Today was one of those rare days. Setting off at 5 a.m., we headed straight for Cuckmere Haven in East Sussex to see the adult male Red-footed Falcon that had been present for a couple of days. Parking at the Golden Galleon pub, we headed down the west side of the valley and located the bird just before the Coastguard Cottages. A couple of birders were already present and were able to approach the bird, which was perched on a fence post, to within a few feet. It soon flew down on to the field and gave us superb views.
Adult male RED-FOOTED FALCON (Graham)
Adult male RED-FOOTED FALCON (Paul)
(VIDEO) Adult male RED-FOOTED FALCON (Paul)
Not much else of note was in the area, apart from a lone Fulmar out to sea, so we headed back along the river, noting six Little Egrets on the way.
Neither of us had Turtle Dove on our year lists so we then headed for Arlington Reservoir, a few miles inland. I had seen them there last year, but their scarcity this year didn't fill us with much hope of locating any.
A Common Tern was over the reservoir, a Treecreeper by the wooded path and a Little Egret was on the bank near the bird hide. We made our way to the river and then headed towards the sewage treatment works. A dove flew into a distant tall tree in front of us and, sure enough, we had added Turtle Dove to our lists. A Grey Wagtail and two Garden Warblers were also in the area.
TURTLE DOVE (Paul)
Onwards to Pett Level where, apart from yet another Little Egret, a couple of Common Terns and a Curlew, little was present.
Rye Harbour LNR was our next stop and it was pleasing to see five Little Terns present. Very realistic plastic decoy Little Terns have been installed on the shingle and these were having the desired effect, attracting the birds to settle in the area. It was difficult to tell which were decoys and which were the real thing, waiting for the birds to move was the only certain way to tell.
Around a dozen Avocets, loads of Mediterranean Gulls, Common and Sandwich Terns, Redshanks and Oystercatchers, with a few Turnstones, a Little Egret and, best of all, a superb, though distant, summer-plumaged Spotted Redshank.
At Castle Water viewpoint, a Cetti's Warbler was calling though remained hidden in the bushes.
MEDITERRANEAN GULL (Graham)
LITTLE TERN - decoy on left (Graham)
SPOTTED REDSHANK (Paul)
Leaving Rye, we headed over the border into Kent and to Dungeness. We decided to try to see the Purple Herons so headed along the Dengemarsh Road to the little bridge overlooking the Dengemarsh Flood. A pair of Marsh Harriers were quartering the area and two Cuckoos were seen flying and interacting together. Suddenly Paul indicated he was on to a Bittern and we had some pretty good views for several minutes before the bird flew off over the reeds.
Male MARSH HARRIER (Graham)
Giving up on the Purple Herons, we headed for the hide at the Hanson-ARC Pit but there was not much of interest on show but as we headed back towards the car park, 4 Curlews flew over and a Hobby was seen hunting.
We then walked over to Boulderwall Farm at the entrance to the main reserve. We could hear partridges calling, and a few minutes wait resulted in three Red-legged Partridges showing. Just above one bird, perched on a dead bush, was a smallish raptor. Certainly not a Hobby, and closer inspection revealed it to be a first-summer male Red-footed Falcon. Incredible to see two birds in one day. Apparently, this bird had been variously reported today as being a Hobby, a female, and a first-summer male Red-footed Falcon.
First-summer male RED-FOOTED FALCON (Paul)
(VIDEO) First-summer male RED-FOOTED FALCON (Paul)
RED-LEGGED PARTRIDGE (Paul)
We were joined by a birder who had travelled down from Manchester to see the Purple Herons and he informed us that we had been looking for them at the wrong point along the Dengemarsh Road. We followed him in the car and were soon enjoying views of one Purple Heron in flight. Talking to another gentleman present, he said that the first attempt at raising young had failed but the birds were now nest-building again, so there is still hope that they will succeed. This information may not be correct though, as the RSPB's website states that hatching was successful and the adults are feeding young. As one bird was back and forth regularly, it is highly likely that the latter information is correct.
The RSPB state on their website "In order to allow people to enjoy this historic wildlife moment, we are setting up a viewing station, with staff on hand to help visitors spot the birds. The Purple Heron Date with Nature starts this Saturday (26 June) and runs through until Sunday 4 July from 11am to 4pm daily. For more information please see our events page."
All attempts to get a digiscoped shot of the heron in flight failed dismally as a stiff breeze was now blowing and digiscoping flying birds is normally a pretty hopeless task anyway.
PURPLE HERON (Graham)
Several Yellow Wagtails were in the field near the road.
Certainly a day full of good birds and one that will stick in our memories for some time.
Paul & Graham