Saturday, 12 November 2011

A Mega Start on Thanet?

John, Bob, Graeme and I arrived shortly after dawn at Cliftonville. It was still, grey and relatively mild. We walked the short way from the road to the clifftop path, and then found our quarry - a probable Eastern Black Redstart - feeding on the beach below. Even in the gloom, this was one hell of a smart bird species or no species, with just the Black Redstart x Common Redstart hybrid possibility standing in the way (plumage suggests not, but wing formula puts this to bed). Either picking off insects from the seaweed or sallying from the undercliff, it remained faithful to an area of a few hundred yards. There was also a 1st-winter male Northern Wheatear here, one of my latest ever.
Obvious uniform rufous underparts give this Black Redstart a remarkably Redstart feel. Ruling out hybrids is the trickiest part.

throat mottled grey with black as per Dutch Birding for birds in 'paradoxus plumage'

Normally on its own, at one point though it flew up to the clifftop path where it joined 3 'normal' gibraltariensis Black Redstarts (including an adult male). However, at this point, a Woodcock arrived on the grass next to where we were watching. Mike Buckland had seen it 'coming in off', clunking an iron post and hence its appearance of looking half dead, with wings dragged down. Pretty grim stuff, it was picked up where there was a massive, bloody gash to its pectoral. The decent thing was done, and after a successful sea crossing, sad to see such a quality bird meet its demise just as it made landfall.
RIP Woody
After having a typically unhealthy yet satisfying fry up at the nearby cafe, we exited the place and John found a Short-eared Owl flying over and being mobbed by a couple of green monsters (Ring-necked Parakeets). It headed off northeast and over the bay, where the gulls continued the mobbing. Always nice to see a bit of viz mig.

Heading off to nearby Northdown Park, the typical late autumn 'in the mix' of 4 Chiffchaffs (including a couple of brown-looking, non-Siberian yet eastern types) and a few Goldcrests was outdone by a Yellow-browed Warbler that John and I found in trees in the southwest corner of the park near the house. Happy with that, though it didn't show again to Bob or Graeme, we trodged down to King George V Memorial Park to give it a bit of a bash. Not a lot here, except for some more crests and a Chiffchaff. No surprise given the amount of noise created by dog walkers and green monsters. Interesting to see Thanet's scrotes being put to good use - having to wear high viz jackets with not so discrete 'Community Payback' labels on them. They'll probably re-offend and nick some old lady's purse, but at least they picked up some dog shit for their troubles.

Right, so we headed back to get another helping of the star bird. It was still in the same place, and there was a new crowd admiring it. Enjoyed meeting the finder, a lovely chap Barry Hunt, and when things thinned out on the crowd front the bird started performing even better... excellent stuff.
Nice shot to try and get those emarginations... see Dutch Birding Vol 27(3):181

Obvious fringing to flight feathers at times produced a rather discerning panel
With only an hour or so of good light left, we had a fruitless search for a couple of Twite nearby but the remnants of summer theme continued with a couple of Swallows hawking over the clifftop together.

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