Just occasionally, spring migration throws something unexpected into a land-locked parish. Such was the case on 10th April, when early in the morning a Grasshopper Warbler sang between the Old Vicarage and Place Farm.
The song of the Grasshopper Warbler is hardly much of a song at all. It sounds more like a fishing rod being wound in, or the insect that gives it its name. It’s a skulking, streaky brown bird, that will often remain hidden deep in a bramble even as it proclaims its territory. They were once fairly common in Sussex, but have declined greatly and now just a few spend the summer here, mainly in the river valleys and heaths but occasionally on the Downs too. Around ten years ago a pair summered not far away, at Tilton Bostal.
This one hasn’t been heard subsequently, and was probably making a brief stop. It’s only the second I’ve recorded in the last ten years in Firle, the last being an September bird scuttling around the undergrowth on the escarpment.
A couple of other birds beginning with ‘Gr’ reappeared in April as well. A pair of Greylag Geese turned up noisily at the Stew Ponds, the first I’ve seen in Firle Park for a while, and a white-rumped Green Sandpiper was there the same day too. The sandpiper is really welcome, as it’s the first recorded at the Stews for about two years, since before the restoration work on the ponds – here’s hoping that they’ll become regular visitors again.
Spring is the peak time for Red Kites in Sussex, and sightings of one or two birds were made by at least five people in Firle and at Glynde. Whether these relate to just a couple of birds or several passing through isn’t clear. Other raptors featured too. A Peregrine made a vocal stop-off in the fields at New Elms Barn one misty morning, fending off its prey from the attentions of a local crow. Looking from Firle Bostal one fine day in March, a grand total of 14 Buzzards could be seen the air at once, underlining just what a recovery these birds have made over recent years. And Ravens seem to be getting more regular in Firle – once you know their gruff honking call, it’s easy to pick them up as they pass through. One morning as I worked in the garden bird, one flew too close to the rookery at the edge of the cricket pitch, and it found itself angrily mobbed by the residents.
At the time of writing, many of the summer residents are still to arrive, but the first few Swallows, House Martins and Whitethroats are back, and Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs seem to be everywhere. I haven’t heard of a Cuckoo yet – has anyone in Glynde or Beddingham had more luck?
Subsequent to writing this… gather a Cuckoo was been around Glynde for several days, and heard it there myself on 25th April. And as of today the returning Sedge Warbler has returned to the (to my eyes) unpromising section of stream that runs beneath Mill Lane.
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