11th November 2018 Hard Work

Continuation of very strong SW winds with occasional showers.

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Holywell beach.

Again a fair bit undertaken on foot with JP. Holywell, top bushes around the pub, Belle Tout, Cornish Farm, Long Down, Birling Gap and Went Hill.

Still a number of Goldcrest (c80) spread throughout the sites visited but just a single Firecrest on Long Down, c4 Chiffchaff seen. The Eurasian Treecreeper remains in Belle Tout wood along with a Ring Ouzel flushed from bushes on it’s western edge in the company of 2 Redwing. A Woodcock (the third sighting of the week) was also flushed from the SW edge of the wood on Long Down. With so many Caspian Gulls seen in the Cuckmere over the last 48hrs it was with some disbelief one couldn’t be found among the c250 large gulls present in the fields around Birling Gap.

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9th November 2018 Goldcrests Galore.

Overnight SE wind, developing into a blustery southerly by dawn strengthening and veering gale force SW by midmorning.

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Goldcrest in Belle Tout wood.

A significant arrival of Goldcrest overnight with Belle Tout wood hosting a minimum of c80 birds perhaps a 100 would be a more reasonable estimate, a Brambling and 2 Chiffchaff also present along with two each of Blue and Great Tit. The long staying Eurasian Treecreeper and a Coal Tit (race not specified) were also seen by others.

Holywell and Shooters were also ringing to the sound of Goldcrest but windy conditions and cover made it hard to make estimates of numbers present.

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5th November 2018 Pallas’s Warbler

A light but strengthening SE wind, warm and humid at first light, clear becoming cloudy. I covered Holywell, the taller trees and cover around the top of the Hollow, Pub and top bushes but got slightly waylaid at the old trapping area!

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It’s early November, the wind is in the south east sector and I left the house with high expectations. News of a Pallas’s Warbler arriving in Suffolk filtered through by 9am. It only went to fuel the desire to find one of my own even more. A bird BWP describes as “The smallest and most beautiful Phylloscopus to occur in the western Palearctic” and I can’t imagine anyone disagreeing. The date and weather were spot on.

I’d encountered 3 Chiffchaff, a Blackcap, 25+ Goldcrest and 2 Firecrest (definitely a sharp increase in crests this morning) before reaching the old trapping area. Whist in there I caught a fleeting glimpse of a “wing barred phyllosc” the same story played out yesterday at Belle Tout where it transpired to be a Yellow browed. I didn’t get a sense of size although it seemed brighter and saturated. Birds zip through these isolated bushes very quickly at times and I was really anxious it had moved on. It took another 20 minutes to see it again, a Pallas’s Warbler! I was beyond happy, one of those rare instances where an imagined moment becomes reality. The bird showed well on and off, keeping in low cover, actively flitting around and often picked insects from the foliage in a trade mark hover, flashing it’s custard coloured rump whilst doing so. However it was a little too active to get images that did it justice.

A Yellow browed Warbler dropped into the bushes too, called a few times and seemed to quickly depart east. A Firecrest and 2/3 Goldcrest also present, one of which was hand tame, feeding just inches away, oblivious to people present.

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I think it’s one of my most enjoyed finds, heart was pounding until I eventually nailed it.

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I had forgotten how “crest like” they are, even making the diminutive Yellow browed Warbler seem like a decent sized phyllosc!

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4th November 2018 Yellow browed Warbler

A cloudy day with a moderate SSE wind.

With the weather looking so good for late autumn birding, I spent all day around Birling Gap, visiting Belle Tout, Birling lane, Went Hill, the area of gorse and scrub above Birling, Cornish Farm and the wood at Long Down. Surprisingly little in the way of overhead movement and the number of migrants on the ground rather small but given the date, that’s to be expected. Although the lack of any winter Thrushes today surprised me.

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Yellow browed Warbler at Belle Tout.

Always a treat despite appearing with increasing frequency. This one being my 3rd here this autumn and 6th into total for the general area. It’s also the latest I have found here.

Best of the bunch today was; a single, hard won Yellow browed Warbler (found upon the 3rd time of checking the Belle Tout area at 14:00hrs), a tristis Chiffchaff in the wood at Long Down and a Dartford Warbler above Birling Gap. There were small bands of Blue and Great tit in both Long Down wood and Belle Tout with also c20 Goldcrest shared between those two sites. I only encountered 3 other Chiffchaff beyond the tristis bird. A Mistle Thrush flew past Belle Tout, worth a mention as the are incredibly scarce here!

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tristis Chiffchaff on Long Down.

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Large gulls are passing through at the moment with one or two modest roosts in the undisturbed fields. A large, dark 3rd Winter argentatus Herring Gull was the only thing of interest I could find amongst them.

