Friday, 9 December 2016

December Moth

The mild weather over the last couple of nights encouraged me to run the trap. I was rewarded with 2 male December moths overnight on the 8th, a species I have hankered after for a while... Also a Common Plume on the 8th and a single LBAM on the 9th.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Just another day on the levs

First thing this morning I dropped in again at Normans Bay for this stunning little bird which now seems very settled. Both pictures and video are early morning and unmodified, no apologies - I like both.
On the sea sifting through the couple of hundred strong Scoter flock proved tricky in the choppy conditions but yielded several of the Velvets' and at least one Eider.
Lookers in the evening produced 3 SEO, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, 2+ Kestrel, but again no Hen Harriers. Stay safe.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Dessie 2 - after the buzz

Depressingly I have had to spend the week at work but was finally able to get out this afternoon and take in some more leisurely time with the first winter male Desert Wheatear. There was no sign Tuesday morning but the bird was picked up early afternoon about a kilometre down the beach at Normans Bay. It then returned to the EA compound near where we had originally found it, enabling LP to catch up with it, and appeared to roost there. Subsequently it seems to have settled around a patch of rough scrub to the west of the Martello tower in Normans Bay and if not pursued will come very close.
On to Horse-eye where a couple of the SEO were putting on a good show until dusk. Also single Marsh Harrier, 2 Buzzard, 3 Kestrel, 3 Snipe, single Jack Snipe, 50 Fieldfare, Kingfisher, and 8 Moorhen. Keep it real.

Monday, 28 November 2016


Post Twickenham visit on Saturday and domestic chores Sunday, and decorating tasks this morning - a holiday day, Sharon and I decided to take the dog for a walk. "Where would you like to go" was the question from Sharon, to which I replied "the beach". So it came to pass that just after 2 o'clock we parked at the beach end of Sluice lane, by the fishing boats, and walked back towards Normans bay, along what Sharon informs me is known as Herbrand walk.
A pretty uneventful 45 minutes followed, with Hazel (our labrador) mooching about and a distinct lack of birds. Having reached the outfall we decided to turnaround and head back to the car along the shoreline in the teeth of a pretty brisk easterly. After a few hundred yards we cut back up and towards the top of the beach where a small bird flew up and perched on a fence post. My immediate reaction was Wheatear and it was nearly December...
I asked Sharon to stay still and hold on to the dog. Bins up, "**** me its a Desert Wheatear", "Is that good" comes back from my lady wife, "Yes, ITS A DESERT WHEATEAR! A first winter male to be precise!". Immediate thought process follows, get some pics, its late (2.45ish) so get the news out asap. I get my little bridge camera out but the bird is moving actively along the top of the beach, it pops up on the metal grate near the sluice and I take a picture...
Bugger! Fortunately it stays still for a moment longer...
Thats' better, now phone the locals. No answer from Matt, Mike, Geoff, Al, Lawrence, Jake, all of them are out or busy! OK, send texts, done, phone RBA done. Now I can enjoy the bird for a bit, but it's very busy, moving along the fence line, then down on to the breakwater to fly down to the strand line to catch what are presumably sandhoppers, and then a couple of walkers come along and its on the logs at the top of the beach. I manage to get a few more reasonable record shots below.

The posture of the bird is indicative of the stiff breeze. Finally I have to relent and walk back to the car so Sharon can get some shelter, as I do so the bird is still feeding along the strand line at about 15.10 or so. Unfortunately when Al and Laurence arrive there is no further sign, a few dog walkers have been around but the bird was very active so may still be on the beach. We have a good look round but time is against us and at 15.55 it is pretty dark so I head off. Gutted that Al and Laurence haven't connected but elated at finding a quality rare in the greater patch area. Hopefully the boy will be relocated tomorrow, unfortunately I will be back at work.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

