Author Mike Russell
Senior Wildlife Advisor
Funny time of year this really, shortening days, changing colours and unpredictable weather. Wildlife is on the move so it is an exciting time to be out and about and try to find great wildlife in Sussex.
In the last week we've been to two contrasting landscapes in the County, the low wetlands of Pevensey Levels and the downland at Cissbury Ring, both wonderful habitats in their own way, but even with the difference, there was a link in relation to the wildlife we saw; things were on the move. Pevensey was sunny but a coolish breeze kept birds fairly low, but there was still some migrant birds moving through the bushes, mainly chiffchaffs, willow warblers and blackcaps. As happens when watching wildlife with groups, some people see things that disappear before others get onto it and this was the case when a few lucky people glimpsed a kingfisher flying off down one of the ditches while one extremely lucky individual briefly saw a stoat.
In a more sheltered spot where the sun was out, numerous dragonflies patrolled up and down a hedgerow, a few common darters and brown hawker, but the most numerous being migrant hawkers one of which was this wonderful shot taken by John East.
One of the sights of late summer and early autumn is that of swallows gathering on telegraph wires or swooping just above the ground, feeding up on insects ready for crossing the channel. At both Pevensey and Cissbury we were treated to dozens swallows flying around us.
Cissbury too was a bit affected by the weather as the cool, cloudy breeze kept birds low and in the densest parts of the bushes and it was a bit frustrating at times, but in the end most people got good views of most birds. There were a number of common redstarts that occasionally allowed us full views, and at one point we enjoyed the sight of five wheatears in a row sitting on fence posts. A lesser whitethroat obliged us all by sitting right out in the open for quite a long time which everyone enjoyed. But the stars of the morning were the very plentiful willow warblers, this time of year the majority of them are a lovely lemony colour and they drop on the Downs to feed up on the plentiful supply of berries.
In a warm, sheltered pocket, the temperature was warm enough to encourage a few butterflies out and we got the last of the chalkhill and common blues and a brown argus. A migrant clouded yellow flew past us as well.
All in all a pretty good couple of mornings. Just one more summer safari to go, there are still a couple of places left on the Seaford Head safari one on 2nd September, but keep a look at out on the website as I hope to continue with these during the winter.