Welcome back

After a two year absence it’s nice to catch a Poplar Hawk Moth in our trap again.  Also our second ever Lunar Marbled Brown and Scorched Wing.  Under the roofing felt, Sid the Snake is still doing well.

Three Rings

A walk around Cissbury, Chanctonbury and Lancing Rings, with pauses for butterflies and birding, yielded very few butterflies and a few common downland birds.  (Happily Corn Bunting is common here, if nowhere else.)  The highlight was a couple of Spotted Flycatchers, including one that was quite showy.

Later we walked to a nearby site where both Barn Owl and Little Owl nest.  Knowing we would probably have a bit of a wait, we took a bottle of wine with us.  After an hour it was getting distinctly cooler and I was beginning to wish we had taken soup.  Soon after, just as the light failed, we heard a Little Owl calling and could just see it, followed a few minutes later by the Barn Owl’s emergence.  Both were our first of the year (taking my on-foot list to 154).


A return to the Turtle Doves yesterday evening had two main differences: we drove rather than walking, and the birds cooperated.    I’m not sure whether it’s better to hear the wonderful purring or to see the beautiful bird.  It’s best to see them purring.  One was hiding in the bushes, but there were enough holes to get a picture through.

Later on at the heath at Pulborough, absolutely nothing.  Utterly dead on a perfect evening for heathland birds.

Missed opportunities

While looking at our small pond yesterday, camera on my shoulder, a Sedge Warbler flew in and landed within five feet of me.  Unfortunately its self-preservation instinct reacted faster than my eye for a photo, so I missed it.

Later on, on a walk around Ambersham Common, we encountered a close Hobby, which flew as soon as it saw us.  A fantastic view, but missed it again.

Anyway, it was a good walk around a variety of downland and heaths.  Here are a few things that didn’t get away.

Secret Squirrel

After a lazy day on Saturday, we were back out yesterday after Turtle Dove.  Unfortunately they’re now classed as a rare breeding bird, so we shouldn’t tell you where we were, but moods will help a famous clergyman find the way.

The 9 mile walk over the Downs and along the river gave us nice views of Corn and Reed Bunting.  There were plenty of Cetti’s and Reed Warblers, including one that did a perfect Common Tern call, but they were not photographable.  A Whinchat moving on a line of fence posts was a nice surprise, but again it was too cold for Hobbies.

Arriving on site, it was noisy: Nightingales (at least four), Whitethroats and Lesser Whitethroats were in full rawp, but no Turtle Doves, although we knew they were present.  So we waited… and waited.  I was patrolling up and down the stream that they frequent, whereas Karen stayed put.  A very distant perched bird was probably a Hobby, but too far away to identify with confidence.  There was a marked lack of Cuckoo, and still no Turtle Dove.

After four hours Karen decided to check down the other end, leaving me to watch at the place we had them last year.  Within minutes she phoned to tell me that she had one purring.  I dashed down but arrived 20 s after it had been flushed by a dog walker.  Aaaargh!  Quarter of an hour later it briefly purred, but low behind the thickest hedge in Sussex.  On the list, but you want to see a beautiful bird like that.  A long silence ensued, and we assumed that it had moved on but the moment I walked down the track it started up again, and eventually popped into view, vanishing as soon as I raised the camera.

Now to walk back and find a Barn Owl on the brooks (our plans of having a meal in a pub first were history).  Almost immediately we found a distant Short-eared Owl: normally I’d prefer that to a Barn Owl, but I’ve seen loads this spring.  No Barn Owl, despite another 2.5 hours of waiting and patrolling the river bank.  Eventually, cold and somewhat miffed, we started the long trek home, arriving at just before 11 pm.

The constant patrolling upped the distance to 25 miles, a bit more than I had bargained for.  Even so, it was a good day, if laden with frustration.

A quick walk around Pulborough Brooks

Time for a proper walk!

In an attempt to boost the on-foot bird list I left the house at 0320 yesterday morning and walked over the Downs to Amberley Wild Brooks, Waltham Brooks and Pulborough Brooks and back.

Plans of a picture of sunrise over the Downs were scuppered by the fact that visibility was only about 30 yards, but it cleared up a bit as I approached Amberley and it was a cold but pleasant morning on the Wild Brooks.  3 Nightingales were singing, and I eventually dug up a Garden Warbler that was singing invisibly from a tree.  The Grasshopper Warbler heard there on Wednesday was silent and the Hobbies hadn’t got up yet.  On to Waltham, where the Grasshopper Warbler and a Barn Owl were active at 0830 two days earlier.  Plenty of time: I got there at 0730.  No owl was a disappointment, and other than a few 5 s bursts of distant reeling, no Grasshopper Warbler either.  (It’s on the list, but not very satisfying.)  Pulborough was absolutely freezing, and the birds reflected this.  I heard a second’s worth of Nightingale song, a great start to their bank holiday Nightingale festival.  The straggling winter ducks had heard me coming and left, and still no hobbies, but Little Ringed Plover and Black-tailed Godwit boosted the list (Whimbrel was more unusual, but I’ve had plenty on the sea).

It was turning into a sunny afternoon, so in search of Hobbies, I diverted back via Amberley, but despite an intensive scan there was no sign of any.  No sign of the birder who had five there later in the afternoon either, curse him.

After that it was a nice walk up and over the Downs to finish an epic 38 mile walk.  A great day, but not one I’ll do every week.

(Not many pictures: I don’t carry a large camera on a walk like that.)




Legless again

A late post from last weekend, when we went to Waltham Brooks to find a Grasshopper Warbler reeling strongly in mid-morning.  It eventually showed very briefly, but was far less cooperative than the Sedge Warbler that was establishing its territory.  Orange Tips abounded.

Meanwhile at home we have the fattest Slow Worm I’ve ever seen and the smallest Grass Snake.

An evening walk to the brooks east of us found 8 Reed Warblers, 2 Sedge Warblers and about 5 Cetti’s Warblers on territory (and the foxes over there are less contemptuous of me than our garden pair.