The mist hung over Arundel in the twilight early this morning, our second of this year's year list booster days, but thankfully not enough to hamper o dawn watch over the river. Among the first birds on our list was Tawny Owl, with two calling off to our right. Soon afterwards, a Barn Owl patrolled the meadows just beyond the reeds for several minutes, giving fantastic views. While Marsh Harriers and a Little Egret left their roost, so did a mixed flock of Bramblings and Chaffinches, noisily emerging from their chosen ivy-clad tree. Just when we thought it was getting too light, a Woodcock finally made an appearance, with a close pass almost at eye level! Cetti's Warbler and Snipe added their voices to the mix.
From behind us, a Firecrest called, reminding us that the day was truly underway and to go looking for diurnal birds...
We couldn't resist calling in at Swanbourne Lake, as we were passing it on the way out of Arundel. In record time we tracked down Mandarin Duck, Marsh Tit, Treecreeper, Nuthatch and a handful of Firecrests and Goldcrests - superb!
Westdean Woods was allowed a fair bit of time as some of the target species there are very elusive, Hawfinch being one. We enjoyed close views of Siskin, a few Bramblings and a flyover flock of Crossbills but time began to run dry. We made our way back to the car, feeling we'd made a fair effort... then a harsh 'tsikk!' drew our eyes to a splendid male Hawfinch right next to the car! It was even singing, though admittedly Hawfinch song isn't the most sophisticated... These 'last minute' spots are always a thrill!
With this boost, we headed up the road to Iping Common, quickly seeing the Little Bunting with its Reed Bunting companions. Three Dartford Warblers and a Stonechat were also seen, but most of the heath was eerily quiet so we moved on towards the coast.
At Church Norton, offshore birds were our priority as we intended to make the most of the calm conditions to view the settled and feeding birds on the sea. A little raft of Red-breasted Mergansers were close in, as were some of the half-dozen or so Slavonian Grebes. Two Eiders, three Red-throated Divers and a Gannet put in an appearance, then we picked out the two Long-tailed Ducks which have been offshore for the last day or two. They were extremely distant until a mob of speedboats disturbed the peace, and they landed right in with the close Red-breasted Mergansers! We were sorry to see the birds hounded, but it was a treat to see them at such close range.
Scanning the harbour itself revealed the wintering Whimbrel, a flock of Golden Plovers, Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits, and an assortment of other waders including Knot, Grey Plover, Curlew and Dunlin. Three Goldeneye in the main channel were a nice bonus too.
After a quick, unsuccessful search for Cattle Egrets, we made a pitstop at Dell Quay, where we added Spotted Redshank, Greenshank and Dark-bellied Brent Goose. There were good views of Pintail and Wigeon on offer, and looks at more Goldeneye and Red-breasted Merganser.
We scanning over the water meadows at Burpham rather hopefully, but this turned out to be well-placed optimism, because the 11 Bewick's Swans had returned from their recent excursion to Amberley. These birds are such a delight to have here.
At The Burgh, we managed superb views of another Barn Owl, though the conditions were so calm that there was little other bird of prey activity. Grey Partridges and Red-legged Partridges had a lot to say though, calling all over the place. As dusk fell, two Woodcocks flew overhead. We used the thermal imager and our torch on the way back to the car to get lovely views of a hunting Tawny Owl.
We ended the day back in Arundel with a healthy 103 species under our belt, and it never even felt rushed. Beautifully calm and dry days like this, so filled with birds, just can't be beaten!
Our species list for the day:
Dark-bellied Brent Goose
Great Crested Grebe
Great Black-backed Gull
Great Spotted Woodpecker