Monday, 20 November 2017

Canons Farm, 20th November 2017

Another quick morning visit to the farm before heading back to the south coast produced a Rook, two Meadow Pipits, a Pied Wagtail, three Common Gulls, 12 Skylarks, 80 Redwings, 50 Fieldfares and a Mistle Thrush.

Canons Farm, 18th November 2017

A quick visit to the farm in the morning produced two Bramblings, a Grey Heron, 240 Fieldfares, 126 Redwings and a Meadow Pipit of particular note.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Canons Farm, 17th November 2017

Back in Surrey for a little while, I parked up by the farmhouse and had a quick scan of the stubble fields by the lane - that's about as far as I got all day as I quickly spotted a Short-eared Owl roosting right out in the centre of Infront George West and the rest of the day was spent watching the bird with good friends as they came and went to see this locally rare treat, overshadowing the adult Great Black-backed Gull which had flown over a few minutes beforehand (a decent enough patch bird in itself). I returned late in the day to see the owl take off and heard a Tawny and at least three Little Owls too. Other bits of note at the farm during the day included 34 Fieldfares, seven Redwings, two Meadow Pipits, a Rook, a Grey Heron and a Mistle Thrush

Short-eared Owl

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Goring, 16th November 2017

Highlights this morning included a juvenile Red-throated Diver on the sea, 11 Common Scoters, two Kittiwakes, five Mediterranean Gulls, a Little Egret, a Chiffchaff, a redpoll, two Stonechats, 39 Red-breasted Mergansers, nine Razorbills, five Guillemots, 45 Great Crested Grebes, 12 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 15 Gannets, an Oystercatcher, 48 Ringed Plovers, 82 Dunlins, nine Sanderlings, nine Turnstones, 13 Great Black-backed Gulls, two Goldcrests and five Skylarks.

The scoters involved a flock of nine which headed west and a pair on the sea, where for the first time I saw for myself scoters living up to their name, the male displaying my scooting a couple of feet across the surface of the sea then cocking his head. It was nice to meet local birder Nick B and I appreciated his lift back home!

wader slumber party: Sanderling, Ringed Plover and Dunlin
the lonely Dark-bellied Brent remains...
Great Black-backed Gulls joined the loafing squad today
the male of a Stonechat pair - hopefully a Dartford will join them soon

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Goring, 15th November 2017

Today saw a brief inaugural visit to Goring as my new patch (see the previous post) and, despite being shrouded in fog, it turned out to be quite a productive visit and I left very excited about the patching prospects ahead. Within the first couple of minutes of scanning from the Worthing Sailing Club, near the east end of my boundary, I picked up a Red-necked Grebe on the sea a couple of hundred metres out. I can count how many Red-neckeds I've ever seen on one hand so was delighted to find my own. Later on, at the Gap itself, a Black-throated Diver was feeding about the same distance offshore and local birder Clive arrived just in time to see it.

The wader roost comprised of 59 Grey Plovers, 51 Ringed Plovers and 79 Dunlins but only eight Sanderlings and 11 Turnstones; a slightly weary looking adult Dark-bellied Brent Goose and nine Mediterranean Gulls shared the same field. A further 14 Brents tracked west offshore, where other highlights (when visibility improved!) included 46 Red-breasted Mergansers, five Red-throated Divers, 26 Great Crested Grebes, four Razorbills, five Guillemots and two Gannets. Two Skylarks, a Linnet, a couple of Meadow Pipits and two Goldcrests were also noted during the brief visit.

Red-necked Grebe
Mediterranean, Common and Black-headed Gulls
adult Dark-bellied Brent Goose

The new patch

A tenative "recording area" map

I've just recently moved into a flat in West Worthing with Ingrid. This of course means breaking off, to some or other extent, my ties with my beloved Surrey patches, Canons Farm/Banstead Woods and Beddington Farmlands. I've now watched these sites with varying intensity for eight and ten years respectively, they've provided some unforgettable birding experiences and I'm sure will always feel like my birding home but the time has come to move on. I do intend to return to Surrey regularly and keep a finger on the pulse at both sites but there are fantastic patching opportunites on the coast.

The obvious choice for my new patch is Goring Gap, and it is the prime candidate partly thanks to the fact that so little green space is on offer along this greatly urbanised stretch of coastline. It is a very simple site to work, comprising a shingle beach and a few arable fields (both of which are used by a mixed wader roost), with a little rough ground and enough bushes to promise a variety of passerine migrants.

Of course there is also that great birding commodity with which Surrey birders are so unfamiliar, the sea, and this particular portion of the Channel does well enough for birds feeding and migrating offshore. The site is a very short walk from the bungalow we were initially interested in but a couple of miles away from the flat which we ended up renting.

With a dramatic rise in my living costs, and as part of my resolution to increasingly live in line with my values, I don't wish to use my car to get to the site. My bike, which has been minimal use for many years, is currently still back in Surrey so at the moment it's a matter of walking there. Trialling this has made me realise that the slither of green between the Gap and Worthing, through which one passes while walking west to the new patch, holds some patching merit in itself, with some nice coastal vegetation and sheltered seawatching positions, so I have decided to extend the boundary further east. This also means I don't feel I'm spending so much time walking merely to the site. The best position, from which one can seawatch while keeping an eye on the fields and intercept overhead visibile migration, is at the west end of Goring Gap, however, so it may be that a bike will come in handy after all!

I should be able to devote a fair bit of time to patching Goring and it will be very interesting to see how things pan out over the next few months...

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Bowling Green Marsh RSPB, 12th November 2017

Back at Bowling Green for the second day running, I had a little more time to spare and ventured over to the estuary viewing platform as well as The Lookout. A flock of 12 Greenshanks was on the estuary, along with a lone Knot, 25 Bar-tailed Godwits, 300 Redshanks and 25 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, and the Marsh Harrier cruised the reedbed again while two Ravens were harrassed by the more regular corvids. A Cetti's Warbler gave one burst of song but was probably put off by the sharp showers and 45 Black-tailed Godwits were seen.

Bowling Green Marsh RSPB, 11th November 2017

My mum, dad and I found ourselves in Devon for a weekend visiting family friends that we haven't seen for a couple of years. It was a pretty miserable morning but, with a couple of hours to spare and the Exe Estuary being surprisingly accessible from the middle of nowhere (if you're staying by the M5), my dad kindly took me to Bowling Green Marsh where I saw the scruffy Ross's Gull in 2014 for a bit of a birding interlude. I chose to sit out the constant drizzle in 'The Lookout' which as its name might suggest gives a pretty good general view over the relatively humble but bird-filled freshwater scrape. Highlights included a quartering Marsh Harrier, a flock of 250 Avocets and some 41 Pintail.

part of the Avocet flock

Friday, 10 November 2017

Canons Farm and Reading Services, 10th November 2017

A pleasant stroll around the patch this morning, joined for the latter half by Linda M, didn't turn up very much other than four redpolls, small numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings, the resident pair of Red-legged Partridges and a Meadow Pipit but the autumn colours and bright skies ensured it was worthwhile.

Later on, en-route to Devon I saw 18 Pied Wagtails by the M4 at Reading Services.

Canons Farm, 9th November 2017

It's now that time of year when after-work visits to the patch become centred on owling and this evening was quite rewarding with a Tawny and four Littles calling. A Meadow Pipit flew over and, under the blanket of darkness, a few Redwings could be heard passing overhead.