Serins at Beachy and South Foreland

I Drove down to Beachy Head early am Saturday. Ive really wanted to find a Shrike this spring and was not 5 minutes out of the car checking the ‘Shike-iest’ place i could think of when I heard a Serin calling, Scanning the bushes in the direction of the calls I picked up a nice but distant Serin perched up. No shrike but still a nice find! It quickly transpired to be two Serins calling and then flying together towards the Pub.

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Matt E, Jake E and Ian B had a female Serin in Cow Gap that morning which appears to be a different bird.

There was little else of note beyond a few eastbound Swifts, House martins and Swallows but v nice to catch up with LP. I called in at a site in East sussex on the way home and had the full suite of birds expected: Wood larks (below), Common Redstarts, Tree pipits, Crossbills, singing Dartford warblers, Hobby and Cuckoo – a nice site for an afternoon.

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With my intention to squeeze more birding out of this spring still in mind I headed down to Langdon hole/ fan bay/south foreland area again Sunday morning. So too had Rich B and we were joined also by Dante. A quiet morning migrant wise bar a few Siskin east until we had a Bright male Serin calling and east over the South Foreland valley. The bird flew right over our heads, dived into cover and sang for a minute but was not seen again. Interesting for me to jam in on what must have been a little pulse of these continental finches into the very south east tip of the country in the past day or two.

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I’ve seen the above male White Wagtail on the past 2 occasions in this area, it seems to be showing some breeding behaviour including a bill full of grubs and insects and favouring the same spot continuously, I’d be interested to see who its partnered with.

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White cliffs; looking east of Langdon hole.

HB and Bee Eater!

With the winds looking decent on Monday 25th, I ventured down to Langdon Hole area again. During the morning I was joined by RB and then by DS. Very light Northwesterly winds at dawn turned into a light south easterly by around 8 am.  We birded at a distance and came across very little in the way of migrants at first beyond Swallows tracking east. At South foreland lighthouse RB picked up a Spotted Flycatcher and about 15 mins later a female Honey Buzzard appeared over the tree line as we looked east to st Margarets. Excuse the crap pics into heat haze. The bird flew NW.

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RB had to head back for parental duties but DS and I continued our birding and whilst walking along the tarmac track above Fan bay we had a couple of swifts apparently flying in off and towards us, a moment later whislt walking we heard a  familiar call. Instantly recognisable to both of us.  “Prrt!”

We froze, heard it again and both exclaimed “Fucking Bee eater!, BEE EATER!” both looking up expectantly and in mild panic, I picked it up high over our heads, had a few seconds on it in the bins, WOW! it was fairly high and fast so fluffed the pics. We were able to watch it flying towards Langdon hole, a brief deviation from its westerly trajectory it turned north, a little glide and twist of the tail but soon continued west and we watched it distantly disappearing , An exciting few moments as we had just been talking about them!

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I’m very pleased to have added HB and Bee eater to the run of decent birds I’ve had in Kent over the past week, with the latter something id been especially hoping for this spring. Perhaps theres more to be squeezed out of it at we advance into June.

 

Red Footed Falcon, Oare marshes + more!

With adjusted restrictions on how many miles can be travelled in England, I took 2 days off work to give the Kent coast a blast before May disappears completely.  I’ve had a few bits and pieces at Langdon Hole, but the highlight of my brief trips was finding a first summer female Red footed Falcon at Oare marshes on the 20th.

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It hasn’t really happened to me before, but I was actually out there looking for a Red foot! I had even commented to LP the night before that I’d rather find a female. It’s not strictly a well known site for Red footed Falcon (compared to Stodmarsh, Grove Ferry etc) and apparently is only the second record for the site, and first for 30 years, but I picked up this bird whilst watching Hobbies hawking over the marsh almost a km to the west of the car park.

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It was a silhouette only at first, but whilst watching these hobbies I noticed one of them briefly hover and got that ADRENALINE!!!! hit. It was maybe 20 seconds before I could see any colour definition on it but despite being distant it was obvious I’d just found a female Red foot.

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As you can probably tell from the pics the bird stayed fairly distant and would frequently disappear high over the Swale, accompanied by 2 hobbies only to be picked up 20 mins later over head. It also alighted on the deck for 5 mins before anyone arrived.

