Thanks to volunteer Phil for his report and photos.
This is the view from Nettey’s Hide taken a few days ago on one of those sunshine and showery days.
However there is much more to be seen here than rainbows..
One of the comments we sometimes receive from visitors is that on the brooks you are often viewing wildlife at a considerable distance. Unfortunately building hides and access paths in the middle of a floodplain that can become extremely wet in winter would be a prohibitively expensive job. So instead we are trying to bring more of the habitat closer to the hides to give a better viewing experience.
(It is well worth bringing binoculars with you if you're coming for a visit - if you don't have your own then we provide binocular hire at the Visitor Centre. In addition, on most days you will come across one or two of our 'hides & trails' volunteers like Phil who will happily show you some of our lovely wildlife through their telescopes) - a note from Anna
This work has so far concentrated on Nettley’s Hide and this autumn a considerable amount of vegetation has been removed from the area beyond the ditch that runs immediately in front of Nettley’s Hide. This has opened up the view both near and far and had the effect of rediscovering a water feature which had become choked. As a result, Nettley’s Hide has once again become a great place to spend some quality birdwatching time.
With all this in mind I decided to make Nettley’s my first stop on Friday. Mallard, teal and Canada geese could all be seen close by with the mallards behaving in a rather skittish manner and creating quite a splash.
However some movement much closer to the hide drew my attention and, after several hours of trying over a number of visits, I finally glimpsed the kingfisher mentioned by Anna Allum in her recent post. It was rather obscured by some of the long vegetation in front of the hide, but by moving as far left as possible I was able to obtain a reasonably unobstructed view.
Pulborough Brooks is not especially known for its kingfishers, but they do turn up occasionally and may stay for a while. There are no banks I can think of on the site that are suitable for excavating nest holes, but, with a few miles of ditch available across the site, kingfishers do have plenty of feeding opportunities.
The tall vegetation in front of the hide may have been partially hiding the kingfisher but it was also providing a great feeding opportunity for goldfinches.
The ditch to the left of the hide is bordered by bramble and wild rose bushes and these are popular perching points for wintering stonechats as per the female in this recent photo.
Last Friday however a robin seemed to have taken up residence here, confusing the identification issue with its similar size and bright orangey-red breast .
Later a mixed group of song thrushes and redwings was also seen using these bushes so, with fieldfare being seen near Winpenny Hide, it’s clear that the influx of winter thrushes from Scandinavia and Northern Europe has begun. There are plenty of berries for them to feed on, as can be seen from this photo of a kestrel perched on top of a hawthorn bush to the left of the hide at the foot of the Hanger.
Anna mentioned in her recent post the increasing numbers of wintering wildfowl and this is continuing with much larger numbers of shoveler evident on Friday 25th and pintail numbers into double figures. The numbers of lapwing using the North Brooks (recorded as 80 on the October WeBS Count) are now up to several hundred, often to seen in the company of a similar number of starlings.
Perhaps the best indicator of the rapidly increasing flood water and wet meadows are the black tailed godwits. This photo shows a group of 170 flying in misty low cloud last Friday...
The total number is likely to be over 200 and to have this many godwits so early in the season is impressive. These long-legged, long billed waders are equally at home feeding in deeper water and on the wet meadows so conditions seem ideal for them.
The increasing numbers of wildfowl are starting to bring in more raptors. At the smaller end of the scale, as well the resident kestrels, at least one merlin has taken up residence, something which happens every autumn and winter. I was lucky enough to see one from Nettleys Hide last week. I sometimes wonder whether a fast and low flying merlin, which can be hard to spot, could be the cause of unexplained pandemonium amongst the wildfowl and waders.
More easy to see are buzzard, marsh harrier and peregrine which are now being seen daily. On Friday 25th towards the end of the afternoon, and by now back at the Visitor Centre, I heard a radio report from Andy, one of my volunteer colleagues who was stationed in Nettley’s Hide. He described a peregrine taking a teal and then being harassed for quite some time by another peregrine and 2 marsh harriers all scrapping with each other while hoping to steal the kill. He then went on to comment that this spectacle sums up the essence of Pulborough Brooks and why it is such an important nature reserve that must be cherished. I can only echo this sentiment.
Nettley's Hide is a great place to observe the best of our autumn and winter wildlife spectacles but, as the season progresses, I feel sure that other hides will gradually come into their own.
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