Bee-eaters at Littledene

Bee-eater at Littledene, by Luke Dray

Bee-eater by Luke Dray

Huge congratulations to Tall Paul Stevens, who found five European Bee-eaters at Littledene, just West of Firle, this afternoon. I caught up with them just before 6pm, when 10 appeared over our heads before settling down around the trees at Preston House Farm.

We watched up to nine of them there for about an hour, settled on the branches and making sorties to catch bees, in the on-off evening sunshine. By 7pm, several Littledene locals and the first lot of visiting birders had seen them too, with many more connecting before the birds appeared to go to roost.

Ten Bee-eaters is exactly ten more than I’ve seen in Firle before, or for that matter in the UK. An extraordinary, unforgettable surprise.

Sussex purple patch

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.

Cuckoo at Glynde

No sooner has I moaned about it, a Cuckoo (the Cuckoo?)appeared over my head at Glynde Station this morning. Remind me to moan more often.

Cuckoos in ever-so-natural poseAbout the same time, a Little Egret flew over the village toward Glynde Levels, and Whitethroat, Long-tailed Tit and Swallow were all highly visible from the bridge.

There’s now a rather jealous-making account of Saturday’s Bee-eater sighting at Southease on the SOS sightings board.

Apparently the bird was seen rather well (if briefly) as it headed north-east over the Downs at 2.55pm. At that precise moment, I was in Beddingham – which incidentally lies just north-east of Southease.

I wonder what I was doing when it flew over my head? [sobs into keyboard]

Bank Holiday birds

Everyone (in these parts anyway) got excited by the weather this weekend. The birds didn’t seem to mind it either.

On Saturday, a Red Kite was reported over Beddingham late morning (Tony Wilson, per SOS site).

Today, a Bee-Eater was reported flying over Southease (per Birdguides).

Not quite so exotic, but this afternoon a couple of Turtle Doves were singing around Firle – one at the south end of the Pleasure Gardens (heard from the Old Coach Road) and the other near the private road running between Firle Park and Beanstalk. Turtle Doves seem to be rather scarce in the area, so these purring arrivals were a nice surprise – let’s hope they stay.

Also three Buzzards were together over the village around lunchtime, and a Sparrowhawk nipped through the garden just before dusk.