Nightjars, Woodcocks and Spotted Flycatchers ... Thursday 24th June 2010

After a tip-off, from Lingfield birder Ray Baker, that a pair of Spotted Flycatchers were showing well, we headed for the location near Felbridge in Surrey in the afternoon. Sure enough, one bird showed well. Thanks Ray.


We then headed on to Old Lodge nature reserve on the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex. Our target birds being Woodcock and Nightjar.

On arrival, we were soon spotted a male Common Redstart, the first of four birds seen (which included two juveniles) and several more birds were heard calling.


A Marsh Tit was seen at close quarters and two Nuthatches were also present.
Further round the reserve, we found the Spotted Flycatcher in exactly the same location as it was seen last Sunday so, presumably, there are a pair nesting there.



Three Stonechats were around the reserve (two males and a female) and they were all carrying food so they must also have young.


Male STONECHAT (Graham)

Only two Tree Pipits were seen - there are certainly reduced numbers of this species on the reserve this year. A male Blackcap showed briefly and a Chiffchaff was singing distantly. Two male Pheasants were calling constantly and, as the light faded in the late evening, we positioned ourselves at a spot on the reserve where we knew we had the best chance of seeing our target birds.


As the sun set, a Woodcock flew low over a wooded area, calling as it passed over near us, and shortly afterwards, another was seen, but a bit more distantly than the first bird. The midges started to plague us but at least they seemed not to be biting.
Whilst we waited for the first Nightjar to start churring, one bird (a male) flew in close and low over the heather. The white flashes on the wing being very obvious. Surprising to see one before hearing any.
A short while later, one started churring from somewhere behind us and then two birds flew low over the same patch of heather.

A female passed within inches of Paul's head and we had further sightings, including a bird perched and churring on a nearby dead tree, but it was difficult to assess how many birds were involved – definitely three, but maybe there were up to five birds present in total.

Believe it or not, that's a NIGHTJAR perched on the end of the branch (Graham)

Mission accomplished.

Paul & Graham

Not one, but two Red-footed Falcons! .... Tuesday 22nd June 2010

Occasionally - very occasionally - you have one of those days when birding really delivers the goods.

Today was one of those rare days.
Setting off at 5 a.m., we headed straight for Cuckmere Haven in East Sussex to see the adult male Red-footed Falcon that had been present for a couple of days. Parking at the Golden Galleon pub, we headed down the west side of the valley and located the bird just before the Coastguard Cottages. A couple of birders were already present and were able to approach the bird, which was perched on a fence post, to within a few feet. It soon flew down on to the field and gave us superb views.

Adult male RED-FOOTED FALCON (Graham)

Adult male RED-FOOTED FALCON (Paul)


Not much else of note was in the area, apart from a lone Fulmar out to sea, so we headed back along the river, noting six Little Egrets on the way.

Neither of us had Turtle Dove on our year lists so we then headed for Arlington Reservoir, a few miles inland. I had seen them there last year, but their scarcity this year didn't fill us with much hope of locating any.
A Common Tern was over the reservoir, a Treecreeper by the wooded path and a Little Egret was on the bank near the bird hide. We made our way to the river and then headed towards the sewage treatment works. A dove flew into a distant tall tree in front of us and, sure enough, we had added Turtle Dove to our lists. A Grey Wagtail and two Garden Warblers were also in the area.


Onwards to Pett Level where, apart from yet another Little Egret, a couple of Common Terns and a Curlew, little was present.

Rye Harbour LNR was our next stop and it was pleasing to see five Little Terns present. Very realistic plastic decoy Little Terns have been installed on the shingle and these were having the desired effect, attracting the birds to settle in the area. It was difficult to tell which were decoys and which were the real thing, waiting for the birds to move was the only certain way to tell.
Around a dozen Avocets, loads of Mediterranean Gulls, Common and Sandwich Terns, Redshanks and Oystercatchers, with a few Turnstones, a Little Egret and, best of all, a superb, though distant, summer-plumaged Spotted Redshank.
At Castle Water viewpoint, a Cetti's Warbler was calling though remained hidden in the bushes.




LITTLE TERN - decoy on left (Graham)


Leaving Rye, we headed over the border into Kent and to Dungeness. We decided to try to see the Purple Herons so headed along the Dengemarsh Road to the little bridge overlooking the Dengemarsh Flood. A pair of Marsh Harriers were quartering the area and two Cuckoos were seen flying and interacting together. Suddenly Paul indicated he was on to a Bittern and we had some pretty good views for several minutes before the bird flew off over the reeds.


BITTERN (Graham)

Giving up on the Purple Herons, we headed for the hide at the Hanson-ARC Pit but there was not much of interest on show but as we headed back towards the car park, 4 Curlews flew over and a Hobby was seen hunting.

We then walked over to Boulderwall Farm at the entrance to the main reserve. We could hear partridges calling, and a few minutes wait resulted in three Red-legged Partridges showing. Just above one bird, perched on a dead bush, was a smallish raptor. Certainly not a Hobby, and closer inspection revealed it to be a first-summer male Red-footed Falcon. Incredible to see two birds in one day. Apparently, this bird had been variously reported today as being a Hobby, a female, and a first-summer male Red-footed Falcon.

