I have started to notice a pattern...
Bank holiday Mondays seem to be doomed to disappointing weather; Storm Katie on Easter Monday and a rather gloomy start for May Day bank holiday. But it's not all doom and gloom - we have also been visited by some rather exciting birds who perhaps also feel they have a long weekend and will go exploring on the bank holiday. Easter Monday saw the arrival of the American Wigeon and the May Day holiday by a group of 10 black-winged stilts.
This photo of the stilts was taken by Pete and we suspect he came to summon them to his reserve at RSPB Medmerry where they bred in 2014.
And this one was taken by volunteer Anne (who I shan't accuse of any underhand business!)
Would anyone care to hazard a guess as to who might put in an appearance on our next Bank Holiday on 30 May?
Although the black-winged stilts have not stayed with us, there are plenty of other goodies to see & hear. These are just some of volunteer Phil's highlights from Monday:
Here is Phil's first ever grass snake.
We now think we have 8 or 9 male nightingales singing around the trail which is fantastic. They seem to be inhabiting all the traditional spots and are also maintaining their reputation of being exhibitionists. As our nightingales don't skulk, could I just give a little reminder to all our visitors that there are lots of breeding birds in the hedgerows and scrub (as well as grass snakes & adders in the undergrowth) so please keep to the paths and don't pursue the wildlife into the undergrowth!
We have had reports of 2 Cetti's warblers on the reserve, one of which has been around near Fattengates courtyard for a couple of weeks - they have previously seemed to stop at Waltham Brooks just south of our site along the Arun Valley so it is exciting to think that they might start to breed here.
Swifts have arrived and hot on their heels have been hobbies. Garden warblers have arrived in force to complement the blackcaps and make bird song identification more challenging. The woodlands are glorious with carpets of bluebells and greater stitchwort and colourful brimstones are fluttering in the sunshine.
It's a wonderful time to visit with so much to see, hear and smell so don't miss out!
Just to let all of our visitor know that the cafe will be closed all day on Monday 9 May for cleaning and re-decorating.
We're very sorry for any disappointment of inconvenience this may cause.
The shop, toilets and nature trails will be open as normal.
Thanks to Gary for his report and photos from Tuesday.
As soon as I opened the car door in the car park I could hear a nightingale singing, and on the trail proper, at least five could be heard at various places, including a ridiculously tame one on adder alley that was more intent on feeding than worrying about people – so much for them being skulking!
Also on adder alley was a mating ball of grass snakes. It was difficult to count the number present, but at least six with others in the area – a really exciting find.
Three lesser whitethroat were also dotted around the reserve and for once, two gave reasonable views in the sparsely leaved trees. On the other hand, common whitethroats were few and far between with only two seen today. Blackcaps were everywhere and it was quite amusing to watch three males competing at singing and fighting over one rather disinterested female. While I was watching the blackcaps, a shrew was at my feet dashing from one patch of undergrowth to another. They are so fast that they must dwell in a different time dimension.
A solitary sedge warbler was near Nettleys and a reed bunting was posing nicely. The male american wigeon was on view for most of the day, but still has the habit of disappearing if you take your eye off it for a minute. The usual peregrine was in its tree and a red kite drifted over the north brooks. Swallows and both sand and house martins made the odd appearance. A large flock of linnets were in the ploughed field near the centre and small flocks and individuals were encountered all-round the trail, as was the occasional bullfinch.
Small tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies could be seen spiralling upwards in their mating dance in the warm afternoon sunshine. Hopefully this means even more later in the summer.
To finish on a high note, a short-eared owl was sitting on a fence post near West Mead hide – shame the deer-proof fence slightly marred the view.