SSW winds at a just about bearable strength this morning and a walk around the entirety of the patch in the company of old friend Laurence P .
c18 WillowWarbler were counted across the whole site as were 4 Wheatear, 5 Yellowwagtail, a juv BlackRedstart, 2 possibly 3 SpottedFlycatchers in the valley were my first of the autumn, as was a Coaltit, c50 Swallows west, a much smaller number of Housemartin and Swift too in the same direction. Local Bullfinches were active and visable and a Nightingale (presumably different to friday’s bird) was heard croaking and whistling from the bomb crater on Foxhill down where we spent an hour or so looking for migrant Raptors in vain. Decent numbers of Adult and juvenile Cornbuntings are to be seen currently in the un-harvested barley fields around reach road. Common and LesserWhitethroat also well represented and I don’t really think local breeders have left/started moving yet, still some very scruffy adults about.
Also noted were singles of HummingbirdHawkMoth and JerseyTiger.
A brief but relevant interlude; on the 11th of August I arrived at calais after a week ‘working’ in Marseille (great birds here of course, lots of Westernsubalps, Bonnelliswarblers, Alpine and Pallidswifts… all that stuff, lovely). I wanted to spend some time birding just other side of the channel before my return.
Forêt de Guines was the chosen site, recommended to me by Martin Casemore as a good site for HoneyBuzzard. I initially intended to do some headland birding too but in the end I settled for just watching the Honey B’s from a vantage point in the woods.
Its hard to say how many individuals I saw but a conservative estimate would be 8 in the woods itself and during the quiet period of the day, where none of the local birds were seen above the woods, I picked up 6 HBs moving together from far to the north to far the the west , very high up they looked like they were migrating.
Also during this time I had a few Hawfinch fly over, 2 Marshharrier, a juv Marshwarbler in the willow herb infested clearing I stood in plus Shorttoedtreecreeper, Marshtits etc etc.
The local HBs re surfaced right on cue at 2.30 and there was much wing clapping and calling, Great birds and the mad thing is that on a clear day you can see this woodland from the patch. I love the continent.
Back home after over a week away working in the south of France, a slightly blustery SW met me as I walked up the cliff but there were some birds to look at, in the western end of the patch at least.
A Cuckoo, 3 Redstart and 14 Willowwarblers were in bushes between the top of the cliff path and the radar station. A Nighingale flew from bush to bush in Langdon hole itself, It showed for a second and proceeded to croak and whislte for a while.
c60 Swallow and a small flock of sandmartins were also noted. Good to be back
Some strong winds, plumbing nightmares and family visits have kept me from the headland recently but I’m pleased to report that Autumn’s trickle of migrants continues to trickle with the arrival of WillowWarblers since the 29th for me.
Several Cuckoo seen by others, up to 4 YellowWagtails today and Wheatears in 1s and 2s on each visit. A BBQ with friends near the harbour on the evening of the 24th was punctuated by a GreatWhiteEgret flying in from far out to sea to the south and almost over our heads, continuing towards Aycliffe, no photographs but looked impressive as it defended itself from mobbing gulls with brielfy outstretched neck .
A second trip out during the day today saw a steady stream of gulls coming in along the cliffs from the East, the best of which were 2 juvenile Yellow–LeggedGulls. I’d like to pick up a juvenile CaspianGull in that situation in the coming weeks.
In Butterfly news SmallBlues seem to be making an appearance in good numbers around the cliff top closest to the lighthouse. Im still seeing a DarkGreenfritillary between my garden and the cliff path, Cloudedyellows can be seen in small numbers near the farm, ChalkhillBlues everywhere and a BrownArgus today, some pics below.
Its August tomorrow, and although Im away in France with work for the first 10 days I look very much forward to long warm birdy days.
My first early morning’s birding for a few days. Warm South Easterlies continue and my search for the first ‘real’ southbound migrant passerine was rewarded with an early Juvenile CommonRedstart near the Radar station.
The bird hasn’t completed is post juvenile moult and really looks like juvs you see on breeding grounds of which I was under the impression were non existstent in Kent. 2 ReedWarblers and a GardenWarbler were in bushes nearby, 2 YellowWagtails flew over West as did around 35 Swallows, 18 of which appeared to have roosted in trees near the car park overnight. A juvenile MarshHarrier flew north at great height over the Port of Dover.
The Local YellowHammer population has done well in terms of breeding numbers but Im yet to see a Juvenile CornBunting despite the good numbers of adults and singing birds throughout the year, I may not be looking hard enough at them but I’ve picked them up easily enough here in the past.
A days work up in London gave me a chance to pop in on one of my old Gull spots; Erith pier which held 2 smart Juv Yellow–LeggedGulls among the throng of tatty larids.
Another late start ended well down here; A North Westerly wind met me as I made for the highest point on Foxhill down and not soon after, at 8.38 am, I picked up a large bird coming my way. As soon as it was in the bins I could see it was the BlackStork that has been seen in a few sites recently in East Kent.
