Friday, 7 April 2017

A Step back In Time

7th April 2017
Although in recent years I have started venturing out again on random twitches, I have a slightly more pragmatic approach nowadays and as such I never went to see the Blue Rock Thrush in Stow –on-the-Wold despite it being there over three months. I was not swayed by the arguments one way or another as to its origins – I just did not want to drive all the way to Stow for a one bird dash on an invariably dank and miserable winter’s day which seemed to be whenever I had one free.

However, when the very same male BRT was found at Belle Tout Lighthouse yesterday on the East Sussex coast I decided that if it was still around at the end of the day I would give it a go early doors today and as such I found myself wending my way through the traffic free countryside at a little before four this morning.

I arrived in the p&d layby near the lighthouse as the first glimmers of pre-dawn light started to colour the eastern sky and myself and a local headed up the incline towards the rather ugly edifice just a few rabbit cropped yards from the sheer drop to the Channel below.

Anticipation was high but the obviously clear skies told the story of the morning before we even got there and after four hours of searching I concluded that the bird had indeed moved on again.

Bell Tout Lighthouse

However, it was to be a truly magical morning and if the Blue Rock Thrush had reappeared it would only have been an added bonus.

Beachy Head Lighthouse

There is only one little road that skirts the coastline here and there was no traffic moving and all I could hear was a wall of Skylark song interspersed with the jangling of Corn Buntings, parachuting Meadow Pipits, cawing Rooks, Herring Gull long calls and the cackling of Fulmars way off towards Beachy Head to the east.

I watched Sol poke her head over the coastline before rising, watery at first, into the bluing sky. The yellow of the Gorse suddenly burst into light and the distant chalk cliffs of Birling Gap, the Seven Sisters and Seaford Head gleamed the purest of whites.

R to L : Birling Gap down the bottom, Seven Sisters, Cuckmere Haven, Seaford Head

I like to think that I am a well travelled soul from a British point of view but other than a twitch for a Sardinian Warbler in a patch of scrub here 20 years ago I cannot actually ever remember coming here and seeing these cliffs in all their majestic splendour.  It was genuinely breathtaking and I even sat down and took a few minutes to take it all in.

As I looked west I could picture Spitfires and Lancasters heading out across the Channel and thought back to the stories Sam Shippey has told me of his youth living through the war on this very stretch of coast.  I looked hard for something to remind me that it was 2017 and not 1940 but in all honesty there was nothing to suggest that I had not stepped back in time. All I would have needed was a couple of newly arrived Red-backed Shrikes returning for another breeding season perched up on the gorse. The pair of Peregrines that I saw would have had to have kept a low profile though.


Jackdaws and Herring Gulls kept a cliff top vigil but it was so clear and still that there was little sign of any spring movement whatsoever.  I only found one each of Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap and a fine male Redstart eluded a closer approach. Linnets and Goldfinches were coasting along with a couple of Siskin.

Herring Gulls

male Redstart

The coconut scent from the Gorse was amazing by the time I left

More resident Linnets were setting up home in the Gorse along with numerous Wrens and Dunnocks and some accommodating Stonechats while a single White Wagtail was clockwork scurrying around with a fine male Pied.



Wagtail duo...

And so with a strangely contented sigh and no dipping angst, I ambled back down to my car and spent a couple of relaxing hours on a contemplative drive home through a spring flower filled countryside.

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