Sunday 28 September 2014

Beachy and Seaford Head Barred Warbler 28 September

I met John and Doreen Cooper and John King at Birling.  It was another pleasant day to wander around, with a moderate NE wind, but it soon became apparent that there were fewer birds in the bushes with most of the interest provided by a steady easterly passage of alba Wagtails.  A couple looked as if they might be White Wagtails but that is certainly not something I would like to claim on a flight view!  We covered the Birling area and Shooter's Bottom and I saw 350 Swallows, 30 House Martins (late on the scene again), 400 Meadow Pipits, 93 alba Wagtails, Whinchat, 2 Wheatear, Whitethroat, 4 Blackcaps, 14 Chiffchaffs, Raven, 2 Goldcrests and 170 Linnets.

A missed call from Bob Self along with news on the pager that the Barred Warbler had been seen again at Seaford Head (after a two day absence) seemed a reasonable alternative to further sites at Beachy and JK and I headed over, as much for a change of scenery as with any real expectation of seeing it.  We arrived at Hope Gap to find some observers wandering off and the Barred Warbler not having been seen for an hour and a half.  The area was very daunting but we had only been there 20 minutes when Bob saw it again further up the track.  It had disappeared again, something it was making a habit of much to Bob's consternation.  Knowing it was likely to still be in the immediate area a bit of playback was tried and it came in to investigate giving good views by the path.  Also on Seaford Head we saw 29 Little Egrets, a Brent Goose on the sea, 2 Buzzards, 35 Swallows, Yellow Wagtail in a sheep field, Reed Warbler, 3 Blackcaps and 5 Chiffchaffs.

Barred Warbler in Hope Gap showing pale covert edges.  A very nice find for Bob Self and my first in Sussex for nine years

indistinctly barred flanks just about discernible in this image as is the pale iris
darker edges to undertail coverts evident in this image 
in Spotted Flycatcher pose

paler edges to coverts and indistinct barring on the flanks just about visible
Barred Warblers in Britain are normally expected to be disoriented juveniles but the pale eye suggests otherwise for this individual

Brent Goose on the sea off Hope Gap, Winter is coming
Comma taking advantage of an Indian summer
Birling Gap and Belle Tout from above Seaford Head cottages
cliff-fall central yet there always seems to be someone (barely visible in this image) that stands close to the edge

A high tide walk around the Adur with Megan produced 8 Little Egrets, 3 Oystercatchers, 2 Greenshank and 45 Redshank on the saltings by the houseboats, 49 Turnstones roosting on boats by the Norfolk Bridge, 2 Kingfishers, 30 Swallows (flying east) and a Chiffchaff.  A nice end to an enjoyable day.

Saturday 27 September 2014

Beachy Head 27 September

Saturday 27 September.  A very pleasant morning walking around Beachy Head with John and Doreen Cooper and John King. There was hardly a breath of wind which made conditions ideal for finding birds in bushes but there did not appear to be much too find.  A steady easterly stream of hirundines kept us alert.  For the first hour it was all Swallows (about 500) then House Martins were passing in similar numbers and I estimated 1500 Swallows, 800 House Martins and a single Sand Martin.  Most areas of bushes held a few Chiffchaffs with a total of 57 noted and Robins were much in evidence with about 30 seen.  , I also recorded 12 Sky Larks, Tree Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, 6 Blackcaps, 2 Whitethroats, Spotted Flycatcher, Jay, 2 Ravens and 4 Yellowhammers but best of all was a Grasshopper Warbler. 
Raven over Birling

Friday 26th.  Two Little Egrets by Southwick lock gates.  No sign of any Wheatears on the beach.

Thursday 25th.  Not a good day at work, I'm closer than ever to retiring early, and no closer to completing my Colombia trip log.  Fortunately my mood was greatly improved by seeing 2 Wheatears on Hove pitch & putt and 6 on Southwick Beach.  Brilliant. 

Wednesdy 24th.  A Pheasant stood in the middle of Middle Road was reluctant to move out of the way of an approaching car and was nearly run over.  A Peregrine on Southwick Power Station roof.

Tuesday 23rd. A Peregrine on Southwick Power Station roof and a Jay near the Level.

