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

Spring is Sprung

Things are beginning to liven up, and it even stopped raining over Easter while we were in Yorkshire.  A trip up Swaledale and down Arkengarthdale was glorious, with Curlews singing everywhere, 3 Short-eared Owls, Snipe drumming and both Black and Red Grouse.

Back down south, the Slow Worm numbers are increasing and we had our first Grass Snake in the garden yesterday, and a Bee Fly is always a delight.

Short-eared Owl
Red Grouse
Snipe drumming
Bee Fly
Slow Worms
Grass Snake
Snake's Head Fritillary

Spring begins

It has been soggy of late, and a few long walks have meant there hasn’t been much photography of late.  There are signs of life, though, a few butterflies are turning up, and the birds are getting noisier in the garden.  One bird is putting a bit too much effort, though: a Cetti’s Warbler, Europe’s loudest songbird, has set up near us, and has started yelling at all times of the night, 0210 is his earliest so far.  It’s going to be a long spring!

Another sign of spring is the Slow Worms in the garden, and the Adders out in numbers on Cissbury Ring.  We found 12 on Sunday, including a black one.

Cetti's Warbler
Pied Shieldbug


Leaving the camera at home

A walk without the camera to find Green Sandpiper at Beeding Brooks was successful, and threw in Pintail, Great White Egret and Marsh Harrier to boot.  After a wet start, spent watching England’s woeful capitulation to India, it turned into a glorious warm day, and the sunset as we came back was beautiful.  The warmth was enough to encourage the Toads to move towards their mating ponds, and we found three on the paths on the way back home.  Fortunately, the phone camera was up to the job.

I love my job!

I’ll admit it, sometimes the commute from Worthing to Burgess Hill is a drag, particularly in winter.  The frustration is increased when there is a flock of Waxwings in the area, but you never see them.  Finally things worked out this week, when they were waiting in the car park for me on Wednesday morning (gloomy pictures though) and then in beautiful sunshine on Wednesday lunchtime.  Maybe the drive isn’t so bad.

It’s been a while

Since our return from Oman, the weather hasn’t been our friend, with rain most weekends.  It’s been pretty dingy over Christmas too, but there is a silver lining.  It’s a Waxwing winter in the UK, and we have been looking impatiently at the sightings heading slowly southward towards Sussex.  Finally they have arrived, although they are out of walking range so far, other than one very elusive bird.  A twitch in the car found us waiting by a very busy roundabout in Crawley for them to come into their favourite berry tree.  They waited until the sun went in, but they didn’t disappoint.  These are our first UK Waxwings for nearly 7 years.  Hopefully they will continue to move south.


Oman photos

I have finally waded through the pictures from Oman.  Here are a few more pictures, and there are many more on my OneDrive, on my Oman 2023 page.

Camel Tick
Another day another wadi
Sociable Plover
Eastern Imperial Eagle
Steppe Eagle
Red-legged Golden Orb-web Spider
Arabian Chameleon
Arabian Eagle Owl
Jouanin's Petrel
Flesh-footed Shearwater
Lesser Noddy
Wilson's Petrel
Persian Shearwater
Desert Owl

Into the desert

The hunt for the Omani Owl turned into something of an epic, involving a post-midnight finish, followed by a 0130 start the following day.  We didn’t see it, but we did hear it.

After we left the plateau we had a long drive down to the coast for a night to see some waders, including about 1000 Crab Plovers.  Our efforts were hampered by taking an hour to remove two of our cars from the deep mud they had gone into.  This was followed by a very long drive into the desert, which is largely flat, barren, featureless sand and grit, but we did see some impressive dune systems.  A long day ended with us going out to a local oasis for some Nightjars, with amazing results.  We had ultra-close views of European and Egyptian Nightjars.

This morning a return to the same oasis found classic desert birds, such as Greater Hoopoe Lark and Cream-coloured Courser, both of which dash around on the ground like mad.

Lappet-faced Vulture
A view of the brief bit of sandy desert we crossed.
Eurasian Scops Owl
European Nightar
Egyptian Nightjar
The Dromedaries come to the oasis for their morning drink.
Greater Hoopoe Lark
Cream-coloured Courser