The weekly wildlife sightings blog by Arundel Wetland Centre Reserve Manager Paul Stevens.
From the reedbed hide on Sunday at 4.40 pm I watched six marsh harriers circling above our far reedbed before coming into roost for the night. As the harrier’s regular numbers have increased from four to six, the size of the pied wagtail roost has declined to less than 50 birds. Pied wags and starlings may avoid roosting at Arundel Wetland Centre since the strong marsh harrier presence but the trade-off of seeing these fine raptors onsite is worth it. It’s fantastic that the habitats in the Arun Valley are able to support this number of harriers. I also saw two peregrines come in from the direction of Arundel castle and roost in the Offham Hangar. Reed buntings were still dropping into the reedbed at the end of the day to roost as well.
I am roaming the reserve on this chilly Monday morning. I have already spotted a kingfisher on the boat jetty. As I approach the Ramsar hide I hear a bullfinch calling in the scrub. A song thrush bolts out of the hedge to my right and several black birds rustle in the trees. From the hide windows I immediately see a water rail along the cut at the front of the hide. I county 72 greylag geese on the water. We saw them circling earlier so this is where they came down! I see a shoveler, and teal. A cormorant is sunning and grooming on the spit, surrounded by black-headed gulls. As I leave the hide a kingfisher comes in to land on the willow s to the left – I grab a quick shot.
At the Lapwing hide I watch a grey heron takes to the air while I scout for snipe along the edges of the channels with my binoculars. I spot one which means there’s likely 30 I can’t see! On my way to the Sand martin hide I hear a goldfinch singing – a bit odd in winter. It takes me a second to spot him in the tall alder. Although it has lost its leaves the gold finch find plenty of cover among its cones and catkins. At the Sand martin hide I see the cormorant again from this opposite side. The heron is here now too along with shelducks on the island near the hide and opposites.
At the Scrape hide a mute swan slices through the water as it comes in to land. The hide is quite this morning so I move on. Along the long path I see a song thrush dining on sloes. The sun lights up the fluffy seed heads of the phragmites. When I leave the reedbed I stop at the waterfalls pen to watch a grey wagtail bopping around the waterfall, hunting for insects. Visitors worry when they see these birds inside this netted aviary but the come and go finding their own ways in and out.
On my way back to the visitor centre I watch a sparrowhawk cruise overhead.