Pulborough Brooks and Waltham Brooks

It's becoming a bit of a tradition to visit Pulborough Brooks on Christmas Day, this being my third consecutive year. Today I did a full circuit encompassing the main trail and the heathland trail and Hail's View. I record 60 species and covered 3.5 miles in the 3 or so hours I was there. The highlight, however, was in the first 5 minutes of arriving at dawn when, scanning the mid brooks from the visitor centre, I noticed a white blob right out in the middle. It was still quite dark and it distant, but I could make out five yellow-billed swans, and enough to identify them as Bewick's Swans. They did a little loop on the water together, bobbing their heads up and down, before they all took flight, heading off over Greatham, presumably to Amberley, although I have heard no other reports today. Unfortunately there were no juveniles. 

Bewick's Swans

Bewick's Swans have been in steep decline in the UK since the 90s, and the Arun Valley has been the most important site for the species in Sussex. From an incredible count of 158 in January 1986 (quite unimaginable now), in 2018 there were 10, including two juveniles, and last year just six, and they were all adults. Arrival dates are becoming later too; traditionally they arrived in late November (source: this BirdGuides article and The Sussex Bird Report 2019). A lack of juveniles two years running is further cause for concern for the future of the Arun Valley population of Bewick's Swans. It remains to be seen whether the five today included the two recently at Amberley or whether this was is a separate group. 

Other highlights from the main trail included a Barn Owl in the deer enclosure, a Peregrine on the deck by West Mead, and huge numbers of Black-tailed Godwits on the North Brooks. There's a fair amount water about, but of course nothing like last year when the banks of the river had burst.  

North Brooks

North Brooks 2020 Vs 2019

At Hail's View I added Tufted Duck and 2 Marsh Harriers to the list. There were also 5 Buzzards around, including a very pale one and 4 all souring together. A raucous group of Black-headed Gulls were hanging around, and there were a lot of Canada Geese and very few grey geese. As I stood chatting to Warren, a Sparrowhawk came around the corner and attempted to nab the resident Robin from just a few feet away from us. It was quite fascinating. 

Buzzard

Buzzard

After Christmas dinner I visited Waltham Brooks. Out over Widney Brooks there were circa 250 Canada Geese, but little else. Along the river bank Pied Wagtails, Redwing and Fieldfare were feeding around the edges of the flood water, and the usual wildfowl were on the water. A Kingfisher was flushed further along, and a small flock of about 20 Linnets were flying about preparing to roost. A fairly decent sized flock of Starling were doing the same. Back at Greatham Bridge a Water Rail was screeching. I stood and watched a fantastic sunset as c20 Pied Wagtails came in to roost in the reeds. 

Pied Wagtail

Fieldfare

Canada Geese

Starling

Wigeon

Waltham Brooks





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