Overcast, a light WNW wind. Light rain showers followed by persistent rain by 1pm.
After appalling birding conditions for the last 5 days (very strong SW gales), this morning dawned comparatively calm. The most notable thing was a constant precession of Meadow Pipit (c800) moving west into the wind, their call was constantly audible over head. This continued passage was also evident over Eastbourne town later in the morning. Amongst them were small numbers of Yellow (c20), Alba (c8) and Grey Wagtail (2). Absolutely rubbish in terms of warblers on the ground with small numbers of Chiffchaff (c12) and Whitethroat (5), Blackcap (c25) although returning after midday found the wood lively with Chiffchaff (c30). 2 Whinchat and Stonechat numbers seemed up slightly with c10 seen. In contrast Bob had enormous numbers of Chiffchaff (500) and Blackcap (400) in the Hollow on the east facing slopes of the headland. It’s profound how the bird situation can be so contrasting at different profiles of the site.
I also walked Eastbourne seafront and pier in the hope of finding a Phalarope but failed miserably! Apart from 200+ Herring Gull feeding on mussels which had been washed ashore, 2 juvenile Common Tern fishing close inshore were the only birds of interest.
A virtually cloud free day the wind light & meandering between S, SW and SE throughout the day.
Juvenile Honey Buzzard.
I spent the first part of the morning attempting to relocate a Tawny Pipit which was reported from the Belle Tout area first thing. Being a huge headland with many square kilometres of suitable habitat, I wasn’t too optimistic of success. The bird situation on the ground was pretty mediocre with about 35 Chiffchaff encountered, 4 Common Whitethroat on a loop from the radio mast to Shooters return. There were however 1500+ House Martins along with 500 Swallow and small numbers of Sand Martin meandering around the headland. I joined Simon, Geoff and David for a raptor watch at the old trapping area where at c13:30hrs, a Honey Buzzard finally had the good taste to use Beachy Head as it’s departure point towards the continent. I first picked it up way off over East Dean with bins (thanks to Simon & Geoff who had scopes and the optical power to confirm the dot was indeed an HB!) and to our collective delight the bird slowly made it’s way towards us finally departing high overhead, south out to sea, Simon shouting encouragement “Go on son!” as it went. For a young bird making it’s maiden flight out over open ocean it proceeded with supreme confidence.
Quite a strikingly marked individual.
Although not historically late for the site, it is my latest one and the first time I’ve seen a juvenile here. I’m unsure but I think it’s the first Beachy Honey Buzzard this autumn, if not for the year. They have been unusually absent so far this year.
A cool and bright start light NW breeze.
Whinchat in Shooters.
A cold front had passed through overnight and brought a decent arrival of birds in it’s wake. I made 3 visits, first light, mid-afternoon and dusk. Most notable was the years second Turtle Dove in the hedgerow below the radio mast and the sheer number of hirundine (mostly Swallow and House Martin) over the headland mid afternoon, many thousands and I have no idea how to even estimate the number. It was possible to complete a 360 degree scan and have the view filled with birds at all altitudes. Quite remarkable. There was also a decent Pipit and Wagtail flight first thing with many hirundine feeding below the cliff tops & in with them a late Swift.
Other notables; a single Merlin, c10 Tree Pipit, c300 Meadow Pipit, c35 Yellow Wagtail, 4 Alba and 2 Grey Wagtail over, 2 Common Restart, 2 Wheatear, 1 Pied Flycatcher, 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 4 Whinchat, c30 Whitethroat, c10 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Garden Warbler, c20 Blackcap, 6 Reed Warbler, c35 Chiffchaff, 5 Willow Warbler, my first Reed Bunting of the autumn also passed overhead. 1 late Common Swift over Shooters first thing. Regarding Swallow, House Martin and Sand Martin I’m not even going to pick a number as it would be meaningless but it would be in the many 1000’s mid afternoon. There were also two large Grey Seal offshore.
Whilst I was away in Spain, JP found this 1CY Caspian Gull in the fields at Birling. He kindly sent on these images. The fact they are a regular winter and passage bird from sites either side of Beachy Head suggests they are much under recorded species. This one follows on from Kris Gillam’s fly by earlier this year.
Caspian Gull at Birling.
All images from JP.
This one’s all about Matt Eade really. A fantastic find from a hard working patch stalwart. And a welcome UK first for me of this North American wader. Being just 4 miles from home and the other side of Beachy Head. Not sure how I’ve managed to drag that one out but a lovely way to encounter one.
Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper in the Cuckmere this evening!
Moderate ENE breeze. Not too surprised to find the headland lacking this morning. In fact, since it has turned easterly, the birding has been rubbish. I’ve seen clear, easterly conditions produce very little in previous Septembers and this seems to be the case now. I only walked from the radio mast to Shooters (but not actually entering Shooters itself) and back, then returned for a raptor watch from 10am to 1pm.
One of the 2 juvenile Peregrines (male and female judging by size) currently frequenting the top of the headland at the moment.
A very poor morning for passerines with singles each of Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff & Redstart along with 2 Wheatear. I encountered about 10 Common Whitethroat. Overhead 3 Yellow Wagtail and 3 Grey Wagtail went over. Hirundines were moving from early on with c2500 passing east by 1pm, there were also 10 Swift in amongst them. 10 Common Buzzard whilst sky watching… very poor.
The most exciting thing about this morning was watching a trio of Peregrine (two adult and a juvenile) take out a racing pigeon. Oddly one of the adults then dropped the left overs, almost at my feet, 30 minutes later!.
Above the kill, below the left overs. The bird had a Dover area code phone number, no doubt heading back that way from a release in France.
Wheatear above Shooters.
A cloudless day with a light south east wind from start to finish. A pretty mediocre day for me in terms of scarcity. I walked from the radio mast to Friston return about 12km. The real surprise came after sunset whilst sitting above Belle Tout Wood, when the dancing silhouette of a Nightjar was seen briefly hawking insects against a still glowing skyline. Quite a lovely surprise. It’s the second Nightjar I’ve seen on Beachy Head, the other in the same area in May 2016.
Young male Marsh Harrier heading out to sea this morning high above the old trapping area.
Best birds for me were 5 Redstart, 8 Whinchat, 2 Wheatear, my first Chiffchaff of the autumn, 4 Willow Warbler, c 25 Common Whitethroat, Hirundines began moving early on and by leaving at 3pm several 1000 must have passed through, in with them a single Swift. A single Tree Pipit over Birling and at least c30 Yellow Wagtail seen including 18 in with cattle behind Hodcomb. A lone Grey Wagtail also passed over. 2 different Marsh Harrier (one 2nd cal. male type high SE just before 7am and another, a feather perfect juvenile, east over Went Hill at about 9am. During a raptor watch with Matt we had a single flock of 28 Common Buzzard although unfortunately, nothing else of note. 4 Sparrowhawk were seen over a wide area. I belatedly learnt others had a Barn Owl (very rare Beachy Head bird) & a Pied Flycatcher today.
Some of the Common Buzzard “kettle” mid afternoon. Hard to say how many were seen overall but 28 at one time was highest count.
Yellow Wagtail in the cattle field at Hodcomb.
Sparrowhawk over Shooters.
Whinchat just after sunrise at the radio mast.