31st August 2017

Yesterdays persistent rain had cleared over night, the day dawning mostly bright with only a suggestion of a westerly breeze, which had strengthened by mid morning as a band of rain moved in from the SW.

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Short eared Owl along the strip between the S bends and Shooters. In the brief few years I have been watching Beachy Head I’ve not noticed migrants linger like this (assuming these recent sightings relate to the arrival on the 25th of two birds), I wonder if there is a bounty of rodents on the headland at the moment.

As predicted in a conversation with Matt Eade the night before a fine morning (rain abating early the previous evening with clear spells overnight), following a foul day would at the very least bring some new arrivals and that seemed to bare out. Generally there was plenty to look at although all the familiar faces one expects this time of year.

I had my highest count of Grasshopper Warbler so far this autumn and Chiffchaff numbers have been slowly increasing over the last 7 days. In general overhead passage was sluggish, although I felt Meadow Pipit passage was perceptible for the first time this autumn but very low in numbers. Hirundines only number c50 for me this morning, very low numbers indeed. My first morning without a Swift for a long while. There was a lively feeding flock of Spotted Flycatcher and phyllosc. in the wood at Belle Tout, but the cover there made counting accurately hard.

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Chiffchaff. 

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Male Common Redstart in the bushes between pub and OTA.

Todays note worthy totals; 4 Whinchat, 5 Redstart, 5 Robin, 6 Wheatear, 7 Spotted Flycatcher, c12 Meadow Pipit, 1 Tree Pipit, 4 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Grey Wagtail, 1 Alba Wagtail (wagtail & Pipit over & mostly west), 4 Grasshopper Warbler, c55 Whitethroat, 3 Lesser Whitethroat, 9 Chiffchaff, 17 Willow Warbler, 12 Blackcap, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Short eared Owl which I take to bird one of the lingering birds first seen on the 25th August. 1 Sparrowhawk was noted. Some impressive dog-fighting going on between a pair of Peregrine and Raven near the pub.

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Willow Warbler in Elders at the cliff edge near the old trapping area.

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Sparrowhawk in stealth mode at Shooters Bottom, exclusively a migrant at Beachy Head.

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30th August 2017 House Martins

A complete change of season in 24hrs. Yesterdays hot and settled weather pushed aside by a wet cold front and with it, a moderate northerly wind. A thoroughly wet and miserable day especially if you’re a long distance, insect seeking migrant looking to feed up before leaving. It rained throughout a late afternoon visit and I spent most of my time looking through the 400+ House Martin that had gathered to feed in the lee of the wind below the cliff tops. All I could see amongst them was a single Swift.

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Adult House Martin.

Unfortunately the light was poor for photography. It was interesting to see the contrast across the worn wings of the adults, BWP suggests wing moult takes place mostly in the tropics, after the majority of the autumn migration has been completed. However (to my untrained eye!) the above bird does seem to show some signs of body moult. Some of the juveniles were very dusky about the face and rump.

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Juvenile House Martin.

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A small part of the group along with the Swift.

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Todays weather a far cry from the Afrotropics where these birds are headed.

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Surely one of the only true migration spectacles the UK has, congregations of Martins and Swallows. I often wonder what these birds will see on their journey as they pass over so many different landscapes, cities, arid regions and tropical forests.

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29th August 2017

A still morning with virtually no wind, very hot and humid. The sea was like a mill pond and I was able to pick out 4 Harbour Porpoise in the distance.

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Spotted Flycatcher in the Old trapping area.

My usual circuit on foot from the pub to Shooters Bottom return, a distance of around 4.5km. In general it felt quieter for me, very low numbers of phyllosc warblers. Hirundines were again moving mainly east, a very rough estimate of 300/400 seen of all three species. Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler numbered the same this morning, they will soon be trading places as the most common phyllosc warbler passing through the headland. I also perceived an increase in Robin numbers, easy to forget these birds are also migrants. Shooters Bottom was quite good for sylvia warblers.

5 Redstart, 4 Whinchat, c10 Robin, 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 4 Chiffchaff, 4 Willow Warbler, c45 Whitethroat, 4/5 Lesser Whitethroat, c8 Blackcap, 2 Reed Warbler, 1 Sedge Warbler, 1 Goldcrest, 3 Yellow Wagtail over (more heard), 1 Grey Wagtail, 4 Alba Wagtail, 2 Tree Pipit, 1 Merlin, 3 Swift.

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Merlin near the pub this morning.

A dusk visit to Shooters Bottom yesterday (28th) produced a Short eared Owl and 49 Yellow Wagtail over.

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Short-eared Owl hunting at Shooters in the late evening sun on the 28th.

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27th August 2017 Pied Flycatchers

Another long day out on foot. A still night followed by a still morning, with what little detectable wind there was swinging SE by mid-morning bringing the wonderful spectacle of sea fog sitting below the headland.

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Sea fog viewed from the top of Beachy Head.

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Today’s most enjoyable birds were two showy Pied Flycatcher discovered in the grounds of the pub at 08.30am this morning. The first I have seen this autumn.

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Pied Flycatcher literally in the pub car park.

