28/06/22 3 x Honey Buzzards

Moderate SSW winds, a clear view over to Calais and I had Honey Buzzards on my mind. I even texted Jacob S at Dunge to say today is ‘Perfect HB conditions’, if only it was a little earlier in the month I thought. But despite the late date Colin J and I had 3 fantastic Honey Buzzards arrive at South foreland during the space of an hour after the first at 10.01 am (right on queue)

Calais viewed from South foreland

The First bird, a partly unbarred pale female came in low from the direction of the lighthouse cliffs, circled and gained height then flew WNW.

The Second bird came almost exactly an hour later, picked up out over the sea it flew along the cliffs and inland at st Margarets, circling over John N on his balcony. An intermediate female with more barring than the first bird. It got some hassle from the gulls and a Peregrine too.

The third bird came in just after this one, and a little closer, a darker female which again was picked up out over the water and came in, circled and flew North, which is pretty much what they all do here.

A thrilling bit of birding and brings my personal total of HBs this spring here to 5 aswell as equalling my best day count locally of 3 in June 2020 . I have continued to obsess over them and seeing them arrive over the water is exactly the views I crave. Always leaves me wanting more though!

26/06/22

June is coming to a close and we’ve mainly been locked into SW airflow, things have been quiet in terms of birds. With very little to report despite daily ventures up the cliffs, an increasing number of Swifts and smaller numbers of Barn swallows all moving west on each visit but little else.

Local Peregrines have fledged 2 chicks this year, with another pair down the cliffs also rearing 2, all noisily learning about life.

Im seeing good numbers of Hummingbird Hawkmoths, there were 3 in my garden yesterday and i counted 5 feeding on vipers bugloss near fan bay.

Orchids too are providing entertainment with many Spotted, Pryamidal amd Fragrant Orchids and only a few Bee Orchids all of the latter are over now.

So until the bird situation changes (perhaps with the SE wind this coming week) This blog will remain a little dull Im afraid!

21/06/22 Basel ’22

My annual work trip to Basel concluded with a pleasant morning spent looking for Honey Buzzards from Castle Landskron just south of the city.

A few HB sightings of mostly distant birds except a nice barred male that gave god views.

Just as I was about to leave I picked up a Short Toed Eagle heading my way. Not quite the species you’d expect in such a lush and forested area and it seems its a scarce bird in Switzerland, especially north of the Alps with less than 10 records per year.

09/06/21

The blog has sat quietly since I found the Sardinian Warbler and now I am about to go away with work for 2 weeks. I have neglected to mention that Hawfinches have been seen in small numbers in the valley and just west of the lighthouse recently, also 2 Turtle doves and 1 or 2 Spotted flycatchers have also been recorded. 165 Swifts flew west a couple of days ago but things mainly seem to have slowed down. June is still a fantastic month so it ‘aint over yet but Im happy to have moved some attention to butterflies/flowers and moths plus the local breeders: a Pair of Peregrines along the cliffs have fledged 2 chicks with another pair still feeding large and demanding little ones, surely days away from making the plunge.

Recently fledged juv Peregrine
Mother Shipton moth

Ill be back late june for a final throw of the dice!

28/05/22 Sardinian Warbler!!!

I’m slightly lost for words. At about 10.15 this morning I heard a distant sylvia warbler singing from a line of bushes 30 ft from the cliff on Lighthouse down . At first it sounded like a small syliva singing with a rolling momentum punctuated by pauses, I could hear it wasn’t any of our common breeding sylvias but also not unfamiliar to me. At this point not distinguishable from a number of other options in that family. As I got closer and the bird continued I began to pick out the Sardinian warbler type call notes scattered within the song; stuttered harsh and rapid rattling ‘tt-tt-tt tzek’s which are audible in the video link and recordings below. The bird then went quiet and after an hour of searching I relocated it 150m down at the bottom of the valley, where it called straight up like a Sardinian Warbler several times. It was this call that I found most useful and my moment of confirmation although I still hadn’t seen the bird. I spoke to a couple of friends before putting the news out, to say the words out loud and this helped alot.

