Thursday, 6 January 2022

2021 Pulborough patch review

2021 was my fourth full year patch watching Pulborough Brooks and, having reached 149 twice before - in 2018 and 2020 - I had decided from the outset that this had to be the year when I finally reached my target of seeing or hearing 150 species in a year within my patch boundaries. Thankfully, that milestone was reached in September and I was able to add another seven species to the tally after that. As far as I'm aware I only missed four other species that were recorded on the reserve, making a total of 157 out of a possible 161.

It was a year of many highs. The most extraordinary record was undoubtedly the Northern Mockingbird which relocated from Exeter to my garden (on my birthday, of all days!) but there were also some other firsts for the reserve or wider recording area, including Richard's Pipit, and the usual array of scarcities, some of which hadn't been recorded for several years. The lows? Well, missing one such unusual record - Sanderling in June - along with other Pulborough ticks such as Black Redstart and Goshawk were always going to grip hard when one's invested so much time in a place, but that's patch birding!

Another pleasing milestone came on 2nd May when I inadvertently set a new record for the total number of bird species (90) recorded on the reserve in a single day.

As was the case last year, I've again produced a relatively simple taxonomic list, with some further information on breeding or dates/counts of notable or rare species. As I'm always keen to state, this is far from exhaustive and not intended to be a comprehensive report, but rather an overview of the species recorded this year. There will inevitably be records I've missed so please don't be shy in dropping me a message to let me know of any errors or omissions. I should also stress that this is not an official RSPB report, simply a compendium of my own and others' observations from reports and lists I've gleaned from various sources including the SOS recent sightings page, eBird and Twitter. Although I must thank Joe Bassett, the warden, for his help with providing the WeBS totals and various breeding records, as well as Anna, Rob, Julianne, Paula, Chris & Juliet, Alan, Warren, Gary, Steve, Mike and all the other lovely RSPB staff, volunteers and regular birders. 


Monthly summaries

January - The year began with a spell of cold weather, with wintry showers at times, before milder and more unsettled conditions took hold from the 10th. Storm Christoph brought a lot of rain from the 19th to the 22nd and the weather remained changeable for the rest of the month. Bird highlights included the first Lesser Spotted Woodpecker of the year on the 2nd, 39 White-fronted Geese and 7 Goosander on the 10th, up to ten Ravens on the 17th, 4 Bewick's Swans on the 24th, singles of Jack Snipe on the 23rd and 30th, a male Hen Harrier on the 24th and again on the 30th, and also 16 Golden Plover on the 30th.

February - February began mild but colder conditions took hold from the 6th, with biting easterly winds and freezing temperatures during the second week. Storm Darcy brought some sustained and heavy snowfall during this period. It remained cold until the 13th when milder, wetter weather arrived and dominated the second half of the month. Highlights included a Jack Snipe on the 4th, at least 2000 Lapwing on the 6th, a Great Egret on the 15th and 21st, the first Curlew of the year on the 18th, the male Hen Harrier again on the 14th and 27th, a ringtail Hen Harrier on the 21st, three Crossbills, nine Goosander and at least 40 Snipe on the 27th and the first returning Avocet on the 28th.

March - A cold but settled start to the month gave way to milder but more unsettled conditions from the 9th. The second half of the month was largely more settled and dry, and quite warm for the time of year. Highlights included a Great Egret and a male Hen Harrier on the 6th, a single White-fronted Goose and 7-9 Goosander on various dates, at least 400 Redwings on the 18th, the first returning Little Ringed Plover on the 20th, a Black Redstart and the first Sand Martin on the 23rd, a male Merlin and the first Wheatear on the 27th, a White Stork on the 28th, the first Swallow on the 29th and a drake Garganey on the 31st.

April - A curious and rather unsettlingly dry month, also notable for the fact there was a frost virtually every night. Across England as a whole just 19% of the average monthly rainfall fell while almost 150% of the average sunshine was recorded. Highlights included a Garganey and the first Yellow Wagtail on the 1st, a White Wagtail on the 2nd, a male Hen Harrier on the 3rd, the first House Martin and Nightingale on the 4th, a male Pied Flycatcher from 3rd-9th, a Grey Plover on the 5th, a Great Egret on the 6th, a Northern Mockingbird on the 8th, the first Cuckoo on the 9th, two Water Pipits on the 16th, the first Hobby and Swift on the 23rd, a Spotted Redshank from 23rd-26th and four White Storks on 25th and 26th.

May - In sharp contrast to April, May was largely very unsettled, wet and quite windy at times and unseasonably cold. It was the coldest May since 1996 and almost 200% of the average rainfall was recorded. Bird highlights included the first Spotted Flycatchers on the 2nd, a Wood Sandpiper on the 2nd and 4th, 16 Dunlin on the 5th and 8th, the first returning Nightjar on the 10th, two Spoonbills on the 11th, two Common Terns on the 22nd, a Brent Goose and a Honey-buzzard on the 26th, a Hawfinch on the 28th and White-tailed Eagle G408 on various dates.

June - The month began warm and mostly dry but turned less settled in the second half, with some substantial downpours and more variable temperatures. Close to double the average monthly rainfall fell across much of the south-east. Highlights included a Great White Egret on the 1st, a Sanderling on the 11th, the first southbound Green Sandpiper on the 17th and a Wood Sandpiper on the 14th and 29th.

July - July picked up where June left off with almost two weeks of unsettled and cool weather to start before turning much warmer mid-month with a high of 32 degrees Celsius recorded on the 20th. The last few days were again more unsettled, with heavy, thundery and squally downpours at times - particularly the 30th which brought unseasonably high winds thanks to Storm Evert. Highlights of a quiet month, bird-wise, included a Great Crested Grebe and flyover Curlew on the 4th, and Common Terns on the 2nd and 9th.

