Many birds that used to be ‘common or garden’ are no longer so, and that’s particularly the case for farmland species. The Linnet is among them, having declined by over 50% across the UK between 1970 and 2008. They can still easily be found over much of our downland, but they’ve become scarce in the lower fields.
The good news is that our Linnets around Firle village seem to have done well this year, with several pairs along the hedge near the school and Chalky Lane. By early July quite a group had congregated there in the oil seed rape; at least 45, including many young ones.
Seen close, they’re pretty things – the males wear a bright pink blush on their chest and forehead, rich brown backs and flashing white in their tails. Given the quizzical, musical noises they make, it’s not surprising that they were a favourite cage bird for the Victorians, along with Goldfinches.
Other birds seemed to have had good breeding seasons too. Green Woodpeckers were almost impossible to miss, with young birds frequenting the path between the Ram and the school, as well as many seen in gardens, the park and the paddocks. Kestrels fledged from the box at New Elms, and at least two pairs of Spotted Flycatchers managed to get chicks out of the nest, in the usual places – the perimeter of the cricket pitch, and the gardens around the Old Vicarage.
The Firle Park population of Mistle Thrushes had grown to at least 24 (probably a lot more) by one afternoon in July. Just before a thunderstorm hit, they were all lined up along the fence posts, asking to be counted. The Mute Swans on Glynde Reach raised offpsring as usual – at least four cygnets seemed to been successful, did anyone count more?
The Swallows and martins built up in July, attracting a Hobby to hunt them on at least a couple of occasions. And while the Sedge Warbler along Spring Ditch (beneath Mill Lane) sang less and less, a Reed Bunting set up in the barley there, and could be heard most mornings offering its rather plain song. Another bunting, the Yellowhammer, is in short supply these days, but could also be heard from Mill Lane some days.
A little further afield, Rodmell continues to attract scarce birds, with a group of Garganey dropping in late in the month, and waders on their early autumn migration, including a Ruff. Meanwhile on the Downs to the west, Quails began to be heard in several places around Ditchling and Edburton, and latterly one was found in ‘our’ patch, north of Seaford and south of Bo-Peep.