Wed 16th September 2015

Posted on September 17, 2015 at 5:50 PM

There wasn't much occurring in the first week of the month, but things got more interesting as we went through week two. There was the odd migrant early on - such as a Tree Pipit over Fort Le Marchant (6th) and the first Bar-tailed Godwit of the year on the patch at Pulias (8th) - but it wasn't until Friday 11th when it was clear that birds were on the move. At Pulias, there was Whinchat, Yellow Wagtail and Golden Plover, with another 2 Whinchat at Fort Hommet in the lunch hour. Late in the evening a single Swift flew over the house.


Whinchat - Pulias, 11 Sep 15

So, with pleasant conditions and a light breeze blowing from in from Europe, I tried Pleinmont on Sunday 13th. I didn't rush there as I wanted to empty the moth trap first as it was National Moth Night weekend (first Scarce Bordered Straw seen for a few years). It was about 9 am before I arrived in the car park which I felt was a little tardy. It seemed like a open-country migrant kind of day and so I started by checking the fields on top of the headland. Within ten minutes I had seen a couple of Whinchat by La Societe fields and then suddenly saw a larger bird fly right-to-left, just above the brow of the slope, below the skyline, away from the BBC field. It may have been in there, or it may have been in the bottom of La Societe's weedy field.

My initial impression was, oddly, a Corn Bunting - with pale brownish streaky plumage, not very contrasting and a clear dark eye standing out. It was against the bracken and gorse and it was difficult to see the exact shape, but it looked quite large for a "smaller" bird. As I tracked it away from me, it landed on the top of a small tree amongst the gorse and I could then clearly see white outer tail feathers - so not a Corn Bunt. I hurried back towards the car for a better view wondering which species of bunting it was, and I was just about to put my bins back on it, when a Dunnock chased it off its perch. It then appeared quite flycatcher-like and I could see a pointy, longer bill. It then flew back round to aother field nearby and I watched it drop into the long weeds.

I was pretty sure it was a large pipit now and I creeped into the field to try and refind it. It eventually flew up pretty close to me and then it clearly was indeed, a large pipit. It flew up fast and away, and did a brief circle of the area, before heading purposely east towards Mont Herault, never to be seen again. Luckily, as it was flying around this time, it gave regular short, sparrow-like "chip" calls, making the identification of Tawny Pipit quite straightforward. Luckily it did call otherwise I wouldn't have been able to definitely rule out a very early Richard's. Due to a decline in records, Tawny Pipit is now an official rarity in Guernsey, so this is the best find of the autumn so far.

I thought I should head over to Mont Herault to see if I could refind the Tawny and I saw Wayne & Mark's cars parked up. I gave Wayne a ring for him to look out for the Tawny, but before I could mention it he said he was watching a Honey Buzzard now! I had been so intent on marching in the direction of the pipit's exit, I wasn't paying attention to anything else, and didn't realise that the buzzard flying around above me was in fact Honey Buzzard - massive schoolboy error! But I was happy to accept this good fortune and watched a very dark juvenile Honey Buzzard circle low around the fields before eventually drifting off to the east.

Honey Buzzard

juvenile Honey Buzzard being mobbed by a crow - Mont Herault, 13 Sep 15

The most common migrant up on the headland was Whinchat, and I had probably about 20 - 25 birds in total. There wasn't much other variety, just a sprinkling of common species.

Surprisingly, on Tuesday 15th, the Rose-coloured Starling from the previous week re-surfaced on the patch at Fort Hommet. After missing it on its first visit, I popped down at lunchtime and saw it well, feeding with a Starling flock in the windy conditions. This species is so regular on Guernsey, we even considered dropping it as an official local rarity last year. Just on a quick count in my head, I have seen at least nine here on the island, and at least three have been on my Hommet to Rousse 'patch'.

Rose-coloured Starling

Rose-coloured Starling

Rose-coloured Starling with Starlings - Fort Hommet, 15 Sep 15

The highlight of the insect world this month has definitely been Long-tailed Blue. There had been a bit of an influx into the Channel Islands of this usually-very rare species, and I had decided that I definitely wouldn't go "twitch" any, I was bound to find my own. However, I almost immediately caved, and with excellent, precise directions from Andy S, I headed for a blue-hunt to Jerbourg Point. After all, this may actually be a one-off occurrance. It was the middle of a hot, cliff-walker-packed, sunny day and I slogged it to the bunker by the Pea Stacks track, where Andy had seen a few the previous day or so. I immediately picked up a small blue flying around the gorse which didn't look like the Holly Blues which were also flying about, but it didn't want to land, and whenever it did, some Ted or Fred would stomp past making it take flight. Grrr.

After a while though I did get some good views of 3 individuals but they never stayed still for very long at all. I walked down the slope a little way and I soon saw that there were some more fluttering around the gorse and brambles to the west of the path in the sheltered side of the headland. Here there were at least 5 more, again rarely stopping except for short 'drinks' of the Bramble flowers. They were quite tricky to take pictures of but I did manage one or two snaps.

Long-tailed Blue