A wet night night followed by a very murky start, increasing ENE wind.
A mid afternoon visit to Shooters and Belle Tout finally yielded my first Willow Warblers of the year. With 1 and 4 respectively at those sites. A micro fall to say the least! It’s really nice to see these and hear their song after such a cold and prolonged winter.
Willow Warbler at Belle Tout.
Other than 2 Blackcap and a Chiffchaff in Shooters there was little else of note.
After a dank start I headed to West Rise to join Kris Gilliam and Andrew Whitcomb to look for the Savi’s Warbler KG had found the previous day. (before it’s queried, this news is already in the public arena and has already gone on the RBA’s) The bird sang & called on several occasions, showing well in flight during a prolonged pursuit by an aggressive Cetti’s Warbler.
Also present were 2/3 singing Sedge Warblers, a Whitethroat, fly over Common Sandpiper, Greenshank and a Little Gull hawking over the lake. All of which were the first I’ve encountered this year.
Firecrest in Belle Tout wood.
Enthused by the burst of activity at West Rise I headed to Beachy Head hoping the improving weather would enable me to dig out some more migrants but it was similar fare to the previous day with similar low numbers of Firecrest, Chiffchaff and Black Redstart between Belle Tout and Shooters Bottom. A female Common Redstart (seen the day before by PW) was the first I’d seen this year and a few days later than previous years. 4 Swallow came in off the sea, following on from my first yesterday.
I went down to Sovereign harbour this morning to see how black the Black Guillemot was getting. Answer quite black but not the full ticket!. I wonder if this bird’s a first summer as I’d imagine most adult birds are, by now, completely black. Remarkably this bird is now into it’s 6 calendar month of it’s residency. I’d given up after over an hours searching only to encounter the bird in the southern arm of the complex while walking back towards the car!
An Osprey passed very high NNW over the garden late morning. That constitutes my most notable migrant of the week with only Chiffchaffs, Black Redstarts & Firecrests encountered on Beachy Head.
And a Cormorant looking rather splendid & emerald eyed in the morning sun.
The farmer has finally decided to plough the field at Birling some 2/3 weeks later than previous years, can’t help but think it’s just a bit to late to catch any Caspian Gull passage. At 5pm this evening he was out again with the tractor & despite attracting c1000 Herring Gulls, I could only find 2 Lesser Black backed Gull amongst them, nothing else! There were however c5 White Wagtail in the field including this smart male.
A slight northerly wind, cloud clearing to give way to a bright spring like day.
Firecrest above Belle Tout Wood.
I was in the Hollow early on checking the Exmoor enclosure. A number of Meadow Pipit were song flighting and Skylark song is a perpetual sound track to the headland now. A few small groups of Chaffinch were in the bushes and I located bright male Brambling amongst them after hearing it’s rasping call for several minutes. There may have been more than one present, also a Siskin passed over head. 2 Chiffchaff were also in song. Later in the day I found the Birling & Belle Tout area quiet encountering only one Firecrest in gorse above the wood.
The previous day, 25th March, produced a Wheatear (my first of the year) along the pony fence line in the hollow and a smart Black Redstart on the slopes below Belle Tout lighthouse. There were also 2 Harbour Porpoise off shore.
Bright and sunny with a light westerly wind.
Peregrine near the apex of the headland.
Another morning without a Wheatear despite there being falls of up to 30 at one south coast site yesterday. Several Redwing were flushed out of the bushes near the old trapping area and the Peregrines were harassing the Raven who are now feeding young in the nest. Several more Redwing pushed from the bushes near Belle Tout. In the same area I encountered a minimum of 2 Firecrest, 1 female Blackcap and a single Chiffchaff the latter of which had a large clump of pollen encrusted on it’s forehead, which I believe is created as the birds take nectar from flowering plants in southern Europe. A male Yellowhammer was in the area of Belle Tout, perhaps a sign they will breed here again this year. 4 Linnet passed over and RE had a male Black Redstart at Birling Gap. There was a large flock of c45 Carrion Crow around the top of the cliffs early on.
A spring Chiffchaff complete with pollen cargo.
A dull, wet morning with a light SE wind the upper most part of the headland remained shrouded in low cloud.
A wet but very welcome Firecrest.
Despite drawing a complete blank the previous day this morning finally yielded some genuine passerine migrants. The wood held singles of Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Firecrest all the first representatives I have seen at Beachy Head this year. Things seem to have been a little delayed by the intense cold snap of a few weeks back.
Noted on Sunday, Great Tit and Blue Tit seem to increase in visibility this time of year (passage?) with a small number seen on the 11th along with a party of 8 Long tailed Tit at Birling Gap. Also, a bright “rubicola-esque” male Stonechat was singing at Shooters Bottom along with a single Linnet, both these species are set to become much more numerous over the coming weeks.
Brent Geese passing Beachy Head on the 11th March. Matt Eade had a count of 725 from near by Seaford Head. March is a good time for Brent passage.
Not much sign of the “mild conditions” forecast for Saturday nor any sign of any migrants! There were however a number of interesting gulls still around the Dungeness peninsular.
One of two juvenile Glaucous Gulls seen.
A brief appearance of a 3rd winter Yellow legged Gull.
In a brief window of better light, a really sleek looking adult Caspian Gull arrived. A very handsome looking bird it’s dark eye giving it an immaculate appearance.
An appearance reminiscent of a large Common Gull.
Legs of this bird appeared richly coloured as they can be this time of year.
Below the classic Caspian wing pattern, with long grey/white tongues cutting deeply into the black primaries, large white tip to p10, dark markings up to p5.