Saturday, 28 September 2019

Beachy Head (28 September 2019)

Saturday 28 September. I arrived at Shooter's Bottom at dawn but a heavy shower kept me in the car for 5-10 minutes. I walked around Beachy for six hours, leaving at 13:00. It was generally dry but a strong SW wind kept birds down and where possible I went from one sheltered place to another. I started in Shooter's Bottom and drove on to the Old Trapping Area seeing a Firecrest at each. With parking restrictions from 08:00 I continued to the Hotel Garden. I then walked along the Cliff Path, into Frances Bottom (where a Grasshopper Warbler was flushed twice), Cow Gap (the day's only Wheatear on the beach), Whitbread Hollow and up through the rides and back along the Cliff Path. I drove to Birling and walked to Belle Tout where an hour in and around the wood produced virtually nothing despite being fairly sheltered. The scrub below the old lighthouse was marginally better. Back at Birling I didn't walk up the lane as by the time I returned to my car there was a constant stream of walkers there which was rather off-putting. As well as the species mentioned I saw single Little Egret, Sparrowhawk and Peregrine, 2 Ravens, 10 Blue, 7 Great and 13 Long-tailed Tits (the latter parties of 9 and 4 in small bird flocks), 80 Swallows, 17 House Martins, 34 Chiffchaffs, 53 Blackcaps, 9 Whitethroats, 16 Stonechats, 6 Pied Wagtails, 105 Meadow and 3 Rock Pipits, 12 Chaffinches, 80 Linnets and 100 Goldfinches. Disappointingly no redstarts, flycatchers, acros or yellow wagtails but it was still my most enjoyable visit this autumn. Later I took Cookie down to the Adur at low tide. We saw Little Egrets, 13 Ringed Plover, 6 Lapwings, a first-winter Mediterranean Gull and a juvenile Common Gull.
first-winter Mediterranean Gull flying down the Adur
Friday 27 September. Megan and I took Cookie to Rackham. Very quiet birdwise, not helped by a strong wind. I saw 5 Grey Herons, 2 Swallows and 2 Long-tailed Tits and heard Coal Tit, Chiffchaff and Nuthatch. This used to be a really good woodland site but I've not felt that for a few years now and only persist in visiting for the lack of an alternative.

Thursday 26 SeptemberMegan and I took Cookie to Mill Hill on a wet and windy morning. I saw a Raven, Chiffchaff and 3 Goldcrests. During the day 7 Collared Doves managed to squeeze onto our 1 foot square bird table, probably a record. A late afternoon low tide visit to the Adur with Cookie produced 2 Little Egrets, a Grey Heron, 27 Ringed Plover, 9 Lapwings, 2 Dunlin and a Stock Dove.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Sussex 19-25 September

Wednesday 25 September. I took Cookie up to Mill Hill where we failed in our hope to dodge heavy showers. A fresh SW wind didn't help either and I ended up seeing Sparrowhawk, 2 Chiffchaffs, Blackcap, Goldcrest and a flock of 200 Starlings.

Tuesday 24 September. The day started with heavy rain as forecast but during a sunny spell in the afternoon Megan and I took Cookie along the Adur where we saw 7 Little Egrets, 34 Ringed Plover and 9 Turnstone.

Monday 23 September. One of my most disappointing trips to Beachy in what were quite nice conditions to walk around. Well maybe that is a bit strong but in over six hours  saw a Sparrowhawk, Peregrine, 3 Ravens, 230 Swallows, just 3 House Martins, a Willow Warbler, 10 Chicffchaffs, 2 Whitethroats, 6 Blackcaps, 14 Stonechats, 3 Wheatears, a fly over flava Wagtail, small flocks of Meadow Pipits totalling 100, 20 Linnets and 60 Greenfinches. I walked from the Hotel Garden over Icky Ridge to the Cliff Path, down into Frances Botton and Cow Gap and along to Whitbread Hollow, up through the Rides, back past the Old Trapping Area and down to Shooter's Bottom coming back up Bulling Dean. I then parked at Birling, walked up the lane and back and along to Belle Tout Wood and the bushes below the lighthouse. Twice I heard what I thought were Firecress, which would have gone a long way to salvaging the day but neither were close and my hearing wasn't up to locating where they were calling from. Nether responded to playback.
early morning at Beachy Head
Royal Sovereign Lighthouse just about visible
Peregrine surveying a potential new home?
Meadow Pipit at Beachy Head, close to being bird of the day!
looking west from Beachy Head
Birling Gap
Sunday 22 September. I took Cookie up to Mill Hill where we witnessed a brief but impressive hirundine passage with 245 House Martins and 35 Swallows flying east in about 10 minutes. Also notable were my first 3 Siskins of the autumn. In the bushes I saw 5 Chiffchaffs, 12 Blackcaps, 2 Whitethroats, 2 Goldcrests and a Spotted Flycatcher with a Wheatear seen distantly on the Trig Point.
Blackcap on Mill Hill
juvenile Spotted Flycatcher on Mill Hill

