A reely long walk

On Sunday we covered over 30 miles again, in the hope of catching up with Grasshopper Warbler, that had eluded us the previous weekend.  Leaving the house at 0145 might seem extreme, but if you want to catch the dawn chorus a long way from home it needs to be done.  We were rewarded by one bird showing well and reeling almost continuously, although drowned out by a very enthusiastic Sedge Warbler right next to us.  A cuckoo also showed off nicely.  Then on to Pulborough, where the Nightingales were excellent.  I’ve been pretty dismissive of Pulborough Brooks for Nightingale in the last few years, but this year they are superb.    Yet another failure with Adder, though.

Back at home the Slow Worm count has risen to 14 and we have added two Grass Snakes.

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There's a Gropper in there somewhere.
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A dodgy phonescoped shot.
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A Nightingale has a lot to say
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I'm a big hit with the girls

A slow trickle

It’s been a strange spring migration, it seems to be tailing off a bit, but we’re well short of what there should be.  The constant strong and cold winds have slowed things down (and shut up those birds that have arrived).  Last year on 25th April I recorded 25 Reed Warblers on territories in the brooks behind us.  This year so far I have got up to 10 on 30th April.  Numbers may be poor, but diversity is good – my on foot list stands at 170, way ahead of this time last year, although I’ve seen all of the easy stuff now, so things will slow dramatically from now on.

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The local Moorhens normally dash for cover as soon as they see me, but this one was too busy feeding.
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Reed Bunting
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Small Copper
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Peregrines, the larger female is on the right

Clock that!

While dashing up to Cissbury Ring to catch up with the Ring Ouzel that had been reported (it turns out that there were two, but they were incredibly distant), I came across my first Cuckoo of the year.  It called a couple of times, but moved along the edge of the wood with me, and occasionally posed nicely.




An early walk on Sunday had a nice fall of migrants including our first Willow Warbler of the year.  A male Black Redstart was a new bird for the location. Walking down to the sea produced very little.  This afternoon the wind turned south east, so it looked like the sea was the place to be.  3 miles later, the glorious sunshine at home turned into thick sea mist.  If the tide had been out I wouldn’t have been able to see the sea.  A walk along the coast and back home through the wetland produced nothing at all, until in one corner of a field there were 6 Wheatears, a different Black Redstart and our first Common Redstart of the year.   Of course, having set out for a seawatch, I was carrying my telescope instead of my SLR, so the pictures are just phonescoped.

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The first Reed Warbler of the season
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Black Redstart and Reed Bunting
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Seawatching is rather difficult if you can't even see the sea.
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A different Black Redstart two days later and 100 yards from the first
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One of 6 Wheatears
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Female Redstart

Larking about

On the way back from visiting Karen’s dad in Liphook we stopped off at Iping Common and had our first Tree Pipit and Woodlark of the year, it’s a great place, but way too far to walk to.  This evening a walk to the wetland behind us found me a Green Sandpiper and on the way back a Badger was so busy feeding that it ignored all of my attempts to get it to look up.

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A busy Badger

Morning glory

A 5:30 start today in the hope of catching up with the Nightingale, which has been at Cissbury Ring for the last few days, before work.  After a couple of minutes debating where the bird was meant to be, it settled the argument by launching into seven minutes at full rawp.  Quite magnificent!  The Whitethroat singing quietly to itself on the way back was a new bird for the year, but was no comparison.

Dirty twitchers

Well lockdown’s over and we can travel a bit more, and fortunately the birds have been saving themselves for us.  On Thursday we had a big surprise when the long-staying Northern Mockingbird in Devon pitched up in Pulborough.  A quick dash out after work gave us good views and a few phonescoped photos that were way better than I expected (doesn’t make them good, though).

Unfortunately it didn’t hang around on Friday, although I still dashed over on Friday afternoon and added Pied Flycatcher and Redpoll to the on-foot list.  Today we toured the other Sussex rarities that have been hanging around during the lockdown, both a bit too far to walk to.  At Warnham the Little Bunting eventually turned up after a couple of hours waiting and over at Barcombe Cross the White-throated Sparrow played hide and seek with us, but gave reasonable views eventually.

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Our earliest Slow Worm at home
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Northern Mockingbird
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Marsh Tit
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Bank Vole
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Little Bunting
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Not rare, but still magnificent
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White-throated Sparrow

March Madness

A bit of sun has brought out the butterflies on our usual circuit of Cissbury Ring and the Monarch’s Way, as well as our first Bee Flies of the year, including a cooperative one at home.  We also had a total of 11 Wheatears, although none came close enough for a worthwhile photo.  Best of all was a field with five Hares in, three of which were spooked by the farmer moving some sheep and ran right past us.  Once they had got further away from us they settled down and did a little bit of boxing, although too far away for any photographs.

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Our first Comma of the year
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Peacocks were plentiful
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A Bee Fly in the front garden
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The Mad Hatters formation flying team prepare for a flypast

Raptor persecution

It’s got to stop!  I’m not on about the landowners, estate managers and gamekeepers who think that breaking the law is OK to improve their profits when it’s just as corrupt as bribery and other forms of malpractice that are taken more seriously by the courts.  That needs to stop too, but I’m on about persecution of me by raptors.

First there is the Hen Harrier that has spent the last two winters just over the Down from me, an area where walk often.  Everyone else has seen it, but have I?  Of course not.  Now it’s spreading: a long walk last week had none of the released White-tailed Eagles that have been seen by everyone.  A return visit yesterday as part of a 30 mile walk did have a Hen Harrier (not the bird), but, having sat for a while and watched the area, a White-tailed Eagle  drifted across literally 4 minutes after we turned our backs and left.  Thanks heavens it’s only a plastic bird.

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The corn Buntings are returning to their territories.
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This Roe Deer was surprised to see me so early in the morning.
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This Yellow-browed Warbler had us waiting for three hours in cold grey conditions on Friday afternoon without ever showing. On Saturday morning, when I only had the small camera, it was waiting for us in the sunshine.

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The first Wood Anemones of the spring.
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Little Egret
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What can compete with the glorious sound of a singing Skylark?
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Another Skylark can

Couldn’t hit a barn at this distance…

A 16 mile walk at speed on Friday meant that I wasn’t carrying my camera (or seeing any birds).  A lazy day on Saturday meant there were no photographs either, and a 21 mile walk to Shoreham and up the Adur and back over the Downs meant that I was carrying my small and not very impressive camera.  It was a glorious day and successful bird-wise (apart from the blasted Rock Pipit at Shoreham Fort), but all the birds were too far away, so there was no need for the camera.  Until we got to about a mile and a half from home, when our local Barn Owl turned up, sitting on a fence post ahead of us.  We hardly ever see this bird in daylight, and it wasn’t bothered by being seen, allowing us to sneak up on it a bit, and then flew to a closer post to check us out.  Eventually it decided to go hunting, but still allowed fantastic views.  What a shame this never happens when I have my good camera with me.  Ah well, the shots I got will have to do.