Sunday, 25 April 2021

Death on the Patch!!

 Thoughts of heading down for another Seawatch, were dispelled by A) forgetting to set an alarm and B) sleeping in until half seven😏,Vague notions of going to Knepp were knocked on the head by Margie deciding to stay in bed!! So I headed for a quick stroll around the "Patch" It's nearly a year since I started "patching" although it's tailed of a bit lately I was hoping for some evidence of Spring Migrants arriving maybe even a Nightingale, although to be honest,if your hoping for a Nightingale you should really get your arse out of bed earlier.

Predictably I didn't find a Nightingale although there were plenty of  Common Whitethroats, Chiffchaffs and 4 Swallows back at the place where they bred last year!!

Common Whitethroat

Common Whitethroat, finally a bird in Blossom could have posed a bit better TBH!!


Other birds of note seen were, a female Bullfinch fly past, a singing Song Thrush, a close Heron, a showyish Skylark and a pair of Stock Doves.

Song Thrush

Song Thrush

Stock Dove

Stock Dove

Grey Heron

Ropey Church pic


Today was more about the Mammals than the birds, with four Foxes seen, an amazingly showy Squirrel and group of three Deer


one of the Deer

Grey Squirrel

Ridiculously showy!!

The other three Foxes were in a field with some sheep, one of which had obviously died and the Foxes took full advantage, at first there were a pair of Foxes on the carcass, with attendant Magpies, I was at distance so headed down the footpath to get a bit closer, as I did another Fox appeared in front of me and trotted down the path before disappearing into the hedge! When I reached an area where I could once again see what was going on, it was interesting to see the pair had moved off and then while I watched the Fox I had seen appeared in the field and took a turn at the meat bonanza! I know it was the same one because it had no tail!! I was tempted to stick around for a while in the hope of a Buzzard or Red Kite coming in to get a piece of the action, but after 10 mins or so with no sign I moved on.
I don't know what the sheep had died of, clearly it wasn't the foxes (it was a big adult sheep, no way could a Fox bring it down and the rest of the Sheep and Lambs in the field paid no attention or showed any fear whatsoever) who had just taken advantage of the situation, Foxes divide many people, some hate them, a lady I spoke to today kept chickens and clearly didn't like em, others feed them and think of them like pets, both in my mind or equally wrong-headed, Foxes are a natural part of our Fauna they play an important part in the ecosystem, as many other scavengers also do, they will predate small animals and birds for sure, but that's nature, I admire their tenacity, cunning and survival instincts, personally I think feeding them is wrong, maintaining predator populations at higher numbers than the prey populations can support is always dodgy and brings unnecessary pressure on to their prey species. That said hardly anything round here is natural and plenty of Foxes meet unnatural deaths at the hands of Gamekeepers and cars so it probably just resets the balance a little!

  I have no clue who owns the land or the sheep and no way of contacting them so left them to it! It is extremely difficult to find out who owns what, which is how they like it, but doesn't help in situations like this, even the lady I spoke to who lived locally had no clue! 

A few pics of the action below, they are not gory but obviously they show a dead sheep so if your squeamish about such things don't look at them.

The pair, the Sheep behind seemed unconcerned by presence of the Foxes

Not sure this Magpie knows what it's doing 

The Fox without a tail

Sneaking in

Magpie waiting for a chance

Keeping an eye out

An interesting encounter, nature's not all pretty birds and flowers!

The last sighting of note was a nice flock of Linnets and Goldfinches in the vineyard, flighty, as these birds usually are, but a bit of patience paid off and managed a few shots!! Nice to see Linnets they have been conspicuous by their absence during the winter!




Linnet savaging a seed




So an interesting couple of hours home by 8.45!!


Saturday, 24 April 2021

Seaford Seawatch

 With reports of interesting stuff, a few Poms, Little Gulls and the like going through all week it was a no brainer today to head down to Splash Point for an early morning Seawatch! With Sunrise at 5.50 and remembering that first light is earlier, the alarm was set for 5,amazingly I woke up at 4.40,so to cut a long story short, I was scope out at Splash point at 5.30,quite breezy so wrapped up warm but nice and sunny, when the sun rose obvs😀

Newhaven lighthouse from Splash Point Seaford pre-sunrise

I would like to note at this point that my usual standard of pic (ok to average!) has taken a bit of a hit today due to the distances involved and the difficulty of spotting birds in the viewfinder as opposed to the scope!! So they are mostly pretty pants!! Although there are some better ones at the end!!

However the birding was excellent and probably the best Seawatch for a couple of years, although with the pandemic I've probably only done a couple in that time so not a surprise.

I was on my own for the first half n hour, but numbers of birders built up to about 20,which from my point of view was blooming handy in terms of spotting and identifying  stuff !! Late arrivals transferred to the beach so social distancing was pretty well maintained.

In my defence I only made one minor rook today, calling a possible Sabine's Gull!! Now obviously we are standing next to a Kittiwake colony, however the bird I saw had no black at all on the forewing, there was only another couple of birders present at this point (luckily for my embarrassment) The bird went high and I lost it. A couple of mins later the other guys got on a bird and confirmed Kittiwake, however I didn't get on that bird and it seemed to be in a different direction to the one I saw, so cannot confirm it was the same one, although on the face of it this could be a coincidence but then again we are next to a Kittiwake colony. I don't know the likely hood of a still in winter plumage Sabines Gull is at Seaford at this time of year (probably minute chance) But i have googled images of Juvenile Kittiwake (scientific research obviously😃) and cannot find any with no black on the Forewing!! I had good views of my bird and it definitely didn't have any, so who knows, I couldn't get a picture and didn't have the presence of mind to note any other differences, likely hood was it's a Kittiwake but can't help thinking it was the one that got away, let's hope one turns up at Widewater tomorrow😄 I also despite being rusty didn't fall for the light on the Common Scoter wings situation and didn't call any false Velvets!!

