29/12/21 Looking back at 2021’s Rare and Scarce

In feburary of this year we got the keys to our new home here under the cliffs just a few minutes walk from Langdon Hole. Since mid May I have been birding almost every day between Langdon and the South Foreland Valley, bar a few weeks working or away on the Scillies and It’s been fantastic, something i’d been hoping to do for a few years since first visiting the site with Rich B in 2017.

Below are links to my Rare and Scarce birding highlights from this year on the patch. I dont imagine I’ll come across so many decent birds in a year here again but I’d like to think its possible!

9th May – Golden Oriole A singing bird heard as I walked towards the old windmill on lighthouse down turned out to be a smart male seen briefly in the canopy. Lucy L joined me soon after but the bird didn’t stick around for long.

2nd June – 5(!) Rosy Starling

As far as I know this is the largest group of Rosy starlings to be recorded together at once in mainland UK. I picked them up whilst walking west from the Lighthouse, with wanting to find a rosy starling at the time I was on the look out for single starlings which are hard to see on the patch in June. First glimpse of these birds was a tight ball of 5 obvious Rosy’s and a scene that will stay with me forever, unfortunately the camera didnt want to focus for a good few seconds so they became a little distant by the time I photographed them but a brilliant record all the same.

2nd June – Bee Eater

20 or so minutes after the Rosy starlings I was hoping to re-find them when I heard the familiar and arresting call of a Bee eater coming my way. Over the radar station and along reach road heading East. An exciting find and a similar situation to finding one last year above Fan Bay with Dante. I also had a heard only flock heading East, a week or so later, the same morning Ian R had 9 fly in off at folkestone, presumably the same birds.

3rd June – Black Stork

Initially Picked up by Rich Bonser as we stood together on lighthouse down; his expletives made me look up and see this excellent Black Stork emerge from the mist and fly out into the Channel.

16th June – Serin Same spot as the Black Stork but this time a familiar and distinctive call alerted me to an incoming Serin, I had time to get a flight shot as it carried on West.

23rd June Red-Backed Shrike A surprise on a ‘nothing special’ kind of morning and after a few days of NE winds. This female Redbacked shrike popped up in front of me near the Radar station. I watched it for almost an hour on and off before the dog walkers and public arrived.

15th July – Black Stork ii Another un-expected bird to pick up whilst I walked over Foxhill down and the first bird I put my bins on that day. Assumed to be the bird that had been frequently seen in East kent and was seen by others after this sightings here and there .

3rd November – Radde’s Warbler Just back from 3 and a half weeks on Scilly and enjoying the early November cover on the patch, this lovely Radde’s warbler found me whilst I birded the north side of the valley. Glimpsed a wing and tail flicking phyllosc with a stout bill and long Radde’s like super and then heard “quip, quip” , shakey legs moment! the bird showed nicely for a few people including Brendan who took this lovley photo. A bird Ive wanted to find for ages and so happy to have done so on the patch.

24th November – Pallas’s Warbler Another lucky phyllosc find and in the exact same spot I found the Radde’s. This Pallas’s flitted between dense and sparse cover calling occasionally, a nice bright bird full of character. Seen by others in the following days and coming after a report of one in the valley 9 days previous which may or may not have been the same bird and which i or no one else saw despite looking every day.

The list above doesnt include birds found by others (mainly due to the fact Ive been sat at this computer for ages trying to write this!) that I wasnt able to see which includes 2 Melodious warblers (RB, MK) , numerous Wrynecks (multiple observers) a Rough-Legged Buzzard (CJ) and a male Woodchat shrike (AH) It also doesnt mention the fantastic Hume’s Warbler (BR,GS) or things like the 3 Honey Buzzards I had between june and september one of which came an hour or so after hearing a flock of Bee eaters, nor the number of migrant Caspian Gulls, Snow Buntings, Hen Harriers Hawfinch, Woodlark, White Tailed eagle (IOW bird) nor the common migrants; Pied Flys tree pipits Redstarts etc.

Combined and all told its a fantastic set of birds to see on an inland patch and with some amazing birds turning up at sites nearby too, Ive fallen in love with the place and Im very happy to have made the move. Bring on 2022!

20/12/21 Catch up

Ive not been able to get out regularly since returning from Miami and most of my birding has been checking the cliffs behind the house (A juv Black Redstart is regularly in the garden) and the Gulls in the Harbour, but a walk along the cliffs from Langdon to South foreland lighthouse on the 17th produced a decent bit of Gull movement, with 100’s of birds moving from West to East along the cliffs, highlighted by 3 Caspian Gulls, (2 second winters and a large pot bellied first winter) a single first winter Yellow legged Gull aswell as multiple argentatus Herrings.

2nd w Caspian Gull
1st w Yellow Legged Gull

Theres been a thick sea-fog inlace the past few days, hugging the cliff top and so despite seeing many gulls continuing to move in the same direction over my house I didnt go up to look through them as its already tricky enough to pick out the birds of intrest in a matter of seconds as they fly past without fog complicating things further.

Fast forward to this morning and a clear day unfolded, the same cliff top walk however no gulls moving, instead an active sea on the East side of the port: 55 Red throated Divers, 25 Brent Geese West, many Gannets, Auks and Kittiwakes too. The valley seems to have a few Firecrest and perhaps c10 Chiffchaff wintering with Langdon holding 2 Black Redstart, 3 Fieldfares 7/8 Reed buntings but sadly no Tree sparrow this year.

A quick check of the Harbour this afternoon was highlighted by the above juv Great Northern Diver, the first I’ve seen in the harbour itself, also present a single Shag, 6 Great crested Grebes and a Razorbill.

1st cylce American Herring Gulls, Miami

Not really relevant to those who follow this blog for South East Kent bird news and photos but I couldn’t help putting it together as it focuses on one of my favourite Gull species. I hope its enjoyable and useful to those who appreciate the big old ugly larids.

I don’t often see American Herrings up close on these regular work trips to Miami in late November but this visit I did and a nice range too with both unworn northern types and bleached worn scruffier birds too. Enjoy!

Some nice dumpy postures and quite a recognisable facial expression to some of these. A range of the scapular and greater covert patterns shown by 1st winter AHG.

Retrices and Upper tail coverts; Tails all black or with limited white patterning in outer 3/4 feathers at most. The brown bars thicker than the white in the upper tail coverts.

Below, a photo showing nice smooth brown axilleires, dark belly and densely barred under and upper tail coverts.

Under tail coverts; all important for AHG identification, similar rule to the uppers although the longest under tail coverts are mostly brown with small white lozenges or jagged triangular shapes out of them.

Miami is a brilliant place to see birds and if gulls isnt your thing you can see warblers basically everywhere, see some previous posts for more on that and here a few warbler photos from this year too.

Yellow throated warbler

Common Yellowthroat

American Redstart & Black-and-White warbler