Tuesday, 1 June 2010

A blast from the past at Beachy Head

A Blast from the Past.

18th October, 1974.

A Radde’s Warbler was trapped and ringed by Roger & Liz Charlwood in their garden at Hodcombe and was the first record for Sussex and the 14th for the UK. It was also seen by John Cooper, Dave & Tim Parmenter, Dave Lester and the late Brian Whitby. It was photographed by Roger Charlwood.

Radde’s Warbler trapped and ringed in Hodcombe (photo by R.H.Charlwood)

A Dusky Warbler was trapped by John Cooper, and Dave & Tim Parmenter in Whitbread Hollow, and like the previous species, it was the first record for Sussex and the 16th for the UK. It was also seen by Roger & Liz Charlwood, Dave Lester and the late Brian Whitby. It was photographed by Roger Charlwood and Brian Whitby.

Both birds were trapped within 1 hour and approx 2 miles of one another.

Dusky Warbler trapped in Whitbread Hollow (photo by J.B.Whitby)

The 18th October, 1974 started fine and calm but with a weather front bringing heavy rain by early afternoon. There was a large fall of Goldcrests with good numbers being ringed in Whitbread Hollow and an estimate of 200 birds being present on the Head and this was without any observers having time to check Belle Tout wood. JFC recalls when closing the mist-nets in the Hollow on the onset of the heavy rain, parties of Goldcrests were constantly moving through the mist-net rides. Other migrants seen on this date included 6 Ring Ouzels, 5 Black Redstarts, & 4 Firecrests.

1974 proved to be an exceptional Autumn on Beachy Head with 4 different Pallas’s Leaf Warblers, 2 were trapped and ringed and 2 were present together in Belle Tout wood, 1 Yellow Browed Warbler seen in Hodcombe, and almost 50 Firecrests were trapped and ringed on the Headland during the Autumn which was exceptional.

We have now recorded a further 3 Radde’s Warblers from the Headland in 1995, 1999, & 2005. This last bird was again in Hodcombe and was found by Roger Charlwood. It showed very well for the rest of the day and was enjoyed by a number of other observers including John & David Cooper, Richard Fairbank, Martin Casemore.

This 1995 Radde’s Warbler was found by Tony Cook on the eastern edge of Belle Tout wood on the 2nd November and stayed until the 3rd. Tony quickly came and found myself and Roger Charlwood and we were also joined by Roger Haggar. On quickly going to the east side of Belle Tout wood, there was no sign of the bird. After half an hour, both Tony & Roger Charlwood left the site and myself and Roger Haggar slowly checked the lower pathway which leads to Birling Gap and re-located the Radde’s feeding in long grass and brambles along the pathway. It remained in this general area until the following day and once flew over to the Birling Gap Hotel and landed in the porch.

Radde’s Warbler in the porch of the Birling Gap Hotel.

The 1995 Radde’s Warbler near Birling Gap (both pictures taken by John Cooper).

The 1999 record was found by Bernie Forbes at the top of the lane at Birling Gap on the 13thOctober. It proved to be a rather frustrating encounter being on view for little over a minute before disappearing. JFC looked for this bird later in the day, but unfortunately there still was no further sign of it.

Only one other Dusky Warbler has been found on Beachy Head and this was found by John & David Cooper and Richard Fairbank in Shooters Bottom and was present for four days in 1991. Although calling a lot, and showed very well when first found, it then proved to be rather elusive, although most observers who looked for it did eventually see it.

A Greenish Warbler was also found on the same date as the Radde's Warbler in 2005 in the Gully below Cow Gap by John Cooper, although was only seen very briefly before disappearing but fortunately it remained until the next day when it could be positively identified by John & David Cooper & Martin Casemore and was then enjoyed by many observers.

It only showed a single wing-bar on one wing and made the typical Greenish call “tsip”.

Greenish Warbler in the Gully below Cow Gap (taken by A.S.Cook)