September 2020

Wednesday 30th

A calm and overcast start was replaced by a freshening SW breeze and a busy morning featured a downchannel movement of 685 Siskins, 291 Redpolls, 23 Crossbills, 40 Chaffinches, 16 alba wagtails, 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 93 Goldfinches and 92 Linnets, of which 330 were still in stubble on the farm. 15 Redwings filtered SW, 5 Stonechats and a Whinchat were still present, a Ring Ouzel was in Langdon Hole and a loose party of 9 Ravens appeared over the windmill first thing, spending much of the morning squabbling among themselves or upsetting the local Peregrines. At least 40 Chiffchaffs were flitting around at the top of the valley.

Tuesday 29th

A morning that would not have been out of place in the Andes, with dense fog and drizzle still shrouding the landscape well after first light. Under the circumstances it was reasonably busy, with 176 Siskins, 3 Redpolls, 2 Bramblings, a Grey Wagtail, the first Fieldfare of autumn in the gloom and our first Yellow-browed Warbler calling at the top of the valley. Although it remained misty until midday the fog lifted sufficiently after 9.45 to allow inspection of the clifftop and fields, which unearthed a Jack Snipe, 4 Stonechats, 2 Black Redstarts and 2 Redwings.

Monday 28th

Thankfully the worst of the gales and rain of the last few days had moved away (for the time being at least) and although the NW wind was still brisk it was much less cold. Overhead movement was very busy, with 913 Siskins, 244 Goldfinches, 4 Redpolls and 10 Crossbills flying NE, 34 Redwings dropping from the ether, 26 Chaffinches W and 56 Skylarks that got up from the fields and headed inland or N. 12 Stonechats and a Whinchat were along the cliffs but probably the bird of the morning was a Ruff that flew over the stubble and inland to somewhere more sensible.

Wednesday 23rd

It was indeed a very different day to the September we have come to know and love, with a couple of heavy showers on a brisk SSW breeze before it eventually brightened. Three hours of on-and-off vis. mig. resulted in totals of 2,090 House Martins, 242 Swallows, 97 Siskins, 39 Goldfinches, 3 Redpolls and 92 Meadow Pipits, around 40 Blackcaps and 70 Chiffchaffs were in the valley and a Ring Ouzel was found at the edge of Lighthouse Down. The Queen of Spain Fritillary was still showing at the bottom of the valley.

Tuesday 22nd

It looks as if the weather will change tomorrow but for the time being it was yet another cloud-free morning, with a light SSW breeze. Movement, such as it was, was rather aimless, with 300 House Martins circling around the cliff edge being fairly typical. Otherwise, 3 Crossbills and 2 Reed Buntings flew over and 6 Stonechats and a Redstart were at Fan Bay. Best of all, however, were a Short-eared Owl at the lighthouse and a Queen of Spain Fritillary at the bottom of the valley in the afternoon (photo by John Neighbour).

Monday 21st

An atmospherically foggy start with a few Song Thrushes ticking unseen in the gloom, it soon brightened up and movement got under way, albeit a bit quieter than the last few days. 129 Siskins, 115 Meadow Pipits, 4 alba wagtails, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers (in a total of 6 for the morning), 3 Redpolls, 2 Reed Buntings and 4 Dunnocks flew NE and as the morning warmed several hundred Swallows followed and 100 House Martins were circling over the farm. 5 Stonechats, 3 Wheatears, a Redstart and 3 Black Redstarts were mostly in the Fan Bay area, a Short-eared Owl was performing over Harbour Field, at least 48 Chiffchaffs were scattered about and a Hobby was also seen.

Sunday 20th

A very enjoyable September morning in similar conditions to the last few days with the NE breeze having dropped slightly featured an upchannel movement of 328 Siskins, 151 Linnets (with the flock on the stubble on Wanstone now up to 600), 8 Crossbills, 82 Meadow Pipits, 119 Swallows, a Grey Wagtail, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and the first Ring Ouzel of autumn. A Lapland Bunting was calling over the stubble and a Whinchat and a Redstart were on the field edges, with a singing Willow Warbler nearby.

Saturday 19th

In similar conditions to the last couple of days NE movement this morning consisted of 303 Siskins, 58 Meadow Pipits, 60 Linnets (with a big flock of 550 on the fields), 9 Crossbills, 16 Skylarks and 48 Swallows. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew in the opposite direction, as did the first visibly migrating Red Admiral of the autumn, and singles of Cuckoo and Redstart were also found.

Friday 18th

Perhaps it was that the ENE wind was a bit lighter, initially at least, perhaps standing inland of the clifftop helped, but this morning was a good deal busier than yesterday. Birds flying upchannel in two hours included 142 Siskins, 124 Meadow Pipits, 47 Skylarks, a Yellow Wagtail and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. A Redstart was seen again, this time at the bottom of the valley.

Thursday 17th

An easterly-biased wind in autumn almost invariably has the effect of killing activity and in a brisk NE wind that is exactly what happened this morning, with movement limited to singles of Yellow Wagtail and Meadow Pipit, though a Song Thrush flying NE along the cliffs was the first obvious migrant thrush of the autumn. Otherwise, a Redstart was the best of the rest.

Wednesday 16th

A fresher morning with a light NNE breeze brought a fair amount of movement, which is more than can be said for the traffic around Dover which was at a standstill. Birds flying NE included 222 Siskins, 91 Meadow Pipits, 3 Redpolls, 3 Grey Wagtails and 145 Linnets, of which there were also 300 on the farm fields. Singles of Whinchat, Wheatear and Reed Bunting were also recorded and the valley held most of a total of 60 Chiffchaffs.