August - Another changeable month, with the first half dominated by cooler temperatures and unsettled conditions, before warmer and drier weather took hold in the second half. Overall rainfall represented 70% of the monthly average, while just 60% of the average sunshine made it one of the dullest Augusts in the past hundred years. Highlights included a Pied Flycatcher on the 6th, Redstarts on the 4th-7th, 20th and 23rd, Grasshopper Warblers on the 10th and 16th, a Temminck's Stint on the 13th, a Wood Sandpiper from 13th-17th, a Crossbill on the 21st, two Little Stints on the 29th (one on the 30th and 31st), a juvenile Cuckoo on the 29th and the White-tailed Eagle again on the 28th and 29th. 

September - A mostly fine and warm month, with temperatures climbing close to 30 degrees Celsius on the 7th and 8th. Overall it was the third warmest September in a series from 1884 while 103% of the average monthly sunshine was recorded. Highlights included the lingering Little Stint on the 1st, Pied Flycatchers on the 1st and 24th, a Grasshopper Warbler on the 2nd, Redstarts on the 3rd, 4th and 12th, an Osprey on the 11th, a Pectoral Sandpiper from 12th-21st, a Honey-buzzard and two Garganey on the 13th, the last Swift on the 15th, a Spoonbill on the 16th, at least one Goshawk on the 18th and the White-tailed Eagle again on the 18th and 23rd.

October - A largely unsettled and wet month, the Stor overtopped on the 22nd, though as was the case last October the Arun largely remained within its banks and the main reserve didn't flood. Highlights included the White-tailed Eagle again on the 4th, a Curlew on the 6th, a Ring-necked Parakeet on the 8th, Great White Egrets on the 8th and 22nd, a Pochard and three Goldeneye on the 10th, two Barnacle Geese on the 16th and 17th, the last Hobby on the 19th, five Goosander on the 21st, a Pectoral Sandpiper on the 22nd, a Grey Plover on the 26th and a Black Swan on the 27th.

November - A generally dry month. Storm Arwen arrived on the 27th, delivering squally downpours on an icy north-westerly. Highlights included a Richard's Pipit on the 3rd, a flyover Hawfinch on the 9th, a Crane on the 12th, the first Hen Harrier of the winter from the 14th, a male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker from the 21st and an unseasonal Spotted Redshank from the 22nd to the 28th. 

December - December carried on where November left off, with dry and cold weather dominating for the first few days before more unsettled conditions took hold. Storm Barra brought heavy rain and fierce south-easterlies on the 7th. Highlights included the lingering Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, roosting Bewick's Swans, the first Cattle Egrets of the year and two White-fronted Geese and a Goshawk on the 21st.


Taxonomic list (BOU 2020)

Red-legged Partridge - This species is one of those that comes and goes in frequency on or near the reserve. This year there was a flurry of sightings in the first few months but then none after early May. The first of the year was on the far South Brooks on the afternoon of 26th February (P Davy). One ran across the main drive on the morning of 19th March. One was around Winpenny on 2nd April followed by another heard calling west of the Arun early on the 3rd. One was heard near Winpenny on 27th April and two ran across the path at Fattengates early on 4th May.

Pheasant - Common all year. My highest count was 15 on 14th April.

Greylag Goose - Relatively common all year but with a definite spike in records in late summer and early autumn. My own highest count was 550 on 19th September. 

Russian White-fronted Goose - The first winter period produced a flurry of records in what proved to be a very good winter for the species. A lone juvenile was seen on the South Brooks on 2nd January, then near Little Hanger on the 3rd. 39 flew west/north-west off the North Brooks early on 10th January. A single adult was seen on various dates on the Mid/South Brooks from late February to mid-March. The second winter period produced just one record of two on the North Brooks on 21st December.

Brent Goose (Dark-bellied) - After a bumper year in 2020 there was a total absence of records in the first winter period this year. The first record eventually came on the late date of 26th May, when one adult was on the North Brooks. There was just one further record: one on 9th December.

Barnacle Goose - The first of the year were two on 16th and 17th October, thereafter seen again on 19th November and other dates.

Canada Goose - The most commonly seen goose species on the reserve. Present all year and bred. My highest count was 800 on 8th November. 1165 were recorded during the WeBS count on 10th October.

Mute Swan - Common all year and bred. The highest count was 43 on 22nd May.

Bewick's Swan - Four adults were on the Mid Brooks early on 24th January. Two adults were on the North Brooks early on 11th December before flying south (Pete Hughes). The same two were seen down at Burpham the following day before again being seen on the pool at West Mead early on the 15th before flying off south again, and again on the 18th. 

Bewick's Swans, 15th December. Photo: Rob King

Egyptian Goose - Relatively common all year. At least two pairs bred, a pair with four young by the Arun being the first confirmed breeding of the year. 61 on the morning of 2nd October was the highest count of the year and, indeed, the site count to date.

Shelduck - A relatively common sight for much of the year, but particularly in the spring when numbers tend to peak, this year reaching 22 on 23rd May. A pair reared six young, which made their debut appearance on the North Brooks in early June.

Shelducks

Mandarin Duck- The first record of the year were three which flew up from Fattengates pond at first light on 22nd February, followed by five that did the same the following morning. A female was seen with up to five young on the North Brooks in July.

Garganey - Not a particularly bumper year for this species with just three records. A drake was seen from Hail's View early morning on 31st March (W Buckthorpe). What was presumably the same bird was on the North Brooks later in the day, and still present on 1st April. Two drakes were reported on the North Brooks early morning on 13th September.

Shoveler- Never quite as numerous as Wigeon and Teal but still a common sight on the reserve in the winter. The highest count was 200 on 29th December.

