09/01/23 Local Caspian Gulls

With no work to go to at the moment I’m making the most of the Gulls, which seem to be abit hit and miss. I drew blanks at Shakey beach for almost 2 weeks only to see 5 Caspian Gulls in one day on the 31st December, the same can be said for Deal which seems abit better at the moment. Perhaps a little influx of gulls is upon us.

Below are a few 1st winter from Shakey on a very windy day, hence the sea spray all over the lens!

Below: 2 caspian and 1 YLG (bottom bird), the left hand Casp is a Czech yellow ringed individual 03C:U

A couple of Casps from Deal in the past few days. Gerald S has seen a half a dozen or so recently.

Above a large 1st Winter and below a delicatly plumaged 2nd Winter. Lovely stuff

On the subject of Gulls I had a decent looking candidate for heinei or Russian Common Gull fly through the harbour earlier today. Unfortunately it didn’t come close enough for better photos detailing trailing edge to the uderwing but seems to a nice clean head and bright pink bill base and neck shawl aswell and the darker primaries secondaries and reduced inner primary window not shown by most ‘heinei lookalikes ive seen in the UK. perhaps ill see it again.

If you’re interested in Russian Common Gulls check out last month’s Birdwatch Magazine, I wrote an article on how to identify them:

https://www.birdguides.com/store/back-issues/birdwatch/december-2022

02/01/23 Dover Hume’s Warbler

Just before Christmas Rob R found a Hume’s leaf warbler at Pencester Gardens along the river Dour in the middle of Dover. Ive only just today been to see it and its an excellent example of the species. My sixth in the UK and third within a few miles of home, its about time I found one!

Vocal and showing nicely low down aswell as feeding at the tops of bare sycamores. Also present were 2 Blackcaps and 2 Chiffies, obviously a decent little spot for wintering insectivorous birds.

A walk along the cliff tops and into the valley was pleasant but mostly quiet. A 1st Winter Caspian Gull circled along the cliffs from st Margarets and I believe there are at least 12 Firecrest in the valley at the moment, I’ve also flushed a Woodcock out of the hollow wood twice in recent visits.

The 2022 Honey Buzzard Season

I thought I’d write up my account of the Honey Buzzards I saw here at the coast between Langdon Hole and the South Foreland Valley. Most birds seen in the same kind of weather conditions and appearing to come either directly in off the sea or along the coast and inland. The first of the year on the 22nd May (perhaps later than it could have been as I was working in Scotland early May) and the last I saw was a Juvenile on the 11th Sept. It seemed to be a good year across the UK for the species in general. I saw 8 of the 9 birds recorded here. Clink on links to see more photos of each bird.

The First of the year for me was this dark/rufous female at st Margrets on the 22nd May

The Next was a more distant pale phase male, the only male I saw at the coast this season, which arrived at st Margarets and moved North on the 26th May.

In between this bird and the following individuals a dark phase female was seen by both Colin J and Mark K between South Foreland and Langdon on the 15th June, I was away with work but it seems this period was very good for HBs in south Kent with multiple individuals seen at Dungeness and Samphire Hoe.

Next up here at the patch were a trio of females on the 28th June during a very hot period both on the continent and over here too. All 3 birds arrived over the space of an hour in favourable weather but quite a later date and presumably failed/non breeders. Each bird circled over the valley and moved loosely North. The first was characterised by the mostly unmarked coverts

The next bird came in nearly an hour later, a similarly intermediate female but with barred underwing coverts. Heat haze can be a real problem photographing birds out to sea on hot days.

The third and final bird of the day came in/along the cliffs just after, a darker bird than the previous two

This concludes what I consider the ‘spring birds’ for me this year. Honey Buzzards do get seen here in July occasionally but i didn’t see one until the 13th of August (below) another female which I picked up coming in off the sea over Langdon hole, the bird tracked North West and came right over head. Perhaps it had been out over the channel, having headed out earlier in the morning and came in rather than committing to the crossing.

5 days later (18th August) and this dark female flew East over the South foreland valley, right over head. Perhaps it had roosted in Top wood as it was only just above tree height. The bird continued North East along the coast towards Deal.

The final Honey Buzzard of the year for me was this dark phase juvenile on the 11th september which soared around South Foreland and headed West over the farm, the first Juvenile I’ve seen here.

Thats all for the birds I saw whist on the patch. I did however also stumble upon a female bird inland and observed it many times between the 30th June and early September, This was at a previously unknown site for birds during the summer, much interesting behaviour was observed although no confirmed breeding.

The same bird below seen sparring with a Red Kite.

Lets see what the 2023 season brings!

18/12/22

Clear skies, a gentle NW breeze and bright sunshine was the setting to a peaceful walk up through the valley and along the cliffs today. 3 Firecrests were all of note among the tit flocks and Redwings were well represented with c70 between the fields and the valley . c50 Golden plover were counted on the headland, with 20 of these on the deck in the stubble fields ear the light house, the others in off and west. The same line taken by a dozen Snipe and 22 Lapwing.

Golden Plover heading West.

Ive seen a few Caspian Gulls from the cliff tops and recently 2 at st Margarets (1st W and 2nd W) but nothing coming particularly close, Nothing to be seen at Deal and nothing at Shakey beach at the moment – a reflection on the calm weather perhaps as shakey is only good on a windy days.

1st Winter Caspian Gull, Langdon cliffs.

Another 1st winter Caspian Gull, st Margarets bay.

