Chris & Rich’s Great British Birding Adventure. Part 3

August 11

We decided to take it a little easy today, after several days of full on birding. Having a nice ‘lie in’ was just what the doctor ordered. We left the house in the late morning, caught a train from Woking to Waterloo Station in London, and began our exploration of the city. First thing we saw was Big Ben, and the British Houses of Parliament. The London Eye next to the River Thames looked like a fun ride, but I didn’t try it out. Rich danced a bit to some bagpipes being played as we walked over to Westminster Abby. From there, we headed to Carnaby St, then the Picadilly Circus. Also on our list of places we went today, Buckingham Palace, Soho and Trafalgar Square! We managed to visit several pubs with rather animated names such as ‘Shakespeare’s Head’, and ‘The Glassblower’. All in all it was a great day and I thoroughly enjoyed myself and all the shenanigans we got ourselves into.

Chris & Rich pose by Royal Mail box in London. Aug 2014.
Chris & Rich pose by Royal Mail box in London. Aug 2014.
Chris poses with guard near Downing St, London, UK. Aug 2014. Photo Rich Mooney.
Chris poses with guard near Downing St, London, UK. Aug 2014. Photo Rich Mooney.

August 12

We left Lavender Cottage at 7:30 AM and we drove to the Ash Ranges, British Military’s property that is open to the public. The ranges are covered in heath, the favored habitat for one my most wanted birds, the Dartford Warbler. Unfortunately the red flags were flying this morning, so that meant the military were doing activities and we couldn’t enter. Too bad. Next, we headed over to one of Rich’s local patches, Pulborough Brooks RSPB reserve in West Sussex. There were a lot of birds here, though for the first time, I didn’t get any lifers at a major location. Included in the list of birds we encountered were Chiffchaffs, Gr. Whitethroats, European Robin, Rose-ringed Parakeet, European Goldfinch, European Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Willow Warbler, Great Spotted Woodpecker and much more. One one particular pond we had a Pectoral Sandpiper, a rare visitor to the UK from North America.

Rich was ‘twitching’ a little with the news of an adult Long-tailed Skua (Jaeger) at Selsey on the coast so we promptly made our way in that direction. As was often the case while Rich drove the car, I snoozed. Only once did this really present a problem, as my eyes drifted off, the only Mistle Thrush of the trip flew by apparently. Oh well, next time. We arrived at the location near Church Norton to find the tide was high and had cut off the trail to the beach where the jaeger was being seen. I set up the scope and scanned the harbor, and there were numerous Oystercatchers, Redshanks, Great Crested Grebe, and a trip first, some Little Terns. Other anxious birders turned up and looked at the high tide, cursed and walked away. One fellow offered to drive us in his work van over to another access to the beach so in we hopped. After a short walk we found ourselves on the beach with about 20 other birders looking for the Long-tailed Jaeger. Ten minutes passed, then 15. Rich decided to lay his head down and have a nap. Not long after he shut his eyes, I spotted the bird flying in. ‘Here it is!’, I yelled, and Rich jolted up and threw off his sunglasses. ‘Where?’, he said, as I pointed at the bird not far away on the pebble ridden beach. What a little beauty this adult Long-tailed Jaeger was! Perhaps this bird was a transplant from the remnants of Hurricane Bertha a few days earlier, I suspected.

Adult Long-tailed Jaeger on beach at Selsey, UK. Aug 2014. Photo Rich Mooney.
Adult Long-tailed Jaeger on beach at Selsey, UK. Aug 2014. Photo Rich Mooney.

Later on as dusk neared, we visited the Ash Ranges one more time. This time the flags were down and we could enter. It didn’t take us long to find a male Dartford Warbler, along with at least 2 young in the heath. This was perhaps my most wanted bird on the tour and I was not disappointed. Also in the area was a family of about 5 Stonechats that were nice to watch. I had my best views yet of both Great Spotted Woodpecker and Green Woodpecker through the scope here. Just another excellent day of birding in the UK.

Chris gives the thumbs up after seeing his lifer Dartford Warbler at Ash Ranges, Surrey, UK. Aug 2014. Photo Rich Mooney.
Chris gives the thumbs up after seeing his lifer Dartford Warbler at Ash Ranges, Surrey, UK. Aug 2014. Photo Rich Mooney.

August 13

This was my last full day with Rich, unfortunately as the next day, Thursday, I had to hop on a train and travel to Rutland where Limosa Holidays awaited my arrival at the British Birdfair. Rich and I made the most out of what we had today, first of all checking an area near Ripley, where the remains of the old Newark Priory stand. With a little patience we were rewarded with what we had come to find, a Little Owl!

Little Owl not too far from Rich's place in Woking, UK. Aug 2014. Photo RIch Mooney.
Little Owl not too far from Rich’s place in Woking, UK. Aug 2014. Photo RIch Mooney.

Next stop on the list was a place we had already visited on my first day in the country, the Ockham Common. We searched through little groups of tits, treecreeper and Goldcrest, finally finding what we sought, Eurasian Nuthatch! Fantastic, a bird I thought I had missed. After a beer at the Black Swan Pub, where incidentally from our outdoor patio table we heard another Little Owl calling. This evening, we ventured back to Papercourt Meadows and listened at dusk for calling Tawny Owls. We heard one, and we marched over to the area where we figured it was. The calls were loud and we were close, but the owl wouldn’t come into view this time. Still exciting nevertheless.

Chris Charlesworth

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