This is the second posting covering a trip to the Tibetan Plateau with Jon Hornbuckle, Ashley Banwell, Ed Dickinson, Phil Heath and Barry Wright and guided by Jesper Hornskov. It is based on my scant notebook entries, unreliable memories and a report Jesper produced. Most of the photos included are digitised prints I took although a few were kindly provided by Barry and Jon and acknowledged accordingly.
We'd arrived at the desolate Er La pass the previous afternoon, done a quick acclimatization recce up to the saddle and seen Roborovski's Rosefinch before continuing the short distant to Wenquan for the night.
18 June 2000. We returned to Er La pass and anxiously started the long climb up to the plateau. I'm not too good going up hills, particularly at altitude, and deliberately left my telescope and tripod in the vehicle to make it easier as I didn't want to fall too far behind. As it turned out the climb was much less arduous than I feared and I made it to the plateau with the others. It didn't take too long to spread out and find a pair of Tibetan Sandgrouse unobtrusively feeding on the stony desert floor. When the others wandered off scanning the slopes I monopolised Jesper's telescope, the only one we'd brought up with us, and gave the sandgrouse my full attention. They didn't move very far and towards the end of this time I realised why, they were accompanied by three mainly stationary, very small and very well camouflaged chicks. I noted that both parents were feeding the chicks although not while we were close to them. Several times when one of us stood up or moved the female shuffled off, belly low to the ground with wings partly extended and fluttered for a 'broken wing' distraction. The male did so once, rather less enthusiastically with one wing. Both parents were pecking at the ground but I couldn't determine whether they were feeding on small plants or insects. Both adults called to the chicks, a quiet seep seep, presumably telling them not to move. When the others left and I retreated the parents came closer and the chicks ran to them. They were absolutely superb and I watched them for 2.5 hours at 25-75m range. It was one of my best ever birding experiences. Elated we returned to the vehicles after seven hours, during that time I'd seen 2 Ruddy Shelduck, 2 Himalayan Griffons, 2 Tibetan Snowcock, the sandgrouse family, 40 Shore Larks, Pale Martin, 5 Guldenstadt's and 10 Black Redstarts, 4 Robin Accentors, 6 Rufous-necked and 8 White-winged Snowfinches, 6 Hodgson's and 20 Brandt's Mountain Finches and Roborovoski's Rosefinch. A brilliant morning. Back at the motel in Wenquan I wandered along the river seeing 34 Himalayan Griffons and a Black Vulture, an adult Lammergeyer, 2 Upland Buzzards, 8 Blue Hill Pigeons, an excellent Saker, 2 Dippers (one a brown morph), 2 Guldenstadt's and 10 Black Redstarts, 12 Hume's Groundpeckers, 6 Rufous-necked and 2 White-rumped and a Black-winged Snowfinch and 5 Twite.
Er La saddle
Er La plateau
Jon and Phil watching Tibetan Sandgrouse (the two small roundish 'rocks' slightly left of centre)
slightly more obvious Tibetan Sandgrouse above Er La, just visible slightly left of centre on the ridge
Tibetan Sandgrouse above Er La (photo: Jon Hornbuckle). Hard from this image to see the fine barring on the female's coverts. Those of the male, on the left, are unbarred.
Er La plateau
time to leave
coming off the plateau
back in Wenquan
Wenquan's main street
down-time vehicle checks at our motel in Wenquan
19 June 2000. A travel day comprising a long drive from Wenquan to Jesper's 'secret' forest reserve near Banma and the Sichuan border. Real Tibetan Plateau scenery, lots of prayer flags, yaks and some colourful locals. Birds seen included 11 Bar-headed Geese, 17 Ruddy Shelduck, 6 Black Kites, 5 Himalayan Griffons, a Lammergeyer, 60 Upland Buzzards, a Golden Eagle, 2 Brown-headed Gulls, 2 Blue Hill Pigeons, 6 Cuckoos, a Little Owl, a Hoopoe, 9 Sakers, single Magpie, Chough and Daurian Jackdaw, 12 Ravens, 25 Hume's Groundpeckers, a Long-billed Calandra and 50 Shore Larks, 25+ Black Redstarts and 40+ Rufous-necked, 50 White-rumped and 3 White-winged Snowfinches.
Huashixia main street
Tibetan women in Huashixia
Cool dude in Huashixia
noodle bars, Jesper's answer to everything, I wasn't the only one to remain unconvinced
impressive prayer flags near Huashixia
yak and prayer flags
this was a particularly impressive collection
this was in the time of film cameras and I went a bit mad with the photos
Tibetan Black Tent, a yurt (or Ger if in Mongolia) would be round and usually white or colourfully patterned
Hume's Groundpecker (photo: Barry Wright)
local transport south of Huashixia
heading into town
Yak herding between Huashixia and Yigikai
impressive looking Saker (photo: Barry Wright)
prayer flags near Darlag
one of the newer buildings in the centre of town contrasting with more traditional means of transport
Thursday 18 July. DB drove JK and me to Oare where we had a very enjoyable visit, despite a couple of blustery showers. In over six hours we had good views of the two main birds we had come to look for: Bonaparte's Gull and Lesser Yellowlegs. We also saw 2 Marsh Harriers, 48+ Avocets, 2 Golden Plover, 3-4 Whimbrel, 500+ Black-tailed Godwits, 3 Ruff, 8 Dunlin, Common Sandpiper, 450 Common and a Spotted Redshank, 4 Greenshank, a smart Wood Sandpiper, a single Mediterranean Gull, 2 Little Terns, 3 Turtle Doves, 30 Swifts and 3 highly desirable Bearded Tits. Back home the Great Black-backed Gull family was on the roof behind us as they had been all week.
Bonaparte's Gull at Oare
its head had a slight brownish tinge in some lights and was certainly not Med Gull black
it was finding plenty of worms
noticeably smaller compared to Black-headed Gull
excellent spotting from DB later in our visit
Bonaparte's Gull at Oare
showing bright red legs ans thin black bill
Black-tailed Godwits and Avocets at Oare
Lesser Yellowlegs at Oare
Ruff at Oare
Golden Plover at Oare
Wednesday 17 July. Cookie and I walked up the Adur from the airport to Cuckoo's Corner. The highlight was a colour-ringed Black-headed Gull which I have on good authority is likely to be from a Latvian scheme although I'm awaiting confirmation. Also by the airport a Common Sandpiper and a juvenile Peregrine which flew slowly up river flushing everything and several times appearing as if about to land until it reached the Old Toll Bridge and flew back equally slowly and erratically. 3 Swifts and 20 House Martins were over Lancing College. Later I cycled to Worthing stopping at Brooklands on the way (no interesting gulls, just Reed Warbler heard). Three Little Egrets were on Widewater and 2 Sandwich Terns offshore and 7 Swifts over Eastern Avenue.
