We'd been looking forward to our Autumn Migration at Cissbury Ring walk for a long time, so we were gutted when the weather forecast for 2nd October was just too grim to go ahead. We rescheduled for three weeks down the line and this turned out to have a gleaming silver lining in that it far more migrant birds had been coming in. Large numbers of thrushes and finches, typical late autumn migrants, had just arrived in the country so the timing was spot on.
The group walked up through the meadows from the Storrington Rise car park, where promising early sightings included Common Reed Bunting, European Stonechat and Eurasian Skylark. We were eager to get to the main site, though, so made a bee line for the Ring itself.
Our first stop was a big yew tree often popular with autumn thrushes. A Mistle Thrush offered a fantastic view through the telescope but we worried this boisterous bird may have seen our target species off, or at least make it keep an extra-low profile. Then, a loud 'tuck tuck' some way off alerted us to the bird we were after - a Ring Ouzel - flying to the crown of a distant oak. There was just enough time to get it in the telescope before it vanished.
Meanwhile, three Common House Martins and a Barn Swallow flew around us at eye-level - perhaps our final farewell to these species for 2021 as they head south to central and southern Africa for the winter. European Goldfinches were enjoying the autumn seedheads, along with a few Common Linnets and European Greenfinches.
As we continued our walk, it was clear that Common Chaffinches were migrating overhead, joined by at least one Brambling which gave its distinctive call as it headed west, and a few Eurasian Siskins. Redwings, fresh from Fennoscandia, passed overhead in small flocks. A number of Song Thrushes, Eurasian Blackbirds and European Robins were around, and we got a sense that come of these were likely migrants from northern Europe too.
We heard the distinctive calls of Eurasian Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker, while a young Common Buzzard called plaintively in the distance. A busy flock of Long-tailed Tits had a Common Chiffchaff tagging along. A few Yellowhammers were more easily seen than heard, but everybody got a good look at one in the end.
As we began to make our way back to the car park, we paused by the yew tree again. The Mistle Thrush was still standing guard but two Ring Ouzels escaped its attention by diving deep into the lower section to sneakily gorge on some berries.
We were entertained on the final leg back down the slope by a flock of Meadow Pipits pottering around by the path and close fly-by from a Common Kestrel.
We were all delighted with the variety of migrating and resident birds we encountered - 43 species in total during our two-and-a-half hours of birdwatching. Here's the list:
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Eurasian Green Woodpecker
Eurasian Blue Tit
Common House Martin
Common Reed Bunting