Lammergeier at Beachy Head - October 2020

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Monday, 31 August 2020

Beachy Head 31/8/20

The first calm day after the northerly blow meant that for the first time this autumn, today felt very autumnal, and of course, rare. I decided to visit Beachy as I'd driven down from Alton in the early hours, which makes the trip more worthwhile than visiting Seaford Head.

Upon arrival, small numbers of Willow Warblers were moving in the bushes, whilst overhead, Tree Pipits, Siskins and Yellow Wagtails were evident as they moved west. The morning was very enjoyable with ten species of warbler noted, plenty of overhead activity and an excellent variety of other migrants; numbers weren't exceptional however, but this wasn't much of an issue... even Cow Gap had birds! Very few birders seen today! 

After the morning circuit, LP and I commenced a raptor watch from the pub finding only a Hobby for our troubles (our Merlin at Belle Tout turned out to be the highlight!). Ca. 2000 hirundines were present late morning/early afternoon, the majority being Swallows.

Sites visited included the following: Hotel Garden and bushes W to Old Trapping Area, Icky Ridge, Frances Bottom incl. Gropper field, Cow Gap & Gully, Birling Pines and Belle Tout incl. gully.

Totals are as follows:

Willow Warbler - 22
Yellow Wagtail - 60 W
Reed Warbler - 3
Tree Pipit - 8 W
Whitethroat - 50
Siskin - 26 W
Grey Wagtail - 3 W
Whinchat - 6 (2 Hotel Garden, 1 Icky Ridge, 3 Frances Bottom)
Pied Flycatcher - 5 (1 Icky Ridge, 1 Cow Gap, 2 OTA, 1 Belle Tout)
Lesser Whitethroat - 2
Chiffchaff - 1
Bullfinch - 1 (Frances Bottom)
Blackcap - 14
Sedge Warbler - 2
Redstart - 4
Wheatear - 4
Garden Warbler - 1 (Cow Gap)
Grasshopper Warbler - 2 (1 Cow Gap, 1 'Gropper' field)
Cetti's Warbler - 1 (Cow Gap)
Spotted Flycatcher - 3 (Belle Tout)
Merlin - 1 (Belle Tout)
Swift - 4
Hobby - 1

Whinchat at Hotel Garden

Siskins over Icky Ridge


Pied Flycatcher at Cow Gap

Wheatear at Cow Gap

Grasshopper Warbler at Frances Bottom

Pied Flycatcher at the Old Trapping Area


Spotted Flycatchers at Belle Tout

Merlin over Belle Tout Wood

Swift over the pub

Cow Gap gully

Frances Bottom


Sunday, 30 August 2020

Seawatching off Norfolk 29/08/20

 After last weekend's success, but still lacking any real skua movement, I opted on a Saturday morning visit to North Norfolk, coinciding nicely with the near-gale force northerly winds. 

The first few hours was particularly enjoyable, with skuas constantly moving east and consisting of three species. There was also a huge westerly duck movement, again another enjoyable aspect of the morning. By 10am, the rain had arrived, and strangely, the passage dropped considerably. With little now moving, by 11am I was packed up and ready to go home. 

Not quite the ending I wanted, but it was great to get another seawatch in.

Totals from Sheringham:

Great Skua - 36
Arctic Skua - 34
Teal - 500
Manx Shearwater - 3
Common Scoter - 30
Scaup - 1 drk
Wigeon - 48
Tufted Duck - 5
Little Gull - 2
Eider - 1
Long-tailed Skua - 2
Pintail - 8
Shoveler - 5
Mallard - 2
Gadwall - 1

Sheringham Beach


Sunday, 23 August 2020

Seawatching off Cornwall 22-23 Aug 2020

Since early last week, I had been eyeing up this weekend as a potentially decent weekend to be on a clifftop in West Cornwall. Thursday and Friday were looking the most productive , however, it was Wednesday that turned out to be a good day. With a distinct lack of seabirds on the Friday, I somehow plucked up the courage and drove down after work and arrived at Porthgwarra car park just before it got dark, not feeling optimistic one bit.

