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A Good Day at Cuckmere Haven and More

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Old Wednesday 15th November 2006, 20:07   #1
joannec
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Smile A Good Day at Cuckmere Haven and More

Today I went to Cuckmere Haven, one of my favourite places on the Sussex coast, where the meandering River Cuckmere windes through the South Downs, across the flood plain towards the channel. Usually I choose to go down the east side but today I was struck by the large numbers of geese and ducks on the west side and we decided on that route. First to greet us on the path were a small flock of meadow pipit and a few stonechat. Looking down towards the river there were a group of about 10 wigeon and canada geese Then a pair of pochard, the only two of the day. Over the course of the next few hours we saw numerous skylark, probably about fifty altogether, more than I've ever seen before. Lots more Canada geese and many more wigeon, a flock of 8 Brent geese, who kept to themselves, 7 shelduck and a pair of greylag mixed up with the Canadas. There were about 10 little egret and 8 grey herons all along the river bank and channels.

The tide was out so not too many waders to be seen among the many pied wagtails and single grey wagtail but as we made our way towards the sea we saw 3 ringed plover , lots of redshank, common sandpiper. Best of all though, was when my husband, who came with me today, (he usually can't get away because of work) decided to have a closer look at the waders, foraged into the marshy bog between the path and the river. In so doing he accidently flushed a Short Eared Owl, sending it up, right in front of me, across the path and down into the bullocks field in the grass! It was a first for both of us and I managed a couple of distant bad pictures, one of whigh appears below. We had brief but close views as it flew but it settled too far away in the grass for another good view....Ooh for a scope...

Continuing on down the path towards the beach we saw more of the same, (but no more SEOs). There was a strong sea breeze and big waves so not much to see on the sea but there were GBB gulls flying aroud the chalk cliffs on the east side. On the way back, the same way we had come, we saw a few more species, 9 little grebe, a kestral who posed nicely for me and the SEO was still in the same place in the grass when we returned. Also 2 green woodpeckers, oystercatchers, two reed buntings and to finish off a family of 5 mute swans. Altogether 33 species today, the highlight of which was of course the Short Eared Owl.
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Old Wednesday 15th November 2006, 20:13   #2
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sounds like you had a great day.Im hoping for a short eared owl this winter. brilliant kestrel picture too!
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Old Wednesday 15th November 2006, 21:30   #3
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Dear joannechattaway,
Thanks for that! Really enjoyed it ....... and lovely 'photos!
All the very best,
Reg
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Old Wednesday 15th November 2006, 21:50   #4
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Hi Joanne

Thanks for that report, great read. I've only been there once and it certaily is a lovely place.

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Old Thursday 16th November 2006, 01:10   #5
Andy in West Oz
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Great pics, thanks for sharing. Love the Kestrel shot. What camera are you using?

Cheers

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Old Thursday 16th November 2006, 04:33   #6
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Thanks for the report Joanne. Special place, good birds, smashing pics.
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Old Thursday 16th November 2006, 10:34   #7
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Thanks all of you for the kind comments. It is a good place and I love the downland landscape. Andy, my camera is a Canon S2 with teleconverter lens.
Joanne
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Old Thursday 16th November 2006, 10:41   #8
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Lovely location. Well done on the SEO
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Old Thursday 16th November 2006, 19:07   #9
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Nice report Joanne.

I'm sure i do Cuckmere Haven at the wrong times as i never seem to get that many species..........or maybe i'm just rubbish still.........hahahahaha.

Nice SEO though........saw my first one at East Head a couple of weeks ago........lovely sight.
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Old Saturday 18th November 2006, 08:38   #10
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Originally Posted by Mark43
Nice report Joanne.

I'm sure i do Cuckmere Haven at the wrong times as i never seem to get that many species..........or maybe i'm just rubbish still.........hahahahaha.

