Adrian and I met at the walkers' car park at Knepp Wildlands and embarked on the day's Sussex Birding Mini-Trip. After watching Stock Doves, Chiffchaffs and a fly-by Mistle Thrush on the way in to the estate, we were soon hearing the purring of a Turtle Dove and watching White Storks on their nests, while Green Woodpeckers yaffled in the distance. After hearing a Song Thrush's repeated notes, we managed to get the distant bird in view in the telescope, while a Yellowhammer and a couple of Linnets also made an appearance.
A couple of young Great Spotted Woodpeckers seemed as though they were playing hide and seek in the oak trees by the path but we eventually managed a decent view.
Searching an area of scrub, we found a Lesser Whitethroat feeding in a bush and heard a couple of Bullfinches. A Red-legged Partridge was an unexpected find on the path, proceeding to give its 'steam-train' song, and a Kestrel showed nicely on the wires.
Another Turtle Dove purred at close range and, after finding the right angle, we spotted it as it preened diligently on an open branch in an oak along a hedgerow. Meanwhile, a Garden Warbler sang on the other side of the path, we clocked a Buzzard in a dead tree, and a couple of Bullfinches flitted across. After getting some closer encounters with the nesting White Storks, we headed back after a successful first stop.
Looking out from the visitor centre at Pulborough Brooks, a Great White Egret was immediately visible in the distance alongside several Little Egrets. The first part of the trail produced views of Long-tailed Tits and some singing Greenfinches. Reaching the pond at the junction, a young Grey Wagtail was feeding around the edges.
We made our way to Jupp's Viewpoint, where we spotted a Little Ringed Plover, a couple of Avocets, a flock of 20 Black-tailed Godwits, a Shelduck and several Lapwings -- a nice selection of wetland birds! Nearby one of the many Chiffchaffs on site sat nicely in the open for us.
The Hanger Viewpoint added House Martin and Sedge Warbler to the day list. There was word that one of the eagles had made an appearance, so we hurried along the wetland trail. As soon as we reached Winpenny Hide, we got eyes on the White-tailed Eagle in the distance. It was in view for some time, and later on it came considerably closer, giving amazing views!
Also seen from this hide was a family of Egyptian Geese and a couple of Redshanks, while a Skylark sang enthusiastically from the up high. After heading back out into the open air, a male Sparrowhawk performed a speedy fly-past.
Westmead Hide offered a family of Tufted Ducks and a group of Sand Martins flying through, as well as fledgling Black-headed Gulls and better views of Lapwing.
After enjoying good views of Greenfinch and Goldfinch, we decided to spend the remainder of the tour on the heathland trail, though the weather was deteriorating. We heard Nuthatch, Goldcrest, Coal Tit and Green Woodpecker but all these were overshadowed by superb views of a silent Cuckoo hunting caterpillars from a dead tree, a perfect end to a really fun tour with Adrian! Most singing males have gone back south now, so this species was not really on the radar for the day.