After a good nights sleep in the car, I positioned myself on Gwennep Head (meeting Steve & John), but after an hour, I had only seen a Great Shearwater, a Cory's Shearwater and four Sooty Shearwaters. News of a Wilson's Storm-Petrel and other good seabirds from Pendeen meant I swiftly left my position and dashed north. I spent most of the day here and enjoyed a good range of seabirds and a minimum of 15 Ocean Sunfish! An estimated, but calculated, total of 40,000 Manx Shearwaters passing was also somewhat noteworthy. Probably my favourite sighting were four superb adult Sabine's Gulls. I left at 6pm as the passage and light had worsened, but maybe I should've stayed as a Band-rumped Petrel (aka Madeiran Storm-Petrel) flew through later on... ah well, another spectacular fail for the day. I did though see the adult Spotted Sandpiper at Drift Reservoir, this being my first UK spotty Spotted Sand!

I opted to stay down in Cornwall and entailed another sleep in the car, this time near to Pendeen. Although the wind had abated from yesterday, eventually a good range of seabirds were found. The passage was steady with several Storm-Petrels passing relatively close and another wonderful adult Sabine's Gull, but it was at 11.13 when Justin Carr picked out a Wilson's Storm-Petrel. I was out of position, but somehow I managed to get straight onto the bird (this being despite my struggle over the weekend to pick out many close Stormies... I tend to look further out) where it showed off its pale carpel area and all dark underwing, as well as its prolonged gliding-like flight. This sighting certainly made my weekend, and well done to Justin who had been closely examining the petrels all weekend. 

A short while later, Justin picked out another Wilson's, this time slightly further out, but alongside two European Storm-Petrels; again, I managed to get onto it quickly and even witnessed it bouncing off the water and gliding to its next bounce. I couldn't make out the underwing on this bird, although the pale carpel area was just about visible! A Blue-finned Tuna also breached a couple of times, which was another excellent sighting. With my ambitions full-filled, I left Pendeen and drove straight home.

Highlights for the weekend are as follows:

Cory's Shearwater - 1
Sooty Shearwater - 17
Great Shearwater
European Storm-Petrel - ca. 75
Balearic Shearwater - 8
Sabine's Gull - 7 (all adults)
Great Skua  - 15
Pomarine Skua - 1
Arctic Skua - 8
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 2


Spotted Sandpiper - 1 adult at Drift Reservoir
Ocean Sunfish - 16
Harbour Porpoise - 1
Blue-finned Tuna - 1


Looking up to Pendeen Lighthouse


Balearic & Manx Shearwaters

Sooty Shearwater

juv. Gannet

Manx Shearwaters

adult Spotted Sandpiper at Drift Res.

The three rocks off Pendeen




Sunday, 16 August 2020

Seaford Head & Cuckmere Haven 16/8/20

Today was Mum's 60th birthday, therefore, a reasonable excuse to hit the patch beforehand. I left Alton at 4am and arrived on Seaford Head at first light, though frustratingly it was shrouded in low cloud. I was half-tempted to go down the Cuckmere instead, but with so many goodies turning up on the East coast I felt compelled to give the Head a go.

It was a fairly quiet affair, though around 6.40am, I heard what I assumed to be a Stone-curlew flying in from the West. With such low cloud, I didn't remain optimistic on a sighting, however, the calls got closer and sure enough, the shape of a Stone-curlew (just) could be made out flying through the blanket. It was a very poor view but the outline and a couple of other features were apparent; the bird's ongoing calling was much appreciated! Elsewhere on the Head, a total of three Pied Flycatchers and three Nightingales 'croaking' to each other in Hope Bottom were nice, as were plenty of Lesser Whitethroats, including a lovely flock of five birds at Hope Gap.

Totals:

Willow Warbler - 12
Whitethroat - 22
Reed Warbler - 3
Blackcap - 4
Stone-curlew - 1 E at 06.40
Nightingale - 3
Lesser Whitethroat - 9
Wheatear - 1
Pied Flycatcher - 3
Redstart - 1

After the heavy rain early afternoon I was keen to hit the Cuckmere. The rain did the trick as on the meanders a nice variety of waders were present, including six Common Sandpipers and three Green Sandpipers. As I was scanning the many Dunlin, I noticed, from a distance, one supporting a red breast. Knowing this would be a Curlew Sandpiper, I edged closer, only to realise that there was an entire flock of Curlew Sandpipers... totalling nine birds and all moulting adults! They remained until the evening allowing a few people to see this very rare event nowadays in Sussex. 

