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.

17-19/09/22

Unchanging North Westerly wind direction and its increased strength over the weekend dampened enthusiasm somewhat. However a juv Cuckoo and 2 Hobbies highlighted a windy walk on the 17th.

Lighter winds today and Rich B and I slowly tracked East from Langdon first thing and notched up a decent list of birds: Great White Egret North East at 10.30, Ring Ouzel, 3 Black Redstart, 2 Firecrest, Tree pipit, Swift, Whinchat, Grasshopper warbler, 30 Chiffchaff, 20 House Martin, 800 House Martin, 600 Swallow, 2 Snipe,3 Little Egret,2 Grey Wagtail,2 Yellow Wagtail 9 Curlew, 15 Stonechat, Reed Bunting. Whilst Steve and Russ had seen a Ring tailed Hen Harrier and heard a Dotterel.

A mid-afternoon walk with Amy away from the patch developed a brilliant edge when a feeding ball of Hirundines c1500 strong (mostly House Martins) started zipping up and down at the top of the cliffs along Round down above Samphire Hoe.

With them were smaller numbers of Swallows and Sand martins but also 2 Swift. I stood on the old concrete bunkers as the birds swarmed around, it was really very nice, perhaps saying goodbye to the numbers.

A surprise Brambling, my first of the autumn joined the ranks and flew among the hirundines briefly before circling, calling and heading west along the cliffs. A Ring Ouzel also noisily flew west between the cliff edge and the A20.

16/09/22

A moderate NNW breeze this am and the first morning I’ve needed a jumper this autumn!

1st Winter Female Ring Ouzel

2 Ring ouzels (one in Langdon Hole, the other flying out over the sea along the cliffs, Spotted Flycatcher,Swift, Firecrest, 4 whinchat, Common Redstart, Black Redstart. A notable increase in Stonechats, Decent Numbers of Meadow pipits & hirundines but unfortunately it looks like I missed the big numbers y’day.

The Gull bonanza thats been going on in the beach and harbour area seems to have finished now and numbers are down. Here are some of the other Caspian gulls that i saw since the last post.

A small, female Caspian gull still basically in juvenile plumage

2nd winter Caspian Gull

A different 1CY Caspian gull

Deal beach too seems productive with lots of turn over and rarely the same bird seen over two days. I had 2 nice proper first winter Caspian Gulls this evening; a Large male and a smaller female type.

Large Male Caspian Gull

Smaller Female Caspian Gull

Ive actually never seen so many different 1CY Caspian gulls at this particular time of year before, theres such a range from almost juv-like brown birds to very white headed, grey mantled individuals. Really enjoying the numbers!

13/09/22 Rosefinch

A switch in the wind from light southerly to a moderate North Easterly over night and cloud cover by morning dropped in some new birds: I had my first Ring Ouzel of the autumn calling in flight along the cliffs near Fan bay plus 10 or so Tree pipits over South East, 10 Wheatear, seemingly more stonechats, a decent stream of Meadow pipits and Hirundines aswell as 2 Spotted flycatchers a whinchat and c25 Chiffchaff (only 8 Willows) but the highlight came in the form of a juvenile Rosefinch! Found by local Russ B in Langdon Hole around 09.30 (long after I’d gone through there!)

Well done Russ, I was very happy to see this bird, a species which I associate with Scilly and Shetland, feeding on blackberries – a much rarer bird here in Kent.

Steve – another local had seen the Wryneck thats been hanging around close to the Rosefinch site and I luckily saw that briefly before the rain set in and I made my way home.

The Harbour was full of large gulls this afternoon. Large numbers of Mackerel have been chasing schools of sprats into the shallows and 1,000s were being stranded on the shoreline. generating feeding frenzies for the gulls and some nice views of them for me. I counted 15 Yellow Legged Gulls and 2 Caspian Gulls. Both casps looking a little ugly as they morph into 1st winter but still nice.

A small (probably female) 1st winter Caspian Gull
A second, probably female Casp again, same age.

1st Winter Yellow legged gull
A large, likely male 1st winter YLG
3cy Med gull, Red Ring ZLJ1 – Ringed in Czech
1cy Red Ringed Herring Gull ZWV. Ringed in Felixstowe Harbour this june.

11/09/22 Short-toed Eagle!

A still and serene morning with a very light SE wind and the best hirundine numbers of the year so far took a funny turn just around midday when Rich Bonser and myself had a Short Toed Eagle fly East over the fields inland from Wanstone farm. (pics by RB)

My initial thoughts, as the bird approached were that an Osprey was coming our way but we quickly started talking about Short-Toed Eagle and both went into abit of a state of shock. A moment was spent trying to talk our way out of it being one, which could not be done.

We spoke to some friends before sharing the news, a useful and sobering thing to do before putting out such a rarity! A First for Kent and sixth record for Britain; a monster bird really and a significant co-find for both of us.

