woke up at 05:00, tiptoed around the house getting ready, left at about 05:30 by bike and I was at South Hill Barn by 06:00.
The first migrants I saw were 3 Whitethroats, a Willow warbler and a Lesser Whitethroat from the lower half of the small copse by the car park. in the top half were single Willow and singing Reed Warbler. Walking down the path from the car park to Hope Gap there were a few more Whitethroats, with a female Blackcap and a Lesser Whitethroat mixed in.
Walking down through Hope Gap was good first time round, with the sun breaking onto the bushes a sudden flurry of activity came and went, with 13 Willow Warblers, 19 Whitethroats, 9 Lesser Whitethroats, 4 Blackcaps, 3 Reed Warblers, a Garden warbler and a Chiffchaff noted. The highlight were seeing the Chiffchaff posing well with two Willow Warblers, a nice comprison between the two, showing how different they can really look in autumn. Down one the rockpools was a single Whimbrel, 2 Gannets were loafing offshore with some Kittiwakes and another one passed east. Walking along the west side of Hope Gap revealed a few Whitethroats, 3 Lesser Whitethroats, and 2 each of Willow and Reed Warbler, while the highlights were a croaking, but invisible, Nightingale, and a fly-over Tree Pipit, my first of the autumn.
Somewhere along here I saw Matt Eade and Bob Self ahead of me, and caught up with them at the top of the path through Hope Gap. I walked back down with them, hoping a tape recorder might lure out some more birds, but in the end saw mostly the same birds as before, along with another Nightingale croaking away.
after this followed a virtually birdless walk along to the Coastguard Cottages. a few Whitethroats, 2 Lessers and a Willow warbler the 'highlights'. However, there was a nice Silver-spotted Skipper, which Matt got some brilliant photos of, and which are probably on his blog by now. Once we reached the Cuckmere, with 3 Wheatear, a Ringed plover and a Dunlin(looking for all the world like a Broad-billed Sandpiper!) there to greet us, we went our separate ways, Matt and Bob back to the car park and me along the Cuckmere. 1 Lesser Whitethroat and 1 Reed Warbler, in bushes running down one of the drainage ditches, broke the monotomy, but it started getting interesting again along the west side of the valley. In the bushes along here were a handful of Whitethroats, 7 Lesser Whitethroats, 9 Willow warblers and 3 Reed warblers, while on the walk I could hear at least 2 Sandwich Terns distantly over the sea. One of the Lesser Whitethroats was incredibly close, I was eye-to-eye with it, at almost touching distance, for a few seconds, although they dragged out into eternity. I could see the bright white eyering and the beady black eye in minute detail.
Here I realised that, almost without trying, I had racked up a total of 21 Lesser Whitethroats!! i was tempted to narrow it down a little and take a few off to make my total more 'realisitic' but that 21 was a bare minimum, on the walk I had 10 or so other quick views of possible birds and brief tacking from bushes that I couldn't confirm, so perhaps as many as 30 Lesser's were in the area!
Harry's Bush was dead other than a Willow warbler and a female Blackcap, but up on the mast were 7 Willow warblers, 3 Whitethroats, another Reed Warbler and the star bird of the day, a juvenile Whinchat. At first I could clearly see it was a chat, but equally, that it didn't look like a stonechat. If I could have remembered to look at the tail when it flew, I could have saved a bit of time (20 minutes scouring the bushes for the damn elusive creature!), but the short tail, plumpness, obvious supercilium, buffish breast and that much cuter expression than a Stonechat left me happy to have found Seaford Head's first Whinchat of the autumn.
the totals were
33 Willow Warbler
21 Lesser Whitethroat (a record count for me)
11 Reed Warbler (also a record count)
1 Garden Warbler
1 Tree Pipit(sussex yeartick 157)
1 Whinchat(sussex yeartick 158)
1 Ringed Plover