22nd April 2017 Grasshopper Warbler

A bright morning with a brisk NW wind, warm in sheltered spots. Clouding over by mid morning.


Willow Warbler in Belle Tout.

I only covered the Belle Tout area and Crowlink, up towards Went Hill. Another arrival of Willow Warbler with upwards of 40 seen over those two sites. Quite a few were dispersing along the Hawthorns that flank the path at Crowlink. Filtering inland across the baron downland. A Grasshopper Warbler sang briefly from the edge of Belle Tout wood, remaining concealed amongst low vegetation. It’s only the second I’ve had in spring here. Short video here. The wood also held a Chiffchaff, 3 Blackcap, a Lesser Whitethoat and my first Garden Warbler of the year. Common Whitethroats are now increasing in number, holding territories in suitable spots all over the headland. On to Crowlink and Went Hill were a White Wagtail was feeding amongst the cattle. 2 Yellow Wagtail went over calling, a Whinchat along with 2 Wheatear, were feeding in the field. John Cooper and Bob Edgar also had a Ring Ouzel along the cliff path and a Redstart in Shooters.


Wheatear at Crowlink.


Stonechat at Birling Gap.

An evening visit to Shooters Bottom produced 12+ Willow Warbler mostly fly catching in the sunshine, a female Redstart and another Grasshopper Warbler in song. 3 Whimbrel fly over east.


Female Redstart this evening.

Posted in beachy head birding | Leave a comment

17th April 2017 Hen Harrier

Another day on foot all over the headland. A switch in wind direction with a cold NE airflow under mostly cloudy skies.

V87A1904 (1)

Male Hen Harrier.


Jamie’s shots of the mornings star bird.

In general numbers of Willow Warbler, Whitethroat, Blackcap and Chiffchaff were similar to yesterday. I’m not suggesting they’re the same individuals of course! 8 Wheatear, 1 Redstart were on the ground. A flock of 16 Yellow Wagtail passed over north. 1 White Wagtail was at the lighthouse, occasionally in a tussle with an accompanying Pied. Once again Hirundines passed through at a similar pace as the previous day but with a higher percentage of House Martin involved. The best bird of the morning was an immaculate male Hen Harrier found and photographed by Jamie at about 08.50, the bird quickly gained height and headed north after arriving from the south east. Yesterdays female Merlin was again in the Crowlink area.


Merlin at Crowlink.


White Wagtail at Belle Tout.

A distance of about 36km were covered on foot over the last few days. Even discovering a few new areas (to me) that warrant more attention. Beachy Head is a huge site!

We ended the day checking through hirundines at West Rise where both the Long tailed Duck and Garganey were still present. After dropping JP at the station, I received a message from Jake Everett about a summer plumage Red necked Grebe he’d just discovered at Arlington reservoir. It gave good but distant views & occasionally was heard calling. Apparently it had been displaying to and trying to mate with, a Great crested Grebe!. Both of which didn’t go down too well with the resident GC Grebes.

Posted in beachy head birding | Leave a comment

16th April 2017 Pied Flycatcher

A calm, bright morning with a light SW wind building throughout the day with rain late on.


Wheatear in the gully first thing.

A full and rewarding day on foot covering most of the headland with pal Jamie Partridge. Every site was covered from Holywell to Michel Dean & Crowlink.

Wheatear 7, Black Redstart 1, Common Redstart 3, Pied Flycatcher 1 (Went Hill), Firecrest 1 (Birling Lane), Whitethroat 10 (various singers across the headland), Lesser Whitethroat 1 (Belle Tout). A single Yellow Wagtail and a Siskin were heard passing over the Hollow. A Merlin appeared briefly chasing two Pied Wagtail over Crowlink, 5 Common Buzzard together over the Old trapping area gave the impression they may be wanderers and not local birds. 25+ Willow Warbler throughout the day. 6+ Chiffchaff were heard along with 15 Blackcap. A steady arrival of Swallow throughout the day amounting to about c65 birds.


Female Pied Flycatcher at Went Hill.


