Sunday, 12 September 2010

Days of hide and seek

On Thursday morning, I had a couple of early hours to look at Bockhill, and set off telling Pam that I was going to find a Lapland Bunting. I contacted Jack as I was checking the big stubble filed and wasn't at all surprised to learn that Brendan had had one flying round earlier. After about half an hour I flushed the bird as it was completely hidden in the stubble. It called it's characteristic "chew" call and followed this with a "ticky-tick chew". I saw where it landed and altered Jack and two other birders and in all slowly walked to the spot. Although we saw various heads, they all turned out to be Skylarks or Meadow Pipits and once again we didn't see it until it flew. Also in the area were three Wheatears, two Whinchats.
Phil and I looked for the bird on Saturday and once again found it in the stubble field. We did get a brief view on the ground, as it moved to the edge of the ploughed field nest to the free down, but it didn't hang around long.

This morning after a short vis-mig watch at the top of the cliff, with Malcolm McVail, three of us (Phil, Julian and me) walked down the path towards Hope Point. After a couple of hundred yards we came across a Lapland Bunting ahead of us on the edge of the path. It was feeding on the over handing grass seeds, and seemed almost oblivious to our presence, just staying a few yards ahead as we moved along.

I was still early with the sun still hidden behind some low clouds and the natural "bank" of longer grasses at the sides of the path meant that the bird was in deep shadow.

As the sun began to break through it was easy to study the structure of the bird. Compared to a female Reed Bunting, it is bulkier and the longer wings are apparent, making it appear relatively short tailed.

It really wasn't at all shy and afforded close views. As the sun shone on it the rusty wing panel was obvious. When it was fed up with posing it moved on to the field, which was just as well and the first of the joggers and dog walkers were already heading down the hill. The obvious lesson it to walk the paths before anyone else!

Looking back along the cliffs at Hope Point a Peregrine was perched about 100 yards away. As we walked along Kingsdown Lees and Grasshopper Warbler flew from a small bush into a bramble thicket where it promptly disappeared and wasn't seen again, but us.

Autumn Ladies Tresses are just about at their peak at the moment and this lawn, along Kingsdown Lees is a fantastic sight, with spikes of this little Orchid in enormous numbers. I shown close ups before, but singly they are nowhere near as impressive as in their thousands.
As we walked back we got a call from Malcolm to let us know that a Honey Buzzard was coming over. Despite scanning through the very agitated throng of Gulls in the air we didn't manage to find it, it presumably had moved out to sea a bit too far north of us for us to see it. We did see a Hobby, a Sparrowhawk and a Kestrel, none of which would account for the gulls behaviour.

With Raptors on the move it wasn't surprising that later we had a couple of Common Buzzards, one of which came right over us.

As we got to the farmyard the Little Owl was on it's favourite perch. In and around Farm Wood there were good numbers of warblers, Chiffchaffs now out numbering Willow Warblers, but sadly we couldn't find any of the rarities that Phil had be predicting as we searched through them. It is always good to be optimistic. After a five hour walk round I made my way back for a mid-day breakfast, but soon after Phil phoned to say he'd just found a Wryneck at Langdon, above the White-cliffs NT car park. After some searching we relocated it as it dived into a thicket. I retreated and watched and soon I watched move into a small, but dense, hawthorn bush, and there it stayed. I could see bits of it from various view points. It's head and through between two twigs, it's tail under another, but from no angle could I get enough of it for a photograph. It might be there in the morning, when there won't be many people or cars around. As they feed on the ground, on ants, hopefully it will provide some photo opportunities.

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