BBS springs a bonus

The reason for the lack of recent posts has been primarily the lack of anything to report! The weather has been unseasonably cold which has resulted in no moth trapping and very little in the way of birds. It was therefore with some trepidation that I headed out this morning for my first breeding birds survey transects of the year...
I need not have worried though, May has arrived and all is well with the world. The day started with one of the Little Owls on guard and the transects went well with my first Lesser Whitethroat of the year singing near Lookers where a Wheatear was also seen along with the more expected Sedge Warblers, Reed Warbler, Whitethroats, and various other regular or should I say now, not so regular farmland species.
Moving on to my second transect for more of the same with the addition of Little Egret, Water Rail, and Lapwing and in the reedbed a familiar, though these days, not often heard song (at least in Sussex). Unfortunately the video does not contain the bird, only the reeling of one of the two Grasshopper Warblers that were belting it out! After Al Redman joined me we watched one of the birds skulking through the scrub before climbing into a bush where it proceeded to reel, the intensity varying as the bird turned its head with all the while its tail quivering in time. Only my 3rd and 4th on the patch and the 2nd and 3rd spring birds so a "reel" bonus!
Al and I then moved on to Down Level where we added Greenshank, Hobby, 4 Yellow Wagtail, a small collection of Peacock and Small Tortoiseshells, Raven, 6 or so Buzzards, 4 Gadwall, and a smattering of Little Egret.

Monday, 11 April 2016

On leucism and a murder mystery

The past couple of weeks have provided some interesting bits and pieces with the leucistic Hebrew Character pictured above probably the most noteworthy. The moth was trapped overnight on the 30th March and apparently completely lacked any black pigmentation. Hebrew Character is a moth which exhibits many variants however I was unable to find any reference to one quite like this in my limited literature. A Red Kite over the garden on the 1st was followed by another over the A27 near Firle on the 6th, and reminded me that I had forgotten to mention the garden highlight of the year in my last post which was a flock of Pink-feet calling over the garden on the night of the 25th while I was checking the moth trap!
On the bird front things have been ticking along quite nicely. The last wintering duck are still holding on with the best being 2 Pintail and 20 Shoveler on the 1st, and 13 Gadwall on the 10th's WEBS count. The Wheatear pictured above was in the field at the end of White Dyke, which is now my traditional first Wheatear of the year field, on the 2nd when there were also 2 Golden Plover on Down, and 4 Shelduck. Levels highlight though was the return of the Yellow Wags with 2 on Down Level on the 10th.
On a more disturbing note the picture above was taken on the early morning of the 10th. I would not usually publish an image like this but it is the fourth dead Mute Swan that I have encountered in the past three weeks. All the others had been fully predated with only feathers, head, and wings remaining however this bird was still predominantly whole. From what I have managed to glean these are most likely fox kills however four in such a relatively short time would appear unusual...

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Spring sprung

Somehow you never feel like winter is over until you get your first migrants so it has been a trying time over the last few weeks with many signs of spring but no migrants! First report concerns the WEBS on the 13th which at last had some duck, with 30 Wigeon, 19 Teal, and a pair of Tufted Duck on Horse-eye, and a more impressive 21 Pintail, 20 Shoveler, and 2 Gadwall on Down. Other highlights included 3 Raven, single Redshank, Kingfisher, Water Rail, and the Sacred Ibis which was present at White Dyke farm first thing before flying off towards Magham Down. The Brown Hares pictured above were watched courting and mating on Down Level, a single Mink was also seen on White Dyke.
So to Cheltenham week and a few away days... I realised this winter that it has been a while since I have seen a Great Grey Shrike so I have put in a couple of fruitless visits to Ashdown Forest in fog and rain in an attempt to see the overwintering bird on the Isle of Thorns. I finally managed to connect on the morning of the 14th when I paid a visit with Sharon and Hazel, and the bird put on an exemplary show for us hunting in bright sunshine.
The annual pilgrimage to Cheltenham on the 18th provided a Red Kite drifting over the M4 near Hungerford. Biggest away day though was to Exeter Chiefs to watch my nephew, Noah, have a training session before the game against Northampton. The drive down on the 19th involved a 3 mile detour from the main road to visit Portesham, where the Pallas's Warbler was watched at close range near the tyre dump. Seven-striped sprites are always a pleasure and this one was particularly bright in the early spring sunshine - my first spring bird since the one at Bognor in the last century!!! Serious rugby piggery ensued.

