Waltham Brooks is a real gem in the South Downs National Park. 51 species of bird were logged in under two hours of birdwatching this morning, including a couple of very welcome surprises...
The sewage works part of the site may not sound all that glamorous but for insect-eating birds it provides a winter pantry. A couple of Chiffchaffs were making the most of the feast, then a Grey Wagtail flew in to add a splash of colour. Talking of colour, two Bullfinches were calling softly from the adjacent scrub, revealing their neat white rumps and orange underparts as they flew.
A big flock of thrushes appeared in the trees in the distance before flying overhead. About three quarters of them were Fieldfares. This winter visitor has been unusually late to arrive this year but they do seem to be 'in' now. The rest were Redwings, which have been a feature of birding outings for a good few weeks now.
Scanning along the river bank, a Marsh Harrier glided into view as it patrolled the long grass for small rodents or perhaps a bird to grab. A flock of about 25 Wigeon flew silently overhead, but there would be more duck action later...
A soft 'churr' from the rank vegetation drew attention to a Dartford Warbler, which showed itself after a patient wait. This heathland bird was unexpected today and a real treat, though they do turn up outside of their 'classic' habitat in the winter months.
While watching the warbler, a call very familiar from yesterday's outing came from above: a Hawfinch flying west! Another unusual sighting for Waltham Brooks.
The marshland soundtrack included a few Water Rails and Cetti's Warblers, though both remained unseen today. As always, the Stonechats were no such trouble, with three busy birds moving from stem to stem.
On the approach to the pool, a flock of 30 Lapwings appeared in the distance and a couple of Cormorants also entered the airspace.
The pool itself was full of ducks: Shoveler, Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal and Mallard, plus a couple of Little Grebes for good measure! Around its margins were a few Reed Buntings and an obliging flock of Long-tailed Tits.
A very enjoyable birding walk!
Great Spotted Woodpecker