Sunday 17th August 2014.
I was meeting John Goodall at 7am in the Farlington Marshes car park for a birding session in West Sussex, but beforehand, I had my moth box to take care of. It was a grey, blustery early morning, but I was slightly surprised on how many moths were present. Though there was nothing new for the year, there was a good selection to go through.
Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing.
Silver Y and Rusty-dot Pearl, which are both immigrant moths, were present. Two Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwings were present along with two Large Yellow Underwings. I have not had a Least Yellow Underwing yet this year, so I will be keeping an eye out for that species. Vines Rustics numbered 6 individuals and another Angle Shades was within the box.
Hummingbird Hawk-moth. First of the year.
Meeting up with John, I was a tad early and so got the binoculars out and scanned at the waders flying over an ebbing tide within Langstone Harbour. Several flock of Curlew were flying off westbound and a large flock of Redshank circled around the Lake area. John shortly then turned up as we headed off to hopefully see the Long-tailed Skua on the beach at Church Norton.
Curlew landing on the spit at Church Norton.
The last time the Skua had been seen was early yesterday morning until it was seen flying out to sea from its favourite spit at Church Norton and not subsequently seen all day afterwards. Parking up, we walked past the very nice houses along the seafront to the spit. On our way there, I found my first Hummingbird Hawk-moth of the year flying around in a front garden, but photographing the beast proved very difficult as it was buzzing around at great speed, hence the quality of my photo.
John Goodall with some Selsey regulars at the Bill.
There was no sign whatsoever on the shingle spit of the Skua, despite a lengthy search and John and I had to make do with several Gannets flying offshore plus a couple of Sandwich Terns perched on the groynes. Several Turnstone were on the spit along with a Curlew, but little else. Several birders came over and looked pretty fed up when we told them there was no sign of the Skua. So, John and I headed off to nearby Selsey Bill to try our luck from there.
This juvenile Wheatear was on the beach along with a couple more.
We joined up with four of the regulars by the bench at the end of the road overlooking the sea, but they told us that very little was moving through. At least we were out of the blustery north westerly wind. John notched up a year tick when a drake Common Scoter sped through low over the sea heading east. More Gannets in various plumages flew through, but always remained distant. Both Common and Sandwich Terns moved west in small numbers along with a single Little Tern. I was really hoping for a Black Tern, but no such luck. A Fulmar came through heading west, close inshore and a Seal popped up briefly to the annoyance of the local Gulls.
The Fulmar passing through close in.
On the beach, at least three Wheatears were seen of which one was most definitely a juvenile. Several Turnstone and an Oystercatcher were feeding on the exposed sandy shoreline. John and I had a conversation with regular Sam Hill, who kindly told us the directions on which to see the Cattle Egret which had been present for over a week in Siddlesham Village. So, though dipping on the Skua, we headed off back north to hopefully get the Cattle Egret on board our year list.
Another Wheatear on the outskirts of Siddlesham Village.
After picking up some refreshments at a nearby garage, we drove down Churchfarm Lane. Unfortunately, we took the wrong footpath to view the Egret and headed off nearly two miles the wrong way to view the wrong Cattle field! However, if we didn’t do this, we wouldn’t have seen at least two Wheatears, several Willow Warblers, several Common Whitethroats, both Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker and at least two Yellowhammers. Even a pair of Kestrels and a Common Buzzard was also nice to see! So, retracing our steps, we made our way back to the car and took the eastbound footpath this time and this time our luck was in.
Cattle Egret with a cow!
Close to Marsh Farm, we spotted a birder in the distance looking at something and sure enough, walking among some Friesian Cattle, we found the Cattle Egret. I quickly grabbed some photos and we both caught up with the birder. Though still a little distant, I got some record shots of the Egret, which was calmly walking around one of the grazing Cows. Also in the area, at least two Yellow Wagtails flew over (another year tick for John) with several Pied Wagtails. Autumn is in full swing now, so I wasn’t surprised to see the wagtails here. Another Wheatear popped up along the footpath until it flew off over the fields. A large flock of House Sparrows were present on the footpath leading back to the car, numbering around 30+ birds, but I couldn’t find anything interesting among them. Always worth a search. Among the many Swallows passing overhead, we found at least two Sand Martins over the fields.
Pleased with today’s sightings, we headed back to the Farlington Marshes Car park to drop John off. Here, I met up with Geoff Farwell, who I haven’t seen this year! We regularly text each other but rarely see each other! Geoff gave me some very interesting info regarding why the Horse Chestnut leaves were going brown so early this year, which I have noticed in Highland Road Cemetery. Apparently, it was due to the Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner moth caterpillar, which was causing it. This was happening all over the UK! It didn’t affect the fruit of the tree, though, as there is plenty of Horse Chestnuts on the trees.
Just one more photo of the Cattle Egret.