18 Jan 2015

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Dull and damp. A party of seven Blue Tits feed where the ground is cleared, under the young ash and hawthorn beside the school field.

Hundreds of Woodpigeons burst from the game cover, among them a very few Stock Doves.

Goldcrests on the escarpment, in the plantation and along the track. After two mild winters they abound.

Little sound, but one or two thrushes and crow calls carry far in the wet air.

The path through the plantation runs wet too, in places washed to chalk pavement. In the grey of the winter, under the hanger of ash, the bare pale chalk and the green bright mosses appear lurid.

By the track down to the Coach Road from the Beacon, the powerful boughs of beech are exposed, growing parallel to the ground, muscular but forced northeastwards even so.

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3 Jan 2015

South Downs escarpment from Firle Bostal at New Elms

The cold between Christmas and New Year has yielded to unseasonably mild air. In this afternoon’s drizzle, the pair of Kestrels were sheltering at New Elms Barn, on the brickwork in the corner of the open doorway, heads turned in to one another, like the apex of a roof.

It’s the ledge that was used by the Little Owls, until around a year ago. None at New Elms since some digging was done in the fields around the barn, laying new water pipes I think.

Stew Ponds in Firle park

Little at the Stews. I’d been hoping that the freeze might push something odd onto them, but not even a Teal. Today just a Moorhen flapping out of the watercress.

Coming back round to the cricket pitch, the sky to the west was a strange ocean blue, a blend of thin rainclouds and the clear skies behind.

Ocean blue skies / clouds over Firle Park

31 Dec 2014

Escarpment looking to Lewes from Firle Plantation

Early morning on the escarpment beside the Plantation, New Year’s Eve. Quizzical notes from an unseen Brambling (just out of its roost in the woods?), then a Red Kite, circling low over the hillside, my first and last of the year.

Down Firle Bostal, a Stoat sped past a roadside gap along the chalky field edge.

At New Elms pond, a Grey Wagtail flashing its white bits and trilling.

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.