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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There was a distinctly spring feel in the air today, a glorious day with the birds singing. It certainly raised the spirits. The highlight was another encounter with the Cissbury Ring Dartford Warbler – this time it actually cooperated, a bit.
Yesterday a walk down to the sea found very little, but a horribly backlit Grebe on the sea slowly came closer and the light improved to show it to be a Red-necked Grebe, a new bird for the on-foot list, before it drifted west into the late afternoon sun.
It’s all been a bit quiet of late, with a combination of lockdown and bad weather keeping me in (and hardly anything has been worth photographing when we have been out). Here’s a Red Kite from a walk which did have a bit of sun, and a terrible picture of the Dartford Warbler (one of two?) on Cissbury Ring. It’s a really uncooperative bird as you can see.
A happy new year to you all. 2021 seems to be starting as gloomily as 2020 ended, but for us the year started at 0530, getting up on a frosty day for a 29 mile walk to Rackham and Burpham in search of White-fronted Geese and Bewick’s Swans. We were successful seeing our targets, distantly, and 69 species was an excellent start to the on foot list. On 3rd we topped it up with a walk along the coast to add some waders and seabirds.
The plans for this weekend were for a walk to Pulborough, abandoned due to the lockdown, and then another trip to the coast, which we also abandoned, as it looks like the busiest place around here. Instead we had three walks over the downs behind us, with almost no company, other than a lot of frost and mist. A few waders and some Corn Buntings nudged the list onto 96.
Best of all was the Barn Owl that the cold weather has brought to the fields behind us. The views haven’t been good, but it’s a treat so see such a beautiful bird out of your bedroom window.
Birding is winding down for the year now. Last weekend’s effort to pick up Tundra Bean Goose and Pink-footed Goose (in with various flocks of Russian White-fronted Goose) turned into a true wild goose chase, finding only Greylag and Canada Goose. 24 miles seems like a long way to add only a Siberian Chiffchaff to the foot list, so it seems like it’s stuck at 185, which is a pretty good effort considering the 6 or 7 species missed on the sea due to a lack of seawatching during lockdown.
In the wetland behind us, the fields look perfect for waders, but a walk around yesterday yielded only a Stonechat, only my second there.