So to this Easter weekend and a gloriously sunny, warm, spring like Good Friday encouraged me to stretch the legs in the hope of migrants. A stunning selection of duck, some of which pictured above, were on Down Level, with 31 Shoveler, 22 Gadwall, 8 Pintail, 5 Wigeon, and 15 Teal, but no migrants. Sparrowhawk, 10 Little Egret, and the Tufted Duck were also seen, but no Sacred Ibis. The other highlight were my first lepidoptera of the year in the form of 2 Small Tortoiseshell on White Dyke, one of which is pictured below.

All of which encouraged to run the moth trap overnight which produced a catch of Early Grey, 3 Common Quaker, and 4 Hebrew Character, the last two also pictured below.

So finally to today, Easter Sunday, cold,miserable,and wet. An early morning trek around Down Level with Hazel produced little of note apart from 25 Shoveler and 5 Pintail, until suddenly hawking across the flashes 2 Swallow made my Easter. Winter is finally over.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Sacre bleu!

For those of us of a certain age C5 is a dodgy electric vehicle invented by Sir Clive Sinclair. Nowadays it is a category for dodginess in other forms....

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Birthday surprises

A gentle meander across the levels for my birthday first thing on Valentines' day was notable for a couple of oddities. The weather was (as has been typical this winter) dank and grey with conditions underfoot to use racing parlance, heavy, waterlogged in places. Nonetheless Spring is beginning to show signs of coming with the first pair of Shelduck on Horse-eye and noticably more bird song than of late with Skylarks especially vocal today. A party of 6 Little Egret in the fields by White Dyke Farm were not unexpected but the two Dabchick in the dyke near Mappins were! I have bumped into Dabchick on the odd occassion out here but they are few and far between so a good start. This was quickly followed by the wintering female Hen Harrier drifting over Mappins (atmospheric record shot above) and one of the resident Peregrine on Horse-eye.
Moving on towards Chilley farm numbers of Lapwing and Black-headed Gull were seen around the floods and scrapes with around 300 of the former, before the mornings second oddity turned up in the form of the Egyptian Goose pictured below. Probably a wandering bird from the Cuckmere this represents only my second on the patch.
And so to Chilley farm where my lift home awaited - but not before one of the best breakfasts in Sussex!

Tuesday (16th) saw me out for a late afternoon walk with the hound around Lookers. I failed to see either SEO or Hen Harrier but one of the Little Owls was in visible residence and a Kingfisher scooted by on New bridge road. Elsewhere another Little Owl seen near Battle on the evening of the 17th. Keep safe.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

White WEBS and heavy going

The WEBS count on the 17th commenced with a proper feeling of winter in the form of some early morning snow. Unfortunately this was the exception rather than the norm since, following the warmest December on record, we have now had the wettest January with just two frosts locally and persistent rain being the order of the day.
Highlight of the WEBS was the number of birds, especially Lapwing with 430 on Down Level and a further 200 on Horse-eye. Unsurprisingly given the mild weather, there were no Goldies about and only a few Snipe on the wader front. The duck were few in number with just a single drake Shoveler, 17 Teal, and 10 Mallard scattered about, but the geese included singles of White-front and Barnacle albeit of suspect origin...
As ever raptors keep the spirits high with the ringtail Heh Harrier still present on Horse-eye together with at least 2 Marsh Harrier, the resident Peregrines, and at least one Shortie as ever near Lookers.

The levels are extremely heavy going at the moment with very deep muddy paths and off piste even worse! Needless to say there are opportunities to explore further afield and a trip to Dunge on the 10th was particularly rewarding with Penduline Tit, Long-eared Owl (above), 2 GWE, Slavonian Grebe, and Smew the highlights with the Glossy Ibis at Pett providing a late afternoon padder on the way home.

Elsewhere bits and bobs included a cracking Firecrest in the bushes to the east of Horseshoe plantation on the 23rd. Stay safe.