Birds on Stilts and a North American Bonus!

Today (August 9th) we planned to visit RSPB Pulborough Brooks to see the Black-Winged Stilt family. The Black-Winged Stilts are a national rarity and the Black-Winged Stilts that are in Pulborough Brooks bred in RSPB Medmerry and then moved to RSPB Pagham Harbour before finally ending up in RSPB Pulborough Brooks. One of the RSPB volunteers joked that they had been given a guide to RSPB reserves! I was thinking of visiting them at Medmerry though it is a very long drive, it’s lucky that they moved north!
The first place in the reserve we visited was Jupp’s View and it turned out to be a good choice! One of the birdwatchers pointed out an adult Black-Winged Stilt to me and soon enough I had picked up all five. Later on, while I was still at Jupp’s View watching the Stilts, a different birdwatcher notified me of a Pec Sand, something I would never have dreamed to see here! A Pec Sand is a term what many birdwatchers use for a Pectoral Sandpiper!

A Pectoral Sandpiper is a North American vagrant*, the most common American wader to be found in the UK. I also remember reading an American book about a birdwatcher and one of the chapters told the story of when she tried to find a European vagrant in a group of hundreds of Pectoral Sandpipers! A Pectoral Sandpiper can be identified from other similar birds like Wood Sandpipers and Ruff by its brown breast band (which gives the species its name), very slightly down curved bill, Yellow-green-brown legs, white belly and streaky breast. It is also slightly larger than a Dunlin, which is useful because it was feeding in front of the only Dunlin on the whole lake! Other birds of note we saw at Pulborough Brooks were:
A Peregrine flying North West,
2 Kestrels,
3 Corn Buntings,
1 Little Egret,
5+ Green Sandpipers,
1 Greenshank,
3 Buzzards
and 3 Little Ringed Plovers.

There's a Pec Sand there somewhere...

There’s a Pec Sand there somewhere…

*A vagrant is a bird that is rarely seen in this country. Most vagrants are birds that have been blown off course on migration by storms or inexperienced juveniles. We were lucky today for our Pec Sand to be an adult.

Garden List expansion

Like many other birders, I keep a Garden List as well as a life list. This morning I was hoping to expand my garden list by maybe a species or two by doing a simple Birdwatch for an hour. I set up my binoculars at the windowsill in my bedroom and started watching my garden from 10:30. The first species to arrive was a pair of Robins, foraging in the leaf litter. Then a Blue Tit flew onto the feeder followed by another and another and another until there was about ten on and around the feeder. Just then some action started to happen. A flock of six Redwings flew into our garden then another six and the number of Redwings kept going up and up and up. by ten minutes I had counted just 100 Redwings in our garden. It was a spectacular sight, but not a new species for my garden list. More birds kept on coming, Chaffinches, Carrion Crows, Woodpigeons, even a Buzzard flew overhead. No new garden species though. Suddenly I spotted a small streaky bird at the foot of our giant Oak Tree, it was a little smaller than a chaffinch and probably a type of finch. I looked at it through my binoculars and spotted a patch of red on its forehead. A Redpoll. I had seen a Lesser Redpoll in our garden before, washing in our bird bath, but most of its features seemed to point to a Common Redpoll, such as the fact that going from its head downwards, there was a smaller, thinner white wing bar followed by a larger, wider one. I found out that a Common Redpoll was only seen once in Sussex in 2012 and even experts have difficulty telling them apart. It would also be a new species for my garden list! I couldn’t get very good photos due to the fact that it was so small, it was quite far away for my camera to reach and we were looking at it through a window. After it had flown into a laurel bush on the west side of the garden, I put the sighting into BTO’s birdtrack as a redpoll species. At the end of the birdwatch, I had seen 199 individual birds, a record for my garden. That number included:

7 Robins

20 Blue Tits

20 Common Wood-Pigeons

1 Buzzard

100 Redwings

10 Great Tits

10 Chaffinches

2 Dunnocks

3 Blackbirds

3 Jays

16 Carrion Crows

3 Magpies

1 Bullfinch

1 Redpoll spp.

2 Collared Doves

One of the Redwings