Saturay 21 September. Megan was going to a matinee the Chichester Festival so we took Cookie for a walk around the Trudle where we saw 3 Spotted Flycatchers, a Wheatear and 2 flava Wagtails. I then dropped Megan in Chichester and took Cookie to Thorney. We walked down the East side to the Great Deep seeing little, then the West side where there were 5 distant Cattle Egrets in the back of a field past the Little Deep and on to the Great Deep where fortuitously Josh Macallum-Smith pointed out an Osprey sat on a post eating a large fish. Nice, if somewhat distant views, it was disturbed by a crow before I could think about photographing it and flew off holding its fish like a large torpedo in presumably the most streamlined position. Also on the Great Deep were 14 Greenshank, 4 Sandwich Terns and a Kingfisher. Driving back to Chichester to collect Megan an adult Mediterranean Gull flew low over the road at Bosham.

Friday 20 September. I took Cookie up to Mill Hill where we saw 2 Sand Martins and 49 Swallows flying east, 8 Chiffchaffs, 5 Blackcaps, a Whitethroat, a Spotted Flycatcher and 9 Meadow Pipits.

Common Buzzard on Mill Hill

Thursday 19 September. I took Cookie up to Mill Hill where we saw a Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, a Sand Martin, 15 Swallows and a House Martin flying NorthChiffchaffs, 14 Blackcaps, a Garden Warbler, 5 Whitethroats and a Goldcrest. Best sighting was a Grasshopper Warbler that I inadvertently flushed into a bush where it sat looking at me. i managed some photos before it disappeared from view but I thought I might do better if it could be encouraged to reappear. I played a recording and saw what I assumed was it moving deeper in the bush. It gave some fleeting views through the camera and I took some images but on reviewing them at home I realised that it wasn't the same bird.
Grasshopper Warbler at Mill Hill
it sat looking at me
amazing feet

Cetti's Warbler at Mill Hill

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Mill Hill & Beachy (15-18 September)

Wednesday 18 September. I took Cookie up to Mill Hill where we saw a Sparrowhawk, 7 Swallows, 3 Long-tailed Tits, 6 Chiffchaffs, 20 Blackcaps, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, a Grey Wagtail and 11 Meadow Pipits.
Spotted Flycatcher at Mill Hill
another Spotted Flycatcher at Mill Hill

Tuesday 17 September. I walked around Beachy Head seeing 5 Little Egrets, 3+ Buzzards, 5 Sparrowhawks, 3 Swifts, 2 Peregrines, 3 Ravens, 40+ Blue, 10+ Great and 8 Long-tailed Tits, Sand Martin, hundreds of Swallows and House Martins, 9 Chiffchaff, a Sedge, 2 Grasshopper and a Garden Warbler, 32 Blackcaps, a Lesser and 46 Common Whitethroats, a Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Redstarts, 5 Whinchats, 26 Stonechats, 4 Wheatears, 11 flava Wagtails and 60+ Meadow Pipits. It sounds like a lot when read through quickly and at times it was enjoyable but spread over the period 06:25-15:40 and walking from Birling to Cow Gap and Whitbread Hollow and back over the rides and via Frost Hill it was usually very slow and like most of my recent increasingly infrequent visits to Beachy somewhat disappointing. Highlight of the day was two low flying B2 Stealth Bombers.
early Whinchat opposite Hodcombe

A rabbit near the cliff edge at Icky Ridge, not my usual photographic subject but it was that sort of day
Spotted Flycatcher in Frances Bottom
Redstart in the Radio Mast bushes
one of two B2 Stealth Bombers off Beachy Head, not the raptors we were hoping for skywatching at the Old Trapping Area
after banking they flew past at little more than clifftop height

Clouded Yellow at Beachy
Wheatear on Frost Hill

flava Wagtails near Cornish Farm
the rear bird had the feel of a 'Channel' Wagtail about it

Monday 16 September. A look of the east arm of Shoreham Harboer after a morning dental appointment in Hove produced absolutely nothing. Later Megan and I took Cookie to Buckingham Park where a mixed flock included at least 10 Blue and a Long-tailed Tit, Chiffchaff and a Spotted Flycatcher.

Sunday 15 September. Megan and I took Cookie up to Mill Hill where we saw 10 Swallows, 25 House Martins, 2 Chiffchaffs, 7 Blackcaps, a Lesser and 3 Common Whitethroats and a Redstart. A low tide visit to the Adur before dusk produced 36 Ringed Plover, a Turnstone, 6 Dunlin and a Common Sandpiper.