Black-headed Gull KFN8 on the Adur
Tuesday 16 July. I took Cookie to Knepp where we spent a couple of hours seeing 4 Buzzards, 3 Stock and 2 Turtle Doves, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 5 Chiffchaffs, 2 Garden Warblers, 14 Whitethroats, 11 Wrens, Nuthatch, 3 Bullfinches and 2 Yellowhammers. I used to enjoy wandering around at Knepp but on recent visits have felt quite unwelcome with a proliferation of No Entry, Wildlife Only signs and this time camera traps beside public footpaths.
Camera trap on a public footpath on the Knepp Estate.
Stage three of the Estate Plan now underway - the unwelcoming, following on from Stage one the rewilding (few would disagree with this) and Stage two the dubious introductions
another camera trap, smile please
Fox at Knepp
Tamworth at Knepp, potentially dangerous introduced animal on a public footpath, doubtless he camera traps ensure they behave
young Great Black-backed Gull starting to look like a Dodo
Wednesday 15 July. Megan and I took Cookie to Cissbury seeing 4 Green and 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 4 Sky Larks, 2 Ravens, 2 Whitethroats, Nuthatch, Meadow Pipit, 5 Yellowhammers and an unidentified crest (poorly in flight).
Wolstenbury and Truleigh Hill from Cissbury
Chanctonbury from Cissbury
Gatekeeper at Cissbury
Yellowhammer at Cissbury
Tuesday 14 July. Megan and I took Cookie to Brooklands where 2 juvenile Mediterranean Gulls were the highlight. Later a Swift flew over the garden and the Great Black-backed Gull was fed.
Introduction: An email from Jon Hornbuckle on the Oriental Birding chat group looking for two people to join a privately organised trip to the Tibetan Plateau was too irresistible to ignore. It was a part of the world I had wanted to visit ever since trekking up to Jomson in Nepal in 1979 and having to ‘turn right’ at Kagbeni when many mouth-watering birds were straight on (all be it several day’s walk). I contracted Jon, who I knew of but had never met, and although expensive it was not prohibitively so. My boss was understanding and let me have four weeks off during term time and I was going! Barry Wright, Edward Dickinson (the other OB recruit) and I booked KLM flights to Beijing where we would be met by our guide, Chinese resident Danish birder Jesper Hornskov who had run one previous trip on our itinerary. We would join Jon Hornbuckle, Ashley Banwell and Phil Heath in Xining, them having had three weeks in Sichuan.
This is first post giving my perspective on the trip. It is based on my scant notebook entries, unreliable memories and a report Jesper produced. Most of the photos included are digitised prints of views I took although a few of birds were kindly provided by Barry and Jon.
10 June 2000: I met Barry at Heathrow and Ed found us in the departure lounge at Schipol, Amsterdam despite my already having removed my six-year old son’s pirate cap I’d agreed to wear to aid identification. It had seemed like a good idea at the time but fortunately Barry and I studying bird books rendered it unnecessary.
11 June 2000: The flight was uneventful until approaching Beijing when one of the stewardesses told us the Great Wall was coming up on the left. We found a window and ‘flight views only’ took on a new meaning. Jesper met us in Beijing and we piled into a taxi to take us an hour into the busy, rapidly developing city seeing Azure-winged Magpie from the vehicle - my first new bird, we saw about 40 during the day. We dumped our stuff in the hotel and visited the Summer Palace hoping a late migrant might be present. We saw nothing out of the ordinary although 15 summer plumaged Chinese Pond Herons, 3 Yellow Bitterns, 100+ Swifts, a Hobby, 15 Oriental Reed Warblers, 2 White-cheeked Starlings and 6 Oriental Greenfinches (also new) were nice. Indian Cuckoo was only heard and my views of Black-browed Reed Warbler were little better. We returned via Beijing Zoo where Giant Pandas were the obvious star attraction. Jesper was disappointed Peking Duck wasn’t available for our evening meal. Disappointment was my main reaction to most of the food we had in China, although not on this occasion.
Beijing Summer Palace
distant hills from the Summer Palace, the walls visible left of centre are not part of the Great Wall
view from our hotel
12 June 2000: After a reasonable night’s sleep and uninspiring breakfast we returned to the airport seeing just one Azure-winged Magpie on the way and caught an internal flight to Xining, Qinghai's provincial capital. The flight took nearly three hours and the airport, where our driver met us, was 30km outside the city. We were driven into Xining to a grey concrete building that was our hotel, comfortable enough just a pity the toilets were so basic. There we met up with Jon, Ashley, Phil and our other driver who had spent the morning birding at Laoye Shan. We were all driven up to the nearby eroded hills of Bei Shan (North Mountain). Here we saw 2 Daurian Partridge (just decent flight views for me), 3 Common Pheasants, 8 Blue Hill Pigeon, 4 Swifts, a Magpie (from the car), 6 Chough, a Shore Lark, 2 Rock Thrushes, 6 Black Redstarts, 10 Pale Rosefinches, and male Meadow and 4 Godlewski’s Buntings. Three new birds was not a bad start on a mostly travel day although the hoped for Przevalski's Partridge eluded us.
13 June 2000: We were up before dawn and driving 40km north to Datong and the dry forest of Laoye Shan and Dong Xia. It was very dull and overcast, not helped by immense clouds of black smoke belching from a nearby power station. Dull soon became drizzle and then rain. It was also cold. A hot noodle breakfast wasn’t greeted with the same level of enthusiasm by most of us as it was by Jesper but at least it was warm. He had some foil-sealed dry compressed biscuits, the sort of thing an astronaut might survive on, which were more to my liking, at least initially. Despite the weather we were largely successful, highlights being 4 Daurian Partridges (much better views), 2 male White-bellied Redstarts, male Siberian Rubythroat, male Red-flanked Bluetail, male Kessler’s Thrush, a Spotted Bush, 3 Yellow-streaked and a Gansu Leaf Warbler, 4 Crested Tit-Warblers, Pere-David’s Laughing-Thrush, Songar Tit, 2 Przevalski’s Nuthatches, 3 Rufous-breasted Accentors, White-browed Rosefinch and a superb pair of Grey-headed Bullfinches. Seven species were new for me and most of the rest my first for at least 18 years. Crested Tit Warbler was one of my main targets for the trip although first views were a shade disappointing, being either brief, distant or both. We returned to Xining for a forgetable night.
