Pulborough Brooks – 14th Apr

Yesterday I enjoyed a day out with Ewan Urquhart at the RSPB’s Pulborough Brooks reserve in Sussex. Since 1989 this site’s flood meadows (or “brooks”) of the Arun Valley have been managed both for grazing and wetland birds. There are also areas of grassland, woodland and heath here, with visitor trails to get the general public around and several hides.

River Arun flood meadows

River Arun flood meadows

One of the reserve’s summer bird specialities is breeding Nightingale and that was what we went to see. Ewan explained that this usually difficult to observe species is not only regular here but for some reason unusually showy. And I soon found out what he meant. The Nightingales favour an area at the foot of a path that descends from the visitor centre. There was other wildlife interest, notably Great Crested Newt and Adder, but we were here for Nightingale and fairly soon after our arrival one began to sing.

Last May when I was in southern Portugal there seemed to be one of these songsters in every other bush at some places, but they were rarely inclined to show themselves. In my early days in Oxfordshire in the late 1980s I recall them singing on parts of Otmoor but I didn’t ever set eyes on one. Last year I added the species to my Oxon list at another site but as in Cyprus, southern France and Portugal in recent years the local bird was seen just fleetingly, and that has always been my experience. At Pulborough Brooks … well these pictures tell the story. I will not be entering them into any competitions but I have previously been accustomed to much more foreground clutter obscuring my views.


Nightingale (above and below x 3)

nightingale.1503 pulborough brooks

nightingale.1504 pulborough brooks

nightingale.1505 pulborough brooks

and a Chiffchaff

… and a Chiffchaff

We saw probably just two birds but I received a text from Ewan today saying five more singing males had arrived. Some people yesterday were also hoping to see a Scarce or Yellow-legged Tortoiseshell butterfly that had been present in the same area of the reserve a week ago. There had been just one British record from1953 of this eastern European insect until the late summer of 2014 when there was an unusual migration to these shores. Like our British Small Tortoiseshell the visiting species hibernates, and a few individuals have re-emerged this spring in Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and here at Pulborough Brooks. After this first ever successful over wintering, butterfly enthusiasts are now hoping for breeding in Great Britain for the first time. See here for the full story.


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