Gadwall - The least commonly encountered dabbling ducks species on the reserve. The highest count was 30 on 29th September.

Wigeon - Alongside Teal, the most numerous wintering duck on the reserve. Recorded in all months except June and July. I'll update with WeBS count maxima when I have them but casual counts topped 1000 on 9th January and 7th November.

Mallard - Common resident. Lots of ducklings in the summer. At least 300 left roost on the North Brooks at dawn on 8th September.

Pintail - A very late female appeared on the North Brooks on 22nd May and was seen until at least 18th August, increasing to two on the 25th and nine on the 29th. By early September there were double figure counts, with 22 flying off the North Brooks on the evening of the 5th, and 18 on the North Brooks on the 6th. The highest count was 278 on 4th December.

Teal - Very numerous in the winter. Recorded in all months of the year, with a handful summering on the reserve. Still waiting on WeBS count data but 1000+ were noted on 9th January.

Pochard - This species can be remarkably tricky to catch up with on the reserve and there was just one record in 2021: one on the Mid Brooks on the afternoon/evening of 10th October.

Tufted Duck - The commonest diving duck on the reserve but still not particularly frequent. A pair were on the river near home early on 10th January then later on the North Brooks. A drake was on the North Brooks on 6th February and 20th February. A pair were at West Mead on 22nd February. A single drake flew north on 23rd April. There were several records in May including six (four drakes) on the 19th. Two drakes were seen at West Mead on 29th June followed by one on the North Brooks on the 30th. The last record of the year was a pair flushed from Hardham Reservoir by the White-tailed Eagle on 18th September.

Goldeneye - Three were on the Mid Brooks on the afternoon/evening of 10th October; the first site record for many years. These birds were thought to likely be the same three that have been frequenting a private reservoir in south-west Surrey in recent months.

Goosander - Another busy year for the species locally. A redhead was on the North Brooks on 1st January before flying off west. Seven (two drakes) were on the river near home early on 10th January. Nine flew north along the river on the morning of 27th February. Seven flew up for the Arun on the morning of 7th March. This group of 7-9 were on occasion seen on the pond up past the church. 8 flew east off the Arun early on 20th March. 5 redheads were on the North Brooks on the evening of 21st October. A drake was seen on the Arun near the reserve on several dates in late November. 

Little Grebe - Uncommon resident, didn't breed on the reserve. One was on the North Brooks on 6th February. One was on West Mead pool on 1st April and 12th-13th July and another was on the flood near the village on 22nd-23rd October.

Great Crested Grebe - Always tricky to catch up with locally. One was on the Arun on 3rd April and 2nd-3rd May, and again on 20th June and 4th July.

Great Crested Grebe

Feral Pigeon - The resident flock remained a constant presence on and around the visitor centre throughout the year.

Stock Dove - Reasonably common all year and presumably bred. Never particularly numerous though, my highest count was twelve on 30th December.

Woodpigeon - Very common all year and many pairs bred. 1200 flew southwest early on 23rd October.

Collared Dove - An occasional occurrence towards the eastern and northern ends of the reserve. My highest count was five on 6th March. 

Cuckoo - The first of the year was heard singing along the Arun on 9th April. A presumed pair were seen interacting at the Hanger on 8th May, while by the 9th there were at least three around and at least two males and two females by the 16th. The last report of one singing was on 30th June. A juvenile was seen on the South Brooks by Graham Osborne and Neil Buckthorpe on 29th August.

Cuckoo

Nightjar - The first of the year was churring near Black Pond on the evening of 10th May, although it proved to be a rather difficult year for them and there wasn't to be quite the same amount of spectator-friendly displays as had been enjoyed in previous years - presumably due to May and June being so wet. Nonetheless, by the end of May there were at least three males present, including one on The Triangle. 

Swift - The first of the year was one on 23rd April, followed by another the following day then at least 30 on the 25th and 40+ by the 27th. 200+ on 22nd May. Numbers typically began tailing off into August, with at least six still present on 22nd, two on the 27th and 28th, and one on the 30th. One was seen on 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th September. The last report of the year was of two over the Hanger on 15th September, although two were seen over nearby Hardham on the 18th. 

Water Rail - More often heard than seen but present in small numbers all year round. Alarm calls on the North Brooks in June suggested the presence of young birds.

Moorhen - Common, several pairs bred. My highest count was 20 on 9th September.

Moorhen

Coot - A more or less daily occurrence from late January until late August. Several pairs bred. My highest count was 37 on 13th February.

Common Crane - One was on the North Brooks for around an hour on the morning of 12th November before flying over to the field behind Banks Cottage, before flying off east at around 11:10. The first record for the reserve since 2011.

Crane, 12th November. Photo by Phil Thornton

Avocet - Last year's breeding male returned to the North Brooks on 28th February, with numbers gradually increasing to six by 27th March. One pair were showing signs of nesting by 24th April, then went AWOL for a while before returning to the North Brooks on 3rd May. A pair were on eggs on the North Brooks by 13th May but the nest was sadly predated by a Carrion Crow on the morning of the 15th. By the 21st there were six adults again on the North Brooks. By early June there were up to ten adults around, and a pair finally managed to successfully hatch three chicks on the pool at West Mead. Sadly these were then predated on 3rd July when the adults attempted to walk the chicks across to the North Brooks. The adults were then all gone by 22nd July. Three on the North Brooks on 3rd and 4th September was the last record of the year.
Avocet

Grey Plover - One on the North Brooks on 5th April was sadly dispatched by a Peregrine later in the day. Another was with the Lapwings from Winpenny hide on the morning of 26th October.

Golden Plover - 16 were on the Mid Brooks on the afternoon of 30th January before flying north. At least one was heard calling towards the North Brooks from home on 4th October. Five were with Lapwings on the North Brooks on 15th December.

