It's only February and I've already dispensed with the need for the RSPB fleece whilst enjoying picnics!
What a beautiful day on Sunday, birds were singing, adders were basking, and I was hoping that my visitors were enjoying their guided walk/birdwatching course...
We always hope for a few 'star' birds to put in an appearance on our events, and sure enough a couple of lovely birds were very co-operative (and I didn't even need to bribe them with mealworms!).
A nice range of songsters entertained us on the heathland trail, but we were really hoping to find a crossbill or two, and, just before we were due to head back towards the centre, 3 of them flew into the conifers just above our heads - perfect! As a little reminder of these fantastic birds here is another of Russ' photos of a Pulborough crossbill.
We then headed down towards Fattengates courtyard keeping our fingers crossed that we would find goldcrests and firecrests - all very good for practising those new id skills we'd been talking about. A tiny bird hovered around the low conifer branches, briefly settled and turned towards us, and there was the eye stripe of the firecrest - a brilliant view of a great little bird. Although the firecrest is the rarer of the two, perhaps most exciting was a couple of rather feisty goldcrests who were involved in a bit of an altercation and confronted one another with their crests raised and flared out - such an incredible splash of colour, and something I've only been lucky enough to see a couple of times. It's a tough job sometimes!
And it looks as though we weren't the only ones out having fun and seeing some great wildlife - Richard Trueman sent in this photo of a weasel. Not sure I'd like to be a mouse or vole with this fellow around ...
A male lesser spotted woodpecker was drumming from a large oak on the heath (next to tumuli and sweet chestnut coppice) at 07.30 this morning. Water rail still showing in front of the visitor centre window.
...but for late Feb' the reserve is looking worryingly dry with virtually no inflow onto the reserve from the surrounding high ground. We need some rain to ensure the wet bits stay wet well into spring. Still loads of wildfowl and waders on site however, including 20 or so white-fronted geese, several thousand lapwings spread all over the north brooks, about a dozen ruff, and a few dunlin and black-tailed godwits. A couple of visitors mentioned to me they had enjoyed watching a couple of weasels dashing about in the old courtyard at Fattengates, and right on cue for the time of year, I saw my first adder of the year basking near the top of zigzag path.
A busy half term meant that I didn't escape from the confines of the building last week, so had to content myself with things that could be seen from the visitor centre window. Not so bad, when our star bird - the water rail - parades around within 2 metres of the window! And it's not just the water rail who has been enjoying the mealworms; we've seen a lovely collection of house sparrows, dunnocks, song thrush, mallard and moorhen, and some mammals - a very cute little bank vole, a sleek glossy-coated weasel have been enjoying the tasty snacks too! Am hoping that the water rail and the weasel don't get into a fight.
Good job that the RSPB dried mealworms are on special offer at the moment, we're getting through them at quite a rate...
Who do you get feeding on mealworms in your gardens? Can anyone rival 'my' water rail?
A little further afield, using the telescope that's set up in the centre, I've seen plenty of lapwings, a few curlew and black-tailed godwits, white-fronted geese and all the lovely dabbling ducks. And every morning I arrive to hear great-spotted woodpeckers drumming in the old oaks.
If I had been able to get out and about around the trail I could have been enjoying the firecrests at Fattengates, beautiful pink, plump bullfinches in the hedgerows and superbly camouflaged snipe at Winpenny hide. Out on the heathland the crossbills have been almost reliable, and last week we had a singing woodlark and a drumming lesser-spotted woodpecker too.
Many of our birds are feeling that spring is on the way and bird song is certainly on the increase. Our house sparrows are busy collecting nesting material already, so if you've got nest boxes to put up in your garden then you'd better get them up now!
And finally, just thought I'd share a couple of lovely photos taken by one of our visitors at the weekend...
Thanks to Roger Garland for these great pictures of Nuthatch and Treecreeper.
If anyone else takes any photos here, please share them with us. You can e-mail them in or post them onto the gallery...
The education programme at Pulborough Brooks has been graded "Outstanding" by the Learning Outside the Classroom Council's nationally recognised Quality Badge standard. We are very proud of our school visits at the reserve that are based upon the science and geography curriculum. All our field teachers are qualified teachers with huge amounts of expertise and enthusiasm. We have updated our prgrammes for 2012, and added a new "Plant explorer" day with hands on activities to enage children with the great outdoors. So if you are teaching budding botanists or young explorers do get in touch, or see our webpage, for more information about an excellent day's learning in our beautiful landscape.