Monday 22nd.  12 Meadow Pipits and 3 Wheatears on Hove pitch & putt and 6 on Southwick Beach

Sunday 21 September 2014

Beachy Head 20-21 September 2014 (and 21 September 1980)

Sunday 21 September 2014.  The anniversary of my best ever day at Beachy (see below) I walked from Birling to Whitbread Hollow and back.  A pleasant walk with plenty to see although some obvious migrant omission that one would hope, even expect to see, at this time of year (e.g. Redstart).  I recorded visible migration of 4 Sand Martins, 230 Swallows, 420 House Martins, 200 Meadow Pipits and 15 alba Wagtails (moving east in small numbers throughout the six hours I was watching) although a male Pheasant flying west along the cliff edge took pride of place.  It was about as migratory as the 27 Canada Geese that flew east over Long Down!  In the bushes/fields were 6 flava Wagtails (one quite pale), 3 Whinchats, 16 Stonechats, 27 Wheatears, Lesser Whitethroat, 10 Whitethroats, Graden Warbler, 28 Blackcaps (only 10 in Whitbread Hollow by the time I got there), 68 Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, 2 Firecrest (at the top of Birling Lane), 2 Goldcrests, 3 Spotted Flycatchers, 2 Ravens, Yellowhammer and Lapland Bunting.  The latter flew up from the side the northerly track leading east into Chat Vale, called (a rattle similar to Snow Bunting) and dropped behind a bank of gorse but could not be relocated.  It was only 5m away when it flew and I got good flight views of a stocky short-tailed bunting with chestnut in the wing. not being able to refind it left me wondering if I might have seen it before it was flushed ...

Later on Sunday 21 September 2014 Megan and I walked around the Adur seeing 36 Lapwings, a Knot and 2 Greenshank by the airport.  swallows were still moving with 80 east in an hour and a further 10 over our road when we got back.

Sunday 21 September 1980 was the most exciting day I've ever had (and am ever likely to have) at Beachy Head.  I've seen rarer birds here on other occasions but for sheer numbers nothing has come close.  With Martyn Kenefick I saw Marsh Harrier, Hobby, 4 Turtle Doves, Little Owl, 9 Swifts, 50+ Sand Martins, 2000+ Swallows, 500 House Martins, 6 Tawny Pipits, 10 flava Wagtails (one a Blue-headed), 7 Redstarts, 250 Whinchats, 200 Wheatears, 6 Ring Ouzels, Sedge Warbler, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, 15 Whitethroats, 5 Garden Warblers, 30 Blackcaps, 25 Chiffchaffs, 5 willow Warblers, 2 Goldcrests, 2 Firecrests and 16 Spotted and 3 Pied Flycatchers while Yellowhammers were too commonplace to get a mention.

21 September 1990 wasn't bad for me either with John and David Cooper and I seeing Yellow-throated and Red-eyed Vireos in West Cornwall while on 21 September 1977 I saw 3 Yellow-breasted Buntings and a Citrine Wagtail on Fair Isle.

Wheatear near Birling
Eastbourne and Bexhill
Yellow Wagtail near Bulling Down

a much paler individual in a sheep field near Bulling Down

Belle Tout lighthouse
Wheatear near Frost Hill

Chiffchaff by Belle Tout

Spotted Flycatcher on the edge of Belle Tout

Saturday 20 September.  A very pleasant walk around Beachy Head with Martyn Kenefick (over from Trinidad), John and Doreen Cooper and, until he legged it off to Spurn, John King.  Birds were a bit thin on the ground - I saw 3 Sparrowhawks, Buzzard, Peregrine seeing off a large falcon, 50 Swallows, 2 House Martins, 220 Meadow Pipits, 4 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Whinchats, 3 Wheatears, Lesser Whiethroat, 7 Whitethroats, 5 Blackcaps, 39 Chiffchaffs, Goldcrest, 2 Ravens and 40 Goldfinches.  More of a social event although I was disappointed West Ham hadn't recorded only the second convincing win over Liverpool tat i can remember a few hours earlier.

large falcon seen tussling with a female Peregrine, note apparent jesses
darkness of underwing coverts and full tail suggest some saker influence?
bells and whistles on this one?
Friday 19 September.  Peregrine on Southwick Power Station
Wednesday 17 September.  2 Wheatears on Southwick Beach
Tuesday 16 September.  7 Wheatears on Southwick Beach, easterly hirundine passage with 70 House Martins on my way to work and 50 Swallows and a Sand Martin when I got home.
Monday 17 September.  Wheatears on Southwick Beach.

Sunday 14 September.  Beachy Head with John King, John and David Cooper and Brenda Kay.  Decent easterly movement of hirundines with 12 Sand Martins, 250 Swallows and 600 House Martins.  Also a Hobby, 200 Meadow Pipits, 9 Grey and 5 Yellow Wagtails, 3 Whinchats, 17 Stonechats, 11 Wheatears, Grasshopper Warbler (thanks Simon), 4 Whitethroats, Garden Warbler, 4 Chiffchaffs, 2 Ravens and 3 Corn Buntings.  Best bird of the day was a juvenile Honey Buzzard identified at the time as a Common, despite looking long winged and long tailed (albeit unbarred).  It was very high and none of us had a telescope but fortunately DC got some images to carefully check and confirmed its identification.  Very educational.

An evening visit to the Adur at low tide produced the Curlew Sandpiper along with Greenshank, 2 Common Sandpipers and a Kingfisher.