Lapwing - At least 2000 on 6th February represented the highest count of the year. Breeding birds began courtship and display from the end of February. 25 pairs bred and 18 young successfully fledged.

Lapwings

Ringed Plover - The first of the year were three on the North Brooks on 24th April, followed by another three on the 28th and two on 2nd May. Three were on the North Brooks on the evening of 4th May and again the following morning. Five were on the North Brooks on 8th May. One flew south over Redstart Corner on 17th August while seven dropped in to the North Brooks on the morning of 18th August. A juvenile was present on the North Brooks from 27th August-1st September.

Little Ringed Plover - One flew north on 20th March. One was on the Mid Brooks early on 22nd March, followed by two later in the day. Three were on the North Brooks on 2nd and 14th April and 16th May. A juvenile was on the North Brooks on the 14th and 15th September.

Whimbrel - The first of the year was one on the North Brooks on 23rd April, which flew off south in the evening. Another was on the North Brooks early on 26th April. One flew east on 28th April and two were on the North Brooks from 1st-3rd May, with three there on 4th and 5th May. One was on the North Brooks on 7th May, two were there from the 9th-12th, increasing to three on the 13th. Four flew north on the 15th. At least one was heard calling from home on the evening of 16th July.

Curlew - One was on the South Brooks on 18th February (A Kitson). Another was on the North Brooks early on 20th March before flying southwest. Two were reported on 30th March (E Hein). One was on the North Brooks on 23rd April. One was on the North Brooks on 2nd-4th May. Two were on the North brooks on 9th-11th May. One flew west over the North Brooks on 4th July. One was heard from West Mead on 28th August. One on the Mid Brooks on 6th October was the last record of the year.

Black-tailed Godwit - Numbers typically started high in January then dropped off towards the spring. There were various single figure counts in May, June and early July before numbers again began to increase. The wintering flock really began to build up again in December, though never quite reaching the four figure total of last year, peaking at ~500 on the 28th.

Black-tailed Godwits

Ruff - Nine on the North Brooks from 5th-7th March represented the highest count of the year. The first returning bird was one on the North Brooks on 3rd July. Five juveniles were at West Mead on 1st-4th September. Wintering birds began to appear from late October and what was thought to be the same leucistic individual from last year returned on the 29th. By 20th November there were up to seven present with the Lapwing flock, with up to four remaining until the end of the year.

Temminck's Stint - There was just one record of this species in 2021: one on the North Brooks on 13th August (C & J Moore, A Baker, W Buckthorpe). 

Sanderling - One was on the North Brooks for a short time on the morning of 11th June, the first site record since 2013 (C & J Moore, A Baker, W Buckthorpe).

Dunlin - One was with the Lapwings on Mid Brooks on a few dates in January. Two were in the same area on 6th February. One was on the North Brooks on 14th February. 22 were on the South Brooks on 15th February, with ten still there on the 20th. Eight were on the North Brooks 5th-7th March. Passage of the species really got going in early May with 13 present on the 4th and 16 on the 5th and 8th. The first returning juvenile was on the North Brooks from 17th-22nd August. At least four wintered among the Lapwing flock.

Little Stint - Two dropped in on the North Brooks on the morning of 29th August, during an exceptional autumn for the species. One remained until 1st September.

Pectoral Sandpiper - A juvenile was on the North Brooks on the 12th-21st September (Neil Buckthorpe/Graham Osborne), the first record for the reserve since late 2017. What was presumably a different bird was then found on the North Brooks by Alan Baker on 22nd October, and Alan and the Friday gang had what was probably it again distant from Winpenny.

Pectoral Sandpiper. Photo by Paul Davy

Woodcock -  The year kicked off with three flying off the heath at dusk on 1st January. Two were seen roding on The Triangle on 26th May (A Rogers) while another or possibly one of the same two was regularly seen and heard over the main heath in June, indicative of local breeding.

Jack Snipe - One flew up from northeastern corner of the North Brooks early on 23rd January, 30th January and 4th February.

Snipe - At least 40 were flushed from the Mid and South Brooks on 27th February by the hunting male Hen Harrier. Two were still on the North Brooks as of 24th April. At least 50 were seen on the North Brooks in mid-October.

Snipe. Photo by Mike Jerome

Common Sandpiper - The first of the year was one on the North Brooks on 1st May followed by another there on the 5th and two on the 6th. One was on the North Brooks on 29th and 30th August, joined by a second on 1st and 2nd September.

Green Sandpiper - One overwintered at the sewage works and was often seen or heard in flight in that area. One flew off the North Brooks early on 7th March. Two were on the North Brooks on 14th April. The first reported returning adult was on the North Brooks early on 17th June followed by another on the 20th, gradually increasing into July and August. The highest count was nine on 23rd July and 1st August. 

Green Sandpiper. Photo by Mike Jerome

Spotted Redshank - There were just two records of this species in 2021. One on the North Brooks from 23rd-26th April was the only spring record. One was on the North Brooks on 22nd November, almost certainly the same bird seen by Pete Hughes at Amberley the previous day. This remained until at least the 28th.

Greenshank - The first of the year was one on the North Brooks on 14th April. One was on the North Brooks on 23rd and 24th April followed by three on the 25th and 13 on the 27th, the latter the highest count of the year. One lingered at West Mead into early May. Autumn passage began in July and peaked at five on 20th August. Up to three lingered around West Mead in early September, one taking a particular liking to the recently created Simms Pond near the cattle crossing, often flushing noisily when anyone passed by.

