If you manage to see through the fog that has been hanging around the Arun valley over the past day or so, you could be rewarded with views of plenty of winter birds. If the fog fails to clear you'll have to bird by ear instead, listening out for the 'chack-chack-chack' of fieldfare, the whistling of wigeon and the honking of Canada Geese.
On Tuesday, our resident peregrine had a bit of a run in with the marsh harrier and they were having a bit of a face off with talons raised in the middle of theNorth Brooks. These two spectacular hunters are being seen almost daily. More elusive is the small and swift merlin - you could be lucky and see if perched atop a fence post, but more frequently it's a brief fly-by.
Whilst 'wally' our friendly visitor centre water rail has not returned to us this winter, you could still find water rail out on the nature reserve (I'd suggest Winpenny & Nettley's hide). These water rails are behaving as you would expect water rails to (I'm afraid I've not managed to get them to parade in front of the hides as of yet) skulking around the reedy edges of the ditches and pools.
Out on the pools, the usual winter assemblage of ducks is complemented by lapwing, snipe and black-tailed godwit and the hedgerows are busy with fieldfare,redwing and bullfinch.
And it's the latter which is your target for this week's wildlife challenge:
You might think that the beautiful pink plumpness of the male bullfinch would make it a difficult bird to miss, however, more often than not, it is the flash of the bright white rump disappearing into hedgerow that typifies an encounter with a bullfinch!
You could find them anywhere around the trail but the particular hotspots are along the zig zag path where you reach the scrubby area, around Fattengates courtyard and in the hedgerows in front of Hanger View.
You can often hear them before you see them – although their call is soft, it is distinctive ‘peu, peu’.
Whilst we don't get an influx of bullfinches over the winter, with a tendency of being rather shy, they are certainly easier to spot at this time of year when there are fewer leaves on the trees.
Here's a lovely picture taken by volunteer Chris:
Let me know how you get along and where you spot them - perhaps some of you are lucky enough to have bullfinches visiting your garden.
And if you're out and about here or within the South Downs National Park over the next week and have your camera with you don't forget to take a look at our free to enter photography competition:
A little message from Trevor, our shop manager:
"Okay so so far you have been putting off your Christmas shopping. Now instead of worrying you get to feel really smug as our Christmas cards and gifts as well as loads of other great stuff has all been reduced in our winter sale starting now! Just remember to take the price stickers off though!"
Here's just a small selection of some of the lovely things included in the sale ...christmas decorations, gifts for kids, chocolate, Christmas cards, jewellery and gifts for gardeners
Old oak trees are a feature of the site here, and are very important ecologically, as well as being just awe-inspiringly massive, beautiful and wondrous. They mostly inhabit a world that moves very slowly, but occasionally things happen to them very quickly. This tree, which is by my reckoning perhaps 250-300 years old, shed a large limb in the summer of 2008, and was comprehensively finished off by the big storm of 28th October 2013. It is now what you might call dead. Except it will be very much alive for a long time to come, and probably 'outlive' all of us. Very large, very old trees probably support as much life during their period of decay as they do whilst they are alive, and are immensely important habitats in their own right. This hulk will no doubt be rotting down for many decades, provinding food and shelter for countless organisms during that time. As in life, it isn't going anywhere fast.
On the bird front, both merlin and marsh harrier continue to put in appearances (merlin seems to favour the south brooks), and good numbers of wigeon remain all over the site. A few black-tailed godwits and dunlin are still present amongst the lapwing flocks. Siskin, brambling and redpoll have been seen on/around the edge of the heath in recent days.