Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Hope gap again.

I took a different route round the patch today, arriving by bike at 05:30 I went down to Chyngton Farm, where I walked down along the west side of the cuckmere, before going back up past the Coastguard Cottages, to Hope Gap, down the middle path and up the west side of the gap. I skipped out quite large areas (the mast, golf course and harry's bush) from my ususal route but still found lots of good birds around;

The first bird I saw was in the long, overgrown fields below South Hill Barn car park as you take the road  towards Chyngton Farm. A Whitethroat was in a bush here. The long grass and thistles by the roadside never really have any birds other than sparrows and starlings, but today I was rather surprised to see two Sedge Warblers in them, posing well and giving excellent views. In the patch of trees by Chyngton Farm I eventually saw a Garden Warbler, after about 10 minutes looking (I had tentatively ID'd it as this species by song already). There were also 2 Lesser Whitethroats and another Whitethroat here. Along the westernmost path along the Cuckmere valley, heading Northwards, I encountered several more Whitethroats, a Willow Warbler, a Reed Warbler (singing), 4 more Lesser Whitethroats and another Garden Warbler, turning to the pat along the river at the horse paddocks.

Here there were 10 or so Pied Wagtails in the saltmarsh, three or four adults and the rest juveniles. One of these was exceptionally pale, almost Citrine Wagtail coloured. Indeed, at first glance, and with a bit of panic, thi was my first rather nervous assumption, but within  few seconds sense returned and I decided it was a leucistic juv Pied Wagtail. however, having got home and described it to my dad, he said it sounded far more likely it was an ordinary juvenile White Wagtail, a good record for the area.

I had hoped for a few waders walking along the river bank, however all I got was a couple of Whitethroats in the bushes and a juv Curlew on the river. as I was walking along Cuckmere Beach, with meadow pipits all around me, I heard the unmistakeable sound of a Greenshank passing overhead. my first sussex year tick in over a month!!

In the bushes around the Coastguard Cottages, I saw a few more good birds. There were plenty of Whitethroats, a Reed Warbler showed well, as did two Willow Warblers, a Lesser Whitethroat and a Grasshopper Warbler, a bried flight view and perched for half a second but I saw it well enough through binoculars. I saw many more Whitethroats in the bramble patches and scattered bushes going up to Hope Gap, and a Sedge Warbler chattered away in one large clump of hawthorn. I could also hear distantly two Sandwich Terns moving west offshore.

Walking down the middle path through Hope Gap, I saw 7 Willow warblers and 3 Lesser Whitethroats among their commoner relative.  2 Reed Warblers were singing and seen well, and about 3/4 of the way to the sea a Nightingale croaked in one of the bushes, albeit very briefly, and was not seen. It is a remarkable call and one of my favourite to hear! I also saw another Sandwich tern passing west along the sea, about 100 metres offshore. along the western path round Hope Gap several groups of Whitethroat kept me company, numbering about 20 in all. 4 Willow Warblers, in two groups of two, were also seen, and I could hear one of the same Reed warblers that had been singing previously as I reached the top. From here, I walked down the eastern path round Hope Gap, for about five minutes, seeing one Willow warbler and a few more Whitethroats, and hearing two more Sandwich Terns moving west offshore.

My final stop was the patch of bushes adjacent to South Hill Barn. from here another Reed warbler was singing, a Lesser Whitethroat flitted through the bushes and there were 5 Whitethroats and 3 Willow warblers. the final bird seen was a single Willow Warbler, in one of the bushes of the farmyard at Chyngton farm, as I cycled back.

My totals for the day were as follows;
1 Nightingale
66 Whitethroats
19 Willow warblers
11 Lesser Whitethroats
5 Reed Warblers
3 Sedge warblers
2 Garden Warblers
1 Grasshopper Warbler
1 White Wagtail
1 Greenshank
1 Curlew
5 Sandwich terns
24 Swifts
18 Swallows
10 Sand Martins

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