Saturday was a domestic affair, so fast-forward to Sunday and in the early hours I met Ian at a sight in West Sussex for some orchid searching. Our main target, the Sword-leaved Helleborine
, had us searching for some time, but eventually we found the only colony in Sussex.
On the way to the site, near to South Hardham, I spotted a huge White Helleborine on the side of the road. As I had time, I pulled over and searched the brilliant beech understorey and found several Bird's-nest Orchids, including one that was the biggest I'd ever seen. At another location away from here, I again stopped as the habitat looked ideal for my orchids. A quick scout around didn't actually produce any, though as soon as I parked up I could hear a Goshawk calling. After a while, two birds flew through the forest showing briefly.
On Monday, I had an excellent day touring a few sights in West Sussex. Although I had many targets for the day, I wasn't anticipating on seeing them quite so easily (this can't be said for the Wood Warbler, where I didn't have a sniff of one all day).
I started the day at Stanley Common, a site I'd never been to before, but also, a sight that back in the day used to hold an annual pair of Wood Warblers. With few birders checking out these sites, I thought it was worth a go. A circuit didn't produce any Wood Warblers, though I found some decent stuff that is listed below:
Cuckoo - 1
Crossbill - 7
Redstart - 1 singing male
Firecrest - 15 singing males
Garden Warbler - 1
Siskin - 5
Tawny Owl - 1 flushed out of a bush by harassing Blackbirds
Next up was Blackdown, a site this time I had only visited once before when the Parrot Crossbill was there. Despite walking several good looking slopes, I still couldn't locate any Wood Warblers, but as always the typical heathland birds were encountered, plus of course the stunning views of the surrounding counties. A Dartford Warbler
took a particular liking to me during my visit.
|Adult & juv Crossbill|
At Woolbeding Common I laid on the floor for about an hour hoping to pick out any raptors that might've been patrolling the skies, though typically just the usual Common Buzzards
, and two stratospheric Sparrowhawks
going over, was all I could find. In the same field as me however, were four Woodlarks
that included a mating pair. A Downy Emerald also flew through, but best of all were a swarm of up to perhaps 400 bees that went past in a tight-knit group.
With temperatures now soaring, I checked a site along the River Rother and happily found up to four Common Clubtail
dragonflies, including a recently emerged individual. Also present was immatures of both Scarce Chaser
and Black-tailed Skimmers
, a Hairy Dragonfly
and an Emperor
, whilst the damselflies consisted of only Azure and Large Red.
I then spent many hours walking the understorey of the large network of beech woods in Charlton Forest. I was on the hunt for Fly Orchids, though surprisingly I couldn't find any, despite the habitat looking absolutely brilliant. There were plenty of Bird's-nest Orchids
scattered about, but little else. On my walk back, walking under more trees on the escarpment heading back down into the village of Heyshott, I found a sleeping Badger
. I had to change my camera lens and negotiate a few branches so I could get a clear view, and after a while the Badger woke up allowing me to take several photos as it looked on rather perplexed. A male Goshawk
flew over and at the bottom of the escarpment, I finally found a small colony of Fly Orchids
, a few Greater Butterfly Orchids
, and many White Helleborines
|A sleepy Badger|
My final destination was Ambursham Common, a site I used to love being taken to by my Dad, and where we've easily had our best Nightjar encounters. A walk around first produced a Hobby
and the typical heathland species, and finally, when the sun went down, I saw a minimum of five Nightjars, that included perched views, wing-clapping and of course plenty of 'churring'. No Woodcocks was the only disappointment here, but it had been an exceptional day, a day that also produced a Honey-buzzard
during my wanderings.