Chilly in a light Northerly early on. Warming in sunshine later. A sparse eastward passage of returning winterers noted at West Hill before 8;- Chaffinch 136, Rook 8, Carrion crow 9, Jackdaw 4, Woodpigeon 25, Stock dove 4 and Starling 9.
47 Chaffinches eastwards at Coastguards later in the morning.
A Skylark flushed from uncut amenity grassland at West Hill. Two Blackcaps and a Chiffchaff there.
Continuing very quiet.
Looking from the window at 7 this morning to see a Woodcock flying up from the gardens, circling above the terraced rooftops and powering away northwards. It was overcast, 9/8ths with a variable N breeze and very light occasional drizzle. I walked up to West Hill. 5 Meadow pipits were in cover, two came in and a flock of forty Chaffinches went over SE. A male Wheatear appeared briefly in one of the bare sycamores.
Getting the bus to Fairlight I then walked to Coastguards from where watching until midday I recorded 1,390 Chaffinches heading east or Northeast in flocks of between ten and eighty, along with nine Common buzzards, two White/Pied wagtails, 32 Linnets, a Siskin and 36 Meadow pipits. A House martin came in and about forty each of Scoters and Brent geese passed offshore.
Below. Photographs taken on March 17th.
On an overcast morning today I was able to photograph this male of Andrena trimmerana as it perched and preened on an Alexanders leaf. The hind leg tarsi and apical tibia are reddish as is the mid tarsus. The clypeus is black-haired and the genal spine is clearly visible.
Chiffchaffs have arrived in some numbers and single Firecrests were seen in two places.
On March 18th some arrivals when two Rooks and a Carrion crow flew north at East Hill along with nine Meadow pipits. A Goldcrest and Chiffchaff were also noted. Mining bees were flying to female catkins of Grey Sallow Salix cinerea.
A cold wind perhaps just north of west, but welcome sunshine after such a time of overcast and gales. A male Pied wagtail in summer dress visited a neighbour’s vegetable garden and birdbath. Some while ago a female or immature was seen there and I wonder if there will be a nesting attempt. These birds are also arriving from wintering areas to the south, so they may be on passage. Despite the cold, bands of Meadow pipits were seen arriving over the Old Town and at the Coastguards. Between 20 and 30 in total. A pair of Stonechats at Barley, also some Reed buntings and Stock doves continue wintering in the fields. A Firecrest was reported from All Saints (MG).
Despite the wind Mining bees were flying to Grey Sallow Salix cinerea at Fairlight cliffs. There were numbers of Andrena nigroaenea females, flying to female catkins. These small trees are dioecious, male and female flowers on seperate plants. The attraction is the nectar, secreted in extrafloral nectaries at the base of the individual flowers. There also seems to be an attraction to the shoots near the catkins, perhaps where nectar is also secreted or runs down from the catkin. The bees themselves did not seem to be carrying much pollen, so they may not have been fertilising these female catkins.
Cold air again with the strong wind back from WNW. However, a day of clarity and sunshine with little cloud. No sign of passage at Covehurst this morning. However, a report from All Saints Wood later in the day of two Firecrests, a Goldcrest and several new Robins (MG).
The strong sunlight, roaring wind, white-flecked sea and the flowing ghyll freshwater gave me an impression of being inside Nature’s Engine Room today as I walked through Ecclesbourne Glen. As I came up the steps a large hoverfly appeared, feeding on a Dandelion flower. The dark insect, covered in a pile of long foxy-red hairs, proved to be a male of Cheilosia grossa. This beautiful fly appears in March to early April and I have recorded them in numbers at Salix catkins at Rye harbour in the past. Stubbs and Falk ‘British Hoverflies’ notes that this fly can often appear in woodland rides as well as other wetter habitats where the host plant of the larvae, Marsh Thistle, grows.
Another dark insect was a female of the Hairy-footed Flower Bee, careering down out of the wind to bask in the sun’s rays on a sheltered bank.
On March 8th males of the mining bee Andrena bicolor were watched visiting the flowers of a very early plant of Cow Parsley. At West Hill the flowering Alexanders were hosting flies and bees including the hoverfly Meliscaeva auricollis and females of Andrena flavipes. The fly Suillia variegata was photographed, the identification made by Tony Irwin.
Sweet Violet in a display of carpets of flowers at Alexandra Park on the 9th, attracting males of Anthophora plumipes (which had also been seen at Red Dead Nettle on the 9th). Lungwort was in flower in one or two wayside spots. A Nomad Bee was wrestling with a single flower of Dandelion, getting coated with pollen grains as it sought out the nectar.
A watch at Marina 11.15-12.15. The balmier WSW a near gale. Common gull passage continuing and I counted 35 East in the hour. A single Fulmar as well.
10.10-12 A cold strong WSW blowing. 4/8ths but 9/8ths with hail at 11am.
Passage east of;- Common gull 73, Mediterranean gull 1, Herring gull 25, Lesser black-backed gull 1, Fulmar 1, Brent goose 45, Great crested grebe 1 and Red-throated diver 2.
A chill Southerly wind and overcast with some rain. From 10.25 to 11.50 a light passage east of Brent goose 41, Mediterranean gull 5 (a first winter and four adults), Kittiwake 1, Common gull 16, Great black-backed gull 4 and Red-throated diver 2.