28.09.21 150 Balearic Shearwaters west

A strong SSW wind with variable cloud conditions bright spells with occasional squalls.

Following on from events at Dungeness yesterday I had some confidence there could be some decent seawatching from Beachy Head today with Balearic Shearwater the main target. I arrived at 08:20 to a westerly passage of Gannet, distant Terns, Black-headed Gull, the odd Common Gull and Mediterranean Gull. I quickly began to pick up small numbers of Balearic Shearwater passing west but noted they were tracking out to sea away from Birling Gap, after recording 57 from the location I quickly relocated to Cow Gap for a better perspective on the unfolding proceedings. Al Redman joined me there shortly after.

Sure enough the birds were taking a line much closer to shore here and from there I recorded another 93 bring the total seen to 150.

Things calmed some what after midday with birds coming through at a slower pace. A shout by Al Redman as a Sooty Shearwater scythed past was a wake up moment. As much as I tried, I failed to pick out any Manx Shearwater today although I did allow a number of distant birds to pass without ID from Birling Gap earlier.

Also seen 3 Arctic Skua, c20 Common Scoter and c10 Brent Geese. A decent last days birding on Beachy Head before departing for 3 weeks on St Agnes, Isle of Scilly.

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25.09.21 Osprey and Honey Buzzard.

A cloudy start, clearing into a warm day with a slight SSE breeze.

A relatively quiet day on the ground, 1 Common Redstart, c15 Chiffchaff, 10 Blackcap, 3 Common Whitethroat, a Merlin whizzed past Shooters. I went up to the old trapping area for a skywatch with Richard Butler and James W joining later. At 12.56hrs an Osprey (my 4th of the autumn) headed in at pace over East Dean and without deviation, departed near Birling Gap south into the channel watched until lost to view. At c14.20hrs Richard picked up an interesting raptor coming in over East Dean which, after coming slightly closer, confirmed itself as a dark juvenile Honey Buzzard. It meandered over the headland in the company of two Common Buzzard which at times it sparred with. It then drifted back north west. Like so many large raptors this autumn, it never came close. Pleasingly it was the 5th one I’ve seen here this autumn. Also seen were c8 Sparrowhawk, 2 Hobby, c4 Kestrel, c8 Common Buzzard.

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21.09.21 Honey Buzzard IV

A clear day with a light easterly breeze.

A run of the mill morning, with c250 Meadow Pipit moving east with the odd 1 or 2 of Yellow Wagtail and Tree Pipit mixed in, c40 Chiffchaff, c20 Common Whitethroat, c10 Blackcap, 1 Willow Warbler on the ground. A single Marsh Harrier went far out to sea at 08.00hrs. A moderate passage of hirundines occurred throughout the day with a late Swift seen at 11am.

At 10:30 I joined SL for a skywatch at the old trapping area and we were joined intermittently by a few other locals. Simon and I finished up at 15.00hrs. Star prize came at 14.50hrs when a dark juvenile Honey Buzzard appeared over East Dean with c3 Common Buzzard, although always distant some decent scope views were had and terrible record pics obtained! My 4th of the autumn and to my knowledge, the 5th for the site overall.

In addition a further 4 Marsh Harrier were seen (including two together), 2 + Hobby, 1 Merlin, c5 Kestrel, Peregrine, 15+ Common Buzzard, 2 Sparrowhawk and a Short-eared Owl.

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19.09.21 Osprey III

Skywatch from 10am to 3pm, mostly bright light SE wind.

Osprey heading south out into the channel.

A pleasant few hours with Simon Linington as a decent run of raptor sightings continued with my third Osprey (11.30hrs) of the autumn. It took a straight path south from Warren Hill over the pub and directly out to sea. Along with that star bird were Hobby, Merlin, c5 Kestrel, c7 Sparrowhawk and c12 Common Buzzard. A modest but constant passage of several hundred hirundines east along with a single late Swift.

Using all reports from various observers, I collated the total of large migratory raptors seen at Beachy Head so far this autumn.

  • Marsh Harrier 7
  • Honey Buzzard 4
  • Osprey 3

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15.09.21 Late Swift

A light NNE wind clear and bring.

Swallows and Martins around the Belle Tout Lighthouse

A late Swift amongst c2000 hirundine, which are mostly made up of House Martin at the moment. Overhead c60 Meadow Pipit went east, 4 Tree Pipit went over (one in Shooters) and a Yellow Wagtail was heard. In the bushes, c25 Chiffchaff, 5 Common Whitethroat, a Lesser Whitethroat, 10 Blackcap, 1 Wheatear.

Common Swift
Chiffchaff in the old trapping area.
Tree Pipit in Shooters.

