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Monday, 30 September 2013


BOOTED WARBLER at Hope Cove, Seaford Head (Paul Rowe Photography)
Kris Gilham discovered a BOOTED WARBLER late morning in coastal scrub at the bottom end of Hope Cove at Seaford Head and was quick to inform Matt Eade (whose local patch it is) and Jacob Everitt of its presence. Jake then very kindly relayed this same message to myself and the Sussex birding fraternity and within the hour, Ian Barnard, Roger & Liz Charlwood, John & Doreen Cooper, John King, Bob Self, Mick Davies and Jake had connected.
By the time that I arrived from Buckinghamshire at 1300 hours, the bird had seemingly gone to ground and had disappeared into very thick gorse cover. It seemed a hopeless task and with temperatures in the sheltered valley reaching upwards of 70 degrees F, my attention was diverted to migrant butterflies and the task of photographing them. Standout was the presence of at least 6 different CLOUDED YELLOWS and it was whilst I was trying to stake these out that I came across a female LONG-TAILED BLUE, presumably part of this year's unprecedented invasion of the species in the southeast.
The hours ticked by and up to 30 birders came and went. Perhaps just ten of us kept at it and after wandering around for the best part of three hours, I eventually stumbled upon the bird in a sheltered hollow of scrub literally just inland of the clifftop (in fact, in the same place that Kris had initially found it). I called the few others still present over (fortunately including Matt Eade) and over the next half hour, we all enjoyed some excellent views of the bird. It was a classic individual and fresh in plumage with very pale buffish-brown upperparts, dark lores, buffish flanks, a broad supercilium ceasing just behind the eye, a relatively short bill with a dark tip and pale lower mandible, contrastingly dark tertial centres and short primary projection. It remained in this same general area for the rest of the evening, showing at regular intervals until at least 1900 hours. Matt, Paul Rowe, Luke Dray and I all managed to get some reasonable photographs of the bird, whilst others obtained a sequence of video. It had been a great ending to a frustrating afternoon.
I also noted 4 Common Whitethroats and 3 Common Chiffchaffs in the well vegetated valley, 3 Yellow Wagtails east, a constant migration of Meadow Pipits east, 250 Barn Swallows and a pair of COMMON RAVEN, one of which stood on the barn roof on my return to the car park