Sussex is a great county to see birds in, but not usually at the top of twitchers’ minds. Norfolk, Cornwall and the further flung islands tend to command that status.
But the last week has seen some impressive finds between Lewes and Eastbourne. Between last Wednesday and Friday, an Alpine Swift decided to roost on County Hall, Lewes, providing many birders (me included) with their first encounter with this species in the UK. The vast majority of records are brief overhead jobs – a stationary bird is really welcome (although, just to be picky, I would have liked to have seen it fly around just a little bit).
What seems likely to have been the same Black Stork seen in the Cuckmere Valley a couple of weeks ago made a another appearance at Willingdon Level, kindly flying over a commuting birder’s car.
And close to our patch, a Black Kite was reported over woodland at Ringmer last week too. This is, surely, going to be a record year for these birds – dozens seem to have been seen in the UK already this spring.
But despite all the aforementioned stuff, Beachy Head stole the honours, with a River Warbler on Friday afternoon – a first for Sussex and indeed for the south coast of England. Some Sussex birders reportedly dropped everything (like EVERYTHING) to get to Beachy for this bird, which gave itself up only by singing (like a Grasshopper Warbler) and showing occasionally in flight, in the thick scrub of Whitbread Hollow. The next morning it was gone.
With Melodious Warbler, Rose-coloured Starling, Red-rumped Swallow and Bee-eater also seen there in recent days, it’s been a pretty extraordinary run.
But it’s likely to be the River Warbler that people talk about for years to come.