Other recent notables, a juvenile Marsh Harrier went out to sea early on the 13th. On the 14th two Hobby and a Merlin were hunting near Shooters whilst a Common Sandpiper was heard passing over.

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12.09.21 Osprey

A cooler morning, clear and mostly bright, some encroaching cloud cover at times, light SW wind.

There was some activity this morning, c20 Willow Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff, 5 Blackcap, c12 Common Whitethroat, 1 Sedge Warbler, 4 Whinchat, 1 Redstart, 5 Wheatear, c30 Yellow Wagtail, 6 Tree Pipit. c2000 hirundines, (80% House Martin, 19% Swallow, 1% Sand Martin also an albino/leucistic bird distantly) 4 Swift.

A skywatch was very productive from midday to 15.30hrs. 2 Osprey sightings (at 13:10 one went south over Birling Gap then watched flying out to sea until it was a speck followed by another sighting at 14:45 of a bird east over the pub) 3 Red Kite (inc 2 together), 1 Marsh Harrier, c12 Common Buzzard, 1 Hobby, c6 Kestrel, c10 Sparrowhawk.

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08.09.21 Clear Out

Another clear warm morning with a stronger east wind that seemed to mark a departure of birds rather than an arrival.

A reduced number of birds today, Swallows and Martins did start moving an hour of so after dawn, about 1000, 2 Willow Warblers, 12 Common Whitethroat, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, c10 Blackcap, 2 Wheatear, 2 Redstart, 4 Whinchat.

There were a few modest highlights from the 7th including a new species for the site (for me) in the shape of 4 Black-tailed Godwit heading low NE, a single Merlin. A skywatch was very poor – just a single Sparrowhawk.

Kestrel are a difficult species to asses accurately here with at least two breeding pairs on the headland that appear near resident, their fledged young in autumn and the odd migrant, it’s hard to differentiate which is which. At least 5 hunting around the fields behind the pub on the 7th.

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06.09.21 Heat and late Swifts

A light east wind, quite intense heat building by mid morning.

Looking west.

The NE winds have abated and now a warmer continental airflow is in play. It did bring about some changes, activity died somewhat by midmorning. Al Redman and I covered the area from the pub to Birling Gap, total’s included; 6 Common Redstart, 5 Wheatear, 6 Whinchat, 2 Spotted Flycatcher, first Firecrest of the autumn, c5 Chiffchaff, c28 Willow Warbler, c20 Common Whitethroat, c10 Lesser Whitethroat, 6 Tree Pipit, c15 Meadow Pipit, 40+ Yellow Wagtail, Swallows, House Martin, and Sand Martin c2500 mostly loafing high over the headland, along with them a minimum of 3 Swift. A mundane and overlooked bird perhaps but I notice Dunnock doing interesting things this time of year, about c10 birds seen some of which flying over.

Tree Pipit doing what most do here, into infinity and beyond.

A couple of hours skywatching produced a Hobby, c6 Sparrowhawk and c10 Common Buzzard.

Female Common Redstart in early dawn light.
Spotted Flycatcher this evening at Belle Tout.
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05.09.21 Honey Buzzard III

Another morning (and thankfully last in the forecast) of strong NE wind, slightly murky at dawn but soon clearing, warming up with a lingering haze.

Headline bird today was a smart pale Honey Buzzard trying sneak past my vantage point on the headland at 11.40am. It headed north lost in the haze over Warren Hill. My third so far this autumn (following a very dark bird seen distantly yesterday)

I only worked the top of the headland to Shooters Bottom. It’s felt very much static in terms of migrants on the ground, as in similar totals over the last few days. Although the wagtails and hirundines are animating the skies above. Totals today; c30 Common Whitethroat, c10 Lesser Whitethroat, c10 Blackcap, 1 Sedge Warbler, 2 Willow Warbler, 2 Wheatear, 3 Whinchat, 2 Pied Flycatcher, 4 Spotted Flycatcher, 3 Tree Pipit, 150 Yellow Wagtail including a single flock of c60, 4 Grey Wagtail, a decent passage of hirundine (c2500) and amongst them a Swift. c5 Sparrowhawk.

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03.09.21 Wryneck… finally.

An increasingly fine and warm day with a moderate ENE wind.

It seemed as if every headland in the south east had a Wryneck over the last week except here. So it was great to find one this morning. Always a lovely bird to see especially (as is the case here) when they aren’t so typically shy! There wasn’t much of a supporting cast with things feeling very much “as you were” with 1 Grasshopper Warbler, 2 Redstart, 2 Spotted Flycatcher. Still Yellow Wagtail present in numbers, c6 Wheatear, c5 Whinchat.

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