Saturday 20 January 2024


11th January

No sooner had I arrived at Pulborough Brooks early this morning and just started to scan the flooded and frozen South Brooks than I received a call from Mrs Matt saying she needed me to help her with a flat tyre, so that put paid to that particular effort! 

Fast forward 45 minutes or so and the tyre was all sorted, so I decided to drop in for a quick look at Waltham Brooks on my way home. It proved to be a good decision as, while I was enjoying the sunshine and the loud cracking sounds of the ice giving way above receding water levels, two ducks appeared into view from the north which revealed themselves to be Goosanders as they powered on over the main lake towards the Arun, where they seemed to drop in a little way downstream. A Great White Egret was also heading the same way, albeit at a more leisurely pace. My first record of Goosander anywhere this year and only my third ever record at Waltham Brooks. Funnily enough, Ed and I had literally just been chatting about the species, as he'd just found two at Frensham Great Pond. Amazing how often that happens!

Goosanders powering off downriver... sadly too slow with the camera this time!
12th January

Back to grey today after a few days of crisp winter sunshine. An early loop of Pulborough Brooks proved to be fairly uneventful, not entirely surprising given the extent of flood water. There were still several hundred dabbling ducks around, mostly Wigeon and Teal, although a lone Tufted Duck drake was on the South Brooks. I missed the Redshank and two Ruff seen by Chris and Juliet Moore but did manage to find a couple of Dunlin among ~500 Black-tailed Godwits huddled on the South Brooks. 

A day with no year ticks was salvaged late afternoon by a Peregrine which flew north over Watersfield, just as I happened to take a screen break and look out of the window (amazing how often that happens!), taking my local list to 90, and 69 within the 1km area. 

13th January

Another gloomy, grey start to the day saw me heading over to the private reservoir near Petworth to carry out my WeBS count a day early. It turned into a surprisingly decent session here, with two site ticks. As I got out of my car, I was greeted by the sound of a Blackbird softly singing nearby, always a heart-lifting sound in the depth of winter. A little further down the track to the reservoir I was surprised by a small falcon which suddenly flew up from the field to my right and gained height before flying off east - a Merlin! The first of two site ticks and no sooner had I processed it than I made my way closer to the reservoir only to discover three Goosanders on the water! Unfortunately they were evidently just as surprised to see me so quickly took flight and, in the half light, I only managed some ropey record shots. The Long-tailed Duck was still present too, which got me to thinking whether I had ever seen those two duck species at the same location before, the answer to which, I'm pretty sure, is no!
On the way home I stopped briefly at Hadworth Farm in West Burton to check out the flooded field here. This also proved decent, as it produced three site ticks in the form of Wigeon, Little Egret and Raven. The former were on the water, the two Little Egrets dropped in to feed along the waters edge and the latter (Ravens) were noisily flying to and from Bignor Park, where I suspect they must nest. 

Later in the day I headed down to Arundel with Kate and B for a stroll round, and to feed the ducks at Swanbourne Lake (of course!). A brief stop at the church in Burpham yielded the nine adult Bewick's Swans in the water meadows there plus at least seven Cattle Egrets in the fields beyond. 
Bewick's Swans
Multiple Cattle Egrets were later seen coming into roost from the Black Rabbit pub by the Arun, along with at least eight Marsh Harriers. 

14th January

A Wildstarts tour saw me spending the morning at Pulborough Brooks, leading a mother and her son around the trail. Highlights included a brief Great White Egret on the North Brooks, which also held ~200 skittish Black-tailed Godwits. The South Brooks were livelier, with singles of Ruff (a local year tick) and Marsh Harrier, ten Shelduck at West Mead and one of the adult White-tailed Eagles in a tree near the Arun which briefly flew and showed off its gleaming white tail before returning to a similar perch. On the way back up to the visitors centre we bumped into the flighty Redpoll flock near Fattengates, all Lessers as far as I could see.
Lesser Redpoll
A brief check of Waltham Brooks on the way home yielded four Tufted Ducks on the main lake and around 55 Lapwings in flight over Amberley. 

15th January

A whistle-stop tour of likely Waxwing sites around Pulborough before work this morning drew a blank again. It was a beautiful, crisp sunny winter's day so I couldn't resist getting out for a walk at lunchtime, to Waltham Brooks via the local farmland. No new species for the local year list, although I did add three species to the 1km from home list. First up a Little Egret circling overhead near the sewage works before heading south, then later two Shelduck flying downriver and finally two Grey Wagtails at the sewage works. On the lake it was usual fare, with a dozen Tufted Ducks the most noteworthy among the standard set of dabbling species.
16th January

