill Pond in the hope of seeing the Purple Heron. We’d missed it on Friday afternoon, and it’s at the end of my range (particularly in my current state of fitness) so I was expecting, and half-hoping, to fail again and drive back home with Karen. After a bit of a wait, it showed itself briefly, meaning I was going to have to walk back. A short look around the woods failed to find the Yellow-browed Warbler, but did give views of Crossbill and Redpoll. About five hours later, I finally dragged myself in, having walked 37 miles.
Today I was rather creaky and so we weren’t going to do too much, but I was dragged out of bed by a report of a Radde’s Warbler at Seaford. That’s a world lifer for me, and a bird I’ve been after for years, so we were out pretty quick. It took a while, but eventually we got nice views of this skulker, and then we went over to Beachy head for the much more cooperative Lapland Bunting that was incredibly confiding.
We’re up in Harrogate at the moment, helping clear the house ahead of a move. In our spare time we have managed a couple of trips over to Flamborough, with mixed results, some nice migrants on Monday, and a bit of a poor day today, rescued by a fantastic Hoopoe that was cleaning the gutters in a housing estate in Collingham.
Bird migration is easing off a bit, but a bit of warm weather and low winds has made it worth putting the moth trap out. The catch hasn’t been spectacular, but 36 Boxworm on 13th is quite a lot and Plumed Fan-foot is new for the house list, as is Golden Twin-spot, a stunning moth.
A return to Thorney Island today, for the Pallid Harrier that has been hanging around for a while. Of course we arrived just after it had left, so we had a lengthy wait, but eventually it returned and showed nicely if distantly. This picture doesn’t do it justice, it’s a beautifully marked bird.
The local birding seems to have fallen into a Groundhog Day of Spotted Flycatchers, Wheatears, Whinchats and Redstarts, along with my customary failure to see the Tree Pipits and Crossbills that other local birders see regularly. This week we actually got into the car to go birding, after work on Wednesday to find some Dotterels at Ditchling Beacon, poor pictures in dreadful light, alas, and on Saturday over to Pagham Harbour, to see a Red-backed Shrike and on to Thorney Island to catch up with Osprey. Today returned to type on Cissbury Ring, with the only variation being a lack of Whinchat and our first Sedge Warbler of the autumn.
A 12 mile walk yesterday over the Downs had no rarities, but a remarkable number of more common migrants, including 26 Redstarts, 20 Spotted Flycatchers, 10 Wheatears a few Yellow Wagtails and 28 Whinchats. A flock of over 30 Corn Buntings enjoying an evening drink was an indication that autumn is upon us. We had a really weird looking Chiffchaff, which looked even weirder in real life than it does in the photo. It’s been a quiet bank holiday at home, with only a few migrants, but the Reed Warbler inspecting the pond was a real treat, only our second ever in the garden.
Not rare, but a bit unusual, this week, when a young pheasant flopped into our hedge in mid-afternoon and sat around for half an hour. They’re plentiful around us, but I’m not sure we’ve ever had one actually in the garden before.
On Thursday I learnt that there was a Pied Flycatcher on a track up to Cissbury Ring and I set off after work in the hope, but not expectation, that it would have hung around for the entire day. Fortunately it had, giving brief but good views, and even some photos in failing light.
Things are definitely picking up now, a long, hot walk on Sunday had a total of seven Spotted Flycatchers, our first of the autumn, at least seven Wheatears, three Whinchats and a Green Sandpiper.
The trickle of migrants locally continues slowly, but the heat has brought out the moths, with a very busy trap last night containing Oak Eggar, one of our favourites, and our second ever Pine Hawk Moth amongst many others.
There’s not much action on the birding front at the moment, although there are signs of the beginning of autumn migration. The moths have been a bit of a let down too, so it has fallen to butterflies to keep things ticking along. They certainly have done that: we’ve had 30 species in July and 26 species in the last week, including a Brown Hairstreak seen from the bedroom window, a first for the house.