Pied Flycatchers are a scarce encounter for me during spring.


Black Redstart.

An early evening visit to West Rise was worth it with a single Drake Garganey on the smaller lake accompanying 4 Gadwall and 4 Teal. 2 immaculate Med Gulls past thro calling and over the main lake 70+ Swallow, 10 House Martin & 2 Sand Martin fed low over the water. 2 Water Pipit were still present in the wetter areas, surely about to move on soon.

Posted in beachy head birding | Leave a comment

11th April 2017

Another bright start to the day with a strengthening in the NNE wind.


Raven on the cliffs near the very highest point of the headland this morning.

A quieter morning for me with less the 10 Willow Warbler and 4 Blackcap seen. I covered the area around the Old trapping area to Shooters Bottom and back. The Ravens must be close to fledging, usually an event that occurs around mid April. Hard to say how many young are in the nest this year due to the viewing angle, there’s a limit to how much I’m willing to lean over the edge to see… it’s 162 metres (531 ft) to the rocks below! The Cowslip and Early Purple Orchids are just beginning to show in numbers around the headland. I noticed some Spider Orchids just beginning to show near Belle Tout at the weekend although they are not yet in flower. Other than good numbers of breeding Linnet, 4/5 pairs of Stonechat the bushes were lacking in promise today.

JC. had a couple of Whitethroat and another Redstart I think thats about the 5th so far this month.

Posted in beachy head birding | Leave a comment

10th April 2017

Another bright morning, not as much cloud cover as anticipated in fact the bank of cloud seemed to have stalled some miles inland. The wind had switch to a light NNE wind which did, as anticipated, drop in a few birds. I birded the upper areas of the pub and bushes around the S-bends, also Shooters Bottom.


One of this mornings Willow Warbler.

It may sound counter intuitive but a light northerly wind seems to facilitate a fall of birds in spring. I guess these birds labour into the wind whilst crossing the channel and are more inclined to linger due to the extra exertion. I had a rough count of about 30 Willow Warbler, 6 Blackcap, 5 Chiffchaff and 1 Redstart. A Sparrowhawk went east (a species which only occurs in spring and autumn here). A male Wheatear and 2 Swallow passed over. The springs first Whitethroat was seen by Bob at Birling. At about 10.20 a Red Kite drifted east over the garden here in Meads.

Posted in beachy head birding | Leave a comment

Thoughts on the Blue Rock Thrush

Having had time to reflect and digest the fact Thursdays Blue Rock Thrush was the same bird that wintered in Gloucestershire, I now feel have a vested personal interest in it’s outcome. I had only loosely followed the narrative surrounding the record thus far. Certainly an unusual location, December in a Gloucestershire village but I write this as someone who saw the 1988 Golden-winged Warbler in a Tesco carpark, in January, near Maidstone. So I don’t really see how location or timing is of huge detriment to the provenance of this bird. It certainly looked a lot better feeding on the chalky slopes of Beachy Head, occasionally perched on the isolated lighthouse buildings then it did at it’s wintering location.

Screen Shot 2017-04-08 at 12.17.01

Stow-in-the-Wold to Beachy Head. Last seen there on the 4th April. That’s best part of 190km in a little less the 48hrs, a strong SE movement.

Screen Shot 2017-04-08 at 12.18.52

Only another 700km to go on the same trajectory before being back in the French/Swiss Alps.

Having been seen in Glos. as recently as Tuesday 4th April, it was making good and direct progress back towards the continent of Europe which it’s brief appearance on Beachy Head would suggest. Perhaps one could argue heading for some montane region of France or the Mediterranean basin.

Posted in beachy head birding | Leave a comment

8th April 2017

Back to normal service here at Beachy Head following the avian H-bomb of Thursday.

Fine weather continues to keep a lid on grounded north bound migrants. This morning saw a small arrival of Willow Warbler (c20) and 6 Chiffchaff. It’s the first morning I’ve heard Willow Warblers in full song. I mostly birded around the pub and Shooters area. There was a nice Adder out in Shooters.




Posted in beachy head birding | Leave a comment