Sunday, 22 July 2018

Pulborough, 21st-22nd July

A productive weekend on the patch. Saturday's visit was particularly good - probably the best session since the spring - with 68 species recorded in a little over four hours. The first returning Whinchat was the undoubted highlight, kicking around with a couple of Stonechats on the North Brooks. The most diverse selection of waders of 'autumn' so far were also on show on the muddy margins of what's left of the water on the North Brooks: twelve Green Sandpiper, two Common Sandpiper, four Black-tailed Godwit, two Dunlin, one Redshank and at least three Snipe. The Dunlin were particularly nice as I actually picked them up on call flying over before they dropped in. They only stayed for a minute or two though before carrying on.
Black-tailed Godwits

Little Egret
Ninety minutes on Sunday afternoon proved less productive in terms of waders with just four Green Sandpipers, three Snipe and one each of Black-tailed Godwit and Common Sandpiper of note. Best though was the juvenile Mediterranean Gull which hung out with thirty adult Black-headed Gulls on the North Brooks for around half an hour before flying off east. The first Med Gull I've actually had on the deck here after a few flyovers earlier this year.
juvenile Med Gull

Southern Hawker

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Summertime Blues

Continuing the 'it's a bit quiet' theme from my previous blog post early July didn't really produce much in the way of avian fireworks at Pulborough. Thankfully though the first waves of returning waders have been keeping the interest up and of course there's also plenty of invertebrate interest at this time of year, but more on that later.
Early morning looking across Winpenny Brook to Hanger Wood
The waders really started getting going as June gave way to July with the usual early movers beginning to arrive in the form of some good accumulations of Little Ringed Plover (peaking at eleven on 28th June), Green Sandpiper (nine on 10th July), Black-tailed Godwit (ten on 10th July), Common Sandpiper (three on 17th July) and odds ones and twos of Dunlin and Greenshank. The breeding Redshanks and their offspring have all but cleared out with just the odd juvenile lingering now, while Lapwing numbers are beginning to increase with presumably many of the local breeders among them. Mind you, like many wetland sites across the UK this summer, the Brooks is in need of a good top up soon to maintain interest for any waders or wildfowl.
Green Sandpiper

Green Sandpiper

Green Sandpiper
Talking of wildfowl, well it's a bit quiet there too really, with just handfuls of Teal and the odd couple of Shoveler mixed in amongst the hoards of eclipse plumage Mallards lately, all crammed into what's left of the water on the North Brooks.

Gulls are rarely numerous at Pulborough so it's been good to hear a few reports of Mediterranean Gulls dropping in recently, although I've missed most of them myself! I also managed to miss another local Osprey when one flew over Hardham a couple of Sundays ago. The observer (Martin Lanaway) reported the alarm calls of Herring Gulls drawing the bird to his attention which is particularly frustrating as I was at home at the time and remember hearing some Gulls calling but foolishly was in a bit of a rush to leave the house and so didn't investigate further. I bet it must have flown right over the Brooks/garden!

As is typical for the time of year, most of the migrant passerines are keeping their heads down now, with odd squeaks, tuts and whistles from Lesser Whitethroats, Nightingales and others staying largely hidden in the undergrowth. There seem to be more Meadow Pipits around the past few days and I've noted the odd Sand Martin flying strongly south, so some small signs of change there. I'm hopeful that the coming weeks will deliver a few of the glaring omissions from my patch year list such as Yellow Wagtail and Redstart but only time will tell.
Grey Heron
Somewhat unexpected towards the end of June and early July was a singing Woodlark, rather bizarrely favouring the area between Uppertons Field and Hanger Wood. Whether it was the male of the pair that had been holding territory on the heath up until the 'Beast from The East' arrived or a new individual is of course impossible to know but it was still lovely to hear that lilting song echoing around the Brooks again for a few days - it seems to have moved on again now. Despite increasing numbers of Starlings (over a hundred on the 13th of this month) I've still been unsuccessful in gleaning out a Pastor roseus to add to the patch list. Indeed, I've not had a patch tick of any kind since the Common Terns on 20th June, so another reason to look forward to the autumn!

As I mentioned in my intro though, Pulborough is a great place to find all manner of non-avian wildlife, especially in the extraordinarily hot and dry summer we're currently experiencing. I told myself I'd try to sharpen my Odonata ID skills this year and Black Pond in particular is the perfect place to do just that. Black Darter is a species I'd never knowingly seen before until this year, so I was particularly pleased to see several here after a tip-off tweet from Alan Kitson. The woodland butterflies have been out in force too, with White Admiral and Silver-washed Fritillary putting on good shows in Black Wood, and still plenty of Purple Hairstreaks around, while the first Brown Hairstreaks have also begun to emerge now - best seen along the paths near the Hanger or down to Nettley's Hide.
Black Darter
Large Red Damselfly
Emerald Damselfy
Another place that's always worth a visit at this time of year - particularly for butterflies - is Knepp Wildlands. After reading of the incredible numbers of Purple Emperors being recorded at the end of June, I visited on the 30th with Kate and in just a couple of hours we saw at least forty of these majestic butterflies cruising about all over the place, along with a similar number of Purple Hairstreak. I've been aware of the White Stork re-introduction project for a while but even so it was quite surreal to see one casually gliding overhead at one point. I returned again a couple of weeks later with Charlie Peverett and Chris Ball, neither of whom had been before. As our visit was earlier in the day and a little later in the season we 'only' saw a handful of Purple Emperors this time but also had a bonus couple of Turtle Doves in flight. It's amazing to think Knepp only started recording this species again in 2007 and this year they have had eighteen singing males.
Purple Emperor

Silver-washed Fritillary

White Stork

Purple Hairstreak

"There ain't no cure for the summertime blues", sang Eddie Cochran. Well, all I can say is Eddie clearly wasn't much of a naturalist. The summer may be quiet for birding but there's always stacks of other stuff to look at and autumn proper really isn't too far away now, and that's a heartening thought to cheer up any birder suffering with the blues.