1st September 2018 Nightjar

A cloudless day with a light south east wind from start to finish. A pretty mediocre day for me in terms of scarcity. I walked from the radio mast to Friston return about 12km. The real surprise came after sunset whilst sitting above Belle Tout Wood, when the dancing silhouette of a Nightjar was seen briefly hawking insects against a still glowing skyline. Quite a lovely surprise. It’s the second Nightjar I’ve seen on Beachy Head, the other in the same area in May 2016.

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Young male Marsh Harrier heading out to sea this morning high above the old trapping area.

Best birds for me were 5 Redstart, 8 Whinchat, 2 Wheatear, my first Chiffchaff of the autumn, 4 Willow Warbler, c 25 Common Whitethroat, Hirundines began moving early on and by leaving at 3pm several 1000 must have passed through, in with them a single Swift. A single Tree Pipit over Birling and at least c30 Yellow Wagtail seen including 18 in with cattle behind Hodcomb. A lone Grey Wagtail also passed over. 2 different Marsh Harrier (one 2nd cal. male type high SE just before 7am and another, a feather perfect juvenile, east over Went Hill at about 9am. During a raptor watch with Matt we had a single flock of 28 Common Buzzard although unfortunately, nothing else of note. 4 Sparrowhawk were seen over a wide area. I belatedly learnt others had a Barn Owl (very rare Beachy Head bird) & a Pied Flycatcher today.

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Some of the Common Buzzard “kettle” mid afternoon. Hard to say how many were seen overall but 28 at one time was highest count.

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Yellow Wagtail in the cattle field at Hodcomb.

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Sparrowhawk over Shooters.

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Whinchat just after sunrise at the radio mast.

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28th August 2018

An overcast & very calm morning, compared to yesterday’s blustery dearth of migrants, where 12 Yellow Wagtail with cattle behind Hodcomb were the highlight. Today at least had some interest. I walked from the radio mast to the western end of Shooters return, also taking in some of the cliff top bushes opposite the pub. If time allows, I’m trying to cover as much on foot as possible as this increases the number of birds I encounter. The stretch between the old trapping area to shooters often holds birds. I don’t think I’ve seen another birder walk it.

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Common Redstart at the radio mast.

Flyover appearances from 2 Grey Wagtail (following my first of autumn on 24th) a Tree Pipit and 2 Yellow Wagtail. For the first time this autumn it felt like Hirundines were just begining to move with about c120 seen in the morning (90% Swallow 10% Sand Martin), mostly moving east and amongst them 2 Swift. 4 Common Redstart, 1 Black Redstart, a single WhinchatCommon Whitethroat still very noticeable with about c60 seen, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, 5 Blackcap, c15 Willow Warbler.

I returned for an hour at 13:30, at which point the sun had broken through creating perfect conditions for a raptor watch. An impressive “kettle” of 14 Common Buzzard and 2 Sparrowhawk were the only notables. There was also c50 loafing Hirundines over the headland and a single Swift.

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26th August 2018 Turtle Dove

Today dawned warmer than yesterday with scattered cloud. A southerly wind strengthened, veering SW with heavy rain setting in by midday. We covered the area on foot from the radio mast to Birling returning once again through Bullock Down.

A much quieter day, although Common Whitethroat numbers remain high, with the highlight being a single Turtle Dove flushed from the old trapping area. The Melodious Warbler hadn’t been seen up until at least 11am.

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Today’s Turtle Dove. My first in the UK this year and only the 4th I’ve seen on Beachy Head since 2014. Following the worrying national trend of becoming a very rare bird.

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Other migrants included c14 Wheatear, 3 Common Redstart, 1 Black Redstart, 3 Whinchat, c12 Willow Warbler, c60 Common Whitethroat, 3 Lesser Whitethroat, c20 Yellow Wagtail (most over head although 6 in with cattle), 6 Sand Martin, c20 Barn Swallow, 1 Sparrowhawk.

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Above a Wheatear near Shooters and below 3 of a party of 10 in Bullock Down.

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25th August 2018 A lotta birds.

Mostly clear all day with a fresh and cold north wind strengthening and turning SW by 6pm. A full day out on foot with JP taking in the whole headland. Covering all sites from the Hollow to Friston return, out via Shooters and Birling and back through Long Down and Bullock Down. A whopping 17kms covered!

