Sunday 24 September 2023

Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs

Littlestone - warm, dry and sunny, S4 - There was a noticeable change in the temperature today as I checked through the garden moths with the cool northerly of yesterday replaced by a pleasant and warm, southerly breeze that had set in overnight; the first Lunar Underwings in the trap confirmed that the mothing season is entering its final phase of the year. However, we had a change of scene for our Ted walk this morning; St Mary`s Bay to Littlestone, where we walked the field in front of the golf links and back along the beach. Despite the brisk wind Wheatears were much in evidence with at least 20 birds noted, including a flock of ten along the sea wall, and a similar number of Meadow Pipits. The sea was quiet apart from a dozen or so Sandwich Terns and a single Bonxie powering westwards about 100 yards offshore, and my first of the autumn. 

                                          Lunar Underwing

                                 Wheatears, Littlestone

                                  Ted on the beach

Go into any woodland across southern England in the summer months and by far and away the most numerous migrant warblers will be Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps, both normally detected by their distinctive songs, and once the canopy closes over difficult to observe. The diversity of woodland birds, both resident and migrant species, has declined dramatically in my lifetime, apart from these two which have very much bucked the trend and prospered. Population dynamics is a complex subject best left to others, but the ability of both of these birds to shift their wintering grounds in line with a rapidly changing climate is probably a major factor in this success story; lets face it, why cross the Sahara if you can survive the winter in Europe and the Mediterranean Basin. So, its no surprise then that the Chiffchaff is the most widespread and numerous passage migrant of the tribe. Currently, they can be encountered just about anywhere, but last Friday we also had a large scale arrival of Blackcaps across the Marsh with hundreds gracing the coastal scrub at Dungeness. Trying to estimate such `falls` is pretty neigh on impossible but it must`ve have run into the thousands; I certainly noted over 100 ranging from my back garden in NR to Lade and Tower Pits/ARC, while hundreds more were reported from St Marys-in-the-Marsh, the Trapping Area and across the bird reserve. Also logged on that day were a few Common and Lesser Whitethroats, an increase in Robins and my first ten Siskins of autumn overhead at the pines. A memorable autumnal spectacle then, and on a par with the House Martin movement a fortnight ago.  

                                 Chiffchaff and Blackcap

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