7-14 September. St. Valery-sur-Somme - coming next

Friday 6 September. Megan and I took Cookie up to Mill Hill where we saw 7 Swallows, 6 Chiffchaffs, 9 Blackcaps, a Whitethroats and a Meadow Pipit

Thursday 5 September. A low tide visit to the Adur before dusk produced 45 Ringed Plover and 4 Dunlin.

Saturday, 14 September 2019

FRANCE 2019: St. Valery-sur-Somme (7-14 September)

Megan and I spent a relaxing week in a mobile home at Drancourt, near St. Valery-sur-Somme and just over an hours drive up the coast from Dieppe. It was the fifth year in a row we have been, four at this time of year, so I wasn't really expecting any surprises. I didn't get any, other than how few passerine migrants there appeared to be, at least compared to even the poorer sections of the Sussex Coast. As with previous visits we appreciated how quiet the roads were and laid back the people, Megan speaking fluent French helping a lot. I saw 107 species in France, about an average showing, 112 including heards and species seen in French waters.

Saturday 7 September. I saw six Great Skuas from the ferry, half in English and half in French waters, 31 Gannets and 2 Fulmars. Three juvenile Shags were on the breakwater at Dieppe as the ferry docked. We drove the hour or so north along the coast and once settled into our mobile home at Drancourt we drove into St. Valery seeing 2 Yellow-legged Gulls from the waterfront. Early evening two or three Tawny Owls were very vocal at Drancourt but although I got close to one a couple of times it always slipped away unseen.

leaving UK, last sight of Beachy Head, quite imposing cliffs for passerines at sea level
juvenile and adult Yellow-legged Gulls at St. Valery
Sunday 8 September. A look around the campsite and fields behind it produced 8 Blackcaps, a Garden Warbler, Short-toed Treecreeper and 2 Nuthatches. Later we drove to Le Hourdel but being a Sunday it was exceptionally busy and we continued on to Cayeux-sur-Mer where we parked and walked a circuit around some pools to the south. There we saw four Spoonbills, a Great Egret, Marsh Harrier, 3 Common Sandpipers, 2 adult Yellow-legged Gulls, 30 Sand Martins, 9 Stonechats and a Wheatear. Back at Drancourt a Jay was heard.
early morning in the fields behind Drancourt
Spoonbill at Cayeux-sur-Mer
Monday 9 September. A look around the campsite and fields behind it produced 5 Grey Partridges, the hoped for Crested Tit (I've seen them here on every September visit), 5 Blackcaps and the only 2 Greenfinches of the holiday. After breakfast we drove to Le Treport, parking on the clifftop and taking the funicular down into town. We walked across to Mer-les-Bains and around the hill behind. Sadly a Wheatear on one of the many beach huts was the only interesting bird. We drove a few kms down the Bresle Valley and walked around some fishing pools at La Bassee seeing 6 Pochard, 5 Tufted Ducks, a Kingfisher, a Marsh and 18 Long-tailed Tits.  A brief flava Wagtail was seen in one of the fields on our evening walk around Drancourt.
Wheatear on one of the many beach huts at Mer-les-Bains
Le Treport from Mer-les-Bains
Ault from Mer-les-Bains
Le Treport beach huts. We were glad of the free funicular to take us to the top of the cliffs
Tuesday 10 September. A Tawny Owl called briefly before dawn but had stopped before I decided to get up and look for it. I looked around Drancourt before breakfast seeing 3 Willow Warblers, 8 Chiffchaffs, 6 Blackcaps and 2 juvenile Bullfinches. We drove to Abbeville and wandered around the town for the rest of the morning, a male Black Redstart on a roof being my highlight. We stopped at the Réserve ornithologique de Grand-Laviers on the way back and had a picnic before walking around. It was not overly impressive but at least provided some pools where wildfowl are not regularly shot. We saw an eclipse plumaged Garganey, 20 Teal, 6 Shoveller, 2 Pochard, 6 Avocets, a Black-winged Stilt, 8 Ruff and 40 Common Snipe. Early evening we went to Le Hourdel on the rising tide, although it was still a long way out and most birds seen very distant. They included a single Spoonbill, 36 Avocets, 1400 Oystercatchers, 30 Sanderling, 60 Sandwich and 20 Common Terns. It was our only visit to Le Hourdel and I was sorry not to be able to spend longer there.
Common Snipe at the Grand-Laviers bird reserve

Wednesday 11 September. My pre-breakfast walk around Drancourt produced 3 Green Woodpeckers, 2 Jays, a Crested Tit (probably that seen on Monday), my only Goldcrest and 3 Short-toed Treecreepers. We caught the steam train to Le Crotoy seeing a Great Egret on the saltmarsh and 9 Grey Partridges running away through a stubble field. It was a slow journey not helped by a lengthy stop to change engines half way around the bay at Noyelles-sur-Mer. We wandered along part of the sea wall by Le Crotoy but a strong wind made it unpleasant, although we had a good view of a Kingfisher. We found somewhere sheltered for lunch and after wandered around the town. With the tide was going out at least 1000 Shelduck were viewable on the edge of the estuary as was a single Spoonbill. Our evening walk at Drancourt was very quiet. 

