12.1.19 Hume’s leaf Warbler & Glaucous Gull


Hume’s Leaf Warbler, taken on the 10th January.

News of a Hume’s Leaf Warbler at nearby Riverside Country Park, Newhaven was a surprise although a typical midwinter date for a species which is always notoriously late to the party. The bird showed well but is incredibly mobile. It’s frequently vocal, sounding very Pied Wagtail like with an occasional, softer House Sparrow like “chirp”. Appearance wise it is a classic, easily summed up as an understated Yellow browed Warbler with an overall Earl Grey tea appearance but at times looking more greenish when set against darker cover. Present since the 27th December 2018, the finder didn’t want the news to be peddled publicly but inevitably the news has leaked out to a wider audience.

Prior to arriving at the warbler site JP and I checked out Newhaven Harbour at low tide. His prophetic words from the night before coming true, immediately picking up a lovely latte coloured, juvenile Glaucous Gull though the windscreen as I navigated the carpark!


Glaucous Gull amongst black backs in Newhaven harbour.




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4th December 2018 Winter mode

A still and bright day. I visited Belle Tout, Birling Gap, Long Down and Shooters Bottom.


Looking west from Shooters.

A Ring Ouzel above Birling Gap was a surprise for the 4th December otherwise very quiet for birds of interest. Just a small number of a Blue and Great Tit seen along with 3 Long tailed Tit (one ringed), 3 Goldcrest and Treecreeper all between Belle Tout and Long Down woodlands. There were c60 Fieldfare and c10 Redwing in the berry bearing Hawthorns on Long Down. A pair of Stonechat in the set aside field with decent numbers of corvidsStarlings and Skylark. c25 House Sparrow and 5 Corn Bunting around Cornish Farm buildings. 2 Siskin went over.


Ring Ouzel at Birling.


Fieldfare Long Down.


Stonechat at Cornish Farm.


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30th November 2018 Gulls cometh

Well, it’s a sure sign there’s not much to look at or for on Beachy Head if I’ve started looking at gulls elsewhere. This morning I spent sometime in the nearby Cuckmere Valley where Matt had been enjoying some success in regards to Caspian and Yellow legged Gulls. Unfortunately I could only manage 2 Yellow legged Gulls (near adult and 3rd winter), a large adult argentatus Herring Gull and a few blackish, neat looking intermedius Lesser black backed Gulls. I went on to Beachy Head where I found it to be very quiet. Just a small band of Blue and Great Tit in the wood where the Treecreeper is still present. Shooters Bottom was very quiet.

Keeping the larid theme going, I found this handsome looking juvenile (I use that term as it appears not have moulted) “Herring Gull” at Princes Park on the 29th. Showing many features which led me to concluded it’s probably a northern argentatus type Herring with some Glaucous Gull lineage, despite suggestions it maybe a very pale argentatus Herring Gull.

What’s more intriguing (see images at the bottom of this post) is it appears to be identical and therefore the same bird, that was photographed at Radipole Lake in Dorset last week, some 120 miles to the west as the crow flys. Causing a little drama on twitter during it’s stay there with some observers believing it to be a Kumlien’s Gull.


Although the markings on coverts and mantle are Herring Gull like, lacking the intricate & delicate pattern of Glaucous Gull, the colouration of said patterns were light and “biscuit” coloured. The primary feathers also have obvious arrowhead type tips, similar to Glaucous.


Parentage aside, it’s quite a cool looking bird.


At this angle looking very white winged.


Arrowhead pattern to inner primaries


Above the secondary tips & marbled tail feathers with pale subterminal markings suggests to me some Glaucous DNA is present in this bird.


IMG_7243 copy

Above side by side comparisons from Weymouth and Eastbourne. Clearly the same bird in my opinion.



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22nd November 2018 Short eared Owl

Another cold & gloomy morning with a light NE wind. I visited Birling and Belle Tout.


A roadside Short eared Owl near Shooters Bottom.

A small flight of finches (approx 120 birds), mainly made up of small parties of Goldfinch passing east this morning, as did small numbers of Chaffinch, Siskin and Redpoll. Singles each of Redwing and Fieldfare. A duo of site scarcities continue with the Cetti’s Warbler seen again near the NT buildings at Birling (having gone undetected since it’s discovering last week!) and the Eurasian Treecreeper still present at Belle Tout wood. Today was the first morning this autumn where I didn’t see or hear any Goldcrest. A rather lovely Short eared Owl was out hunting during daylight hours at Shooters Bottom.


