6/8ths becoming 8/8ths and SSW wind increasing with heavy rain setting in mid afternoon.
Occasional watches, mainly after midday;-
Diver sp 104 e 10 w, Auk sp 8 e 82 w, Common gull 8 w, Kittiwake 9 w, Mediterranean gull 1 e, Great skua 1 w @ 13.55, Cormorant 1 w.
Some passage off Marina during occasional watches. After a long series of frosts and a chilling ESE wind on the 26th there has since been a change towards milder SW winds.
January 25th. Diver sp 22 w, Kittiwake 2 e 2 w
January 26th. Diver sp 4 e 60 w, Teal 5 w. Auk sp 2 e 15 w, Common gull 3 e. Kittiwake 1 e 1 w.
January 27th. Curlew 4 w, Diver sp 3 e 18 w, Common gull 31 e 3 w. Kittiwake 26 e 2 w, Auk sp 20 e 8 w, Gannet 7 e, Scoter 5 w and Lesser black-backed gull 1 e.
The freshwater continues to ice over although there are areas of open water to be found and gulls are concentrated in those patches. An adult Common gull and three Coot were notable, and an unusual dark-mantled adult gull on ice I suspect to be a hybrid between Lesser black-backed and Herring gull. I took a fair few photographs but none came out well. The bird had a charcoal grey mantle like a British Lesser black-backed gull and an attenuated wing, the area behind the legs longer than that in front, however, the white markings on primaries and secondaries were much more evident, rather like a Great black-backed. The head had a block-headed structure with a bull-neck and rather short pink legs.
Chaffinch was in song early, joined by Collared dove Coal tit, Goldcrest and Nuthatch.
Hard frosts continuing and Alexandra Park half-frozen yesterday. Dry and sunny.
January 20th occasional morning watch;- Red-throated diver 68 E and 2 W, Scoter 2 W, Shelduck 1 E, Kittiwake 1 E, Common gull 4 E and Auk sp. 4 E.
A female Marsh harrier flew NW in over the prom at 10.15.
January 21st Adult Peregrine above the sea.
January 22nd A Raven flying east and a Firecrest in the garden, a Stonechat and 2 Wrens in the South Saxons meadow. Bullfinches feeding on dried Blackberries near there. Goldfinch in song from a roadside tree and several others seen.
Great spotted woodpeckers drumming from the shaws below the fields on Tuesday. The cold weather has brought in some parties of Redwings along the hedgerows. In the growing crops Reed buntings, Skylarks and Snipe find cover and sustenance. The soil itself is drenched and there are quite boggy patches.
Yesterday a walk along Pett to Rye. Lots of geese out on the Levels and especially large numbers of Greylags, however eighteen White-fronted geese were also counted, sometimes in flight with the greylags and the wintering flock of five Taiga Bean geese was seen in flight and landing down in the middle area. 600 Wigeon, 60 Shovelers and 40 Gadwalls noted there among others. At Castle Water 60 or more Gadwall and others, including many more Greylags.
Two-thirds ice everywhere and day-long frost out of the sun. Small birds such as Robins were seen frequently including feeding on areas along with Blackbirds where the wind was lapping freshwater onto the fringes. Several Stonechats included two seen in the reeds.
Uncertain views and weather, I feel we were lucky to escape the severe wintry weather that has dominated eastern and south-eastern Europe since Christmas. There have been great losses to wildlife in Greece, including many swans, geese, flamingos and others as even the larger lakes froze over.
January 11th – what looked like a Red-necked grebe flying west off Marina, but views from the window too brief and intermittent to be certain.
A Noctule bat Nyctalus noctula flying straight above the shrubs and trees in the garden at 15.55 hrs when it was full light. There are disused buildings close by and sandstone cliffs as well as older trees.Other mammals recently include very active Foxes and also a Brown rat seen in an urban environment.
January 12th – morning watch;- Gannet 6 W 1 E, Red-throated diver 34 W, Auk sp. 12 W 4 E, Common gull 3 W.
January 13th – Diver sp. 39 W 6 E, Auk sp. 10 W, Common gull 10 W, Lesser black-backed gull 5 W, Greater black-backed gull 5 W, Kittiwake 4 W, Gannet 4 W.
A Mistle thrush seen at Gensing Gardens where a Nuthatch broke out into a peal of euphoric song as it searched a likely old Oak. 9 Blackbirds are here, some feeding on small windfallen apples.
A watch at 12.30 – 26 auks W almost or all Razorbills.
January 14th – an exciting attempt to photograph small birds in Alexandra park ended with a tame, perhaps sick, Song thrush perching close in a bramble near wet earth. Also two single Coots. Not that cold and no ice.
A strong Westerly passage off Marina this morning from 7.50 to 9.05
Auk sp. 565 mixed Guillemots and Razorbills, Kittiwake 32 adults, Gannet 26 adults, Red-throated diver 50, Great black-backed gull 24, Lesser black-backed gull 5, Common gull 4 and Fulmar 1.
Two Firecrests made a brief appearance in the garden Sycamore and shrubbery later.
A visit to West Rise Marsh – the wintering Long-tailed duck appeared but was underwater most of the time. Good numbers of very flighty and nervous Shoveler (60), also 30 or more Wigeon with small numbers of Pochard and Tufted duck. 30 or so Teal in the river and a Kingfisher in reeds there. 3 Stonechats, 25 Meadow pipits, 2 Reed buntings, several Pied wagtails and a Stock dove about the grazings.
Calm and briefly bright before rain coming in on a westerly this afternoon.
Some birds passing as I looked out from mid morning, Cormorants especially and I think I missed some.
Cormorant 70 W, Red-throated diver 23 W, Kittiwake 7 W, Auk sp. 11 W 8 E, Razorbill 8 W, Guillemot 3 W, Scoter 15 W and a Great skua that came in from SE and went W.
Looking from the window recently an adult Lesser black-backed gull has appeared quartering the air offshore, almost with a regimented routine, changing course every so often and patrolling a set area. The bird appears to be very dark-mantled. Today there were two or three of these gulls. There are also a number of adult and immature Great black-backed gulls resting on the water, which is quite becalmed in the north-westerly wind, despite a swell. I saw something drop down towards the sea and it appeared to be one of the smaller black-backs – a single auk was racing in from the south and it looked as if the gull had made an attempt to knock it down. There have been Red-throated divers preening on the sea every day recently, this morning joined by twenty Great crested grebes which were close in and actively diving for food and having recently arrived. With the colder weather the black-backs are much more evident actually on the sea and I suspect they are associating with the increase in these other seabirds.
Snipe, Linnets and Chaffinches in the fields. A walk to Rye was rewarded with a spectacular sunset and freezing dusk – a drake Goldeneye flying west offshore was the epitome of the day’s birds until a concourse of waders, Common gulls and Swans began their laboured roostward journeys under a burnished evening dome of red, orange and pink. Raptors appearing included Marsh harrier, Common buzzard and an adult Peregrine feinting at a Kestrel as flocks of Fieldfares gathered in the bare willows.
Meeting a family of farmers from Kent and enjoying a walk and talk with them about conservation and food production was the social highlight. A sickle Moon and huge Planet Venus glowed golden in the chilling night sky as I returned homewards.
An uneventful end of year. Gladly bright and clear now after yesterday’s rain.
Some notes during watches today of divers passing eastwards;-
Diver sp. 110 E 1 W, Shelduck 1 E 2 W, Brent goose 4 E, Gannet 12 E 1 W, Guillemot 5 E and auk sp 3 E.