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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

Birds and Butterflies. Seaford Head and Cuckmere Haven. 22.07.22

The walk from Seaford via Seaford Head Nature Reserve (Sussex Wildlife Trust) and Cuckmere Haven (Cuckmere Valley) (National Trust) to the Seven Sisters Country Parke Centre (at Exceat) is one I do often, as the abundance and diversity of birds and invertebrates is great. In the winter Cuckmere Haven is particuIarly interesting as it provides sanctuary for overwintering gulls, waders, ducks and geese; in the Summer, Seaford Head, especially Hope Gap, is an excellent environment for butterflies and other insects. I take the 12 bus to Seaford, and return on the 12 bus from the Seven Sister County Park Visitors Centre.

All sections if text in italics are quotations, sources cited. The photographs are in the cohomological order of my walk.

Seaford Head

The Kittiwake Colony at Splash Point

The amazingly oceanic Kittiwake by Emma Chaplin 03 August 2020 Sussex Wildlife Trust:

They may not look like hardy sea-farers but Kittiwakes spend half the year wandering the Atlantic, making them the most oceanic gull in the world. They only return to the coast to breed and usually arrive here from February onwards, keen to secure the best spot on the cliff face before the busy summer season gets into full swing. Like many seabirds they nest in large and noisy colonies, easily identified by their self-proclaiming “Kittiwake” calls. Many seem to defy gravity, clinging to the tiniest of outcrops on a precipitous wall of chalk.

Male birds tend to return to the exact same spot each year and competition can be fierce, especially when natural nest sites are in short supply. The Kittiwake colony at Splash Point near Seaford is one of the last in the South East and most nest further north, where some choose the most unlikely locations. Newcastle-Gateshead Quayside is home to the most inland breeding Kittiwake population in the world, with 800 pairs nesting on the Tyne Bridge and other urban structures since the 1960s (you can watch some of them here:).

The nest itself is made of seaweed, mud, feathers and grass, which is trampled into a deep cup shape that will usually hold two eggs. Breeding takes place in May and June, and the chicks may still be in the nest during July. Unlike other gull chicks, which toddle off as soon as they can walk, Kittiwake chicks know to sit still. The nest is often on the merest suggestion of a ledge, with nothing but sheer cliff face between the tiny nestling and the pounding waves hundreds of feet below. Fledging must be truly terrifying but once on the wing they will stay out at sea for the first few years of their lives, only returning to breed when they are three to five years old. The amazingly oceanic Kittiwake | Sussex Wildlife Trust

The cliffs on which the Kittiwakes nest

On the path up the cliffs from Splash Point to the peak of Seaford Head, the meadows between the golf course and the cliffs are a rich habitat for butterflies. There were 100s of Gatekeepers, many Meadow Browns, some Marbled Whites and a significant number of Common Blues

Marbled White


Gatekeeper above with wings open

Knapweed, is a magnet for butterflies, moths and bees

Common Blue, on Knapweed

Meadow Brown on Knapweed

Six-Spot Burnet Moth on Knapweed

Gatekeeper on Knapweed


same Gatekeeper as above

The meadows rich with Knapweed and other chalkland wild flowers

Small Blue on grass

Yellow Rattle is also a very popular plant with pollinators

Gatekeeper on Yellow Rattle


Another Common Blue


Buff-Tailed Bumblebee on Knapweed

Female Meadow Brown

Another Common Blue


The same Gatekeeper as above

The meadows


Two Common Blues

Common Blue

Gatekeeper on Yarrow

Buff Tailed Bumblebee on Yarrow

Small Skipper



Hope Gap


Meadow Pipit

Buff-Tailed Bumblebee on Knapweed

Buff Tailed Bumblebee on Yellow Ragwort

Gatekeeper on Yarrow


Gatekeeper on Yellow Ragwort

Stonechat (juvenile)





Wall Brown

Hope Gap - Teasels and Yellow Ragwort

Wall Brown (same individual as above)


Female Stonechat


Buff-Tailed Bumblebee on Teasel

Female Meadow Brown


Cuckmere Haven

Oystercatchers flying into the Cuckmere Valley (estuary)

Yellow Horned Poppy

Dyer's Weed

Little Egret

Egrets roosting the heronry

Another Wall Brown

Sea Lavender

Little Egrets

Oystercatchers and Black-headed Gulls

Whimbrels (passage migrants)

Oystercatchers and Black-Headed Gulls

Sea Lavander


Rock Pipit

Little Egret

Grey Heron

Canada Geese



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