Friday, 29 January 2016

29th - 31st January 2016

Sunday, 31st January: Another grey, damp and dreary day with heavy cloud, drizzly rain, fairly mild temperatures and a strong SW wind..... and so the month goes out in much the same way as it started!

Selsey Bill (0730 - 0845hrs)  (Obs: SH/SR/PC)
Great Northern Diver - 1E, 2os

Slavonian Grebe - 1W, 1os
Great Crested Grebe - 1os
Shag - 1W
Eider - 1os
Red-breasted Merganser - 5E, 1W, 7os
Kestrel - 1p
Dunlin - 325W
Knot - 100W
Grey Plover - 200W
Mediterranean Gull - 6os

Church Norton: The Whimbrel was in its usual area near the bench and one of the Peregrines was in the harbour, but there was not much else to report - the big Lapwing flock going up a couple of times on the far side of the harbour, a few Wigeon, Shelduck and the usual waders about and a few Greenfinches and Goldfinches along the path to the harbour, with more of the former along the beach, was about it. (AH/IP/S&SaH)

Whimbrel (above) & Wigeon at Church Norton (AH)

Ferry Pool: No waders at all mid-morning - just two Shoveler and 40 Teal on the pool and c100 Wigeon on the field. (AH)
This afternoon - on the high tide - there were 31 Avocets on the pool. (IL)

Medmerry: Breach Viewpoint - A Black Redstart was on the rocks just inside the reserve close to the shore and a female Eider was at the Breach, whilst on the pools 5 female Red-breasted Mergansers were having a feeding frenzy.  There were also c200 Lapwing, 7 Curlew, 2 Great Crested Grebes, 35 Brent Geese, 4 Shelduck and a hunting Kestrel.  On the rough ground there were 2 Stonechats at Toe End. (SR)

Easton Lane to the Stilt Pools - A Green Sandpiper was by the first sluice, the Common Sandpiper was on the Stilt Pool, and four Stonechats were along the bank. (S&SaH)

Ham Farm to Chainbridge - A late afternoon look failed to produce any owls - or a lot else! - though 25 Golden Plover flew onto the reserve and there were a dozen Shelduck and Brent Geese on the tidal area, similar of Tufted Duck on the Ham pools, plus a calling Cetti's Warbler, and at least five Little Egrets on the cropped fields. (AH)

Somerley (Between Earnley and Birdham): Although not recorded on the Winter Distribution map in 'The Birds of Sussex' for 'my' tetrad, a Coal Tit has been a very regular visitor to the feeders in my garden in Somerley from October 2015 to the present. (M Karn per SOS)
(It seems we may have under-estimated the regularity of Coal Tits along the western edge of the peninsula! Eds)

Saturday, 30th January: Wild and windy overnight with gales and storm-force gusts. The wind had subsided considerably by morning, though still remaining a strong  westerly 5-6, with grey skies and heavy rain gradually easing. It is of little compensation that temperatures remain mild, though a bit of brightness would help....

As promised earlier, I thought it would be interesting to show an occasional image from days gone by, to replace the previous 'From the Archives' feature. The Archives albums covered the years from Sept 1981 - May 2008, before digital pictures really took over, so herewith my first offerings.....more in the future. (OM)

The very first photo in Album 1....from left to right: Eric Lloyd, Mervyn Jones, Tony Marr, Mick Hay and Keith Maycock, all gathered behind the Bill House garden fence to shelter from the wind in Sept 1981. Note the optics of the day and the old oak fence (long since replaced). (OM) 
Selsey goes to the Scillies, Oct 1981. A team of Selsey regulars always made the pilgrimage west each October, and here we see three regulars - Chris Janman, Eric Soden and Mick Hay - all tensed up on an inter-island boat, (waiting to twitch a Pallas's Warbler!) (OM)

Medmerry: Easton Lane to the Stilt Pool - Among the usual suspects this morning was a Spotted Redshank in the creek opposite the Stilt Pools, plus a Peregrine passing through. No sign of the Dartford Warbler, but the Green Sandpiper was on the two pools behind the Ruth's Marsh Lookout, plus a Merlin was by the Poplars. (PLS)

Church Norton: A Short-eared Owl that was around the harbour before settling on Tern Island was the highlight of a quiet morning. There were a few Red-breasted Mergansers and the regular waders, but not much else of note, though five Pintail went over.. (IP/AB/PB)

