Lousy stop-out

After last week’s nocturnal excursion something more relaxed was planned for this weekend.  The birds had other ideas.

A Dotterel had stopped off on Bignor Hill, a 15 mile walk away.  While we’ve had Dotterel only a couple of miles away in the past, it wasn’t on foot (and it wasn’t this year), so Friday afternoon became a brisk walk over there to get it before it moved on northwards.  Stopping only for a look at a surprise Woodlark, I got there early evening after 4 hours of brisk walking.  The bird showed well for an hour and then upped and went.  I was just in time.  I chose a slightly longer route back (but pretty much all downhill rather than climbing back up the downs again) via Rewell Wood, where I stopped off for Nightjars, getting one bird churring and briefly checking me out.  It wasn’t a great view, but better than I had at Pulborough last year.  The downside of this was a late night trek through the Dover, which is still incredibly muddy and a real slog (although a couple of Tawny Owls, one a chick, were some compensation).  I arrived back at 0135 after a 33 mile walk.  That’s earlier than last Friday, but not what was planned.

Saturday was predictably lazy, but we went out for an evening walk in Sompting.  On the way back we had an eye shine in my headtorch on the road in front of us.  It looked like a Nightjar, but they don’t sit on roads in Britain… apparently they do.  This stunning little bird posed beautifully for the camera and allowed a very close approach.  After a while we had had our fill and walked on home, only for it to fly past us and settle on the road in front of us again.     I love Nightjars and I’ve never had a close view of one in the UK, let alone within a mile of home.  At least we arrived home before midnight (just).

One last stretch and next stop Scotland

Change of plans

Yesterday’s plan was fairly straightforward: a walk after lunch to Henfield levels to find the Glossy Ibis and Wood Sandpiper that were there the day before, on to Woods Mill for the Turtle Doves and then back for tea and then later on drive up to Cissbury Ring in the hope that the aurora would live up to its promise.

There was no Ibis or Sandpiper, and more than an hour at Woods Mill yielded nothing.  Returning to the levels in the hope that the Ibis would return to roost I finally dug up the Wood Sand, meaning I had to walk back to get it on the on-foot list.  Unfortunately I had misjudged the amount of water, with the longer than expected stay, and food was needed.  Fortunately Karen was having fish & chips, so she brought some with her and met me on the way back.

The walk back was slowed by constant checking to see whether the aurora was building (and failing to find any owls in the area) so I ended up going straight to Cissbury Ring, arriving at 2300, just as the aurora was becoming visible.

And then it went crazy!

The entire sky to the north of us, and even some of the sky to the south, was alive with the lights, and the colours were clearly visible to the naked eye (they always show up much better on photos).  This was by far the best aurora we have seen (and probably ever will see).  It went on until I left at 0100, and the aurora was spectacular for the next hour as I walked home through the Sompting estate.

A nice lie-in was rudely interrupted by a dash down to the sea for a Pom Skua (I got it, Karen was too late) and we had nice views of Manx Shearwater as well.  A fantastic 24 hours, but a hard one.

Seconds out…

Mad march hares boxing is one of the nature spectacles I have always wanted to see.  In the last few years there has been some activity, normally very limited, in the field on the Downs north of us in April and May.  It’s unpredictable and difficult to get near, even if you know they are around, so good photos are impossible.  This year I managed to phonescope them from our bedroom window.  Not the best video, but they’re fun!

Spring crawls on, and we’re adding things in small numbers.  A 32 mile walk through Amberley Wild Brooks and on to Pulborough Brooks had a glorious dawn, but no Grasshopper Warblers, who probably shivering under cover, followed by nice views of Garganey, Nightingale and Garden Warbler.  Butterflying on the way back was off the cards, as it was starting to rain, but we did find a Duke of Burgundy wondering where spring was.

Boxing hares: click on the picture to go to my video on OneDrive

Green-veined White
Yellowhammer's tonsils
Woodchat Shrike
Dawn breaks over Rackham
Garden Warbler
Duke of Burgundy