Nice SEO though........saw my first one at East Head a couple of weeks ago........lovely sight.
Hi Mark

What is seen at Cuckmere does vary and it also depends which route you take, best to stay clear of the concrete path and take the river paths. As I say usually I go down the east side but after last week I may do the west more often. But it is such a beautiful place that I'm never disappointed.
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Old Saturday 18th November 2006, 14:40   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joannechattaway
Hi Mark

What is seen at Cuckmere does vary and it also depends which route you take, best to stay clear of the concrete path and take the river paths. As I say usually I go down the east side but after last week I may do the west more often. But it is such a beautiful place that I'm never disappointed.

Hi Joanne

I normally come out of the 7 sisters car park then go through the gate and straight down to where the river meets the sea.
To be honest i wasn't aware there were other ways to go.
Obviously i have been missing something all this time............silly me.
If you can offer any advice.......ie where to go when leaving the car park.......presumably i need to be on the other side of the river if you say west.
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Old Saturday 18th November 2006, 18:31   #12
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Originally Posted by Mark43
Hi Joanne

I normally come out of the 7 sisters car park then go through the gate and straight down to where the river meets the sea.
To be honest i wasn't aware there were other ways to go.
Obviously i have been missing something all this time............silly me.
If you can offer any advice.......ie where to go when leaving the car park.......presumably i need to be on the other side of the river if you say west.
Hi Mark

On the east side, if you stick close to the oxbow, (the grass path) you'll see a path to the right about 1/3 of the way to the beach. Take that route and you'll see many more birds. If you want to go on the west side, park in the car park of the Golden Galleon pub and go through the gate. Soon it branches and if you go straight on it will take you up onto the Downs and to Hope Gap which is interesting, probably see raptors and probably good for a seawatch if you have a scope. If you go to the left it takes you along side the river, which is best, and on to the beach. That is the route I took last week.

I think it might be nice if we had a Sussex BF meet at CH sometime. Would you come?

Joanne
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Old Saturday 18th November 2006, 18:39   #13
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sounds like a good day - great birds and some lovely photos.
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Old Saturday 18th November 2006, 18:42   #14
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Originally Posted by postcardcv
sounds like a good day - great birds and some lovely photos.

Thanks Peter, we do have some good stuff outisde of Norfork.
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Old Saturday 18th November 2006, 19:41   #15
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Originally Posted by joannechattaway
Hi Mark

On the east side, if you stick close to the oxbow, (the grass path) you'll see a path to the right about 1/3 of the way to the beach. Take that route and you'll see many more birds. If you want to go on the west side, park in the car park of the Golden Galleon pub and go through the gate. Soon it branches and if you go straight on it will take you up onto the Downs and to Hope Gap which is interesting, probably see raptors and probably good for a seawatch if you have a scope. If you go to the left it takes you along side the river, which is best, and on to the beach. That is the route I took last week.

I think it might be nice if we had a Sussex BF meet at CH sometime. Would you come?

Joanne
Thanks Joanne and yes i would come down for that.
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Old Tuesday 19th December 2006, 20:13   #16
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Another Good Day at Cuckmere Haven

Today I planned on going to Cuckmere Haven. It was the only day my husband was free this week and knowing the forecast was for thick fog it seemed a bit unlikely that we would see much. It was indeed very foggy and frosty in inland rural Sussex when we set off but as often happens it can change within a few miles away. It was clearing nicely when we got to Cuckmere Haven.

We decided this time, on my old haunt, the east side of the river attracted by the large number of wigeon , about 300. Also about 150 Canada geese, both species still not really awake yet but some of them lazily grazing. On the oxbow there were the usual happy little grebe, gayly disappearing under the water and bobbing up some distance away, as often as not with a small fish in their bills. Further on a group of five shelduck; we would see more of them later. As we moved slowly along, getting closer and closer to the wigeon, they suddenly flushed. I don't know if it was our presence, but they do seem easily spooked, all rising together in a huge group and finally settling further away on the west side of the river. The canadas were unperturbed, neither by the wigeons sudden flush or by our presence.

