Trip reports

Mid-week Walk at Pulborough Brooks on 19th April 2017

Mid-week Walk at Pulborough Brooks on 19th April 2017
Peter Hambrook

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Weather: dry, mainly sunny but cool 12C
We enjoyed a beautiful spring day at Pulborough, albeit a bit on the nippy side out of the sun. Quite a bit of birdsong could be heard from the car park, including chiffchaff, blackcap and nuthatch, before we even headed out onto the reserve. At the centre the house sparrows have discovered that solar panels make a good water-proof nest site, while one of the small meadows nearby has a bird food dispenser in the form of a great spotted woodpecker and it was amusing watching a nuthatch climbing about on this. A pheasant and some of the resident fallow deer could be seen down the hillside.

As we started to descend the zig-zag the songs of chiffchaff and blackcap were a constant accompaniment and both were eventually seen, while a common whitethroat was also heard and seen briefly along with a distant red kite. The nightingales have been a few days late arriving this year but three or four were thought to be present, although we only heard only one, singing from cover close to the Fattengates courtyard accompanied by a willow warbler. After waiting patiently for a few minutes most of us managed a brief sighting as it flew past us and into the courtyard area, but the willow warbler remained hidden.

Moving on to West Mead hide we found plenty of lapwings scattered across the brooks, along with a few little egrets, two redshanks and two shelducks. In the distance those with better eye-sight than mine picked out a few swallows and some twenty house martins passing through. Ron then noticed some petals falling from a nearby blackthorn and on checking more closely found a pair of bullfinches plundering the buds. Moving on, we came across a group of people looking intently at something on the ground and this proved to be a tiny baby rabbit, totally unconcerned at being the centre of attention. Winpenny hide only produced a couple of shovelers to add to the list, so we continued towards the Hanger viewpoint, checking for basking snakes along Adder Alley without success, but finding two song thrushes and lots of orange-tip butterflies. At the Hanger there was a lot more to see including a very pale buzzard perched on a post, some remaining teal and wigeon, a cormorant and several Egyptian geese. Three great black-backed gulls were no doubt hoping to snack on ducklings before too long. Close to the viewpoint, Ron picked out at least two calling lesser whitethroats, while a singing common whitethroat, a dunnock and a linnet were visible in the scrub on the slope.

On the way to Nettley's hide we came across a neat notice drawing our attention to an exquisite long-tailed tit's nest in the nearby vegetation (and asking people to avoid disturbing the owners). I haven't seen one of these for a few years. They are made with lichen and spider's webs and fully enclosed, shaped like a large egg they expand as the young grow but it cannot be very comfortable for the brooding parents trying to fit their long tails inside. Down at Nettley's we found two more of our members scoffing their sarnies, having come down independently of the group visit, so it seemed a good opportunity for us to crack open the lunch boxes too. Not much was happening in front of us except for the arrival of a grey heron and a kestrel plus some more distant hirundines and buzzards. The walk back to the centre didn't provide anything new except a speckled wood butterfly and, as the nightingale had stopped singing, we didn't try for a better sighting.

Most people left after lunch but Steve and I decided to walk through the bluebell woods to Hales Viewpoint. The bluebells were nice but we didn't add much to the bird list except a heard green woodpecker, a drumming great spotted woodpecker and a male stonechat, although there was also a pair of kestrels hunting, one appearing to catch something and devour it on a handy post.
PETER HAMBROOK