Inspired by Springwatch, volunteer Gary sets himself a challenge...
"Borrowing Chris Packhams idea from Springwatch, I set myself a challenge today to see if I could do any better than their current efforts. Well the first thing to say is that it is not easy being restricted to a non-zoom lens and not many megapixels. The first attempt and first bird of the day was a Red Kite while I was chatting in the car park – dot in blank sky(rejected).
At Fattingates a Garden Warbler was in fine voice – brown blur hidden by leaves (rejected). At West Mead two Lapwing chicks and a Little-ringed Plover giving amazing views. Too busy talking to take any shots – opportunity lost. Walking to Adder Alley the umbellifers were full of azure damselflies; now thats better – reasonable shot.
I could hear plenty of birds in the form of Blackcap, Sedge Warbler and Nightingale but far too difficult to capture on a smartphone, so I might have to have a re-think. The walk to Nettleys added more species with Goldcrest, Linnet, Whitethroat and Bullfinch, but still no luck getting a shot.
In Nettleys it was time to cheat, I need something big - Highland Cows. But even they look small a long way off!
Then a stroke of luck, a little egret landed in the pool immediately in front of the hide, so using my binoculars as a zoom lens I managed at last to get a half decent shot of a bird – success.
On the way back, at West Mead and then beside the Visitor Centre, four hobbies were to be seen over the South Brooks – in case you are wondering – no, I didn't even bother, but if you think you can do better …"
One of the newest members of our Pulborough Brooks team, Margot, describes her experience on Saturday evening's 'After Dark!' event:
Attending the Saturday “After Dark” event was a marvellous experience.
To start the evening Anna had caught over 30 different moths and identified them, so we formed 2 groups. Trying to match the moths to their names meant we could challenge our knowledge, or make inspired guesses! When we released them some people really enjoyed the sensation of letting a moth sit on their hand to warm up before flying off.
As the light dropped we used the bat detectors provided to identify soprano pipistrelles bats on the edge of the woodland, and see them flit overhead.
Out on the heath the favoured nightjar haunts were pointed out to us. Almost immediately the first male started the distinctive churring sound that attract the females. Those with powerful binoculars were able to see him in flight despite the gathering gloom. Andy, one of our volunteers, fascinated the group with accounts of nightjar and owl habits.
The highlight for me was examining the pond by torchlight. We witnessed the extraordinary site of 5 emperor dragonflies emerging from their larvae.
I am lucky enough to have seen and heard all of these before, and they never cease to delight. What was unique for me was that we saw and heard all of these in one 2 hour evening walk.
As a member of the retail team I must point out that we sell bat detectors and a wide range of over 50 binoculars, in addition to many books and guides.
Thank you to Anna and her team of volunteers, do join them on a future event.
Anna - There are still a couple of places left on our Friday evening walk (29 May 8.30 - 10.30 pm). Plenty of spaces on the 20 June edition! If you would like to book a place, please give us a call at the Visitor Centre on 01798 875851.
Families are very welcome to come along for a special late night adventure!
Thanks to volunteer Phil for this great account of his visit on Friday
At the end of the day a visitor asked me if I’d seen any rarities to which my reply was that it depends what you mean by a rarity. What we tend to have at Pulborough Brooks are uncommon birds occasionally turning up, but very few that would attract an army of twitchers with long lenses. But sometimes we have otherwise common birds turn up which one wouldn’t necessarily expect to see here.
Take the coot for example. This is a common bird of UK inland waters and rarely attracts much interest, but I have always assumed that it is not often seen here because the shallow floodwater pools don’t suit its diving habits. Nevertheless several coots have been seen on the reserve in recent weeks and so far I can offer no explanation as to why. A pair of black-tailed godwits were showing well from Hanger View in lovely summer plumage but clearly not part of the very large winter flock we have which long since few North to breed, probably in Iceland. Some godwits do breed in the UK but not usually this far South so why had these birds not travelled further North? More research is needed – at least by me.
Now consider the nightingales which have been delighting us since mid-April. All the books say that they usually sing from deep inside bushes but have our ones simply not read the script? Just when I thought perhaps the best of singing period was over and the birds were getting down to the serious business of raising young, a nightingale was to be seen perching prominently and singing from one of the dead conifers near Fattengates courtyard. This bird was observed by several people in the same place all through the day.
Recent visitors have been delighted to see and hear one or more cuckoos from various parts of the reserve. However this leads to the question of whether this could spell disaster for the reed warblers which have been seen and heard on the edge of the North Brooks? Reed warblers are one of the species targeted by the cuckoo to lay its eggs in their nests. This is a reminder that, apart from human activitiy, one of the biggest threats to wildlife is actually other wildlife, and yet summer reed warbler populations in the UK are generally holding up well, whereas the cuckoo has seriously declined.
An easy question to answer was whether there is a sedge warbler nest in the dense vegtation in front of Nettley’s Hide, with birds having been seen there several times in recent weeks. Things have clearly moved on here as 2 parents were to be seen frequently flying out to collect insects to feed chicks. One of them was often to be seen perched on a particular stem prior to its next foraging mission but never quite long enough for a handheld photo. However I did eventually manage to snatch a different shot just before leaving the hide.
Finally I must mention lapwings as I’ve been assisting our wardens in the monitoring of the breeding process. The previous Friday there were 6 chicks in plain view from West Mead hide but this time only 2 could be seen. What had happened to the others? Had they been predated? Were they hidden out of sight in the rushes? Had they moved to a different feeding area? The visible chicks were close together and could have been part of the same family group but if so why was one more noticeably grown than the other?
To conclude, my considered answer to the visitor’s question is that there were no rarities, but as long as there are questions to be answered about what we can observe here there will always be plenty of interest at Pulborough Brooks.