Sunday, 28 February 2016

The First Adder of the Year

It was another blustery day at Pulborough Brooks. The thermals, fleecey socks and wooly hat were firmly on and doing their jobs as I strolled across the reserve this morning, squinting as the sun appeared intermittently from behind the heavy clouds. I stopped at Fattengates for a quick scan of the brambles and was rewarded with two fluorescent male bullfinches, always a welcome sight.

At West Mead, a large group of wigeon were grazing to the right of the water. As the sun came out once more, it highlighted two snipe as they dashed towards the edge of the pool. They spent some time here, preening themselves and generally being quite active which made a change, since snipe seem to favour tucking their heads away and not moving for long periods; at least, they do at Pulborough! I scanned the taller grass where that the wigeon had now vacated and managed to pick out four more snipe, one of which was demonstrating said "tuck-and-sleep" behaviour. Their camouflage is truly amazing when they are stood still, especially among short reed beds, but this was a great opportunity to see them out and on display. It was a treat to see a decent number of pintail, shoveler and shelduck too.

I was keeping a keen eye out for raptors, particularly peregrines after having had successful sightings of them over the past few weeks, but it was slim-pickings today, despite the occasional bursts of sun. Although it was breezy, conditions which might put some birds of prey off, it was ideal for falcons to be out hunting. However, I only had two buzzards, one of which was looking pretty weathered on his right wing and tail. Not that I don't love to see buzzards, particularly when the sun catches their markings. I met up with a fellow volunteer (off-duty) standing with a visitor on the pathway known as "Adder Alley", and for good reason; amazingly, the visitor had located an adult female adder to the left of the path! When I arrived it had disappeared but it soon came back in to view once the sun came out and bathed the grass in light and heat.

(Apologies for the photo quality! These were taken on my phone)

I've actually only seen one other adder before and it was a very young one, only just bigger than an earthworm. This adult was over 2ft in length and I was able to leisurely admire the beautiful diamond pattern on her scales and see her smelling the air with her thin, black tongue. It certainly made up for the lack of raptors!

The track down to Nettley's hide is usually a great place to spot goldcrests and even firecrests. My walk today yielded both species, with a particularly fantastic showing from a firecrest which was flitting around in the open only a foot in front of me. I got lovely clear views of the bold, orange crest, olive body and black eye-stripe. On the same trail, I also caught sight of a green woodpecker as it landed on the trunk of an oak. Once again, this made a nice change as I normally only see the yellow of their rumps as they fly away.

In other birding news, I made it our for my first patch session a couple of weeks ago, guided by my fellow Midhurstian (not sure that's the official title!) Sophie, of The Oak by the Rife blog. It was a beautiful day and Sophie took me on one of her most frequented walks, pointing out where she had seen various species over the years. At one point we were discussing ravens after she received a text from her mum saying she'd seen on fly over the house, and I commented that I had never seen one in the wild (naturally the Tower of London ones don't count). No more than 15 minutes later, we heard the unmistakable cronk-cronk call and were treated to a fantastic over-head sighting of a raven; it even demonstrated the call again as it was directly above us. I might try out this technique on other species I'd love to see: "I have never had a Long-Eared Owl in my garden..." 

1 comment:

  1. What a fabulous encounter! Never seen an adder.

    It was a lovely bright day here today, and consequently many buzzards were about, trying to find thermals to soar on. Without success!