Autumn migration watch

The annual Friends of Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve  Autumn Migration walk, expertly lead as always by Andrew Grace, started at 8 am after another wet night.  Those who braved the weather-12 in all-were treated to one of our best autumn watches, as the weather speedily inproved. It was clear that birds were arriving just where we were, at low level, then heading along the coast in either direction, giving everyone a chance to see and hear groups of Siskins, Goldfinches and Linnets at close range, and experience a heavy passage of Swallows. The Jay movement was the best so far:

Firehills 0800-1015:

Jay 65 W in groups of up to 20, Meadow Pipit 40 W, Goldfinch 140 W 340 E, Siskin 150 E, Redpoll 13 W, Chaffinch 60, Brambling 1, Linnet 50 E, Swallow 1700 W, House Martin 300 W, Sand Martin 1W, Pied Wagtail 25 W, Greenfinch 4, Reed Bunting 3, Starling 15 W, Goldcrest 9, Chiffchaff 6, Blackcap 3,

Rook 1, Yellowhammer pair.

[A late addition for Oct 5-a wet and windy early morning again:West St Leonards 8.50-9.50  AG
Some passage West noted of Pied wagtail 2, Meadow pipit 42, Swallow 8 and Chaffinch 20.
4 Chiffchaffs





Hastings Autumn migration watch

The first decent weather for several days


White Rock 7.00-8.20
Passage W of Pied/White wagtail 6, Meadow pipit 28, Swallow 80, House martin 145, Chaffinch 28, Brambling 2, Linnet 2, Siskin 7 and Jay 1.
13 Chiffchaffs, 1 Goldcrest, 3 Wheatears and 9 Robins.

Gensing Gardens 8.55
5 Chiffchaffs.

Central St leonards 9.00 onwards during morning.
occasional notes of birds passing W of Great spotted woodpecker 1, Jay 14, Siskin f20 and Chaffinch 6.


AP Fairlight-Hastings through HCPNR 0700-0920:

Redpoll 8E, Siskin 60 E, Brambling 3W, Reed Bunting over high 8, Linnet E20 W20, Greenfinch E1, Chaffinch E 30, Goldfinch 85 E, Grey Wagtail E1, Pied Wagtail W10, Tree Pipit in/W 3, Meadow Pipit W 20 Curlew in off sea and inland over Fairlight 2, House Martin W 190, Swallow W 120, Sand Martin W1, Jay 5W along cliffs.

Chiffchaff 38, Blackcap 22, Goldcrest 15, Wheatear 1, Redstart 1, Skylark 2, Song Thrush 3.

These are the first Bramblings of the winter.



Moth trapping update

This year has been characterised by long periods when the weather was too bad to put out a moth trap, and due to incessant wind and rain I’ve done no trapping since Sept 21st. In fact the only time I did try, rain caused an electrical fault in my garden trap, speedily repaired by Watkins and Doncaster at Hawkhurst.

However I’ve been able to get all the records up to date [and backed up just in time for a hard-drive failure], while I was gratified to learn from Colin Pratt, Sussex moth recorder, that my garden record of Azalea Leaf Miner on Sept 16 [posted here] was the first Sussex record east of Eastbourne.

But I did manage to see a moth today while walking a gloomy path in the Country Park- a Common Marbled Carpet, a common species which comes in a variety of colours, this orange banded one being perhaps the nicest.

Common Marbled Carpet HCPNR

RX Birdrace

Sept 22 saw the occasion of the second RX birdrace, in which teams compete to record the most bird species within the Hastings-Dungenees area, and raise funds for RSPCA Mallydams wood and Rye Harbour NR.

Last year our team,” The Pett levellers” , were joint winners with 104 species, though we claimed the moral high ground because we did it all on foot.  This year , with almost the same team, now known as “Slow but Sure “, set off again at 0630 with some relief after  much planning of routes and logistics.