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It’s unusual to see Peregrine’s perched in trees here. I’ve seen this one doing so a few times on Went Hill. Other raptors included, 3 Kestrel, 3 Common Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk hunting Starling in the set aside field, in a manner similar to that of a Merlin. At one point it successfully caught one but upon being chased by a gang of Carrion Crow, released it. The Starling flew away unharmed… certainly a lucky day for him. Similar numbers of Skylark and Corn Bunting as previous recent visits.

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2nd November 2018 Isabelline Shrike

An amazing mid afternoon find by Chris Ball at Birling Gap. Beachy Heads first BBRC bird of 2018 and a lovely one to boot. In perfect light on a perfect day, a shame I didn’t have a lot of time with it! It was a perfectly timed find allowing me to squeeze it in during a lunch break.

The current BBRC trend is to accept these birds as “either or” Daurian/Turkestan Shrike“, even the DNA data would appear to be confused. With that it mind it would be churlish to go any further than saying this bird seems to fit the appearance of Daurian Shrike.

A Dartford Warbler was also in the vicinity of the Shrike and a Swallow flew west. Nothing worth mentioning about the earlier visit this morning, although I noted several small groups of finches utilising the headwind (very light NW) coming in off the sea. With a huge high pressure over continental Europe, reaching off into Asia at the moment, I bet this bird arrived last night using the wind in a similar fashion.

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31st October 2018

A bright fine morning. A light southerly wind overnight shifting SE around dawn.

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Disappointing given the conditions preceding dawn with little to suggest overnight arrivals. There were a small number of finches on the move, with c100 Goldfinch & c100 Linnet tracking east into the wind. Immigrant Robins were evident with c12 heard “ticking” around the top bushes shortly after sunrise. A single Blackcap in Shooters and a max of two Chiffchaff encountered. Belle Tout Wood held a small mixed Great & Blue Tit flock along with a Goldcrest. Whilst a single Ring Ouzel below the lighthouse looked suspiciously like Monday’s bird hanging around. A few small roosts of large gulls in the stubble fields but nothing of interest amongst ’em. A pair of Peregrine were actively “co-hunting” near Shooters. I watched the male take a swipe at a Sparrowhawk then menace a small flock of Goldfinch out over the sea although all escaped with the lives!

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29th October 2018 Richard’s Pipit

A cold and frosty start with a stiff NE wind veering more northerly towards the end of the day. A full day out with JP, 15km covered on foot. We birded Birling Gap, Belle Tout, Long Down wood, Cow Gap, the Holywell area, Went Hill & Michel Dean.

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Belle Tout lighthouse from Went Hill, the top of Belle Tout wood catching the last rays of sun.

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Firecrest at Birling Lane.

Things kicked off from the get go with JP picking up a Richard’s Pipit (c07:20) passing over Birling Gap heading towards Belle Tout. The bird called 3 or 4 times and was watched descending towards the cattle field there but we failed to relocate it despite searching. 6 Blackbirds and a Ring Ouzel were flushed from cover just east of the wood but only a single Redwing seen this morning. The top of Birling lane held 8 Goldcrest, least 2 Firecrest and a vocal Yellow browed Warbler which refused to show despite calling repeatedly from private gardens at about 09:30. Skylark (c100) remain evident, and a single Yellowhammer was mixing with the House Sparrow flock around Cornish Farm, c30 Corn Bunting, were encountered.  A decent bit of overhead movement until mid-morning mostly west; c200+ Chaffinch, c5 Brambling, c25 Siskin, 1 Redpoll, c200 Wood pigeon, 10 Stock Dove, 3 Grey Heron, 3 Golden Plover & 5 Lapwing.

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One of todays Golden Plover.

Moving on to Cow Gap and the Hollow we found it to be very quiet apart from a flock of 20 Common Scoter on the sea whilst a migrant Short eared Owl was flushed from the cliff face which flew out over the ocean but did return.

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We then headed to Long Down to check the wood there but found it hard going bar a single Chiffchaff (max of 4 seen all day), a Goldcrest and a few Blue and Great Tit. Passing back through a quiet Belle Tout wood, the Eurasian Treecreeper was still present and calling. It appeared quite cold looking with clean white underparts and a substantial supercillium that extended in the nape area and the mantle seemed cold toned too. Perhaps I haven’t looked critically at any britannica Treecreepers lately but it seemed a little lacking in warmth. Although nowhere near as extreme as the images of familiaris “Northern” birds I’ve seen.

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Treecreeper are rare here, this being only the 2nd I have seen since I started watching the site in 2014.

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We covered Went Hill and Michel Dean but found it quiet beyond a small mixed Tit flock, two Peregrine and a Sparrowhawk. Throughout the day, other raptors included c6 Kestrels & 5 Common Buzzard, although no sign of their Scandinavian cousins. Quite a few Red Admirals on the wing along with a Clouded Yellow.

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JP looking for the Richard’s Pipit. No shortage of habitat on Beachy Head.

 

 

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