My last adult Curlew Sandpiper on the patch was in August 2004, which was the same morning I found my first Spoonbill here too! Since, only juveniles have occurred almost annually. I would be interested to know when the last 'big' flock was in Sussex?

Pied Flycatchers at Seaford Head










Adult Curlew Sandpipers at Cuckmere Haven


Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Seaford Head 12/8/20

Just after arriving on the Head this morning, it soon became apparent that there was little going on. Apart from a good scattering of Whitethroats, there wasn't much in the way of anything noteworthy. That was until I arrived near to Harry's Bush, where I soon found a lovely trio of Pied Flycatchers. They showed rather well and were a real treat to watch; a Spotted Flycatcher often associated with the trio! With such a nationwide influx in recent days of Pied Flycatchers, it was great to see they had reached the patch.

Last night at Cuckmere Haven, I was pleased to find my second Wood Sandpiper of the autumn, though this bird was far from tame, unlike the one from a few weeks ago. 

Yesterday morning, I guided a family around Pagham Harbour. A Pied Flycatcher was near the visitor centre and the Wood Sandpiper was still on Ferry Pool.


Pied Flycatchers

Wood Sandpiper at Cuckmere Haven


Saturday, 8 August 2020

Seaford Head 8/8/20

I arrived on the Head at 5.30am today, but with the cloud it was still fairly dark. So, I drove down to the Cuckmere and walked that before it got bombarded with tourists and approached the headland from he river mouth. 

A nice variety of species were seen today, including my first Grasshopper Warbler, Wheatears and Garden Warblers of the autumn. Another slight scattering of Willow Warblers was lovely to see and there was also a stark increase in Sylvia activity. By 9am it was already too hot!

In the Cuckmere before hitting the Head, three Cattle Egrets and three Green Sandpipers were present.

Willow Warbler - 25
Grasshopper Warbler - 1
Sedge Warbler - 2
Reed Warbler - 3
Whitethroat - 30
Tree Pipit - 2
Garden Warbler - 2
Lesser Whitethroat - 4
Blackcap - 5
Wheatear - 2
Redstart - 1

Willow Warbler

Reed Warbler

Sedge Warbler

Wheatear

Willow Warbler

Willow Warbler
Grasshopper Warbler (wrong settings)


Friday, 7 August 2020

Seaford Head 7/8/20

After yesterday's lack of migrants at Beachy, I wasn't too enthusiastic about this morning, though given the clear conditions, rather than the cloudy conditions experienced yesterday, I felt it was worth a go. Sadly, there was no hoped for inland surge of Willow Warblers, although eventually a number of migrants were found. Probably the highlight were a group of six Yellow Wagtails that flew over and a wonderful 'flock' of Willow Warblers near Harry's Bush.

Totals:

Willow Warbler - 20
Sedge Warbler - 3
Reed Warbler - 6
Chiffchaff - 3
Whitethroat - 14
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Tree Pipit - 1
Blackcap - 1
Redstart - 1
Yellow Wagtail - 6

Sedge Warbler


Willow Warblers


Sunday, 2 August 2020

Seaford Head 2/8/20

My first visit on the Head this autumn was predictably quiet given the westerly breeze overnight and the cloudless skies. However, it was great to be looking at 'yellow-suffused' Willow Warblers again! The highlight of the morning was a Cuckoo that got inadvertently flushed at Hope Bottom, whilst my first Whinchat of the year(!) was close-by. It was rather slim pickings though and rather disappointing not to find a Pied Flycatcher, given that a few have been found in the county today.

My first Migrant Hawker of the year was at Harry's Bush and a Silver-spotted Skipper were also found.

Totals:

Willow Warbler - 20
Whitethroat - 20
Reed Warbler - 2
Lesser Whitethroat - 2
Blackcap - 3
Chiffchaff - 2
Cuckoo - 1
Whinchat - 1
Sand Martin - ca. 30 W
Swift - ca. 40 W

Cuckoo

Whinchat

Willow Warbler

Common Whitethroat

Green Woodpecker

Silver-spotted Skipper

Willow Warbler