Magnolia Warbler - Ohio, May 2017

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Monday, 16 October 2017

Seaford Head & Cuckmere Haven 16/10/17

With being on standby this morning and knowing I'd probably survive I did my normal circuit and thankfully didn't get called. The area held good numbers of Goldcrests today with the odd Firecrest also seen, but nothing like the numbers down in Dorset. Finches again were passing overhead but just the likely species encountered today.

The Cuckmere held a single Firecrest and Willow Warbler at Foxhole with a further 15 Goldcrest also scattered around the area.

I was going to head out this pm but the Sahara desert arrived in force making all the Gulls go to roost early and no doubt most other things, but the intensity of 'dust' was very cool.

With southerly winds dominating this week a Pallas's must be on the cards!!

Totals for Seaford Head are:

Firecrest - 4
Goldcrest - 42
Chiffchaff - 4
Blackcap - 3
Redpoll - 30 over
Siskin - 5 over
Plus large numbers of the commoner Finches and a few flocks of Starlings moving east as well.

Firecrest in Hope Bottom
Willow Warbler at Foxhole Farm

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Seaford Head 15/10/17

With the wind hitting a SE direction overnight and with clear conditions to start of with myself and Marc Read set off full of hope on the Head, where straight away there was a reasonable passage of Finches moving over. There was however little on the ground and optimism soon turned. Thankfully the news feed on the bird services were stating there was another good passage of Hawfinches moving, again mainly in the inland counties. With this in mind we sat at the top of Hope Bottom to watch various Finch flocks moving over, when out of nowhere I looked up to see a small group of birds dropping out of the sky that soon revealed themselves to be five superb Hawfinches. They circled Hope Bottom and came quite close and disappeared behind the bushes. A brilliant patch tick, just a shame the camera didn't want to focus on them.

After a bit more scanning with little else, I walked Tide Mills seeing nothing where news then filtered through of a probable Izzy Wheatear at Beachy. Arriving on site there was no sign, so instead of looking, I went and had a green tea and biscuits round Roger and Liz's, which was by far the highlight of my first visit to Beachy this year!

Totals for Seaford Head:

Willow Warbler - 1
Chiffchaff - 8
Brambling - 4
Golden Plover - 1 over
Yellowhammer - 1 over
Hawfinch - 5 over
Mistle Thrush - 1 over
Lesser Redpoll - 10 over
Siskin - 4

 Brambling in Hope Bottom
Mistle Thrush over Hope Bottom

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Seaford Head, Cuckmere & Newhaven Heights 14/10/17

This week has been pretty grim in terms of birding and the birds on offer. Sussex in October is difficult at the best of times but when dominated by SW winds its very hard going and from my point of view its been the worst October I can remember.

Today I did Seaford Head and the Cuckmere including the Haven Brow loop and found nothing of any note, and even small numbers of the common migrants. Thankfully this evening along the cliffs between Peacehaven and Newhaven I found two Dartford Warblers, bringing some form of joy to the week. The rough field I regularly check here held one Dartford, and also 18 Corn Buntings a few days ago.

In the week I went out most days with Thursday being the brightest, but even the still morning conditions brought nothing better then a Merlin in the Cuckmere and a small westerly movement of Jays walking the same circuit as above. Anyway tomorrow could be ok with the wind changing to a SE overnight, and with stacks of Hawfinches moving in the inland counties and on Scilly, one would be very welcome tomorrow, as would anything with some form of rarity status.

This Dartford was more confiding then the individual below. Mid to late October is the best time to find migrant Dartfords. 
Dartford in the roug field, and due to the large size of the field, it remained very flighty. 
Fox along Peacehaven cliffs

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Isles of Scilly 5/10/17

After a very long week at work with plenty of sleep deprived nights thrown in for good measure, last night I landed at LGW and drove straight down to Penzance to catch the Scillonian III over to the Scillies.

The crossing was quiet with just 2 Storm Petrels seen and was increasingly uncomfortable as the journey went on.

