After a weekend of walking and local birding last week and some walking yesterday, today we had a major change: a twitch at last. We went off to Farlington Marshes to see the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, our first lifer of the year (excluding the very plastic-seeming Baikal Teal from May).
A challenging bird, it favoured a large hawthorn and flitted from one side to another, spending most of its time out of sight and when it did appear it was largely where we weren’t. Even when we saw it, it was brief and blocked. Still with some patience and a bit of time it finally gave some reasonable pictures.
On Sunday we walked over the down tops to Steyning Rifle Range and then on to Anchor Bottom, down the Adur and back over Lancing Ring. This was largely aimed at finding some butterflies – a Clouded Yellow on the way proved to be our only one, there were a couple of Brown Hairstreaks at Steyning, and Anchor Bottom had loads of Adonis Blues flying over a bank full of Autumn Lady’s Tresses. While there, a White Stork flew over, heading south. Down the river there were three Common Sandpipers and a couple of Greenshank, and at Lancing College we “relocated” the Stork on a playing field. It was clearly ringed, so obviously one of Knepp’s. The surprise came later in the evening when the rubbish pictures of the bird in flight showed no ring on it.
… sloth to be exact. I should have gone out looking for migrants this morning, but just couldn’t be bothered. Sitting with a coffee, looking at the back field found me very few migrants (it all happened last week), but I saw a raptor being mobbed over the Downs. A look through the scope confirmed that it was a Marsh Harrier, slowly moving west towards Cissbury. A new bird for the house: number 125.
The on-foot list had three heard-only species on this morning. Quail is probably going to stay that way, but I went out to the Monarch’s Way in the hope of seeing Yellow Wagtail to add to the heard flyby bird last week. At least 16 were in a field around the feet of the cattle. Migrants were down, but Findon gallops had 6 Whinchats and a Redstart. Cissbury Ring was a bit windy, but on the way back I stumbled across a Grasshopper Warbler, the other heard-only bird, which showed well, but eluded the camera.
Another walk up to Steep Down today, in the hope of catching up with the officially “knackered” Long-tailed Blue that was last seen on Wednesday. No luck there, but just a few yards further along Karen found a nice fresh one, which more than made up for it, particularly when it sat open, as opposed to the uncooperative ones in Brighton on Tuesday.
On the way we encountered a couple of Hummingbird Hawkmoths feeding on a Buddleia. Cracking little things, they kept us entertained for a few minutes, with their escorts of Volucella zonaria, a Hornet-mimic hoverfly, before whizzing off.
A walk up poppy-clad Steep Down with my brother and sister in law yesterday was hot and starred a post-breeding flock of ~50 Corn Buntings. At home we’ve had Whinchats, Wheatears, a Spotted Flycatcher and a Garden Warbler, but that’s just a fraction of the number of birds up on the Downs as the moment.
Today I had a day off, spent twitching Long-tailed Blues in Brighton (the one at Steep Down was hiding yesterday) and then hiding from the heat. A Brown Hairstreak at the Blue site was a welcome bonus.
A good day with my brother and sister in law, starting with at least a couple handsome Lesser Whitethroats as well as a larger number of Common Whitethroats at home. At the Sea Lane café in Goring we had a nice surprise in the form of a Great White Egret. Later on we had a walk up Cissbury Ring where we had a bucket load of migrants: at least 6 Spotted Flycatchers on the ring, a brief view of a Redstart, a fly-over Yellow Wagtail announced itself, but didn’t show, but a Wheatear was more cooperative. A Whinchat at the top of a tall tree was slightly unexpected, but best of all was a long-awaited Pied Flycatcher, which I’ve been looking for for the last couple of weeks.
On Saturday we decided to see what the strong winds were blowing up the channel. After more than two hours, the answer was clear: nothing. Our full list was 1 Gannet, 1 Cormorant, 2 Turnstones and a small handful of Herring Gulls. With the wind dropped a bit today, we went to Pagham to see if we could catch up with the elusive Squacco Heron. It wasn’t very elusive today, thankfully, staying put for more than four hours in plain sight (at least it was still in exactly the same place when we came back). It caught a couple of fish while we were watching and had a brief flight, until it decided it was too windy and came back. A couple of Cattle Egrets added to the Mediterranean feel.
A rather quiet and lazy week, spent suffering with sinusitis, left me up to doing little walking or birding over the weekend, which was dominated by visits by family and also friends from Spain (Pablo is very interested in moths, so we were kept busy). The moth trap revealed another welcome immigrant in the shape of a Gypsy moth, another first for the house, and a few welcome firsts for the year.
I’ve been feeling a bit ropy this weekend, so the prospect of a quick return to Pulborough to add the Wood Sandpiper to the on-foot list didn’t appeal. Instead we had a rather shorter and slower 15 mile walk up to Cissbury and Chanctonbury rings. Butterflies abounded on a sunny, but breezy day – very different to the flooded north.
Instead of one bird, I added three butterflies to the on-foot list: Chalkhill Blue, Silver-spotted Skipper and Essex Skipper, which was a nice surprise (I know they’re up there, but I thought separating one from Small Skipper would be beyond me).
My spur of the moment decision to walk to Pulborough on Sunday was looking a bit poor when after an hour scouring the brooks on my own, with rubbish lightweight optics, I had got none of my target species. (Good job I said I had wanted a good walk.) The prospect of a 13 mile walk back empty-handed wasn’t too appealing and I was on the point of ringing Karen up to beg a lift, when the Great White Egret I had hoped for flew across and vanished. A dash down to another viewpoint to find it was unsuccessful for the Egret, but yielded a female Marsh Harrier and then the Green Sandpipers that had been scandalously missing earlier. No lift back for me!
Three more species, added to a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull on Friday afternoon takes my on foot list to 162 for the year, or is it 163? The White Stork that we saw from home last week would be an exciting addition, if it weren’t for the “re”-introduction that is happening 10 miles north of us.