There’s a small pond at the foot of Firle Bostal, beside the road leading to the beacon car park. I’ve never seen a wader there before (though to be fair, I’ve rarely given it much attention).
So yesterday’s experience there borders on the surreal. With the surrounding fields a kind of moonscape, this modest pond, still free of ice, was attracting desperate waders from miles around.
When Paul and I looked at just after midday there were two tight bunches of Common Snipe and a few sole operators around the pond, totalling around 24 birds. To put this in perspective, I’ve only seen one Snipe before in Firle on this side of the A27, during the previous snow in December.
Soon after we got there, a Green Sandpiper flew towards us and dropped into the stream out of sight – again, a bird more usually seen no closer than Glynde Reach. At the back of the pool, a darkish, lone wader turned out to be a Redshank – our first in Firle. And close to it, the smallest wader but the biggest surprise – a Jack Snipe, separate from its commoner cousins, feeding discreetly at the back of the pond – another Firle first (for us at least).
With the four Lapwing feeding around the water and in nearby fields (also unusual in this part of Firle) and a Woodcock flushed earlier by Paul in the adjacent field, that’s six species of wader in one small area.
The attentions of a male Sparrowhawk and two Kestrels also made it clear that there were more Snipe feeding in hidden parts of the stream – when the raptors flushed the lot, a single flock of airborne Snipe numbered 33 birds. After successive distrubances, many of them plonked themselves in the middle of snowy fields around – a bizarre sight, and not ideal for avoiding birds of prey, but just showing how desperate they are.
A tough time for the birds, but a magical one for birding.
Jack Snipe 1
Common Snipe 33+
Green Sandpiper 1
Lapwing 12+ (also spread along paddocks at Place Farm)
Grey Wagtail 1
Lesser black-backed Gull 1