today was my first autumn visit to the local patch at Cuckmere Haven and Seaford Head. July is a time when the first few warblers are moving through, and waders are in full swing, and I saw a few of both today.
The first presumed migrant I saw was a Whitethroat on the Golf Course. walking along the east side of the course I saw a few more, and got a brief glimpse of a Lesser Whitethroat, while walking up through the wood on the south side of the Golf Course, there were 2 Willow Warblers. Around the mast, I saw my first few Swifts passing overhead to the west. There were a few more warblers, 2 singing chiffchaffs (presumably territorial and not migrating yet), a few Whitethroats, two Lesser Whitethroats, and a singing Reed Warbler. resident birds included a calling Bullfinch and several family parties of Linnet, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Blue Tits.
There were singing Skylarks and Meadow Pipits around the Golf Course, and along the clifftop a few family parties of both were feeding in the short grass. The only migrant along here was a Wheatear, a fairly early record for autumn. the pair of Ravens were very showy, approchable down to a couple of metres, the best and most prolonged views I've yet had of them. most fantastic was as one then the other bundled accross the path, dropping off the cliff-face before swooping back up again. At the same time, five Swifts flew past, barely at head height and practically touching distance.
A few minutes later a group of 40 Swifts flew over. I only picked them up (mostly so high up I needed binoculars to see them) by their calls, so many others probably passed high overhead during the morning undetected. On the western path along Hope Gap I saw a few Willow Warblers, including one singing male. I also saw a few Whitethroats, 2 Lessers and a Reed Warbler. down the middle path through Hope Gap was quiet, there was a Chiffchaff, a few Willow Warblers, 10 or so Whitethroats, 5 Lesser Whitethroats and 2 Reed Warblers.
A few more Lesser Whitethroats and Willow Warblers were along the east side, with one Reed Warbler, while more Swifts went overhead and 3 Sandwich Terns were heard off Hope Gap.
In the area around the Coastguard Cottages it was deathy quiet, a few Whitethroats being as good as it got!
In the Cuckmere Valley were decent numbers of hirundines, 50 Swallows, 10 Sand Martins and a handful of House Martins passing through. 2 Green Sandpipers and a Common Sandpiper were in the ditches on the west side of the valley, there were 2 Curlew on the river and a Whimbrel circled the valley several times before dropping into the pastures with a group of 3 Curlew. In the bushes along the west side of the valley were several more Lesser and Common Whitethroat and 1 Reed Warbler, with 2 Lesser Whitethroats and a Willow Warbler around Harry's Bush, and at least one more Lesser Whitethroat noted on Seaford Head Golf Course (I heard two in the area where I had seen one five hours earlier).
By the end of the day, totals stood as follows;
Common Whitethroat-32 (most likely the majority were breeding birds or has dispersed from very nearby)
Lesser Whitethroat-17 (a very good count, especially for July, and a personal record for the patch)
Chiffchaff-4 (singing males, probably still on territory)
Wheatear-1 (the first of the autumn and quite early, though possibly dispersed from the breeding pair at Cuckmere Haven)
Swift-122 west overhead, but probablyt many more I didn't pick up
Swallow-50+ passed through Cuckmere Haven
Sand Martin-10 passed through Cuckmere Haven
Sandwich Tern-3 off Hope Gap
Curlew-5 in lower Cuckmere
Whimbrel-1 in lower Cuckmere
Redshank-1 in lower Cuckmere
Green Sandpiper-2 in lower Cuckmere