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In all we covered the Hollow, tops bushes around the pub, Shooters Bottom, old trapping area & Birling Gap. Returning to raptor watch at the pub shortly after midday with (unfortunately) no repeat of the luck we had yesterday. No large raptors were seen beyond what appeared to be local Common Buzzard, numbering 6/7. I was surprised to again flush a Short-eared Owl from cover in Shooters Bottom as we checked the site again for Wryneck late afternoon. I took this to be one of Friday’s birds but who knows. An interesting collection of waders (which for obvious reasons are scarcities on Beachy Head) a Ringed Plover (heard only), a single Golden Plover flew around the headland calling and 3 Dunlin flew through amongst a pulse of Swallow whilst sky watching. Again all three species of hirundines were on the move, very approximate count of 1800+ birds. There were also c20 Swift seen through out the day.

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An appalling but yet unmistakable image of an early, lone Golden Plover circling Beachy this morning.

Other sightings included; c30 Blackcap, c60 Common Whitethroat, 5 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Garden Warbler,3 Reed Warbler, 1 Sedge Warbler, 23 Willow Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Wheatear, 4 Whinchat, 11 Common Redstart, 1 Goldcrest, 32 Yellow Wagtail, 12 Tree Pipit.

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26th August 2016 Honey Buzzards

Another fine calm morning with any cloud burnt off by 9am, a slight SSW breeze building throughout the day.

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Honey Buzzard over Michel Dean. At first glance I thought the bird was trailing a leg but on closer inspection, it’s a feather edge in front of the foot.

A very enjoyable day, out at sunrise and 14km covered on foot from the pub to Friston return. Lots of areas covered including Long Wood and Frost Hill.

Highlight was the appearance of two Honey Buzzard, the first picked up distantly (and rather excellently) by JP at 10.50am. This bird headed SE over the headland already stratospheric by the time it reached the pub and lost to view. In contrast the second was picked up at 12.45pm over Michel Dean, so low I didn’t need bins to shout it. We then watched it pass low over Shooters Bottom then circle the pub drifting off east.

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Views of the first bird were distant to say the least! It was however a much darker bird then the one that followed.

In addition we saw, 12 Common Redstart, 1 Black Redstart (juv), 7 Whinchat, 17 Wheatear, 8 Spotted Flycatcher, 7 Tree Pipit, c30 Yellow Wagtail, 4 Alba Wagtail, 2 Grey Wagtail, 8 Meadow Pipit, 21 Willow Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff, 3 Lesser Whitethroat, c65 Common Whitethroat, 3 Blackcap, 9 Reed Warbler, 1 Sedge Warbler & a Reed Bunting. Around 1000 hirundine were seen and along with them, 10 Swift.

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Wheatear, Whinchat and a Linnet.

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One of todays Whinchat, this one near the pub at dawn.

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25th August 2017 Short eared Owls

Another fine and virtually still morning, the kind of morning so still you can hear the birds bill snapping and moving amongst the bushes. The still conditions allowed for another bird filled morning. I only covered Shooters Bottom.

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Highlight for me was almost walking into a roosting Short-eared Owl near the water trough which allowed a few photo’s to be rattled off before I almost stood on a 2nd which was on the ground, the two took flight and went down a few hundred meters further away, looking for a more undisturbed secluded spot to get some sleep.

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In flight above shooters. Only the 2nd and 3rd I’ve seen on Beachy this year.

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Plenty of over head movement this morning involving c400 hirundines which also included a minimum of 7 late Swift. 17 Yellow Wagtail & 10 Tree Pipit passed over. 1 each of Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher & Whinchat, 43 Whitethroat, 3 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Reed Warbler, 2 Sedge Warbler, 3 Blackcap, 9 Willow Warbler, 1 Great spotted Woodpecker were in the bushes.

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Willow Warbler.

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Redstart near the water trough.

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Swallows and Martins around Belle Tout Lighthouse.

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24th August 2018 Melodious Warbler

A moderate SW wind had abated by midnight which led into an overcast morning with almost no discernible wind at all. All of which transformed Beachy Head into a little hive of activity. I only covered my usual circuit on foot, pub to Shooters return. Amongst the many birds about this morning, top find was a Melodious Warbler found by Roger Haggar.

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Melodious Warbler in the old trapping area.

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Below the all important wing formula.

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Some good day counts this morning, worth bearing in mind I only covered a small area! 81 Yellow Wagtail over, 19 Tree Pipit (including a flock of 10), 12 Redstart, 2 Whinchat, 5 Wheatear, 3 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Grasshopper Warbler, 52 Willow Warbler, c50 Whitethroat, 5 Lesser Whitethroat, 6 Blackcap. A Merlin buzzed through & 2 Sparrowhawk were causing concern as they hunted through the bushes. Most of the hirundines were high up this morning, I didn’t pay them a lot of attention as the ground was so busy. About c300 mainly Swallow went over as did a single Great spotted Woodpecker, they have been seen in ones and twos for a week or so.

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Wheatear in Shooters.

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One of this mornings mini fall of Redstart.

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Great spotted Woodpecker over and in silhouette.

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Spotted Flycatcher in the old trapping area.

 

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