14th September 2017

Yet more south westerly wind, it’s been a week of relentless howling winds which are far from favourable conditions on Beachy Head. Not only the direction but strength makes birding difficult on the exposed headland. I visited Birling, Belle Tout and Shooters.

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Chiffchaff.

There were a surprising number of birds in the Belle Tout area, mostly concentrated in the wood and also the east, sheltered side. No counts but significant numbers of Blackcap, Chiffchaff, the odd Common Whitethroat, a single Willow Warbler, one Wheatear and a couple of Goldcrest heard. Overhead about 60+ Meadow Pipit, 6 Yellow Wagtail and +50 Hirundines (mostly House Martin) went through along with a single late Swift.

I also had a look at Princes Park lake to check if any seabirds had taken shelter there but found that was not the case! However a Yellow-legged Gull that first appeared in late July was amongst the gulls there. Looking more 1st winter like with a decent progression of mantle moult and the bill beginning to change colour. Although a little more worn, comparison with photo’s from July confirm it’s the same individual. The lake tends not to retain them beyond autumn so maybe this one will stick around.

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Yellow legged Gull at Princes Park.

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10th September 2017

My first visit in 6 days. The day started relatively calm and still but by 09.30am the west wind had freshened as an Atlantic depression arrived over the UK.  By afternoon gusts were up towards 50mph+. I covered my usual loop from the pub to Shooters and return.

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Wheatear near Shooters Bottom.

It was business as usual for me, pretty much a similar spread of species as earlier in the week. It was the first morning I have seen Meadow Pipit moving in numbers. Most of the activity seemed centred around the bushes near the pub. Totals included 10 Chiffchaff (a good few others heard calling) 1 Willow Warbler, c20 Whitethroat, 2 Redstart, 1 Whinchat, 5+ Wheatear. Over head 80+ Meadow Pipit moved west, 5 Yellow Wagtail, 4 Grey Wagtail, 80+ Hirundines mostly Swallow with House Martin heard and a single Sand Martin seen.

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4th September 2017 Wryneck

Anyone hoping for Wryneck photo’s, sorry not a chance with this evenings encounter!

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A moody day all round.

A frustrating day. The weather was mostly damp with very low cloud until late afternoon. A failure to catch up with the Baird’s Sandpiper in the Cuckmere was a complete waste of time. The bird went AWOL during my time there this morning, I did see a Spotted Redshank, Avocet, c18 Dunlin, c5 Ringed Plover and c20 Oystercatcher. I also received a soaking whilst out there.

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Ringed Plover in the Cuckmere.

Later in the day I toyed with the idea of returning to the Cuckmere but having seem many 100’s in the US a good few in the UK (including East Sussex) I thought I’d have a look at Beachy Head in better weather. Very low number of birds seen, just a few Whitethroat and Stonechat but finally, at about 6pm, Beachy’s first Wryneck of the autumn. The bird torpedoed around the western end of Shooters Bottom, never sitting still for even a good look through bins let alone a photo. A Redstart was calling persistently at dusk.

I’m now absent until Sunday 10th, I’m off cycling in Ibiza.

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2nd September 2017

Clear overnight with a brisk NNE breeze by dawn.

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Wheatear along the cliff top this morning.

A pleasant enough morning although a couple of good birds missed. First was a Melodious Warbler found in the pub garden by Richard Butler (looked for but not seen whilst I was there) and a pair of White Stork which passed north over the hollow at 10.20am. The Storks were probably the two birds at Dungeness earlier in the week of dubious origin. With many introduction schemes on the near by continent and one imminent in Sussex, the days of assuming a White Storks is wild are numbered in the south east.

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Always good to see a September Swift. You never know if it’s going to be your last this time of year.

Best bits for me were;  7 Wheatear, 4 Redstart, 2 Whinchat, 2 Spotted Flycatcher, 10 Meadow Pipit, 1 Tree Pipit, c30 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Alba Wagtail (all over mostly east), 7 Willow Warbler, 12 Chiffchaff, c35 Common Whitethroat, 3 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Sparrowhawk & 1 Hobby. Hirundines (all 3 species) were moving, with a high percentage of House Martin making up the numbers. There were approx 400+ in the surrounding areas including some birds moving purposefully east. 1 late Swift seen early on. 6 Common Buzzard seen whilst raptor watching at about midday.

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Another instalment of “falcons flying away” carrying on from the Merlin earlier in the week, here’s todays Hobby disappearing over Hodcombe.

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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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