Hundreds of swifts overhead/passing through all day yesterday. This morning at 08.00, masses of swallows and house martins hawking over the flood (probably 1000 over the whole site) and still many swifts. Nightingales and song thrushes in good voice around the trail, just-fledged rooks in the tree tops above our brand new, 5-nest rookery, and a cuckoo calling somewhere out near the river bank. Hobbies have been seen over the last few days, at least one garden warbler has finally (!) arrived and lesser whitethroat can be heard from 2 or 3 places around the trail.
The huge amount of water coming onto the site in the last week has changed things dramatically. Yesterday evening, there were small parties or pairs of tufted ducks flying across the flood (normally a winter visitor) displaying great crested grebes on the south brooks (not normal for any time of the year!), and unprecedented numbers of herring and lesser black-backed gulls (at least 500 on the south brooks at Pulborough and a further 800 on the Amberley brooks). Water levels are now subsiding and we are hoping the weather calms down a bit to give the many ground nesting birds on site another chance.
A flock of 12 waxwings made a surprise and most welcome visit to a tree next to the car park this afternoon. They were dropping down to feed on guelder rose berries right next to the classroom and then flying back up to the large pollard willow by the pond. At about 4pm they flew off, presumably to roost, in the direction of Wiggonholt church. We are hoping that they will be back first thing tomorrow - the bushes they were feeding in still have plenty of berries on. If you've never seen a waxwing, try and imagine a starling after Vivienne Westwood has been at it...my murky photo really doesn't do them justice.
The lesser spotted woodpecker was also seen today (about midday) at Fattengates courtyard, a barn owl was hunting on the north brooks riverbank from about 15.00, and water rails showed from Nettley's hide and in front of the visitor centre.
What a great start to the New Year & almost the first entry for our sightings book for January - the male hen harrier has now been spotted every day of the last 3! Other early entries include a drumming great spotted woodpecker, a raven over the car park, a couple of white-fronted geese and plenty of ducks. Around the hedgerows keep an eye open for bullfinch, fieldfare and treecreeper.
A fantastic weekend of passage waders - up to 10 species present on monday - was topped by the appearance of a wryneck on tuesday. A truly fantastic bird. Described by my colleague Paul as "like a squashed bittern", this small camoflagued migrant woodpecker is now a very rare visitor to the UK in spring and has attracted quite a few local birders. It has spent most of its time eating ants in the edge of one of the fields nr little hanger hide.
Back to those waders - usual residents/breeding birds such as lapwing, redshank and little ringed plover were joined by 3 spotted redshank, several greenshank, common sandpiper, dunlin, 2 or 3 wood sandpiper, several whimbrel, bar-tailed godwit and ringed plover. A particularly obliging pair of lapwings have brought their brood of 4 tiny chicks onto the pool in front of west mead hide. See the photo - believe it or not, the female is brooding all 4 chicks.
What an eventful weekend - too little water in the visitor centre on Saturday and too much water (and wind) outside! But a big 'thank you' to everyone who came along to our nightingale festival over the weekend - we seem to have 7 or 8 singing males now and they put on a pretty good concert all things considered. As well as the nightingales, barn owls were seen hunting out on the north brooks (over the river stour and around the big stacks of hay bales) and closer to the visitor centre where we have a female on egg(s).
If you haven't yet managed to see one this year, here is a lovely photo of one of the PB birds taken by volunteer, Russ:
Just a word of warning though...do be careful who you invite to 'go and listen to the nightingales' with you - at one time this used to be a euphemism for sneaking off for a bit of, well, hanky panky!
We've been anxiously watching the river and the water levels and as of yet the river has not over-topped the banks and created a full-blown flood. The nature trail is walkable all the way around, although I wouldn't try it in your 'best shoes' - walking boots or wellies would probably be more appropriate. Whilst the high water levels are bad news for our lapwing nests, with many of them being flooded over the last week, the bad weather does seem to have brought in a few site oddities; this morning our warden, Pete, had us all running down the stairs from the office to see a black tern who was flying over the south brooks. We have also seen an upturn in wader passage over the past few days with greenshank, ruff and bar-tailed godwit all featuring. Other reports this morning include kingfisher, lesser whitethroat and garden warbler. Reptiles seem to be making the most of the (sort of) sunshine with both adder and common lizard seen along 'adder alley' - the female adder being spotted right next to the information sign about adders. (I do like it when that happens!)