03 May 2006

The Sussex weekend.

Every now and again things just seem to fall into place, and this past weekend that's just what happened!

Our long weekend away couldn't really have been much better; the weather was very good to us with plenty of sunshine, warm temperatures and nothing worth mentioning in the way of rain. The only heavy rain we saw was first thing on Monday morning whilst we were having breakfast, by the time we were ready to leave the hotel the sun was starting to come out. After that, it was back to clear blue skies!

So, we set off from Derby at 7:00AM on Saturday, after seeing Peregrine on the cathedral, and headed for the first day's birding at Frensham Common in Surrey. After a stop for breakfast on the way, the coach made good time and we arrived on schedule at 11:00AM.

Frensham Common

The common covers an area of around 1000 acres and is made up of mainly open heathland with some coniferous and mixed woodland. There are also two large ponds, known as Frensham Great and Little Ponds. Although there is a mix of habitat here the number of birds seen can, at times, be a little low. Lynda and I managed to find 47 species between us. Highlights included Dartford Warbler, Woodlark, Mealy Redpoll, and Redstart.

After five rather enjoyable hours our group headed off to the hotel, giving us plenty of time to unpack our things before finding the bar and then our evening meal. The food was very good but the price of drinks in the bar was rather steep! Luckily, there was a pub next door to the hotel! You can guess where we went after dinner!

Sunday saw us at the Pulborough Brooks RSPB Reserve, in West Sussex. This was a totally different type of habitat to the day before. We now found ourselves in an area of wet grassland with small patches of woodland and scrub. The species of birds to be found here were also much more diverse and numerous. They even had Highland Cattle to graze the water meadows!

Part of Pulborough Brooks Reserve.

This proved to be our best day as regards the number of different species found and also the quality of birds too. Frensham had been good for its heathland "specialities" but Pulborough had lots more to offer in the way of birds that are tricky to find in Derbyshire or that do not even occur here.

During the 6½ hours we spent on the reserve Lynda and I managed to find a total of 74 species of bird. Some of the better finds were Nightingale, Lesser Whitethroat, Pintail, Stonechat, Cuckoo and Hobby. The Hobby were possibly the best birds of the weekend, we watched six of them hunting together over the meadows whilst also being able to see eight Buzzard soaring over a distant wood.

To top a great day's birding returning to the hotel had an extra little treat in store. As we pulled into the car park we were greeted by the sight of 18 E-Type Jaguars, five XJS's, four MK2 Jags and also a single D Type! What a collection of cars!

Having been hit rather hard in the pocket by the bar prices the night before, we headed to the pub again on Sunday evening. One drink in there, then back to the hotel for our meal before returning to the pub for the rest of the evening. In the end, around a dozen of us enjoyed the last night of our mini holiday in the comfort of the bar. I also rather enjoyed the large bowl of battered onion rings that I had for my supper in there! They went well with a few pints of cider.

After a rather large breakfast on Monday (I had two full English Breakfasts - you can't beat a buffet!) it was time to head off to the final reserve of the weekend, Pagham Harbour. This coastal reserve gave us yet another completely different day's birding.

Looking out over the saltmarsh.

We were now on the edge of a large area of tidal saltmarsh and mudflats, with farmland and small areas of woodland running along side. The main attraction for us here was the number of waders that were to be found. As soon as we got off the coach we located a group of around a dozen Whimbrel feeding near the car park. Soon after, we added more waders including Bar-Tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Turnstone, Sanderling and Grey Plover. Other highlights included Little Egret, Sandwich Tern and Cetti's Warbler.

All too soon it was 3:00PM and time for us too start the long journey home. As it was a Bank Holiday Monday I was expecting the roads to be very busy and for the coach to be held up in traffic jams, somehow it just didn't happen! We had a clear run all the way back to Derby and arrived back just before 7:30PM.

I still have to go through all my notes for the weekend but it looks like I will have seen exactly 100 species over the three days, with Lynda very close to that with around 98. All in all a great weekend where things just seemed to fall into place!

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