Monday, 15 December 2014


1985 in Sussex, will be remembered for two rare crakes, both stayed for a while, to allow visiting birders to watch these two crakes from very close quarters.


On the 6th March, 1985, Jon Curson, with two colleagues, discovered a very confiding female Little Crake feeding in an open ditch on the eastern side of the lower Cuckmere Valley. With good car-parking facilities nearby, Jon quickly put the news out of his exciting find to various local observers and it was soon attracting many admirers, including ourselves, both from within and outside of the County.

We also returned on the following Saturday and obtained very close views from just a few feet as the Little Crake slowly fed, walking up and down in the open ditch and didn't appear to take any notice of the 20 or so birders and photographers who were present at the time of our visit, and at one time we saw it clamber over several tripod legs. The main problem with taking photographs, was that you were always looking down on it in the ditch and this meant you had to lay flat down on your stomach to get a better angle on it. Again the Crake took no notice of this behaviour and continue to feed. It remained until the 16th March, 1985.

Little Crakes breeds discontinuously from Spain to Central Asia wintering in NE and E Africa with some extending to W Africa especially Senegal. This proved to be Sussex's 14th record of Little Carke and there has just been one record since on the 9th-12th August, 2011 at Arundel WWT. Only the county of Norfolk have had more records than Sussex. Up to 2013 there have been a total of 108 accepted records in the UK of which 8 have occurred in this century with the last sighting being the Arundel bird.

(both taken by John Cooper)
Female Little Crake, Cuckmere Valley, March, 1985.


An adult Sora was discovered at the eastern end of Pagham Lagoon on the 26th October, 1985 and stayed for almost 2 months until the 24th December, 1985. It was found by P.W.Bradbeer, Mr and Mrs A Frost, and E.D.Lloyd. Like the Little Crake seen in the Cuckmere Valley, the Sora appeared to take little notice of all the visiting birders during its stay and on the few occasions when we visited the site, although the Sora wasn't always on view, but when it did appear it would walk around the pool passing close by you.

This superb bird was the first for Sussex and the 11th accepted record for the UK and to the end of 2013 there have now been 18 accepted records for the UK. Most of the sightings have come from the outer Islands with the Scilly Isles leading the way.

Sora's breeds across North America and winters south to Northern Peru.

 (both pictures taken by John Cooper)
Adult Sora, Eastern end of Pagham Lagoon.