Wednesday, 21 May 2014

20 May 2014 and 21 May 2014 Beachy Head

21 May 2014 Early mist,overcast cool E 1-2
Met up with NT and sea-watched from 06.00-07.05. We then covered the main birding sites on the Headland and met up with RHC and MEC at Hodcombe. No sea-passage recorded and virtually no new night migrants seen although an adult female Hen Harrier was seen hunting in the field directly E of Shooters Bottom. A full account below.

Gannet 5 E
Common Scoter 8 E
Sandwich Tern 1 E
Hen Harrier 1 ad. female
Peregrine 1
Swallow 20
Stonechat 1 Continental male (race rubicola) present with a female and 1 juv.
Common Whitethroat 20
Garden Warbler 1
Blackcap 1
Chiffchaff 3
Raven Party of 5
Corn Bunting 3

Adult Female Hen Harrier Hunting over the field directly E of Shooters Bottom.

As we approached Shooters Bottom, we noticed a large Harrier flying ahead of us along the side of the field. We quickly drove up to where it was showing and had some good views from c.60 yards range as it was hunting low over the field and heading East away from us. We decided to drive further up the road to the Old Trapping Area where hopefully the Harrier would fly along, perhaps allowing some photographs. Unfortunately, the Harrier didn't appear and I quickly made my way along the southern side of the field where I could look down into the field, but again no further sighting.
We then returned to Shooters Bottom, and I again re-located the Harrier which again was heading up towards the Old Trapping Area. I watched it until it disappeared over a ridge in the field and we then again quickly drove back to the Old Trapping Area and I decided to walk through the field as I felt it had probably landed in the long grass on the first sighting. I covered about two thirds of the field but no further sign.
Large heavy looking Harrier, with broad very rounded wings with a number of primary fingers showing. The upper-parts appeared a washed-out brownish with a paler area on the wings and a conspicuous large white rump with a greyish patch directly above the rump. The tail was medium length quite broad looking again washed-out brown with black bars. The under-parts had brownish streaking extending right down on a white breast . The face appeared quite uniform. It was identified as an adult female due to the pale area in the wings which is lacking in immatures, and the white with brown streaks extending down on the underparts which is rufous/brownish in immatures with the streaking more restricted to the upper breast. The flight was quite heavy often gliding with wings up in a V. lacking the buoyancy associated with a Montagu's.
Although a late Spring date, it is not our latest as in 1991 a large female was present in the top fields from 25 May to 3 June, and in 2010 a male was seen on the 27 May and in 2011 a male (perhaps the same bird) was also seen on the 24 May.

Male Stonechat but not the rubicola

Chiffchaff in Shooters Bottom

20 May 2014 Sunny periods SE 2-3
Unfortunately, I had to attend the Brighton cancer clinic and was unable to visit Beachy today. NT sea-watched from 05.45-06.37, when he heard a party of  Bee-eaters calling nearby. He quickly located 5 sat out on trees on the slope directly up from looking E at 06.37 and they stayed till 06.45. The Bee-eaters departed E just when RHC arrived, but luckily they were relocated in the bushes below the old Belle Tout lighthouse at 7.00 and were seen well until 07.25 when a Blackbird flushed them and they departed E.
NT then covered many of the sites on the Headland and also walked the Cliff Path and looked down into Whitbread Hollow but no further sign.

Gannet 9 E
Shoveler 1 E
Common Scoter 30 E
Sanderling 5 E
Black-headed Gull 3 E
Sandwich Tern 3 E
Commic Tern 120 E
Auk Sp. 3 E
Bee-eater 5 departed E (Our 41st record since 1960)
Garden Warbler 1

Some of the 5 Bee-eaters seen at Belle Tout all pictures taken 
Nigel Taylor