15 minutes later A juvenile Honey Buzzard came in from the East and flew West whilst we stood in the same spot, overshadowed by what had come before but still fantastic, my first Juvenile here on the patch.

We walked back to Langdon in a daze, the reality setting in still and counted 7 Whinchats and a Pied fly.

10/09/22

Gerald S has been having great success with first calander year Caspian Gulls on Deal beach recently, and with massive numbers of Lesser Blackbacks moving west along the coast this morning I thought it worth a try after the normal circuit up the cliffs.

This large and loud 1cy Caspian Gull came in to check us out, along with 3 or 4 1cy YLGs and some nice looking LBBs.

06/09/22 Another Wryneck + Hen Harrier

A blustery morning with 28 mph SSW gusts – abit too strong for the bushes but a steady stream of Gulls passing the cliffs although most too high for proper inspection, at least 3 Yellow Legged Gulls were counted. Very little passerine migration was noted until I got just west of the memorial at Reach road where I flushed a Wryneck from the ground, near the fence line. It flew into isolated cover and showed briefly before moving deeper within. Perhaps a different bird to the 2 that are being seen around Foxhill down? and perhaps different still to a bird reported by photographers near the radar station first thing? who knows.

I was up that way looking for a ring tailed Harrier I’d seen briefly over the farm and eventually saw again. It appeared to show quite a broad wing but a seemingly pointed ‘hand’ in flight. Inspection of the photos revealed 4 long primaries at the wing tip, and my brain leapfrogged into older female Pallid harrier plumages despite overall tonal/structural/flight impression not too differing from more familiar Hen Harrier.

After some back and forth with LP, DS and JAB and closer inspection of the images it seems clear that its an older (2cy+) female Hen Harrier, in active wing moult and therefore an outer primary down on each wing, In Fact you can see p8 growing – giving the ‘slim handed’ impression, an artefact not visible in the field.

05/09/22 7 Dotterel, Wryneck + Casps

My first morning back after Falsterbo and the shadow of what sounded like a decent weekend lingered in the way of 2 Pied Flys, 2 Whinchats, 2 Redstarts and eventually one of the Wryneck that Steve C & Julian R found y’day showed briefly on my walk home over Fox Hill Down.

up to 5 first calendar year Yellow legged gulls were counted among the stream of mostly Lesser black backed gulls moving West along the cliff tops but a female 1CY Caspian Gull trumped them.

The Eastern end of the patch was quiet bar a Firecrest but as i walked back over Wanstone farm I heard the sound of several Dotterel calling at once and looked up to see a small flock of birds heading south.

A mix of adults and Juvs. I Probably would have better photos if I hadn’t stayed on them in the bins as long but a nice moment all the same and bringing my total to 11 individuals on the patch this year! (1 of which heard only)

With the news that Gerald S had seen 2 Caspian Gulls on Deal beach I tried the Marina and had 2 YLG and a nice 2CY Caspian Gull.

25-29/08/22

A Hasty post as I pack my bags for 5 days at Falsterbo, Sweden from tomorrow. Despite coverage every morning recently the patch has been a little slim on numbers of migrants however another Dotterel flew over Ian S and I at Langdon Hole on the 25th, Ian went on to find a Wryneck moments later which I failed to see.

A smattering of migrants in the days after and things like Whinchat and Spotted Fly being seen daily. A pied flycatcher on the 28th was a highlight along with 3 Green sandpipers and today’s surprise a Redwing calling and perched in the valley! along with 2 Firecrest and a Hobby.

24/08/22 Osprey & Dotterel

An overcast start to the day and light SSE winds delivered some new birds for Rich B and I as we made our way East from Foxhill down first thing.

A tree pipit and good numbers of Willows (my best day for the latter species so far this year ending on 30 birds) Some yellow wagtails over and still great numbers of common Sylvias but the morning really kicked off with a Juv Osprey heading NW along the cliffs at light house down.

The bird continued over Bockhill and out of sight, only my second here and first ive seen in autumn. Still counting decent numbers of common migrants in the valley plus brief views of a Spotted Flycatcher, we headed to the farm where we caught up with at least 5 Whinchat, the highest count so far this year.

As we stood watching, our ears pricked at the sound of a much anticipated call, a Dotterel! which seemed to appear from towards the cliffs and came our way. The bird flew around calling pretty much constantly, briefly putting down in a stubble field before another lap of the area we stood in and continuing west.

A very nice encounter with a bird that shares a special history with the area.

Once back up on Fox hill down we added our autumn’s first Common Redstart and a few swift to the day count plus ended up at almost 100 Swallow west.

A late evening visit back up Foxhill down and another look at the Redstart which was in the same place as earlier whilst c100 Med Gulls fed on Flying Ants above.