The Portland Naturalist

The Portland Naturalist

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Eagley Awaited

The Short-toed Eagle first appeared in the UK over a month a go, but various things have stopped me trying to see it.  These include me being away, work, occasional disappearances of the bird, plus a lack of enthusiasm on my part having seen them frequently in France and Italy very recently.

So, despite the bird having been a lot closer to me during it's stay, I finally had the chance to go for it on Sunday, whilst it was 150 miles away at Ashdown Forest, E. Sussex.

I headed to the Long car park at Wych Cross with Keith Pritchard, after a 3 hour drive.  The bird was last reported here yesterday afternoon, but I did wonder whether it's other haunt of Gills Lap may have been a better bet.  There were a few other birders at Long car park, but I hoped that there were some staking out Gills at the same time.

I'd never been to Ashdown before, and it looked a fantastic area.  The site was full of small birds, including Tree Pipit and lots of Redpoll.  A Red Kite lazily flapping overhead had us going for a second.

The weather wasn't perfect, with a cool breeze blowing and complete cloud cover. Would the bird really want to hunt reptiles in these conditions?

We were there for a few hours, before the fabulous Short-toed Eagle suddenly appeared circling really quite close.

It drifted up high before dropping down into an adjacent valley.

It made one more brief appearance above the trees, before dropping down once again.

This time, someone found it sitting in a dead tree, and I got good views in the scope of it's unique big-headed shape.  I never saw one on the deck abroad.

Finally, it took to the air again, this time flying up over us, and started hovering right overhead!  I never dreamt we would get views like this (despite the poor light)!

It clearly was having no luck finding food here, so a couple of hours after it first appeared, it soared up to a great height before bee-lining it's way north-east, presumably towards it's other favoured area around Gills Lap.  What an encounter!

So worth the long trip.

I really am amazed that I got the chance to see this bird, after it disappeared from Dorset three weeks ago! 


  1. You made the right decision Sean. I was at Gills lap that same morning for a second helping and the views from there weren't as good as yours - still brilliant though! I then followed it by car as it headed south and was probably the last person to see it before it headed off towards the New Forest. Great headline, by the way. Wish I had thought of that!

  2. Thanks Neil. Glad you got it.