Greenshank. Photo by Mike Jerome

Wood Sandpiper - The first of the year was one on the North Brooks on 2nd May. Another or the same one was on the North Brooks on the 4th. One was on the North Brooks on 14th June, the third year in a row one has turned up around this date. This was followed by another at West Mead on 29th June. One was on the North Brooks on 13th, 14th and 17th August.

Redshank - The first breeding birds were back on the South Brooks by mid-February, increasing to at least ten by 17th March. Ten pairs bred, successfully fledging six young. The last of the year were two on the North Brooks on 13th August.

Black-headed Gull - Common all year round but especially so in the winter months. My highest count was 110 on 23rd October.

Mediterranean Gull -  Rather fewer records of this species in 2021 than in previous years. An adult bird dropped onto the North Brooks with Black-headeds and Commons for a short while on 28th February before flying south. Three (two adults and a 2cy) drifted east over the North Brooks on 24th April. Four adults flew north on 27th April. Three adults drifted north high over Redstart Corner with Black-headed Gulls on 5th June. Two adults flew southwest over the Hanger early on 29th June.

Mediterranean Gulls

Common Gull - Relatively common outside the breeding season. The highest count was 140 on 13th March. An unseasonably early returning adult was on the North Brooks on the evening of 2nd July.

Herring Gull - Common all year but especially outside the breeding season. My highest count was 200+ which flew southwest on 22nd August.

Lesser Black-backed Gull - Reasonably common all year. 2-3 were present throughout the summer but didn't breed. My highest count was 15 on 20th September.

Great Black-backed Gull - A 3rd calendar year bird was on the North Brooks on the morning of 24th January before flying off south. Two adults and a third winter were present on the Mid Brooks on 25th March and two adults flew south the next day. One flew downriver on 2nd May. An adult flew south down the Arun early on 17th July. One was on the North Brooks on 17th August. A 2CY bird circled over the village on 22nd August. An adult flew south on 12th December.

Common Tern - Two were hawking over the South Brooks on the morning of 22nd May before flying off south. Another circled the North Brooks on 2nd July before flying south. Three circled the North Brooks for a short time early on 9th July before departing north-east.

Common Terns

Cormorant - Common all year in small numbers. The highest count was a dozen on 9th April.

Cattle Egret - A late addition to the reserve year list. At least three were seen from Hail's View on the morning of 9th December, intermittently flying up from farmland towards Hardham. Three were then with the cattle at Brookgate Farm, just north of the North Brooks, early on 12th December, before later relocating to a field just southwest of the South Brooks. At least two were then seen in either of those locations on most days for the rest of the year. 

Cattle Egret

Grey Heron - Common all year round in small numbers. My highest count was seven on 27th July.

Great Egret - One dropped in to the South Brooks on afternoon of 15th February (P Davy). One was on the North Brooks on 21st February. One was on the North Brooks on the evening of 6th March before flying off towards Amberley. One was on the North Brooks early on 6th April. One flew over on 1st June. One was flushed from the South Brooks by a Grey Heron early on 8th October. One was on the South Brooks on 22nd October, which roosted in a willow by the river, then the next day was on the North Brooks, then the South Brooks, then flew south. One was on the North Brooks on 5th November. One was on the North Brooks briefly on the afternoon of 14th November. One was on the Mid Brooks early on 28th November before flying off towards Coldwaltham.

Great Egret, 14th November. Photo: Graham Osborne

Little Egret - Relatively common most of the year. The highest count was ten west of the Arun from the South Brooks on 18th August.

Spoonbill - Two, an adult and a 2cy bird, were on the North Brooks early on 11th May before flying off north. One was reported early morning on the North Brooks on 16th September.

Osprey - One flew south just to the east of the reserve late afternoon on 11th September (MP and G Trew), the same bird incredibly having been seen just over half an hour earlier flying southwest over Capel in Surrey (W Attridge). I produced a very rough map and calculation after the event and reckoned the bird must have been travelling at a mean speed of 48kph to cover the approximately 20 miles in 35 minutes.

Osprey over Mare Hill, 11th September. Photo: Gary Trew

Honey-buzzard - One was observed from the reserve flying north over Stopham on 26th May. A male flew low over Hanger Wood on the afternoon of 15th July (A Wilkinson). One flew over on 13th September.

Marsh Harrier - A increasingly frequent sight on the reserve, generally away from the breeding season. As was the case last year, numbers peaked late in the year, with counts of at east three individuals on various dates in October and November.

Hen Harrier - A male was seen flying down the river from Hail's View then towards Amberley on the afternoon of 24th January (P Davey), then again on 30th January. Presumably the same male was seen flying south from the North Brooks on 14th February, then again on the South Brooks on 27th February. A ringtail flew over the heath on 21st February. The male was seen again quartering over the Mid Brooks on 6th March, then again flying from the North Brooks down the Arun early on 3rd April. The first bird of the autumn, a ringtail, was seen from Winpenny hide on 14th and 16th November, then again on the 22nd and 27th. A male was reported flying over the village early on 2nd December. A ringtail flew through the North Brooks early on 11th December, and was seen again on various dates until the end of the year.

Hen Harrier, 14th November. Photo: Graham Osborne


Sparrowhawk - Relatively common all year. Presumably bred locally.

Goshawk - At least one was seen over the South Brooks by several observers on 18th September, including mobbing the visiting White-tailed Eagle at one point! A first year bird flew in front of the Hanger on 21st December.

Goshawk, 21st December. Photo by Juliet Moore

Red Kite - Increasingly common resident. Presumably bred locally. The highest count was four on various dates.

Buzzard - Common resident. At least one pair bred on the reserve. My highest count was 20+ on 22nd August.

Barn Owl - Two pairs bred on the reserve in 2021, each rearing three fledglings.

Barn Owl

Little Owl - One was heard singing near home on the evening of 15th March. At least one juvenile was heard calling in the same area on 29th June.

