Bending over backwards

Dropping down from the car park (expensive and the machines don’t take coins but you can pay by phone – except there’s no signal) out of the SW breeze and onto the first closely-mown stretch of the Fire Hills, we straightaway found lots of little birds darting about. There was a Whinchat on a twig protruding from one of the clumps of elder/thorn/bramble and behind it maybe 4 Stonechats, all of them dropping down onto the scalped turf after insects, joining several Wheatears which were running about or fluttering up with the sunshine glowing through their white tail-feathers. More Wheatears were further up the slope, among the dog-walkers, Blackcaps & Whitethroats flitted through the bushes and in a clump of dry hogweed more warblers were feeding but moved off before we could get to them.

Looking north across the now scrubby field across the top of Warren Road we could see a few more birds moving above the skyline, up towards the crest. While a couple of these were Swallows, at least 2 were Wheatears flying quite high but even at a distance distinguishable by their white rumps. 2 GS Woodpeckers flew over and a short while later 2 again. 2 more? And then down the track another. Although migrating GS are familiar enough here, they’re usually a bit later in the year.

The sycamores down Warren Road were busy with leaf warblers, with both Chiffchaffs & Willow Warblers in song, Blackcaps, Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroats, a Spotted Flycatcher, a pair of Nuthatches, Blue, Great, Coal & Long-tailed Tits as well as a couple of tantalizing poorly-seen birds. Prolonged vertical scrutiny of the foliage, requiring spines more supple than those available, elicited periodic groans.

Out on the cliff-top, several small flocks of Meadow Pipits were passing east (I’d heard my first of the autumn a few hours earlier,from the garden) while a couple of hundred House Martins and a couple of Yellow Wagtails went the other way. Below us on the beach at Lee Ness Ledge was a crowd of Cormorants & GB Gulls and a Grey Seal wallowed in the shallows. Later, on other dry fields, we saw more Wheatears – at least 15 in all.


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