Green Woodpecker at Drancourt
End of the line, water tower and engine shed at Le Crotoy
Kingfisher at Le Crotoy
poor light, strong wind and obtrusive vegetation not helping photography
steam engine back at st. Valery
Thursday 12 September. A Wren on my pre-breakfast walk was the first I'd seen, with just 2 Chiffchaffs and 3 Blackcaps. We drove back to Dieppe and on to the gardens at Bois de Moutiers, Varengeville. The walk down through the wooded valley of native and planted exotic trees was pleasant although we felt a certain amount of artistic licence had gone into the description of 'themed' areas. A Crested Tit and Firecrest made our visit worthwhile. We saw a Marsh Harrier on the drive back to St. Valery and on our evening walk at Drancourt we disturbed 11 Grey Partridges and 4 Meadow Pipits. The latter were my first of the week - the huge fields were very poor for small birds with small flocks of Linnets usually all I could find. 
Megan in the wilder part of the gardens at Bois de Varengeville
Megan outside the 'Art and Crafts style' house designed by Edward Lutyens - no I'd not heard of him either. It was not open to visitors although Megan was probably more disappointed by this than I was
Friday 13 September. My pre-breakfast walk produced Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Crested and a Long-tailed Tit and a Red Squirrel but little else of note. We drove to Parc du Marquenterre, half an hour or so around the bay, arriving just before it opened at 10 am. It is a premier bird reserve although its late opening time isn't my only bug-bear, and less of an issue in September than say late May. The accessible part of the reserve consists of several largish lagoons which can only be viewed from the worst designed hides imaginable. Few have seating and one would need to be seven feet tall to sit and still see out of most of them. Others have brick sized holes to look through, set at heights that require a normal sized person to either crouch or stand on tiptoes or preferably a box to look out of. Hides are also spaced too far apart to allow adequate viewing of all of the lagoons. None are also on the seawall, although public hides are, reached only by a long and sometimes very muddy walk. So why did I go? Waders can be attracted to the lagoons and at high tide, and a big late morning high tide was why we delayed until our last day to visit, many from the estuary come in to roost. That at least was the theory. In practise I saw 2 White Storks (they breed, no dubious introduction programme needed here), 110 Spoonbills, 21 Cattle Egrets, 500+ Cormorants, 25 Avocets, 250 Black-tailed Godwits, single Ruff and Curlew Sandpiper, 20 Dunlin, 4 Common and 2 Green Sandpipers, 2 Common and 12 Spotted Redshank and a Greenshank. A Black-necked Grebe on one of the lagoons was nice while Wigeon (20), Gadwall (10) and Pintail (15) were also new for the holiday. A bit disappointing really, perhaps the tides weren't a high as I'd thought. Walking around an Osprey flew overhead and several Cetti's Warblers were heard. After lunch in the car park it didn't take long to find 3 Crested Tits and a Short-toed Treecreeper in the adjoining pines. Leaving Marquenterre we drove down to the edge of the estuary at La Maye but the tide was already receding fast. In the scrub by the car par were 3 Wheatears and 5 Meadow Pipits, unfortunately about as good as migrant passerines got this year. We saw 9 Grey Partridges around Drancourt on our evening walk.
White Stork at Marquenterre 
Cattle Egrets and Henson horses at Marquenterre

Cattle Egret and Spoonbills on one of the islands at Marquenterre
Spoonbills and Black-tailed Godwits

trying to stitch this image and the next failed

a continuation of the previous image

mainly Spoonbills
Osprey over Marquenterre
Saturday 14 September. I saw Red Squirrel, Great Spotted Woodpecker, 8 Chiffchaffs, 9 Blackcaps, a Wheatear and a Wren on my final pre-breakfast walk around Drancourt. Driving to Dieppe added Sparrowhawk and a flock of 10 Mediterranean Gulls to the holiday list. A Fulmar and a male Black Redstart were seen while waiting to board the ferry and 3 juvenile Shags were again on the east harbour arm. The crossing to Newhaven was calm and the warm sunny weather made it hard for me to keep my eyes open at times. When I was awake I saw 5 Fulmars, 180 Gannets, a Cormorant mid-channel flying south, 2 Sandwich Terns and 9 Great Skuas (5 in French and 4 in English waters).
Red Squirrel at Drancourt
Seven Sisters, Birling Gap and Beachy Head
Beachy Head