14 June 2000. An early start saw us driving up onto the Tibetan Plateau and the fabled Koko Nor (Qinghai Lake) at an elevation of about 3200m. On the way we saw our first Daurian Jackdaws (3 pale and 2 dark birds) and 12 Hume’s Groundpeckers. The latter, now considered an aberrant tit, was highly desirable, its range not quite extending south into the areas of Nepal I was able to visit almost 20 years earlier. Birds seen at Koko Nor included 2400 Bar-headed Geese, 100 Ruddy Shelduck, 2 Garganey, 150 Red-crested Pochard, 11 Ferruginous Duck, 4 Goosander and 700 summer-plumaged Great Black-headed Gulls. We were a bit late for migrant waders but did see single Red-necked Phalarope and Red-necked Stint with 3 Lesser Sand Plovers amongst 50 or so Kentish. On the marshes nearby were 3 distant Black-necked Cranes while passerines included 6 Mongolian, 20 Long-billed Calandra and 25 Hume’s Short-toed Larks, 20 Pale Martins, 15 Isabelline Wheatears, 3 Citrine Wagtails, 4 Twite and 6 White-rumped and 6 Pere-David’s Snowfinches. We stayed in the equivalent of a very basic motel in Heimahe which just about boasted a view of the lake. Despite being mid June it was decidedly cold at night.
birding at Koko Nor
15 June 2000. Another early start and a drive west into the desert near Chaka to a site of Jesper’s for Henderson’s Ground Jay. Spreading out on arrival we soon found a pair although it took a while to obtain good views. It was a superb clear morning and I ended up seeing about 8 jays while 38 Pallas’s Sandgrouse, mostly flying over calling in parties of 1-6, provided a very evocative distraction. We also saw 6 Hume's Groundpeckers, 25 Shore Larks, 8 Isabelline and 5 Desert Wheatears, 7 Blandford’s, 3 Rufous-necked and 3 Black-winged Snowfinches, 5 Twite and 5 Mongolian Desert Finches. At a small oasis an oriole was singing but remained unseen, seemingly well out of range for either Golden or Black-naped, while 5 Asian Short-toed Larkshere was hardly inspiring. Returning towards Haimahe the weather worsened and we spent the rest of the day on scrub covered hillsides looking for 'Przevalski’s' with mixed success (again). His redstart eluded us but we found an excellent pair of Prezvalski’s Finches. Lammergeyer, 3 Brown, 3 Robin and 2 Rufous-breasted Accentors, female Himalayan Rubythroat, 2 Blue-fronted Redstarts, 6 Tickell's Warblers, Stolizka’s Tit-Warbler and 3 Beautiful Rosefinches added to the Himalayan feel as did the now inclement weather.
desert near Chaka
surprising how easily birds could hide amongst the scattered bushes
Henderson's Ground Jay (photo Barry Wright)
herdsman near Chaka
Zakov Shamov, west of Heimahe
16 June 2000. We returned to the scrub-covered hillsides at Zakov Shamov at dawn and searched ever increasing areas for several hours for Prezevalski’s Redstart before Ashley, who had ventured the furthest, found a male on a distant hillside. Fortunately it stayed and although mobile afforded good views. Another major bird seen. The area also produced superb views of a male Wallcreeper, White-browed Tit (the day's other new bird for me), 2 Tibetan Snowcocks and a singing Prezevalski’s Finch. We continued on to Gonghe stopping by some roadside fields where we found a male Pine Bunting and later seeing Upland Buzzard, 20 Blue Hill Pigeons, a Little Owl and a rather mangy looking Tibetan Wolf by the road. In Gonghe we stayed in the Iron Curtain hotel, about as impressive as the image its name conjures. A singing Desert Lesser Whitethroat in the small front garden made it an unexpectedly good choice although there was not an alternative.
Josh's pirate cap makes a rare appearance in the hills near Zakov Shamkov
distant view of Koko Nor
Prezvalski's Finch (photo Barry Wright)
hills west of Heimahe with views of Koko Nor
roadside village on the way to Gonghe
Jesper shopping, watched over by Ashley and Phil. Hard to go wrong with bananas ...
17 June 2000. Mainly a driving day, from Gonghe to Wenquan, an Eagle Owl seen roosting in a roadside quarry was an early surprise. We stopped at an arid wadi failing after a long search to find Prezavalski’s Partridge (again). A later stop in a gorge (imaginatively called The Gorge according to Jesper) was more productive with pairs of both Guldenstadt’s Redstart and Great Rosefinch and a female Wallcreeper. Further on 3 Pallas’s Sandgrouse flew low over the road. Other roadside birds during the day included 6 Himalayan Griffons, 2 Lammergeyers, 4 Upland Buzzards, 20 Blue Hill Pigeons, 50 Shore Lark,4 Chough, 15 Hume's Groundpeckers, at least 50 Black Redstarts, 10 Isabelline and 2 Desert Wheatears, male Rock and 4 Kessler's Thrushes and a brown morph Dipper. Mid afternoon we stopped at Er La (about 4500m) and climbed 250-300m up the hillside above the road. It was good acclimatization for a longer rather daunting climb up to a plateau planned for the following morning and also a good site for the superb Roborovski’s Rosefinch of which we found two pairs. They did not disappoint. I also saw a Pacific and 10 Common Swifts, 6 Shore Larks, another Guldenstadt’s Redstart, 2 Brown Accentors, 3 White-wingedSnowfinches and 2 Brandt’s Mountain Finches. We continued, dropping down to Wenquan (3900m) where we stayed the night in a very basic motel. Despite being lower it didn’t feel much warmer.