Curlew Sandpiper on the Adur in fading light

when does a courgette become a melon? 
more from the allotment

Sunday 31 August.  Megan and I walked around Cissbury Ring seeing Red Kite, Buzzard, 4 Sand Martins, 40 Swallows, 3 Redstarts, Wheatear, 8 Whitethoats, 9 Blackcaps, 3 Willow Warblers, 2 Spotted Flycatchers and 3 Yellowammers.  In the afternoon we cycled up Mill Hill.
Shoreham Airfield under attack
Douglas's with black & white striped D-Day markings

Lancaster flight

Hispano Buchons (Spanish Civil War ME 109s)

Flying Fortress

2 Mustangs and a Spitfire

Sunday 14 September 2014

Brittany (6-13 September)

We caught the ferry to Calais (100+ Common Terns on mooring ropes the most notable sighting of the rather murky crossing) and drove south towards St Valery-sur-Somme for an overnight stop at Drancourt. A brief stop at a viewpoint north of Boulogne produced a male Marsh and two female plumaged Hen Harriers while a pool north of Le Crotoy that had held a Spotted Crake two years earlier had been partly dug out but still hosted White Stork, Great White Egret, Avocet, Egyptian Goose and Black Swan!  A Crested Tit was in the same conifer belt at the Drancourt camp site as I'd seen one on our previous visit in 2012, always very nice to see despite it being moderately foggy.  We drove down to St. Cast, just west of St. Malo, glimpsing Mont Saint Michael on the way.  We had five nights in a mobile home on the coast at St Cast and each morning I walked around a nearby headland although grounded migrants were not much in evidence in the unchanging warm but rather hazy weather -  3 Whinchats, a Wheatear, 2 Whitethroats, up to 20 Blackcaps and 6 Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler and 3 Firecrests.  Small numbers of Swallows flew over, mostly heading north(!), while one morning a Honey Buzzard cruised north then later south along the cliff, a distant Balearic Shearwater flew east and a Barnacle Goose flew west!  Presumed residents included Cetti's Warblers with several singing each day but I only saw two, a juvenile Dartford Warbler and best of all a family of Cirl Buntings. We visited St Malo, Dinan and Cap Frehel where there were 350 Shags, a Wheatear and Megan and Nessa flushed what might have been a Wryneck which I only glimpsed.  On our return to St Valery we spent a couple of hours at Mont Saint Michael where Marsh Harier, Yellow-legged Gull and a Common Redstart were the best I could find.  Back at St Valery on a falling tide a juvenile Spoonbill was in a creek off the prom and a quick scan of the many hundreds (thousands) of gulls revealed a North Thames Herring Gull (AS6T).  The following morning at Drancourt I could not refind the Crested Tit but while scanning the nearby fields had reasonable views of a juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard.  It was on view for about five minutes hovering over the stubble fields at increasing distance but it was another murky day and by the time i thought to get photos my autofocus failed to latch onto it.  A (the) Great White Egret was still on the pool at Le Crotoy (as was the Avocet and Egyptian Goose) and two Cattle Egrets flew over.  Five minutes in the car park at Marquenterre produced 3 Crested Tits but another 15 only added another heard and a Bullfinch.  We drove back north to Citie Europe and another dull ferry crossing.  An enjoyable break and very nice that Vanessa came too although Megan was unfortunately fighting off a chest infection which French antibiotics eventually got on top of.  
leaving Dover on a murky morning
sunrise over St Cast, not often one can look directly at the sun
campsite at St Cast, we had a rather nice mobile home towards the right hand end of the site
fort off the end of St Cast, only accessible to invaders at low tide or by boat
St Cast beach at low tide, looking east
St Cast headland, my morning walk took me to the distant house, where sadly the coastal path headed inland
Baye de la Frenaye from St Cast, tide coming in, lines of sticks are for mussels
view west from St Cast
juvenile and female Cirl Buntings
male Cirl Bunting on the campsite's side gate 
in poor early morning light

coasting Honey Buzzard, honest!
Fort de la Lotte from St Cast
St Malo city wall
St Malo street
St Malo
looking across from one side of the city wall to the other
St Malo harbour, 'pirate' ship hiding behind yachts

Nessa looking east to Fort de la Lotte and St Cast from Cap Frehel
Cap Frehel looking north towards Jersey (a bit hazy so not visible while we were there) 
Cap Frehel looking west
Shag at Cap Frehel
Dinan city wall and the River Rance
old streets in Dinan 
Mont Saint Michael (just in Normandie)
the very high tide had just covered the causeway at the entrance to the Mont and flooded the lower levels of the tower on the extreme left
Mont Saint Michael experiences the largest tidal variation in Europe, over 15m at its greatest, as it was on the day of our visit. The white signs in the foreground are in the old car park, under a metre of water.
Yellow-legged Gull at Mont Saint Michael
Great White Egret at Le Crotoy

one of two Cattle Egrets over Le Crotoy