We spent the first few hours within Hastings Country Park NR, and  it soon became apparent that this was the quietest day for autumn migration so far, a real struggle. We managed a Wheatear and a Stonechat, there had clearly been a “fall” of Blackcaps, but very little visible migration. We easily got Yellowhammer, a HCPNR speciality and the only ones seen anywhere on the day, but  failed on some  easy woodland species. A change of scene was needed, so we headed inland,

A long way to go- looking E from above Fairlight

through Stonelink wood [Marsh Tit], up to Pett Church and down into the Pannel Valley [Water Rail, Marsh Harrier]. joining the Military Canal, we passed Carters Flood [the only Snipe], and arrived at the a beach after six and a half hours walking. Here we were met by Judith Dean with  splendid lunch of Pasta Bake and Chocolate cake, and watched the first Brent Geese of the winter fly past.

As expected, birds got easier now we were by the sea, and we were pleased to see the Spoonbill which arrived yesterday on Pett pools, together with a Ruff and various wildfowl. After that, a brisk walk along Winchelsea beach produced a nice Arctic Skua harrying terns, after admiring that we pressed on along a complicated route through Rye Harbour NR. After a dismal autumn for waders it was nice to see a Wood Sandpiper with Greenshanks and a late Little Ringed Plover; the long staying Eider was at the river mouth.

After picking up a few more waders, and the day’s only Reed Warbler, we had just enough time to race down to the Bittern viewpoint, where it was nice to sit down after 12 hours and about 15 miles walking.  Here, everything fell into place and we got Cettis Warbler [silent everywhere else], Barn Owl and some Bearded Tits, before being collected by Judith and Jill and driven back to Mallydams.

Here, after a meal of Jacket spuds and more cake, the teams scores were collated on a spreadsheet, projected for all to see -the results   of a  hard days birding in RX land. A total of 128 species were seen, of which we again saw 104 -but this time it was the winning total by 1 species [perhaps that was feral pigeon, which we failed to see last year !].

Slow but Sure: Tim, Mike, Martyn, Cliff, Alan

A pleasant evening concluded with  a raffle where everybody won a donated prize, and a decision to do it again next year…

Hard to Swallow !

I’ve been trying to get a decent picture of a gull eating a starfish at Fairlight Cove for ages, but they won’t allow a close approach. I was pleased to find this Herring Gull on the harbour arm at Hastings today, trying to deal with a less than fresh example. It seemed to have hardened and despite a lot of attempts it wouldn’t fit down the gull’s throat. Eventually it flew off with it, pursued by an optimistic juvenile.

Country Park Moths

Last night was unusually calm, and dawn was overcast and milder than of late-promising conditions for moth trapping in Hastings Country Park NR.

Despite this, on first glance the trap seemed to contain just a few Craneflies and  a Caddis Fly. However on lifting off the top, the moths were all hiding in amongst the boxes, a modest total of 14 species. These were mostly “brown jobs”-common ones like Setaceous Hebrew Character and Large Yellow Underwing, but there were three characteristic autumn species too. These were a Lunar Underwing, which I catch quite a lot of in Fairlight, though not as yet this year, and singles of Autumnal Rustic and Brindled Green.

I’ve not caught either of these in my garden trap, and the Brindled Green, a little beauty, was new to the Country Park list. The picture of the Rustic shows the effects of wear- it’s easy to identify using the right wing, but would be less so if both were worn like the left one.

Moths update

Moth trapping continues, with my Fairlight garden trap currently providing more interest than the more powerful one in Hastings Country Park NR. The last session there did produce one new species for the reserve: Beautiful Plume, also The Mallow, not new but I’ve not caught this in Fairlight.

The garden trap produced three new species in two sessions- probably the smallest moth I’ve ever caught , the 5mm Azalea Leaf Miner, too small for my camera really, and, this morning,  two autumn macro-moths; Centre-barred Sallow and a very smart Frosted Orange.  It was also nice to glimpse from our kitchen window last evening the only Hummingbird Hawk Moth Ive seen this year, as usual attracted to Verbena bonariensis , as pictured here.