Downs and rare crambids

Four consecutive mornings have seen me setting up shop on Epsom Downs to do a bit of skywatching - or vis-migging to be more precise - the dark art of counting migrating birds as they pass overhead. I find this form of birding most relaxing and full of surprises. It is a bit like an inland form of seawtaching as you just keep still and let the conveyor belt of birds come to you. Even on the quietest of days it is rewarding. Mid-to-late autumn is the busiest time of the year to engage, so I have been full of hope that rewards (however modest) would come my way. And they have. The position that I take up (as can be seen in the photo above) looks northwards towards the race course buildings, and gives me uninterrupted views all round, including sight-lines into the dips that can otherwise hide low-flying birds. So far it has confirmed that hirundines and pipits move across the area on a broad-front, with any obvious concentrated streams of birds easy to pick out. I believe that when the thrushes and finches get going I may have to slightly alter where I stand, but at least from this spot it will be possible to see where they are moving - some species like to follow tree-lines and, as can be seen in the image above, I'm not standing by one!

First up, on Friday (22nd) an Osprey stole the show as it headed east, drifting over the race course grandstands. A steady passage of 159 Meadow Pipit, 41 Swallow and 7 Sand Martin moved south. The 23rd yielded a south to south-west movement of 637 Stock Dove, 51 Woodpigeon, 115 Swallow, 17 House Martin, 2 Sand Martin, 9 Skylark, 308 Meadow Pipit and a Grey Wagtail, plus both single Wheatear and Chiffchaff flying above the open downland, purposefully south. The Stock Doves appeared in a brief window shortly after dawn, in low small groups. These birds are, in my opinion, leaving roosts to the north to feed in the fields south of the downs, where I have encountered large numbers before. Hirundines dominated the grey, murky morning of 24th, when 1137 House Martin and 140 Swallow moved south-east. And yesterday (25th) when little was moving, I concentrated on counting the Stock Doves, reaching a total of 1029, before the picture was confused by birds returning back northwards.

Would you like a bit of moth news? I thought so! This morning I was delighted to find a single Uresiphita gilvata in the MV trap - a migrant crambid from the European mainland and quite a scarce species, one that I have longed to see. The images below show it at rest plus an underwing shot showing off the pale orange coloration with dark edging.


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