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I put the news out and stayed for a few hours. Meanwhile a small crowd of socially distanced Kent birders had assembled and the bird showed beautifully, perched on a big pile of sticks.  The following footage is from Murray W,  filmed through his scope. Its so nice to have some footage – I’d recommend it for a bird you’re invested in and want to relive! I’ve not stopped watching it since.

My other Kent trips were only slightly less exciting, with the thrill of getting ‘up and out early’ I felt very optimistic and couldn’t stop grinning.

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Many Skylarks, Corn buntings and yellow Hammers were in song in the (National Trust, very well managed) fields above Langdon Hole. A couple of yellow wagtails west and a late (or early) siskin flew over with a trickle of swallows in off and moving along the coast.

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Many lesser whitethroats were also in song at every other hawthorn.

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Apparently NW winds are quite good in the area and along with 2 Red kites, that tracked east along the headland, I picked up this Osprey that came in off and headed north, a site tick for me!

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Another over due site tick, though less surprising, were these vocal Med gulls that flew west over the port of Dover.

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This late migrant White wagtail stopped off briefly to feed among the ponies; striking head pattern with reduced black about the face and white throat, reminiscent of some eastern Albas,  but could well be aberrancy. Interesting date for a white wag on the South coast though.

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The ‘secondary highlight’ was picking up this Black Kite over Oare marshes on the 17th en route back to London after the Hole. Apparently one had been seen the day before so likely the same, but was still great to watch it through the scope across the entire horizon and disappear to the NW. Excuse the BOC photo, looks better than a handful of pixels in an edited image.

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I almost forgot, I also had an Osprey fly over me up the road from home at Ponder’s End on the 14th –  2 in less than a week! An exciting few days at a bizarre time.

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Lockdown spring – part 2

The Second half of April has been an improvement on what was a slow and fairly quiet first half ,  Im still walking over the marsh every morning and have put in some hours at the reservoirs on weekends.

Yellow Wagtails were consistent throughout the first half of April and that carried on up until now with birds seen on almost every day and a modest count of 30 individuals over the month which is a high count for me, this bright male and the below (slightly greyish headed) female were especially showy.

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I had the below bird on the 23rd, I think female Blue-headed Wagtail is probably the best fit but I’m in the camp of only being sure if the birds a spring male or classic representation of a known form, so id go with ‘probable’. A 2cy ‘Channel type ‘ was also mooted.  Nice bird though and cool to think some non Flavissima birds are coming through.

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Ive included the below photo as it makes humble old Walthamstow marsh look like a proper reserve with real habitat! Truth is Ive been eyeing this puddle up for a Citrine wag the past couple of weeks but was reasonably glad to watch this male Yellow wagtail feeding in it briefly before it was flushed by the crows.

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Another well represented migrant recently have been Whinchats;  David C and I had a first summer male on the 22nd in the bomb crater field, which was apparently joined by another that evening.

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Fast forward 5 days and some unsettled weather both during the day and over night led to at least 2 males and a female present over the 29th/30th including the below male singing(!) the evening after Niall Keogh (Irish sea watcher stranded in London) picked another male up earlier in the day (He also had a cuckoo on the 19th.)

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The lush meadow that is the bomb crater field and its fenced lined edge is especially good for these birds on passage. Other birds recently have been a skylark briefly in song flight and then west, A male Wheatear for an afternoon and the odd Meadow pipit is using it as a staging post plus a snipe flushed earlier in the month.

Garden warblers have been fairly entertaining with 2 birds back on territory in the Waterworks and a singing bird on the north marsh the past 2 days.

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Next is an inland reservoir stalwart’s spring staple and a much looked forward to event for me – Arctic terns on passage in London, 10 birds were present during the rain on the 28th.

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The Swifts are back and in decent numbers over the reses especially and Ive got some breeders back near home too it seems.

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I also had another 4 Bar-tailed godwits over NE on a fine sunny morning , thats 6 birds for me this spring and I think the total recorded over the reservoirs and marshes is 19 which is pretty exceptional locally.

Theres still some holes in my list of things I’d like to see (Little gull, Black tern… Hobby actually!) this spring and hopefully I can connect with those bits and bobs as may advances.