Saturday, 26 October 2013

Beachy (PLW & snowflake, 26 October 2013)

26 October.  I only had the morning free and with strong winds forecast had decided to stick locally but news of a Pallas's Leaf Warbler in Belle Tout Wood the previous day was too tempting even if something of a long shot given the weather.  I arrived at Birling at 07:30 and first walked the lane but other than 8 Goldfinches nothing was evident at all.  Walking over the top to Belle Tout was very exposed and looking into the rising sun for the most part and I only added a few more Goldfinches.  The most notable thing being a text message from T-Mobile informing me i was connected to a Maritime Network which cost £1.80 per minute!!  I met Bob Edgar at Belle Tout Wood and learned that disappointing news that the Pallas's hadn't been seen, the Beachy Head Marathon was due later (great) and Les Bird had seen a Firecrest.   The best part of two hours in and around the wood produced just a handful of Chiffchaffs, a Blackcap and a Goldcrest for me.  Bob telling me that Neil Greenaway had seen the Snow Bunting provided a welcome distraction and we soon found it in an area I'd walked past earlier.  I took 200 images of it, buffetted about by the wind.  Most turned out to be useless.  Back to the wood, seeing a wheatear on the way, and after another circuit I was about to give up when I thought that as I'd not yet bumped into the Firecrest the Pallas's Leaf Warbler could easily still be there.  I decided on a methodical search and had only gone 50m in from the top west corner when a bout of pishing seemed to attract a small group of small birds into the trees slightly below me.  The first I saw had whitish underparts but disappeared before I could see its upperparts.  Fortunately I quickly refound it and it was the Pallas's.  I saw it for a couple of minutes, decent views although I never did see the rump.  The super, crown-stripe, wingbars and tertials were great though.  Too soon I lost it but saw a Firecrest and two Goldcrests while looking.  Walking back to Birling a bunting flew west that I felt was a Lapland although I didn't hear it call in the wind.  Following it as it flew west it crossed the path of a Wood Lark flying east.  A day with little promise actually turned out rather well.
Snow Bunting near Belle Tout gulley

Bob Edgar told me that the shape of the tips of the tail feathers is the best way of ageing birds at this time of year.  Svensson's ID Guide to European Passerines shows adults with rounded and 1CY with pointed tips.  These look more pointed tan rounded to me.

the wind was certainly ruffling its reathers
Wheatear near Belle Tout
25 October.  Taking advantage of finishing work early for a dental appointment and my last chance at cycling home on daylight I stopped at Southwick Beach where there were two Wheatears.  It was high tide so I went on to Shoreham Harbour and saw the 2 Purple Sandpipers on the inner jetty but as I was on the East Arm the views through my 8x20s were about as good as I'd had of the Semiplamated Plover.

23 October.  Peregine on the Power Station Chimney.

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