Author Archive

23rd January 2011, Sunday

Pett Level

Huge numbers of Great Crested Grebes offshore at high tide today: 2280 counted but probably more.
Also many Gannets, Rt Divers and Razorbills, small groups of Common & Velvet Scoter, Eider and a couple of Goldeneye.
Read more on RXbirdwalks.

3rd January 2011, Monday

Solar eclipse tomorrow

A 66% solar eclipse will be already underway at sunrise tomorrow morning, peaking at 08.12 and ending at 09.31 (times given for London).

3rd January 2011, Monday

Pett Level update

Black Brant still at E end.
Rough-legged Buzzard around Carter’s Flood.
Hundreds of RT Divers out to sea.
More on RXbirdwalks

1st January 2011, Saturday

Pett Level

Even more geese were present today, with 10 species reported including Bean Geese, Pinkfoots and a Black Brant – first for the area – which I unfortunately missed. Loads of ducks and waders on the wet marsh at high tide and divers flying about at sea.
See the SOS website for more details and also for interesting prequels to the flock of Bewick’s Swans, which seem not to have been Walland birds but were seen flying over W Sussex hours earlier. Apparently there were 2 Whooper Swans with them.

31st December 2010, Friday

Pett Level

An amazing morning, with Red-breasted Goose, 350 Whitefronts, 132 Barnacles, c80 Brents inc some Pale-bellied, 3 Bitterns and many thousands of Wigeon. At midday a long line of Bewick’s Swans flew over east. Various estimates were made but mine was c100.
Also ran: Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Raven, Water Pipit, Yellowhammer.
More on RXbirdwalks

29th December 2010, Wednesday

Yet More Sparrows

About 6 weeks ago (16th Nov) I did a TTV in TQ72G (Robertsbridge). I parked in the layby on the A21 just S of the bypass, walked down into the village via George Hill, then walked Station Rd, Brightling Rd, Bishop’s La before heading towards Glottenham. Most of the first hour and a bit were therefore in the “built up” part of Robertsbridge. My total House Sparrow count for the TTV was 71 (thus getting a red card when inputting the TTV!) – 61 in the first hour, 10 in the second. And I guess this was, if anything, an undercount. They were mostly in relatively small groups and, as always, hard to count accurately.

Before setting out on the TTV I’d suspected I might find several House Sparrows because I had noticed quite often, over the years, what seemed to be a roost forming in the Ivy climbing the walls of the butcher’s shop at the junction of Station Rd and High St. But I was surprised, when I tallied up at the end of my walk, to find so many.

Here in Hoath Hill (Mountfield), which stretches for maybe 400 yards, there seem to be at least three discrete gangs perhaps supporting the view that this species doesn’t venture far, at least in the daytime.

Robin Harris


27th December 2010, Monday

More on House Sparrows

Of all my tetrads covered for the Bird Atlas, the most sparrow-rich has been TQ81Q at Fairlight Cove, which resembles Pat’s area at Camber in that it is a seaside bungalow development though on a cliff-top rather than sand. The gardens there are pretty manicured but many householders put out feeders and there is access to rough grass on the cliff-edge. On my early winter visit I found 76 birds, which had the website sending a flashing red warning that the count was unusually high.

Another good flock is to be found around the entrance to Toot Rock, Pett Level where they exploit a chicken run and up to 60 birds are present in late summer. Around our house at Chick Hill I see breeding adults foraging, as Brian notes, for insects in pasture well-manured by cattle. I share his views on their conservatism in visiting new feeding sites even at a very short distance from an existing one.

House Sparrows are not that easy to count; not only do they squabble inside dense shrubs as Pat notes, but also chirrup invisibly from eaves and gutters. Around Alexandra Park, Hastings, you can hear them calling from nearby streets but they don’t seem to cross to the park itself. In the Weald they are often either absent from human habitation or hanging on in isolated pairs and seem most to favour untidy farms with livestock. In N Spain, though, I’ve noticed they occupy any building, even vacant second homes way out in the woods, with not a chicken in sight.

27th December 2010, Monday

RBG latest

Photo by John Willsher
The Red-breasted Goose was still present at Pett Level about midday, at that point at the back of the marsh. It could be picked out from the seawall but the best views were to be had from the footpath alongside the RM Canal, about 15 mins walk from Toot Rock. It was in a flock of Greylags, Whitefronts and 2 Barnacles.
Other species seen from that spot were m Marsh Harrier, f Merlin and a Med Gull. Far fewer Whitefronts today and probably fewer Wigeon but still thousands of those.

26th December 2010, Sunday

Red-breasted Goose

The RBG first reported by Graeme Spinks was still present at dusk along with Whitefronts at the back of the marsh behind the pools. This is the first for Pett Level and I’m pretty sure for this end of Sussex.
There are 3-4 groups of Whitefronts, totalling about 300 birds and a huge mass of Wigeon, maybe 5000? And one drake Pintail. Barnacle Geese still alongside the footpath but I didn’t try to count them, nor the hundreds of GC Grebes on the sea.
3 Bitterns yesterday and one this morning at Carter’s flood

16th December 2010, Thursday

More Waxwings

Yesterday (Wed) I found c20 Waxwings at the usual place by the bridge at Pett Level, but they only stayed briefly. However James Tomlinson reported a similar number in Fairlight on the junction between Waites Lane and Battery Hill. It could even be the same flock.
The mixed flock of geese is still at the back of the marsh, best viewed from the footpath along the RM Canal. It includes Canadas, Greylags, Whitefronts, Barnacles and both PALE- and Dark-breasted Brents.
More info on RXbirdwalks.