Thursday, 6 November 2014

Back the cliff top

After a week away on the Isles of Scilly followed by a few days of quite awful weather, it was good to have a decent day to get out and about. I had intended to walk the cliff top to Kingsdown and back, but hesitated when I heard that a Desert Wheatear was on show at Reculver and a Red-rumped Swallow was gracing Dungeness with its presence. On reflection, as I'd seen three of the former and at least six of the latter in Kent I decided not to change my plans. I set out more in hope than expectation but at least the weather was warm enough to walk in shirt sleeves with no coat. A male Peregrine sped by, and this immediately lifted my spirits.

There were a few butterflies about, and after watching five Red Admirals fly by without pausing I was thrilled to see this Clouded Yellow land within a few yards of me. It's been a good year for this migrant butterfly, and it is pleasing that the weather is mild enough for them still to be flying in November. In addition to the butterflies I also saw two species of migrant moths, a Rusty-dot Pearl and a Silver Y.

No rare wheatears or swallows, but a few Stonechats were in evidence as they pursued their insect prey from the tops of bushes at Hope Point, along the Kingsdown Lees and the undercliff.

In each case, when I found a male he appeared to have a partner with him, although I'm not aware that they actually winter in pairs.

AT Kingsdown Undercliff I searched for a Black Redstart, without luck, but there were several Robins defending territories and chasing each other around. I was high tide and and a group of Rock pipits were feeding around the puddles at the end of the foot path. On appeared paler than the others, but they were jumpy and I didn't manage a picture. At this time of year it is normally quite difficult to separate the Scandinavian race. litorralis from the nominate race, petrusus that breeds here. I will certainly have another look at this group of pipits in the near future.

On the way back I was somewhat surprised to flush a Short-eared Owl from the long grass nest to the cliff top path.
I'm not sure which was most surprised, me or the owl, but I really wasn't ready for it and the light was by now appalling. I managed a quick few shots as it flew round.

At least it gave me a decent view of the underwing pattern, showing the characteristic black tips to the primaries, (much less dense in Long-eared Owl) and white trailing edge to the inner primaries and secondaries (missing on Long-eared).

It flew down the slope and then disappeared back into the long grass.

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