Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Southbound

Its been a scorchio few days and I've had some enjoyable mornings around the coast over the Bank Holiday weekend looking for southbound trans-Saharan migrants. Late August can be the best time for numbers, the key being to get out early, first light,  and get home before the bumper crowds arrive, a mantra I followed in the days below. There have been good numbers of some species, perhaps surprising given the settled high pressure dominating. Such conditions often produce birdless days when anything is a bonus. Last Thursday (24/8 ) I went to Start Point. There were good numbers of phyllosc warblers namely 43 Chiffchaffs and 31 Willow Warblers. The highlights were a flyover Green Sandpiper ( not a first here, i'm certain I have had one at Start before ), a fly through Hobby trying to do a fly by killing of a hirundine, ( Swallows must love these guys keeping them company all the way to Africa ), and a Grasshopper Warbler showing briefly but well in the bracken below the lighthouse road. Other birds included 12 Yellow Wagtails, 6 Tree Pipits, Whinchat, 5 Wheatears, Sedge Warbler, 7 Whitethroats, 4 Blackcaps and 4 Spotted Flycatchers. An adult Little Grebe was on a pond in a private area I have permission to look at. I reckon they have bred here for the third year running which is nice.

The 25th saw me at Soar Car Park from where I went and checked out The Warren before going around to Starehole Valley and back via East Soar Farm. There was another quirky wader record, this time a Greenshank over The Warren. Otherwise the highlight was 26 Tree Pipits. Birds elsewhere included 16 Yellow Wagtails, Sedge Warbler, 5 Whitethroats, 5 Blackcaps, 20 Chiffchaffs, 4 Willow Warblers and 4 Spotted Flycatchers. Bit of a fright by the dipping pond where I heard a pfhisss and looked for the source to see an Adder moving behind me almost touching the heel of my boot. I must have nearly stood on it.

On 27th I was back at Start Point. Highlights were a late high flying Swift and a Lesser Whitethroat. Other migrants present were 10 Tree Pipits, 23 Yellow Wagtails, 6 White Wagtails, 5 Wheatears, 20 Blackcaps, 23 Chiffchaffs, 2 Willow Warblers and 2 Spotted Flycatchers.

To round the Bank Holiday weekend  went to Bolberry Down yesterday morning. The Old Portlight has been redeveloped and the work almost finished. Personally I think they have done a good job and it will blend in well, this day and age some awful looking places are being built so well done all involved. As for the birds I saw 3 Tree Pipits, 10 Yellow Wagtails, Redstart, 11 Whitethroats, 12 Blackcaps and 2 Spotted Flycatchers.

All in all I was surprised at the reasonable number of Chiffs going through given the high pressure. Bodes well that they have had a good breeding season. Tree Pipits have shown up well to. Yellow Wagtails have been easy to find though not in the numbers seen in east Devon. Whinchats and Redstarts seem to get fewer on migration every autumn and no Pied Flycatchers seen. Always amazing to think of the journeys these small birds undertake. The Yellow Wagtails following the hooves of Farmer Ansell's Red Devon bulls at Start now may well be walking behind an elephant in Mali at the end of next month.



Start light from the south side of the spine. You can find better photos of this view taken in the 1880's. I will try not to upload any phone shots again.
Redstart, Bolberry Down

Spotted Flycatcher, Bolberry Down





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