The Month in Birds (for Parish News) July 2014

Sussex isn’t a hotspot for rare birds like Norfolk or the Isles of Scilly. And when something amazing turns up, it’s usually somewhere on the coast. So the Short-toed Eagle that has made itself at home on Ashdown Forest is a truly amazing sighting, and one that’s drawn hundreds of people from far and wide.

This bird, the first to have ever been seen on mainland Britain, is more usually found in the south of France. This one turned up first in Dorset, made a brief stop in Hampshire, and then relocated to the heath near Wych Cross, six days ago at the time of writing. It specialises in hunting snakes, so the forest will be lighter by a few adders before the end of its stay.

Not quite as rare but closer to home was a Black Kite, seen at Beddingham early in June. Red Kites are increasingly familiar in Sussex, but Black Kites are still only occasional visitors from the continent, and when they are seen they’re usually passing quickly overhead.

The Beddingham bird was filmed hunting around Mount Caburn and apparently even went to roost in the wood near Coriecollies on the A27. Unfortunately it wasn’t seen the next day. (take a look at for pictures and other sightings from Rodmell).

Back to more expected fare, a Cuckoo calling around Firle village on a couple of days late in April was remarked on by several villagers as the first they’d heard here in years. The more regular bird or birds were heard in Glynde.

The Sedge Warbler returned to the little cut that runs along underneath Mill Lane, singing often in the mornings alongside the local Skylarks. Spotted Flycatchers were back on territory around the village hall / Old Vicarage from mid-May, and a Paul S has the first Hobby of the year zipping through his garden.

A newly-fledged Stonechat was seen in early June on the escarpment at Littledene, proof that this scarcer resident (knocked hard by the hard winter before last) is still managing to breed.

Meanwhile the flock of Greylags in Firle Park swelled to at least 14 birds, with the odd Canada Goose sometimes hanging out with them. There have been quite a few Mallard around this year, but better still were three Tufted Duck on the Stew Ponds early one morning – a bit of a Firle rarity, and beautiful, neat waterfowl.

And that honorary bird, the Humming Bird Hawkmoth, has been seen visiting red valerian around the village.

Those who made it to Arlington for the Nightingale walk early in May enjoyed a pre-dusk tramp and a few bats, but no Nightingales – it was a tad windy. There’s still time for Nightjars though, and there are plenty on Ashdown, so try a warm, still evening around Old Lodge for a chance of them, as well as Woodcock, Woodlark and deer.

Seen or heard something interesting? Email, leave a comment here or tweet @firlebirds.


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