No time for birding for work today, perhaps not too bad given it was -7c when I left the house! A lunchtime walk at Woods Mill in glorious sunshine did wonders for the soul, with four species added to my site list here including two Little Egrets which flew west, presumably looking for unfrozen water. Despite the cold, many species were singing and visibly pairing up including Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Collared Dove and Dunnock, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard drumming. A lovely first winter Grey Wagtail was feeding around one of the frozen pools. 
Grey Wagtail

17th January

After dropping B at nursery first thing I headed up the Downs for a quick walk at The Burgh. Both Red-legged and Grey Partridge were added to the year list almost immediately, followed closely by a Hen Harrier ringtail which was quartering around the fields near Canada Barn. A little walk eastwards from the barn produced the usual array of small birds, including 100+ Linnet, 50+ Redwing and Fieldfare, ~200 Starling, and the odd Yellowhammer. Returning to my car I tried again to scope the Bewick's Swans down in the valley and sure enough found eight adults. There were also at least nine Cattle Egrets in the fields up towards Offham. All in all a very successful 45 minutes or so which produced five local year ticks and three eBird hotspot ticks.
Spot the Bewick's Swans!
Hen Harrier
A lunchtime check of the flooded field/scrape at Hadworth Farm/Bignor Park produced 26 species including at least six Snipe feeding in the grass by the water's edge - a new species for me here - plus 8 Wigeon, 4 Gadwall, 6 Coots and a Little Grebe on the flood. The local Ravens were again very active and vocal, flying in and out of Bignor Park. 

18th January

Another bitterly cold but beautiful morning with the deep frost lit up by golden sunshine. I decided on a bit of woodland birding after dropping B off at nursery this morning so headed over to Fittleworth for a brisk (very brisk!) walk there. It was largely uneventful but pleasant with highlights being a few Redpoll (uncooperatively not landing to allow me to check them for Mealy), Siskin, drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker and a tumbling pair of Ravens. Just as I was about to leave though, I caught sight of a male Goshawk drifting overhead, quite high, and only in view for a few seconds. This is a site I have seen the species at before, so it's reassuring to know they're still around. It really is amazing how fast the species seems to spreading in this area now, based on how often I bump into one without really looking for them.

A lunchtime check of Hadworth Farm/Bignor Park revealed the flooded field/scrape to be holding the largest number I've birds I've seen on it to date, including 37 Teal, eight Wigeon, four Gadwall and presumably the same Little Grebe as yesterday. 25 Canada Geese were gathered on the shore along with a single Greylag Goose.
The scrape at Hadworth Farm, West Burton
19th January

I was up near Haslemere for work this morning, so decided to drop in at Benbow Pond near Midhurst on the way home, to have a quick look for the Waxwings found by Penny Green at the weekend. I am starting to get just a little anxious I might miss out on seeing this species in what is proving to be a bumper winter for them - especially since my own attempts at finding some locally have so far proved unsuccessful. Today it wasn't to be either, although the area where they had been - a grove of massive old Lime trees absolutely draped in Mistletoe - was a pretty special spot and busy with Redwings, Mistle Thrushes and various small birds. The Black Swans down at the pond showed nicely anyway, as did a Buzzard low overhead.
Black Swan
A brief check of the private site near Petworth afterwards revealed the Long-tailed Duck to not be present, though there was an impressive 78 Shoveler and 32 Tufted Duck (plus a single Pochard), clearly evidence of birds displaced from frozen ponds and lakes elsewhere. Finally, a very quick look at the Hadworth Farm scrape revealed at least one Green Sandpiper and three Snipe still present, although duck numbers had reduced since yesterday, presumably owing to even greater ice cover. 

20th January

A whistle stop tour of local sites this morning, starting with a scan from the river bank near Greatham Bridge, which proved pretty quiet aside from seven Shoveler flying north. Next up, Hail's View to scan the South Brooks in the hope of locating the Water Pipit found by Alan Baker yesterday. Sadly no joy, but it was nice to catch up with Michael and Daniel Booker here. 20 Dunlin were out on the ice, a pretty remarkable count here for this time of year, and these and 30 or so Lapwing were flushed up by an adult White-tailed Eagle which flew through and landed in one of its favourite trees by the river. Very few ducks, which was unsurprising given the lack of unfrozen water. 

Talking of ducks, my last stop of the morning was the Hadworth Farm scrape, which I have been checking most days lately owing to it having a bit of a purple patch due to some remaining unfrozen water. Today produced undoubtedly the most birds I've seen there yet, including 72 Teal, 70 Canada Geese (and a single Greylag), nine Wigeon, a female Pintail and two Green Sandpipers again, one of which flew up and over my head a couple of times.
Green Sandpiper
Assorted wildfowl on the ice at Hadworth Farm
Later in the day, just as I had finished chopping some firewood in the garden I glanced up to see a Woodcock flying east, low overhead. A garden first and first for the 1k area list this year. 

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