Sunday, 15 June 2014

Short-toed Eagle in East Sussex

When I'm abroad and a big bird turns up (a mega, not literally), I'm always relieved when it's a species I've seen before. This was the case a couple of weeks back when Britain's third Short-toed Eagle was found on a Dorset heath. It lingered there for most to see it, while the intervening period saw a case of 'I've seen a Short-toed Eagle', 'no, I've seen a Short-toed Eagle', 'no I've seen a Short-toed Eagle' from East Sussex to Essex to Cambridgeshire. Most of these, inevitably, stink of the proverbial.

Anyway, as it turned out, the bird seen in Ashdown Forest, East Sussex earlier this week had probably remained there all along because early afternoon today, it was still there and news was whacked out...

When news broke, I was not primed to go straight away. Heading in the wrong direction in fact - up the M11 with Karen in the direction of her parents. However, having done what was necessary there, Karen and I were heading back south and around the M25, hitting Ashdown Forest at 5.30pm. This wasn't a place I was too familiar with, and bizarrely the first time I'd ever been to this beautiful part of southern England. Lucking out on pulling into a car park just as a group of birders were zooming off to Long car park, we tagged along, then parked and made our way across the heath to where the bird was perched.
Short-toed Eagle Ashdown Forest, East Sussex 15th June 2014. The same bird as seen previously in Dorset and Hampshire.
A lovely evening twitch to be honest - ended up tracking the bird for an hour or so, watching it rotate its head around almost full circle as it tracked everyone. The bird seemed pretty faithful to the small valley to the west of the Long car park, and as far as heathland habitat goes with a load of reptiles and small birds, I imagine it has once again found a decent place. 
Short-toed Eagle Ashdown Forest, East Sussex 15th June 2014.
Just like last weekend's Spectacled Warbler trip, I'd also seen this species before in Britain - I remember the nervous wait as the first British record of Short-toed Eagle, on Scilly, rose over Great Ganilly before seeing it later on over the boat between St.Mary's and St.Martin's. In certain ways, these 'non-pressure' twitches for species I've seen before are the best. Or perhaps I'm just getting old and hardcore twitching is either a young or a severely autistic man's game!

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