May – October 2016

I walked the escarpment in Firle this afternoon with Paul S, and we didn’t find a single summer migrant. That means it’s truly late autumn, and past time to blog my first six months in Hailsham.

Highlights have included a few surprise records in town (Red Kite, HobbyPeregrine, Yellow Wagtail), and getting familiar with White Dyke & Down Level, the patch of Pevensey Levels just to the south-west of Hailsham. Just a handful of visits there since May have yielded birds including: Marsh HarrierRuff, Greenshank, Jack Snipe, Hobby (including a gathering of 14+ in May), Yellow Wagtail, Red Kite, Cuckoo, Whinchat.  

Meanwhile, I’ve been biking the Cuckoo Trail between Hailsham and Polegate, bookending days at work. Encounters have included Lesser and Common Whitethroats, Bullfinch, Willow Warblers, Reed Warbler, Siskin Ravens. 

In roughly chronological order, this is how the late spring, summer and early autumn went.

Less well known that Abbot’s Wood, Milton Hide just to the North has some good displays of bluebell, and birdsong.

The byways around Horse Eye and Down Levels are hard to navigate on foot in places, let alone in a vehicle.

Red Kites (and Hobbys) featured heavily in May.

It’s sad that Nightingales can’t be heard along the likely-looking hedgerows of the Cuckoo Trail. But the numbers just to the west of Hailsham are encouraging.


I’ve never before seen a young family of Cetti’s Warblers being fed, as there were at White Dyke.


Good to find Hobbys in woodland near Hailsham.


Marsh Tits are thinly spread in our area of Sussex, but present at Park Wood, just North of Hailsham.


A couple of circuits of Arlington Reservoir, on successive weekends.


This autumn has seen record numbers of Yellow-browed Warblers arrive in the UK. None (yet) for me, despite my own poor vocal impressions along the Cuckoo Trail and elsewhere.

Highlight of the autumn for me – not a very rare bird, but my first Jack Snipe for around 7 years was seen on Down Level, amongst many Common Snipe.

With summer migrants running thin, and November almost here, surely the owls , merlins and hen harriers are not far behind.


Early May Bank Holiday weekend

A few short outings over the weekend, with and without family, yielded a few birds.

On Saturday, there was a Cuckoo calling, briefly, at White Dyke, along with a Yellow Wagtail or two, 4+ Sedge, 3+ Reed and 2 Cetti’s Warblers.

On Sunday morning, a Grey Wagtail livened up a walk across the Diplocks industrial estate – late migrant, or local summering bird? Nearby on South Road, an interesting high-pitched call from a yew could have been the same as a bird the previous day by the Cuckoo Trail – Firecrest?

A Sunday afternoon walk in Abbot’s Wood among the wood anemones and bluebells also brought 2-3 Nightingales, away from the ‘hotspot’ block near the Old Oak. A single Willow Warbler near the lake.


This morning in the drizzle, another visit to White Dyke produced a Greenshank, calling from the direction of Down Level, at least 20 Swifts, and my first few House Martins of the year.

Finally, an unexpected bonus at Hailsham cricket ground this afternoon, with a Hobby coming through low over the houses.

Adding to this the Lesser Whitethroats, Common Whitethroat and Bullfinch heard while commuting the Cuckoo Trail to Polegate earlier in the week, and it’s a reminder of the way every day brings something new at this time of year.