The Month in Birds – December 2014 

As I write, it’s still so mild. It seems a few birds wondered whether it was worth bothering to come here for the winter at all.

Fieldfares didn’t arrive until the second half of November (usually it’s October) and the number of finches and buntings passing over seems to have been low – just one Redpoll heard so far, and not a single Siskin that I’m aware of. A lone Brambling was heard over the school and allotments on 17th November, a typical date and place.

Insect-eaters do tend to find the warmth helpful. Though much commoner in the summer, Chiffchaffs can now be found locally all year round – one in the bindweed around Glynde Station late in November might have been a late migrant, or be here for the duration. Firecrests are no longer rare, but still hard to pin down. One heard a few times from October around the cricket pitch in Firle might also stay.

Best of all, on 9th November there were two Black Redstarts in Firle. Black Redstarts are common on the continent, but scarce here. In the late autumn, a few dozen pass through Sussex with a few staying on to winter around the coast. Generally these bypass Firle, but this year there were more than usual in the county in early November and at least two stopped here.

One of the unusual qualities to Black Redstarts is their preference for the less wild places. One was found (by Paul S) in The Street, catching flies from the rooftops around the village hall, while another was found around the farm buildings at Blackcap.

Similar to a Robin, but a little smaller, they’re a charcoal colour with a brick-red quivering tail. Famously, they did well after WW2, finding the bombsites of London to their liking.

Another bird that’s been seen in good numbers in the UK this autumn is a much bigger one. Rough-legged Buzzards are a subtle variation on our local birds, and usually make it no closer than the East coast of the UK, but every few years one turns up in Sussex. In 2002-3 one spent the winter at Rodmell and Mount Caburn, attracting a stream of visitors. This year’s influx has deposited one at Jevington, where it’s hunting the game cover south of the village and drawing the crowds again – worth looking out for if you’re headed towards Eastbourne.

Seen or heard something interesting? Email cpeverett@gmail.com or tweet @firlebirds.

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