We headed out with Patrick from Heathrow Airport towards the Sussex countryside mid-morning on Monday, in a bid to see as many species as possible before dusk. The birding started long before we reached Pulborough Brooks, with a Red Kite over the M25 at Chertsey.
The car park was busy with birds as soon as we opened the doors, with the soft call of a Bullfinch alerting us to an individual perched at head height before we even managed to get our binoculars out. A flock of Long-tailed Tits quickly made their way through the trees while a Treecreeper called and we heard our first Blackbirds, Robins and Wrens of the day.
After checking in at the visitor centre, we took a moment to take an initial scan from the dipping pond, before heading to the feeding station just off the path further down. The feeders were busy with Blue Tits and Great Tits, with a Coal Tit nipping in for a couple of fleeting visits. A Nuthatch was easier to view, coming in regularly and taking its time.
We heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker in the distance and a few minutes later the male bird appeared at the station while Greenfinches, Chaffinches and Goldfinches joined in for breakfast.
A Green Woodpecker was heard in the distance but the biggest surprise came when a 'chew-it!' call overhead alerted us to a fly-over Spotted Redshank. The bird initially passed unseen but it came around a second time, when it was visible circling in the sky above!
Walking down the slope, a number of Redwings and Fieldfares were in the hedges, allowing for good views through the scope with a little patience. It was a delight to see numbers of these winter thrushes, which have recently arrived from Fennoscandia for the winter, gorging on the berries on the reserve.
A couple of Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails flew overhead before we moved on. The Fattengates Courtyard area provided good views of Coal Tit, Dunnock and Song Thrush after we'd spotted a loafing Common Buzzard from a nearby gateway.
We then made our way to the Hanger Viewpoint, where the North Brooks delivered in excess of 700 Black-tailed Godwits, around 200 Northern Lapwings, and good numbers of Pintail, Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler. There were also three Shelducks mixed in for good measure.
The hordes of wildfowl were under watch by an adult Peregrine Falcon in its favoured tree by the viewpoint but it was a Marsh Harrier that was causing the most panic as it cruised over the floods in search of prey.
A male Kestrel dashed past and the trees surrounding the viewpoint hosted Treecreeper and Goldcrest, while a Cetti's Warbler gave a brief burst of song in the vegetation below.
The Westmead and Winpenny Hides added a Grey Heron, two Egyptian Geese a couple of Red Kites and a distant view of a fly-by White-tailed Eagle. On the walk to the hides we inadvertently flushed a Green Woodpecker from the path and managed to lock onto it in the scope when it alighted in a distant tree. Patrick's pishing skills brought out a Wren from deep cover, giving us our first views of the species for the day, and we also encountered another busy flock of Long-tailed Tits.
It was time to head on to Burpham. The weather was against us, with a bit of a breeze and a heavy deluge of rain, and no clear skies on the horizon. We pressed on and thankfully the rain eased, allowing us to enjoy both Grey Partridge and Red-legged Partridge, as well as several Red Kites, a flock of around 500 Common Gulls, several Stock Doves, two Goldcrests, and several small flocks of Linnet. A Reed Bunting and a couple of Skylarks called as darkness began to fall.