First proper walk of the year, making the most of a fine window in the weather.
Inspired by Matt Eade‘s success finding Willow Warbler at Sidlesham yesterday and Siberian Chiffchaff at Newhaven today, I was more careful than usual to check out the little birds. And it paid off immediately, with a smart Firecrest at Place Farm. It was on its own in the brambles around the cattle shed, where the Old Coach Road takes a sharp turn as you’re leaving the village. It’s only the second record this winter, and the first to be seen. It hardly called at all, but showed down to a few feet before disappearing.
The Plantation was predictably quiet, with only Goldcrest and Jay of note. Cutting back down from the top along the access land to Firle Bostal, a couple of Redpolls flew over from the direction of the Plantation. These are fairly unusual in January. But the game cover was almost deserted, holding just a few Pheasants and three Red-legged Partridges. No Stonechats, buntings or finches at all that I could see.
Back down to New Elms, and still no sign of the Little Owls (I haven’t seen them since before the disturbance to area by a power company in December) but thirteen Fieldfares flew over.
Then, squeezing out the most from this rare bright calm, Paul and I finally made the short trip to Old Lodge in Ashdown Forest for the Parrot Crossbills. After a fruitless hour listening to little but Coal Tits and the odd Brambling, the crossbill flock reappeared, just as we were leaving, and we enjoyed decent views of several birds (at least three adult males) amongst a dozen or so Common Crossbills. After just a view minutes the flock chipped off again, the difference between the heavy Parrots and slighter Commons quite stark as they flew.