As we made our way to the beach we saw more little grebe and shelduck, 10 redshank,2 oystercatcher, 2 common sandpiper, 8 grey heron,7 little egrets and a solitary knot . On the other side of the river in the distance was a large group of many hundreds of gulls in the sheeps field. I counted 40 GBB gulls. I was a bit surprised at this number, didn't know they were that common but we were later to see even more in the more inland part of the Cuckmere valley.

Getting closer to the beach, the river, which is subject to tidal flooding, is very marshy and there is a plant which grows there alongside the river in which many birds hide. I must find out the name of it. Today hidden in it were numerous reed buntings , saw about 15 altogether. I was pretty pleased with this as I had never seen this many at once before. Also a pair of skylarks and a pair of [b]goldfinch

As we neared the beach a pair of cheerful stonechat made their welcome appearance. Soon there were more, the juveniles looking almost like their parents now. It was warm enough on the beach to enjoy our lunch in the winter sunshine, watching the gulls soaring around the cliffs to the east. I have seen peregrine here but not today.

We returned the way we had come seeing more of the same but near the beach in one of the tidal pools we were delighted by a kingfisher perched on a bramble bush. We even saw him/her catch a fish. Further on a flock of about 40 lapwing were sent up, don't know by what and further on there were some more in the long grass beside the oxbow. And finally as we returned to the visitor centre there was another kingfisher making two for the day which was a good ending to the day.

Altogether we saw 30 species, unfortunately no short eared owls this time and a complete absence of raptors, wonder where they were.
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Old Tuesday 19th December 2006, 21:23   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joannechattaway
Thanks all of you for the kind comments. It is a good place and I love the downland landscape. Andy, my camera is a Canon S2 with teleconverter lens.
Joanne
Hi Joanne, I spent serveral Sundays down there in the summer, I love it. Especially the walk from the Kittiwake Colony at Seaford Head. I must get down there again this Winter!!
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Old Wednesday 20th December 2006, 13:53   #18
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Originally Posted by paulwfromtheden
Hi Joanne, I spent serveral Sundays down there in the summer, I love it. Especially the walk from the Kittiwake Colony at Seaford Head. I must get down there again this Winter!!
Hi Paul,
I was thinking of organizing a BF meeting at CH in the spring, starting on the west side of the River Cuckmere, down to the beach, along to Hope Gap, then up onto the Downs for a seawatch, then back. If people are up for it I'd happily lead it. I'll flag it after Pulborough. Have a nice Christmas and I'll see you next year.
Joanne
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Old Wednesday 20th December 2006, 14:08   #19
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Hi Paul,
I was thinking of organizing a BF meeting at CH in the spring, starting on the west side of the River Cuckmere, down to the beach, along to Hope Gap, then up onto the Downs for a seawatch, then back. If people are up for it I'd happily lead it. I'll flag it after Pulborough. Have a nice Christmas and I'll see you next year.
Joanne
Sounds like a splendid idea. It's a good run down there on the train as well for those of us who are carless.
You have a good Christmas too.
Paul
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Old Wednesday 20th December 2006, 15:22   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joannechattaway
Hi Paul,
I was thinking of organizing a BF meeting at CH in the spring, starting on the west side of the River Cuckmere, down to the beach, along to Hope Gap, then up onto the Downs for a seawatch, then back. If people are up for it I'd happily lead it. I'll flag it after Pulborough. Have a nice Christmas and I'll see you next year.
Joanne
I would certainly like to come along as well!
Have a smashing Christmas!
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Old Thursday 21st December 2006, 08:30   #21
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Originally Posted by wetlands_wedge
I would certainly like to come along as well!
Have a smashing Christmas!
Hi Reg
It really is a place worth a visit, as much for the stunning scenery, as for the birds. These days I tend to go for the birds, of course. Happy Christmas to you too.
Joanne
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Old Wednesday 3rd January 2007, 19:18   #22
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Another Visit to Cuckmere Haven with Some Surprises

Yesterday presented an opportunity for some good birding as the weather had been terribly overcast for what seemed like weeks and weeks, with dim low light. It was nice and sunny, if blustery so it was with optimism and warm clothes that I set off.

