Poor weather between mid May and mid June didn’t make it easy for breeding birds across the country. The May Bank Holiday downpours were particularly destructive, with most of the Bitterns’ nests at Minsmere in Suffolk washed out by flash flooding.
Closer to home, there were some good reports though. On Glynde Levels, one excursion found three pairs of Gadwall, an attractive grey, black and white duck related to the Mallard that is increasing as a breeder in Sussex. Three pairs of Tufted Ducks there were also promising.
Despite their general decline, some wading birds continue to cling on at Glynde Levels, with four pairs of Lapwing and two pairs of Redshank reported. A single purring Turtle Dove from the same area was the only local report.
The recent scarcity of Cuckoos has been mentioned by several people, so it was encouraging to hear of one was heard and seen in Firle from mid-April.
Unsurprisingly for the time of year, there were several rarities reported nearby. Rarest were the three Cattle Egrets, vagrants from the continent, which dropped in on land just south of the A27 at Lewes on 29th May. The Ouse valley seems to be becoming a hotpsot for this species – I suspect the area between Piddinghoe and Lewes has now hosted more birds that anywhere else in the UK.
A Red Kite was apparently seen well near Glyndebourne one day – the area looks perfect for them, so how long before they settle? Another scarce bird of prey, a Honey Buzzard, was reported from Lewes flying southeast over Malling and Malling Down early in June. Who’s to say this magnificent bird didn’t drift over Beddingham or Glynde a little later? I say we give it the benefit of the doubt and count it for our parishes’ list. In any case, Honey Buzzards, like Red Kites, have been increasing in the county, so perhaps it won’t be long before another passes overhead.
July is (literally) a much quieter month, with many songbirds giving up on the dawn chorus altogether. Migration is mainly restricted to a few Arctic waders, returning south after the briefest of northern summers – the best chance of recording one locally is if they pass overhead calling (often at night), or possibly drop in for a rest at Arlington Reservoir.
However, it’s a good time to catch up with some of our smaller raptors. Try the arable edges for gatherings of Meadow Pipits, Linnets and Starlings, any of which will attract the attention of Kestrels, Sparrowhawks and Hobbies.