A quick shower had Jennifer and I scrambling for the waterproofs as we set out on our Sussex Guided Bird Walk at Pulborough Brooks, but the threat of rain gave way to sunny spells and some really good birding.
We were serenaded by Greenfinches, and distant Song Thrush and Green Woodpecker, as we headed in line with the Zig-Zag path, but overall the drop in birdsong was noticeable, with many species now finished with breeding and undergoing their annual main moult. A Treecreeper revealed its presence with its piercing calls down by the ponds at the junction, but only afforded the odd glimpse as it gleaned unobtrusively in some younger trees.
As we approached Westmead Hide, a couple of low-flying Red Kites grabbed our attention as they headed towards a tractor cutting hay. A Kestrel was also getting in on the action, hovering above the machinery in the hope of spotting displaced insects and small mammals. A showy Whitethroat appeared in the hedgerow to our right, posing beautifully for some time. We also noticed a Stock Dove perched in the top of a dead tree and a female Stonechat along the fence line.
Westmead Hide offered up eight Little Egrets, some of which were sleeping while the others prowled the flooded area for fish and amphibians, and a young Grey Heron. Some fledgling Black-headed Gulls were still on site; this is the first time the species had bred on the reserve! A Green Sandpiper appeared in flight briefly as it was spooked in the corner of the pool.
A Hobby appeared over the trees in the far distance. Views weren't great, but once we exited the hide and continued our stroll, this or another individual dashed by at close range, providing a truly thrilling encounter before it sped out of view!
From the Winpenny Hide, we managed to spot a couple of Skylarks getting up from the meadows at the back and enjoyed further views of the birds of prey, though no eagle pitched up this time! A couple of Sand Martins whizzed back and forth, while Swifts scoured the skies higher up.
It was a busy day for butterflies too. Marbled Whites and Gatekeepers were the most prominent species, but an obliging Small Skipper provided a nice opportunity to study the pale underside to the tips of the antennae, which sets the species apart from Essex Skipper.
With migrant waders appearing on the North Brooks in recent days, we made our way round to the Hanger Viewpoint. A singing male Linnet greeted us in the bushes below the vantage point but most of the action was on the floods in the distance. There we recorded three Greenshanks, five Little Ringed Plovers, an Avocet, 12 Black-tailed Godwits and several Lapwings. A decent number of Teal were also scattered around the edges.
An exciting bonus bird came in the form of a White Stork, one of the birds from the Knepp project, dropped in at the far right-hand end.
After a fruitful few hours of July birding in the Arun Valley, we signed off the day with coffee from the visitor centre and packed lunch. Looking forward to next time!