A family event took us east to Sussex today, and we took the chance to drop into Pulborough Brooks. This time last year we were treated to some excellent Nightingale views, however there had not been any sighting so far this year so it was with anticipation and hesitancy that we checked in at the visitor centre. There was apparently one singing today so we set off in hope, only one would not be easy.
We walked down the zigzag path with Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warblers singing, but staying well out of what was a keen northerly wind. There was also no sun, just some thick cloud.
A the bottom of the hill, I could hear a Nightingale singing, but it was very sporadic. We walked around to the area from where I had heard it, and stood, waited and listened, it didn't sing again, and my fears were beginning to be realised. We waited a little longer, and then decided to walk on. We headed towards the Hanger, and in the hedge as we walked to wards the slope there was a sign stating that there was a Long-tailed Tit nest in the bramble. I have never actually seen on in place, always finding them when they have been pulled apart and scattered on the floor. It was very difficult to see, and fortunately it was pointed out to us by a visitor. A collection of over 5000 feathers, spider's webs and lichens it truly is an item of beauty.
There was very little from the hide, better from Jupps view where we could see Wigeon, Shoveler, Gadwall and Teal out on the water, and close in there was a singing Lesser Whitethroat that never showed, and a Wren close in that did.
We walked Adder Alewey but it was probably too cold. In the trees Chiffchaffs, and Blackcaps sang, keeping out of sight. We checked the hides where there was very little else.
After a coffee and cake in the cafe (which for me is second only to Minsmere in the RSPB cafes), we decided to walk around the reserve one more time. Of interest were some red and white plastic tags in the Blackthorn bushes. These were indicating the location of Brown Hairstreak eggs. I have never seen a Brown Hairstreak so this is probably qualifying as a third of a sighting ahead of the larvae and the adult later in the year.
I finally managed to get a view of a Chiffchaff.
Then a very brief glimpse of a Blackcap that had been singing for some time before I finally found it.
The sun finally appeared, and as we walked past the Winpenny Hide a male Orange Tip flew past us, and fortunately it found a Cuckoo Flower too much to pass up.
A little further on, a Green-veined White that settled on a Dandelion flower.
The butterflies present were completed with a pair of Speckled Woods that were dueling, with one settling amongst the Blackthorn.
And that was pretty much the highlight of our visit to Pulborough. I heard the Nightingale once more as we walked the hill back to the car park, a trickle of Swallows moved through, and a Red Kite flew over in the distance. But one couldn't help but think this had been a poor showing considering what was about this time last year.
Crowborough was our final destination, and I just had time for a visit to Ashdown Forest, and the Old Lodge reserve. It is a lovely little place, good heath, plenty of gorse, lots of Silver Birch and Scots Pine. I have seen some great birds here, and I was hopeful as I walked to the south with a lovely view across the forest.
There were several Willow Warblers singing, and I managed to catch one, but it never stayed still for the camera. A little further on I could hear a Tree Pipit singingt, and I found it at the top of a Scots Pine.
I walked around the top of th reserve, with Redpolls flying across and more Willow Warblers, but that was about it. A little further on I heard my first Cuckoo of the year, at first it was close and I was hopeful, but frustratingly it would not show, and the call became further and further away. I never managed to see it, and that about summed up the day, so close but so far.
Time was against me so I headed back, finding the tree Pipit now on an overhead wire, still singing.
Back in the car park there was a Chiffchaff in song, and in the distance I heard the call of a Raven. This was not one of the better birding days in 2017, but then they can't all be.