The Month in Birds (for October 2013 Parish News)

September saw the temperature dip, then rise again, and more migrants passing through the parishes.

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Geese were the noisiest feature. Several hundred Greylags took to the fields around Glynde and Beddingham, attracted by the stubble. These are distinctly short-distance migrants, likely to have bred on the ponds and lakes of Sussex rather than the Greenland tundra (apologies to Emily T, whose romantic dreams of the wild North have been dashed).

At the end of each summer, large numbers of geese (mainly Canadas) congregate on the bigger bodies of water, such as Arlington and Barcombe Reservoirs. These birds spend the night on the water, but like to feed out in the fields for most of the daylight hours, and a few hundred head our way. Amongst them there sometimes a few oddities – of the 250 or so Greylags along Mill Lane in mid-September there were a few white geese of some kind – farmyard variations, or feral Snow Geese perhaps.

Geese on the stubble by Mill Lane, Glynde, 13 Sep - around 200 Greylags and a few randoms.

Geese on the stubble by Mill Lane, Glynde, 13 Sep – around 200 Greylags and a few randoms.

Whatever their origins, they’re a real spectacle as they fly along the Reach, particularly when Mount Caburn is their backdrop. Occasionally they deviate a bit closer to the Downs, and the 45 Greylags that flew over our garden in Firle on 21st September were a first for me.

Other new birds seen in the month were a bit smaller. On the evening of 4th September a Common Sandpiper flew over the Ram, calling distinctively in the dark. Early in the month, a few smart Yellow Wagtails were knocking around the paddocks at Place Farm – they love to feed around livestock – joining the local Pieds and one or two Grey Wagtails. This is the only time of year where you’re likely to encounter all three species together.

The build up of House Martins and Swallows peaked at at least 400, and on the morning of the 12th there was at least one Sand Martin with them.  After the single Redstart mentioned last month, Paul S went out and found a few more along the escarpment, with a high count of seven (plus the long staying garden bird in the village) on the 13th September. There were three Wheatears on the same date. Meanwhile, the pair of Stonechats remaining on the escarpment near Firle Bostal seem to be local residents – it’s good, after the hard winters to which they can succumb, to have this species hanging on.

This morning, the day of the equinox, a walk on the escarpment revealed the first four Siskins of the autumn, and many Chiffchaffs, which have now taken over from the Willow Warblers as Most Common Little Green Thing. At times there were Swallows across the sky in all directions, a sight apparently repeated across Sussex during what must have been a big Swallow migration event. Within a few weeks we’ll be seeing the last of these Swallows, and martins, and welcoming the season’s first winter thrushes, the Bramblings and the Firecrests.

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