Here’s a few hobbies: birdwatching, photography and beautiful falcons.

Having taken the plunge on a new camera and lens, I took it out on a walk on Friday to see what it could do.  It can definitely focus!  The Hobby was a very brief appearance.

On Saturday we went on a twitch (something of a novelty for us this year) to Kent, to see the Eleonora’s Falcon that has taken up residence.  It was something of a challenge: a fast-moving falcon, among the local Hobbies, and it was also elusive.  A detour to South Foreland to try and see the Sardinian Warbler was wasted time (no two-lifer day for us), but a return to Worth gave us nice views of it perched in its evening roost.
(The pictures are better than this: my gallery plugin seems to be making a mess of resizing them.)

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Broad-bodied Chaser
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Adonis Blue
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Mother Shipton
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Large Skipper
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Corn Bunting
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Eleonora's Falcon
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They like stooping
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One of many Hobbies
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Later in the evening, Eleonora has gone to roost

All’s well that ends well

After a very early start on Friday to do a breeding bird survey before work, we had a late start and an afternoon visit to Woods Mill yesterday.

The transect was more interesting for migrants than breeders, with a total of 11 Spotted Flycatchers seen (including the walks to and from home).  Compared with my highest total of spring Spotties of 3 in May 2019, that’s remarkable.  We had a couple of Whinchats and our first Swifts of the year too.

Woods Mill was rubbish: no Turtle Doves, hardly any Nightingale action and not much else, other than a mass of Beautiful Demoiselles.  We saw a Cuckoo on the way, and also had a Banded Demoiselle, but it was a big disappointment.  The walk back was going to end up in the dark, so we had some hopes for owls: we needed something to make 24 miles hauling a 2 stone rucksack worthwhile.  It paid off: we had a Barn Owl hunting on Bramber Brooks before a stop off in The Castle in Bramber for a beer (purely to make sure it got dark enough, you understand: the beer was a necessary evil).  On the way back we had two other species of owl (including Tawny chicks), and a couple of badgers.  A good end to an average day.

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Spotted Flycatcher
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Beautiful Demoiselle
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Orange Tip roosting on Cow Parsley.
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Did the underwing evolve for roosting on Cow Parsley?
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With backlighting the orange tip shines through.
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The problem with Barn Owls is that they come out to hunt when it's too dark for a decent photo.
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Who are you looking at?

We had more signs of spring this weekend, with our first damsels and dragons on the brooks, while overhead a noisy Peregrine was bragging about its dinner.

A full day’s seawatch was disappointing, as usual this year, until late afternoon, after the wind had turned south east and Skuas started moving.  Eventually four Poms came past at close range, along with two Arctic Skuas (and another Arctic harried a Tern just offshore from us: superb).

Meanwhile in the garden, a family of Robins, with five young, are hopping around and our Pheasant is proving approachable.

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Small Copper
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Large Red Damselfly
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Azure Damselfly
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The local Peregrine likes junk food
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Two Arctic Skuas leading four Pomarine Skuas
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I love baby Robins. This is one of five

Hitting the bottle

A truly awful seawatch this morning was saved when Karen found the pod of Bottlenose Dolphins that have been mucking around offshore for the last few days, just as we were about to leave.  About 8-10 dolphins initially appeared in the murk, scarcely visible in the distance, but slowly came in and started their antics.  Unfortunately the light was awful: you couldn’t even see the horizon, making focus and exposure on distant things a nightmare.  However, an hour and a half watching a UK lifer can’t be bad.

Nearer to home, the Raven nest near us has become a noisy place, with four chicks demanding food.   Adding the two adults, the six birds here is nearly half of the total Sussex count for the 1990s. Welcome back!

Signs of spring

It’s been a funny few weeks: we both came down with COVID just before Easter and have found it a hard work getting back into the swing of things.  Fortunately when we were struggling to get out, it seemed that all we had to do was send out for delivery of some artificial but fun sustenance – we managed to add White-tailed Eagle, introduced into the Isle of Wight  onto the house list and the day after had six of Knepp’s plastic White Storks.  Not the wildest birds, but still spectacular.

Things are beginning to get back to normal (well, we’re walking as far as ever, just much slower).  Here’s a few pictures from the last few weeks.

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Corn Bunting
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Bee Fly
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White Storks. A rubbish photo, but not bad out of the bedroom window.
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It was Easter, so of course there was Chocolate... Tip
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Emerging from the National Park into another world.
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A Skylark wonders where the grass went.
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Pheasants are common around us, but I'm not sure we have had one on the lawn before.
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Dawn at Amberley Wild Brooks with the dawn chorus in full swing.
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Amberley and Pulborough Brooks had loads of Sedge Warblers.
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You ain't seen me...