Black Redstarts are around and about, with at least 2 at Shakey, a single bird in the marina and one or two in the port my end. The Velvet Scoter in the harbour was enjoyable but seems to have disappeared now.

17/11/22 More (?) Pallas’s!

Another 30 mph South Westerly morning so I headed to the sheltered end of the patch and quickly came across a Pallas’s warbler. Not in top wood however the bird was down in the Pines garden where I’d had one last friday. I took it to be ‘probably’ one of last weeks birds until it called: a flatter and shorter note, on occasion a dysllabic almost Humes like call though still obviously pallas’s-esque, quite different from anything heard last week.

The bird showed on and off for about an hour until I moved off and toured the valley seeing very little except the same Eurasian Treecreeper, 3 Firecrest and a Blackcap.

Ive been checking the harbour and Shakey Beach area in the afternoons. Nothing today but 2 Caspian Gulls last Friday which i forgot to mention. A striking 2nd winter patrolling the beach (pic) and a dainty first winter on the puddles.

14/11/22

Light South Easterlies with sunshine and the occasional fog patch over the weekend made were good condition looking for the Pallas’s Warbler. Although no sign in the Pines garden on Saturday morning and very little else until we walked through Top wood and Rich picked up a Pallas’s calling that then appeared overhead. The bird was high up and moving quickly in the canopy. Later in the day Tony M put out that there were in fact two Pallas’s Warblers in top wood. Sunday was a similar situation and more people looking for the birds produced the same conclusion – 2 Birds. Myself Rich and Steve C had two vocal birds together briefly, again fast moving and feeding high up. Im of the mind that the two in Top wood are different to the bird in the Pines (almost 1km away) from Friday, so potentially 3 Pallas’s over the weekend which is great!

Fast forward to this morning and a blanket of fog lay over the Western end of the patch which moved east throughout the morning, and a different set of birds. Thrushes moving first thing with mixed flocks of Redwing, Fieldfare and Black birds dotted within. 18 Lapwing flew in off and north aswell as 2 Golden Plover.

1 Eurasian Treecreeper, 1 Brambling, 25 Siskin, 2 Redpoll, 44 Goldcrest , 8 Firecrest, 4 Chiffchaff and 5 Blackcap were counted, 3 Coal tit also -which looked like British birds.

11/11/22 Pallas’s Warbler

The constant & strong SW winds have ground me down somewhat and with little to report this blog has been unchanged for nearly 2 weeks. Waking up again to the sound of wind whistling down the between our house and the cliff I decided to start my search at the very far end of the patch: the ever-sheltered South Foreland valley.

I drove, which is a rare occurrence, and as I walked up the track to the start of the valley, I came across a tit flock moving across the track containing several Goldcrests plus a Firecrest and as I pished I heard the little “cork pulled from a wine bottle-squeak” of a Pallas’s Warbler, which then appeared right in front of me.

My best and most prolonged views of the species in this country and perhaps the most vocal individual I’ve known. It eventually performed for a small crowd after relocating it down in the Pines garden.

Favouring a Beech hedge bordering some gardens the bird fed at lower levels but did also flit about in some sycamores.

Some decent weather ahead for the weekend or at least some lighter winds!

31/10/22 Crimson Speckled

A full circuit of the patch today in light South easterly wind was a slight disappointment, the avain highlights being a Ring ouzel at each end (one at Langdon and the other on light house down) c10 Swallows and 4 Firecrest.

Whilst walking back across the farm I picked up a Crimson speckled moth flying in front of me. Only the second ive ever seen and glad to ‘geg in’ on the influx. Shame it wasn’t a Pallid swift.

A quick walk up and down the sea front and marina before dusk produced a Humming bird hawkmoth, 64 Med Gulls and 2 1st winter Yellow Legged gulls

28/10/22 Catch up

For over a month this blog has laid dormant, and despite efforts there has been mostly little to report. Since returning from Scilly (and between work trips to Paris) the highlight has been a Yellow Browed Warbler at langdon on the 21st.

Today I had 3 Ring Ouzel at the west end of the patch and 5 Lapwing flew West. Firecrests have been counted each day with around 10 a high count. Finch movement seems below average, 10’s of Siskins noted along with a handful of Redpoll and one or two Bambling.

Most days have seen hirundine movement (between 25 and 100 Swallows and low numbers of House Martins)

Hopefully a change in wind direction will produce some more birds or these southerlies will deliver a much much desired Pallid swift.

22/09/22 Yellow-Browed Warbler

One of my main targets this autumn was to find a Yellow Browed Warbler before I go to Scilly on Saturday. Today it all played out as I had hoped when I heard one call right above my head in Top wood South Foreland.

It was feeding in the canopy mostly and called only a handful of times but I very much enjoyed it. My first since moving here, with last year being away on Scilly for crucial dates plus the overall paucity of autumn records for the country as a whole.

Other things of note were again decent numbers of Hirundines (c1,000) and close to 500 Meadow pipits counted, a Common Whitethroat and a Willow Warbler may be my last this year, also c25 Chiffchaff , 15 Goldcrest, 3 Firecrest, 2 Black Redstart

Caspian Gulls are still coming through Deal in numbers with new birds being seen every visit by myself and Gerald S (7 in the last 2 days). Today I had 3 Birds and what looks like a Casp x Herring Hybrid. Heres the nicest of the bunch, a large, vocal 1st Winter. I’ll do a post detailing the highlights of the Caspian gull ‘influx’ at some point.