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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

The Birds of Cuckmere Haven on Wednesday 07.04.21.

Updated: Apr 11, 2021

On Wednesday 07.04.21 I cycled and walked to Cuckmere Haven, via Tide Mills and Beachy Head. I parked my bike at the Martello Tower and then walked over Seaford Head, on the beach at Hope Gap and up the west footpath along the Cuckmere Estuary. There are a few preliminary phots of birds on the way to Cuckmere Haven (taken in Tide Mills, Splash Point and on Seaford Head) but most of the photographs were taken in Cuckmere Haven, a regionally important location for birds; not that I saw anything particularly special, but I enjoyed every bird I saw, however common the birds were, and I think I got a few pleasing (yo me) photos. The photographs are presented in chronological order of taking.

This was the first time I have visited Cuckmere Haven since July 2020, as a result of previous covid-19 restrictions. I have visited Cuckmere Haven many times, as I have lived in Brighton all my life (except when I went to university, teacher training college, and six years working in London); I first went in the 1960s when my parents took me there for days out often often including an ice-cream further along at Birling Gap. However, those trips were mostly for sightseeing and rockpool exploration (a favourite hobby of my youth), so it is only recently (since last year) that I have visited Cuckmere Haven specifically as a "bird watcher"; therefore I can not really judge form my experience whether what I saw on Wednesday is typical of the diversity and abundance that would typically be seen on a cold, cloudy April afternoon at low tide. I spent a protracted time, mostly at Hope Gap, photographing the Seven Sisters, these photos can be viewed here: This is not a formal "full list" record, but a casual record of what I saw and interested me, I did not systematically note the numbers of species seen, although I have given rough numbers for each species,. I saw other species (e.g. Feral Pigeons, Rooks, various Tits, and Finches that are not recorded in photographs here).

More details about the Cuckmere Valley (National Trust) can be read here Cuckmere Valley | National Trust

The controversy over the proposed discontinuation of maintaining sea defences, and leaving the estuary to return to a former state, is summarised here Campaign — Cuckmere Haven SOS

Tide Mills

Dunnock, Prunella modularis, UK conservation status: Amber. Close to the east end of ruined tidal pools on the foreshore

Stonechat Saxicola rubicola, UK conservation status: Green. East part of the Tide Mills site, next to one of the tidal pools

Seaford Head

Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo, UK conservation status: Green. Splash Point, Splash Point (famed for a small Kittiwake Colony, I didn't see any there on this day)

Herring Gulls, Larus argentatus, UK conservation status: Red

Rock Pipit, Anthus petrosus, UK conservation status: Green. On concrete "rocks" placed as Splash Point for coastal protection. The Pipit appeared to be eating flies or other small insects rather than the algae.

Staling Sturnus vulgaris, UK conservation status: Red. A small flock (ca. 10 birds) mostly foraging on the grass looking for worms on the slops next to the Golf Course in Beachy Head; some seemed to be engaging in pair binding behaviours.

House Sparrow. Passer domesticus, UK conservation status: Red. A small flock of about 6 birds, mostly perched on bramble next to the Seaford Head Golf Course, some pair binding behaviour noted.

Magpies Pica pica, UK conservation status: Green. Many seen on Seaford Head; these two seemed about to mate

Jackdaw Corvus monedula, UK conservation status: Green. Flying in front of the Seven Sisters Cliffs, photographed from just above Hope Gap

On the cliff edge, just west of Hope Gap.

European Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus. Seen frequently across Seaford Head; this one seen by the steps going down to Hope Gap

Another Jackdaw, very close to the Rabbit above

Stonechat. Perched on the branches of a a bramble bush, very close to the steps to Hope Gap, flying between the bush and the grass frequently, to forage

Dunnock, foraging very close to the Stonechat above on the grass; both tolerated each others very close presence.

Eurasian Rabbit next to steps to Hope Gap

Robin, Erithacus rubecula, UK conservation status: Green. This Robin was singing in a clump of trees a few meters north of the path close to the Hope Gap steps. I heard the songs/calls of Blue Tits, Great Tits, Greenfinches and Goldfinches, but I could not see them

Jackdaw on the beach at Hope Gap

Cuckmere Haven

Canada Geese, Branta canadensis, UK conservation status: Introduced and a Black-heaed Gull (summer plumage) Chroicocephalus ridibundus, UK conservation status: Amber

The first birds I saw and heard as I approached the mouth of Cuckmere Haven were three Canada Geese flying overhead. There were approximately 50 Canada Geese in various places in the Cuckmere Valley

Teal, Anas crecca, UK conservation status: Amber. I saw ca 12 Teal across the Cuckmere Valley; most were in small groups (2 o 6), They were flirtish and flew off as soon as they perceived they were being observed.

Rock Pipit. Tis was the only Rock Pipit I saw in the Cuckmere Valley; it was foraging in a drainage ditch

Black-headed Gull. I saw about 40 Black-Head Gulls in various location in the valley; mstly single birds.

Shelduck Tadorna tadorna, UK conservation status: Amber. This was about 500 m wets of the river about 800 meters up from the river mouth; in the marshes that run up the west side of the Cuckmere. There appeared to be only one Shelduck in the Cuckmere Valley

Canada Geese

Jackdaw and Canada Goose

Canada Geese

Little Egreta. Egretta garzetta, UK conservation status: Green. I saw ca. 8 Little Egrets (the last time I was hear in July 2000 I saw 10)

Teal, in a creek in the marshes west of the Cuckmere, abut 1k up from the mouth of the river.

Canada Geese.

The same Shelduck, having moved about 200 meters north form where I saw it before.

Canada Geese and a Jackdaw

Pies Wagtail, Motacilla alba, UK conservation status: Green. This was the only Pied Wagtail I saw, it was foraging on the west back of the Cuckmere about 1200m form the river's mouth

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea, UK conservation status: Green. I saw I think two Herons, one flew over my, but I think it was different one to this one. This one was foraging in a small tributary stream to the west if the Cuckmere, about 300m south of the Cuckmere Inn (on the A259 road)

Path going back to Seaford, turning west from the main Cuckmere oath, 200m south of the Cuckmere Inn

Moorhen Gallinula chloropus, UK conservation status: Green. This Moorhen (one of two) probably inhabit the small pond next to the oath back to Seaford. It was running very quickly, in the style of a US Roadrunner!

Moe Eurasian Rabbits on the lath back to Seaford

Herring Gulls drinking from a water trough for sheep,

Herring Gulls and Rooks Corvus frugilegus, UK conservation status: Green, eating from a sheep feeder

Rook in flight, with some Herring Gulls

Herring Gull descending to drink from the sheep's water trough

Starling, seemingly eating ticks or other parasites from the sheep's fleece.



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