A walk out at noon – the cold rain and sleet having cleared for a bit. At last, a single Wheatear on the rocks forming the sea defence along Bulverhythe Beach. Just glimpsed and it seemed to be sheltering in the gaps between the granite boulders. Hopefully it is finding some food as there were some shore flies emerging in the weak sunlight.
Five Meadow pipits and 2 Rooks came in over the sea and a flock of fifty Brent geese passed far offshore.
Yesterday there was a continuation of Common gull passage but today that had fizzled out yet again.
March 18th Galley Hill to Bexhill 10.15 – 11.30
Passage east of Black-headed gull 154, Common gull 16, Mediterranean gull 1, Brent goose 32 and a single Meadow pipit came in.
March 19th Barley Lane HCP
Black-headed gull 60 east and a Stonechat at Covehurst.
March 20th East Hill
Chaffinch 7 east.
March 21st the cold wind now due north and clouding over after early sun. Between Marina and Bexhill 9.15 – 12.00 Common gull 20, Black-headed gull 12, Cormorant 11 and Brent goose 8 heading east and a welcome arrival of 44 Meadow pipits coming in over the sea against the strong breeze. Also 1 Chaffinch with them and a further 20 Chaffinches passed east.
News of 2 Sand martins at Filsham from Joe Dickens.
The weather has displayed inter-seasonal regression, a term I have just made up. The development of an Anticyclone over the UK at this time of year or even later in the spring can produce some local weather effects, namely a cold northeasterly running across the southeastern coast while in more central and western parts of Britain spring proceeds under better conditions. This has the contradictory effect of making our area colder and gloomier than parts of Britain to the north. Every spring landbird migrants like Meadow pipit and Wheatear make their first arrival in numbers in west or central Sussex rather than Hastings. In part this may be due to the position of the French coast, with birds moving north on a broad front obliged to arrive earlier in the west once they have reached the opposite French coast. But perhaps also the easterly component in the wind on a high pressure system is less discouraging further west in the Channel.
Today a walk on the East Hill in conditions so gloomy that birds had not left their roosting places and there was an eerie silence. In complete murk I decided on a meandering strategy to keep out of the chilling breeze as much as possible while scanning the areas of scrub. A sense of growing unease made me aware that I was being followed… and then that there were other figures, some carrying tripods and cameras. Beside a clump of gorse a tall man with a camera and tripod was shouting in Turkish into a mobile phone.
Suddenly I clicked.
“When is it?” I called out.
“in about five minutes”, a shadowy figure replied.
‘Blast’, I thought to myself. ‘Another bloody eclipse.’
Above. The ancient stand of Holm Oaks felled at the old college site. Demolition work is due within weeks…
Cold weather continued to reduce passage to a trickle until the 17th with the following up-Channel migrants logged;-
March 14th, Marina 8.15 – 9.35 Black-headed gull 38, Common gull 7, Curlew 1 and Great crested grebe 8 resting on the sea.
March 15th Marina 11.05 – 11.35 very cold ENE wind. Common gull 4 and Black-headed gull 1.
March 16th Marina to Bexhill cold NE wind. Brent goose 10, Common gull 4 and Great black-backed gull 2. A single Meadow pipit came in.
March 17th Easterly wind, sunshine and haze. Less cold, especially out of the wind and signalling an improvement in passage;-
Marina 8.20 – 9.10 Brent goose 189, Oystercatcher 13, Cormorant 10, Common gull 10 and the first 2 Sandwich terns.
West Hill 10.10 Brent goose 60 offshore and 28 Chaffinches and 2 Rooks east and seven Meadow pipits came in.
Marina 11.05 – 12.30 Shoveler 6, Brent goose 73, Cormorant 4, Black-headed gull 107, Common gull 55, Mediterranean gull 3 and Great black-backed gull 5.
Marina 2.30 – 3.10 Brent goose 108, Great black-backed gull 4, Common gull 1 and Black-headed gull 5.
Often sunny and bright but with some light cloud and haze, keeping Beachy Head almost hidden. A sharp cold easterly breeze becoming slightly ENE by afternoon and separating the chaff from the wheat, seeming to bring passage towards an end after noon despite the tide coming in.
Brent geese all passing up-Channel in single species flocks and hugging the coast.
8.25 – 10.45
Brent goose 398, Dunlin 3, Curlew 1, Great black-backed gull 5, Common gull 20, Black-headed gull 32, Mediterranean gull 3. Also a dozen Cormorants singly may have included passage birds.
A Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena was seen twice.
12.00 – 13.50
Brent goose 198, Common scoter 1, Curlew 1, Great crested grebe 1, Oystercatcher 4, Great black-backed gull 1, Black-headed gull 1, Mediterranean gull 1 and Common gull 6.
Cold in the SE breeze although the sun warming again.
Some Brent geese flocks passing at a moderate or low rate, I counted exactly 300 East from 8.05 to 11.15 and birds were keeping quite close to shore despite the very low tide. Otherwise 2 single Cormorants with geese, seven Common gulls and a quite vocal Rock pipit heading steadily east, likely to be a departing winter visitor.
Here at Pebsham the sea once came in where Ravenside is today. The Bulverhythe fields were salt marsh. Here today is a very good area of open freshwater marsh and Reedbed. This morning looking at where reed has been cut back I noticed a Water rail preening just beside the open area. After a bit the bird came out, feeding by a lateral slashing movement of the long red bill, turning over quite large bits of rotting matter and then stabbing down at disturbed invertebrates. The behaviour was a bit like that of a Blackbird when foraging through leaf litter in a wood.
Two or three brightly coloured Moorhens were nearby. Eventually something disturbed the Water rail and it ran back into the reeds, narrowing its’ body as it sped off between the blanched stems, pale ventral area bobbing about as it ran.
Remaining cold out of the warming sun and yet again no sign of passage offshore.
Plants such as spurge and dead-nettle emerging out of the cold winter soil now.
Despite the moderate winter spring does not seem to be as advanced as last year. Perhaps heavy rains and some sharp recent frosts have kept flowering times back.
Little sign of bird passage again today during a walk from Fairlight to Hastings. A Treecreeper singing in a hedgerow tree at Barley Lane was viewed closely. Two Goldcrests feeding in clifftop thorns were possibly newly arrived migrants. Otherwise four Buzzards and a flock of 25 Linnets were resident or wintering here.
February 28th Marina 9.35 – 10.35
Brent goose 158, Mediterranean gull 1 and Common gull 3 passing up-Channel with a strong SSW wind and the tide receding.
The cold westerlies since seem to have stopped the early spring bird passage and a watch this morning drew a blank.
At Bexhill Museum an ESCC model of the Bexhill bypass area is on display.
The Road can be seen. Also the extent of land given over to further urban expansion.
Above. Migrant birds coming in over Bulverhythe Beach see the fields and the ‘hill’ created out of the old waste tip site.
Above. White ribbon delineates the borders of the SSSI. The Haven bends quite strongly and the large size of the catchment area and the wetland habitats contrasts with the narrowness of the Combe Haven as it runs south towards the coast.
Above. The Pebsham marsh and reedbed. This is an integral part of the wetlands ecosystem but is outside the SSSI. An excellent area for birds, insects and plants.