Monday, 24 September 2018

The benefit of hindsight

The Temminck's Stint which overwintered at Pulborough Brooks last year was a much talked about and much enjoyed bird, being the first wintering record in Sussex since the mid-1970s. It became a regular feature of my patch visits from December to March but was sadly never seen again after the 'Beast From The East' so presumably it either perished or was wise enough to fly further south to escape the weather.

News of the bird broke on Saturday 9th December 2017 when Pulborough regular Alan Baker clinched the ID with good views from West Mead hide and called it in to a somewhat incredulous operator at one of the bird news services. There has, however, recently been some discussion between Alan, me and the county recorder, Mark Mallalieu, as to exactly when this bird actually arrived on site. The confusion has arisen thanks to there also being a Little Stint recorded on a number of occasions during November and Mark is, understandably, keen to clarify exactly when the Temminck's arrived and the Little did a bunk.

Alan reported seeing a Stint from the Hanger towards the end of November which flew off before he and others present could get a decent look at it, but his general impression was that it wasn't the Little Stint. I actually saw the Temminck's on the morning of the 9th but distantly from Winpenny and foolishly assumed it to be the Little again. I do remember noting that the bird seemed rather skulkier and browner on the back than I would have expected for Little Stint but having not seen either species so late in the year before I'm pretty unfamiliar with their winter plumages. Indeed, prior to the Pulborough Temminck's I had only seen one before, a summer plumage bird at Tice's Meadow in Surrey back in May 2013.

After further queries from Mark I revisted some shaky phonescope footage I took of a Stint, again distantly from Winpenny on the 25th, which at the time I again assumed was Little, but having studied it further and with the benefit of hindsight I am now of the opinion that this was in fact the first confirmed sighting of the Temminck's - and Mark agrees.
This is one of those valuable lessons in birding. I knew when I moved down to Sussex and started patchwatching Pulborough that waders were not my strongest subject and a winter plumage Temminck's Stint in totally the wrong part of the world in December was a pretty good curveball for the birding gods to throw at me in my first year here. Of course, what I ought to have done, in this era of social media and instant messaging, was to share the videos with people and got some second opinions at the time - which is precisely what I'll do if something like this happens again. That's one of the things I love about birding though - we're always learning!

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Recent nocmiggings

I've been getting back into the swing of more regular nocturnal recording this month, and have tried to get the mic out at least a couple of times a week - though the blustery conditions the past few days have been less than conclusive but at least gave a welcome break in which to catch up on earlier recordings.

Not a huge amount of note from the four nights recording so far in September aside from a Spotted Flycatcher on the 14th - a nocmig first - and the only wader recorded so far this month in the form of a Dunlin on the 13th.

14th/15th was certainly the liveliest one this month with a Dunnock and several probable Robin/Flycatcher calls indicating a busy night for passerine movement. At least seventeen calls that night remain unidentified though, frustratingly, which seems a common problem in the nocmig community at this time of year in particular.

The recorder was out again last night as the wind finally abated for a few hours so it will be interesting to see what that one delivers.

All data now on Trektellen.

 Bit of a head-scratcher this one but my first thought was Dunlin and others agreed. Not their usual call but certainly within their range. I wonder if the apparent drop in pitch isn't purely caused by the doppler effect of the bird travelling at speed away from the microphone - this would also explain why the second call is lower in both pitch and volume than the first.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018


Wryneck is one of those species that I've never gone out of my way to look for or twitch, preferring to wait and find one myself. Somehow though, in almost ten years of serious birding I've spectacularly failed to find my own and so until yesterday it remained one of the most glaring omissions from my UK list.

As such, when Chris and Juliet Moore messaged yesterday morning to say they'd relocated the Wryneck on Chantry Hill - just down the road from Pulborough - found by Martin Peacock on the 5th, I couldn't resist dropping in after work to have a look.

The bird was typically tricky to find but after a couple of passes around the bushes near the dew pond it flew up from near one of the many large ant hills and into a nearby Hawthorn where it skulked largely out of view for a few minutes until a passing dog walker spooked it into an Elder. Here it showed briefly before dropping down into the undergrowth before finally emerging and showing much better for a few minutes before flying off and deep into another clump of bushes further away, at which point I decided to leave it in peace. Now to find one at Pulborough!

Friday, 7 September 2018

Pulborough (mostly), early September

A decent session today, the third consecutive day I've visited the patch after a brief hiatus for our wedding and 'mini-moon' - the latter a very pleasant couple of days in Lyme Regis which produced only my third UK Dipper on the river near the town mill.
Dipper, Lyme Regis
Back to Pulborough and today saw me spend a very rewarding eight hours at the Brooks. Aside from the usual 110+ Lapwings, wader interest was provided by just 3-4 Green Sandpipers and a Common Sandpiper on the North Brooks. The ongoing ditch clearance work here is starting to attract the attention of certain other species, with at least five Whinchats hopping about on the freshly dredged mud and a single Wheatear perched on a nearby fence. Yellow Wagtail and Raven were heard but not seen.

A female Redstart was on the fence near West Mead while three males of various ages were working their way along the fence near Winpenny, along with a Reed Warbler. At Redstart Corner three Lesser Whitethroats were feeding on blackberries in the same scope view; my first record of this species here this month.
Reed Warbler
A good day for raptors with four or five Hobbies about, at least five each of Buzzard and Kestrel and singles of Sparrowhawk, Red Kite and Marsh Harrier. A juvenile Peregrine caused chaos on the North Brooks but spectacularly failed to catch anything.

An almost constant movement of House Martins was going on throughout the day, but as our location changed it was almost impossible to keep track of numbers. Certainly many hundreds of birds involved with probably fewer than one in fifty of them a Swallow.

Away from the patch, a trip down to the coast yesterday produced at least seven Yellow Wagtails and five Wheatears along the beach at Climping, while at least ten Sandwich Terns fed just offshore and six Oystercatchers flew east. At Littlehampton there were a few more Oystercatchers along the beach along with a rather incongruous Little Egret wading about in the surf with the Herring Gulls.
Yellow Wagtail on the beach at Climping
Nocmigging has taken a bit of a back seat in the past couple of weeks but my most recent attempt on the night of 25th/26th August was the best of the autumn so far. From now on I'm going to be recording all my nocmig data on Trektellen; results from the aforementioned night below along with one of the Oystercatcher call sequences.