Friday, 28 May 2021


I feel like I’ve been saying 'what a weird year' a lot lately, but it’s hard to disagree. The driest, coldest April for decades, dominated by northerlies, clearly held back a lot of migrant species and the exceptionally wet May has undoubtedly taken its toll on both residents and migrants who have managed to breed. Of course, these extreme shifts in weather patterns are sadly no surprise and will only intensify in years to come. One can only imagine the challenges climate change will throw in the way of birds traversing Africa and mainland Europe to reach us each year, but that's a much larger topic for another blog post, perhaps.

From a patch birding perspective, I knew in January if I was going to reach 150 at Pulborough this year then I needed to be hitting 140 by the end of the spring. Having failed to connect with the likes of Whinchat, Redstart and Tree Pipit in the past few weeks, it’s fair to say I didn’t have Brent Goose and Hawfinch on my radar as potential additions to the list come late May. Indeed, the Brent Goose on the 26th was my 140th Pulborough species this year, with this morning’s flyover Hawfinch taking me nicely into the 140s, leaving me with seven months to find another nine. Not quite home and dry yet but feeling quietly confident!

Brent Goose on the North Brooks, 26th May

Photo by Chris and Juliet Moore

The Brent Goose was long overdue after an oddly quiet winter for them at the Brooks, especially considering there had been several records by this time last year. I perhaps should’ve expected to find it on the reserve in the morning as I’d actually thought I’d heard one through the bedroom window the previous evening, but I decided I’d imagined it and thought nothing more of it until my usual early morning scan of the North Brooks.

The Hawfinch was a real bonus, and my first on the reserve since the unforgettable 2017/18 influx. I actually heard it several moments before I saw it. I was walking through the narrow section of Adder Alley and heard what sounded a little like a Reed Bunting call to the north of me, but straight away knew it wasn't quite right for that species, followed by a loud tick slightly reminiscent of a Grey Wagtail. That species is not a particularly common sight on the reserve at this time of year so it was enough to make me look up just in time to see the unmistakable chunky, big-winged, short-tailed shape of a Hawfinch flying straight over my head, quite low, calling several more times as it carried on south over the trees towards the South Brooks. 

With a week of settled weather and easterly winds ahead (at last!), I'm excited to see what surprises this peculiar year throws up next.

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