Once docked, myself and others quickly boarded the boat to St Agnes and briskly walked over to the other side of the island where we were rewarded with good views of the CEDAR WAXWING. Being in juvenile plumage I was surprised on how striking it looked, a real stunner. Whilst watching this, a Yellow-browed Warbler dropped in from who knows where and joined the Waxwing for a short time before carrying on elsewhere.

Having had good views I left the island to twitch a Vagrant Emperor, a new species of Dragonfly for me. It was a long walk but upon arrival an Emperor was on view, with later on a second Vagrant Emperor joining the first.

With Ian, we walked around the other sites that held a Cliff Swallow, Isabelline Wheatear and an American Golden Plover.

An excellent day but now just looking forward to chilling out tomorrow walking around the north part of St Mary's in the hope of finding a mega yank.

Unfortunately the mega yank didn't materialise, or anything for that matter. A real hard slog around the north of the island produced hardly anything, with the most notable birds being two Merlins and a couple of Firecrest. However the weather was superb and it was nice to walk around in pleasant conditions.

My last day was much the same but with drizzly weather. With regret I caught the Scillonian Saturday evening seeing singles of Balearic and Sooty Shearwater. The journey back home was good and I made it back in 4hr 40mins alongside Jamie Partridge who's flight had been cancelled and had no way back of getting back towards London. A very successful three days, and with now a stonking male Siberian Blue Robin on Orkney, who knows what's next.

 juv Cedar Waxwing on St Agnes
Vagrant Emperor on St. Mary's. A real surprise and added bonus to my three days

Cliff Swallow on St. Mary's - my second in the UK and almost in the exact spot I saw my first.
Isabelline Wheatear on St. Mary's
Merlin on St. Mary's. After walking around the island for most of the day I had a little nap on a headland, and then woke up to this beauty next to me.
 Yellow-browed Warbler on St. Mary's
Spotted Crake on St. Mary's

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Peacehaven Wryneck 3/10/17

Been very busy at work this week so yesterday I walked a recently ploughed field behind Peacehaven sewage works where there were plenty of Pipits and Wagtails. Roll on 24 hrs and there were very few birds about other than a flighty Wryneck which eventually showed well on a fencepost, and straight after 2 Continental Coal Tits moved quickly up the hedgerow pictured below. A very productive hour on a random bit of land. No camera however other then the phone. 

Friday, 29 September 2017

Seaford Head & Scops Owl 28/9/17

As there was no sign initially of the Scops Owl in County Durham I went up onto Seaford Head. The highlight here was a Treecreeper and a Lesser Whitethroat at Hope Gap, the former being only my third Treecreeper sighting on the Head. When I reached signal again, the Scops Owl had just been found, so I phoned Jake and we were soon on a six hour drive up to Ryhope, near Sunderland. The traffic was fairly heavy in places but we made it with plenty of good light remaining and enjoyed viewing the Scops Owl from many different angles to try and get a full view without any obstacles in the way. It was a superb bird to see, especially when a train went past that made it stretch it wings and look around. The drive back was smooth but it still took six hours.

Today (29th) on Seaford Head produced a Firecrest in Harry's Bush, and in the Cuckmere the juv. Curlew Sandpiper remained, a Grey Plover flew south and 2 Whinchat were the highlights of the few grounded migrants that were present.

 Treecreeper at Hope Gap - a coastal Treecreeper is always worthy of further scrutiny, however the large 'step' is very obvious here as well as the very short bill and clean white underparts.

Eurasian Scops Owl at Ryhope, County Durham (phone-scoped attempts)
The Scops Owl tree next to the railway line
 Curlew Sandpiper again in the Cuckmere
 Grey Plover over the scrape
Whinchat along the AGP pool

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Cuckmere Haven 27/9/17

Managed to squeeze in a couple of hours down the Cuckmere this afternoon and with Dad we had a productive visit. Was both pleased to find a Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint along the river (the latter being only my second record in the Cuckmere) and also a showy Merlin by the scrape. A circuit around Haven Brow and Foxhole produced plenty of Chiffchaffs but little else.

