Monday, 28 June 2010

Blast from the Past No. 2

Hippolais Warblers.

Four species of Hippolais Warblers have been identified at Beachy Head since regular watching commenced in 1960 and these are detailed below.

Icterine Warbler Hippolais icterina

There have now been 20 different records of this species between 1960 and 2009, of which 2 have been recorded in the Spring and 18 during the Autumn.

The first was trapped in Whitbred Hollow on the 5th September, 1965 by Barry Cooper, Tony Quinn and Mike Nolan and proved to be the first for Sussex.

The two Spring records are as follows: A singing male found in Whitbred Hollow on the 27th May, 1967 and was trapped and ringed the following day by Peter Clement and Peter Kenward, and the second was found by Roger Charlwood in Hodcombe on the 23rd May, 1989.

Autumn sightings have been recorded between the 9th August to the 30th September with the majority of the sightings during the second half of the August. On the 24th August, 1970 one was trapped by Roger and Liz Charlwood in Hodcombe and was also seen by John Cooper. Later the same day John also found an unringed bird in the Hotel Garden. This is the only occasion when 2 different birds have been seen on the same day on Beachy Head.

On the 23rd August, 1973 one was trapped during the first round of the mist-nets in Whitbred Hollow by John Cooper, Bob Smith and the late Brian Whitby. John had to quickly wake Roger Haggar from his nights sleep so Roger could obtain an overdue Sussex tick.

Sadly, in recent years this species has declined at Beachy Head. An analysis of the Beachy Head logs etc, have shown that there were 3 sightings in the 1960’s, in the 70’s there were 9 sightings, in the 80’s 4 sightings, in the 90’s 3 sightings but only 1 sighting in this current millennium up to 2009. This last sighting was found by John & Doreen Cooper in scrub along the western end of the Cliff Path opposite the Beachy Head Hotel on the 30th August, 2006. Although very elusive, it stayed in this same clump all day and was seen by many observers including Bob Edgar, Richard Fairbank, John King, Ian Barnard, & Matt Eade, and proved to be a Sussex life tick for many of these observers.

Any observers still requiring this species for their Sussex life list will probably be advised to search for this during the period of South Easterly winds during the 17th to the 28th August when a total of 11 of our sightings have occurred.

Icterine Warbler trapped in Whitbred Hollow during the 1970’s and taken by the late Brian Whitby.

Melodious Warbler – Hippolais polyglotta.

There have now been 29 different records of Melodious Warblers seen at Beachy Head between 1960 and 2009, with 6 records in the Spring and 23 recorded in the Autumn.

The first one during the period of regular watching from 1960 onwards, was trapped by the late D.D.Harber at Holywell on the 23rd August, 1962. ( He also trapped one at this site in 1958).

The six Spring records have occurred between the 10th May and 11th June, with the majority occurring in May.

Autumn records have been recorded between 15th July to the 4th October, with one bird seen in July, 11 birds in August, 9 in September and 2 in October.

The very early date in July, this bird was present on the 15th & 16th in Hodcombe and was seen by Roger & Liz Charlwood. During the Autumn of 2001, three birds were recorded, being our best year to date, including a 1st Yr. ringed individual in the Hotel Garden on the 10th & 11thAugust and further 1st Yr’s were trapped in Whitbred Hollow on the 18th & 26th August.

Unlike the Icterine Warbler, there has been no noticeable decline during the 50 years of regular watching at Beachy Head with 4 seen in the 1960’s, 5 seen in the 70’s, 6 seen in both the 80’s & 90’s and 8 so far in this millennium up to 2009.

First Year Melodious Warbler trapped on the 22nd August, 2008 by Bob Edgar & other members of the BHRG.( photographed by John Cooper).

Booted Warbler – Hippolais caligata

Our only sighting was on the 5th June, 1994, when a singing male was discovered in Cow Gap, by John & David Cooper. It was discovered at 07.20 am and gave good views as it moved around on the eastern flank of Cow Gap singing almost non-stop. At 07.35 a local pair of breeding Common Whitethroats started to chase the Booted Warbler away from their breeding site and it departed over the eastern ridge of Cow Gap and it could not be re-located.

