The Month in Birds (for December 2013 Parish News)

St Peter's church through the spinney at dawn

In October there’s a short time when the last of the summer birds share the skies with the first of the winter. Before the last House Martins, Swallows and Chiffchaffs have gone, the first Fieldfares, Siskins and Redwings have arrived.

But it’s generally only when the last of the summer birds have left us that we see the latecomers from the North. One of these is the Brambling; it’s usually November before they come.

Bramblings are closely related to the Chaffinch, with which they’re often found in company. They come south from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, in greater numbers some years than others. Our part of Sussex rarely has more than a handful, but a few favour the downland. In previous winters they have roosted in Firle Plantation, spending the short days feeding in the strips of game cover.

One or two are usually noted flying over Firle village – they have a distinctive quizzical call. This year my first was a bit earlier than usual, on 24th was followed by another on 5th Nov, but this one seemed to be stationary, calling from a garden close to the school.

Bramblings do come to bird feeders, and they’re regularly reported from gardens in Ringmer, but I’ve never seen one in a garden in Firle, Glynde or Beddingham.

Perhaps this winter’s going to be a good one for them – if so, it’s worth checking your visiting birds. Look for a bluish head, orangey front and long, thin white rump when they fly – and if you see one, please let me come and see it!

In most respects it’s been a quiet autumn locally, with not much out of the ordinary. A few Yellowhammers, Redpolls and Reed Buntings have been moving through, and the Common and Black-headed Gulls are reinstated on the arable fields.

On a still day plenty of the resident birds can be seen or hear around Firle Park, with Mistle Thrushes, Jays and Nuthatches particularly noisy, and Treecreepers and Goldcrests easy enough to hear, with a little patience.

And New Elms Barn along Firle Bostal road continues to be a good place to stop and take a look around. As well as the usual pair of Little Owls, a Grey Wagtail has been seen again around the buildings, and a little later in the season the adjacent fields are popular with Fieldfares.

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