Wednesday, 13 April 2011

a warbler quartet, and corn buntings abounding

It was a dull, dreary and uninspiring day today, but with hard graft, a bit of luck and a willingness to exercise enough birds were seeen to make the four-mile round walk worthwhile...

I walked up through Seaford to Blatchington Golf Course. Almost the first bird I saw was a good one, a Peregrine that drifted over the house. We see them regularly but they are always a great sight to see from your own garden. Along Firle Road, a small amount more birdlife was noted, including singing Chiffchaff and Blackcap and a calling Goldcrest.
However, these Spanish Bluebells aren't such a welcome sight. They are distinguished from our own by their stalk, which is straight (English bluebells have a curved stalk which causes the flowers to droop). Due to Spanish bluebells having dominant genes over English ones, any cross-pollination effectively wipes out the genes of our own bluebells, meaning that, in areas where the two occur side-by-side, Spanish Bluebells are slowly but surely takin over.
Plenty of resident birds were singing in Seaford, along with the two migrant warblers. I heard all the ususal suspects, including quite a lot of Blackbirds and Robins. However, insects were very hard to come by with the cold temperatures and lack of sun. A few Buff-tailed Bumblebees were as good as it got, I didn't see a single Butterfly the entire walk!

Collared Dove and Robin. Unfortunately the light was pretty bad for
 The first bird I saw on Blatchington Golf Course was a showy male Blackcap in the blackthorn clump by the entrance. Walking accross the rest of the Golf Course there were plenty more singing Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. Exploring the golf course fairly thoroughly, I saw and heard 14 of the former and 13 of the latter. Among them where two Willow Warblers(identified by their wing-flicking habits), and I heard, just once, the scolding alarm call of a Whitethroat. A Jay was a good sighting for the time of year, and I heard two separate Green Woodpeckers. However, other wildlife of note was once again very restricted, to just a handful of Buff-tailed and Red-rumped Bumblebees respectively.

Chiffchaff, with a bit of digital retouching to disguise how awful the lighting was
From here, I had a look around Greenway Bottom. In total on the downs here, I saw 13 Chiffchaff, 8 Blackcap, 6 Whitethroat and 5 Willow Warbler. There was also a pair of Bullfinches and a Buzzard, and in the long grass all around I could hear the impossibly thin squeaks of small Voles, Shrews and the like going about their business...
However, the stars were undoubtedly the Corn Buntings. A declining downland bird, Greenway Bottom is now the only reliable area I know to see them breeding locally. There was just one singing male, but a flock of 20 individuals were present too, though difficult to pin down. I'm hoping some of these may also be tempted to stay put and breed.

To top it off, I saw another flock of 15 Corn Buntings in the stubble on Cradle Hill. At least one male also held territory around here last year, so I'm hopeful this might be another area they could breed in. That made 36 in total, a very good total for such a scarce bird, and definitely one of the strongest local populations. With sightings of this and Bullfinch, another scarce and declining farmland bird, plus my first returning Whitethroats of the year, this was a fairly good walk all in all.

In the end, I amassed totals of 27 Chiffchaff, 23 Blackcap and seven each of Whitethroat and Willow Warbler, along with 36 Corn Bunting, 2 Bullfinch and a Jay. 
record shot of a singing male Corn Bunting, this was also digitally enhanced when I got home


  1. I'm enjoying the new style.:-)
    Those damn Spanish Bluebells get everywhere. Francis Drake would have sorted them out! Your lucky to have the Corn Buntings. They are more or less extinct in Northumberland now. I haven't seen a Whitethroat this year yet, so must get looking and listening. Cheers.

  2. nice photos :)