Tuesday, 21 December 2021

Shore Lark


December the 10th and Dave and I were at Sovereign Harbour photographing the Great Northern Diver and Guillemots. That night when I got home I looked at the messages on my phone and realised we had been just a couple of miles down the coast from a reported Shore Lark at Pevensey Bay. Bad mistake, must check my phone more often.

I told myself that I already had good pictures of Shore Larks and that it was no big loss but then it was reported again and then again the next day. By the 21st it was really starting to get annoying. Then when I checked I realised that I had not seen a Shore Lark for five years.  So back I went and after a bit of searching there it was.

There is a nice strip of land as you approach the Martello Tower where I was expecting to find it. It is sparsely vegetated shingle where the bird would find grass seeds and if it was lucky a few insects. Instead it was further west in front of the beach houses where it was foraging on ground that had recently been bulldozed into sea defence banking.

It seemed a strange place to find the bird but as the next two pictures show, it seemed to be finding plenty of seeds on the ground.

Leaving it for those eleven days before I went looking, worked out quite well and I had the bird all to myself for about two hours before anyone else turned up. Although I have to confess that I spent about half that time locating the bird, when a few extra pairs of eyes would have been useful.

It is always interesting, when you spend any time with a lone bird, to note just how long it spends checking out the skies for predators. The one eye on the sky pose ends up in a lot of my pictures. It makes you realise just how precarious a birds way of life really is.

The days are short at this time of year and I wasted what was left of it looking around Horse Eye Levels. It is one of those places that can sometimes really deliver but on most occasions all you get is a few crows and starlings. The best I found was a flock of about thirty Redwings that I managed to flush. Try as I might I could not see any Fieldfares amongst them as they flew away.

Friday, 17 December 2021

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker


You will probably see a lot of better pictures of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers but for me these are special. I hadn't seen one for over 50 years and I have spent many hours looking. I have been close to a few. Standing at the bottom of a tree listening to the drumming, then hearing it start up again 50 metres away, when seemingly nothing had flown from the tree I was watching. A real bogey bird.

They are not a common bird in Sussex being mostly confined to a few woods in the northern part of the county. I really wanted to see one and for 2022 I had decided to target the New Forest, Burnham Beeches, and Cassiobury Park. All places I had tried before without success but this time it was going to be different. I would get there before the trees turned to leaf and spend all day looking for the Lesser Spot rather than getting distracted by other interesting birds. In 2022 I was going to nail it.

Then reports started to come in of occasional sightings of one in the Fattengates area of Pulburough Brooks. It had to be worth a look.

Needless to say it was not easy. Six hours walking the paths around the area last week just left me frustrated. Lesser Spots have big territories and it is pure luck being in the right place at the right time. Today I spent another morning walking the paths. By one o'clock I was ready to give up and move on. One last check and in the distance was a lone small bird foraging high in a tree. Most noticeable was its speed and style of movement flicking between branches. Backtracking a bit and I had it in the bins with the red cap clearly visible.

Getting a picture was an altogether different challenge. The light was poor, the camera was struggling to pull focus through the dense tree branches and the bird was moving rapidly making it difficult to keep in frame. It was also a long way off so these pictures are big crops. They are not good but then yesterday I had no pictures of Lesser Spots so they are better than nothing, a lot better.

I only had sight of the bird for a couple of minutes and when it flew it disappeared over the hedgerows and out of view. I searched but could not find it, perhaps its large territory means that it will travel longer distances between foraging stops.

As always, I would like to get some better pictures, so at some stage I will be going back for another look but for now I am more than happy. I have my record shots and seeing it now has freed up a number of birding days that were going to be dedicated to it next year.

The red cap shows that this is a male so we could be lucky with this one staying on territory and attracting a mate to the area as well.

Sunday, 12 December 2021

Long-tailed Duck


There have been some good birds around over the past few weeks but not many of them have come close enough for a picture. Worse still the really good one, the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was, for me at least, a no show.

I can't claim much credit for the Long-tailed Duck below. It has been around in Shoreham Harbour for over three weeks now and seems quite happy to swim over and put on a show when you go to visit it. The only difficulty is getting some decent lighting for the pictures.

Long-tailed Duck

Long-tailed Duck

and doing its Penguin imitation

Lots of female Goosanders along the coast. This one being one of four in Pagham Harbour.

Female Goosander

My first Water Rail of the year on the Breech Pool at Pagham Harbour. Recent modifications to the harbour mouth seem to have improved the flow of water out of the pool and with lower water levels the birds appear to be returning.

Water Rail

A Great Northern Diver, a couple of Guillemots, and an inquisitive Harbour Seal from Sovereign Harbour. Unfortunately I missed the Black-throated and Red-throated Divers that had been there a few days earlier.

Great Northern Diver


We also had a couple of curious Harbour Seals

Harbour Seal

A visit to Pulborough Brooks gave me picture opportunities with Jays and Bullfinches but not even a sighting of the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker I was looking for.



But you can always rely on a Dunnock turning up and posing in some decent light and with a good background.


Lets hope the LSW stays around and is just as cooperative!