Pagham Lagoon/Spit: There were four Goldeneye and three Red-breasted Mergansers in the channel to the harbour mouth, and a couple of pairs of Ringed Plovers were displaying along the spit, and there were a few Common and Mediterranean Gulls about. Nothing much to report from the Lagoon, bar 20 or so Tufted Ducks, Little Grebes and Coots, though a Stonechat was by the caravans and the two Peregrines were chasing each other about and even passed some food at high speed. (AH)

Goldeneyes (above), Red-breasted Merganser, Stonechat & Common, Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls from Pagham Spit (AH)

North Wall: The odd 'Tufted' Duck was on the Breech Pool - see below for more comment - but there was not much else of note, though at least eight Grey Heron's were toing and froing from Owl Copse, and there were 60 Curlew and 400 Brent Geese in the fields. 
A Spotted Redshank and several hundred Wigeon were in White's Creek and there were 1000+ Lapwing constantly taking flight, with up to 150 Golden Plover joining them.
There were still good numbers of finches and buntings in the Slipe Field, with very approximate counts thus - Yellowhammer - 30. Reed Bunting - 120, Linnet - 400, Goldfinch - 80, Chaffinch - 40, Greenfinch  - 100, plus a flock of a dozen Long-tailed Tits. (AH)

Linnets (above), Reed Bunting & Long-tailed Tit in the Slipe Field (AH)

The contentious female-type Scaup/Tufted/hybrid was again on the Breech Pool this morning (AH) and at risk of boring everyone to death, some final comments.......

I think it is a likely hybrid or possible Tufted, whilst AH considers this bird to be a Tufted. However, it is AH's view this is a different bird than the one seen on New Lake, Chi GPs a short while ago - and he still feels that bird is a likely genuine Scaup. There is a further complication concerning one (or the same?) seen on New Lake a few days after by ARK - who thought it to be a Tufted. And of course there is the original bird found by BI on Pagham Lagoon, which some may consider different? So we may have the two, three or even four bird theory!
The editors propose to draw a line under this one now and observers can make up their own minds - see pics no further comments unless there is some future definitive information... !

Top three photos (AH) - bird on New Lake, Chi GPs.... note head shape, bill, white blaze including apparent small white spot under bill.

Compare these to the photos below of the bird on the Breech Pool.....what do you think?
Apparent hybrid or Tufted, Breech Pool (top three OM, lower JDW)... note here the head shape varying, overall size and colour, bill and white blaze...but also apparent white spot under bill...similar to New Lake bird or not? Interesting. (OM)

And two more from today... (AH)

Friday, 29th January: A return to grey skies, strong winds and comparatively mild temperatures; overcast and mainly dry but with the chance of rain at either end of the day and a strong to gale force WSW wind....

Selsey Bill: (0800-0900hrs) (JA/AH)
Great Northern Diver - 1os
Red-throated Diver - 1E
Great Crested Grebe - 1os
Gannet - 1W
Red-breasted Merganser - 7E
Oystercatcher - 3E
Kittiwake - 1W

1115- 1200hrs: just 2 Kittiwakes E and 3 Great Northern Divers on the sea (BI)

Church Norton: A very surprising sighting this morning of a Long-eared Owl that flew up from the spit and dropped into the harbour. Our immediate thought was Short-eared, but it was clearly dark and very rufous/orange above and the wings appeared somewhat shorter and rounder. The very poor record shots below just about confirm the id!
A Firecrest was at the bottom of the path to the harbour, but otherwise it was pretty quiet, with plenty of Dunlin and Grey Plover in the harbour and on the beach with 50 or more Turnstones, but not much else. (AH/BI)

Long-eared Owl (above), Grey Plover & Dunlin and Turnstones at Church Norton (AH)

Ferry Pool: At least 500 Lapwing and Brent Geese were on the field, along with 30 Curlew and 100 Wigeon, and htere were 40 Teal on the pool. (AH)

Teal (above) & Brent Geese at the Ferry (AH)

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

26th - 28th January 2016

Thursday, 28th JanuaryAn absolute contrast to yesterday, bright and chilly with plenty of sunshine and just a light W/SW breeze....

The pleasantly sunny day drew out plenty of birders to the Peninsula this morning, plus one or two less regular visitors, including a small and welcome contingent from Beachy (R. Haggar et al) and that old Selsey pioneer Tony Marr (visiting from Norfolk), who joined me for the day (OM).

