Tuesday, 27 September 2011
A lovely late September day, and a day off work. I had to go down to Brighton, and thought I'd take the opportunity to try them out in new territory - East/West Sussex. James Bushnell joined me for a long overdue birding day out.
First stop after Brighton was Newhaven for the long-staying, and apparently tame Sabine's Gull. Of course it had chosen today to clear off, possibly to Cuckmere Haven where a later trip also drew a blank! Still it was a nice hour or so, on a warm beach surrounded by Rock Pipits, Wheatears and clouds of House Martins.
The next draw was the Pallid Harrier at Burpham, nr Arundel. What a lovely location, and a lovely drive up to the village with Arundel castle standing dominant on the west bank of the river. It looked like we were out of luck for the second time in the day - some folk were leaving having waited over 3 hours with no sighting. Unperturbed we walked to whether some birders were gathered. What a pleasant lot! A really friendly crowd who told us about how the estate was being managed for Grey Partridge of which we saw 5 birds. Within 5 minutes of arriving the shout went up for the Pallid Harrier which drifted down right in front of us and catching some prey, dropped to the ground and fed for 20 minutes or so. What an absolutely beautiful bird - so well-marked. While all this was going on James picked out a male Hen Harrier quartering the field behind us, I didn't know which way to look. Buzzard, Kestrel and Red Kite were all quickly added to the tally.
Finally we moved on, just down the road to Chichester GPs where a very active Grey Phalarope was on show along with a Black Tern. Unfortunately I heard the Phalarope had been taken by a Pike over the weekend!
Friday, 16 September 2011
The wind had changed overnight to a light easterly and I was hopeful a few migrants might have dropped in. A scan of Gallagher's Gallop and the Sweets Lane and Paris Farm paddocks in East Malling didn't look hopeful. However in the last hedgerow before Kiln Barn Road I spotted the flick of a red tail - a female/juvenile Redstart, a long awaited first for me on the patch. It quickly worked through the hedge and was soon lost to sight - the snatched record shot doesn't really do it justice!
I managed to get back out at lunchtime but the Redstart couldn't be relocated. A Blackcap and 10+ Chiffchaffs were found in the same hedge, indicating there had been a local 'fall' in the area and this was confirmed with my next sighting, a smart male Stonechat, perched on a sloe bush - an excellent patch record. Unfortunately I was on the wrong side of the bush, looking directly into the sun, hence the silhouette...but I think you can see what it is?!
I scoured the Paris Farm paddocks sure that there must be something else, getting greedy, but if there was I didn't see it. Last port of call was Sweets Lane Paddocks - it had been pretty much deserted on my brief morning visit. Pied Wagtails flitted across the pasture, 35+ birds in total, and there amongst them, as bright as a Canary was a Yellow Wagtail. Unbelievably this was my first grounded Yellow Wagtail on patch - I was on a roll!
Unfortunately no new birds on the way back to work, but I did notice a snake skin alongside the path (Grass snake??)
The sunshine persisted into the afternoon and I spent the last part of the afternoon/early evening working through the apple rootstock seedling orchard on the Research Station.
A female Sparrowhawk skimmed amongst the fruit trees sending flocks of Wood Pigeons,Starling and Linnets in its wake. A couple of Spitfires and a couple of biplanes headed south (possibly en route to Goodwood?).
Hawker Fury? (Help me Twisden!)
Stampe Vertogen SV-4B G-BRXP (ex-Belgian Airforce trainer?!)
Thursday, 15 September 2011
Good numbers of Meadow Pipits have turned up on the Research Station site over the last 10 days, with 40+ seen around the strawberry polytunnels today. A steady stream of Swallows skimmed south, and a couple of the House Martin nests on the main lab buildings remain occupied.