Magical mystery tour of Sussex

After the WeBS count on Saturday, Sunday was another day of birding.  I joined Sean Foote for a day in Sussex to make up for the bird race Josie Hewitt, Sean and I were going to do but didn’t for various reasons.

Winter's morning on the South Downs

Winter’s morning on the South Downs

We started at the Burgh, some wildlife friendly farmland in the South Downs. It was lovely to see how full of life farmland can be. Some of the first birds we saw were grey partridges – lifer for me. There were a large number of pheasants too. In the distant valley below, we could see a group of Bewick swans and a black swan, not far from Arundel Castle. Further along the path we came across some of the passerines – yellowhammers, robins, wrens and blackbirds, as well as an extremely pale buzzard and a single red kite. Later on we added great spotted woodpecker, blue tit, dunnock and a singing chaffinch. A sign that spring is on its way? Though I do love visiting wetlands, the chance of scenery and species was lovely.

My first grey partridge

My first grey partridge

Next stop was Jevington to see the rough-legged buzzard that has spend the last few months in fields by the village. From reading past sightings, I’d noticed that some people were lucky enough to see it fly around and hunt, while others only saw it sit in a tree in the distance.

Thankfully, we were lucky. Skylarks were singing, a stonechat hopped up onto the fence hoping for some attention, and the rough-legged buzzard performed brilliantly.  A kestrel joined in too, as did large numbers of crows and gulls.  The rough-legged buzzard eventually hovered, found some food and disappeared in the long grass to eat its prey. After watching it for a while and feeling rather satisfied with the views, we decided to head onto the next destination.

The rough-legged buzzard, 25th January 2015.

The rough-legged buzzard, 25th January 2015.

Just as we got in the car, however, the rough-legged buzzard took off again, showing just as well as before if not better. It even flew right over the car and was joined by a common buzzard! What a great comparison.

Moving on, the next place on the tour was Littlehampton to pay a visit to the returning Canadian gull. It look a while for it to appear, and we were beginning to lose hope after scanning the flocks of herring and black-headed gulls numerous times. I did spot a Mediterranean gull though which was a bonus.

Mediterranean Gull

Mediterranean Gull

Finally, it appeared – the Kumlien’s gull. It’s a sub-species of the Iceland gull that’s found in Arctic Canada. We had great, close up views as it flew along the harbour, getting mobbed by other gulls at times, such as when it had food.

Great grey shrike was the next target. We arrived at Iping Common and headed south west from the car park, as instructed by the previous sighting. I had only ever seen one great grey shrike prior to this, and was told they can be hard to see as they move around. Not this one. Helpfully, the shrike was sat at the top of a tree not too far from the path we were following. Fantastic! Good views were had until he flew off to the east.

Great grey shrike, 25th January 2015

Great grey shrike, 25th January 2015

The final stop of the day was West Dean in search of hawfinches. None were to be found despite a good look. However, all was not lost. The little owls were in what I’m told is their usual tree, and the 2 marsh tits were lovely, as were the fieldfare, a small flock of redwing and a bullfinch.

I can’t finish summarising today without mentioning the mammals. Throughout the day we saw 4 species – a hare (my first), roe deer, a fox and a grey squirrel (not wanting the squirrel to feel left out…). Always nice to lookout for all wildlife, be it a bird, insect, mammal or plant (and the rest too!). Though birds are where my heart lies admittedly.

One thought on “Magical mystery tour of Sussex

  1. I think you mean change of scenery. And in the next paragraph, you probably read about other people’s sightings. Lose hope rather than loose hope I think. And to say ‘like when’ may be all right in conservation, but I think another wording would sound better. E.g. such as.

    _____

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