So what else was seen 

Well I was on my own I had 20 odd Bar-tailed Godwits,200 Common Scoter, in various size groups, some Whimbrel, a few Gannets, the local Oystercatchers, Kittiwakes and Fulmars, a close in male Red-breasted Merganser and at 6.20 my first Skua of the year a Dark-phase Arctic went by luckily another birder had now arrived and confirmed the sighting which was quite distant.

Red-breasted Merganser


Distant Gannet

The Gathering of the Kittiwakes



So with other birders present, instead of a minute by minute account,(no chance with my memory😲) I will just list the birds I saw in the order of awesomeness and provide pictures of varying quality to compliment the report, although rusty, I'm pleased to say, I pretty much got on everything that was called except,3 Tufted Ducks, a Red-throated Diver and the Grey Plovers, safe to say today done my paltry year list the power of good!! 


Well most notable were the Pomeranian Skuas, for Non-birding readers these are probably the most prized birds on a South Coast Seawatch. While I was present 11 went past, giving excellent views Two Singletons, then a group of  6, and a Twosome which probably gave the best views of all

Some images below (quite a few😂)

Poms Galore!!

A long with the Poms we also had while I was there 3 Arctic Skua and 2 Great Skuas (Bonxies)   the Bonxies were the last birds of note that I saw, unfortunately I got no pics of the Bonxies (to distant) and only a couple of one of the Arctics

Arctic Skua

Pale Phase Arctic Skua

Probably the next most significant movement were the Common Scoter, In my time there,5.30 until approx. 10 o'clock over 2000 went through in various sized groups, it should be noted that I'm far to disorganised to keep count, but other Birders present are more diligent!! We also had a few Velvet Scoters through mostly in with the Commons although the first one went through on it's own, I got no usable pictures(surprise,surprise), there was also, Shelducks, Red-breasted Merganser, Shoveller, the Tufties that I missed, 3 probable Pintails seen distantly when I was on my own, but were miles out so not a %100 sighting. There was also a flock of Scoter which was full of other duck some Shoveller and some smaller and we couldn't really call them either. My Scoter Pics are not great, very few of the groups came close!

Red-breasted Merganser pair

Common Scoter

Common Scoter

Common Scoter


Common Scoter

Little Gulls

Little Gulls are awesome, although we had 80+ go through in various groups none came anywhere near close so some record shots below, I wouldn't normally bother with pics of this quality but Little Gulls are awesome and this is a birding blog not photography blog!!

Little Gulls

The Standard of pics should get better from now on (not hard I hear you cry!!)


Quite a few Terns going through with 4 Little Terns seen, very distant no pics. Fair few Sandwich Terns some of which came fairly close, and quite a few "Commic" Terns, We had a group of 4 fairly early which all present agreed were Arctics but most of the rest were,either Commons or not close enough to decide for sure hence "Commic"

Sandwich Tern

Common Tern


Were quite a few about but didn't feel like migration seemed to be just blogging about and no big groups!


The biggest group I saw


To be honest, I struggle with Wader ID on a Seawatch which is why it's handy to have a load of other highly skilled birders standing next to you calling them out.!!😀 
The most notable Wader movement were the Whimbrels and Bar-tailed Godwits, but also seen today were, Sanderling, Dunlin, Grey Plover (though not by me), Oystercatcher and a flock of Knot!


A mixture of Whimbrel and Barwits


Whimbrel and a couple of Barwits


Yes I admit it rather Whimbrel heavy but the other Waders are to blooming small and quick!!

So what else was seen, a Peregrine in off the sea early on, A Diver thought by the majority to be a Black-throated, (I missed the only Red-throated), A Yellow Wagtail in off, I had two Swifts which no one else saw due to my woeful directions, the local Kittiwakes always entertain, a Tree Pipit went over identified by call ( yes not by me you won't be surprised to hear😃,by someone who knows what they are doing, I heard it but didn't see it) and due to the sharp eyes of another birder, I got my first Shag of the year, Hurrah!!!!!!!!😍😜

Peregrine Falcon

Rock Pipit

Black-throated Diver

First Shag of the year what a relief!!


So with the numbers of birds dwindling and my body seizing up, I decided to call it a day, highly entertaining with a good variety going through highlight obviously the Poms, but 80 little Gulls are always good just wished they come a bit closer!!
Massive thanks to all the other birders, whose sharp eyes and massive knowledge meant I saw 10 times more than I would have on my own!! 
So in order to loosen my aching muscle and put a few steps on the phone, I had a wander halfway up the head, to try and get a few pics of the Kittiwakes and Fulmars, results below (at least the pics are reasonable quality from here on in😂)

Rock Pipit



Last years Kittiwake not sure about this little fella, may just have been having a rest but didn't look %100 well

Ist winter Herring Gull (I Think)


Herring Gull



Third Winter Herring Gull


Noisy Crow

Rock Pipit