Alpine Swift!

I’ve been looking for Alpine swift locally since the day after the first birds in Ireland last week, desperate not to miss out on the influx as its a bird I’ve obsessed over alot! Checking the castle eveyday aswell as the whole patch, I Even ventured as far as Kingsdown looking for cliff faces out of the raging and constant SW winds we’ve had.

Today was a blessing though as I received news of an Alpine Swift seen at the neighbouring headland-Bockhill, Luckily I was well situated and climbed up the old Gun Emplacement assuming I’d probably missed it zip through. 25 Minutes later however it appeared over the trees at the top of the valley and fed along a line of leafless sycamores giving great views at times.

The bird fed for an hour and a half over the valley, occasionally venturing over the village but mostly staying fairly low and showing well in varying light. A crowd of locals arrived and all saw it, nice to see everyone. Thanks to Gerald S and Richard H for texting the Bockhill news, found there by Simon W at 10am.

Other than that its been fairly quiet, ones and twos of White wagtail with the cattle in the Harbour field, Chiffchaffs, Firecrests here and there, a smart 1W Caspian Gull (below) along the cliffs on the 23rd, a Marsh Harrier in off the sea y’day, light chaffinch movement throughout the week mostly South and nothing over 200 per morning, (I missed nearly 10,000 last sunday whilst away working) 3 Brambling and a few siskin. 2 Black Redstarts and a Wheatear but no hirundines yet.

17/03/22 Wheatears

2 days of southerly winds and the first Wheatears have arrived along the cliffs. Both Lucy and Colin had 2 males on Lighthouse down and I had my first (and personal earliest here) near the old airfield on upper road, it flew to the fields to the East but showed well, a moment to savour.

I also saw the two males on Light house down before the fog set in. Lucy had seen a Short Eared Owl there early morning.

Theyre great arn’t they, and mark a turning point in the year, one which myself and presumably alot of other birders have been waiting for.

The previous day had been strong southerly wind and several flocks of Brent Geese were noted moving North East, including a flock of 100+ over the harbour as I climbed the cliff path first thing. I counted 400 during the morning and most were high above the water.

The cliff path also played host to 4 Chiffchaffs, seeminly fresh in, feeding in a sheltered spot.

At least one of the 2 wintering Black redstarts is still along our street, it hopped out of my mates cellar stairs. Another bird is currently frequenting the light house area but i havent seen good numbers yet, perhaps next week onwards.

13/03/23 Black Brant

Strong winds led to zero up the cliffs first thing but a second helping of the Glaucous Gull at shakey was enjoyable mid afternoon, it seems to be feeding well enough despite its damaged bill.

A first Winter Caspian Gull (below) eventually turned up in the melee and there was a first winter yellow legged gull too.

While walking back home I scanned the harbour and was surprised to see a Brent Goose sitting alone on the water.

Face on and at a distance I could make out its complete collar and it looked to be very Black and white. It turned out to be the Black Brant! that has been seen at a few sites in East Kent in the past couple of days.

Lovely bird and the only Brent goose Ive seen in the harbour. I wonder where it will be seen next.

12/03/23 Glaucous Gull

After a tip-off from regular visitor Richard Berridge about a Dartford Warbler first thing this morning at Langdon hole I scurried up the cliff and watched it shadowing a pair of stonechats along the path above the harbour field, the first dartford I’ve seen here on the patch so I was happy about that.

A male Marsh Harrier flew high and west and a white wagtail was briefly on the tramway before flying west along the cliffs whilst i looked for the warbler.

Shakey beach was back in action after so long with nothing of interest, A visit after lunch produced the sub adult Glaucous Gull that Russ and Mark had seen there during the week, it came to bread and performed very nicely.

Its upper mandible is damaged, but it managed to feed so perhaps will be ok.

My first Caspian Gull in months came to bread at shakey too along with 2 first winter YLGs. A check of the harbour this evening produced another 2 different 1st Winter YLGs but nothing else of note.

Caspian Gulls in the Netherlands

A work trip to the Netherlands took a brilliant turn when I met up with Mars Muusse to look at Caspian Gulls on my day off. Mars met me at the Amsterdam Centraal and took me to a few sites just west of the Caspian Gull Breeding grounds in Lelystad. The first large gull of the day was a Casp and every group we looked at held many individuals, I think we saw over 100 during the day. the sound of so many long calls and casps calling in general was a sound bath of joy for me. My host was very generous driving me around and great fun to be around, thanks Mars! It was beyond my expectations and the breeding birds had only just began to return to the area.

Much like the thames sites in London the birds were moving between a few locations, back and forth, which we checked during the day. The most productive perhaps was some kind of processing/recycling plant which we gained access to by buying Donuts for the staff and just being friendly, It just wouldn’t work like that in the uk!

The weather was wet and cold and I mostly pointed the camera at 1st winters but all ages were in present in good numbers. Later We were joined by Thijs Horst and all together clocked 20+ Rings, including birds from Germany, Poland, Belarus and Czech although I didnt see a Dutch ringed Casp!

Enjoy the photo dump.

Above and below images Mars M

I missed out photographing so many birds, i just didnt know where to point the camera but also didnt want to be looking through a viewfinder all day. Hopefully this group of images gives an impression.

Im going to return at some point, id love to see the breeding colony in full swing but also to see numbers of juveniles too. The record I think is 800 Caspian gulls counted in a day in late summer, presumably the entire 108 breeding pairs plus juveniles, non breeders and migrants, mostly feeding on dead and dying fish with a few white tailed eagles here and there. Must have been a sight.

For info on the breeding colonies and the work that Mars etc are conducting follow link