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Redstarts and terns — a May tour in Sussex

Yesterday we guided James for a full day of birding as a birthday treat, and we couldn't have hoped for a better spring day to visit some of the special habitats of Sussex!

We started in the Ashdown Forest, where we managed smashing views of Redstarts, Tree Pipits, Dartford Warblers, Stonechats and Siskins — though a Spotted Flycatcher was more fleeting. Other highlights came when a Cuckoo, which we'd been listening to all morning, eventually landed in plain view in a pine tree downslope from us, and a Woodlark performed its song-flight right overhead! The song of Willow Warblers was a constant feature of our loop.

male Dartford Warbler
male Cuckoo
male Redstart
Tree Pipit (left) and Siskin
Tree Pipit
Willow Warbler
male Stonechat
Great Spotted Woodpecker

We then checked out the amazing seabird colonies of East Sussex, watching Fulmars wheeling over our heads and the Kittiwakes of Seaford adding seaweed to their nest ledges. An unexpected bonus here was a Hobby which was shooting up and down the clifftop.


In the afternoon, Pagham Harbour offered up a Cattle Egret with the cattle (of course), where a few Avocets were feeding amongst the hordes of Black-tailed Godwits. Moving to the Church Norton side, we added Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Grey Plover, Mediterranean Gull, Little Tern and Sandwich Tern to the day list, among others!

Sandwich Tern
Mediterranean Gull

There was no better place to spend a peaceful evening and sign off the day than the Arun Valley. Shoveler and Gadwall were new for the day, while we soaked up the songs of Sedge Warblers, Cetti's Warblers, Reed Warblers and Reed Buntings. A Water Rail cried unseen from the reeds, while a Lapwing flew over and a Cuckoo was audible in the distance.. On the way back, we were treated to the sound of a calling Nightingale from deep in the bushes by the railway — a fitting end to a very fun birding tour!

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