Church Norton: A second-winter Glaucous Gull was offshore from the spit early this afternoon, though it could not be refound later. (IL)

Glaucous Gull off Church Norton (IL)

A quick look earlier on produced the Whimbrel, a Great Northern Diver offshore and a Red-breasted Merganser and both Peregrines in the harbour. (AH)

Two Peregrines were on the island later with 5 roosting Bar-tailed Godwits and some Curlews. In the harbour were 5 Goldeneye, several Mediterranean Gulls and a single Yellow-legged Gull. The  wintering Whimbrel was still near the bench and we heard a couple of Chiffchaffs around the church yard. (BFF/DM)

 Curlew and Mediterranean Gull at Church Norton (DM)

Whimbrel at Church Norton (AH)

Selsey Bill (0800-1015hrs): WSW3-4  Fine   (Obs: C&ME/SR)  
Red-throated Diver - 3E, 1W, 1os
Great Northern Diver - 3os
Diver sp - 2W
Great Crested Grebe - 2W
Gannet - 1E
Eider - 1os
Common Scoter - 1E, 2os 
Red-breasted Merganser - 2E, 14W, 10os    
Dunlin - 30W
Mediterranean Gull  - 2E                

1200-1245hrs: A very casual look produced 5 Mediterranean Gulls close inshore amongst Black-headed Gulls, but little else of note. During a short tour of the Bill-tip, BAEM pointed out the site of the original old Obs hut, and nearby the previous breeding site for Cirl Bunting, both dating from the early 1960's! A brief social gathering then put paid to any further sea-watching..... (OM/BAEM). 

Yours truly, with Bernie Forbes (centre) and BAEM 'Tony' Marr (right)...draw your own conclusions...!
Medmerry: Easton Lane area - The Dartford Warbler was in the Marsh Barn area again this morning. (PS)

North Wall: The controversial female Scaup or hybrid resurfaced this morning on the Breech Pool, and a Spotted Redshank was in White's Creek. (OM/BAEM) The ID of this Aythya duck has been the subject of much discussion and some disagreement for a while (not least between the editors) and indeed there is the possibility that more than one bird may be involved (yes, the two-bird theory!) However, as regards today's bird, my feeling is that it is a hybrid: this is based on a combination of factors rather than a single one, including overall small size no different than a Tufted, head shape which looks fine sometimes but less so at others, no pale cheek patch, overall mantle/flank colouration and especially small bill with too much dark on tip (no neat nail) and a possible pale band behind the dark tip. When first seen, this bird appears a candidate for a Scaup ID, until further scrutiny reveals these apparent defects. I was pleased to have BAEM along this morning, who came to the same conclusions as me - but I doubt we've heard the last of it! (OM).

Presumed Aythya hybrid resembling female Scaup, Breech Pool this morning. Apologies for cropping resulting in some blurring. (above) - note extensive white blaze but shape of head whilst preening, (below), apparent Scaup head shape but smallish size, smallish bill, fairly uniform mantle flank colour, but note the hint of an apparent pale bill band behind the darker tip. (OM)

These two shots show the bird in company with a female Tufted Duck. Note that here the birds seem virtually identical in size, structure and bill shape and size. The hybrid's white blaze shows up, but the head shape looks a little flatter and less rounded here - is there also a mere hint of a tuft or peak at the back of the head? (OM)

The presumed hybrid here shows a large white blaze, but note the pale bill band and a faint peak to the rear of the head (JDW)
Additionally, the Brent Geese flock was on the Church Farm golf course early on. There was a lot of disturbance in the Harbour and the Lapwing were continually taking flight.... at one point there were 2200 in Honer 1 field with several hundred still swirling around in the Harbour. Nine Grey Herons were involved in nest refurbishment in Owl Copse, apart from one who appeared to be sunbathing. The Brent Geese eventually settled in the field north of Bremere bridge, where I counted 2400. There were also 210 Curlew in this field plus a further 120 in Honer 1, 2 and 3 fields, including one very light coloured individual. Four Roe Deer near Halseys Farm. (JDW) Also a couple of Song Thrushes were stridently singing near the entrance track (OM/BAEM).
Song Thrush at the North wall area (OM)

Grey Herons: above sunbathing near Breech Pool and roosting at Owl Copse, plus group of Roe Deer (JDW)

Ferry Pool: There were 30 Redshank and a few Teal on the pool and at least 1000 Lapwing, 100 Brent Geese and 100 Wigeon on the fields. (AH)

Redshanks on the Ferry (AH)

