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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  • Cory’s Shearwaters, Tenerife

    Cory's Shearwater

    Cory’s Shearwater © Christine Veeschkens

    These seabirds were the principals of the final Tenerife show, in a way I couldn’t have expected and didn’t want. As my last evening fell, I was returning from the Guaza cliffs at one end of Los Cristianos. Above a cove a man and woman unloaded three boxes from a car and somehow I knew what was in them.

    The breathing holes would have been one clue. I lurked to watch more…

    Blogiversary Books

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    For instance, 70% of Iran’s science and engineering students are women. Written in about 2010, is this still true after four further years of Western sanctions and retrenchment? It is a point to illustrate the book’s central thesis that more…

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    This 144 was boosted mightily two weeks ago by stops at Selsey Bill and Pagham Harbour. Unexpected sanderlings there preceded rather late dates for more…

    Glaucous Gull, Blue Anchor

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    The Blue Anchor birds were reported as distant at sea and I parked the scope and scanned the one flock of gulls I could find out there. No joy. I didn’t know more…

    Glossy Ibis, Weston STW

    Where STW stands for sewage treatment works. An acronym that birders know well but is more lost on the general public. After all, the latter don’t flock to such places for their leisure whereas the former know them as honeypots. (Oh, and Weston is Weston-super-Mare.)

    So the bird became my 193rd Avon species, which puts the county as numero uno British county above Somerset. I hadn’t realised that more…

    2014 Year List?

    Sneyd Park Cottage, Bristol

    Sneyd Park Cottage

    The big month in March has rather fizzled into an attempt at a big year in 2014. For which on the 22nd, local visits to Leigh Woods and Marshfield netted treecreeper (my first since 2012 though!), marsh tit, linnet and a solitary corn bunting. Slimbridge, a week later, added three cranes, five avocets and a flock of black-tailed godwits. Then a late afternoon shift over the Severn in the Forest of Dean gave me mandarin duck and a brief flash of a goshawk.

    Which made 112 for the year. Could that be a platform for attacking my record of more…

    Orkney, 1998

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    However, Scotland unlocked the bulk of the species. Yup, I went on holiday. In Angus, Auchmithie alone was good for another 20, with great birds like more…

    England Month List

    Pennington Marsh, Hampshire

    Pennington Marsh, Hampshire

    How’s this big month going?

    Not well. I may have pooh-poohed my record effort of 135 in May 1998 but three weeks now have brought me a mere 94 species. It’s taken the aforementioned walk through Bristol and visits to the Severn Estuary, Chew, Ibsley, Pennington Marsh and the New Forest. I could complain that more…

    Blue Grosbeak, 2001

    On May 13 I added two more species to my Santa Clara county list on my first visit to the largest of its parks – Joseph D Grant. This nestles under the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton in the county’s more arid north-east. Make no mistake: Hamilton is a mountain, higher than Cairn Gorm, but on the scale of California it’s still a baby. I wrote:

    “A short hike from the park entrance at about 1500 feet produced some 50 species more…