First-summer male RED-FOOTED FALCON (Paul)

(VIDEO) First-summer male RED-FOOTED FALCON (Paul)


We were joined by a birder who had travelled down from Manchester to see the Purple Herons and he informed us that we had been looking for them at the wrong point along the Dengemarsh Road. We followed him in the car and were soon enjoying views of one Purple Heron in flight.
Talking to another gentleman present, he said that the first attempt at raising young had failed but the birds were now nest-building again, so there is still hope that they will succeed. This information may not be correct though, as the RSPB's website states that hatching was successful and the adults are feeding young. As one bird was back and forth regularly, it is highly likely that the latter information is correct.
The RSPB state on their website "In order to allow people to enjoy this historic wildlife moment, we are setting up a viewing station, with staff on hand to help visitors spot the birds. The Purple Heron Date with Nature starts this Saturday (26 June) and runs through until Sunday 4 July from 11am to 4pm daily. For more information please see our events page."
All attempts to get a digiscoped shot of the heron in flight failed dismally as a stiff breeze was now blowing and digiscoping flying birds is normally a pretty hopeless task anyway.


Several Yellow Wagtails were in the field near the road.

Certainly a day full of good birds and one that will stick in our memories for some time.

Paul & Graham

Old Lodge Nature Reserve, Ashdown Forest, East Sussex ... Sunday 20th June 2010

Yet another visit to Old Lodge nature reserve on the Ashdown Forest today produced the goods at long last - our first Spotted Flycatcher of the year.
Although it proved difficult to digiscope, as it continuously did what flycatchers are supposed to do, I did manage a few record shots.


Common Redstarts are all round the reserve, some still obviously feeding young in their nest holes whilst others were seen feeding fledglings. At least seven males, five females and two juveniles were seen but I failed to get a single photo of any of them.

Three Woodlarks were also present, as were three Tree Pipits, two male and one female Stonechats and a family party of three Treecreepers.


Coal Tits were numerous with thirty-plus seen and many more heard.


The supporting cast for the day included five Chiffchaffs, two Willow Warblers, three Common Whitethroats, two Linnets, two Pied Wagtails, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, two Green Woodpeckers, a Mistle Thrush, a Kestrel and around ten Swifts. A total of 28 species were noted.

Seven Fallow Deer were also present.

It was sad to see, on the reserve, a very young rabbit blinded and disorientated by myxomatosis.

Graham & Sue

Splash Point, Seaford and Birling Gap, East Sussex ... Wednesday 16th June 2010

Sue and I visited the Kittiwake colony at Seaford today. I estimated that around 400 Kittiwakes were present on the cliffs with many more loafing on, and flying over, the sea.

The viewing jetty.

Nesting Kittiwakes.

A couple of Fulmars were also cruising along the cliff top and a Rock Pipit was in song-flight, eventually landing amongst the seaweed-strewn rocks.


With a stiff north-east wind blowing today, and it being low tide, there was nothing to be seen passing on the sea.

We then decided to give Birling Gap a try.

Birling Gap.

Belle Tout wood on the left and Belle Tout lighthouse in the distance.

Being exposed to the wind, birding was difficult, to say the least and our efforts were only rewarded with a dozen or so Linnets, two Common Whitethroats, a Cuckoo who seemed to like the Belle Tout wood area and appeared in flight on three occasions during our visit, and a Jackdaw that took a liking to Sue’s sandwiches.

Jackdaw (with part of Sue's sandwich).

A Stoat shot down a rabbit burrow a few feet in front of us but, despite staking out the area for about an hour and making the occasional squeaking noise to imitate an injured rabbit by kissing the back of my hand (thanks for the tip Richard), the Stoat failed to reappear. Obviously, it had found and escape route via the labyrinth of tunnels that must exist there.

I hadn’t previously tried the macro facility on my Samsung camera but the shots I got of a Six-spotted Burnet moth, a tiny sprig of Wild Thyme and a Wild Strawberry were all fairly reasonable.

On the way back home, Sue managed a shot of Seven Sisters Country Park in the Cuckmere Valley from the car.

Seven Sisters Country Park.

Not a classic day's birding but still an enjoyable day out.


Old Lodge NR, Ashdown Forest, East Sussex ... Tuesday 15th June 2010

Having set off at 6.15 a.m. this morning to, yet again, trudge the six miles to collect my wife's car (thankfully, all repairs are now completed), I got back home at about 9 a.m. and we decided that it was time to make another visit to Old Lodge nature reserve.

There seems to be more Common Redstarts there this year, with 15 birds counted (8 males, 6 females and a juvenile).
Sadly, not the same can be said for Tree Pipits, normally found in good numbers on the reserve, we managed to see just a single bird.

No Dartford Warblers or Spotted Flycatchers is rather worrying. A few Dartfords have been reported on the Forest but many succumbed during the winter, and Spotted Flycatchers seem hard to find this year. Neither did we see or hear Woodlarks or Stonechats, but it was very windy and many species may have been keeping well-sheltered.The supporting avian cast included 3 Willow Warblers, 3 Chiffchaffs, 4 Common Whitethroats, a male Pheasant, a Mistle Thrush, around 10 Coal Tits, a fly-over Redpoll, 2 Green Woodpeckers and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

A few Heath Spotted Orchids are now in flower.

Several Wood Ants nests are present and these industrious mini-beasts never fail to fascinate me, although Sue would rather keep well away from them (and anything else with more than four legs).

As we headed back towards the car park, we passed a stack of felled pine. It is a shame the photo cannot convey the gorgeous scent.

Tomorrow, we intend to visit the Kittiwake colony at Seaford.

Sue & Graham