The early weather in Firle didn’t look too promising, but by 10 at the campsite the murk had been blown away.
A Linnet flew past, just as I was being asked some very searching questions about the ethics of keeping birds in captivity – appropriate, given the Victorians’ fondness for caging finches such as Linnets (which are unfortunate enough to look good as well as sound pretty).
I’m often a bit rude about Meadow Pipits – I find myself using words such as “dull”, “brownish” and “boring” when describing them. But fair play – they’re star performers on Safari Britain walks.
Their unique songflight is amongst the easiest pieces of bird behaviour to enjoy as a group, even when few people have binoculars. Mipits aren’t too shy, and the zip-zip-zip as a territorial one ascends vertically gives time for everyone to get onto the bird before it commences its precarious, delicate float back to earth.
Less easy to see this morning was Skylark – despite a very loud and tireless bird providing the soundtrack around Firle Beacon, no-one managed to clap eyes on it.
While taking a rest at Tilton Bostal a few Red-legged Partridges and Pheasants moved around below, and what was almost certainly a Sparrowhawk nipped along a hedge – too quick for a definite ID, which is a shame because I think it would have been a Safari Britain first.
On the steep descent from the Beacon, more Meadow Pipits and Linnets showed themselves at close range, and a Dunnock sang thinly. Then there was a quick succession of good sightings. A Buzzard, fed up with being mobbed by a crow, settled in a tree below us; a smart male Green Woodpecker gave a close flypast, before alighting on some scrubby dead wood; and a Swift or two zipped along the pasture.
Finally, dropping back into the campsite phrases of a Blackcap floated out from the adjacent trees and, unusually, a Mistle Thrush was in full voice from on high in the wood just up the hill.