Thursday, 18 January 2018

The best of winter birding

In my opinion the period between Christmas and spring is when the levels are at their best from a birding perspective. OK so this winter hasn't been great for Short-eared Owl but the again one in every three or four isn't and there is plenty else to see. The now 3rd calendar year male Hen Harrier continues to entertain and delight allcomers, the supposed adult female was regular until the 6th whilst the first winter bird with the whiter outer tail feathers has not been seen since new years eve. On the 28th JE summoned me from my sick bed as he had two yellow billed swans flying over Lookers which turned out to be a patch tick in the shape of Whoopers, both birds were present until the 30th with the single bird pictured (or another) remaining currently. A single Great White Egret (left) has also been hanging around, along with 5 or so Little Egret. Water Pipits (right) are regular on the levels in winter and spring, however they usually provide the gross flying up from nearby calling views, so the bird that has been present along White Dyke recently feeding on the pennywort has been quite popular. All of the above together with Starling murmurations, Green Sandpiper, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Kingfishers, Water Rails, Marsh Harriers, Merlin (7th), Peregrine, White-fronted Geese (2 since 13th per CP), a stunning Tawny Owl along New Bridge road on the 11th, and last but by no means least Sparrowhawks that nearly take you out! What more could you want from your local patch.

The moth trap has not been on since the back end of 2017 so other wildlife has been made up of mammals with the small herd of Fallow Deer above near Wartling on the 6th. My first Brown Hare of the year was seen near Horse-eye farm on the 17th and Red Fox have been around as well, despite the best efforts of the local hunt who were seen in pursuit on the 13th. The hunt represents everything that is bad and despicable in our society and it requires the will of the law enforcement agencies to start enforcing the law and hold these vermin to account.
On a pleasanter note on New Years' day I took a little wander off the patch and headed to the res to year tick the GND which duly obliged. Before getting to the res though I stopped off at Arlington Church in the hope of bumping into a Hawfinch amongst the Yews there... Walking into the churchyard, bang, Hawfinch male straight away! Unfortunately, despite getting excellent views, the picture left was the best I could manage although there were at least 3 Hawfinch around contact calling and feeding in and around the Yews.
My other away trip was on the 14th when I made a late decision to head over to Dungeness on a cracking wintry afternoon. As it turned out this was a somewhat inspired decision with GWE at Camber, 2 Tundra Bean and 15 Whitefront at Scotney (in the Sussex part), Black-throated Diver, GWE, male Marsh Harrier, Chiffchaff, and gypo geese at Dengemarsh, Long-tailed Duck and Dartford Warbler at Lade, redhead Smew, GWE, and 8 or so Tree Spudgers at Boulderwall farm, and final stop the ARC where 2 male Goosander, 2 GWE, Firecrest, 2 Chiffchaff, and best of all 35 Bewicks Swans in the roost as the light was fading including 4 1st winters. There really is no better way to round off a winters day in the field than the sound of Bewicks as they greet one another. Pictures below of Egyptian Geese, Goldfinches, GWEs' (one with an interloper) and part of a record (for me) flock of 101 Cormorant on Horse-eye also from the 14th. Be kind.

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