UPDATE 31/05/22. It took over a day to get decent enough views but Ive seen the bird in flight several times and moving on the front of a bush aswell as perched a couple of times. It is a nightmare to try and photograph but a fantastic male Sardinian Warbler all the same. To my knowledge, It showed its best on Monday to myself, Rich B and a crowd of 10 or so. Most visiting birders (which there have been many due to the proximity to the Falcon) have either only heard it or seen it in flight (or nothing at all). It has been vocal at periods throughout each day until today (Tuesday 31st) where it seems to have disappeared.

Below are some recordings of the call, recorded on Sunday 29th by Andrew E.

27/05/22 Caspian Tern!

A bright & sunny morning and a light NW met me as I climbed the cliff path. With nothing of note until I reached the Lighthouse and picked up a Caspian Tern out to sea.

It was moving North East and circling lazily about. Presumably the recent Pegwell Bay bird out on an excursion, Very exciting to come across it though, a real “Fucking ‘el!” moment.

Lighthouse down held a Spotted Flycatcher and a common Nightingale, which sang on and off from cover but also came to a ‘between the teeth’ whistle and showed it self briefly.

The rest of the afternoon was taken up by two twitches; the first was to see Tony M’s 3rd Striped Hawkmoth of the year, the second was to see the Eleanora’s falcon which was incredible, along side a female Redfooted Falcon and a few Hobbies. Really Glad I went. Great to catch up with some really nice folk.

26/05/22 Honey Buzzard

20 mph SW in the channel delivered a male Honey Buzzard in off the sea at 10.55 am over st Margarets that circled the east end of the valley and promptly flew off North.

It must have snuck in at the base of the cliffs because I’d been scanning out to sea in the hope of picking one up against the water. In looking I’d seen a flock of 17 Common Scoter fly West and 5 Gannets together East.

There was nothing to report in the bushes. I saw probably 20 of each Swallow and House martin and 5 swift. Winds increased in strength during the day so birding called off.

5 x Serins, Hen Harrier, Honey B and many missed Bee Eaters.

Light Southerly winds, a bank of Sea fog over the channel and an early start deliverd for Rich B and I.

As we walked over Light house down at 5.40am we both simultaneously came across parties of Serin with Rich seeing 3 together and I picked up 2. Brief flight views of vocal birds with the 3 birds flying off NW and the 2 seen again shortly just after and then again at 7.40 By Rob R and Ian S. Shortly after the Serin excitement we picked up a Harrier out over the channel which was coming our way which turned out to be a female Hen Harrier.

Bee Eaters were being seen close by and despite efforts to see birds we thought would come our way, we didnt manaage to connect.

Just before 10 am and right on cue I had a female Honey Buzzard come in off the sea at st Margarets Bay which gathered height over the valley despite the attention of the local crows & gulls. Look away now if you’re not into a few too many HB pics, I cant get enough of the species and have been obsessing over them recently, perfect to see one like this today.

After we left at 11ish news from the area involved a flock of 8 Bee Eaters, mostly flying around the monument at Bockhill. Mark and Lucy L also saw presumably the same flock aswell over their garden on light house down and a party of 3 over too but despite my attempts to see them from near my House I failed. A fantastic day on the headland still and thanks to all involved.

21/05/22 Red Rumped Swallow

After a week of nothing too much to write about news of a Red Rumped Swallow found at Bockhill by Richard H was gladly received. Rich B and myself were out on Lighthouse down and eagerly awaited it flying into the westerly wind and thus towards us. Over an hour later we picked it up moving West with a small mixed flock of Hirundines. Views were alright but photos alot worse, It was exciting all the same and seemed to be part of a wider movement of the species in Kent today with birds seen along the north coast of the county aswell.

Slightly better Pics from Rich B below.

Earlier in the Week Chris C had a Bee eater over the valley, also heard by Lucy L. I had a wing tagged Marsh harrier (details soon)hunting near the light house, 2 Hobbies, a few Yellow Wagtails and a Tree pipit, Fairly slim pickings from my part!