Turtle Dove, Woods Mill

Chooks

My Brother’s Chooks

The bastard Maltese failed to shoot one that was almost purring – if that’s not too cat-like a word – somewhere out the back of my brother’s place near this Sussex Wildlife Trust reserve. I’m shocked at not having seen the species since Otmoor in 2009 but not so at not hearing one since 2003. Regardless, the sound is that distinctive, it’s unmistakable.

I scurried for my binoculars in a vain hope of maybe picking the bird out of the trees round about. It kept calling but was hard to locate until I noticed an obvious dove-like shape a little away from the source of the sound. Are the birds ventriloquial? Just a few seconds were sufficient to savour this individual’s barred cinnamon markings before it flew off.

So only my fifth record for the species also makes it number 181 for the year. It’s motivation too, on top of April’s nightingales, to keep visiting that end of West Sussex.

Church Norton at Pagham, on the other side of the county, was my target for Mediterranean gulls on Monday. I’m more surprised than shocked at not having seen them, in the same place as it happens, for three years; how time does fly. The tide was too far in to provide the gulls or much of anything else, apart from little ringed plovers at Sidlesham.

On a whim I motored to Titchfield Haven for my first serious visit in over ten years. Stop number one was the tearoom for a scone before shelling out £3.90 to get on the reserve.

Money well spent. A few minutes in the Meon Shore Hide were sufficient to log year bird 182. Three Meds roosted on one of the farther scrapes. They were also a first for Hampshire. The weekend was turning out good for that: an evening stop at Cheesefoot Head on the Friday had delivered corn buntings. And that species was also new for my West Sussex list at Cissbury Ring the day after.

To round off Monday, I speed-visited another Wildlife Trust reserve, in Wiltshire. The new site of Langford Lakes makes a handy final stop up the A36 before Bath and Bristol. It doesn’t set any year lists alive but kingfisher and little egret were new to the county for me.

The 2014 list is also moribund today as abnormal thunder, humidity and downpours are keeping me in. how much weirder does the weather have to get before we start doing something about climate change?

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  • Red-necked Grebe, Frodsham Marsh

    The year list stalled at 180 two weeks ago with a rare English sighting of this grebe. It joined two other records, at Cheddar and Slapton Ley, but was more remarkable for being in full breeding plumage. That meant I finally got to see the red neck that gives the species its name.

    Frodsham is in Cheshire, right by a power station and ex-ICI’s Runcorn works. In the vicinity snakes industrial navigation with the rivers Weaver, Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal; not far south runs the M56. It’s not a pretty spot. This does more…

    Bridled Tern, Farne Islands

    Arctic Tern, Farne Islands

    Not Bridled but Arctic Tern

    Odd to have banged up and down the Northumberland coast since 2003 without sailing out to the Farne Islands. A paucity of accommodation in the area may be one reason, so this time I got clever and stayed in Berwick-upon-Tweed, a few miles north.

    There, excellent pints of Allendale’s Golden Plover cost a mere £1.45 and prompted a theory: Wetherspoon prices are a barometer of regional prosperity. For I was supping at more…

    Mull of Galloway

    Mull of Galloway

    Mull of Galloway, Scotland

    Nine years have elapsed since my last visit – time enough to erase any memory of what this headland is like. A rather fine lighthouse and walled garden preside over a vista of deep blue seas and dark green grass. Between the latter climb 80-metre high cliffs. The scene is about the last unspoilt section of the Galloway coast.

    Seabirds abound. Continuing the theme of surprises, I was unprepared for more…

    Pennines Breeding Birds

    Hamsterley Common, County Durham

    Hamsterley Common, County Durham

    An unexpected bird is as good as a lifer. Especially when that bird is as classy as a short-eared owl. One certainly livened up a drizzly Axe Edge Moor, above Buxton in Derbyshire. This is arguably the most southerly extent of the Pennines.

    It is certainly a recommended spot for more…

    Running on Emptiness, Zerzan

    Failing to finish the Introduction and two opening chapters (anti-time, really?), I felt I was running on less than empty. I certainly wasn’t relating to the book’s subtitle of The Pathology of Civilization, which is what I thought I would be getting.

    Then a transcript of a speech against more…

    High Tide, Mark Lynas

    Written ten years ago, this book now challenges the reader to ponder if the climate crises depicted were one-offs or indeed part of global warming. Its very first example comes down heavily on the latter side. Lynas chronicles the once-in-centuries UK floods of 2000 (which I missed by being in California). Well, we’ve had the same again in 2007, 2012 and 2014. That looks like a geometric progression. What price the next deluge within 12 months?

    Likewise for the chapter about more…

    Ross’s Gull, Topsham

    Ross's Gull

    Ross’s Gull, Manitoba © Dominic Sherony

    Or RSPB Bowling Green Marsh, to give its full and accurate name, but that makes rather a long title. The reserve is just south of Exeter, and thus in Devon, on the east of the Exe Estuary. It’s an easy run from Bristol but I motored from Porlock, of which more later, over Exmoor and all the way down the valley of the Exe. That’s a pretty run, far prettier than the M5, if a touch slower.

    Parking at the site was difficult, probably because of more…

    Black-Winged Stilt, Meare Heath

    Mystery Moth

    Mystery Moth, South Downs

    My 154th species for the year and one that I’ve not seen since the long-stayer at Titchwell in 2004. In this country that is: Barcelona and Malta have supplied sightings in the interim. Travels farther afield have also brought black-necked (USA) and white-headed (Australia).

    But the Somerset Levels bird was the European black-winged stilt and it hung around late Sunday evening, thank God. A crash at Wincanton on the A303 more…