Last post for sometime as I’m away for the next 4 weeks. My time split between St Agnes, Scilly and Fair Isle. Hopefully the weather gods will look favourably upon us and deliver unto us many avian delights… maybe.
A brief summary of the last few days can be covered by two words Swallows and Chiffchaffs.
A Chiffchaff at Crowlink choosing what is the passerine habitat of (no) choice on Fair Isle… a barbed wire fence.
Part of a large flock of 70 Goldfinch in Shooters.
A feature of every morning this week has been a heavy passage of hirundines. At one point I counted 133 Swallow in a 60 second period. That would give you somewhere in the region of 1000+ birds every 10 minutes. Although the number of birds seemed concentrated into the period between 8am and 9.30am. Chiffchaffs again dominated the upper clifftop sites of Beachy Head with c65 seen this morning in the Birling/Belle Tout area alone. Other the a Whinchat on the 19th & 20th and my first Ring Ouzel of the autumn in Shooters Bottom, also on the 20th, there has been little else of note. Although the simple pleasure of watching mass migration set against such an impressive location is worth getting out of bed for.
Goldcrest in the Old trapping area. c12 seen on the 20th.
House Martin at Birling.
Belle Tout lighthouse.
Below a Clifden Nonpareil, found by my brother whilst he was jogging along the seafront on the evening of the 21st September. An impressive beast and the first of which I have seen.
Another relatively still morning (as has been the case for the last 4 mornings) a slight westerly breeze mostly sunny.
Yellow browed Warbler in Belle Tout Wood.
With only a modest arrival of 2 or 3 Yellow browed Warblers into the south east I was pleasantly surprised to find this little fella in the wood this morning. Occurring on the exact same date as my first last year. Oddly silent throughout the time I spent with it and always remaining high up, feeding amongst the clusters of sycamore seeds. No bird says “proper” autumn than one of these. I also had a Pied Flycatcher in the same spot too, possibly my first continental one as I assume the ones that occur here in August to be UK breeders.
Otherwise, the bird situation has remained in a similar vein over the last 4 mornings. Still 100’s if not 1000’s of hirundines moving. Single Garden & Sedge Warbler amongst the heavy Chiffchaff passage (daily counts of 50+) on the 18th. Both Willow Warbler and Common Whitethroat are now barely detectable, dwindling from being the two most common migrants 3/4 weeks ago, to now only present in ones and twos during each visit. Skylarks are beginning to feature more prominently with c10 going over on the 18th, as have Reed Bunting with 3 on the same date. Goldcrest numbers are also creeping up towards daily double figures. A Redstart on the 18th was the first I have seen for a good week or so, also perhaps a continental bird. Hobby sightings on the 18th/19th could have been the same bird. A late Swift amongst House Martin on the 18th continued to eek out the long goodbye between my favourite bird and I. That might be my latest mainland UK one for many, many years. I have seen a total 3 later ones during October visits to Scilly.
Swift and House Martin from the 18th
Hobby over Birling.
An overcast morning with a light, cool northerly wind. Cloud clearing only to return by midday. The hirundine numbers made for a spectacle today. I covered most areas except Shooters Bottom.
Initially the cool wind had concentrated large numbers of hirundines around the cliff tops. Throughout the morning there must have been somewhere in the region of 2500+ birds scattered around the headland. Made up of 70% House Martin, the rest being Swallow with the odd Sand Martin. Bob had a late Swift whilst ringing in the Hollow. The other notable species (in terms of numbers) were Chiffchaff.
Short eared Owl near the old trapping area.
Totals included; 100+ Meadow Pipit (a lot of birds on the ground this morning) c30 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Tree Pipit, 2 Grey Wagtail, 3 Alba Wagtail, 2 Skylark, 1 Siskin, 1 Wheatear, 1 Spotted Flycatcher, c80 Chiffchaff, 2 Willow Warbler, 1 Reed Warbler, c15 Blackcap, 2 Common Whitethroat, 2 Goldcrest and a single Merlin.
Spotted Flycatcher Belle Tout.
A raptor watch between 11.00 and 12.50 produced c10 Common Buzzard sightings, a Short eared Owl, 4 Kestrel, 2 Sparrowhawk and a Peregrine (local). SL had a Marsh Harrier earlier in the day.