south of Gonghe
supposedly a good site for Prezvalski's Partridge, we gave it a good go but had no success
very dry away from the river, the scenery reminded me a lot of very distant memories of parts of Morocco
Wednesday 10 July. With low expectations I took Cookie for a walk up the Adur from below the footbridge. A Bar-tailed Godwit by the Airport was a good start as were 2 Sand Martins with the usual 20 or so House Martins and 3 Swifts in the Cuckoo's Corner/Lancing College area. We continued north seeing 4 singing male Reed Buntings but Reed Warblers, very evident on previous visits, were mostly silent. We saw a Common Sandpiper and 11 Swallows south of Dacre Gardens and returned to the airport at about low tide. The godwit had been joined by 3 Whimbrel while one of the sandbars a roosting flock of 14 Mediterranean Gulls was joined by a Sandwich Tern. 21 more Mediterranean Gulls flew down the river of which 6 broke off to join those roosting. One had a white colour-ring but being a dog walk I'd not taken a telescope and frustratingly couldn't read it. Looking at images on returning home one of the others had a green colour-ring so I grabbed my telescope and returned. The godwits and Whimbrel were not evident but there were still about 15 Mediterranean Gulls on the sandbank including 3 with French colour-rings - two green (RN1R and R4LE) and one white (assumed to be E671 or 3671). There were also 6 second-summers, two more than earlier taking my Adur day total to 37. Looking in my notes my previous highest Adur count appears to be 7 on 13 March 2005 although the 361E I recorded at Widewater in five hours on 21 April 2019 rather puts today's count in perspective. Also on the Adur was a Sandwich Tern but I failed again to find a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, the juvenile Herring from previous visits being present. At home the Great Black-backed Gull parents and growing chick were present on the roof opposite.
growing Great Black-backed Gull chick from the garden
Bar-tailed Godwit on the Adur
juvenile Black-headed Gull on the Adur
Reed Bunting in the bean field
Reed Bunting carrying food
Reed Warbler carrying food
Whimbrel wins the Adur 10m sprint
mainly Mediterranean Gulls on the Adur
left hand bird with white colour-ring
full set of ages
with Sandwich Tern, left hand bird with green colour-ring
a striking gull in all plumages
juveniles are particularly pleasing for me as I rarely see them in this plumage
Mediterranean Gull E671 or perhaps more likely 3671. Impossible to read from this image, for later scope views it only showed the last 3 numbers
Mediterranean Gull R4LE, even through a telescope it was a bit of a stretch to read it
Mediterranean Gull RN1R
Four of the second-summers
Tuesday 09 July. I took Cookie to West Mill looking for what might be my last Turtle Dove of the year. We walked out to and along the old railway line and saw 6 Grey Herons, Red Kite, Lapwing, 3 Stock and a Turtle Dove, 2 Kestrels, 3 Sky Larks, Chiffchaff, 3 Whitethroats, 3 Bullfinches, 6 Yellowhammers and 2 Reed Buntings. There was very little song, although I heard Reed Warbler and Nuthatch. Back home the Great Black-backed Gull adults and chick were at Glebelands and a Swift flew over while I was at the allotment.
Great Black-backed Gull and chick from the garden
Yellowhammer at West Mill
Ringlets at West Mill
Reed Bunting on the levels
Turtle Dove at West Mill, a bird I've seen on most visits this spring/summer but probably not for much longer
not seen or heard on the way out but it was purring on the way back
Monday 08 July. I took Cookie to Widewater and as it was low tide we walked along the beach to Brooklands and back. I was still looking for juvenile Yellow-leg but there were hardly any gulls about. We saw 6 Sandwich Terns offshore and 3 Mediterranean Gulls flew east. Back home the Great Black-backed Gull adults and chick were at Glebelands.
Sunday 07 July. Megan and I took Cookie to the Adur. We saws 3 Little Egrets, an Oystercatcher, a Redshank and hardly any gulls, yesterday's juvenile Herring Gull being an exception.
the juvenile Herring Gull looking a bit more respectable
Saturday 06 July. I visited Shoreham Fort, Shoreham Beach and the Adur with Cookie looking for juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls but the closest I saw was an unaccompanied juvenile Herring Gull on the Adur, and pretty grim it was too. We saw 3 Little Egrets, a Sparrowhawk, Oystercatcher, my first juvenile Black-headed Gull of the year and distant views of 3 Swifts and 20 House Martins over Lancing College. Not really worth going out for but Cookie needed a walk. Later Megan and I took Cookie up to Mill Hill seeing 2 Buzzards, a Whitethroat and a Yellowhammer, so not much better.
Great Black-backed Gull chick on the roof behind our garden
juvenile Herring Gull on the Adur
juvenile Black-headed Gull on the Adur, arguably its most attractive (striking?) plumage
Megan and I had a short break on the Dorset coast staying in a mobile home south of Bridport. Cookie came too.
Monday 01 July. We drove down to Dorset stopping for lunch at Badbury Rings, similar to a more wooded Cissbury with distant views including of the west end of the Isle of Wight. Lots of mainly Pyramidal Orchids were growing along the banks and we saw 2 Stonechats, Yellowhammer and Corn Bunting. We walked around the less-formal gardens at nearby Kingston Lacy seeing little and continued on to Bridport and Eype where we were staying. The last km of the journey was down a narrow lane with few passing places, some blind bends and more than occasional oncoming traffic. Once settled in we decided to walk the 2km east over West Cliff to West Bay for essentials rather than drive back into Bridport. A pair of House Martins were breeding on the site but the walk produced nothing of note, the flat-calm sea being particularly birdless.
our local Great Back-backed Gull and chick before we left
over the hill to West Bay, the Isle of Portland visible in the far distance
Tuesday 02 July. We walked west three or four miles, over Thorncombe Beacon to Seatown and on up Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast at 191 metres above sea level. Spectacular view both ways along the coast, from Portland to Start Point. We saw a very striking looking Golden-ringed Dragonfly in a ride along the edge of Langdon Hill as we approached Golden Cap. Birds were few and far between with 12 Swifts, 3 Swallows, the 2 local House Martins and 3 Stonechats. In the afternoon we drove into Bridport, did our shopping and walked around the town.
