An update from Glenn Norris
April is the time that things really start to get in to the swing of things, and after the 20°C+ days we had at the end of March the birds got off to a flyer, with a record of Nightingales at Ebernoe three days earlier than last year, but more on those later.
After that though, the weather has been cold and dry which has hampered the flowering season of several spring plants. It has however allowed a Blackthorn Winter to progress with an extended flowering season of this incredibly important plant for early season pollinators of bees, beetles and flies.
The breeding bird surveys are well under way for me at Woods Mill and Butcherlands (the little wilding project near Ebernoe). Each of these have had their own gems with the first singing Nightingale and Marsh Tit at Woods Mill since 2018 which was great news, however the Cetti’s Warblers that were present last year haven’t been heard yet.
At Butcherlands, I recorded a minimum of 16 singing Nightingales, which is over double what was heard on the same day last year. Even more interesting though is that these birds have begun to leave the boundaries and moved into the field interior where the scrub has developed their favourite domed, and very secure, structure.
I was really lucky to join one of our fantastic volunteers on a dormouse survey, but unfortunately all we found were a few old bird nests and a couple of grumpy Wood Mice in a fantastically orderly Beech leaf nest. After the mammals it was back to invertebrates at Amberley Wildbrooks where I picked up the Nationally Rare ground beetle Philorhizus sigma and Nationally Scarce money spider Baryphyma pratense. This money spider had only been recorded in West Sussex once before and is totally new to Amberley Wildbrooks!
And then, it was the week of the Nightingales. Never before have I heard so many at so many different sites in so few days. First there were the load at Butcherlands, then the one at Woods Mill and I thought that was it. But then quite unexpectedly there was one singing at Flatropers Wood in a Birch thicket, the first record here since 1999. And to top it off I got to hear its song at the bottom of Hope Gap whilst taking in the unobstructed and spectacular view of the Seven Sisters at Seaford Head.