Sykes’s Warbler – Hippolais rama

Martin Casemore & Dick Eyre-Walker found a small pale warbler feeding in a weedy patch on the eastern side of Whitbred Hollow on the 31st August, 2002. Their initial thoughts were of an Olivaceous Warbler, but after some good views they considered that it was probably a Booted Warbler. They kindly left a note on one of our cars and Richard Fairbank and David Cooper both went into the Hollow to try to re-locate it. After an hour they noticed a milky-tea coloured warbler in an elderberry bush. They both agreed that although it looked very similar to a Booted Warbler it didn’t look quite right, being more Acrocephalus like rather than Phylloscopus like. They considered that it might be a Sykes’s Warbler and they immediately contacted a number of local birders included John Cooper, Roger Charlwood, Bob Edgar & Ian Barnard. It remained on show for the rest of the day giving good views. Les Bird was able to obtain a good series of photographs, and I have included the full set of these photographs below. Unfortunately, there was no sign of it the following morning after a fine clear night. It proved to be the first for Sussex and the first British record to be accepted without being trapped. Full details of this exceptional record can be found in Birding World Volume 15 pages 378-380.

Sykes’s Warbler in Whitbred Hollow on the 31st August, 2002. (photographs were taken by Les Bird).

We must now hope for our first Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, with a pumping tail etc. to complete the set.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

20th June 2010 Beachy Head

Stonechat 5
Pied Wagtail 1 juv.
Mistle Thrush 1 Birling Gap Lane
Cuckoo Old Trapping Area
Whitethroat 6
Lesser Whitethroat h
Goldfinch 4 (1 juv.)
Corn Bunting 2

Hare 2

Bee Orchid c.35
Spotted Orchid 5
Pyramidal Orchid 5
Lizard Orchid 1
Juvenile Mistle Thrush at Birling Gap Lane

Bee Orchid at Belle Tout

Lizard Orchid at Beachy Head

Pyramidal Orchid at Belle Tout

Pale morph Bee Orchid at Beachy Head

Sunday, 6 June 2010

6th June 2010 Beachy Head W1 Misty & Overcast

Bonxie 1E at 7.10am
Sparrowhawk 1
Red-legged Partridge 1 Cow Gap
Swift 2
Swallow 3
Stonechat 7
Song Thrush 1 juv.
Whitethroat 20
Lesser Whitethroat 1
Jay 1
Corn Bunting 2

Large White 1
Red Admiral 2
Wall 2
Speckled Wood 2
Adonis Blue 4
Small Copper 1
Dingy Skipper 3

Eyed Hawk Moth 2 ex.

Eyed Hawk Moths at Beachy Head

Saturday, 5 June 2010

5th June 2010 Beachy Head

Birling Gap SE1 6.25am - 6.55am
Canada Goose 6E
Scoter 7E
Sandwich Tern 2E

Little Egret 1W along Cow Gap Beach
Sparrowhawk 2
Red-legged Partridge 1
Swift 3
Swallow 11
House Martin 1
Stonechat 7 (incl. 4 juveniles)
Whitethroat 15
Blackcap h
Corn Bunting 5

Large White 2
Peacock 2
Wall 1
Speckled Wood 3
Green Hairstreak 2
Small Heath 3
Common Blue 40
Adonis Blue 2
Male House Sparrow at Birling Gap

Peregrine beating me to another rarity at Birling Gap!

Green Hairstreak at Birling Gap

Amphibian at Birling Gap

Bob Smith and Roger Haggar looking for that early June rarity along Birling Gap Lane

Little Egret off Cow Gap

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

2nd June, 2010 Beachy Head

RDME visited Holywell and the Headland. Female Wheatear, also 4 Swallows & 1 House Martin at Belle Tout.

Yesterday evening Bob heard the Nightingale still singing in the Hollow.

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)