Yet more south westerly wind, it’s been a week of relentless howling winds which are far from favourable conditions on Beachy Head. Not only the direction but strength makes birding difficult on the exposed headland. I visited Birling, Belle Tout and Shooters.
There were a surprising number of birds in the Belle Tout area, mostly concentrated in the wood and also the east, sheltered side. No counts but significant numbers of Blackcap, Chiffchaff, the odd Common Whitethroat, a single Willow Warbler, one Wheatear and a couple of Goldcrest heard. Overhead about 60+ Meadow Pipit, 6 Yellow Wagtail and +50 Hirundines (mostly House Martin) went through along with a single late Swift.
I also had a look at Princes Park lake to check if any seabirds had taken shelter there but found that was not the case! However a Yellow-legged Gull that first appeared in late July was amongst the gulls there. Looking more 1st winter like with a decent progression of mantle moult and the bill beginning to change colour. Although a little more worn, comparison with photo’s from July confirm it’s the same individual. The lake tends not to retain them beyond autumn so maybe this one will stick around.
Yellow legged Gull at Princes Park.
My first visit in 6 days. The day started relatively calm and still but by 09.30am the west wind had freshened as an Atlantic depression arrived over the UK. By afternoon gusts were up towards 50mph+. I covered my usual loop from the pub to Shooters and return.
Wheatear near Shooters Bottom.
It was business as usual for me, pretty much a similar spread of species as earlier in the week. It was the first morning I have seen Meadow Pipit moving in numbers. Most of the activity seemed centred around the bushes near the pub. Totals included 10 Chiffchaff (a good few others heard calling) 1 Willow Warbler, c20 Whitethroat, 2 Redstart, 1 Whinchat, 5+ Wheatear. Over head 80+ Meadow Pipit moved west, 5 Yellow Wagtail, 4 Grey Wagtail, 80+ Hirundines mostly Swallow with House Martin heard and a single Sand Martin seen.
Anyone hoping for Wryneck photo’s, sorry not a chance with this evenings encounter!
A moody day all round.
A frustrating day. The weather was mostly damp with very low cloud until late afternoon. A failure to catch up with the Baird’s Sandpiper in the Cuckmere was a complete waste of time. The bird went AWOL during my time there this morning, I did see a Spotted Redshank, Avocet, c18 Dunlin, c5 Ringed Plover and c20 Oystercatcher. I also received a soaking whilst out there.
Ringed Plover in the Cuckmere.
Later in the day I toyed with the idea of returning to the Cuckmere but having seem many 100’s in the US a good few in the UK (including East Sussex) I thought I’d have a look at Beachy Head in better weather. Very low number of birds seen, just a few Whitethroat and Stonechat but finally, at about 6pm, Beachy’s first Wryneck of the autumn. The bird torpedoed around the western end of Shooters Bottom, never sitting still for even a good look through bins let alone a photo. A Redstart was calling persistently at dusk.
I’m now absent until Sunday 10th, I’m off cycling in Ibiza.
Clear overnight with a brisk NNE breeze by dawn.
Wheatear along the cliff top this morning.
A pleasant enough morning although a couple of good birds missed. First was a Melodious Warbler found in the pub garden by Richard Butler (looked for but not seen whilst I was there) and a pair of White Stork which passed north over the hollow at 10.20am. The Storks were probably the two birds at Dungeness earlier in the week of dubious origin. With many introduction schemes on the near by continent and one imminent in Sussex, the days of assuming a White Storks is wild are numbered in the south east.
Always good to see a September Swift. You never know if it’s going to be your last this time of year.
Best bits for me were; 7 Wheatear, 4 Redstart, 2 Whinchat, 2 Spotted Flycatcher, 10 Meadow Pipit, 1 Tree Pipit, c30 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Alba Wagtail (all over mostly east), 7 Willow Warbler, 12 Chiffchaff, c35 Common Whitethroat, 3 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Sparrowhawk & 1 Hobby. Hirundines (all 3 species) were moving, with a high percentage of House Martin making up the numbers. There were approx 400+ in the surrounding areas including some birds moving purposefully east. 1 late Swift seen early on. 6 Common Buzzard seen whilst raptor watching at about midday.
Another instalment of “falcons flying away” carrying on from the Merlin earlier in the week, here’s todays Hobby disappearing over Hodcombe.