looking east from Eype Mouth, Thorncombe Beacon on the left, Lyme Regis and the Devon coast in the far distance
looking east from Thorncombe Beacon, the jetty at West Bay visible in the middle distance, Portland a shimmer on the horizon
Seatown, Golden Cap (centre, golden mostly hidden by vegetation), Langdon Hill (right, wooded) and more distantly Lyme Regis
looking back to Seatown, Thorncombe Beacon and Portland
the view east from Golden Cap
west from Golden Cap, Start Point left (on the far horizon), Lyme Regis centre and Charmouth right
back on Thorncombe Beacon
West Bay, middle distance
Cookie and Megan leading the way
Wednesday 03 July. We visited Maiden Castle near Dorchester, one of the largest Iron Age hill forts in Europe and walked around the perimeter seeing Raven and Corn Bunting. We drove a short distance the other side of Dorchester to Thomas Hardy's birthplace on the edge of Thorncombe Forest, a rather picturesque (chocolate-box) cottage. We walked through the woods seeing little before our timed visit to the cottage when Megan looked around inside and Cookie and I stayed in the rather floral garden. It was all a bit too twee for me to take any photos. We had lunch then drove back west of Dorchester to Black Down and Thomas Hardy's monument. We climbed the 120 or so steps to the top of the 22m inverted spyglass shaped tower to a height of 260m above sea level. From the top it is possible to see five counties although our knowledge of landmarks was only sufficient to clock three - Dorset (obviously), The Isle of Wight (St. Catherine's Point just being visible 90km away) and Devon (as far as Start Point 90 km away). Thomas Hardy the author was born in 1840 while the Thomas Hardy monument was constructed in 1844 in memory of Vice Admiral Sir Thomas (Kiss me) Hardy, the captain of HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. To add more confusion the Obolisk at Portland is marked TH 1844 but more of that tomorrow. Back at Eype we walked to West Bay for an ice cream seeing the House Martins, 2 Whitethroats and a Stonechat.
early morning walk with Cookie, looking west to Eype
Dorchester from the ramparts of Maiden Castle
Megan and Cookie at Maiden Castle
Isle of Portland from Thomas Hardy's Monument
a rather hazy Golden Cap from the Thomas Hardy Monument
Thursday 04 July. We drove back to Dorchester and down to Radipole where we spent the best part of two hours looking unsuccessfully for Bearded Tits. While there we saw 9 Mediterranean and a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, Kingfisher, Great White Egret, 15 Swifts and at least 10 Sand Martins. We continued on to Portland Castle where we looked around (dogs are allowed inside) and then had lunch. Last stop was Portland Bill where in an hour we saw 5 Shags, 2 Ravens and 2 Wheatears. Back at Eype the House Martins, a juvenile Stonechat and a male Bullfinch were seen.
juvenile Yellow-legged Gull at Radipole
I didn't see it fly but it seemed to tick the right boxes
Great White Egret at Radipole
Raven at Portland Bill
ringed Wheatear at Portland, too quick for me
Friday 05 July. We drove home leaving Eype at 08:20. Traffic was steady with no delays and we stopped at the M27 services for a short break, as much for Cookie as us. Bizarrely there was no traffic heading east on the motorway when we left, there must have been an incident just west of the services closing the carriageway soon after we'd past. Traffic remained light all the way to Chichester where only the Bognor roundabout caused a delay. A Great White Egret flew north over the A27 as we approached Arundel Station, fortunately Megan was driving giving me chance to look at it. Back home the grass needed cutting, the Great Black-backed Gulls and their slightly larger chick were on the roof at Glebelands and 15 Swifts were seen over the allotment.
Sunday 30 June. Megan and I took Cookie to Lancing Ring and walked around Steepdown. Great views as usual, a welcome breeze and the usual Sky Larks, Whitethroats (9) and Corn Buntings (14). Back home one or other or both Great Black-backed Gulls were with their chick on the roof behind and a Swift flew over.
Great Black-backed Gull chick wanting breakfast
Ringlet at Lancing Ring
Corn Bunting in poppies
Corn Bunting in Linseed
looking back to Lancing Ring
Saturday 29 June. Megan and I took Cookie up to Mill Hill. The hottest day of the year so far with just 3 Whitethroats seen. Back home the Great Black-backed Gulls were on the roof with their chick and 5 Swifts overhead.
Bird's-foot Trefoil on our front lawn (my excuse for not cutting it this week)
Cookie appreciating the shade on Mill Hill
Broomrape at Mill Hill
Great Black-backed Gull family
only one chick seen so far
Magnolia grandiflora in our garden
Friday 28 June. I took Cookie to the Knepp Estate where the shade was much appreciated on a generally birdless hot morning. We saw 2 Turtle Doves, 6 Chiffchaffs, 2 Blackcaps, a Lesser and 2 Common Whitethroats, Mistle Thrush and 2 Bullfinches.
Painted Lady at Knepp
purring Turtle Dove at Knepp
Great Black-backed Gull with chick from our garden
Thursday 27 June. Megan and I took Cookie up to Kithurst Hill and walked to Blackpatch Hill and Lee Farm. We saw a Buzzard, 30 Swifts, 9 Sky Larks, 5 Whitethroats, 20 Linnets and 14 Corn Buntings.
Megan heading towards Blackpatch Hill
Cookie keen to get away from Blackpatch Hill and what sounded like sustained Clay Pigeon shooting
approaching Lee Farm
back on the roof
Wednesday 26 June. At last the Great Black-backed Gulls at Glebelands have a chick.
Great Black-backed Gull at Glebelands
first views of the chick
Tuesday 25 June. I took Cookie to Cuckoo's Corner and we walked up the Adur seeing 2 Grey Herons, 6 Little Egrets, 3 Sky Larks, 12 House Martins (collecting mud and flying up to Lancing College), 11 Reed but no Sedge Warblers, 3 Whitethroats and 11 Reed Buntings. Back in Shoreham the Great Black-backed Gulls were sitting at Glebelands (for the 34th day) and 5 Swifts were feeding overhead.
Reed Bunting singing from a Broad Bean crop
another male Reed Bunting
female Reed Bunting
another singing Reed Bunting
Common Sheep-pecker family at Coombes
Great Black-backed Gull at Glebelands, sitting for the 34th day ...
Monday 24 June. I took Cookie to West Mill where we walked to the old railway line and back. A Green Sandpiper on the wet area was a pleasant surprise and the Turtle Dove was still present along was not purring. Also seen were a Lapwing, a Buzzard, 3 Swifts, 4 Sky Larks, a Chiffchaff, 2 Reed Warblers, 3 Blackcap, 2 Lesser and 6 Common Whitethroats, 2 Bullfinches, 4 Yellowhammers and 4 Reed Buntings. A Great Black-backed Gull continues to sit on its nest at Glebelands, presumably still on eggs. Both adults incubate and incubation takes 27-28 days beginning with the first or second egg (BWP Vol III p857). I first saw one sitting on the nest on 23 May which makes this day 33 so any day now ...
