Monday, 8 August 2011

Brighton and Seaford

I'm just back from two weeks of cat-sitting in Brighton. It was not incident-free, as one of the cats decided to have a lie-down in a puddle of motor oil or something on Tuesday night, came home soaked and reeking, and had to be rushed to the vet to have it washed off. And she's supposed to be the intelligent one. This happened the day after Sue and I went for a lovely walk along Seaford Head to the Cuckmere Valley and back.

First, a few photos from the garden. I spent a bit of time sitting on the bench scanning the skies, or what little sky I could see.

The local gulls were cruising about as usual. All of them were in mid-moult and looking very scruffy, apart from brand new juveniles like this one.

This is as cropped as you can get but I have to include it as it's one of the local celebs - adult Peregrine from (presumably) the pair that nests on the Sussex Heights tower block.

The Peregrine wheeled lazily about and did actually come slightly lower before suddenly remembering it was supposed to be somewhere and powering away.

I've seen Black-headed Gulls catching flies before but never one of their bigger cousins. This Lesser Blackback was among a dozen or so Herring Gulls, all acrobatically snapping up a swarm of flying ants or something.

I don't suppose the Sparrowhawk was interested in flying ants, but it kept the gulls company for a while.

I had the BigMac with me too, and deployed it on the Marmalade Hoverflies that were visiting the garden flowers.

And then last Tuesday it was Seaford Head. I was interested to check the progress of the Kittiwake colony, and was pleased to see many gorgeous youngsters already on the wing, with many more still on their nests with mum and dad in close attendance. At sea a few Sandwich Terns trickled past.

The obligatory Seaford Mipit, looking a little careworn and moulty. Several of these about, plus one Rock Pipit down on the beach.

It was a sunny day, though breezy at times. A few butterflies around - these two Common Bluse were down by the Coastguards' Cottages. I also saw a solitary Marbled White right at the start of the walk. I regret not rushing after it for a photo, but I'd blithely assumed there'd be others, and there weren't.

We walked all the way over the Head and to the Cuckmere valley, where we walked a little way inland. Apologies for the bad photo but I had to show you this - ten Little Egrets. Back in 1995, I saw my first ever Little Egret in this very valley - actually 'twitched' it. How times have changed. Also bonus Rooks and Curlews in this photo.

Among these gulls is another recent UK colonist - can you spot the Mediterranean Gull? Have to admit I didn't, until I checked the photos later.

As we walked, small and large flocks of Starlings came zipping overhead, moving from field to field. Lots of juveniles among them, developing spotty tummies as they moulted into winter plumage.

On the way back - a Whitethroat. That was it for warblers. Seaford Head can be great for passage migrants, but you need to get there before the dog-walkers/golfers/everyone else, and Sue and I had taken a much more leisurely approach to our day out.

We still managed to connect with a couple of young Wheatears though, looking lovely in their pristine autumn colours. (You'll have to take my word for that, as the photo isn't the best).

By contrast, two tatty corvids, though the top one is probably the best Magpie flight photo I've managed.

As we continued on our uphill return route, along a path with steep hills either side, a steady stream of Swifts funnelled up the valley. Won't be long before there's hardly a Swift to be found - a slightly depressing thought.

We made it to the top, and then it was the final downhill to the car park. We stopped for another quick look at the Kittiwakes. This youngster looked at home among a tangle of sea thrift.

Even in moult mode, adult Kittiwakes are still fabulous-looking birds.


Phil said...

Welcome back Marianne.
Nice post and some nice pics. I like the young Kittiwake and the on the wing marmalades. Ten Little Egrets, as you say, who'd have thought it a few short years ago.

Mike Attwood said...

Hi Marianne,
The peregrine could be one of a pair that are nesting at Telscombe Cliffs.

Alan Pavey said...

Some lovely photos there, the Magpie is a great shot, that Med Gull was tricky to pick out, it looks like a headless gull at first glance :-)