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

Wadis and wheatears

Our trip to Oman has proven to be an exercise in sleep deprivation, with very early starts for travel to Oman and also hunting for the Omani Owl.

Yesterday had a boat trip to see some Sooty Falcons, fantastic birds, and a look around some cultivated fields that were rich in birds, particularly Bee-eaters and Rollers.

Today was a very early start to go into “Wadi Mac” hunting for the Omani Owl.  We had no luck with that, but did get Pallid Scops Owl and a good few other cracking birds that specialise in the habitat.  A stunning place to be half asleep.  This afternoon we drove into the mountains, ready for tonight’s visit to another wadi in search of the owl.

Sooty Falcon
Juvenile Sooty Falcon
Sooty Gull
Pied Wheatear
Plain Tiger
Indian Roller
Arabian Green Bee-eater
Arabian Babblers
Pallid Scops Owl
Wadi Mac
Breakfast in the field
Streaked Scrub Warbler
Red-tailed wheatear
Plain Leaf Warbler
The second Wadi looks good…
… but the security is very attentive.

About time!

We went to Finland in 2014 to see the northern lights and spent a week looking at thick cloud.  Since then it has become an obsession for Karen, staring at the sky every time the Aurora Watch app suggests there might be some activity.  (The facts that we’re in the south of England, and it’s cloudy seem not to deter her).    At 0251 on Monday morning in Flamborough, we finally managed the combination of latitude, solar activity and starry sky.  Obviously I had all the wrong cameras with me, so all we managed were some rubbishy shots on our phones, but they’re still way more impressive than you can see with the naked eye.  You could definitely see columnar structure and colour wash, just not the detail and saturation the camera manages.

Elsewhere on our trip up north, there were two lifers.  We twitched the Brown Booby on the Tees: it left the close perch just before we arrived, but at least it hung around for us.   A few days’ seawatching at Flamborough proved productive, with four species of Shearwater, including Cory’s, a UK lifer, and four species of Skua.  It’s a good job that the seawatching was good – there was nothing at all on land.

Brown Booby
Aurora at last!
Dive, dive, dive!
Razorbill feeding just below the surface
Bottlenose Dolphins
The marked dolphin is known as Runny Paint

The Life Aquatic

A plan for a lazy Sunday fell to pieces at lunchtime, when a report of an Aquatic Warbler at Beeding Brooks arrived.  It was in walking range, but this was a world lifer, and a really tricky bird to catch up with – they don’t turn up reliably anywhere, and they don’t hang around when they do appear.  A drive over got us to within 200 yards of the bird while it was showing beautifully, unfortunately on the wrong side of a bridge that had been closed, unbeknownst to us, leaving a mile detour.  Needless to say, being greeted quarter of an hour later with the words “it showed brilliantly 10 minutes ago” was galling.  After a false alarm with a Sedge Warbler, I eventually found it and had a superb view at close range for a few seconds.  Karen missed it, and when it appeared on the other side of the bush, where we couldn’t get to without flushing it frustration levels went up another notch.  The next couple of hours yielded only a few very brief flight shots, but eventually we got a few half-decent views, although it was never easy.

A return to the scene of the crime this evening yielded more of the same: rubbish views in flight and occasional half decent views across the river, but always brief.  Nevertheless, a beautiful and very tricky bird to catch up with made it a special day.

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Yellow Wagtail
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Aquatic Warbler

And this is autumn

Autumn migration is really underway now, with large numbers of Spotted Flycatchers, and Redstarts on the Downs, although there are still none down around us yet.   The local Little Owl finally put in an appearance, having been absent all year, much to my chagrin, and our first rarity of the autumn, a Red-backed Shrike, lured us to Shoreham on Monday.  A return to long walks after a pretty lethargic summer.

Pied Flycatcher
Little Owl at last
Spotted Flycatcher
Spotted Flycatcher
Red-backed Shrike

So that was summer, then.

July was a damp squib, with pretty horrible weather every weekend.  That coincided with the birding midsummer doldrums, so moths and butterflies took centre stage.

A few autumn migrants are trickling though the downs now, but until today there was nothing to speak of at home, but a glance out of the window this afternoon found a Turtle Dove sitting in a bush behind the garden.  That’s only the third we’ve had at home, and a bird that gorgeous is always welcome.

Brown Argus
Essex Skipper
6 Spot Burnet
Small Copper
Ruddy Darter
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Brown Hairstreak
Hummingbird Hawkmoth
Long-tailed Blue
Jersey Tiger
Turtle Dove