21st & 22nd April 2018 Black Kite, Little Bunting and Alpine Swift!

Saturday 21st was fine with a stiff easterly breeze. Overnight rain with east winds Sunday dawning cloudless with a moderate SW wind.

I had been bemoaning my lack of local good fortune, having not found much in the way of true scarcities since a pair of Red rumped Swallow in May 2016. Although I think I may have used up a fair amount of good luck this weekend with 3 very good finds within 24hrs. You just gotta keep chipping away, eventually something comes your way!


Little Bunting.

A very nice bright individual and not really on the radar as a spring find here.


The bird was quite tame and very vocal, giving its familiar “tick” call, mostly in flight.


Whilst birding Shooters on the morning of the 22nd I hadn’t seen much beyond a few Willow Warbler, 3 Lesser Whitethroat and 5 Common Whitethroat and a Ring Ouzel. Going on to walk the main ride I came across a small passerine feeding ahead of me on the path, raising my bins to discover it to be a very smart Little Bunting!. The bird initially went missing for an hour before reappearing but in the interim I picked up an Alpine Swift, so low over head bins were not needed, heading into the wind in a westerly direction. A pretty amazing streak of good fortune all within 60 minutes and the Alpine Swift being something I have long dreamed about finding on Beachy Head.

I was pleased a number of locals and Beachy Head stalwarts were able to catch up with the Bunting although only I and Bob Edgar saw the Swift, Bob being next to me as I picked it up over head.


The Alpine Swift scything through the air heading west, probably on show for less than a minute. Typically, it wasn’t hanging about!


On Saturday the 21st, less then 24hrs previous to the excitement of the 22nd, Jamie Partridge and I were doing our best to give the whole headland a once over, with little in return beyond a Ring Ouzel in Francis Bottom and 2 Red Kite when out of the blue whilst on Went Hill I got brief views of what I shouted as a Black Kite. The views we got were rubbish and the photo’s even worse. Being close to the car at Crow Link, we jumped in and tore off towards the pub at Beachy Head in the hope of intercepting the bird there, assuming it continued in it’s initial easterly direction. Thankfully, 50 mins after the first views, the bird appeared with a Red Kite behind Hodcomb giving much better views and images, although it was always unfortunately pretty distant. 3 Common Swift passed east over the house later the same day, my first of the year.


Heavily cropped images of the Black Kite taken from behind the pub, at the top of the headland.




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20th April 2018 A few Ring Ouzels

The weather was fine, warm and calm, a combination which usually rings the bell of doom for migrants. Fine weather in spring tends to encourage them to pass over without stopping. Although for some unknown reason there were a few bits of interest to be seen.


Ring Ouzel.

At least 3, typically shy and flighty Ring Ouzel were new in at Shooters Bottom, a total of c25 Willow Warbler were spread between the Old trapping and Belle Tout, 3 Wheatear, a Merlin whizzed through, a single Brambling and female Common Redstart were below the lighthouse and a Red Kite passed low over the wood. The latter transpired to the the first of c18 seen over Beachy Head and Eastbourne.

Both Lesser and Common Whitethroat can now be heard singing on the headland in small numbers. My first being seen on the 16th and 18th April respectively.


Red Kite low over Belle Tout Wood.


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17th April 2018 Pied Flycatcher

Sunny day strong southerly wind.


Having been away until the previous afternoon, I haven’t had much time over the last 7 days. And this morning was slightly curtailed by running various errands! I did however come across what’s undoubtedly yesterdays Pied Flycatcher in the wood at Belle Tout, a female showing nicely in the spring sunshine. Although yesterdays bird seems to have a more white on the greater covert tips and more white in the base of the primary feather seen here. I’ve only seen single birds in spring and all between the 12th and 16th April, a very narrow 5 day window.


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10th April 2018 Finally! Some Willow Warblers.

A wet night night followed by a very murky start, increasing ENE wind.


A mid afternoon visit to Shooters and Belle Tout finally yielded my first Willow Warblers of the year. With 1 and 4 respectively at those sites. A micro fall to say the least! It’s really nice to see these and hear their song after such a cold and prolonged winter.


Willow Warbler at Belle Tout.


Other than 2 Blackcap and a Chiffchaff in Shooters there was little else of note.

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8th April 2012 Savi’s Warbler

After a dank start I headed to West Rise to join Kris Gilliam and Andrew Whitcomb to look for the Savi’s Warbler KG had found the previous day. (before it’s queried, this news is already in the public arena and has already gone on the RBA’s) The bird sang & called on several occasions, showing well in flight during a prolonged pursuit by an aggressive Cetti’s Warbler.


Little Gull.

Also present were 2/3 singing Sedge Warblers, a Whitethroat, fly over Common SandpiperGreenshank and a Little Gull hawking over the lake. All of which were the first I’ve encountered this year.


Firecrest in Belle Tout wood.

Enthused by the burst of activity at West Rise I headed to Beachy Head hoping the improving weather would enable me to dig out some more migrants but it was similar fare to the previous day with similar low numbers of Firecrest, Chiffchaff and Black Redstart between Belle Tout and Shooters Bottom. A female Common Redstart (seen the day before by PW) was the first I’d seen this year and a few days later than previous years. 4 Swallow came in off the sea, following on from my first yesterday.


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6th April 2018 Black Guillemot


I went down to Sovereign harbour this morning to see how black the Black Guillemot was getting. Answer quite black but not the full ticket!. I wonder if this bird’s a first summer as I’d imagine most adult birds are, by now, completely black. Remarkably this bird is now into it’s 6 calendar month of it’s residency. I’d given up after over an hours searching only to encounter the bird in the southern arm of the complex while walking back towards the car!

An Osprey passed very high NNW over the garden late morning. That constitutes my most notable migrant of the week with only Chiffchaffs, Black Redstarts & Firecrests encountered on Beachy Head.




And a Cormorant looking rather splendid & emerald eyed in the morning sun.


The farmer has finally decided to plough the field at Birling some 2/3 weeks later than previous years, can’t help but think it’s just a bit to late to catch any Caspian Gull passage. At 5pm this evening he was out again with the tractor & despite attracting c1000 Herring Gulls, I could only find 2 Lesser Black backed Gull amongst them, nothing else! There were however c5 White Wagtail in the field including this smart male.




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26th March 2018

A slight northerly wind, cloud clearing to give way to a bright spring like day.


Firecrest above Belle Tout Wood.

I was in the Hollow early on checking the Exmoor enclosure. A number of Meadow Pipit were song flighting and Skylark song is a perpetual sound track to the headland now. A few small groups of Chaffinch were in the bushes and I located bright male Brambling amongst them after hearing it’s rasping call for several minutes. There may have been more than one present, also a Siskin passed over head. 2 Chiffchaff were also in song. Later in the day I found the Birling & Belle Tout area quiet encountering only one Firecrest in gorse above the wood.

The previous day, 25th March, produced a Wheatear (my first of the year) along the pony fence line in the hollow and a smart Black Redstart on the slopes below Belle Tout lighthouse. There were also 2 Harbour Porpoise off shore.

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