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Woods, coast and downs — a winter birding day tour!

On Monday I had the pleasure of guiding Ben, who was on a break in London from Chicago, on a day of winter birding and a quest for lifers!


We started with a short walk in woodland in East Sussex, the main target being Marsh Tit, which we managed to pin down without too much trouble — Ben's first lifer of the day tour! We also got eyes on Treecreeper and Siskin, and heard Bullfinch as we were about to move on to the next site.

Marsh Tit during a Sussex Birding Day Tour with South Downs Wildlife
Marsh Tit

Pett Level was a worthwhile stop. The sea was busy, with the wintering 'raft' of Common Scoters visible in the distance, along with plenty of Red-throated Divers flying past and huddles of Great Crested Grebes and Razorbills closer in. A small group of Grey Plovers landed on the beach, while Redshanks roosted on the pools and a couple of Snipe flew from the ditch as we walked along. A Sparrowhawk dashed through, while Cetti's Warblers and Bearded Tits announced themselves from within the reeds.

during a Sussex Birding Day Tour with South Downs Wildlife
Grey Plover

West Rise Marsh delivered a couple of Water Pipits, one of which we managed to see feeding on the ground — a difficult task with this incredibly shy species! A Chiffchaff was feeding around the patches of ice along the path, along with a loose flock of Meadow Pipits, Pied Wagtails and Reed Buntings.

Male Reed Bunting during a Sussex Birding Day Tour with South Downs Wildlife
Male Reed Bunting

The lake held a rich array of wildfowl, including plenty of Shovelers, Wigeon, Teal and Pochard. Overhead, a Raven tussled with a Carrion Crow. On the way out, a Kingfisher alighted on a gate just feet away before clocking us and landing further away — a thrilling moment!

Raven (right) tussling with a Carrion Crow during a Sussex Birding Day Tour with South Downs Wildlife
Raven (right) tussling with a Carrion Crow
Kingfisher during a Sussex Birding Day Tour with South Downs Wildlife
Kingfisher

A flying visit to Seaford successfully connected us with a couple of Rock Pipits, one of which was very friendly as it foraged on one of the sea defences. As a bonus, a couple of Fulmars were circling in front of the cliff face.

Rock Pipit during a Sussex Birding Day Tour with South Downs Wildlife
Rock Pipit
Fulmar during a Sussex Birding Day Tour with South Downs Wildlife
Fulmar

We managed to squeeze in one last site before heading back to London to get Ben back in time for meeting friends. Around Burpham, we enjoyed distant views of the six adult Bewick's Swans, as well as last-minute lifers for Ben in the form of Fieldfare, Grey Partridge, Red-legged Partridge, Stock Dove and Dunnock. A flock of five Cattle Egrets and several Red Kites showed superbly too, bringing the day to a fantastic end.

Bewick's Swan during a Sussex Birding Day Tour with South Downs Wildlife
Bewick's Swan
Grey Partridge during a Sussex Birding Day Tour with South Downs Wildlife
Grey Partridge
Dunnock during a Sussex Birding Day Tour with South Downs Wildlife
Dunnock
Cattle Egrets during a Sussex Birding Day Tour with South Downs Wildlife
Cattle Egrets

All in all, during this delightful day birding with Ben, we recorded a respectable total of 84 bird species, 10 of which were lifers for him!