After yesterday’s wash-out it turned out to be fairly cloudy with some bright bits and a gentle NW breeze. 36 Blackcaps and 19 Lesser Whitethroats were the pick of the warblers and 5 Whinchats were present but yet again absolutely nothing was moving along the clifftop.
A pristine male Adonis Blue was flitting about in the valley, on the subject of which this blog will be resumed in mid September after I return from two weeks butterflying in Ecuador.
Overcast, calm and warm from dawn, it proved to be a pretty good morning, though appreciation of migrant numbers was helped by a ringing session on the farm. A good arrival of Acrocephalus warblers included 20 Reeds and 9 Sedge, while Sylvias were represented by 26 Blackcaps, 23 Whitethroats, 9 Lesser Whitethroats and a Garden Warbler. A Hobby tore across the fields after anything it could lay its mitts on, a Tree Pipit flew over calling to those who could hear it and 2 Redstarts were flycatching from one of the fence lines bordering the farm. The only negative aspect of an enjoyable morning was the absence of anything moving along the clifftop.
Mark’s moth trap reflected the warm, humid overnight conditions and although most of its contents were fairly predictable, this Annulet was a moth tick for yours truly.
It didn’t take long for a cloudy start to dissolve into clear blue sky, although after yesterday afternoon’s gales it was still quite blustery. Migrants featured a couple of small flurries of Swallows and warbler totals of 23 Whitethroats, 14 Blackcaps, 9 Willows and 3 Reeds, but the best of all was a Nightingale, fidgeting about in an elder near the Hollow Wood, while a Little Owl called from the undergrowth nearby and 4 Whinchats were on the farm. On returning home I came across this photo of the top of the valley, taken in April 2006. It doesn’t look like this now!
A bright but chilly start meant things were slow to get going, but once the early sun had started to warm the bushes activity picked up immediately. Warbler totals for the morning amounted to 41 Blackcaps, 18 Whitethroats, 12 Willows, 10 Lesser Whitethroats and 4 Reeds. Walking along the cliffs was notable for 63 Swallows and 3 Sand Martins, a Hobby and 2 Peregrines, clearly incensed at a pair of Ravens. The farm was pretty quiet but 6 Buzzards were floating about around 10am, 3 moving off to the north while the others appeared to move back towards Guston.
Overcast with a slowly increasing SW breeze, the infrequency of calls at the top of the valley hinted at a slow morning, though in the event it was a tad better than it might have been (a bit like a visit to the dentist). Warbler totals included 23 Blackcaps, 6 Lesser Whitethroats, 4 Whitethroats, a Garden Warbler, a Chiffchaff and 11 Willows. A Whinchat remained on the farm, a Peregrine drifted along the cliff and a Swift and a few handfuls of hirundines moved over. There were at least 14 Bullfinches today, suggesting a return to their numbers of the late 1970s/early 1980s which, let’s face it, makes a welcome change to the direction in which most things have gone.
In complete contrast to yesterday (probably not the last time I shall write something similar) the morning dawned clear with a slight SW breeze. For the first time this week a trickle of Swallows passed along the cliff and although warbler numbers were generally down on Monday there were still 21 Willow Warblers, 18 Whitethroats, a Garden Warbler and 5 Lesser Whitethroats. On the farm, a party of 4 Whinchats skipped across the field margins and a Spotted Flycatcher sat up on one of the hawthorns.
One of the more notable facets of this morning’s walk, despite the cloud that descended after a couple of hours, was the presence of several Wall Brown butterflies – a species that is just about hanging on by its fingernails at Sandwich. 2 Silver-spotted Skippers were also seen in the valley in a window of sunshine as midday approached.
Sometimes you just can’t win. On arrival, much of the valley was shrouded in mist but within half an hour or so you couldn’t see your glass in front of your face. The only things noted in the murk were a couple of Sparrowhawks and the sound of a cronking Raven at Fan Bay.
Starting back after an absence of 12 years was not the shock I had feared. The National Trust now owns much of Wanstone Farm and in the absence of cultivation the fields appear more hospitable to birds than before. On the debit side, the valley is now very overgrown in places and much of the top of the valley is in need of thinning out, if only to allow better viewing of migrants. Having said that, open areas exist where they did not before and to some extent it will be a case of finding the new hot spots and learning how migrants behave more than a decade on. As for this morning, it was calm and overcast with the threat of drizzle in the air at times. Warbler totals owed much to good numbers on the farm, eventual tallies amounting to 45 Whitethroats, 26 Lesser Whitethroats, 19 Blackcaps, 8 Willows, a Sedge and 2 Reeds, while a Cuckoo, 2 Wheatears and 2 Spotted Flycatchers were also of note.