Saturday, 20 October 2012

Beachy Head and Siberian Stonechat (20 October 2012)

20 October.  Martyn Kenefick is over from Trinidad and I picked him up from his mum's house in Hove just before 7am.  We got to Birling at 7.30 and joined John King in covering the usual areas up to Beachy Head, but not the cliff path or rides.  There was just about enough about or flying over to hold one interest with 4 Ring Ouzels in Shooter's Bottom and a flock of 5 Wood Lark flying over the hotel garden calling our best sightings.  MK needed to be back in Hove and we left Birling at about 12.30pm but had only gone 250m down the road back to East Dean when I spotted a pale looking stonechat type on the wire by the road which when flushed as we went past seemed to have a very pale rump.  I immediately stopped and we quickly saw the bird further along the wire.  It was a stonechat-type and it was pale and it did have a very pale peachy rump!  I told JK, who was just behind us and wondered why we'd stopped, that I thought it was probably a Siberian Stonechat and desperately tried to remember the relevant field characters while getting some digital images.  A quick reference to a field guide reinforced my view and we tried to contact some local observers but with only limited success.  We watched the bird for about half an hour during which time I got about 50 images of it.  It remained faithful to the roadside fence but a succession of cars, cyclists and pedestrians proved too much f r it and it flew back into the large weedy field near Birling.  Here it was lost, possibily chased off by the local stonechats, and after 20 minutes of not relocating it we had to leave.  Fortunately it was relocated by David Cooper on the bank behind the bus stop and performed until dusk being seen by a number of observers.  Apparently still a British Birds rarity - my first such find for years ...

Birds seen at Beachy included Sparrowhawk, Merlin, Peregrine, 500+ Wood Pigeons, 39 Sky Lark, 5 Wood Lark, 105 Swallows, 25 House Martins, 14 Pied Wagtails, 6 Stonechats, Siberian Stonechat, 4 Ring Ouzels, Redwing, 6 Song Thrushes, 2 blackcaps, 23 Chiffchaff, 26 Goldcrests, 12 Jays (4W at Birling, of which I only saw one and 7E then W over Belle Tout when picked up an 8th), 405 Goldfinches, 8 Siskins, 5 Redpoll, 6 Corn and 4 Reed Buntings.

Siberian Stonechat at Birling - note white throat, pale underparts (colour more like a Whinchat), very black wings and tail and stong hint of a supercilium

a bit blurred but showing the extensive, unstreaked, very pale peachy rump (I'm not able to take photos of moving subjects at 1/15th second and get them pin sharp - ExIf data will shows this had shutter speed on 1/160th)

showing paler than stonechat upperparts too

showing white throat and the supercilium appearing more prominent

the supercilium was more prominent when viewed head on
note the pale unstreaked rump, black tertials with thick pale, buff edges, lack of white in base of the tail, long primary projection and white throat.  The nape also appears quite cold but at this angle the supercilium is quite indistinct

another view of rump, tertials primary projection and tail

tertial edges showing well although the flank feathers are  obscuring the flight feathers.  The supercilium is hardly noticeable from this angle

showing the rump to be as pale as the underparts, in flight it contrasted very well with the black tail 

another view showing the rump and long primaries
rump and tail in flight, although this shot could be anything 

lovely bird, even when trying to pass itself off as a Whinchat!

Corn Bunting at Birling

15-19 October.  Cycling to work I only saw a Peregrine on the Power station chimney twice.  At least it is still light, just about, both ways, but only for another week.  Herring Gulls A4AH and A4AJ were seen at the University of Sussex and a lunch hour in Stanmer Park produced 2 Nuthatches but very little else.


  1. Well done Richard brilliant find.

  2. thanks Martin, finding something good at Beachy has been a long time coming for me ...


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