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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

2021. My birds of the year. 12 birds; one for each month.


January, February and March were difficult months as we had to stay local during the post-Christmas covid-19 lockdown. I was initially frustrated by this; but as I re-walked or re-cycled "local" bird journeys (here the undercliff walk from the Marina to Rottingdean) I got to know the bird diversity and abundance of my "patch" must better. I found the Fulmars in January, a first-for-me sighting, and I observed their colony at least twice a month until August. See my Fulmars page for more details. (This was a first-for-me sighting).


Another of my favourite local walks that I got to know well was the walk from mu house to Rottingdean via Whitehawk Hill, Sheepcote Valley, Ovingdean and Beacon Hill. On this February day I saw lots of Skylarks in songflights. I was determined to capture a shot of a Skylark with its little crest on show. This Skylark was on Beacon Hill. For more on Skylarks see: Skylarks: photos & birdsong; poetry & music. Nature and art in troubling times


Turnstones are one of my favourite waders. In Brighton you may see a few Turnstones on the two beaches immediately west and east of the Marina; but because of the lookdown you could see Turnstones on what was the busiest beach in Brighton: the beach just to the east of the Palace Pier. It was wonderful to see a little flock of about 30 Turnstones parading on the shingle next to the Palace Pier; under the Palace Pier; next to the Slush Puppy and Gish and Chips concession; an area which would normally be filled by holiday makers


In April we were permitted to travel further, but not anywhere. I enjoyed being able to visits the Adur Estuary and Widewater Lagoon in Shoreham again. Here is a glorious Whimbrel that I saw at Widewater. For an account of my first trip outside Brighton for nearly four months, see The Ending of Lockdown: three visits to see the birds of Adur


In May is saw a Long-Eared Owl; but I didn't know what it was, as I had never seen one before! I posted a picture of it in the Sussex Birders (Sussex Ornithological Society ) Facebook group and when it was immediately identified as a Long-Eared Owl I was told to remove any details of its location because if it's scarcity and the sensitive nature of its location, because it may have n=been breeding. To see all the photos I took of this magnificent bird, see A Long-Eared Owl.


In June I ventured to a heathland site; the magnificent Old Lodge (Sussex Wildlife Trust) Nature Reserve in Ashdown Forest. It was a very difficult place to get to by public transport; involving taking the bus to Crowborough and a very long walk over Ashdown Forest. The difficulty of the journey was rewarded by magnificent sightings of Redstarts, a first for me, Spotted Flycatchers and Woodlarks, another first for me, for which Old Lodge is famous. I saw the first Redstart very shortly after I arrived. For more pictures of my day at Old Lodge, see Old Lodge NR, Ashdown Forest; heathland & woodland habitat: Redstarts & Spotted Flycatchers 29.06.21


In July I travelled to Suffolk, staying in Saxmundham, to visit RSPB Minsmere, along with other Suffolk Nature Reserves. I went to Minsmere for two days and it was only on the second tht I saw a Bittern; the bird that I had gone to Suffolk to see; as I had never seen one before, and Minsmere is famous for Bitterns. I saw this Bittern not from the Bittern Hide but from the West Hide. Serendipitously, and not beknown to me before the day, there was a Bittern count being undertaken on this day by RSPB wardens and volunteers; there were stationed in different hides. They were communicating on walkie-talkies. The very helpful volunteer in the West Hide turned his walkie-talkie up and I could hear a great running commentary on what was happening. When I heard "bittern coming in from the west; approaching the West Hide (like the dialogue from a scene from a film about the Battle of Britain set in an aircraft control room ) I raised my camera and got this shot. For photographs of my adventures in Suffolk see East Suffolk Nature Reserves Part 1: 12.07.21-13.07.21 North Warren, Minsmere and East Suffolk Nature Reserves Part 2: 15.07.21-17.07.21: Hazelwood Marsh, Snape, Dunwich, Warberswick


I am fascinated by Cattle Egret, they are beautiful birds but an index of global warming. Until very recently Cattle Egrets did not breed in the UK. In the winter 2007/2008, a large influx of cattle egrets occurred in the UK, with the largest numbers in south-west England, though birds did get as far north as Scotland. This influx led to the first ever pair breeding successfully - in Somerset. Cattle Egret Bird Facts | Bubulcus Ibis - The RSPB Cattle egrets have bred in Sussex for the first time this year [2020], with five pairs nesting at Pagham Harbour. More than 30 of the birds were regularly seen on Selsey peninsula during the winter, and it appears that some of them must have stayed to breed into the spring. Chichester Local Group - The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds ( I saw adult Cattle Egrets at Pagham on a couple of occasions before July; but seeing this juvenile in the Heronry on the North Wall at Pagham was a great pleasure. For more photos of this Cattle Egret and others see: RSPB Pagham Harbour. 23.08.21 Juvenile Cattle Egrets and an Osprey


On a very hot August day, I went with my goof friend Colin to Chantry Hill, near Storrington, particularly to observe butterflies; and we saw some beautiful Spotted Flycatchers. I have enjoyed days out with Colin every month; I am mostly a solitary birder, so days out birding with a knowledgeable friend is a real pleasure. For more photos of the Flycatchers see Butterflies (and a family of Spotted Flycatchers) on Chantry Hill, West Sussex. 06.09.21


This year I saw plenty of Cattle Egrets, and a good number of Little Egrets, and I saw some of both on this day, but not was not until October that I saw a Great White Egret, a first-for-me sighting. This Great White had been hanging around at the Arundel Wetland Centre for a few days. It was great to see as it's neck is incredibly long; and makes it stand out from Cattle and Little Egrets. If you want to see photos of all the Egrets I saw on that day see: Arundel WWT & RSPB Pulborough Brooks. Cattle, Great and Little Egrets. 30.10.21 ).


On a very bright and sunny November I visited Sussex Wildlife Trust's Amberley Wildbrooks for the first time. The day started well, as when I walked to the brooks I passed through a wooded track, which had fieldfares of Fieldfares (a new sighting for me) and many Redwings; I was particularly pleased with this photos as I find Redwings hard to photo, as they are quite flighty; and this photo highlights the pale supercilium that is so characteristic of Redwings. For photos of the Fieldfare, see: Amberley Wildbrooks: Fieldfare & Redwing and Autumn Scenes. 22.11.21


I love Rye Harbour Nature Reserve (Sussex Wildlife Trust). Rye Harbour and RSPB Pagham Harbour are my favourite Sussex nature reserves. In December Spoonbills had been reported at Pagham and Rye. I visited Rye twice hoping to see one, following reports, and didn't, and I visited Rye when one had been reported, and didn't see one, but on my last trip to Rye of the the year, I saw a Spoonbill for the very first time; right at the end of the day as the sun was setting. It was a marvellous sight. For more pictures of this Spoonbill see A Spoonbill, a Goldeneye, Lapwings, Redshanks and Snipe. Rye Harbour. 21.12.21



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