Usually only encountered as high flying migrants.


Or accidentally flushing birds roosting on the ground.


So to see one well, out hunting mid afternoon is a treat. I’ve not know one to winter here in the 4 years I have been watching and assume this one will move on.


The view from the top of Birling Lane looking east towards the gap.

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17th November 2018 White fronted Geese

Yesterdays low cloud and fog had been blown away by dawn courtesy of a strengthening SE wind. Producing a cold & bright morning. Out birding with JP & scarce vagrant GKG.


Goldcrest in the mallow at Birling Gap.

A very different day weather wise, with some interesting visible migration that wouldn’t have been out of place during a cold weather movement. Two White fronted Geese moving east out at sea were a big surprise and the first I have seen here in 4 years of watching. Adding to the midwinter feel, c120 Lapwing passed over in several flocks along with 6 Golden Plover and a Ringed Plover, also represented were c200 Woodpigeon and c50 Stock Dove. All of these passed east, into a headwind, which always to dictates the direction of travel here.

c400 Goldfinch, a Redpoll and 4 Reed Bunting also moved east. A mix of seemingly new and perhaps lingering Goldcrest with c30 spread about various sites and a single Firecrest was still in the wood. A Dartford Warbler was still above Birling Gap.


Pair of White fronted Geese (male & female judging by the size difference) picked up by GKG (photo. JP)


Lapwing. The largest movement I’ve seen up here.


A lovely Lapwing.


Some of this mornings Woodpigeon and Stock Dove. Morning flights of both species have been quite few and far between this autumn.

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16th November 2018 Cetti’s Warbler

A 5 day period of strong SW winds gave way to light south easterlies on the evening of the 14th, with high pressure over the continent. Unfortunately thick fog had developed by mid afternoon on the 15th continuing until sundown on the 16th, although winds remained light from SE.

36hrs of thick fog compromised any nocturnal arrivals and also dashed hopes of catching up with one of the many Pallid Swift which have occurred in this autumn’s huge influx. As I suspected they had begun to appear at south coast sites once the strong SW wind had abated. With records from nearby Dungeness and Brighton, both locations visible from Beachy Head.


Firecrest in Belle Tout wood.

The morning of the 15th saw a moderate movement of c300 finches including (in descending order in accordance to their number) Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Redpoll, Siskin, Brambling. 2 Reed Bunting (which have been particularly numerous this autumn) and several small groups of Meadow Pipit & Skylark also moved east into the wind.


Dartford Warbler above Birling.

Above the cottages at Birling, a Dartford Warbler was in close attendance to a pair of Stonechat. The wood held c20 Goldcrest, 1 Firecrest, 1 Treecreeper and a single Blackcap.


Cetti’s Warbler near the National Trust compound.

On the 16th a singing Cetti’s Warbler at Birling Gap came as a shock. The species is rarely recorded on Beachy Head and most often discovered in the ringers nets. Thick fog snuffed out any overhead passage although a Snipe and 2/3 Golden Plover were heard passing over in the gloom. In the wood, what appeared to be the same number and mix of small passerines as the day before. However, there were clearly some new migrants around with c15 Goldcrest between Shooters Bottom and the Old trapping area, along with c35 Blackbirds, c10 Song Thrush, 2 Redwing and a Fieldfare.


Kestrel in Shooters Bottom on the 15th before the fog rolled in.

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14th November 2018 Late Swallows

A clear morning with the continuation of strong SW winds which have dominated the situation here for the last 4 days.


The surprise highlight this morning were 2 juvenile Swallow heading west into the prevailing wind. I think these are my latest ever in the UK. Not quite the aerodynamically adapted, ariel feeders I was hoping to see this morning.  c150 Goldfinch also followed in the same direction in several small groups. Goldcrest numbers are gradually ebbing away from last weeks deluge. although the Treecreeper remains in Belle Tout Wood.

With very favourable conditions over the next few days, and Redwing already moving over town by 7pm hopes are high the autumn is not finished yet. It’s not every year I’m heading out in mid-November with such enthusiasm but it’s been a welcome extension of the birding autumn.


Weather chart for 15th Nov. 2018

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