Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Pulborough round-up, late October

Great to finally complete the set of British Owls on my Pulborough list recently with the addition of Short-eared Owl, seen first from behind the visitor centre on the evening of the 23rd then subsequently added to the garden list the following evening, seen over the North Brooks from my attic - then again on Sunday evening quartering up and down the banks of the Stor.

Short-eared Owl over the North Brooks on Sunday. Photo by Istvan Radi
Keeping with the (sort of) nocturnal theme, the nocmig adventures continue as I'm still working through the past week's backlog of recordings. A recent highlight was what sounded like at least two or three Brent Geese flying over not long after midnight on the 19th. There's always a few vismig records of this species in the southeast at this time of year as they 'cut the corner' from the east coast to the south coast, but still a nice one to get on nocmig and only my second record since I started recording at the end of last year.

Other highlights from the past weekend were at least three each of Marsh Harrier (including an adult male) and Red Kite on Saturday plus two Shelduck, a Little Egret and a heard only Water Rail below the Hanger. Duck numbers continue to increase with at least four hundred Wigeon and eight Pintail on Sunday. Eighteen hundred Woodpigeons flew southwest in an hour on Saturday morning, while down on the South Brooks a White-fronted Goose bearing a red leg ring was in with the Greylags - presumably not a wild bird as I believe it's been seen on and off a few times in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, on Sunday morning Paul had a Ruff with the Lapwings at Hail's View; a species that has been notable by its absence at Pulborough this autumn, especially compared to last year when we had a pretty remarkable count of 26 together on one day in late September. Presumably not a good breeding season for them, as has been the case for many shorebirds it seems.

Gary Trew had a ringtail Hen Harrier over the South Brooks yesterday and a Dunlin with the Lapwings on the North Brooks, while the Hen Harrier showed again today for Russ Tofts followed by another Short-eared Owl sighting and Woodock over the car park via Gary T.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Nocmig gold - YBW!

I've been nocmigging pretty much every other night so far this month, weather permitting, which means I've inevitably ended up with a bit of a backlog of recordings to go through. A dark and rainy evening last Sunday provided the perfect opportunity to do a bit a of catching up and I set about working my way through the night of the 8th/9th.

A nice and clear Water Rail was a good start but there wasn't a huge amount else of note until an odd little 'V' shape at 23:25hrs caught my eye. Clearly rather quiet, I initially took it to be a slightly odd Redwing call, but then the penny dropped. I checked on Xeno-canto and, sure enough, the recordings and sonograms on there proved that mine was a perfect match for Yellow-browed Warbler. Given the numbers in the country at this time of year I suppose it's inevitable that many must fly straight over at night, but it's still quite extraordinary to imagine this tiny little bird calling as it cruised over Pulborough. A Sussex, Pulborough and garden tick triple - or at least it would have been had I not been asleep at the time!

Sonogram of the YBW over Pulborough and one from Xeno-canto to compare (below)

And here's the Water Rail from earlier in the night

Pulborough, 20th-21st October

A mixed weekend at Pulborough. Water levels steadily increasing along with Wigeon and Lapwing numbers (conservative counts of 220 and 400 today, respectively). Yesterday there were three Black-tailed Godwits and a single Redshank on the North Brooks, with another two Redshanks seen at Hails View. Noticeably more Goldcrests around but surprisingly few thrushes, with just fifteen Redwing, ten each of Blackbird and Song Thrush and a single Fieldfare. A good selection of flyover bits with singles of Crossbill and Brambling the highlights. A Little Owl was calling loudly but remained unseen on the east side of the reserve. A couple of hours this afternoon produced a Barn Owl at Redstart Corner, a heard only Water Rail from the Hanger and a flyover Green Sandpiper near Winpenny while highlights on the North Brooks (among the Lapwing and Wigeon) were two Pintail, two Common Gulls, six Gadwall, 10+ Snipe, a Little Egret and a striking leucistic Black-headed Gull. Friday's Redstart was reported again at West Mead but I didn't see it. A rather faded Clouded Yellow was on the wing in Brook Field.
Distant and grainy phonescope shots as is the norm at Pulborough but clear enough to see the overall slim build, thin bill, pointed wings and total absence of black in the wing on this presumed leucistic Black-headed Gull on the North Brooks this afternoon
Possibly the most entertaining moment of the weekend was watching a Grey Heron wrestling with an Eel at Winpenny on Saturday morning. The Eel was near enough the same length as the Heron's body and although the Heron managed to swallow it whole on several occasions the Eel managed to wriggle its way back out every time. Eventually the Heron stabbed the unfortunate creature a few times with its bill before carrying it off, bloodied, into the reeds.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Pulborough, late September

Well, what a quiet September that was. The continuing low water levels and an almost total absence of easterlies didn’t help and I spectacularly managed to get through the month without a single patch year tick. It's been good to see some signs of the seasons changing though with a few Wigeon around now and the welcome return of at least two Marsh Harriers, again a regular sight quartering over the Brooks. The bulk of the hirundines and summer passerines cleared out pretty sharpish towards the end of the month, meaning we are now in that rather odd limbo period as we await the arrival of most of the wintering ducks and thrushes.

The month ended with a bang for some though as lucky regular Paul messaged me first on Saturday evening while I was in London informing me of two Great Egrets on the North Brooks and then again Sunday afternoon asking what looks like a Little Egret with a yellow bill that hangs around cows... Cattle Egret of course! Evidently two were briefly on the North Brooks that morning before flying east. Particularly galling that one as they would have been a Pulborough tick and also because I was actually on site that morning! Fingers crossed there'll be more to come, given how many are in the country at the moment.
One of the two Cattle Egrets on the 30th (photo: Paul)

The two Great Egrets on the North Brooks on the 29th (photo: Paul)
Now we’re past the equinox and the nights are growing longer than the days, before and after work birding time is limited so it’s full on nocmig season again! I put the microphone out most nights in the last week of September and was rewarded with my third Common Scoter of the year on the 22nd, the first Redwing of the season (25th) and another Oystercatcher (28th). I'm excited to see what else I manage to pick up in the coming weeks, this being my first full autumn of nocmigging.
Common Scoter