Tuesday, 27 August 2013


Out with Dave on Tuesday and it was back to Pagham Harbour still looking for a Pied Wagtail. First stop was Church Norton but there had obviously been a big clear out overnight and there was very little showing. Nice to see Dave mobile again, but it was just as well that I had him to talk to as there was nothing happening on the birding front. The best we could manage were distant views of a Restart and also of a Spotted Flycatcher as we returned to the car park.

The Long Pool gave distant views of a Greenshank and whilst the Ferry Pool had a good few birds on it they were mostly distant as well.

Next stop was the North Wall and as with yesterday the Sand Martins and Swallows were still gathering on the power lines at the entrance. Lots of chattering and preening going on in preparation for migration.

Sand Martin

There was nothing outstanding on the Breech Pool or in the Creek, but there was a constant stream of interesting birds. I checked Dave's blog and as I expected, he had spent so long enjoying the sunshine and talking to people, that he had forgotten to take pictures of most of them.

There were Common Sandpipers and a possible Curlew Sandpiper in the creek but they were difficult to photograph against the harsh backlight. These two were out on the harbour wall. There is quite a difference in size but they both look like Commons.

Common Sandpipers

 The Spotted Redshank was still around but that has been in my last two blogs. There were a couple of Snipe showing well and also two Dunlin that were being harrassed by the Lapwings whenever they approached too close. Whilst a common wader the Dunlin are still an attractive bird.


One of the more interesting birds of the day was this Starling that came in at the back of the Breech Pool. Its the first time I had seen one looking like this.


The Yellow Wagtails were about but keeping their distance again. I need to get a few shots of them when they are feeding around the cattle, where they seem much more approachable. There is also a Canary Yellow male about the North Wall somewhere. I had seen it the previous day but only managed a blurred shot of its top half and it showed fleetingly again today.

Yellow Wagtail

The ducks are starting to return with Teal already in large numbers. Three unusual ducks flew in as we watched. It's always difficult when they are in eclipse but these were sleek, long tailed and long winged. Pintails, a greyhound amongst ducks as Collins puts it.


Showing upper wing markings so this is a male in eclipse.

Finally as we were leaving we had distant views of a Whinchat, either a female or a juvenile. The pictures are poor but you are seeing them anyway as this is my 200th bird for the year (203 if I count Ireland)


When I arrived home I saw the report of the Sykes's/Booted Warbler at Climping . I thought about it for a while and in the end decided that as it was so close I should go. When I arrived there were a lot of people standing around the Tamarisk bushes looking for the bird. I did see a bird flitting between bushes and disappearing into deep cover and there seemed general agreement that this was the Sykes's. I am not sure. It was probably a warbler that I was looking at but I could not get a picture of it, and I certainly could not identify what type of warbler it was.

The light was fading so I decided to go home. I will not be adding this to my life list but I might just go back in the morning and have another look. That is if the crowds are not too big.

Monday, 26 August 2013


Monday afternoon and it was back to Pagham Harbour to see if I could catch up with any of the birds that I missed on the Friday. First stop was the North Wall and I was greeted by hundreds of Hirundines gathering on the wires at the end of Church Lane. They were mostly Sand Martins but with a few Swallows amongst them and the size difference to the smaller Martins was very noticeable.

Sand Martin

The Yellow Wagtails were easy to locate this time but they were very mobile and difficult to get close to. I managed a few shots when the incoming tide pushed a few of them up against the wall adjacent to the sluice gates.

Yellow Wagtail

 There were also a couple of well camouflaged juvenile Little Ringed Plovers feeding in the same area.

Juvenile Little Ringed Plover

It was then round to Church Norton and it all looked very promising with a number of Spotted Flycatchers showing well as I arrived.

Spotted flycatcher

The flycatchers were very active and there was certainly no shortage of food for them.

No need to leave the perch

No sign of the male Redstart but this female was very obliging and easy to photograph whilst she was feeding.

