Past Events

Walk 28 April 2024

Leaders Cliff & Stephen welcomed seven “frequent flyers” and five “first timers” on a morning with a promising southerly breeze and an unreliable promise of no rain.

Since the last walk, fresh migrants had arrived; the first we saw being a pair of House Martins over the village (the first had also been seen in other nearby locations the previous day). We once more took the track alongside Narrow Pits both to shelter from the wind and profit from the great range of songbirds in the varying habitats there. Listening in to the many songs, we distinguished 8 species of warbler, including Garden Warbler which, unlike the others (Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Reed, Sedge & Cetti’s) only passes through here on migration.

Garden Warbler © Biillyboy, Flickr

Overhead, the Black-headed & Mediterranean Gulls were joined by screeching Common Terns and then a wave of migrating Swifts – the very first individuals had been seen only a week previously. All four species had found a thermal and were spiralling upwards.

The original intention had been to continue as a far as the Barn Pools, but the path there was likely to be flooded so we turned east, away from the scrub, into wind and clearly approaching rain. At the end of Salt Pool, we once more came across the famous Spotted Redshank, blacker than ever – even its red legs had darkened – and then the shower forced us into a quick march to the shelter of the Denny Hide. From here, we could see the nesting Black-headed Gulls were joined by a few Common Terns. With water levels still so high, island nesting spaces and feeding edges are restricted, but the latter were patrolled by Turnstones, already resplendent in tortoiseshell breeding colours.

Round at Flat Beach, the creeks were busy with feeding Avocets, now joined by numerous arctic-bound Bar-tailed Godwits in contrasting winter grey and summer chestnut. Up to 98 of these were present, alongside Whimbrel probing the saltmarsh, their trilling calls providing an atmospheric soundtrack. This short walk had turned up no fewer than 65 species!

Past Events

Walk 13 April 2024

With leaders Cliff Dean and David Bentley, eight of us met in the car park which was otherwise a battleground for territorial male Blackbirds. Clearly the surrounding grass and gardens provide all they need in terms of worms, cosy corners for nesting and song-posts on bushes, fences and rooftops; so ideal in fact that pairs are densely crowded and boundaries constantly disputed.  

The preceding days had seen an arrival of many small birds from their wintering grounds in various parts of Africa, so we diverted from our habitual route around Flat Beach through the village and along the track alongside Narrow Pits. Here, Bramble & Hawthorn scrub of varying heights to one side and water and Willow to the other provided diverse habitats for a range of warblers, some of which (Chiffchaff & Blackcap) had been present for a fortnight but others (Whitethroat, Reed & Sedge Warbler) had come in during the week while one (Lesser Whitethroat) had arrived overnight – via an eastern rather than western route.

Most of these birds were hard to see but their songs were loud and distinctive so we spent a lot of time carefully listening, attentive too to the kinds of habitat from which the songs emanated. We watched a Whitethroat’s display flight, dancing about in the air above brambles and noticed BTO Breeding Evidence: not only a Singing Male but a Pair In Suitable Habitat and in fact Nest Building.

Beside these incoming migrants there was quite a range of vociferous resident species, including a Song Thrush delivering excellent mimicry of a car alarm – perhaps the result of living not far from the busy car park! Overhead were squawking Black-headed and yelping Mediterranean Gulls, in the background braying Greylag Geese and one lucky birdwalker caught the call of a Cuckoo.

For those unfamiliar with this Wall of Sound, it can be hard to distinguish one song from another, so we tried to start with Entry Level songs – monotonous Chiffchaff, explosive Cetti’s Warbler, chortling Green Woodpecker for instance – then fill in the gaps…. Some people make a big deal about identifying birds from song but those same people will go to a pub quiz with a music round in which they will instantly recognise songs from the first two notes; and that’s without the birds’ contextual clues of season, habitat etc.

Photo Barry Yates Jun 2023

Emerging past a hedge-hopping Sparrowhawk and rasping Sedge Warbler in the warm shelter of the bushes we were exposed to a cool breeze on the causeway to Cuckoo Corner where, to one side were Shelduck, Shoveler and displaying, newly arrived Little Ringed Plovers, and to the other, for comparison, chunky Ringed Plovers and…and…the previously mentioned wintering Spotted Redshank but now almost moulted into fabulous summer plumage of jet black, charcoal grey and the eponymous Spots  as well as an eye-ring in silvery white. Restrained yet dramatic, it must be off to the Arctic very soon so take the opportunity to have a look – at the southern end of the Salt Pool.

Past Events

Walk 22 Oct 2023

After the wind and heavy rain of the previous day, we had brilliant, calm and remarkably warm conditions for our Friends’ walk on Sunday, which took us beyond Salt pool as far as Barn Pools then across to the beach. We saw a fantastic variety of birds, with very good views of many.

Other people we met expressed surprised that Swallows were still dashing through in late October but the 2021 Sussex Bird Report cites  December 5th as the 10-year average  last date (while in that year, the last Swallow was seen on Dec 31st!) From the car park we had already seen House Martins over the village (10-year average, November 20th).

Duck numbers (at least Mallard, Wigeon & Teal are building up on Salt Pool) but the real drama there was provided by hunting packs of Cormorants and mixed herons (Grey Heron, Little & Great Egret) corralling fish in the shallows then all suddenly decamping to a new location with a great flapping of black, white & grey wings. 3 Great Egrets, with long, snaky white necks and big yellow beaks, took little notice of us as we passed them; it was hard to believe that they were very rare here till less than 20 years ago. On the ground nearby we had close views of 2 beautiful Golden Plovers.

Another summer migrant still present, mostly alongside Narrow Pits, was Chiffchaff. We must have seen 10, especially in the company of roaming bands of Long-tailed Tits (more than 20 of these following the stream by the holiday park). But no “last date” is given for Chiffchaffs since, while some proceed south, others stay for the winter.

Overhead, we could frequently hear calls from Siskins and Redpolls but against the bright blue sky they were very hard to see, like the Sparrowhawk which passed low at high speed but unlike a Marsh Harrier circling up in the sunlight. The conifers by the Barns often provide cover for Goldcrests and, with a bit of patience, we were able to pick out 3 of them moving through the dark foliage.

From Crittall Hide, we were alerted by the angry croak of a couple of Crows to a brown young Peregrine they were persecuting high above Ternery Pool and as we watched them twisting and turning, we also picked out couple of distant Buzzards. 

We saw/heard 69 species, though not everyone saw or heard all of them, while other people on the reserve recorded at least a dozen in addition. To see the list, click on the link below: