April 2019

Tuesday 30th

An overcast and not particularly warm morning brought little other than a couple of strange sightings. The first was a Snipe, flushed from the farm fields by a dog, and the second a Saker-type falcon that flew NE along the cliff.

Monday 29th

With the weekend nastiness out of the way it turned out to be a very pleasant spring morning, not least of all because a Black Kite was seen soaring over the lighthouse at 0820, initially quite low but eventually high enough to disappear into the clouds. There were also a lot more Whitethroats, with 31 singing in the area, 24 Swallows flew in off the sea and, as the morning warmed, at least 6 Buzzards were up and about. Butterflies continue to be a bit slow to get off the ground, but our first Large White and Holly Blue of spring were seen and a Red Admiral was the first since late February.

Thursday 25th

Overnight showers continued into the morning and with a S wind blowing it seemed a good opportunity to seawatch. Two hours was reasonably productive for this bit of the coast, with 5 Bonxies, 2 Shags, 125 Common Scoters, 9 Red-throated Divers and 180 Gannets flying upchannel, though around 80 terns were mostly specks on the horizon.

Wednesday 24th

In terms of migrant warblers there was very little difference from yesterday, but a few nice additions made for an interesting few hours on a calm, humid but increasingly overcast morning with a few spots of rain. Langdon Hole held a singing Nightingale and 3 Ring Ouzels and at 0720 a first summer male Golden Oriole flew SW from the direction of the valley.

Tuesday 23rd

An early surprise on an overcast morning with a light ENE breeze and, eventually, some hazy sun was a Bonxie flying upchannel beneath the cliff, followed by the weird sight of 2 Greylag Geese flying NE over the valley. 24 Whitethroats were evident and a Firecrest was singing in the top wood, but it was otherwise pretty quiet.

Monday 22nd

A bit more cloud this morning, but still essentially sunny with a slight N breeze. More warblers had appeared overnight, including at least 12 Lesser Whitethroats and 14 Whitethroats, while 5 Wheatears remained in the usual area. 3 Little Egrets on the rocks below Lighthouse Down may well have been migrants, the last of the wintering birds having been seen more than two weeks ago, a Whimbrel was calling offshore, a Yellow Wagtail flew in off the sea and the Red-legged Partridge was calling again in the valley.

Sunday 21st

Cloudless and calm again there was unsurprisingly little change from yesterday, though 9 Wheatears were hopping about on Harbour Field and the WWI airstrip.

Saturday 20th

Another day of wall-to-wall sunshine and more migrants, including 10 Whitethroats, 3 Lesser Whitethroats, a Wheatear, 12 Swallows, 2 Sand Martins and a House Martin. There was also a pretty tardy Redwing. Butterflies, almost as numerous as the Bank Holiday tourists by late morning, included 12 Brimstones, a Green Hairstreak, 3 Speckled Woods and a Small Copper.

Colin Johnson
Green Hairstreak on bramble April 2019 by Colin Johnson

Friday 19th

Bright and increasingly warm with a NE breeze the morning brought a Whinchat along Reach Road, one Ring Ouzel and 11 Wheatears nearby, a Yellow Wagtail, 9 Swallows and 2 Sand Martins. Perhaps the oddest thing was a Lapwing that circled the fields for a while before realising the error of its ways and leaving.

Thursday 18th

A bright morning with a gentle NE breeze became quite warm and spring-like, bringing Orange Tip, Speckled Wood and Small White butterflies for the first time this spring. Avian migrants continued to appear, including 18 singing Blackcaps, 5 Whitethroats, 2 Swallows and a beautiful male Redstart, while a Stonechat on the lighthouse fence was the first for a few weeks and a Red Kite drifted NE along the cliff.

Steve Ray
Redstart by Steve Ray. April 2019.

Wednesday 17th

A misty, calm morning turned up a significant influx of warblers, at least for this stretch of coast in spring, including 31 Blackcaps, 10 Chiffchaffs, 2 Whitethroats, the first Lesser Whitethroat of the year and 4 Willow Warblers. A Swallow, a Wheatear and the first Yellow Wagtail of spring were also recorded.

