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Sun 28th October 2012

Posted on October 29, 2012 at 5:05 PM

It has been my half-term week and so I have been able to do some proper hardcore birding. This is the first October half-term for years that I've spent here on the island, since I have been in Yorkshire, or Cornwall, or Scilly recently. So, with the generosity of my wife I have had three full morning sessions, plus a few other hour or two's here and there.

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Of course, with all these hours in the field I have found innumerable rarities, kicking them out of every field and bush, tripping over them on the cliff paths . . . . . er, no. Not one proper local rarity found I'm afraid, but that's how it goes. It's all pretty random. I haven't minded at all though because it has been really good quality birding and I enjoyed every minute of it, and I'll briefly summarise each session. (btw, the weather on each of my trips out was poor - wet or foggy or dark or hurricaney - so expect a series of very poor photos below - getting my excuses in first!).

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Sun 21st - Went to the fields at Rue des Hougues to look for a couple of Woodlarks that had been seen the previous day as I still need Woodlark for Guernsey. But, as predicted, one of my bogey birds avoided me again. The best bird seen was the striking whitish Buzzard that has been hanging around there, which I first saw over my garden way back in August (see here). It is a terrific beast and when you first see it it takes you aback. A few Skylark and Siskin were flying about, and a very worried looking Grey Partridge cowering in the grass was wondering where the hell it was.

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Grey Partridge - Rue des Hougues, 21 Oct 12 - it looked like a recently released bird that had been "put down" for idiots to shoot at it as it wasn't exactly wary of me.

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Mon 22nd - After a pint in Town, returning to my car at about 11:30 pm, I was astonished by the amount of bird calls overhead. I don't think I have ever heard such a concentration of Redwings, with birds calling constantly, with no gaps between the calls - quite remarkable. Also there were lots of Song Thrushes calling - I'd estimate about once every 5 seconds, and there was even a Skylark calling over North Beach car park. Even accounting for the lights of Town attracting the birds, there was clearly a massive movements going on in the night.

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Tues 23rd - After last night's mega-numbers, I spent 5 hours at Pleinmont this morning from first light, covering every part of the headland. It was difficult as it was a very foggy day, with few breaks, but there were lots and lots of birds around.

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Chiffchaff feeding on the road at Pleinmont at first light, 23 Oct 12.

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Hundreds of Redwings were grounded but not as many as I expected from the night-time flight that was going on. The most visible species was Robin, and I estimated about 300 birds on the headland. They were Robins every few yards along every path, with small parties feeding in some corners - the most I've ever seen here, clearly continental birds arrived overnight. Other birds seen were a late Whinchat, just one Fieldfare and a Mistle Thrush, 2 Black Redstarts, 3 Snipe in the fields, and 2 Firecrests in amongst the numerous Goldcrests. The species of the morning though was Short-eared Owl, with two birds disturbed roosting near the TV mast, then a third bird flying around fields at Mont Herault, the latter showing really well.

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Short-eared Owls - Pleinmont, 23 Oct 12 - these are the two flushed from the scrub by the TV mast (although I could claim them as bustards from this photo I think..)

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Short-eared Owl - Mont Herault, 23 Oct 12 - (it was rather foggy for photography)

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Goldcrest - Pleinmont, 23 Oct 12

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Fri 26th - Decided to start with the Bigard/Corbiere loop this morning at first light. It was very windy today from the NE and pretty darn cold. More or less the first bird I saw was a Woodcock which I flushed from the path by the stream at Bigard and a two Swallows fed over the valley. There clearly was some movement going on as 22 Lapwings came in from the sea and a Snipe shot over, and there were regular thrush and finch flocks heading East along the cliffs. There was also a Mistle Thrush in the fields and there was an obvious increase in Goldcrest numbers.

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Goldcrest calling, Le Bigard, 26 Oct 12 - the jaggedy shape of each call note shows that Goldcrest is quite 'buzzing' call, and the ghosting of the main call at a higher frequency (a harmonic) means that it isn't a fully pure note.

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Thinking of where else might be sheltered from the stiff wind, I went on the Jerbourg, specifically the west-side of the peninsula. One of the first birds I saw was a superb juvenile Hen Harrier whizz over the path. I saw this bird on and off for over an hour as it hunted low down on the cliffs, just above Petit Port beach.

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juvenile Hen Harrier - Jerbourg, 26 Oct 12

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I soon realised that the spot I was watching the harrier from was excellent for viz-migging as the flocks of birds were following the cliff edge easterly and so were often flying past at, or below, head height. There were plenty of Chaffinches and Redwings, and about 40 Fieldfares, and 3 late House Martins fed above Petit Port. There was another Mistle Thrush on the hotel lawn, and a further flock of 42 Lapwing headed off high towards France.

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MPL "viz-migging" at Jerbourg - i.e. looking for birds passing on "visible migration" - not something I do regularly as I dislike the "staying in one spot" that is required for the discipline.

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Chiffchaff calls, Jerbourg, 26 Oct 12 - one of the classic sounds of the late autumn.

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Sun 28th - The last hurrah of the half-term holidays, I spent at Pleinmont and Mont Herault. Again, there was astounding passage, with Chaffinches being the most visible. I estimated 1000 birds moving through during the few hours, and there were a few Brambling amongst them. I wrote down 20+, but it may have been more than that, and I managed to record one as it went past me, despite the windy conditions.

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Brambling flight call - Pleinmont, 28 Oct 12

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Today was very different from the last outing because now the birds were going West rather than East. There were also hundreds of Woodpigeon and Starlings passing, small groups of Siskin, Skylarks and Fieldfares, and singles of Snipe, Merlin and Lapwing were seen. The number of birds was great and I sat down on the scramble track for a while to watch the passage. As I sat, I noticed a group of 3 very small finches flying directly towards me low over the rough ground. Due to their size, I assumed Siskin, but they suddenly turned and I put my bins on one of them and it was the spit of a Serin, with its squashed in face and big, blunt head. I watched it turn away and it had a pale rump patch, which was probably yellow. So perhaps Serins, but nothing definite I'm afraid.

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On the way back home, it started to rain and I popped into Icart to look for the Red-breasted Flycatcher that Julian had discovered the day before. I found it straight away in the patch of Sycamores but only had a few quick sightings before it disappeared. It was getting chilly, so I left without getting a decent photo. (Evidence below)

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Red-breasted Flycatcher - Icart, 28 Oct 12 - well, you can tell it is one at least! 

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Categories: 2012 Autumn, Other Rarities