Trip reports

Burton Mill Pond, Lavington Common and Ambersham Common on 1 March, 2014

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Only six members joined this trip deep into the countryside of West Sussex - or five if pre-schoolers are discounted! Although we had again managed to pick a sunny day for the outing, we were soon dogged by the legacy of many recent very wet weeks when we found a long stretch of the footpath around Burton Mill Pond to be closed for repairs, upsetting our plan for a circular walk around the reserve. Nevertheless, the visit here proved well worthwhile, principally for the discovery of two Firecrests among an indeterminate number of Goldcrests around the yews and laurels just inside the entry gate. The four commoner tits were numerous hereabouts, Treecreepers showed well too and a pair of Buzzards circled very low overhead. A Little Egret kept watch from branches overhanging the mill pond itself where Great Crested and Little Grebes, Gadwall, Teal, Pochard and Tufted Duck were all present.

At around noon, we moved a few miles west to Lavington Common where, twelve months previously, we had spent more than an hour without encountering a single bird! Things had to be better today - and they were, just! Two pairs of Stonechats were certainly very welcome sightings out on the heath and we may also have caught the briefest glimpse of a Dartford Warbler with them (although a Wren in the same vicinity lent a slight element of doubt). The best bird was one we didn't see - a male Tawny Owl that sang repeatedly from nearby woodland (at 2pm!). After crossing to the northern side of the road, we found another group of three Stonechats, but again not much else besides. Our final venue, Ambersham Common, a little further west again, was also very quiet initially - just a Green Woodpecker seen in flight - and it was not until we were sloshing back across a particularly damp final stretch of heath after an hour's stroll that things suddenly livened up. Overhead, in quick succession, went a small flock of Redwings, a larger one of Starlings, and then a calling Crossbill that we couldn't quite latch onto. Three Linnets alighted briefly on a nearby birch and a party of about eight Meadow Pipits circled a couple of times before settling among the branches of a pine, seemingly to roost. Finally, a male Yellowhammer, a former heathland regular now becoming quite scarce, put in a fleeting appearance, pushing our daylist up to the reasonably respectable 50 mark - if we count the Dartford!

John Parish