Tuesday 16th

The wind had dropped to a light NE, the sun shone and, glory be, it was a lovely spring morning. The obligatory first hour on the clifftop produced 194 Chaffinches, 21 Linnets, a Brambling and 16 Carrion Crows flying NE and 2 Sparrowhawks drifted out to sea together at 0645. 5 Swallows flew in off the sea, the first Whitethroat of spring was chuntering away at the lighthouse and, having been subdued during the recent cold winds, 15 Blackcaps and 3 Willow Warblers were in song.

Monday 15th

With an easterly howling along the clifftop it was hardly surprising that nothing was moving, but an influx of 14 Chiffchaffs was unusual for this place in spring, probably involving birds from northern populations drifted west by the E/NE airflow. A Ring Ouzel in Langdon Hole was comfortably the best of the rest.

Friday 12th

In a repetition of yesterday, albeit with a slightly reduced wind, vis.mig. improved with a Swallow and totals of 206 Linnets and 208 Chaffinches flying NE in an hour and a half. The singing Willow Warbler was at the edge of the top wood again.

Thursday 11th

A singing Willow Warbler at the edge of the top wood gave cause for optimism, but an hour’s vis.mig. on Lighthouse Down in a biting NE wind came as a sobering dose of realism. Totals of 38 Linnets and 28 Chaffinches in the hour underlined the miserly nature of visible passage so far this month, although Chaffinches did continue to move, giving a total of 117 for the morning. In the meantime, there were 4 Ring Ouzels in Langdon Hole and some impressive aerobatics from the local Peregrines but the cold wind subdued song from all but the hardiest small birds, though the primroses at the top of the valley were a welcome reminder that spring is out there somewhere ……….

Primroses April 19

Wednesday 10th

After the last three days it was a relief to be in a fog-free zone, though just to keep everyone honest it had been replaced by a frisky NE wind. A few more Blackcaps were apparent, mainly on the farm, and 2 Ring Ouzels and 2 Wheatears were in the Langdon Hole area, but an otherwise very quiet morning was rescued by the sight of a White Stork that spent about an hour soaring about over the lighthouse and top wood.

Tuesday 9th

In yet another morning of dense fog and light rain the sight of 5 Blackcaps in one small hawthorn at the top of the valley got the pulse racing and in the end the morning’s total of 16 was a bit of an anti-climax. Other migrants included a Willow Warbler and 2 Woodcocks, flushed more or less together from the valley near the Hollow Wood.

Monday 8th

Another morning of cloud forest birding with dense fog cloaking everything for the first couple of hours before lifting to mere mist. However, Redpoll (scarce here in spring) and Red-legged Partridge (fairly scarce all year) were heard calling in the murk early on, one Little Egret remained on the rocks, 9 Blackcaps and 5 Chiffchaffs were singing and a Black Redstart was at Fan Bay. Mark Kennett visited in the afternoon once the fog had cleared and found a male Redstart at Fan Bay and a Wheatear.

Friday 5th

Surprisingly, with a SE wind blowing, the valley was devoid of crests, but 6 singing Blackcaps were performing and one of the local Sparrowhawks was displaying.

Thursday 4th

With a SSE wind there was a bit of action offshore, including 2 Eiders, a Sandwich Tern, 45 or so Gannets, 52 Common Scoter, 16 Brent Geese and a Harbour Porpoise. The clifftop was rather cold and wind-blown, but a Firecrest was singing in the top wood.

Wednesday 3rd

A morning dogged by persistent showers, which on the bright side is marginally better than being showered by persistent dogs. However, a Swallow and a second Willow Warbler appeared between spells of sogginess.

Tuesday 2nd

During a bright first hour and a half 4 Blackcaps were singing or sub-singing in the valley and 2 Swallows flew through, then fog rolled in off the sea. Sometimes you just can’t win.

Monday 1st

With not a cloud in the sky and, on the clifftop at least, a scything ENE wind it was a better morning than it might have been. Migrants included 3 Blackcaps, our first Willow Warbler of spring and 9 Chiffchaffs, which are clearly continuing to arrive.

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