Sunday, 26 August 2018

Pulborough, 25th-26th August

Very much a weekend of two halves, weather-wise, with a glorious four hour visit yesterday in warm late summer sunshine - albeit with a slightly chilly breeze - followed by just a couple of dull and damp hours this morning before the worst of the wind and rain arrived.

After Friday's single Redstart and Tree Pipit in the vicinity of Redstart Corner, I wasted no time in heading to the same area on Saturday morning where I found at least five or six Redstarts dotted about along the fenceline. The hedges here were teeming with birds, even more than on Friday. The Tree Pipit was still around (presumably the same bird as Friday anyway) betraying its presence with its distinctive 'spizz' call as it flew from one of the trees. The lion's share of the passerines were Sylvia warblers with lots of Blackcaps and Common Whitethroats, two Garden Warblers and as many as ten Lesser Whitethroats. There were more of the latter along Adder Alley along with a Reed Warbler.


It was good to run into Dave Buckingham on the way round, and while we were chatting a Peregrine flew over. The trees and bushes around the picnic area and Hanger Wood were also very busy with small birds including two Spotted Flycatchers, while at least another two were around the horse fields to the east of the reserve boundary. Two Yellow Wagtails flew from the North Brooks as I approached, while on the deck here were the lingering two Dunlin, a single Green Sandpiper, around eighty Teal, five Whinchats and a single Wheatear. Reasonable numbers of hirundines around again with House Martin the most numerous (50+) followed by Swallow (20+) and Sand Martin (10).

A shorter visit this morning saw me head straight to the North Brooks, hopeful that the imminent rain would force down a few bits. Again two Yellow Wagtails flew up as I approached, these followed by three in the horse fields later on. Three or four Spotted Flycatchers were working the hedges and fences along the eastern boundary of the reserve. On the North Brooks itself were the two Dunlin again, joined by two Green Sandpipers and a single juvenile Little Ringed Plover. On one of the old fences out beyond the pools were singles of Wheatear and Whinchat. Rather fewer hirundines today despite the cloud and rain, but still at least twenty Sand Martins feeding over the water.
Yellow Wagtails
Yellow Wagtail

Friday, 24 August 2018

Pulborough, mid-August: getting busy!

Return migration has really stepped up a gear in the past few days it seems - particularly on the passerine front - and this morning at Pulborough was without doubt the best visit of the autumn so far. After the disappointment of missing Clive Hope's Pied Flycatcher a couple of weeks ago and then yet another Osprey last weekend which, from Gary Trew's description probably flew right over my house (!), one of my patch bogey birds fell at last today with a male Redstart working its way along the hedge just north of Redstart Corner.
While I was watching it I heard a Yellow Wagtail fly over, my first of the year and later followed by another heard only at the Hanger and a third being chased around the North Brooks by the Pied Wagtails. This species came tantalisingly close to being added to the patch year list a few days earlier with several calls recorded during my first nocmig session of the season on Monday night, but more on that later. The hedgerows were teeming with warblers today, largely Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat and a few Willow Warblers, but also a Garden Warbler near West Mead, a Reed Warbler near Winpenny and at least five Lesser Whitethroats dotted about. Best of all though was the Tree Pipit kicking about in the Blackthorns near West Mead. Only my second record of this species here.
Tree Pipit (and Song Thrush)
There were potentially as many as ten Whinchats about with 4-5 seen on the North Brooks and the same amount on the South Brooks. Reported by others but not seen by me were two Spotted Flycatchers on the far eastern side of the reserve and three near Winpenny later in the day, and a Wheatear on the North Brooks. Good numbers of House Martins and Sand Martins, with the latter mostly streaming straight through while the former were lingering and feeding over the site. These inevitably attracted the attentions of a Hobby which plunged straight through the middle of a flock above the path down to Nettleys. A juvenile Marsh Harrier was again doing the rounds - I saw it from Redstart Corner and later from the visitor centre but others also saw it quartering over the North Brooks. Other than sixty-odd Lapwing there wasn't too much of note on the wader front today, with just two Dunlin and three Green Sandpipers on the North Brooks. Indeed it's been a little quiet on that side of things lately with nothing majorly noteworthy since my Wood Sand a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully September will bring a few more goodies.
View from 'the Obs' (attic) during one of the recent storms
Interestingly my first nocmigging attempts of the autumn this week have provided a bit more wader variety, in particular my first recorded Whimbrel(s) over the house, with six calls from an indeterminable number of birds recorded very early Tuesday morning. Other bits of note include the aforementioned Yellow Wags, a Common Sandpiper, a Little Ringed Plover and a Snipe. Quite a few strange tics and whistles too, particularly on Monday night - most of them as yet unidentified. Ortolan Bunting next?...