Turtle Dove at West Mill
still hanging on although this year I've found them easier to see here than at Knepp
male Beautiful Demoiselle at West Mill
female Beautiful Demoiselle at West Mill
singing Reed Warbler on the levels
quite a pale looking individual
juvenile Reed Bunting on the levels
it appears to be ringed, hopefully unconnected to its missing tail (which makes it look rather exciting)
singing Reed Bunting
another male Reed Bunting
Yellowhammer at West Mill
Great Black-backed Gull still on its nest
Sunday 23 June. Cookie and I walked a circuit from Lancing Ring to Cowbottom Hovel, Coombe Head and Steep Down. A Cuckoo and a Hobby were nice and we also saw a Buzzard, 2 Grey Partridges, a Swift, a Raven, 18 Sky Larks, 5 House Martins, 6 Whitethroats, a Meadow Pipit, a flock of 90 Linnets and 6 Corn Buntings. A Great Black-backed Gull continues to sit on its nest at Glebelands with 2 Buzzards seen distantly from the garden while looking for Swifts, successfully on this occasion with about 10 high over the garden for 10-15 minutes.
looking East from Lancing Hill
Corn Bunting at Steep Down
Sky Lark near Steep Down
one of 18 seen on our circuit
poppy field and Steep Down with Cissbury and Chanctonbury in the distance
Cookie, poppy field and Lancing Ring
Saturday 22 June. Megan and I took Cookie up to Mill Hill. We saw 2 Sky Larks, a Blackcap, 2 Lesser and 4 Common Whitethroats and a Yellowhammer was heard.
Megan and Cookie on the lower path at Mill Hill
Marbled White on Mill Hill, one of about 15 seen
Harlequin Ladybird larva looking rather sinister
Friday 21 June. Cookie and I walked along the Adur up to Cuckoo's Corner seeing a Cuckoo, single Swift and Swallow, 15 House Martins, 3 Reed Warblers and 3 Whitethroats. Both Great Black-backed Gulls were seen on the roof at Glebelands.
Robin by the Adur
Thursday 20 June. John Cooper kindly offered to taker Megan and me to look for Black Hairstreaks on Ditchling Common. I'd seen his excellent photographs earlier in the week (see http://jfcbirding.blogspot.com/2019/06/17th-june-2019-ditchling-common.html) and felt I ought to make an effort to see them. We were successful seeing at least 3 although views could have been better with none coming down to settle while we were there. Settling with wings closed and flying fast and erratically made them 'underside only' views for me. We later had an enjoyable chat with John and Doreen.
Black Hairstreak on Ditchling Common
this was about as low as one settled for any length of time
unwanted Red-eared Slider on Ditchling Common
Wednesday 19 June. I took Cookie up to Mill Hill where we saw 2 Buzzards, Great Spotted Woodpecker, 4 Whitethoats and a Yellowhammer. Also my first Marbled White of the year, one of the few butterflies I have no trouble identifying.
Buzzard over Mill Hill
Goldfinch on Mill Hill
the commonest finch locally
Greater Black-backed Gull still sitting, as one or other was all week
Tuesday 18 June. A Swift flew over the garden a couple of times in the morning and a Great Black-backed Gull was still sitting on its nest nearby. An enjoyable, although wet, afternoon visit to Pulborough RSPB where I recorded 2 adult and 4 young Egyptian Geese, a Mandarin, 4 Gadwall, 9 Teal, a Marsh Harrier, the Wood Sandpiper (distant as most waders are at Pulborough although better views than I was expecting/feared), 3 Redshank, a Cuckoo (heard several times), a Swift, 19 Stock Doves, 2 Whitethroats, 2 Greenfinch and a Bullfinch.
Monday 17 June. I took Cookie to West Mill and we walked out to and along the old railway line. There was still a Nighgtingale singing as was a Turtle Dove on the way out and back giving reasonable views both times. Other sightings included one sitting Lapwing (almost hidden in the growing crop), a Jay, 3 Reed Warblers, 2 Blackcaps, 4 Whitethroats, Nuthatch, 2 Yellowhammers and 2 Reed Buntings. Back home both Great Black-backed Gulls were at Glebelands, one still sitting. Later, on the way to Lavington for my Woodcock Survey, I called into the Arun valley and saw 5 Mandarins, a female Marsh Harrier, 3 Swifts, 2 House Martins, Grasshopper, 2 Sedge and 2 Reed Warblers, 6 Whitethroats, 3 Stonechats and a Reed Bunting. I also heard Cuckoo and Cetti's Warbler but unfortunately no owls. At Lavington a single Woodcock flew over my head calling, my only encounter but at least a good one. Also lots of Nightjar activity with 5 seen and Cuckoo, Tawny Owl, Dartford Warbler and Yellowhammer heard.
Turtle Dove at West Mill
I've looked for them a few times this year with success (in seeing them, sometimes only heard) around 50%
it seems worth repeated visits as I can't be sure they'll be back next year
it'll be very sad if they are not
view across the levels to Steyning Round Hill and Chanctonbury Ring
male Yellowhammer at West Mill
duller but still very nice when seen well
Nuthatch by the old railway line
Reed Bunting on the levels
it can be hot on the roof ...
Stonechat in the Arun, an old male or a continental bird?
Sedge Warbler in the Arun, very scarce this year in the lower Adur and another species seemingly in decline
Grasshopper Warbler in the Arun
The Woodcock survey has been going on since 2013. Most years I've made the regulation three visits although only managed two in 2015 (when it wasn't official) and 2016. One counts the number of Woodcock encounters (seen or heard) in a 75 minute period (it was 60 minutes in 2013 and 2014) starting 15 minutes before sunset. Visits are in May and June and have to be at least a week apart. My results shown graphically are:
were it not for 2017 this would show a catastrophic decline, even with it it is very concerning that the most recent two years are the worst in the seven year period. Hopefully the position elsewhere isn't as dramatic. I would be happier doing the survey if the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust were not involved (as well as the BTO). I do not find the GWCT position on Woodcock at all reassuring. It is set out in https://www.gwct.org.uk/advisory/briefings/woodcock/ Included is Q: Why is the GWCT not calling for a ban on woodcock shooting? A: Banning the shooting of woodcock will not reverse declines in the long term and a ban may simply prove counterproductive and Q: How might a ban be counterproductive? A: A ban on shooting may remove the motivation for many landowners to manage their woods in ways that will maintain suitable habitat for woodcock and other species.