Tuesday 15th

Autumn stumbles on in continuing cloudless skies, this morning with a good deal of haze out at sea. Most movement was rather aimless, with around 400 House Martins and Swallows milling about along the cliffs, but 5 Stonechats and 3 Whinchats were present, the first Reed Bunting of autumn was at Fan Bay and 19 Siskins flew NE.

Monday 14th

Beneath a gin-clear sky with no wind it was warm from the off, with 54 Meadow Pipits, 39 Siskins and a Yellow Wagtail flying NE in the first hour. 3 Stonechats and 2 Black Redstarts were along the cliffs and swirling groups of hirundines were present all morning, probably amounting to 3-400. Warbler numbers continue to be dominated by Blackcaps (30) and Chiffchaffs (50), with 4 Lesser Whitethroats.

Sunday 13th

For the first time this autumn it was just about worth spending an hour on the clifftop first thing, which brought totals of 2 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Grey Wagtails, 12 Meadow Pipits, a Sparrowhawk, 95 Linnets and 185 House Martins, all moving SW into the breeze. Otherwise, a Black Redstart was at Fan Bay, a few Siskins flew over and warbler totals remained much the same with the addition of a Garden Warbler.

Saturday 12th

It looks like we are in for several bright and fairly calm days and birds are responding accordingly. The best bits this morning were a Hobby hunting over the farm, where a Spotted Flycatcher was flitting about, and a Wheatear. Vis. mig. continues to be a struggle with just a few hirundines trickling through and 4 Siskins SW.

Friday 11th

Calm as a calm thing for much of the morning, there wasn’t much change, with 60 Chiffchaffs and 30 Blackcaps in the bushes and 2 Stonechats out in the fields.

Thursday 10th

Increasingly bright with the merest NW breeze the early focus was again on Meadow Pipits and Siskins, with totals of 76 and 65, respectively. A Stonechat was flicking about on clifftop hawthorns and although the farm was relatively quiet the top of the valley was busy with warblers, which included 40 Blackcaps and 30 Chiffchaffs, along with 6 Lesser Whitethroats and the bird of the day, a Nuthatch; only the fifth South Foreland record in 43 years of watching.

Wednesday 9th

With domestic stuff looming on the horizon, there was time for three hours on the clifftop and farm in clear conditions with a light W breeze. Meadow Pipits increased to 55, 18 Siskins, a Grey Wagtail, 105 Swallows and 170 House Martins flew SW and 17 Chiffchaffs were in the bushes.

Tuesday 8th

Warm and calm the cliffs were strangely quiet until Fan Bay, where one of the local Buzzards was clearly annoyed by something and on the slope up towards Langdon Hole the culprit became clear as a Honey-buzzard flushed from the clifftop and headed off SW. Otherwise, a Crossbill flew up the valley, 200 House Martins were swirling about overhead and warbler totals included 60 Blackcaps and 28 Chiffchaffs.

Monday 7th

In something of a watered-down version of yesterday there were 7 Whinchats and a Wheatear on the farm and, in the bushes, 31 Chiffchaffs and 20 Blackcaps, but not much else. Overhead movement was limited to one Great Spotted Woodpecker flying SW until hirundines started to move around 9, with about 160 Swallows and House Martins flying SW in an hour or so.

Sunday 6th

Bright with a barely perceptible NW breeze this morning brought the first half-decent numbers of Meadow Pipits, 34 of which were scattered about, while a Tree Pipit, 2 Grey Wagtails, a Yellow Wagtail, 4 Great Spotted Woodpeckers and 48 Siskins flew over. There was also an influx of Robins, 9 of which were trapped on the farm along with a Grasshopper Warbler, while 50 Blackcaps and 40 Chiffchaffs were in the bushes and 5 Wheatears were on the fields.

Friday 4th

Having got yesterday out of the way it was a bright morning with a light W breeze and the best day of the month so far. Birds flying over included 4 Yellow and 3 Grey Wagtails, 36 House Martins, a Crossbill and 4 Siskins and in the open areas and edges were 7 Wheatears, 4 Whinchats, singles of Pied and Spotted Flycatcher and 5 Redstarts. Warblers included 40 Blackcaps, 35 Chiffchaffs, 26 Lesser Whitethroats and 3 Reed Warblers, at least 3 Sparrowhawks were showing keen interest in the contents of the bushes and a Hobby was active over the fields.

Thursday 3rd

A blustery, overcast morning with the SW wind gusting to force 6 meant a brief seawatch, which was rubbish, then a spell in the lee of trees on Lighthouse Down that saw 80 Swallows and a Swift fly by.

Wednesday 2nd

At last, a morning that actually felt like autumn! Clear and calm to begin with, the first sign of action came from several Dunnocks and Chaffinches at the clifftop. 4 Redstarts, 2 Wheatears, 7 Whinchats and a Pied Flycatcher were among slightly better warbler numbers that included 2 Garden Warblers and clear signs that Chiffchaffs are beginning to take over from Willow Warblers. 3 Yellow Wagtails and a Ringed Plover flew over, 160 Swallows was the best autumn count so far and 3 Little Egrets were bouncing about on the rocks below.

Wheatear by Steve Ray

Tuesday 1st

Calm and overcast the new month did not bring any real change. Numbers of migrants in the bushes remain very low, 22 Blackcaps being the best, and the only hints of movement came from 2 Yellow Wagtails and a Whimbrel flying SW, 13 Wigeon flying NE and a Golden Plover looking lost over the fields. At least we escaped what looked like heavy showers out at sea. Things did improve a bit in the afternoon with 2 Wheatears, 6 Whinchats and a Clouded Yellow on the farm.

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