By Mike Russell
Senior Conservation Advisor
2015 is nearly over and as usual the year has flown by, as have the birds. Someone asked me recently how many species were recorded on my various Sussex Wildlife Trust birding courses and field trips across the county this year so I checked through my records and this year the total was 151.
Now in the great scheme of things, lists of species aren’t particularly important but it does indicate the great variety of birds that can be found across Sussex in a year. What is important is to give people the opportunity to experience this variety, the different habitats they occur in, the link between them and then emphasise their contribution to maintaining these habitats by supporting the Trust and our work. But above all, I want people to enjoy the experience; seeing wonderful birds in great places in the company of other like-minded people. Enjoyment is the first step, leading to awareness and then concern, followed by the acquisition of knowledge and then, hopefully, action.
So, what were the highlights? Difficult to choose and everyone would have their own ideas but often big numbers of birds in flocks is always a great experience, from the huge skeins of Brent geese around Chichester and Pagham Harbours to the beautiful flocks of golden plover that fell like confetti onto the reserve at Rye Harbour. Both Rye Harbour and Combe Valley provided spectacular aerobatic displays by hobbies where in complete contrast, at West Dean Woods a tiny pair of firecrests displayed just a few feet in front of us.
At Broadwater Warren as the result of heathland creation project were there to see with a number of singing wood larks, to my mind their song every bit as beautiful as a sky lark, while at Hastings Country Park we managed to enjoy a peregrine hovering in the wind within about 30-40 metres from us. Migration time is always exciting and in the autumn, a number of places we visited we were fortunate to see birds passing through, common redstarts, spotted flycatchers, yellow wagtails and whinchats among them.
Coastal sights are always great places to sort out your bar-tailed from your black-tailed godwits, dunlin from sanderling and whimbrel from curlew, all these being seen well at times. The new reserve at Medmerry provided brilliant views of some spoonbills and it is always a thrill to see a kingfisher which we did on a number of occasions this year. One memory that does stand out was a very obliging little owl near Cissbury Ring which allowed us all to get cracking views through the telescope.
Sussex has great birds and great places to see them in, but without the support of all the people that enjoy going out to see them then there survival here won’t always be guaranteed.
wheater / Mike Russell