Another bright morning brought more Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps – about 80 of each – with a Lesser Whitethroat for company. 3 Song Thrushes, more or less the first of autumn, were trapped on the farm and although overhead movement was negligible it did include a Yellow Wagtail and a Brambling. 6 Stonechats remained and the obligatory 6 Buzzards were soaring about behind the valley.
A frisky SE breeze soon gave way to sunny, calm conditions. A Willow Warbler and a Reed Warbler were found along with about 50 Chiffchaffs, 10 Stonechats decorated the fence lines south of the lighthouse, Jays seem to be gaining in numbers with about 10 fiddling about and a Hobby flew over the farm with a Swallow in its mitts. Overhead movement included 4 alba wagtails, 3 Bramblings, with another on the farm later in the morning, and 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers.
With the sun warming the bushes from early on, it was soon clear that Chiffchaffs were everywhere and the eventual estimate of 120 probably understated the situation as more appeared to be arriving throughout the morning. At one point about 3,000 House Martins were milling around the cliff, farm and valley and overhead movement featured a Lapland Bunting and 16 Siskins. A late-ish Wheatear was found later on, and here it is ………..
Today was the 40th anniversary of my first visit to the South Foreland, though with a gin-clear overnight sky and virtually full moon there was not much around to celebrate the occasion. However, there continues to be a very subtle change to more October-ish content, with 2 Goldcrests at the back of the valley, 2 Siskins flying along the cliff and the first overflying alba wagtail of the autumn.
A cold, calm and clear start was decidedly underwhelming until the sun brought some welcome warmth. Even then it was slow going, with 60 Chiffchaffs, 21 Blackcaps, 2 Lesser Whitethroats and a Whitethroat the highlights in the bushes, while most movement took place from mid morning, including 52 Meadow Pipits flying off the sea and the first Skylark movement of autumn, 12 coming in off or heading N.
A cold first hour in a light NW breeze produced only 41 Chaffinches, 26 Meadow Pipits, 54 Linnets and 7 Dunnocks, but the decision to walk along the clifftop past the old windmill was rewarded by a Yellow-browed Warbler, calling from sycamores opposite Lighthouse Down, while around 60 Chiffchaffs decorated the bushes and copse edges. The farm held 5 Stonechats and a Spotted Flycatcher, a Black Redstart was in Langdon Hole and birds of prey became steadily more obvious as the morning warmed, with at least 6 Sparrowhawks including 2 that probably flew in off the sea and 11 Buzzards, including 9 flying N/W over the bay around 1045-1115, at which point a Hobby flew past the lighthouse.
A brief interlude in the recent stormy weather began with 2 Tawny Owls calling in the valley, though movement in the first hour amounted to only 39 Meadow Pipits, 3 Reed Buntings, 61 Swallows and single Grey and Yellow Wagtails. 2 Whinchats remained near the lighthouse, 4 Great Spotted Woodpeckers included 3 moving strongly over, but warbler totals included just 18 Blackcaps and 8 Chiffchaffs. With more meteorological tripe forecast for tomorrow it looks like it will be left to next week to improve things.
Windy from dawn, there was little to recommend searching the wind-blown bushes, so I resorted to a seawatch from the bay. An hour peering out to sea was typically quite good to start with before tapering off and totals included 3 Little Gulls, an Arctic Skua, a Shag and 31 Sandwich Terns, while at least 7 Med. Gulls were feeding in the bay.
Yesterday’s gales had relented enough to allow a couple of hours entertainment before really getting up again, though it was fairly windy from kick-off. 8 Whinchats remained along the fence south of the lighthouse, a Grey Heron flew N along the cliff, a trickle of Swallows was evident, mostly inland, and a Redstart was calling in the valley.
There was precious little movement in a brisk SW breeze and warbler numbers were well down on the weekend, 14 Chiffchaffs being the best on offer. Still, 10 Whinchats and a Redstart were found on a circuit of the farm and a Merlin was the autumn’s first.
Once 540 House Martins and 330 Swallows had spilled SW along the cliff it became impossible to tell how many more were involved as a flock of at least 1,200 House Martins swirled about the fields for the rest of the morning. Though not much else was moving, the autumn’s first three Dunnocks flew SW and a Reed Bunting on the fields was also a first. Warblers included 50 Chiffchaffs, 34 Blackcaps and a Sedge Warbler and the build-up in Linnet numbers continued with 450 in the area, attracting the attention of a Hobby, while 3 Buzzards soared overhead.
Having just undergone 30 hours of travel from our final lodge in Ecuador to arrive home yesterday evening, this was not the best morning in terms of concentration. Still, it had a very different flavour to my last visit in late August, with Chiffchaffs having taken over from Willows, though warbler numbers didn’t amount to a hill of beans, with 21 Chiffchaffs, 4 Lesser Whitethroats and no more than a handful of the rest. Other species that were more obvious included 250 House Martins and 204 Swallows, 19 Meadow Pipits and 24 Chaffinches that trickled along the cliffs, while one Yellow Wagtail flew over the farm and 2 Golden Plovers called somewhere overhead.