On Saturday the woman and I took a trip to Pulborough Brooks RSPB reserve. She'd been there before but years ago and I never had, and since it's less than an hour from her flat we planned to give it ago. Saturday morning was miserable but not yet wet, so we took the plunge.
The first thing we saw on getting out of the car was the friendliest little Robin I've ever come across. The trip was worth it for him alone, and I'm now sorted for Christmas cards for the next 3 years. This was one of those rare occasions when the bird turned up while the camera was in its case and WAS STILL THERE when I finally had it ready and pointed it at the branch where the bird was perched. It turned out this Robin was a right little poser.
There are far more where these came from, he was too good to resist, but they are among the sharpest.
On the feeder outside the centre were dozens of Blue and Great tits, along with Chaffinches, a couple of Coal Tits and the woman picked out a Nuthatch, though I missed it. Doesn't surprise me particularly (the fact there was a Nuthatch or the fact that I missed it), the feeders were an utter madhouse. No pictures here because we went inside to get some food, the plan being to 'take some photos later'. Best laid schemes of Mice and Men and all that. More of this later.
So we sat in the canteen and picked up cups of tea and a very tasty Pork and Apple casserole. This was seriously good winter warmer food and much needed, but by the time we got out onto the reserve the best that could be said for the weather was 'moist', and it went downhill from there.
I didn't get a picture (too much rain to change lenses) but normally looking out from the Visitor's centre at Pulborough Brooks you're treated to a view much like the one from Rainham Visitor's centre when all is working properly. The view on Saturday had more of a North Sea feel to it. The whole valley was flooded. The downside of this was that there were NO birds out there. Wetlands were completely covered, so all that was left were ducks and Wildfowl, and even among those I didn't pick up any unusual winter ducks (my kingdom for an Eider...) and all the Swans were Mute. The one plus was that the high water had driven all the Fallow Deer up to the grass just in front of the centre.
The camera was put away fairly soon after starting the walk due to excessive rain, but not before I'd got a couple of record shots of Redwing and Jay (first 'seen' Redwing of the winter, but not the year). All my optics are feeling particularly ill-treated and are now due some TLC.
I did get some not-completely-crap Pintail video from the Nettley hide, which can be seen below:
And that, really, was that. Pulborough Brooks looks like it would be a great little reserve in fairer weather (i.e. when 2 of the hides weren't flooded and the valley not full of water), and while I may not have seen the best of the birds, I got a pretty good feel for the layout of the place. Would definitely like to go again, maybe in January/Feburary time while there's still a chance of some cool winter ducks for the 2010 list. They also have resident Bullfinches, which are getting to be a bit of a Bogey for me, so all the more incentive to do a decent day's birding down there. The 'tea-room' at least is a model of what the canteen on every reserve should be like. It didn't have the varied and much appreciated selection of homemade cake provided by, say, Rainham Marshes, but the hot meals more than made up for it.
It was wet, and in places it was cold, but as I sit here with a glass of single malt (Bowmans if you're interested, Islay malt, deliciously peaty), I reflect that wet and cold is temporary while awesome Robin photos will hopefully last a lifetime.