Tawny Owl - Common but elusive resident. Several pairs bred. A particularly showy individual was at Jupp's View on 20th June.

Tawny Owl. Photo by Graham Osborne

Kingfisher - One was seen on the North Brooks on several dates in July. A juvenile was seen on the North Brooks on 27th August. Seen and heard more frequently after the breeding season, particularly on the North Brooks.
Kingfisher (juvenile). Photo by Juliet Moore

Wryneck - A little outside the reserve/my patch boundary, but one was in a private garden on the south side of the village on the afternoon of 13th September (S Chalmers & V King).

Wryneck

Great Spotted Woodpecker - Common resident. Many pairs bred, including a nest in an Oak right by the car park.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - One flew over the path down to Nettley's Hide on 2nd January (M Unwin). Another was seen in Black Wood on 21st November, while another or the same individual was photographed at the top of the ZigZags on 28th November. What was presumably the same bird was then seen in the Fattengates area, or sometimes in Hanger Wood, most days until the end of the year.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Photo by Mike Jerome.


Green Woodpecker - Common resident. Several pairs bred.

Kestrel - Common all year and bred. My highest count was five on 15th August and 2nd October. 

Kestrel

Merlin - One flew over Redstart Corner on 1st January, chasing a Skylark. A female was seen again chasing a Skylark before alighting on a post on the Mid Brooks on 6th February. A male was in Uppertons Field on the morning of 27th March. A female was seen eating prey on the North Brooks on 3rd April. There were various sightings of one in October and November, and two on 29th October.

Merlin, 27th March

Hobby - Fairly common summer visitor. One pair bred. The first of the year was over the North Brooks on 23rd April followed by another on the 26th and one over the South Brooks on 2nd May. Four were seen together on 29th August. The last report of the year was of one on 19th October.

Peregrine - Increasingly common resident which breeds locally. Recorded on the reserve more or less throughout the year (although I had no records in June), my highest count was three on 2nd January.

Ring-necked Parakeet - Still (mercifully) uncommon in this part of the world. One flew over Uppertons Field on 8th October (A Glossop).

Jay - Common resident. Several pairs bred.

Young Jays

Magpie - Common resident. Several pairs bred.

Jackdaw - Common resident. Bred again in the large Willow west of the Hanger viewpoint. My highest count was 200 on 27th October.

Rook - Common resident. A small number bred in Hanger Wood, though most local birds come from the colony just across the river towards Hardham. My highest count was 105 on 8th July.

Carrion Crow - Common all year, several pairs bred.

Raven - Increasingly common resident. High counts included seven over near the visitor centre on 2nd January and at least ten on 17th January.

Ravens

Coal Tit - Common resident. Several pairs bred. 

Marsh Tit - Generally uncommon but the lingering one or two from the end of 2020 persisted into early 2021. Most sightings were in Fattengates Courtyard. Two were present on 2nd January, otherwise all records were of single birds.

Blue Tit - Very common resident, many pairs bred.

Great Tit - Very common resident, many pairs bred.

Woodlark - The year began with six flying up from Uppertons Field on 1st January. 3-4 were singing over the heath on 28th January. Two pairs bred, on the heath near the Tumulus and on the Triangle. Adult birds were regularly seen gathering food in Uppertons Field in April. One was heard singing over Uppertons Field again on 22nd/23rd May. Two were seen regularly flying in and out of Uppertons Field in late June and July. The now regular winter flock in Uppertons Field began to increase again in the autumn, reaching at least nine by 11th November.

Woodlark

Skylark - Relatively common resident. Several pairs bred. My highest count was 15 on 16th October.

Sedge Warbler - The first of the year was heard on the North Brooks on 9th April. By the 25th at least eight singing males were present. Good numbers of juveniles were seen later in the season. The last record was one on 18th September.

Reed Warbler - The first of the year was one along the Arun near the Pig Run on 22nd April. At least four were singing on-site by the 25th, increasing to at least eight by 23rd May. Adults were seen carrying food to nests on various dates. My last record was two seen on 26th September.

Reed Warbler

Sand Martin - The first to be reported was one on 23rd March (J Russell). Four were on the North Brooks early on 27th March followed by at least 14 on 28th March. 70 left roost on the North Brooks early on 2nd April, at least 200 were feeding over the sewage works later in the morning. My highest count was 220 on 3rd May. The last to be reported were 20 on 12th September (A Rogers).

Swallow - The first to be reported was one on the South Brooks on 29th March (A Kitson). Several were seen on 31st March and at least ten on 2nd April. Larger numbers started to gather and move through towards the end of September, with at least 150 through on the morning of 26th September. Two were feeding over the North Brooks on 16th October - my last of the year.

House Martin - The first of the year was one over the North Brooks with Sand Martins on 4th April. Numbers remained low throughout the month, with at least five seen on the 25th. The first double figure count was at least twelve on the 29th. Several pairs bred in the village again. Larger numbers started to gather and move through towards the end of September, with at least 300 through on the morning of 26th September. My last record was eight on 8th October

Willow Warbler - Relatively common summer visitor, one or two pairs bred. The first of the year was singing near Redstart Corner on 31st March. Numbers typically increased in mid August, with at least a dozen around on the 15th. My last record of the year was one on 12th September.

Willow Warbler

Chiffchaff - Common migrant. Two were near the sewage works on 10th January. One in this area on 6th February was singing. By the first week of March there were at least ten singing males around the reserve, increasing to double this number by early April. Many pairs bred.

Chiffchaff

Cetti's Warbler - The lingering individual from the end of 2020 remained on the eastern side of the North Brooks until at least 6th February. One was singing near Little Hanger Hide on 27th February and various dates in early March, the same bird presumably moving to the Hanger area where it was heard every day until July, sometimes moving down as far as Adder Alley. Another was often heard singing near the sewage works.