Female Redstart

Showing the rusty tail colours

This Song Thrush watched for a while before it also flew down to get in the picture.

Song Thrush

There had been no sightings of the Wryneck all day but it was a nice evening and I felt obliged to have a quick look. I should have known better and gone home early. And, still no Pied Flycatcher.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Spotted Flycatcher

Friday saw me with the chance of my first full days birding for a few weeks. Where to go? Seaford Head looked promising and Beachy Head always seems to turn up the unexpected at this time of year, but in the end I chose Pagham Harbour. My reasoning - I was missing a few of the more obvious year ticks, they are regulars at Pagham and I knew where to look for them.

Top of my list was the Spotted Flycatcher, one of my favourite birds, but I also had hopes of Yellow Wagtails, and who knows, maybe a Pied Flycatcher or Wryneck. Dream on, I had a good day, but not that good. In fact the day was more about the birds that I missed rather than those that I saw.

A seven o'clock start at Church Norton found the place devoid of any signs of life except for a couple of other despondent birders. It was a nice morning but the wind was strong and seemed to get everywhere and the birds were not flying. The best I could manage were a few Redshanks enjoying the early morning sun.


As the morning wore on the birds became more active. I was being told about Redstarts, Tree Pipits, Spotted Flycatchers,  and even a possible Pied but still I had not seen anything. I did consider moving on to another site but in the end I decided to stake out a corner at the back of the graveyard and wait for a Spotted Flycatcher to turn up. It worked.

Spotted Flycatcher

The shots were a bit disappointing, but the light was low and the wind was causing a lot of movement, both to the tree and to the camera. With a 500mm lens attached the hood acts a bit like a sail. The second shot is taken at 1/40th of a second so it could have been a lot worse.

I never did catch up with the Redstart or the Tree Pipit and there were no confirmed sightings of the Pied Flycatcher which has now moved to the top of my most wanted list.

There were plenty of birds on the Ferry Pool but as usual they were all at the back so really out of range of my bins and camera. I then moved round to the North Wall where Yellow Wagtails can often be found amongst the cattle in the fields to the north of the wall. No Wagtails that I could see, although there were well over a hundred Curlew in the field that were being regularly flushed by the moving cattle.

The spotted Redshank was still on the Breach Pool along with Common Redshank and a number of Black-tailed Godwits.

Spotted Redshank

Other birds of interest where a Whitethroat fresh from a dip in the creek.


and this Juvenile that had me really struggling for an identification, but as always look for the obvious first and I think it's a Sparrow.

Overall I was happy with the day. However, I did miss a lot of birds and in the evening there was a report of dozens of Yellow Wagtails flitting around by the sluice gates where I had been standing only a couple of hours earlier.

No Yellow Wagtail pictures then, but I thought I would include a picture of a Clouded Yellow taken a few days ago on Ferring Rife.

Clouded Yellow

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Wood Sandpiper

Having seen a Curlew Sandpiper at Pennington but then only managing to get a poor record shot of it, I was looking for an opportunity to get a better picture. Reports indicated that one was showing well from the sluice gates on the north wall at Pagham and I thought that if I got there a couple of hours before high tide the incoming water would drive it closer and give me a better picture opportunity. Good thinking but totally wrong. The incoming tide drove it further down the creek and out of site.

Fortunately there was a consolation prize in the form of a Spotted Redshank. It was showing well on the front of the Breech Pool when I arrived and I managed a couple of quick shots before an incoming flight of ducks spooked it and it flew to the back of the pool and took refuge with the Godwits. This put it just out of range for a decent shot.

Spotted Redshank - still showing some summer plumage

I walked down to the lagoon and spit hide but I was forgetting that the caravan site is full this time of year and there were too many people around for my liking. I did see a couple of Pipits and a few Wheatear but again these were at a distance.


Back on the North Wall and still no sign of the Curlew Sandpiper. The Spotted Redshank remained out of range but the little Egrets were impressive with over 20 birds counted in this one area of the harbour.