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Short eared Owl at Went Hill.

A great day with a good spread of migrants one of the most enjoyable days birding this year. Initially there was an over head movement of Yellow Wagtail early on and, of note, a late Swift, a species which has been unusually absent over the last fortnight. Highlights included the long staying Melodious Warbler, the first Merlin and Short eared Owl of the autumn, good numbers of both Redstart and Wheatear. Bob also trapped a Wood Warbler in the Hollow.

13 Common Redstart, 1 Black Redstart, c40 Wheatear, 5 Whinchat, 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Pied Flycatcher, c50 Willow Warbler, c40 Common Whitethroat, c15 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Garden Warbler, c6 Reed Warbler, c10 Blackcaps, 1 Melodious Warbler, 2 Tree Pipit, c100 Yellow Wagtail, c50 Barn Swallow, 3 Sand Martin, 1 Swift, 1 Merlin, 6 Sparrowhawk, c12 Common Buzzard, 1 Short eared Owl (broken outer primary on left wing)

One of the Common Redstart in the Old trapping area.

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Pied Flycatcher at the radio mast.

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One of the 12 Common Buzzard this one over Michel Dean.

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Common Swift, just a lone bird over Birling early on.

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Sparrowhawk over Went Hill.

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24th August 2018 Ortolan Bunting

Bright start with a light SW wind.

A very brief visit this morning but a fortuitous one. Whilst waiting for the Melodious Warbler (now relocated to the pub carpark) I heard a call which was instantly of interest. Turning towards the direction of the call and into direct sunlight, I immediately saw the silhouette of a slim bunting coming towards me, at a reasonably low height. As it continued to call (it did so throughout the whole encounter) my brain caught up with itself and I realised I was listening to and looking at an Ortolan Bunting. The bird was against the light and nothing was seen in terms of features. It continued on west and out of earshot. Frustratingly similar to one I saw here on August 31st 2016.

I’ve heard Ortolan abroad and as recently as this week, been refreshing my memory of their flight call, along with that of Dotterel!

 

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20th August 2018 Melodious Warbler

A calm, sunny morning after 24hrs of poor weather which had seen low cloud, rain and moderate SW winds envelope the headland. As is often the case this time of year, fine weather following poor, often produces birds. As birds move behind inclement conditions.

Sometimes birds are unpredictable, sometimes they arrive just on schedule. This mornings Melodious Warbler was of course a welcome and enjoyable find but definitely a species that should be on the radar this time of year. It was also the second I’ve been lucky enough to find here.

Below todays Melodious Warbler found in the bushes near the radio mast.

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Not the best of photo’s but for a bird that lingered no longer than 5 minutes they’ll suffice. It gave it’s self away as it clumsily moved between branches, so different to the light & delicate way the numerous Willow Warblers move through the cover.

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I covered the area around the radio mast down to the old trapping area return. It was quite lively with highlights including, 1 Pied Flycatcher, 2 Spotted Flycatcher, 3 Wheatear, c20 Common Whitethroat, 5 Lesser Whitethroat, c35 Willow Warbler.  About 8 Yellow Wagtail (heard only) and 2 Tree Pipit passed over. 2 Sparrowhawk were also buzzing around the area of the pub.

Spotted Flycatcher near the pub.

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A young female Peregrine was noisily chasing anything in sight this morning. It seemed to be enjoying just seeing how much she could throw her weight about.

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17th August 2018 After a cold front

The previous days wet weather had cleared away by evening, behind it cooler & drier air with 17th dawning clear and calm. I only covered the area between the pub, radio mast and bushes down to & including the old trapping area.

The passing cold front left some activity in it’s wake with c40 Willow Warbler, c18 Common Whitethroat, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Sedge Warbler, 2 Reed Warbler, 1 Garden Warbler (singing at times), 1 Wheatear.  2 Tree Pipit, c7 Yellow Wagtail and a high flying Ringed Plover passed over. Also worth a mention were 5 Robin, first I’ve seen up on the headland and undoubted birds moving around. Tying in with hearing local birds start to sing again as they stake out their winter territories.

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Willow Warblers.

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Below, a lone Wheatear behind the radio mast.

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A stratospheric Ringed Plover.

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Peregrine out over the sea.

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