The winds this autumn had not been kind to the seawatcher and so a sudden northerly shift on a Sunday afternoon meant that I gave it a shot from the rocks at Jaonneuse on 23rd September. Afternoon seawatches are pretty rare here, as passage isn’t usually good enough for people to do an “all-dayer” and why wouldn’t you go out birding in the morning first if you could? But the sudden change today and the rain stopping meant I gave it a go between half-one and half-four. It was really good with birds regularly going past. I had 30 Arctic Skuas and 14 Bonxies, a few inside the reef, and a tantalising pale, greyish, long-tailed-a-like which I got onto too late. Sooty Shearwaters were going past far out with 21 recorded, plus about 13 Manxies. Commic Tern flocks passed with regularity totalling about 170 birds. A really nice seawatch, a pity nothing rare was nailed.
During the working week, passage birds were regularly recorded on the patch’s headlands between 24th and 28th. There were at least 3 Whinchat, the first Grey Wagtail, a Firecrest, a couple of Common Sandpipers and 2 juvenile Common Terns past Pulias. I also had a large hawker dragonfly flying round the pond one afternoon which I hoped was a rarity but turned out to be just a very late Emperor from photos. A Greenshank spent a few days at Pulias Pond and wasn’t scared off at the first sign of a dog-walker, unlike most waders which drop into the pond. I was pleased with the photo of it below, perched on a dark rock above the flat calm water, flanked by two Redshanks, which I titled “King of the Shanks”.
On the last day of September I went up to Pleinmont and started off with an early morning Barn Owl hunting the fields at Mont Herault. Apart from a few Skylarks there wasn’t a great deal else over that side so I made my way back to the Societe seed fields where both Corn and Ortolan Bunting had been seen the previous day. A few other birders were around and we ‘worked’ the crop field and saw what we all thought was the Corn Bunting fly out and into the top field. We went up to that field and saw it fly past again and again thought it was the Corn Bunting, and were pretty happy with it. I decided to try the valleys but came up with nothing new apart from a flyover Green Sandpiper and a couple of Siskins.
Returning to the seed fields, people were still looking for the buntings and, again we had a bird fly up which we were thinking was the Corn Bunting again but it perched up distantly on top of a weed this time, and I took a couple of snaps, and it wasn’t the Corn after all, but was an Ortolan. After confirming the ID of this bird, I now couldn’t be sure that we had Corn Bunt earlier, as it gave a similar appearance in flight - looking pale and plain faced in the bright light. Whilst we were scanning the field we saw a Merlin motor past at the bottom of the field, probably a juvenile male from the miniature size.
The first week of October was typically quite quiet on the island, but I had the odd migrant on the patch. The Greenshank was still at Pulias where I had a late Willow Warbler on 11th. A Redstart and Firecrest were present at Fort Hommet on the 9th. Moth trapping conditions were not good in this period but on 5th I managed both Vestal and Blair’s Mocha in the trap.
Best thing of the week was a species I’d been wanting to see for ages - a Devil’s Coach Horse Beetle, walking along the grass path by Pulias lower car park. What a chunky brute it was, rearing up at me when I crouched down to see it. Didn’t manage to get my camera on it before it hid in the vegetation. They are clearly pretty rare here or I’d have seen one before now, and looking at the database there is only one or two official records on the island. Most reported Devil’s Coach Horses seem to be similar but slightly smaller species.