Sunday, 1 January 2012


A cloud base of 500ft changes plans for a high level walk on Rackham Banks to a misty stroll around  Pulborough Brooks.

In the car park a robin sings for his breakfast and fearlessly snatches his reward from outstretched fingers, before doing a new year jig among the hawthorn.

Several mark territories around the reserve, singing a more plaintive song than in the summer, conspicuous in the winter stripped hedgerows.

West Mead is flooded and a fleet of canada geese set sail with an escort of wigeon, anxiously scanning the skies, perhaps wary of the merlin that passed by shortly before I reached the hide.

Black fallow deer huddle in numbers, exposed in the field centre, as the cloud thickens and lowers and causal visitors hurry by in seek of shelter.

Several redwing make exploratory dashes from dense thicket cover to pick at fields for worms bought to the surface by the recent heavy rains. Their nervous dashes have the watcher glassing the skies for the small and agile merlin , to no avail.

Bank holiday twitchers line a viewing point, drawn here by it's view of the peregrine's regular perch. The male, the tiercel, mocks their impatient waiting by flying high and wide behind and out of view of their expectant spotting scopes. Soon heavy rain will drive them into the cafes and pubs and he will resume his perch, untroubled by admirers.

grey squirrel breaks cover and busies himself looking for beech nuts, a convenient tree allows for approach close enough to hear the shell being systematically cracked in hungry teeth, his concentration so fully on the delights within it seems possible to reach out and pinch the morsel from his paws.

A crescendo of noise announces arrival at Nettleys, where several hundred wigeon patrol wetland banks, gorging on grasses and roots. In the rushes a grey heron maintains sentry in a stand of beige reedmace, a silent, still assassin, waiting patiently for his victim to pass through.

Out on the flooded meadows black tailed godwitlapwingshelduck and ruff fight for space, taking to the skies in a cacophony of noise at the slightest hint of the presence of the peregrine. Comical looking shoveler, spatulate beaks looking so heavy that they should surely sink this ungainly creature, mine sweep in channels and ditches, while moorhen wobble along banks in search of a morsel of worm.

mallard and his partner engage in a brief mating session hard by the bank, he nods and passes by, she nods back, and he nods again before mounting his amour, fortunately briefly as she sinks under his enthusiastic attention. They wash feathers immediately and Casanova turns his attention to a second female who enters his pond.

Comedy is provided by an antlered black fallow deer wearing a crown of shrubbery among his antlers, his teenage-like posing in front of disinterested females monitored closely by an older, more fully antlered adult. When the youngster slowly and carefully pursues a young female into nearby woodland it is not long before the older male follows suit, as if to chaperon the errant member of his harem and her pubescent suitor.

The females look on, unmoved, and huddle tighter against rain that falls in cold steel rods.

A walk back down wooded avenues reveals a treat in a trio of jays, normally shy a solitary male perches on a post, briefly shed of inhibition he croaks a winter tune before retreating among his friends in high branches.

A bullfinch sits on a branch singing, his red suit and mournful song reminiscent of a drunk wending his way home from hogmanay celebrations long since finished.


  1. Nice. Like the comedy deer.

  2. Thanks - he kept me amused for a while. It's a bit like a cheap hogmanay Jimmy wig. Maybe he'd been to Jools Holland's bash.


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