Cetti's Warbler

Long-tailed Tit - Multiple pairs bred, including one pair right in front of the Hanger viewpoint. The first fledglings were seen in early May. My highest count was 20 on 28th November.

Grasshopper Warbler - One was in the brambles along the eastern edge of the North Brooks on 10th August followed by another or the same one in the same area on the 16th. Another was flushed along Adder Alley early on 2nd September.

Grasshopper Warbler

Blackcap - Common summer visitor, although a wintering male was in the Hawthorn near the garden on 3rd January. The first proper migrants began arriving towards the end of March, increasing to at least 25 on 18th April. Many juveniles were seen through the summer. My last of the year were two on 9th October.

Garden Warbler - Reasonably common summer visitor, although never particularly numerous on the reserve. The first of the year was singing at the Hanger on 21st April, increasing to at least five by 15th May. The last to be reported was one on 30th August (A Glossop).

Lesser Whitethroat - Fairly common summer visitor. At least two pairs bred. The first of the year was singing near the Hanger on 17th April. My highest count was five on 1st June when I saw a family group together at the top of the ZigZags. The last of the year was one on 12th September.

Whitethroat - The first of the year was on the east side of the North Brooks on 9th April, increasing to at least five by 18th. Many pairs bred. The highest count was 20 on various dates. The last to be reported were two on 15th September.

Whitethroat. Photo by Mike Jerome

Goldcrest - Common resident. Several pairs bred, especially around the wooded edges of the heath and Black Wood.

Firecrest - Increasingly common resident. Breeds on the outskirts of the reserve. There were various single records in January. The highest count was two together near the sewage works on 6th February.

Nuthatch - Relatively common resident. Small numbers bred.

Treecreeper - Common resident. Several pairs bred.

Wren - Very common resident. Many pairs bred.

Starling - Common resident but especially numerous in the winter months. The highest count was at least 5000 which flew northeast to roost just after 17:00 on 18th February

Northern Mockingbird - Undoubtedly the most astonishing record of the year, the bird that had been in Exmouth since 6th February was discovered by Christine Lindsay to have relocated to her garden on 8th April. It remained in the area all day - even dropping into my own garden at one point! - and was enjoyed by many visiting birders. Sadly it was gone by the following morning and the same bird was then, incredibly, found again in Northumberland in early May. Needless to say, a first for Sussex.

Northern Mockingbird - on my neighbour's garden chair!

Mistle Thrush - Common resident, although generally the least numerous thrush species seen on the reserve. One was seen on a nest in Black Wood on 23rd May. My highest count was 18 on 20th August.

Song Thrush - Common resident. Many pairs bred. A rather late fledgling was along Adder Alley on 3rd September. My highest count was 18 on 10th January.
Song Thrush

Redwing - Common winter visitor. The highest count was at least 400 on the evening of 18th March (P Hughes). At least three were still around the Hanger area on 10th April. Unusually, one was heard in full song at The Hanger on 16th April. 

Redwing. Photo by Mike Jerome

Blackbird - Common resident. Many pairs bred. The highest count was 35 on 7th November.

Fieldfare - Common winter visitor. A rather late bird was still seen in Uppertons Field until 27th April. My highest count was 50 on 28th February.

Spotted Flycatcher - The first to be reported were on 2nd May when one was seen at Redstart Corner while another was seen on the edge of the overflow car park. Anna Allum had one of the regular breeding pairs back in Black Wood by the 6th. One was at Redstart Corner again on 23rd May. The last of the year was one near the tractor sheds on 24th September.

Robin - Common resident. Many pairs bred.

Nightingale - The first of the year was heard singing along Adder Alley on 4th April (Rob & Anna) followed by one at the Hanger on the evening of the 5th. By the third of week of the month there were five singing males around the reserve and a further two along the public right of way east of the North Brooks. By early May there thought to be as many as eleven singing males present, the highest count here for several years. By mid-June the scrubby areas of the trails were ringing with whistling and croaking adults tending to juveniles.

Nightingale

Pied Flycatcher - A stunning male was in the treeline along Green Lane from 3rd-9th April, a peculiarly long stay for a breeding adult in spring - presumably held up by the cold northeasterlies. The first returning bird was one in Black Wood on 6th August (Chris and Juliet Moore, et al). One was along Green Lane on 1st September (Chris and Juliet Moore et al). The last of the year was one near the tractor sheds on 24th September.

Pied Flycatcher, Black Wood, 6th August. Photo: Juliet Moore

Redstart - A female was on the fence on the northern side of Severals Field from 4th-7th August. On 20th August there was one along the ZigZags and another at the Hanger. A smart male was along the public footpath past the church early on 23rd August. One was on Hollybush Hill on 3rd September and another was near the cattle crossing at the top of the Green Lane on the 4th. Two were near Winpenny on 12th September.

Redstart, Severals Field, 4th August

Black Redstart - A male was around the visitor centre on 23rd March.

Stonechat - Relatively common all year. At least two pairs bred. My highest count was eight on 26th June.

Stonechat

Whinchat - After a dearth of spring records, the first of the year was one by the visitor centre early on 9th July. This was followed by one on the North Brooks on 10th August (S Baines) and another on the 12th and the 21st. At least three were on the South Brooks on the 22nd. The highest count of the year was 12 on 31st August (G Trew) and my last of the year were three on 15th September.

