Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Medmerry Black-winged Stilt

I was in two minds about going out today. The weather did not look so good and the birding has been a bit slow of late.The decider was a pair of Black-winged Stilts still being reported at Medmerry. I had seen a pair down at Dungeness a few weeks ago but these were Sussex birds and so a patch tick.

I started the day off at Pagham Harbour Visitors Centre with another two hours wasted trying to get a picture of the resident Cuckoo. Again I had plenty of views but I just could not get it in the viewfinder either perched up or flying - very frustrating. The consolation was a Wood Sandpiper on the back of the Ferry Pool. I managed a couple of record shots but it was too far away for a decent picture. Fortunately a couple of friendly birders let me have a look through their telescope and I was able to see the diagnostic features.

No pictures of the Cuckoo or Wood Sandpiper so you will have to make do with a Chaffinch

The Black-winged Stilts had been reported on the scrape at the end of the footpath on the Earnley side of Medmerry. It's a long walk in, particularly if the birds have flown when you get there, but if you don't look you don't get to see so walk it was. I am glad I went. The Stilts were still there as were some other interesting birds although they were all a bit distant.

Black-winged Stilts

Given that the environment is only about a year old the bird population is building up nicely. I just hope these are new birds and not just ones that have been attracted away from Pagham Harbour. There were a number of Avocets there and they appeared to be sitting on nests. I only saw one younster but that was being well cared for by the parent who was seeing off any Gulls or Crows that came close.


The Avocets are very protective parents and even the Stilts were expected to keep their distance.

Not really a threat but see it off anyway

There was also a Curlew Sandpiper putting in an occasional appearance. Again very distant but this time the record shot is just about acceptable. You can see the diagnostic features, long black legs, pale stripe over the eye, slightly downcurved bill. The white underside is gradually disappearing as the bird moults into its red summer plumage

Curlew Sandpiper

I had a couple of hours left and a choice of things to do. I could head off to Whiteways and look for the Turtle Dove or have a look around Church Norton for a Flycatcher or other migrants. I chose Church Norton which was probably the wrong decision as the Turtle Dove was found at Whiteways.

Nothing was found by me at Church Norton apart from the rather odd behaviour of a cock pheasant. He was stood on one of the old gravestones as I walked through the church yard and he was still there when I came back half an hour later. I went over to investigate and he was rather reluctant to move away, letting me get within five or six feet before he moved off. There was no name on the gravestone, it had worn away with time, but I did wonder if he had found the remains of an old game keeper or poacher and had been dancing on their grave.

Pheasant on gravestone

I also took a couple more pictures of butterflies when I was out on Monday. Not enough for a blog but they are worth adding here.

Common Blue

The Wall Brown has to be one of the hardest to photograph. I am used to chasing Brimstones or Orange Tips over long distances but at least they stay at a reasonable height. The Wall likes baked hard bare mud where it waits until I get down alongside it laying on my belly when it then takes off and lands ten feet away. This is a game that we pursued over a couple of hours in the hot sun on Monday afternoon. I got my record shots but it was hard work and I am going to have to do it all over again to try to improve on the ones that I got.

Wall Brown

Wall Brown closed wing shot.

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