Friday, 2 October 2020


Despite marking the arrival of both astronomical and meteorological autumn (after three months of birders talking about the season) September can often prove to be a rather disappointing month - for the inland patch watcher at least - and 2020 has continued that trend for me. That’s not to say there’s not been some great birds - just not at Pulborough!

The month got off to a flying start when I self-found a UK lifer in the form of an Icterine Warbler while away for mine and Mrs Matt's second wedding anniversary down in Barton on Sea on the Hampshire coast. This will undoubtedly go down as one of my most memorable finds; we were just out for a stroll along the clifftop before breakfast, and I was pondering the rarity potential of the scrub below us when suddenly the bird popped out into view. A reminder that many hours of patch watching and bush bashing can sometimes be outdone by the most casual of encounters in an unfamiliar place.

Icterine Warbler, Barton on Sea, 1st September

On the subject of memorable finds, Ed Stubbs certainly takes the trophy for the best local find for September - if not the whole year - as he stumbled across a Short-toed Lark on farmland at Shackleford in Surrey on the 19th. I was on the far side of the Pulborough reserve at the time the news broke, so it's fair to say I have rarely cycled faster as I powered home and jumped in the car to go and see the bird. An absolutely epic find for an inland site, the bird performed beautifully in the warm autumn sunshine to the crowd of admirers. Ed looked buzzing, if a little shellshocked, and it was great to catch up with various familiar faces from the Surrey and Hants birding community.
Short-toed Lark, Shackleford, 19th September

Ed and I had planned a trip up to Lewis with Sam and Abel to end the month, but sadly the increasingly strict Covid restrictions put paid to that idea, so we instead decided on a few days down in Cornwall.

The trip was a rewarding one, with 103 species recorded, although we unfortunately weren't able to find any windblown American passerines after the big low that swept through early on Wednesday. Highlights included the very obliging Semipalmated Sandpiper and two equally showy Merlins at Godrevy, two Wrynecks at Botallack, two Sooty Shearwaters and a steady trickle of Balearics past Pendeen, and the odd Yellow-browed Warbler and Firecrest in Cot and Kenidjack Valleys.
Merlin, Godrevy

Semipalmated Sandpiper, Godrevy, 28th September

Pink-footed Geese, Hayle

Yellow-browed Warbler, Kenidjack

Choughs, Cot Valley

Barn Owl, Cot Valley


Herring Gull

Gannets, Pendeen