Thursday, 22 December 2016


I am still waiting for the Waxwings to arrive in Sussex but with time moving on it is starting to look as though we could miss out on seeing them. That will not come as a surprise to most of the local birders. In an exceptional year across the country, for  rare and scare birds, Sussex has been noticeably missing from the list. Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire seem to be a birding Bermuda Triangle.

Today I needed to travel down to Canterbury. It is a regular trip and I usually take the opportunity to visit a few birding sites on the way. With Waxwings having been reported in the north Kent town of Strood and with it only being a short distance from my intended route it seemed to be worth a visit. At least I would have the opportunity of a 2016 year tick.

When I arrived it didn't look too bad. There were only two other birders present and the Waxwings were flying between a high tree perch and  an orange fruiting Rowan in a garden opposite the Bounty Pub. The only problem was that the Rowan was mostly in shadow.

After about half an hour the lighting improved but unfortunately the number of birders also increased. We were getting up close to twenty people with most standing directly under the feeding tree, setting up tripods and talking loudly. The Waxwings were coming down but were just grabbing a few berries and heading back to the safety of their high level perch.

How inconsiderate birders can be. Don't they realise that I need to have these bird all to myself, for about an hour, in what was turning out to be perfect light. We all have our problems. In the end I gave in, joined the fray, grabbed a couple of quick pictures, and then left to find a more peaceful place.

Dave and I have been able to get some great pictures of Waxwings in the past but you need time and space. A large twitch severely reduces your chances of success. I think, that in the new year, we could be making the trip up north, possibly even to Scotland where at the moment Waxwings can be found in their hundreds. 

My route to Canterbury then continued via a minor detour to Dungeness. I had no specific target but it is always a place where something unusual could turn up. There were Smew and Goldeneye on the Burrows Pit but both were too far away for even a record shot. I also failed to find the Ring-necked Duck behind Bolderwall Farm. However, there were good numbers of Tree Sparrows around Bolderwall, which was good to see after missing them earlier in the summer.

The Long-eared Owl was in its usual spot behind the dipping pool. With the green foliage gone it was at least a bit easier to find him this time.

Lots of other birds but nothing really unusual. The Great White Egret dosen't even raise an eyebrow these days other than for me to think that it is unusual to only find one at Dungeness.

Finally another shot of a Kestrel. One day I will get that picture of a Merlin that has been at the top of my list for so long.

Not a bad day out given that it is just a day after the mid winter solstice.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Snow Bunting

We missed out on seeing Snow Bunting on our February trip to Scotland. They are usually found in good numbers around the car park at the Cairngorm ski lifts or on the coast at Lossimouth. This year we came away from both sites without seeing any.

Early December and it was beginning to look as though I would miss out on the year tick.Then we had a report of a Stone Curlew in a ploughed field at Ella Nore point and close by at East Head a Snow Bunting. I picked Dave up on Monday morning and we headed off towards West Wittering. We didn't hold out much hope of the Stone Curlew still being there but it would be a pleasant walk and the Snow Bunting was worth having.

As often happens we were half way down the A27 when we had a report of another Snow Bunting, this time on our home patch at Goring Gap. We pressed on in the hope of finding the Stone Curlew. Unfortunately it wasn't to be, it must have flown on south overnight.

We found the Snow Bunting at the northern point of East Head where it was being chased along the beach by a couple of dogs. We waited a few minutes and after having given the dogs a bit of exercise, it returned to its feeding area and gave us good views.

It was very active in feeding but as with most Snow Buntings, if you get in front of it and sit and wait it will eventually come quite close.

Missing out on the Stone Curlew was a disappointment but East Head is a nice place in the winter and there are always a good few birds around. It is perhaps worth adding that it is a place to be avoided in the summer with way  too many cars, people and dogs.

Tuesday morning and I was out to get the patch tick for the same bird. A Snow Buntings seems to turn up most winters on the beach at Goring Gap. It is difficult to see why they would choose the location. It is busy with dog walkers, joggers, cyclists and people out for a stroll and the birds are continually disturbed. However, they always seem faithful to a small feeding area and return to it once the disturbance has moved on.

This one was again easy to locate.

Another nice bird to photograph and two in two days. The birding scene in Sussex finally appears to be picking up.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Desert Wheatear

Today we had a trip down to Normans Bay, just to the east of Pevensey, to see the Desert Wheatear. It was showing really well and as with the previous one I had seen in Worthing, a couple of years ago, it seemed completely unconcerned about being close to people. On occasions flying to within a few feet of where I was standing.

It was feeding on a stretch of grassy foreshore stretching westward from the Martello tower for about 200 metres

It is a lovely bird to watch. I am not sure if it is the soft colours or its lack of fear of people but it just makes you feel good to see it flying around.

We watched it for a couple of hours but with a few good shots in the bag and with the number of birders on the beach starting to increase we decided to move on. Probably not a good idea as I didn't take another picture all day.

Just for a bit of variety, here is a Stonechat from Tuesdays visit to Waltham Brooks. We did get to see the Great Grey Shrike but I didn't manage to get a picture. The Male Stonechat was keeping his distance but the Mrs came over to have a look at us.