March 2019

Saturday 30th

Avian interest remained subdued on another bright and increasingly warm morning, but the beautiful conditions did tempt out a decent number of butterflies, including first records for the year of Comma and Small Tortoiseshell, plus Peacock and 5 Brimstones.

Friday 29th

The constant blaring of foghorns offshore was in contrast to the usual calm that makes this place so attractive and although for the most part the land was just misty the only arrivals were Blackcaps in the Top and Lower Woods.

Thursday 28th

Things seem to have become becalmed, with another dull and calm morning turning up little that ranks as unusual, except perhaps for a Snipe at the WWI airstrip along Reach Road and 2 Bramblings that were the best of the rest.

Wednesday 27th

On a morning of largely disconnected bits and pieces under a leaden sky with a light but cold NW breeze 403 Chaffinches and 2 Bramblings flew NE, a Black Redstart was in Langdon Hole again, 3 migrant Song Thrushes were at the lighthouse, 5 Golden Plovers flew in off the sea, a Red Kite drifted along the ridge just inland from the clifftop and 6 Chiffchaffs represented a small influx.

Tuesday 26th

A beautiful, bright and shiny spring morning was very nearly as beautiful, bright and shiny as a superb male Ring Ouzel that decorated the fence bordering Lighthouse Down. 2 Little Egrets remained on the rocks, a Firecrest was flycatching on the farm, a Great Spotted Woodpecker undulated high inland and raptors as the morning warmed included a Sparrowhawk that flew in off the sea and 7 Buzzards, one of which flew NE. Not to be outdone, both Dotted and Dark-edged Bee-flies were nectaring on primroses at the top of the valley.

Monday 25th

Despite a rather chilly NW breeze and clear conditions, 995 Chaffinches and 2 Bramblings flew NE and notable scarcities included a Short-eared Owl near the lighthouse and a Red Kite that lingered around Langdon Hole for 15 minutes. Singles of Black Redstart and Wheatear completed the morning matinee.

Friday 22nd

The overcast and calm conditions persisted and this morning’s visible migration, which was still ongoing after three hours, amounted to 2,710 Chaffinches, 2 Bramblings, a Grey Wagtail, 7 Siskins, 240 Starlings and 56 Redwings. A female Merlin was also seen for the second time in three days.

Thursday 21st

Another overcast morning promised a good movement and so it turned out to be, with 2,580 Chaffinches, 61 Redwings and 4 Bramblings flying SW and 290 Starlings heading out to sea or SW. Although most of this ended after an hour and a half the continuing cloud ensured a trickle of Chaffinches throughout the rest of the morning. Otherwise, our first Black Redstart of the spring was at the lighthouse.

Wednesday 20th

An overcast first hour with a low cloud ceiling and just a breath of wind from the SW gave the first substantial bit of visible migration this spring which ended abruptly as the cloud start to break and lift. Totals included 333 Chaffinches, 4 Bramblings, 154 Redwings, 7 Fieldfares and a Crossbill. Migrants found during the rest of the morning included 2 Wheatears, 5 Chiffchaffs, a Firecrest and a Woodcock in the Hollow Wood. The first 2 Peacock butterflies were also on the wing as it started to feel like the first day of spring, which it is.

Tuesday 19th

On a clear, calm and initially frosty morning migrants included our first Wheatear of spring at the lighthouse, 9 Redwings, 3 singing Chiffchaffs and a Firecrest. Although overhead movement was slight it did include 2 Crossbills (5 flew SW on the 17th) and 3 alba wagtails that flew SW.

Monday 18th

With a light NW breeze a fairly cloudy morning after a bright and slightly frosty start brought some movement, principally 71 Meadow Pipits and five alba wagtails that flew in off the sea. A Firecrest moved restlessly past the top of the valley, where 4 Chiffchaffs were flitting about, a Bullfinch and 2 Reed Buntings dropped into Fan Bay and 3 Redwings were in Langdon Hole.

Friday 15th

Although the wind remained blustery it was benign by the standards of the month so far. Indeed, if March is supposed to come in like a lion this one has done so like a pack of them, and unfed at that. An hour looking out to sea produced nothing surprising, unless you count the first Common Scoter of the year, but the usual suspects were in good numbers, with at least 70 Gannets, probably 40 Fulmars and 87 Kittiwakes. 2 Little Egrets remained on the shingle in the bay, looking thoroughly miserable.

Monday 11th

Well, that was tempting fate, sure enough. After two days of ferocious winds it didn’t take long for an already feisty WNW wind to crank up to gale force once again. It the forecast is correct by the time we get to Wednesday there will have been gales or severe gales on ten out of thirteen days this month. Unsurprisingly, birding was a struggle, not least all for a lone Goldcrest trying to make its way along the clifftop, and apart from the first Redwing for a while and 3 Siskins it was very quiet. However, it did give us time to finish off some sycamore clearance at the top of the valley, which now looks a bit different to six months ago……………..

scrub clearance 11.3.19

Friday 8th

In a window of calm between spells of very windy weather today turned out to be our first day of spring. Migrants included a Chiffchaff, picking insects from hawthorns on the farm, 2 Woodcock and a white wagtail that flew in off the sea and inland. 9 Siskins flew SW and a Firecrest was flycatching amid blackthorn blossom on the farm, almost certainly the same one that was seen there in late February.

Tuesday 5th

The sight of 116 Cormorants flying NE, apparently from roosting overnight in the harbour, was a reminder that we’re not quite out of the woods of winter. However, a light but steady trickle of finches was a hint that spring is not far away, with 4 Siskins, 17 Chaffinches and handfuls of Meadow Pipits heading SW along with a few Skylarks.

Monday 4th

A late start was a bit like driving in Dorset, with 4 Buzzards between home and St.Margaret’s, including singles in the valley and at Nelson Park. News from the weekend included this Pale Tussock, found in Mark and Lucy’s kitchen, about two months earlier than usual. Presumably a potent comment on the unseasonable warmth of late February.

Pale Tussock 3 March 2019 by Mark Love

Sunday 3rd

Despite a strong SW wind, the hoped-for Brent Goose movement failed to materialise, an hour staring out to sea producing 18 Red-throats, 60 Kittiwakes, 70 Gannets, an adult Mediterranean Gull and two optimistic surfers trying to catch a wave, which one of them managed at least once. Bondi Beach it wasn’t. 

Saturday 2nd

A dull and breezy morning nevertheless brought some movement with 5 Buzzards heading N/NE in late morning and 21 Lesser Black-backs NE along the cliffs.

Friday 1st

The first meteorological day of spring it may have been but this morning was overcast with a light NW breeze and a real contrast to the last week or so. A bit of Chaffinch movement was probably only local shuffling about, but a Short-eared Owl at Fan Bay may well have been a migrant, being the first record this year. Very good numbers of Woodpigeons (600) and Linnets (320) remained on the fields.

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