Fishbourne Creek: A Coal Tit was in Apuldram church car-park this morning, along with a few Goldcrests, but no sign of the Firecrest in the area, whilst there were at least 30 Yellowhammers around the riding school.
There were a couple of Spotted Redshank and a Greenshank near the quay and the Whimbrel was along the east side, but generally wader numbers were low, bar a 100 or so Black-tailed Godwits. At least a dozen Rock Pipits and a few Reed Buntings were along the harbour edge, a Cetti's Warbler called from the reeds and there were a couple of hundred Wigeon on the water. (AH)

Rock Pipits (above), Spotted Redshank, Reed Bunting & Black-tailed Godwits at Fishbourne Creek (AH)

Chichester Harbour: What a lovely day; crisp and frosty with blue skies, which put a smile on the face of nearly everyone we met...... (BFF/DM)
East Head: Walked out to the north end of the Head but not much in the channel of note, except a distant Sandwich Tern. Between the Head and Thorney/Pilsea were 7 Slavonian Grebes & 2 Great Northern Divers with 12 Red-breasted Mergansers.
Snowhill Marsh:  a lone Greenshank, 2 Water Rails and a singing Cetti's Warbler.
Chichester Marina: little noted.... they are still repairing the lock gates, therefore no access. (BFF/DM)

Wednesday, 27th January: Grey, wet and windy, with SW gales and rain predicted to last through most of the daylight hours... a foul day!

Readers will note that the pages section (under the title page) has been amended and the 'From the Archives' pages have now been removed, having served their purpose. In future an occasional such article may appear in the main text from time to time, whilst other pages are currently being reviewed and/or updated where necessary. (OM) 

Selsey Bill: Forty minutes from 8.10am produced just three Red-breasted Mergansers east and a dozen Black-headed Gulls on the field. (AH)
0915-1107hrs: (CRJ) A sea-watch from the east side of the Bill-tip, (wind SW 5-6, rain showers,) until tide and weather forced me off, produced a meagre total of;
Gannet - 4W
Eider - 1os
Red-breasted Merganser - 1E (male), 1W (fem), 1os
Kittiwake - 3W 
Ferry Pool: At least 100 Black-tailed Godwits on the field and a dozen on the pool with c500 Lapwing and 25 Redshank. A huge flock of Brent Geese - perhaps 1500 birds - was also at the back of the fields, along with 100+ Wigeon. (AH)

Black-tailed Godwits, Lapwing and Shelduck on the Ferry (AH)

Church Norton: Surprisingly, given the conditions, the Dartford Warbler popped its head up briefly at the end of Reedy Marsh, and there were one or two Goldcrests and Long-tailed Tits about, too. Not much in the harbour, though there were still 250 Knot and 500 Dunlin, plus the usual scattering of Grey Plovers, Redshank and Curlew on the mud. (AH)

Knot at Church Norton (AH)

Medmerry: There were two Green Sandpipers on the track near Chainbridge this morning and two Red-breasted Mergansers on the Stilt pools (PH).

Tuesday, 26th January: A pleasant, if breezy, start, but forecast to go downhill during the day....which it duly did with strong winds and rain!

Selsey Bill: (0800-0915hrs) (AH/JD/DS)
Great Northern Diver - 1E, 2W, 3os (all different birds)
Red-throated Diver - 1E
Gannet - 1E, 2W
Fulmar - 1E
Brent Goose - 3W
Eider - 1os
Red-breasted Merganser - 2E, 3W, 3os
Common Gull - 2W

Ferry Pool: Around 40 Redshank, 25 Curlew, 1200 Lapwing, 20 Teal, 20 Shoveler, 60 Wigeon and 150 Brent Geese on the pool and adjoining fields this morning. (AH)

Lapwing (above) & Shoveler at the Ferry (AH)

Medmerry Breach: About 20 Ringed Plover, 15 Grey Plover and 50 Dunlin this morning, plus four Red-breasted Mergansers. No sign of the Black Redstart today, though it was present yesterday. (DM/HR)

Church Norton: The Spoonbill was in the harbour again, as was a Peregrine, two pairs of Red-breasted Mergansers and up to 350 Knot in with at least 1000 Dunlin. there were barely 50 Wigeon or Teal about, though at least 500 Brent geese were at the other end. Also there were about a dozen Skylarks along the spit, and there were a few Common and Mediterranean Gulls about. (AH/JD/DS/DM/HR)

Spoonbill (above), Skylark, Wigeon, Knot & Mediterranean and Black-headed Gull at Church Norton (AH)