Monday, 6 August 2018

Pulborough, 1st-6th August

It's all got distinctly autumnal since my last patch round-up post, starting with the evocative sound of a Willow Warbler sub-singing at dawn on the 2nd and culminating in the first returning Wood Sandpiper of the season on Sunday.
Thursday and Friday's visits were fairly uneventful with just the usual scattering of Green and Common Sandpipers on the North Brooks, though two Gadwall among the Mallards on Thursday were of note as they're the first I've seen onsite for a little while. On Friday I walked to the eastern side of the North Brooks from the village, stumbling across a Tawny Owl along the footpath. I met up with the usual Friday birding gang who reported a Whinchat and occasional calls from the lingering Grasshopper Warbler in this area.
Tawny Owl
Saturday morning produced a single Black-tailed Godwit in among the usual suspects on the North Brooks while John Russell reported a Little Ringed Plover and a Whinchat again.

The mornings are getting steadily mistier and dewier at the moment so it was no surprise to find the North Brooks still largely hidden in the murk when I arrived on Sunday morning. A quick scan revealed a fall of Green Sandpipers though, with at least ten scurrying about. As the mist cleared further a Wood Sandpiper revealed itself - feeding separately from its stockier Tringa cousins. Teal numbers had increased to twenty and there were at least five Snipe about. Everything was sent skyward a few times thanks to a couple of half-hearted swoops from a juvenile Peregrine.

Wood Sandpiper - obligatory long distance phonescope shot
It wasn't just the water birds that had increased overnight as there were clearly more warblers in the bushes. I managed to glean at least six juvenile Willow Warblers and two Lesser Whitethroats. Despite scouring every area of suitable habitat several times over the weekend though I sadly wasn't able to join in the Pied Flycatcher fun, but the autumn is still young!
Lesser Whitethroat
Another foggy start today, though it was nice to hear a Little Owl calling on the east side of the North Brooks as well as a Kingfisher which flew across the water unseen. When the mist did eventually start to clear it revealed seven Green Sandpipers, two Common Sandpipers and a single Little Ringed Plover. Things are certainly hotting up, although the approach of some cooler, rainier weather towards the end of the week is particularly overdue and will hopefully deliver some more migration action.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Pulborough, late July

An encouraging last few days of July with some signs of migration stepping up a gear and the unusually prolonged hot and dry spell breaking at last with some much needed rain arriving over the weekend.

The rain didn't do a great deal to raise the water levels on the patch, mind, with the North Brooks still the only area offering anything for waders and waterfowl - so it's here I've been largely focussing my early morning efforts recently.

An hour before work on Friday (27th) produced my only year tick of the month with a Grasshopper Warbler (142 on the patch year list) reeling briefly along the footpath on the east side of the North Brooks. It was still present in the same area on Sunday morning but again keeping well hidden.

Waders have been in surprisingly short supply, relatively speaking, despite my best efforts in the foul weather on Sunday morning which I had high hopes would deliver something tasty, especially given the numbers of Whimbrels and Curlew Sandpipers moving elsewhere the previous day. Indeed it's been business as usual for a while now with a fairly standard selection of varying numbers of Green Sandpipers, Common Sandpipers, half a dozen or so Black-tailed Godwits and ones or twos of Dunlin and Little Ringed Plover. It's good to see Snipe numbers gradually increasing though with at least ten dotted around the North Brooks on Saturday morning.

On the wildfowl front there are a few Shoveler and Teal to be picked out among the Mallards, but an eclipse drake Wigeon on Saturday morning was a little more unexpected. This is presumably either or failed breeder or perhaps one that has summered somewhere fairly locally.

Talking of species I haven't seen a great deal of locally since the spring, on Saturday morning there was a decent trickle of Sand Martins moving through and an immature Marsh Harrier dropped in and quartered for a while, putting the wind up all the other birds on the North Brooks.

After the previous weekend's single juvenile Mediterranean Gull, two more dropped in during the rain on Sunday morning just gone. It seems to have been a good summer for this species generally with some amazing counts along the south coast and juveniles popping up all over the place inland. I've not had much experience with young ones in the past so it's been good to get my eye in on them and I now find they stand out like a sore thumb among the more frequently seen Black-headeds.
Mediterranean Gulls

As I mentioned in my previous patch round-up the single Whinchat on the 21st was unexpectedly early, and Saturday just gone there were at least two kicking around: an adult male still in near breeding finery and one very young-looking juvenile. Gary Trew reported one in the same area on Tuesday this week. This all seems rather early for a string of migrants to be moving through already so I'm actually beginning to wonder if they haven't in fact bred somewhere fairly nearby -  especially as it appears the species has bred up on Cissbury Ring this summer which is not very far away.
Whinchats (honest!)
Mind you, with the days now getting perceptibly shorter as we head into August and an autumnal freshness just starting to creep into the mornings and evenings, it hopefully won't be long before return passage really kicks off!