I decided on the west side of the river leading to the sea. First seen were a party of 8 dunlin running purposly about on the grassy bank where the receeding tide had just been. They were some distance away so an ideal chance to try out my new scope, a Mighty Midget 2. It gave nice clear pleasing views. Dunlin are not often seen on the River Cuckmere so seeing them was welcome. Scanning the distance on the opposite side of the river and across the flood plain were a flock of 12 brent geese flying towards the beach. Hundreds of wigeon were in groups on both sides of the river in the grass and on and around the channels. I estimated over 1000 seen all day both on the lower reaches of the Cuckmere Valley and further inland towards Littlington.

We reached the point where the path forks, one way leading up onto the Downs and the lefthand path leading along the river. It struck me at this point that we hadn't seen many passerines. Going on a bit further towards the river we soon learn why, out of nowhere darts a female merlin , fast and low, sending up a flock of goldies and scattering them noisily in all directions, didn't know they could be so loud. Don't know whether she got one but she disappeared round some bushes and we didn't see her again. This was the second merlin I had seen in the two day old new year as I saw one on New Years Day in another location, both females. We hung around waiting for her to show again but she didn't. I can't help hoping that it will be a good year for raptors for me.

We're close to the river now and begin to see redshank and further away on the oxbow the first of the jolly little grebe and a group of 6 shelduck. More of the same as we walk along the river. A kestral appears giving nice close views and hovers close by. He looks beautiful in the winter sunlight. A large flock of Canada geese on the far side of the river and another smaller group on the west side further on.

My companion remarks that there aren't the usual little egrets and grey heron that are the mainstay of this area but it soon becomes apparant that they are hiding from the increasingly strong wind behind what little shelter, in the form of stunted bushes, this valley has to offer. We soon find a threesum of 2 herons and 1 egret almost cuddling in the lea of a bush. In fact in the course of the day we were to eventually see a total of 15 grey heron which is as many as I think I've seen in one day, all sheltering from the wind. In the distance a small flock of 4 curlew provied another opportunity to use the new scope.

Further on in the sea purslane which grows along both sides of the river at a certain point are seen numerous small birds, meadow pipit, skylark , a thrush sized bird that we didn't identify and then the star of the day a rock pipit. I got a few not very good pictures, one of which can be seen below. I wasn't sure of it's id and thanks to BFers, Dan Pointon, Teamsaint and Jane Turner who IDed it when I posted pictures, I have my first rock pipit So thanks to you three if any of you are reading this.

As we near the beach, I catch a fleeting glimpse of a kingfisher which dissappears almost as soon as it appeared, more shelduck and another curlew in one of the pools on the east side.

From the beach I try a seawatch with the scope but the sea is so rough I don't see anything on it except big waves so scan the chalk cliffs on both sides, numerous gulls of all the usual varieties. Attracted by a group of 5 herons sheltering we go back by the upper path which is lined in part by a scraggly hedge, hoping for passerines but not many about, other than a lone green woodpecker and a sizable flock of starlings. Further along in a cattle field are 4 little egrets. I remember the cattle egrets in Sussex last winter and look closely but thy're not. I was a bit surprised to see the little egrets halfway up the Downs in the grass.

Thirty one species seen today which I was pleased with considering the wind. And my first rock pipit, a great start to the year.
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Old Wednesday 3rd January 2007, 19:57   #23
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Oh Joanne what a great day you had. I've only been there once - about 4 years ago and it truly is a super place and your thread has brought back lovely memories.

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Old Wednesday 3rd January 2007, 20:04   #24
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Think you may have seen a Yellow Hammer too Joanne - nice to see your're starting to post up regular reports now of your days out - the more the merrier
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Old Wednesday 3rd January 2007, 20:06   #25
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Excellent report Joanne..nice pics too!

You must keep this thread running!!

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