Monday, 11 January 2016

A Triple Threat at Pulborough Brooks

A belated happy new year to you!

What a hectic few weeks I've had and sadly no time for any birding. I was on hides and trails at Pulborough the Sunday before last but this glorious weather we've been having meant that visibility was bad and very few birds were out other than the ducks and waders. It wasn't the best start to 2016. However, when I was last out on the reserve, three weeks ago, I had an absolute cracker of a day and nearly suffered whiplash trying to watch everything at once!

The first part of the day was relatively uneventful. There were a couple of perched buzzards at West Mead and Winpenny and the odd snipe hiding in the long grass. It all started to get much more interesting once myself and Graham made our way to Hanger View. One of the largest trees to the left of the view is known as the "peregrine tree", so-named because, in the past, a female peregrine was frequently spotted perched on the branches. This was the first I'd heard of it since starting at Pulborough a couple of years ago. It would seem that a new female-a ringed juvy born at Amberley-has taken up this tradition as she was there for several hours on this particular day, preening herself after a wash. This was enough to keep me entertained for some time. The position of the tree gave me relatively close views of her with just my bins.

Several visitors were with us at the view and naturally everyone had their attention fixed on the peregrine, with the occasional shout of "bullfinch in the sloe bushes!" (I counted three females and two males at one point) One lady I was speaking to said that she and her husband had seen a very distant short-eared owl when they were down in Little Hanger hide. She kindly pointed me in the direction they'd been looking, which fell just behind where our falcon was perched. Literally as I focused my bins past her and onto the river bank, I had a shortie in my sights immediately! I was tickled by the fact that we'd all been so distracted by the peregrine that we'd been missing out on other exciting sightings. It didn't stop there though.

As the other visitors became aware of the shortie, all scopes and bins refocused and followed its progress. Not long after this, after the owl dropped out of sight then reappeared in two different places, we realised there were now two quartering the riverbank. One of them landed on a fence post and a visitor was kind enough to let me look through his scope, so I could have my first close-up view of this stunning bird. I could see the characteristic piercing yellow eyes and very round facial disc.

Everyone's attention was now divided, with some back to watching the peregrine, some looking in the berry bushes for bullfinches and some chatting with each other. Many of us had lost sight of the shorties and I was scanning the banks trying to relocate them. As I brought my bins upwards, I saw both of them circling higher up, along with another bird. It most definitely wasn't a third owl though, something I realised the second I caught sight of the forked tail-a red kite! The two shorties were circling above the kite and taking turns to dive on him. At this point, the peregrine took off from her perch and joined in with the assault on the poor kite. It was quite a sight to see! 

The kite didn't hang around for long, not that he was really given a choice. Being attacked by two owls and a falcon is enough to make anyone feel unwanted! After he cleared off, it seemed the owls weren't keen on hanging around either and we lost sight of both of them. The peregrine did come back to rest in the same tree again, apparently quite pleased with her contribution to the aerial display. 

I haven't been doing hides and trails for long so I don't have a huge pool of experiences to make comparisons with, however, I can confidently say that this particular day was the best I've had on the reserve so far. I couldn't have asked for more; three species of raptor all at once and showing in a spectacular fashion! Fantastic.


  1. There are supposedly shorties, as you call them, round here, but not come across one yet!

  2. Sounds like a cracker of a day.

    My family and I are planning on visiting Pulborough at some point in the year (as part of a challenge to visit as many nature reserves as we can by public transport), can you recommend the best time of year to visit or what you can see at various times of the year (maybe you have a post?) been on the RSPB site but the listings of "what to see" etc are always pretty limited, and who better to ask than a blogger who volunteers there :)

    1. Sounds like a great idea Ashley! I would definitely recommend coming during Nightingale season was PB is very well known for a fantastic number of singing nightingales. Best time to come is around late April, early May as this is when their song is loudest. They put on a particularly good show last year and were frequently on display as well as being heard!