Sunday 16 June. I took Cookie up to Mill Hill where we saw 6 Swifts, a Peregrine flying purposefully north carrying what looked like a male Blackbird (destination Beeding Quarry?), Jay, 2 juvenile Blackcaps and 3 Whitethroats. Back home one Great Black-backed Gull was still sitting at Glebelands.
Pyramidal Orchid Mill Hill
Spotted Orchid Mill Hill
Saturday 15 June. Cookie and I walked up the Adur from Cuckoo's Corner seeing 3 Grey Herons and 17 Little Egrets, 13 Sky Larks, 2 House Martins, 3 Whitethroats and 9 male Reed Buntings. I also heard 3 Reed Warblers. Back home one Great Black-backed Gull was still sitting at Glebelands.
Goldfinch by the Adur
easy to take for granted
one of several Reed Buntings in the lower Adur Valley
another Reed Bunting
Friday 14 June. I took Cookie to the Knepp Estate, seeing a Red Kite flying over the Steyning By-pass on the way. There we saw 3 Buzzards, a Turtle Dove, 34 Swifts, Great Spotted Woodpecker, a juvenile Coal, 10 Blue, 17 Great and 8 Long-tailed Tits, a Swallow, Nuthatch, Mistle Thrush and 2 Bullfinches. We heard Nightingale (but not Cuckoo), a Reed and the expected Sylvia Warblers. No sign either of the introduced White Storks, the nest appearing deserted for the second visit running. Back home one Great Black-backed Gull was still sitting at Glebelands.
Turtle Dove at Knepp, my digiscoping definitely needs improvement
not as welcoming as it used to be
Thursday 13 June. I took Cookie to West Mill and walked out to the old railway line. Despite blustery weather a Turtle Dove was showing on arrival and we also saw Red Kite, 3 Lapwings, Swift, Sky Lark, Cetti's Warbler (poorly), 7 Whitethroats, female Stonechat, male Bullfinch, male Yellowhammer and 2 Reed Buntings. Later I went to Pulborough RSPB dodging showers to see the distant (aren't all waders here) Red-necked Phalarope on the North Brooks. Also 6 Egyptian Geese, 4 Gadwall, 5 Teal, 10 Swifts, a Jay and 20 Sand and 2 House Martins. That evening both Great Black-backed Gulls were on the roof at Glebelands.
Wednesday 12 June. Ruth and I took Cookie for a walk by the Adur to the houseboats and back over the Old Toll Bridge seeing 3 each of Little Egret, Oystercatcher and Reed Warbler. Later I took Ruth to Hove to see our old house before she went back up to London to stay with Anna. A Great Black-backed Gull was still on its nest but still no Swifts over our road for two weeks.
Lancing College and Shoreham Airport
wild flowers beside the new footpath
Great Black-backed Gull doing a bit of nest repair
Tuesday 11 June. Ruth and I took Cookie to Steepdown, calling at Mill Hill on the way to see the two Bee Orchids there. At Steepdown we saw 3 Grey Partridges, 4 Sky Larks, 5 Whitethroats, a Stonechat and 8 Corn Buntings. Later Megan joined us for a walk around Wolstenbury - another of our parents favourite places. Few birds of which 9 Swifts were the highlight although a decent variety of orchids. Both Great Black-backed Gulls were seen fro the garden.
Bee Orchid near Mill Hill
Isle of Wight clearly visible from Steepdown
Corn Bunting at Steepdown
Great Black-backed Gull still sitting
Spotted Orchids at Wolstenbury
Twayblade and Butterfly Orchid
Monday 10 June. Ruth and I took Cookie to Worthing dodging showers. The weather worsened in the afternoon and a Great Black-backed Gull on its nest and 2 Stock Doves in the garden were all I saw. Sunday 9 June. Megan and I took Cookie to Mill Hill where 2 Yellowhammers were the highlight. Later I met Anna and Ruth (over from NZ) at Lewes Station and we went to Crowlink and walked along half the Seven Sisters to Birling and Belle Tout in memory of our parents who loved the area. An incident near the Beachy Head Lighthouse involved Police and Coastguard Rescue Helicopters, Newhaven Lifeboat and RIB. Very few birds of which 3 Ravens and 3 Stonechats were best.
Broomrape on Mill Hill
Newt in Crowlink dewpond
what I took to be an Emperor Dragonfly larva, not something I remember seeing before
amazingly well camouflaged
Ruth and Anna at Flatbrow
Anna, Ruth and me
male 'Continental' Stonechat at Flatbrow
Coastguard Rescue helicopter over Beachy Head
landed opposite Hodcombe
preparing to lower a crew member on the beach
when the helicopter moved off and the down draft subsided they were joined by three from the RIB
Saturday 8 June. An hour watching off Shoreham (Fort/Beach/Widewater) in a SW gale produced just two Gannets although it was hard to find a sheltered spot. Friday 7 June. A quick visit to the Adur in the rain was predictably poor with just 2 Shelduck, 2 Little Egrets, an Oystercatcher and a Whitethroat seen but at least Cookie had a walk. The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls have been on the roof at Glebelands all week but no Swifts over the road for over a week.
Herring Gull on the Adur. This one had an oddly shaped bill, at least from this angle
Thursday 6 June. Megan and I took Cookie to Rackham where we saw Red Kite and Cuckoo over the wildbrooks. The woodland was very quiet as was the heathland at Pulborough which we later walked around.
Wednesday 5 June. I took Cookie for a walk around Steepdown seeing 5 Sky Larks, 9 Whitethroats,2 Meadow Pipits and 15 Corn Buntings.
Corn Bunting at Steepdown
another Corn Bunting
Tuesday 4 June. Another quiet visit to the Adur with Cookie. Just 2 Shelduck and 5 Little Egrets seen.
