We had set an ambitious programme of visits for today, in an attempt to fill a few of the gaps in our year lists. It got off to a good start when we picked up Hawfinches in the trees at the back of Yew Tree Cottage in West Dean Woods. They were very distant and did not give any picture opportunities but this is a bird that you are always pleased to see.
The next target was Woodcock and Ambersham Common is a place where we have often flushed them in the past. This usually comes as more of a shock to us than to the birds, as they suddenly burst into the air just a few feet in front of you.
However, today it was not going to happen, the place was full of horse boxes, four wheel drives, and yellow jacketed marshals. We got the definite impression that we were not wanted, they probably thought we looked like hunt saboteurs. For our part we were happy to move on and look for some peace and quiet elsewhere. Not an easy task when there is an "El Alamein" style soundtrack playing out all across Sussex as the landed gentry enjoy their weekend "sport".
Next stop was Lavington Common which proved to be mostly devoid of life other than a few Crows and a couple of dog walkers. The best we managed here were two Yellowhammers.
We stopped off at Burton Pond and Lord's Piece. Birdsong was more evident at these two but there was little to look at. Waltham Brooks usually saves the day but even here there was nothing much moving and nothing at all at the Sewage Works. By know I think we had seen more butterflies than birds, not bad for the end of November.
Our final destination was the Burgh to see the Short-eared Owls. The walk in gave us views of Grey Partridge, Corn Buntings, and the usual Buzzards and Red Kite, but unfortunately not the Merlin that we were told had been seen.
We had great views of at least six of the Short-eared Owls for about an hour before the sun went down. I was disappointed in that I only managed one decent picture. In bird photography you are always pushing the camera and the lens to the limits of their performance capabilities but I should have done better. Now I am just going to have to go back and do it all over again. Life is hard!