Saturday, 11 April 2020

Crepuscular delights

As much as I've been enjoying the BWKM0 garden birding challenge, this time last week I still hadn't actually had any new additions to the garden list as a result - unlike many others taking part. All that changed in the past few days though, with three garden ticks, one of which was in fact a new species for me in the UK!

It started on Monday morning with the classic drizzly, misty conditions producing the hoped-for Little Gull out on the North Brooks scoped, of course, from the attic. The day soon turned dry and the very calm, chilly evening seemed a good opportunity to get the nocmig recording gear out again. As I did so heard a 'twit twit twit' call which, although immediately familiar, I just couldn't place. A few minutes later I heard it again and the penny dropped, or at least sort of. I text Ed Stubbs to ask if it would be too early for a Spotted Crake, to which he replied 'early but not impossible'. Sure enough, going through the recording the next day I was able to confirm it was indeed a Spotted Crake, which sang several times up until 22:30, after which it wasn't heard again. What an amazing 'garden' record, and a lifer to boot! It's hard to imagine how I can better that on the lockdown list really.
The final garden tick of the week came on Good Friday morning. Mrs Matt and I had decided to get up extra early to listen to the dawn chorus from home. No sooner had we sat down in the garden with coffee and blankets than I heard what sounded like a Nightingale giving its 'huweet' call. Now, obviously the species breeds on the RSPB reserve, so it's always been one I'd hoped to hear from home one day, but I still struggled to contain my excitement when this one started belting out its song from the scrubby bank just below and along from the garden. A Red-legged Partridge 'singing' somewhere beyond the Arun wasn't a new one for the garden but represented an equally welcome lockdown tick. Added to a singing Goldcrest this morning, the BWKM0 list now stands at 89, out of a garden total of 129. What next, I wonder?

Sunday, 5 April 2020

Locked down....but not out

Well, what a strange few weeks it's been since my last post on here. It's hard to keep us birders away from our passion though, wherever we are and whatever challenging situations we're put into, and it's been wonderful to see the 'BWKM0' (birdwatch kilometre zero) challenge take off so strongly on Twitter. Inspired by similarly locked down birders in Italy, Steve Gale has taken on the impressive task of curating the light-hearted competition over here, posting daily updates on his blog.

The rules are simple: to see how many bird species you can record from your house or garden (seen or heard) and ultimately discover what your final tally represents as a percentage of your overall garden list. So far I'm on 78 species out my garden total of 126. I should point out this includes nocmig records as well, of which six are on the 'lockdown list' now, but more on that later.

As anyone who follows my Twitter ramblings will have probably noted, I do a lot of my BWKM0 watching from my attic skylight, which offers fantastic views across the North Brooks, with the South Downs in the background. It's ideal for a scan of the Brooks early morning but I tend to migrate to the garden mid-morning (when I'm not at work) for a better view of the sky, and to concentrate my efforts on looking south down the Arun, which is presumably a flyway of sorts.
Highlights from the attic since the lockdown listing began include a Great Egret on 1st and 5th April, a ringtail Hen Harrier on 30th March and 1st April, and my first Swallow of the year on 28th March; the latter pleasingly followed by others among a steady trickle of Sand Martins this weekend. 

In the warm sunshine this morning it was great to watch a couple of Ravens tumbling over the garden, as my first Sedge Warbler of the year started chattering away down by the Arun. Then this afternoon a drake Goosander flew south along the river, only my second garden record.
Raven over the garden
Raptor-wise, Buzzards are numerous, Red Kite and Peregrine are regular, while Kestrel and Sparrowhawk have put in occasional appearances. Sadly, I'm still yet to join either the Osprey or White-tailed Eagle lockdown club, but here's hoping! 
Peregrine over the garden
Onto nocmig, and it's been an eventful week on that side of things too. The star species at this time of year is of course Common Scoter, with many thousands of them moving overland when conditions suit. A busy night over the north of the country on the night of 1st-2nd April seemed to largely pass the southeast by, but the following night delivered the most spectacular passage of the species I have experienced since I started nocmigging in 2017. I recorded two sizeable flocks over Pulborough at 22:23 and 22:40 on the 2nd (second video below) and almost anyone in their garden or with a recorder out heard calls too - clearly helped by the reduction in traffic and aircraft noise. Other bits of note this past week were a Whimbrel over on the 1st (first video below) and fourteen calls from at least two Oystercatchers on the 2nd. 

The warmer weather has really brought out the butterflies too with plenty of Brimstones and Peacocks visiting the garden this weekend, plus the odd Comma and Small Tortoiseshell and, best of all, the first male Orange-tip of the year this morning. 
Brimstone in the garden