Sunday 9 June 2024

Sussex Cirl Bunting


Cirl Bunting is not a common bird in Sussex, the last recorded sighting being in 1996. I had seen them a few years ago on a visit to Devon but a local bird, just a few miles from home, was worth a visit.

The bird had adopted a patch just north of Mile Oak Farm and had been resident there for nearly a week. I did have a look on the Friday, but just missed it and then having waited four hours for it to return, gave up and went home. Sunday morning I was on site before 7am and found the bird almost immediately, calling and displaying around its favoured area.

Whilst it was showing well, pictures were difficult, as it always seemed to have branches in front of it. The shot below being the best I got that morning. I would have spent longer chasing that perfect picture but there was a clay pigeon shoot a little further along the bridleway, with the promise of twenty to thirty cars to pass its favoured bush. So, seen the bird, got a record shot and a cooked breakfast back at home seemed the best option.

Cirl Bunting

Here is another picture, this one from a trip to East Prawle Devon a few years ago.

Cirl Bunting

As a population Cirl Buntings are not very mobile, so whilst they are expanding their territory down in Devon, it is unlikely that we will see a breeding pair in Sussex for a few years yet. However, on the plus side it does mean that this male could spend most of the summer on his patch waiting for a female to turn up. Lets hope he gets lucky!

Tuesday 30 April 2024

Woodchat Shrike


You will see, from the absence of blogs, that I have not been doing much birding this year. At least not in this country. Perhaps I am getting a bit stale from repeating the same circuit of visits each year and seeing the same birds over again. However Monday 29/4 I did get a flash of interest.

I had spent the day visiting garden centres with Sue. She was in her element, shopping and gardening, her two main interests. It was late afternoon and I was beginning to flag. I scanned the news on the phone and as I was still waiting for Sue, decided to check the days bird sightings. Something I had stopped doing of late.

I didn't expect much but was shocked to see a report of a Woodchat Shrike from earlier that morning. It is a bird that I haven't seen in the UK and whilst I am no longer a fanatic lister it was certainly one that I would like to see. Even worse, the reported location was only just over a mile from where I was standing.

What to do? I had no camera or bins with me. Fortunately a second report came through as we walked back to the car - still there but distant. I dropped Sue off at home picked up my gear and drove back to Angmering. Unfortunately I didn't take the scope, which was a mistake.

I arrived at the location at about six o'clock to see a small group of people observing the bird, which really was distant. You could see it with the bins but I couldn't see enough to make an identification. However, a kind lady let me have a look through her scope and the enhanced view was sufficient to confirm the sighting.

I took a few pictures but the bird was too distant giving only a few pixels for its image. Fortunately before I left it did come a bit closer and I managed one picture.

Woodchat Shrike

Still very distant and this is a huge crop with some enhancement in Photoshop to bring out the detail. It's not one of my better pictures but it does show the head colours and wing patches that are diagnostic of the Woodchat Shrike.

I had been lucky, seen the bird and got a record shot. I might have gone back the next morning to try to get a better picture but as it happened the bird was not seen again or at least not reported again.

Sunday 18 February 2024

Oak Beauty


The back garden is usually void of moths from late November to the end of March. I put the trap out on suitable nights hoping for a catch but am always disappointed come the morning. This year was the same until Friday morning.

A Common Plume on the wall near the trap was a good sign but an Oak Beauty on the outside of the trap was a real find. Not only my earliest garden catch of the year since I started mothing but also a first for the garden. It's not a particularly rare moth but it is scarce where I live, near the coast and with few trees around.

Oak Beauty - Biston strataria

A great start to the year and some encouragement to get the trap out more often.