We set off early on a quest to find the Pallas’s Warbler reported yesterday at Horseshoe Plantation between Birling Gap and Beachy Head in East Sussex.
Neither of us had this species on our life lists and it looked like we had a good chance of finding this bird.
Arriving at the Birling Gap Hotel car park just before 7 a.m., we headed for the wood.
A Peregrine circled over the cliff edge and two Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk were also up early.
We spent some time staring up at the trees at the eastern edge of the wood (it was still a bit too dark too look from inside the wood) but, apart from a few Chiffchaffs, nothing much was moving yet. Up the slope above the wood we heard crests calling from the eastern edge of the wood but couldn’t see a single one.
A couple of other birders had just seen a Short-eared Owl heading over the cliff-edge at height so we decided to see if it had dropped into the gully near the edge. No such luck but there were 27 Gannets flying back and forth close in over the sea - surprising considering the offshore wind.
We spent a while longer in the wood with a few other birders but there was still no sign of the warbler.
Feeling a little less than hopeful of connecting with the Pallas’s Warbler, we headed east to Shooters Bottom to see if any RING OUZELS were in that area. We soon spotted a 1st-winter bird feeding on a hawthorn bush and this was joined later (and very briefly) by an adult male.
RING OUZEL (Graham)
RING OUZEL (Paul)
A few Chiffchaffs and a female Blackcap were in the gully and a male Sparrowhawk flew through low. A RAVEN passed high over calling and heading west, as did three Skylarks.
Hirundines were still in reasonable numbers, with at least 50 Swallows and 30-plus House Martins present.
After about an hour or so, we headed back towards Birling Gap, hoping the Pallas’s Warbler would still put in an appearance.
On the way, we counted 5 Stonechats and back at the wood there was now quite a few birders present.
We were told that the Pallas’s had been seen about half an hour prior to our return, so we staked out the wood. A few Goldcrests appeared but no Pallas’s Warbler.
After a long wait, Paul decided to check the bushes on the slope to the west of the wood and soon returned in a rush to say he had located the PALLAS'S WARBLER with a party of Goldcrests.
We were soon on to the bird which gave good, fairly close but brief views, often darting back into the wood and re-emerging with the Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs.
PALLAS'S WARBLER a stunning gem of a bird that this photo really
doesn't do justice to. (Graham)
GOLDCREST rather a sickly-looking bird (Paul)
Tony Cook (standing at the right of this shot)
originally found the Pallas's Warbler yesterday.
A flock of about 60 Redwings flew over heading north-west.
After about four sightings, and one less than successful photo, we headed back to the car as Paul needed a cup of tea. We then returned to the gathering of birders for another look at the warbler but there had been no further sightings so we decided to try for the Rose-coloured Starling at Newhaven. One of the birders that had arrived for the Pallas’s had seen the starling at 2.30 p.m. but, by the time we had arrived at the coastguards tower at Newhaven Heights, there were no birders present and no sign of the bird – it must have gone to roost.
It was getting pretty dark by the time we left Newhaven Heights.
Having added Pallas’s Warbler to our life lists we were not too disappointed by this.
We suspect that Beachy Head and Birling Gap will have more than its fair share of birders visiting this weekend.
Paul & Graham