A day off work on Friday saw me make a couple of visits to the Brooks in between other appointments, the overnight rain and rather more southerly winds filling me with hope for some new arrivals. The morning visit was a chilly affair but boosted by at least five singing Chiffchaffs around the nature trail; the most I've heard here, or anywhere for that matter, so far this year.
A hunting Peregrine caused havoc at West Mead and very nearly caught a Lapwing before coming down on the grass closer to the Arun. From Winpenny were a pair of Redshank, while a loud 'choo-wit!' which seemed to echo around the whole hide could have only come from a Spotted Redshank, but try as I might I couldn't locate the bird - I suspect it may have flown straight over. On the North Brooks were a single Dunlin, two Little Egrets and just seven Black-tailed Godwits. Gull numbers were higher than usual with at least 35 each of Common Gull and Herring Gull through during the morning visit, slightly fewer Black-headeds and five Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Sadly, try as I might, I couldn't find a Little Gull with them...
The afternoon visit, meanwhile, produced a pair of Stonechats and a squealing Water Rail at Hails View, and a single Redshank on the North Brooks, but best of all was a ringtail Hen Harrier hunting over towards the village - my first of the year here so grateful thanks indeed to the couple I was chatting to who alerted me to its presence. It briefly disappeared from view before we picked it up again, higher up and being chased towards the river by a Carrion Crow. The Harrier ducked and dived to evade the corvid and eventually disappeared around the corner towards the Mid Brooks.
|Hen Harrier from Winpenny Hide, photo by Chris and Juliet Moore ©|
A rather quieter visit on Saturday morning again produced at least five singing Chiffchaffs but also my first singing Meadow Pipits of the year with a couple of males performing display flights out on the Mid and South Brooks. Notable by their absence were Black-tailed Godwits - aside from during the very cold weather my first Godwit-less visit to the Brooks since the autumn. Three Redshank put on a good display from Winpenny and West Mead, constantly calling and occasionally flying around, while a single Ruff was feeding out with the Wigeon in front of Hails View. Shelduck numbers remain high with a conservative count of 29 onsite. After the first two of the year mid-month, Coot numbers reached a personal patch record count of six today. Still a few Fieldfare (7) and Redwing (12) around too while the session ended with a mating pair of Kestrels at Wiggonholt.
I only had time for a couple of hours on the reserve early doors on Sunday but it was good to notice another increase in Chiffchaffs to at least eight singing males including an odd aberrant one on the path down to Nettley's. Slowly but surely spring is coming, although it's hard to believe it's the last weekend of March and I've still yet to see Sand Martin or Wheatear! Another species noticeable by its increase in number was Gadwall with five present today.
|Gadwall pair at West Mead. There were another three on the North Brooks today|
At least two Redshank were again vocal on the Mid Brooks while after yesterday's absence there were two Black-tailed Godwits on the North Brooks. The undoubted highlight though was the Great White Egret I picked up from The Hanger. I assumed it to be the same bird that's been doing the rounds locally for a while and Gary and I saw on Wednesday but thanks to a heads-up tweet from Emily Summers I was alerted to the presence of TWO on the North Brooks later in the day which I was able to get from the attic window!
|Great White Egret through the mist from The Hanger this morning|
A pretty productive weekend in all, taking both the garden total and patch year lists to 106.