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Little Bunting, big days

The two days just gone saw me tour widely across the South Downs National Park and the nearby Sussex coastline in the EV. The weather was pretty much perfect, until yesterday afternoon at least, with frosty mornings and blue skies, just as winter should be.

Within the National Park, Iping Common started things off for Phil and I with views of the Little Bunting wintering there among the flock of about 15 Reed Buntings. Little Bunting is a species which breeds in Fennoscandia and across Siberia but largely winters in south-east Asia, however a tiny number of this tiny bird arrive in Britain in the autumn and some winter. They are rather rare in Sussex.

Little Bunting at Iping Common

We went round for a bit of a circuit, encountering a pair of Stonechats. It's always worth giving it a few moments to watch for a small, dark, long-tailed bird following them around, and sure enough this time two Dartford Warblers were in attendance. The two species can often be seen associating with each other.

Dartford Warbler at Iping Common
Stonechat at Iping Common

I clawed back a good sighting from Nick by heading to Burpham and catching up with the six adult Bewick's Swans in the water meadows below the village, by the River Arun. They were distant but a sight worth treasuring, as this winter visitor is generally decreasing.

Bewick's Swans in the Arun Valley

Nearby a dusk watch produced a female Marsh Harrier, several Red Kites and Buzzards.

The next day, Ian and I visited Bopeep, hoping for the Snow Bunting. We couldn't find it and I feared it might have expired, as it didn't look well when I saw it on New Year's Day. Corn Buntings flew over and a Peregrine Falcon called loudly from the valley. We later heard that five minutes after we left, the Snow Bunting emerged from the roadside but appeared extremely weak and died within minutes. A sorry end for such a lovely bird.

At West Rise Marsh, one or two Water Pipits went to and fro, as they do, while we enjoyed the mix of wildfowl present: Pochard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Teal and Wigeon. Two Water Rails called and we later saw one fly along the edge of the reeds. A Raven cronked away as it flew over and we got some superb views of the Great Crested Grebes on the lake.

Shovelers at West Rise Marsh
Pochard, Shoveler, Gadwall and Coot at West Rise Marsh
Great Crested Grebe at West Rise Marsh

Beyond the National Park, on Wednesday we tracked down the Long-tailed Duck in Southwick for 2022. It was hiding away a little way east of its usual spot. On Thursday, we visited Sovereign Harbour, getting great views of the wintering Great Northern Diver and a few Guillemots and Razorbills, enjoying the shelter of the harbour. A couple of Common Seals were also floating around! At Newhaven harbour, just one Purple Sandpiper was tucked away on the side of the east arm. During a pitstop at Polegate we checked on the resident Hooded Crow, which was still lounging around in the trees behind the 'golden arches'.

Long-tailed Duck at Southwick
Great Northern Diver at Sovereign Harbour
Guillemot at Sovereign Harbour

Razorbill at Sovereign Harbour
Common Seal at Sovereign Harbour


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