Safari Britain, 6 June 2010

The early weather in Firle didn’t look too promising, but by 10 at the campsite the murk had been blown away.

Around fifteen of us started out on our tramp across the escarpment. Early ticks on the list were Robin, Chaffinch, Mistle Thrush, Rook and Jackdaw, soon joined by Woodpigeon.

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. 

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2 thoughts on “Safari Britain, 6 June 2010

  1. Thank you for this, you have confirmed something for me! Having carried my binoculars on my visit to Safari Britain on Monday, I saw nothing! (except a heron flying over the school as I left). As the weather was horrible on Tuesday, and I was going to be with the children, I left the binoculars behind. What a mistake! While on the hill with the children, having a talk about the flora, I looked up and saw a small bird that was too far away to identify, although, from its behaviour, I guessed it was a meadow pipit, and this article has confirmed that it probably was. I also saw a bird of prey which, although the view I had didn’t look very red, I think was the red kite. I say this because it had a forked tail and couldn’t find another bird of prey in my bird book with a forked tail – unless you know different. Suzie

  2. It’s generally when I forget my bins that i see something interesting… glad the account helped. It’s taken me three years of Safari Britain to acknowledge the part played by Meadow Pipits. Many a walk would be poorer without them.

    Forked tail is a pretty good indicator of Red Kite – occasionally a Buzzard with central tail feathers missing can cause confusion, but I haven’t seen any with that feature around here. And Kites are, happily, no longer the exceptional sighting they once were. I’d tick it if I were you…

    By the way, there was a Lesser Whitethroat singing close to the school last Friday, on the Bostal road. I heard one here last year, but only for one day.

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