Im pretty sure its a browner headed bird than Rich B and I had in early June which was an immaculate adult. Could this be the bird that was in the west country at that time? Some forensics are probably necessary to be sure.
The bird basically flew past me at some distance East to West, I put the news out and Ian R connected with it near Folkestone but not before It spent some time above the port of Dover and the town itself, gaining and loosing height and at one point I thought it was heading out to sea but eventually carried on in a westerly direction.
In other news my first YellowWagtail since may flew west as did c30 Swallows over the course of the morning, Colin J had a Cuckoo at the lighthouse, and i’d forgotten to mention that Mark and Lucy L have had a pair of TurtleDoves visiting their feeders on lighthouse down recently. As I got back to the house, a Whimbrel flew high and west calling.
Also of note; I had a smart DarkGreenFritillary on my walk up the path to the cliffs, possibly the one I saw in my garden a couple of days ago and apparently a good record in this part of Kent.
Things have been quiet lately and I’ve been busy working on the house but a circuit of the headland first thing today resulted in me being at almost the right place at the right time when a HoneyBuzzard flew East over reach road just before 11 am.
Viewed from the track just west of the farm i got these distant and heat hazey shots but clear enough to enjoy through the bins, I lost a little time by sprinting to try and get ahead of it but it changed course and headed inland. An unpaired adult roaming around? or failed breeder heading off early? who knows but if I’d have been stood at the pull-in on reach road at that time you’d be looking at face melting photos of it thats for sure!
Other birds of note have been one or two Juv Yellow–LeggedGulls that have joined the masses at the eastern entrance of the port. Ive seen more than one each time I’ve looked there but unfortunately Ive not been able to coax any in to my gull spot yet so views remain distant so heres a nice Juv YLG that Laurence P and I had on the 4th of July near him at West-rise in Sussex. Their arrival is a much anticipated event for some of us!
Non-avian highlights recently have been local Glowworms, a few moths and butterflies in the garden including DarkGreenFritillary, HummingHawk and PrivetHawk aswell as many Marbledwhites and the ubiquitous Walllizards!
The winds have been predominantly in the North East for the past few days and today didn’t really look like a day to be rushing up onto the headland for 5am. A later start and a saunter took an exciting turn when a female Red-backed Shrike hopped up onto a hawthorn and perched in front of me as I walked East under the Radar station this am.
I enjoyed good views and watched/photographed it on and off over the period of an hour, during which time it disappeared regularly only to pop up near the place I originally found it. It endured some mobbing from a Chaffinch and local Whitethroats brielfy.
The last time I saw the bird it had begun to fly between the upper and lower level above Langdon hole and the under-cliff and I lost track of it.
Not much else bird-wise to remark upon: c18 Swallows moved East, the Stonechat family in Fan bay were notable and the Peregrine nest that Ive been watching has fledged 2 of the 3 chicks already. A HummingbirdHawkmoth and a Slowworm were noted aswell as many CommonSpotted, Fragrant and the below Bee Orchid
Warm South Easterlies met me as I climbed the path up the cliff early this morning. Visibility out to sea was fairly poor but c200 EuropeanStarlings moved west in small flocks, some at great height and Swifts seemed to be coming in off in 3s and 4s.
At about half seven, whilst walking east on Lighthouse Down I heard the flight call of a Serin a couple of times coming towards me, I picked up the bird fairly low and then managed a couple of flight shots as it moved away from me and continued West, a 10 second interlude but good fun!
Other things of note were a recently fledged Juv Peregrine which I enjoyed watching it noisily drop and catch a disembodied pigeon wing in the early morning haze. To my knowledge this bird isn’t from the nest which I watch regularly.
The BlackRedstarts are well into they’re second brood, below the female taking food to their well hidden and inaccesible nest.
A first summer Medgull was flying around Lighthouse Down on sat the 12th, seemingly catching insects…
With this morning’s Serin, June continues to be good for scarce migrants. Soon it will be time to look for juv Yellow Legged Gulls, looking forward to that?
The sea fog that had been present for the past 2 days had lifted and France looked closer than ever. Straight southerlies first thing and another good morning on the headland.
A slightly later start for me but as I walked along the tarmac path just before South Foreland lighthouse I heard the arresting calls of several Bee–eaters moving high above me. they remained unseen, I just couldn’t get on them. I presumed these might have been part of the flock of 10 that was found the day before in west Dover but it seems Iain R had 9 fly in off the sea and East at Folkestone Warren 20 mins before. A few minutes later and Sandwich bird obs tweeted 4 over and just after that Mark K had one fly over him in the Dover area too, it seems like there were quite a few in south east Kent today.
I thought the conditions seemed good for birds of prey so I got comfortable above the valley and at 10.00 am I had a HoneyBuzzard fly in off the sea and gain height to the distress of the local gulls, the bird flew off NE and was later seen over Bockhill. Distant pics below.
My first HB since moving down here and first since I had 3 in a day just to west of here in the middle of June last year, have a look