South Downs

Five apprehensive members assembled in the Kithurst Hill car park in very windy conditions. Our fears were justified as twice squally showers swept over but happily only when we were in the shelter of one of the sparse woodlands on top of the Downs.

Unsurprisingly sightings were few at first but a raven cronked nearby and a sizeable finch flock, exclusively linnets as far as we could judge, moved restlessly around the hillside. Soon we were seeing skylarks whose song held the promise of spring. The gamebird feeders were attracting great, blue and coal tits. Finally in the shelter of a hedgerow we saw an assemblage that included song thrushes, a mistle thrush and blackbirds. A yellowhammer flew closer and displayed its finery while colourful cock pheasants and red-legged partridges loitered at the field edges.

In view of the conditions we decided against the usual descent into the valley towards the dew ponds and took a byway leading back to the South Downs Way. Our reward was the sight of a ringtail hen harrier sweeping low past us showing its pale rump, an excellent addition to our other raptor sightings of two buzzards and a kestrel. We lunched in shelter with an excellent view of the extensive flooding stretching north as far as Pulborough Brooks where we were soon to repair for further refreshment.

Our species list of 23 reflected the prevalent weather conditions.