Saturday 4 May 2019

Axe Cliff and Surprise Crossbills

Yesterday morning, although it was clearer than I was hoping, I went up to Axe Cliff soon after dawn. After a short while I realised I was actually grateful the sun was shining, it was a real pleasure to be out with the fine weather ensuring the local breeders were showing and singing well...

Male Yellowhammer with a back drop of Lyme Bay and Beer Head

I was staggered by the numbers of Common Whitethroats around.  In recent years there's normally about six singing males in the area of Axe Cliff that I cover.  Yesterday however I noted 13 singing/displaying males, along with a 14th non-singing bird. They were all behaving like they were local breeders too - so is it simply going to prove a good summer for the species? Has anyone else noted good numbers of Whitethroats this year?  On the other side of the coin though, I usually come across one or two singing Lesser Whitethroats here, but none during this visit.

The Whitethroats were all sat out proudly and partaking in frequent song-flights

This one on a more natural perch

A lovely highlight was a Hobby that flew low east across the fields soon after I arrived, with the only definite 'grounded migrant' being my first Spotted Flycatcher of the year.  Not that it stayed grounded for long - it soon continued west along the cliff edge.

This morning during a family outing I was surprised to hear Crossbills calling from Bovey Down, then about half an hour later watched two flying around above me calling at nearby Blackbury Camp.  Presumably the date indicates local breeding?  Mid summer is usually our best time to see (or more often just hear!) Crossbills, when family groups are dispersing from their breeding grounds.  Anyone with more experience of the Crossbill breeding cycle have any thoughts on this? Could they actually be breeding here!?


  1. Hi Steve

    Your Whitethroat comment seems spot on. I found three singing this morning in some scrubby woodland along the south side of the Stratford Canal in urban south Birmingham. I've only ever seen one Whitethroat along here in the four years I've been doing that walk.

    1. Hi Rob, Thanks for your comment - and great to see this seems to be the case elsewhere. It's about time they had a good year to be honest - great birds to watch that's for sure.

      All the best,