8th & 9th May 2014

Although the wind has been consistently in the NE or ENE sector it hasn’t killed off the detectable passage of summer migrants.

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Spotted Flycatcher in Belle Tout on 9th.

The 8th was cold and grey but I had at least 15 Willow Warbler (mostly in the gully) and a Short eared Owl (scarce this spring and my first of 2017) passed leisurely through the hollow. Whilst KG had 3 Spotted Flycatcher at Belle Tout & 2 Black Redstart at Birling.

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Short eared Owl on the 8th.

The 9th was a brighter day but the cool wind kept a lid on the temperatures. There seemed to be less migrants than the previous day although there was a female Redstart in the old trapping area, 5 Willow Warbler, 1 Spotted Flycatcher in the wood, a Hobby shot through Shooters at lunchtime and a Reed Warbler was also in song there. The Raven have two young now flying around the top of the headland.

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Common Buzzard from the 8th May. Certainly striking an interesting flight silhouette when it first appeared, flight action was quite odd too!

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May 7th 2017

A bright start, gathering cloud moderate NE wind.

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Whitethroat.

This morning was pretty quiet for migrants on the ground, as has been the case for the last few mornings. A few Whitethroat are now carrying nest material with many territories now established. 4 Willow Warbler, 2 Garden Warbler were they only birds that suggested they were migrants. This time of year tends to see the numbers of migrants drop away but with that, the chance of encountering something rarer increases. I have been lucky enough to encounter a Bee-eater and several Red rumped Swallow in the 2nd & 3rd weeks of May in previous years. A small number of hirundines and Swift were arriving by mid morning. An evening walk along to Cornish Farm, checking the fence lines for falcons, produced a smart male Whinchat for the effort.

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Garden Warbler in the old trapping area.

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Black Redstart nr the pub on the 4th May.

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May 3rd 2017 Turtle Dove

A dull overcast morning, occasional rain moderate NE wind.

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Turtle Dove this morning. Interesting to see from the GPS tracked birds that most winter in Mali.

I wasn’t sure what to expect this morning but left feeling like the day was owed more time then I could spare. Willow Warbler numbers are really dropping off now with a total of zero yesterday and 2 this morning. The first flash of interest was a smart male Redstart that appeared briefly in the old trapping area quickly followed buy a lighting brief appearance of what I was happy was a Siberian Chiffchaff. I saw the bird briefly, rattled off a few shots at which point the bird headed purposefully west. A thoughtful dog walker flushed my only Ring Ouzel of the spring from near the pub. It called and flew west along the cliff tops, heading towards Shooters. I’m pleased not to have drawn a blank on these this spring as I had thought it now too late. At this point a Turtle Dove headed in from the east and obligingly paused briefly in the old trapping area. It’s only my 3rd one on Beachy Head and the only one I’ve seen perched! Considering the current state of this species as a UK breeder, I doubt that trend will improve.

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Above and below, a bird I’m happy calling Siberian Chiffchaff. Overall desaturated appearance, only yellow traces confined to the fringes of the flight feathers, pale almost whitish below with no trace of yellow, something I note on many Tristis is a grey Garden Warbler like “shawl” around the nape which is clearly visible above. Unfortunately no call was heard.

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Sunday 30th April saw a good movement up channel with (personally) c40 Pomarine Skua seen, along with a few Arctic and Great Skuas. The discovery of a pair of Little Tern and a Wryneck at West Rise late afternoon were both welcome and unexpected. Only my 2nd spring Wryneck in the local area. All enjoyed with Big JP day tripping from London.

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26th April 2017 Wood Warblers

A bitterly cold & strong NE wind, clear skies continue. The north wind worked again by dropping in some migrants, despite a clear night and morning.

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Wood Warbler in the old trapping area.

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Literally the first bird I saw this morning was this lovely Wood Warbler in the old trapping area. The bird called continuously and occasionally sang. An excellent bird on Beachy Head (or anywhere these days?) and my first here since 2015. There were also 6 Willow Warbler in the bushes along with a Garden Warbler. Then on to Shooters Bottom where there was very little other than a Common Redstart and a Lesser Whitethroat in song. I ended up in Belle Tout Wood where I met Kris Gillam. Where we remarkably found a second Wood Warbler singing above us. Two in one morning is quite exceptional by modern standards. There were also 4 Willow Warbler in the trees and a Firecrest in the bushes just to the west of the plantation.

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22nd April 2017 Grasshopper Warbler

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

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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.

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Wheatear at Crowlink.

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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 flew over east.

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Female Redstart this evening.

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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.

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Male Hen Harrier.

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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.

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Merlin at Crowlink.

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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.

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16th April 2017 Pied Flycatcher

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

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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.

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Female Pied Flycatcher at Went Hill.

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Pied Flycatchers are a scarce encounter for me during spring.

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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.

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