Wheatear - The first of the year was a female on the Mid Brooks on 27th March, followed by another on 29th March. There were various records from Uppertons Field in the spring including a presumed male 'Greenland Wheatear' (race leucorhoa) on 8th/9th May. The morning of the 9th saw a mini fall of the species including single males and females along the river. The first returning bird was one near West Mead on 17th August (Gary Trew) followed by one on the North Brooks on 28th August and one on the field behind home on the 30th. Five were on the exposed mud in front of Winpenny hide on 1st September (Chris and Juliet Moore, et al). The last to be reported was one on 20th September.

Presumed Greenland Wheatear, 9th May. Photo: Graham Osborne

Dunnock - Common resident. Many pairs bred.

House Sparrow - Common resident. The regular flock continues to do well at the visitor centre, peaking at 40 on 11th December.

Grey Wagtail - Common resident. Bred locally. My highest count was seven on 16th September.

Yellow Wagtail - The first of the year was reported on the North Brooks on 1st April, followed by one on the 2nd and another on the 4th, all males. Return passage kicked off with one east over the North Brooks early on 23rd August followed by five south together early on the 24th. At least eight were around on 29th August and at least two flew over on the 30th. Higher counts occurred in early September with around 30 seen near Redstart Corner and 13 over the North Brooks on the 4th. At least 25 were with the cattle in front of Winpenny hide on 18th September. The last to be reported were two on 27th September.

Yellow Wagtail. Photo by Mike Jerome

Pied Wagtail - Common resident. Many juveniles seen in the breeding season. My highest count was 15 on various dates. An individual of the nominate alba race ('White Wagtail') was on the North Brooks on 2nd April.

Richard's Pipit - This first for the reserve was found by Alan Baker and seen by six people from West Mead hide on the morning of 3rd November, before it flew at 10:05 and wasn't definitely seen again. 

Richard's Pipit. Photo by Warren Buckthorpe

Meadow Pipit - 26th September saw some fairly impressive movement of this species, with at least 170 moving south during the morning, some dropping in to the reserve.

Tree Pipit - At least one, possibly two, was in the field just south of Wiggonholt Church early on 14th April. The first of the autumn was one which flew off the North Brooks early on 23rd August. One was heard at Redstart Corner on the 28th and one flew over the tea terrace on the 30th followed by another southwest on 4th September.

Water Pipit - At least two were on the North Brooks on 16th April followed by at least one the following day. What was almost certainly one was heard calling near Winpenny hide on 12th December, and again on the 18th.

Chaffinch - Common resident. My highest count was 15 on various dates.

Brambling - The first winter period was very quiet for this species, with just one over the visitor centre on 1st January and four over the Hanger on the 17th. The autumn and second winter period was much more fruitful, as there was a nationwide influx. There were records of ones or twos on various dates in October and November while seven flew over Black Wood early on 28th November.

Hawfinch - One flew south over Adder Alley early on 28th May. Another flew over on 9th November. 

Bullfinch - Reasonbly common resident. Fledglings were again seen in July. My highest count was ten on various dates.

Greenfinch - Reasonably common resident. Most often seen or heard down the ZigZags. My highest count was 22 on 23rd January.

Linnet - Common resident. My highest count was 40 on 8th March.

Lesser Redpoll - Relatively common outside the breeding season but there didn't seem to be any particularly large groups this year. They were most commonly seen either down the ZigZags or on the heath.

Crossbill - Three were seen feeding on pine cones on the heath on the morning of 27th February. A pair were seen feeding a juvenile on The Triangle in mid-April. One was seen on the heath on 21st August.

Crossbill

Goldfinch - Common resident. Numbers typically grew in the autumn, with counts of 50+ on various dates in September and October.

Siskin - Relatively common outside the breeding season. My highest count was six on 23rd October.

Yellowhammer - Most reliably encountered along the western side of the North Brooks but never numerous. My highest count was four on various dates in January and October.

Yellowhammers

Reed Bunting - Common resident. Most reliably encountered along the Pig Run between Adder Alley and the Arun. My highest counts were 15 on various dates in February.


Escapes

Bar-headed Goose - Seen on and off among the common geese between 15th September and 2nd October.

Black Swan - One flew off the South Brooks on the morning of 27th October.

White Stork - One briefly dropped in to the Mid Brooks on the morning of 28th March before flying off southwest. Four (all colour ringed individuals from Knepp) dropped into Uppertons Field on the evening of 25th April and were still present the following morning. One flew west on 13th May and possibly the same bird flew east over the North Brooks on the 14th, and another flew north on the 15th. A little outside the reserve/patch boundary, but three were in the field just east of Swan Bridge on the morning of the 16th. Two flew along the Arun towards Stopham on 29th December.

White Stork

White-tailed Eagle - Most if not all records were thought to relate to male 'G408', one of the reintroduced Isle of Wight birds. Released on the Island in 2020, he's proved to be the least adventurous of his cohorts, spending all of his time either on the IOW or in the Arun Valley. He made his Pulborough debut on the South Brooks on 20th April, then a week later flew east over the North Brooks before turning up at Knepp later in the day and flying right over the White Stork nests there - which must have made for quite a sight!

He was back on the South Brooks on 4th May before flying back towards Amberley in the evening, giving a repeat performance the following day. He was seen several times again that week then not again until the morning of 22nd May when he was seen perched on a fence on the far South Brooks before flying around for a while then back to Amberley. On 28th August he returned to the reserve and was seen sitting on the North Brooks for a while before perching up in an Oak near the river. The next day he was seen perched and then in flight over the South Brooks. He was seen again on 18th September in flight over the South Brooks, then perched in an Ash tree just west of the Arun. He then chased a flock of Egyptian Geese around over Hardham for a while before drifting back towards Amberley. Later in the day he was seen again being mobbed by multiple raptors including a Goshawk. He was seen again on the 23rd and then again over the South Brooks on 4th October.

White-tailed Eagle 'G408', 28th August. Photo by Rob King



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