Little Egret Roost

The weekend saw me visiting family down near Canterbury and that gave a good opportunity to call in at Dungeness RSPB on the way home to look for Wood Sandpiper.

There were a couple visible from the Firth hide with one giving reasonable picture opportunities.

Wood Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper

 Good record shots and I was pleased to have them but there is a level of frustration at always being that little bit too far away and having to rely on heavy crops. Last weeks Long-billed Dowitcher was a good example. I came away with a decent record shot but then saw a digiscoped shot on the web that showed far more detail than I had achieved. I usually expect the dirty atmosphere and heat haze to be the limiting factor for both approaches but this showed that there are times when the more powerful optics have the edge. This will be more so as we move into the crisper cleaner air of the winter. Perhaps I will have to try doubling up on the extenders to get a better balance between range and quality.

Also showing, but well camouflaged on the mud, was a Common Sandpiper.
Common Sandpiper

Ringed Plover
 And there were late nesting Common Terns on the rafts from the Denge Marsh Hide.

Common Tern chicks - still to fledge

 Also had a walk on the North Downs looking at the butterflies and when I got home I was pleased to find that I had managed to capture an Essex Skipper instead of the Small Skipper I was expecting.

Essex Skipper - showing sex brands parallel to wing edge

Essex Skipper - and black tips to the antennae

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Long-billed Dowitcher and other Waders

Sunday morning and I was awake just after 4am. No point staying in bed and I needed a good days birding with real birds instead of butterflies. By 6am I was standing on Butts Lagoon, Pennington Marshes. First in the car park and first on the lagoon. Great except the bird that I had come to see, a Long-billed Dowitcher was nowhere to be seen.

Still it was a lovely morning and there were lots of real birds about so I set off to explore the other lagoons. The first photo opportunity was a Snipe lit up like a beacon by the early morning sun.

There were hundreds of Dunlin across the lagoons with a few Curlew Sandpipers feeding with them.

Juvenile Dunlin

Adults showing black belly patch diagnostic

I was hoping to get the Curlew Sandpiper in flight with the Dunlin but I cannot see one in this picture. Spotting the Curlew Sandpiper was easy against the summer plumage adult Dunlin but there can be some confusion with the Juveniles and in winter plumage I would struggle to tell the difference between the two.

Curlew Sandpiper - moulting from summer to winter plumage

I was told that there was a Little Stint around but I did not manage to see it. There were Ringed Plovers and Little Ringed Plovers at various points across the lagoons. The bird below gave me a few problems. My initial thought was Kentish Plover but you need to look at the more obvious first. Its a juvenile and I think a juvenile Little Ringed Plover but I am not 100% sure.

Juvenile Little Ringed Plover ?

Redshank, Curlew, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper and families of Egrets all gave picture opportunities and there were Turnstones and Sanderling on the foreshore.


Little Egrets


 I then had a decision to make. I could see through the binoculars that a number of birders were gathering around Butts Lagoon. Do I go back or do I explore the rest of the marshes first? Then the panic sets in - its sure to be showing now and its going to fly away before I can get back there.

I didn't run but equally I didn't stop for any pictures on the way back. The bird was visible but it was hunkered down in the reeds on an island in the middle of the lagoon. Collins says that shape, action, and plumage suggest a cross between Snipe and Bar-tailed Godwits. For me its actions were much more Snipe like. In all the time I watched it did not move more than a foot from the reeds and when the other birds on the lagoon were spooked into the air it dived straight into the reeds to hide.

Snipe and the Snipe like Long-billed Dowitcher

Picture opportunities were limited. The bird stepped out of the reeds a few times to preen but it did not feed and it did not fly. With no chance of getting closer and with difficulty separating the bird from the reeds in the background it ended up as record shots only.

Staying close to the reeds

Showing barred tail feathers and white back

Facing up to local duck

Barred tail and white back

Long-billed Dowitcher

Perhaps disappointing as far as the pictures go but a great bird to see and a life tick for me.