Monday 3 June. I visited the Knepp Estate with Cookie. Lots of 'keep out wildlife only' signs since my last visit which didn't make one feel overly welcome. I saw just one Turtle Dove, not actually in the Estate, a Hobby, 2 Garden Warblers, a Nightingale and 2 Bullfinches and heard a distant Cuckoo. Hopefully there are more Turtle Doves away from the footpaths but to me numbers seem significantly down on recent years and, sadly, it is easy to imagine they might not hang on for much longer. All the more reason to see them as often as possible while one can.
Friday 31 May. I took Cookie for a walk from West Mill to the old railway line seeing 4 Lapwings, 4 Swifts, a flock of 9 Blue Tits, 2 Reed Warblers, 2 Blackcaps, 6 Whitethroats, 2 superb Nightingales, Grey Wagtail (only my second this year), 3 Yellowhammers and 4 Reed Buntings. I'd hoped to see Turtle Dove again but had to settle for hearing one closely several times from areas it was not possible to look into. My fifth visit this month and I've seen Turtle Dove twice, heard them on two other visits and drawn a complete blank once. In the afternoon Megan and I visited the Eastern Arm of Shoreham Harbour, rather distressingly finding a recently guillotined Great Black-backed Gull on the beach below wind turbine Spinny. Rather sinisterly it had been removed by the time we walked back. We need green energy but there is a price to pay and coming face-to-face with it makes me wonder how many birds are killed by Rampion's 116 turbines. Being off-shore we'll never know. The Great Black-backed Gulls demise had the potential to become more personal when I returned home to find just the sitting bird on Glebelands and still no sign of its mate as I write this nearly three hours later ... Off now for my Woodcock survey.
Reed Bunting at West Mill
Jellyfish in Shoreham Harbour
wind turbines Gusty and Spinny at Shoreham Harbour
we need green energy but it comes at a price
this adult Great Black-backed Gull had very recently been chopped in two
it had been removed when we walked back which struck me as rather sinister, how many bird deaths are there?
Thursday 30 May. I took Cookie for a walk from Cuckoo's Corner to Dacre Gardens. Despite the name of our starting point seeing a Cuckoo flying across the Adur near there was a surprise. More expected were 9 Little Egrets, 4 Swallows, 9 Reed Warblers and 3 Reed Buntings although just one (silent) Sedge Warbler was a disappointment. Later Megan and I took Cookie up onto the Downs and saw some orchids. The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls were on the roof at Glebelands and a Sparrowhawk and 2 Swifts flew over the garden, the latter heading east.
Reed Bunting near Cuckoo's Corner
Reed Warbler near Cuckoo's Corner
Man Orchid, I don't recall having seen one before
Wednesday 29 May. I completed my South Down Farmland Bird Monitoring Survey on the edge of the Burgh. During just over two hours of the survey I recorded 30 species, the highlights being 9 Grey Partridges, 2 Red Kites, 3 Buzzards, Cuckoo, Jay, 10 Sky Larks, 3 Lesser and 12 Common Whitethroats, 12 Linnets and 7 Goldfinches. On a slow walk back to my car via the Burgh I added single Red-legged and Grey Partridges, female Marsh Harrier, another 3 Red Kites, 3 Lapwings, 15 Swifts and a Swallow (the only hirundine seen). For the first time in 10 surveys no buntings were recorded and no Carrion Crows for only the second time. I called in at Amberley on the way home and walked out on the the Wildbrooks hoping to see a Sedge Warbler in the ditches but they didn't look that suitable. A Cuckoo flew over and a patch of woodland held pairs of Willow Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat. The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls were 'sitting' on the roof at Glebelands.
Grey Partridge near the Burgh
Linnet on the Downs, rather smart when seen well
Red Kites at the Burgh
Reed Bunting on Amberley Wild Brooks
Tuesday 28 May. I took Cookie to Knepp where we wandered around for over four hours . During this time I only heard one Turtle Dove despite covering the areas I'd seen them on 10th and 15th - numbers seem down on last year. Two Cuckoos and two Nightingales (with 2 more heard) were some compensation and I also saw Garden Warbler, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, 3 Mistle Thrushes and a Spotted Flycatcher. The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls were 'sitting' on the roof at Glebelands and 5 Swifts were flying around over the road at mid day but were not seen subsequently reinforcing my belief that the council flats they bred in are no longer suitable. Not somewhere one wants to be seen examining the upstairs of with binoculars.
juvenile Nightingale at Knepp
an adult was singing strongly nearby
Monday 27 May. I took Cookie to West Mill and walked to the old railway line seeing 3 Lapwings, 7 Sky Larks, a flock of 23 Long-tailed Tits, Chiffchaff, 3 Reed Warblers, a Lesser and 9 Common Whitethroats, Nightingale, 2 Reed Buntings and a Yellowhammer. No sight or sound of any Turtle Doves in the area two had been a week earlier. Later a flock of 7 Great Tits on Adur Rec and the pair of Great Black-backed Gulls 'sitting' on the roof at Glebelands.
Cookie starting to show her age, not the only one in our house that applies to
juvenile Long-tailed Tit along the old railway line, moving too fast for me to do any better
Whitethroat at West Mill
male Yellowhammer with caterpillar at West Mill
Sunday 26 May. Cookie and I visited the Adur and walked up towards Cuckoo's Corner seeing Sparrowhawk, 7 Ringed Plover, a Dunlin, 9 Swallows, 15 House Martins, Reed Warbler and a Reed Bunting. At home the pair of Great Black-backed Gulls were 'sitting' on the roof at Glebelands but no Swifts were evident overhead
Shoreham Airshow memorial
Saturday 25 May. Megan and I took Cookie up to Mill Hill seeing a Spotted Flycatcher and Yellowhammer. The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls were 'sitting' on the roof at Glebelands and 2 Swifts flew over heading SW.
great to see a Spotted Flycatcher on Mill Hill
Thursday & Friday 23-24 May. Not feeling well I didn't go out other than to check whether the Great Black-backed Gulls were on the roof at Glebelands (they were) and to fail to see any Swifts.
Great Black-backed Gulls at their nest (last year's with a few more sticks)
Wednesday 22 May. Cookie and I visited the Adur. Twenty-four Ringed Plover, a Dunlin and a first-summer Mediterranean Gull were by the airport and walking around the Rec and up towards Cuckoo's Corner added 2 Swifts, 2 Swallows, 25 House Martins, 8 Reed Warblers, a Lesser Whitethroat and a Reed Bunting. At home the pair of Great Black-backed Gulls were on the roof at Glebelands but no Swifts were evident overhead.