During the last few days the east coast experienced fall conditions… hopes were high for a mega but sadly no major rares turned up, BUT there was classic fall migration. Finding ourselves with a Thursday to go birding we set off up to the great white cape.
We arrived mid-morning and our first objective was the Siberian Stonechat. Walking down to the field near the head where this was in temporary residence we were soon entranced by the vast numbers of Goldcrest which were flicking around in the hedge line. They were busy flicking and ferreting around in the cover and the air was full of their calls. Redwings were arriving off the sea and either continuing inland or plunging into cover next to us. Reaching the field where the chat was we joined a few other birders, The chat was fairly distant along the edge of a set aside strip in the field. It was feeding by swooping down onto the newly growing crop.
We were enjoying this when I turned round and saw a Great Grey Shrike atop a bramble clump in the gorse field behind us. This grey sentinel remained surveying his domain for a good 5 to 10 minutes allowing all of us to get excellent views.
Behind him in roosting in the hedge was a lovely Barn Owl.
Turning back to the chat we were enjoying it again when something made me turn round and a beautiful Short eared Owl had just come in from the North Sea and spiraled over us before heading inland.
We enjoyed views again of the Great Grey Shrike as it was being mobbed by an assorted group of Buntings and finches before it, in typical shrike fashion, vanished.
Walking back to the head car park we stopped by the Bay Brambles and here we had a short wait before getting excellent views of a Barred Warbler as it flew into a small open Elder Berry bush.
After a short break for dinner at the cafe we walked back down the road to walk to Old fall. Once again a constant stream of 100’s of Goldcrest were moving inland, following the hedge lines.
Walking down old fall hedge we reached the plantation where a Pallas’s Warbler was being reported. However here the previous Goldcrest fun was totally eclipsed by the sight and sound of huge numbers swarming though the vegetation! They moved in waves rolling back and forth, with birds flicking and zitting down branches within inches of us, totally consumed by their insect hunting in attempts to refuel after their epic crossing of the north sea. Indeed several tried to land on us! A couple of these at least were the green, backed grey shawl type highlighted on Birding Frontiers recently. A single Brambling arrived calling over us and then showed in the hedge before heading on inland. Redwings were still arriving in off the sea and plummeting gratefully into the hedges.
It took a lot to drag ourselves away from the Goldcrest show and round to the stile where the Pallas’s was reported. Here we had a long wait watching the tide of Goldcrest rolling in and out before the Pallas’s appeared in the corner of the field in amongst the fruit of an apple tree.
Also here were more Brambling and another SEOwl. Walking on down the hedge a “chack chack” in the hedge alerted us to a fine male Ring Ouzel in amongst a flock of Redwings. Round and along the coast path towards the head again and my attention was drawn to a dark bird out over the sea, it was low but determined and resolved into yet another SEOwl heading in off, it passed us still low over the sea and turned in towards South Landing.
Reaching the bottom of the field where the Sib Chat was we found it was much closer and were able to get excellent scope views before the light finally faded.
As dusk fell, Redwings and Goldcrest were still pouring in………