13th March 2018

Bright and sunny with a light westerly wind.

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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.

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A spring Chiffchaff complete with pollen cargo.

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12th March 2018 Firecrest & Chiffchaff

A dull, wet morning with a light SE wind the upper most part of the headland remained shrouded in low cloud.

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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.

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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.

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10th March 2018 Dungeness Gulls

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.

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One of two juvenile Glaucous Gulls seen.

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A brief appearance of a 3rd winter Yellow legged Gull.

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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.

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An appearance reminiscent of a large Common Gull.

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Legs of this bird appeared richly coloured as they can be this time of year.

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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.

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7th February 2018 Bittern & Bluethroat.

A continuation of the very cold weather that has preceded the last 5 to 6 days. Light northerly wind.5T6A1546

Bittern at West Rise against a not so pretty backdrop. Underlines the importance of this excellent area of reed bed and wetland.

I took a brief trip to West Rise marsh which sits almost within the urban, eastern fringes of Eastbourne to catch up with the Bluethroat discovered on Sunday. Quite a remarkable late winter record. The bird showed well on occasion and seemed to disappear as light faded. I also flushed a Bittern from the edge of the large pool whilst scanning the gulls.

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22nd January 2018

Bright & cold morning, light NW breeze.

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Above, looking east towards the headland from Belle Tout.

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Raven over Birling.

A walk around Birling Gap and Belle Tout. Very little of note really, several Song Thrush and Great Tit were in song. Nothing like the clean, metallic song of the Great Tit, set against a bright day, to make it feel like spring’s around the corner… even if that corner is still way off in the distance. A lively Dartford Warbler in gorse above Belle Tout was nice and probably the individual JFC first came across a few weeks back. A single Stonechat near Birling Gap was the only one I encountered.

Below a few portraits of the Exmoors. These animals epitomise the winter landscape here, on site from autumn to early spring. An ancient breed that, despite the winter weather, thrives out here. They have quite a stocky build with short legs, small ears all going to minimalise heat loss.

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8th January 2018 Dungeness Gulls

A few images from the weekend just past. A day trip to Dungeness on the Saturday where we managed to notch 11 species of gull, including both Glaucous & Iceland Gull along with the very showy Caspian Gull at the fishing boats.

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1st winter Caspian Gull at Dungeness, certainly a little closer then how I usually see them in the Cuckmere valley.

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It was a very dominate bird, often taking on other gulls for the bread scraps.

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Below a lone Knot on Dungeness beach.

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Sunday was spent locally. Newhaven Harbour at low tide held nothing of interest but Hastings had a moderate number of gulls. The small fishing fleet that operates out of there provides enough scraps to retain a good number of gulls. Nothing of major interest except Great Blacked-backed Gulls from a Norwegian and Guernsey ringing project.

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Above the Norwegian bird and below the one from Guernsey.

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This 3rd winter Great Black-backed Gull (5AC8) was ringed as a chick on the tiny island of Jethou, Guernsey on 26.06.15 latter being seen in Boulogne, France during it’s first autumn but by January 2016 it has been seen intermittently seen at Hastings. I assume these long lived birds spend their immature years loafing around before returning to their natal colonies and forming more consistent migration patterns there after. I have seen another individual from this project at Eastbourne a few years back. Thanks to Paul Veron for the prompt return of the data. Always fascinating to read.

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Turnstone at Hastings.

The rest of the day was spent at sites closer to home where highlights included a male Hen Harrier, Hawfinch and unexpectedly flushing two Long eared Owl from a day roost. The latter are the first ones I’ve seen locally since moving here in late 2013.

 

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End of the Year 2017

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Sunset from Beachy Head.

So another year concludes, blog updates have become increasingly scarce as have any decent birds to speak of on Beachy Head. Once we advance into November very little happens until late February or early March when Stonechat start to reappear along with the odd Linnet soon followed Black Redstart & Firecrest.

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Firecrest amongst the leafless branches of Belle Tout wood, early March this year.

Of course 2017 will be remembered for the brief appearance of a Blue Rock Thrush, which is and will probably remain the rarest bird I have personally seen up there. Something the finder will saviour for years to come I am sure. It was a strange morning, crystal clear with almost no perceptible north bound movement but of course that particular continental visitor had not come from the south that day.

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Blue Rock Thrush from April

As always the headland produced many enjoyable mornings and days out this year. I personally failed to reach beyond the self found scarcity level of Yellow browed Warbler. It’s easy to take for granted the opportunity to “self find” the likes of migrant Honey Buzzards & Wrynecks on a yearly basis and I remind myself of years spent living elsewhere when that wasn’t possible. It’s equally easy to allow the frustration of not finding something rare or scarce to diminish the enjoyment of the commoner birds you encounter. Something I try to avoid.

I don’t think I can tire of the views or the birds that go to make up the seasonal comings and goings up here. Beachy Head is a beautiful & special place.

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Honey Buzzard from August.

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