Totals are:

Curlew Sandpiper - 1 juv
Little Stint - 1 juv
Dunlin - 6
Mediterranean Gull - 1 adult
Merlin - 1 fem
Whinchat - 1
Wheatear - 12
Chiffchaff - 30+

 Curlew Sandpiper along the river
 Little Stint along the river
Curlew Sandpiper (right) in flight
 Little Stint (right) in flight
 both of the star birds together
Merlin over the scrape

Monday, 25 September 2017

Seaford Head 25/9/17

An interesting evening on Seaford Head with lots of fly-catching Blackcaps in Hope Bottom, a single Spotted Flycatcher and my first group of Brent Geese heading west. A group of five Grey Herons were spotted at a very high altitude calling as they came from the north, circled above the headland (attracting another from the beach that soon joined the others) and were watched until lost to sight heading straight out to sea. Back at the car park a very large Bat flew over.

In Peacehaven tonight I heard a Common Sandpiper flying over.

a migrant flock of Grey Herons heading south

my first autumn group of migrating Brent Geese

Noctule Bat over Seaford Head - Many thanks to Chris Glanfield for the positive id. This species is classed as uncommon but widespread in Sussex. 

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Gibralter 24/9/17

Some superb views of mostly pale-morph Booted Eagles passing low over the airfield and towards the rock. At least 80 birds were counted in a 15 minute period including a group of 20. Also a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls were loafing about but little else in the short time on the ground.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Seaford Head, Peacehaven & Cuckmere Haven 23/9/17

This morning on the Head was dire and I soon became bored and went home. I chilled for the rest of the morning but soon became bored indoors so I walked the cliffs between Peacehaven and Newhaven, and although the birding was quiet, I was fortunate to spot a superb Convolvulus Hawk Moth in the short grass along the cliff top. I moved it to a safer position out of harms way. Previous to this I had received a phonecall from Tim Squire who had found a Grey Phalarope in the Cuckmere, and spent an enjoyable hour with the bird as it showed down to a few feet. I had joked with Tim earlier on in the day to find me a Red-necked Phalarope in the Cuckmere, so not a bad outcome.

Seaford Head:

Chiffchaff - 44
Grey Wagtail - 2
Yellow Wagtail - 4
Goldcrest - 15
Spotted Flycatcher - 1
Blackcap - 26
Whinchat - 1
Reed Bunting - 2
Whitethroat - 1

Cuckmere Haven:
Grey Phalarope
Wigeon - 8
Teal - 1
Tufted Duck - 1

Spotted Flycatcher by Harry's Bush

Convolvulus Hawk Moth at Peacehaven
the group of Wigeon to arrive in the Cuckmere

Grey Phalarope in the Cuckmere - the second in 11 days!

Friday, 22 September 2017

Seaford Head & Cuckmere Haven 22/9/17

The morning started off very well with plenty of birds moving overhead and Chiffchaffs moving inland, but everything came to a halt abruptly and from then on it was hard work. The Cuckmere was devoid of anything other then a lost Lapwing that soon departed west. Hirundines were very abundant throughout the morning. Despite lots of searching the birds aren't giving themselves up easily. Roll on tomorrow.......

Totals for Seaford Head are:

Yellow Wagtail - 45
Chiffchaff - 37
Goldcrest - 6
Reed Bunting - 6 over
Grey Wagtail - 5
Blackcap - 30
Whitethroat - 5
Sedge Warbler - 1
Wheatear - 2
Lesser Whitethroat - 1

Yellow Wagtails by South Hill Barn
Sedge Warbler in Hope Gap
Lapwing over the Cuckmere

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Local Stuff 21/9/17

I teamed up with Marc Read for most of the day and we concentrated on most of the local sites, but the strong southerly wind made birding hard work, and despite 7.5 hours in the field there was little to show for our efforts.
Sites visited were Seaford Head, Cuckmere Haven, Crowlink, Arlington Reservoir, Tide Mills and a half hour seawatch off from Peacehaven.

Highlights for the day are:

White Wagtail - 4 (Foxhole)
Redstart - 2
Little Stint - 3
Marsh Harrier
Merlin (Arlington)
Arctic Skua - 1
Common Scoter - 4

 Firecrest at Crowlink

 Redstart at Crowlink
 Marsh Harrier at Arlington
 Common Sandpiper at Arlington

 Little Stint at Arlington
Whinchat at Tide Mills