Desert island birds

A big day for me yesterday, when we went to Nosy Ve, a sandy island off Tulear, in the hope of seeing some of my most wanted birds: Red-tailed Tropicbird, which breeds there and Crab Plover, which is there sometimes.  Bot are cracking birds and new families for me and both were there, along with a real bonus of a Sooty Gull, a real Madagascar rarity.

Later, in our first visit to the spiny forest at Ifaty we had superb encounter with another of my most wanted birds: Long-tailed Ground-Roller.  Not a bad place, Madagascar.

It can’t be possible, but…

… there is a cooler animal than the Ring-tailed Lemur: Verreaux’s Sifaka, which clings to the tree’s like it’s scared of heights, bounces through them like a Gibbon and then finally dances away on the ground, all while looking utterly cute.

There’s lots of good birds at Zombitse too.


A terrific start to our trip to Madagascar, with three nights in Ranomafana, and some superb forest birds and lemurs.  Today a trip to Isalo had a stop off at Anja Park for our only Ring-tailed Lemurs of the trip: just magnificent!

Wifi is very patchy here, so there might be no updates until we’re back…

Winter is coming!

A walk up the downs on Saturday turned up a surprise, when I flushed a bird off the path along the down top behind the house.  It looked a bit wrong, but I thought it was just one of the common migrants that have really tailed off in the last week.  After waiting for Karen to catch up we walked carefully on and found it again.  We then spent a few minutes inching up on it, not knowing what we were looking at.  Finally it became clear: a Snow Bunting, about a month earlier than an early bird, and in completely the wrong place (we see them on coast shingle in Sussex, not grassy down tops).

Typically I didn’t have my good camera, just my compact, but with a bird as confiding as a Snow Bunting you can still get something.

Ssssimply sssplendid

We’ve had a small Grass Snake in the garden of late, but over the last couple of days, it turns out we have three: on small, one tiny and one adult about 18 inches long.

We were only joking

This morning Karen and I were joking about the tiny patch of everlasting pea just down the road.  It’s a favourite plant of the Long-tailed Blue and we were wondering whether we would be able to see the “inevitable” Long-tailed Blue from the garden when it turned up.  On our way out for a walk this afternoon we checked the pea and unbelievably there was one there.  It hung around for a while, long enough for us to discover that when it flew you could indeed get it on the house list.  Later on, Karen also got a view of an utterly knackered Common Blue.  Two new butterflies for the house in a day!

At home there was a single Slow Worm and a beautiful and tiny Grass Snake under the roofing felt.

The Downs were a shadow of last week, with only one Spotted Flycatcher compared with over 20 last week.  The bird of the day, a brief view of a Goshawk eluded the camera, but a pair of kronking Ravens gave us a bit of entertainment.

Dirty Twitchers

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.

Tops and bottom

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.


The wages of sin…

… 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.

Humming along

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.