On Sunday 21st woke up at a reasonable 10:00, NW winds had rendered Splash Point completely useless for the day, but I still planned an afternoon visit to the Cuckmere to take a look for some Scandinavian Rock Pipits. However, Ian Whitcomb phoned the house at about 10:30, saying he and brother Andrew (his blog has details and a record shot) had seen an Alpine Swift flying over Rodmell! As unlikely as catching up with the bird seemed, Dad and I had to go for a look anyway. We stopped at the garden centre at Kingston, where you get a decent view accross the floodplain, but before long it became apparent there was no Swift anywhere around. However, we did bump into Matt Eade and Marc Read, both out looking for the damded thing too. We all eventually decided to have a quick look from Southease, again to no avail. Matt called Paul Marten (the poor bloke was up in Crawley, trying to act as ambassador for us and the Whitcombs, as none of us had their phone numbers and vice versa!). However, despite rather spoiling his morning, we did gather the Swift had last been over Piddinhoe, heading strongly South. It didn't look promising, and Marc was especially annoyed, he lived in Newhaven and might have managed a garden tick if he'd stayed at home! We all decided on one final search, at the Ouse Estuary Project. Inevitably this didn't pan out well at all, 3 Chiffchaffs and a squealing Water Rail being small consolation, and dad and I left Matt, Marc, and Geoff Gowlett and Charlie Perverett at the Ouse as they searched a while longer, to no avail, while we went home to sulka and keep a look out over the garden! Still, all part of the twitching experience, I suppose!
At around 2.30, I set out for cuckmere, in the hope of seeing Scandinavian Ripit or two. Immediately noticeable was the continued presence of at least 120 Wigeon in the valley, while also counted fairly easily where at least 50 Meadow pipits and 7 Chiffchaffs. In the horse paddock and saltmarsh the Scandies are supposed to be, there were three White Wagtails among their pied friends. From here on I searched up and down the riverbank and horse paddock several times. two Blackcap were chacking away from inside a Long-tailed Tit flock, but there was nothing else of note, bar a Curlew and a few Little Egret. However, in one final burst of activity, I was walking the horse paddock for the last time before leaving, when three feet in front of me, a small wader burst out from a patch of tussocky grass, flying out over the bridge in a low and direct manner.
I assumed at first it was a Snipe, but it had been very diffiult to flush, and as it was flushed it didn't make their usual rasping call. It also looked quite small for the five seconds I saw it, with two bright yellow stripes visible along its back as it took off. Comon Snipe, when flushed, also tend to cartwheel off into the sky and carry on going until they quite a distance away. It finally occured to me that I had seen a Jack Snipe!! I had been cautious about it at first as Jack Snipe typically fly into the nearest bit of cover and then aren't seen ever again, but I soon realised this was just about te only cover in the horse paddock. I presumed it was an exhasuted and grounded migrant, that had perhaps stopped to feed on the saltmarsh, as winter birds generally pick more suitable habitat! I took a few photos during the day, which i will add at a later date.