Early Autumn at RSPB Pulborough Brooks
Sunday 9th October. An early start. I set off with Jenny Dunn for the 25 mile or so journey to RSPB Pulborough Brooks, which is set in the sheltered Arun Valley within the South Downs National Park in Sussex. It was the first time I had met Jenny and her companionship proved to be a real benefit. Eyes like a hawk (no pun intended) it was Jenny who from 50 paces spotted the Treecreeper, beautifully camouflaged against the bark of an oak tree (the Treecreeper you understand) in a canopy of woodland that limited the light considerably. Quite simply, I would have missed this little bird if I had been on my own. Equally I would have missed the small flock of Long Tailed Tits, although eventually they did give themselves away with their noisy behaviour.
As we started the journey around the Wetland Trail and on leaving the Visitors’ Centre I immediately spotted a Buzzard being mugged by a murder of Crows. Those shiny black birds certainly appear to have no fear. A further ten species were added to our day’s list at this point: House Sparrow, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Robin, Woodpigeon, House Martin, Pied Wagtail and a charm of Goldfinches.
En route to West Mead hide we added Magpie to the list and a beautiful Green Woodpecker. There are usually plenty of wildfowl to be seen from West Mead but on this occasion the water on the scrape was very low and consequently there was little to be seen. Three Greylags were loitering amongst the Canada Geese, a number of Lapwings appeared undecided about taking off and landing again, Rooks and Jackdaws pottered about and a Cock Pheasant strutted towards the hide.
The weather continued to improve as we set off for Winpenny Hide and it was along the tree-lined path that we saw a couple of Jay. We stood and watched them fly up into an Oak tree, harvest acorns and fly down to bury them in the grass and soil beneath the tree. They seemed to be not at all bothered with our presence, not unlike Catherine Tate, and we continued to watch their labour for several minutes. Another Buzzard was seen soaring overhead as we continued our journey.
Winpenny had nothing much to add so we continued on to Little Hanger hide and were able to add Mute Swan, Shoveler, a solitary Grey Heron, a fair paddling of Wigeon (or if you prefer, Widgeon) and Black Headed Gulls jostling with Herring Gulls.
We continued to Hanger View, a good vantage point to look out over North Brooks, that is when it hasn’t been occupied by the local Derby & Joan club who were making more noise than the resident palearctic population. We were relieved when they left as we jostled our way to the front of Hanger View, where we had good sightings of Mallard, Teal and a Common Sandpiper. From this area we watched a herd of Fallow Deer grazing and were enchanted by a Squirrel gnawing on an acorn and had Speckled Wood butterflies, Pararge aegeria, landing at our feet.
We skipped Nettley’s Hide and continued to Jupps View, an idyllic spot situated beneath a canopy of broadleaved woodland. Looking out over the Brook we were able to add Moorhen and Ruff to our list and it was here that Jenny came to the fore, heard our Goldcrest before eventually spotted it flitting amongst a small flock of Long Tailed Tits. I voice recorded some of its call, which later confirmed identity. The day was complete when Jenny spotted the furtive Treecreeper. Well done!
That made our tally for the day 36 species, which for me is pretty good. And the long walk around the Wetland Trail was completed in the café, with pots of tea, butterscotch cake and Victoria sponge.
I slept like a log last night…