I was very interested to read about the high numbers of sparrows at Camber. It is widely reported that these birds benefit from insect prey during the summer months as they are rearing youngsters. One of the conservation initiatives on that area of the Marsh has seen a farmer growing large areas of hay in recent years between Camber and Moneypenny, partly as a hay crop, but also encouraging flowers such as red clover in it to benefit the rarer bumblebees. It is possible that the sparrows are making use of the insect prey that results from this management. If so, nice to see more than one benefit from such an initiative, although the rough dune grassland on the golf course may well help too.
Archive for December 27th, 2010
Of all my tetrads covered for the Bird Atlas, the most sparrow-rich has been TQ81Q at Fairlight Cove, which resembles Pat’s area at Camber in that it is a seaside bungalow development though on a cliff-top rather than sand. The gardens there are pretty manicured but many householders put out feeders and there is access to rough grass on the cliff-edge. On my early winter visit I found 76 birds, which had the website sending a flashing red warning that the count was unusually high.
Another good flock is to be found around the entrance to Toot Rock, Pett Level where they exploit a chicken run and up to 60 birds are present in late summer. Around our house at Chick Hill I see breeding adults foraging, as Brian notes, for insects in pasture well-manured by cattle. I share his views on their conservatism in visiting new feeding sites even at a very short distance from an existing one.
House Sparrows are not that easy to count; not only do they squabble inside dense shrubs as Pat notes, but also chirrup invisibly from eaves and gutters. Around Alexandra Park, Hastings, you can hear them calling from nearby streets but they don’t seem to cross to the park itself. In the Weald they are often either absent from human habitation or hanging on in isolated pairs and seem most to favour untidy farms with livestock. In N Spain, though, I’ve noticed they occupy any building, even vacant second homes way out in the woods, with not a chicken in sight.
Following Brian’s posting, I’ve seen more House Sparrows in Camber than anywhere else around here. I first noticed how common they were while atlassing two winters ago, but on 7 Dec. this year I did my first “timed tetrad visit” (TTV) there and clocked up 95 in the two hours. That’s only the ones I counted (or guesstimated, in the case of several dense noisy groups in roadside bushes). In no way was that a full census of the village - the numbers there must run into the hundreds. They’re also resident at Moneypenny and even much further out on the levels at remote spots like Barn Farm. No wonder Tree Sparrows have had such a hard time competing. In contrast, I found just 10 sparrows in a more recent TTV around Ore and Clive Vale in urban Hastings.
I arrived at Pett Pools at 7.30am, but it was still a bit dark to see anything, so I took the chance to go to Scotney for a change, where there were huge numbers of Wigeon, everywhere plus W.Front., Greylag, Barnacle Geese. Other birds of note there were 3 Marsh Harrier, Peregrine Falcon.From there I went to look for some swans, and I was very surprized to find my biggest herd of Bewick Swans I’ve ever seen with 120/140,also very large numbers of Redwing and Fieldfare in the bushes along the lane side between Lydd and Rye. I arrived back at Pett around 10am. There was around 30/40 Brent Geese on the marsh,( Winchelsea end) with 9/10 light bellied. There was at least 5,000 Wigeon at the pools. I was watching from the van, when Cliff told me about R.B.G. After that we braved the muddy footpath to get good views of our first Red B.Goose with the W.F.Geese . Also seen 50 Barnacle Geese flew over the pools in the afternoon. Good bird watching and a Happy New Year Pete.
I have said on this website before that one of the ironies of taking a bird watching holiday to Extremadura in 2004, home of an amazing array of birds, was that I came back intent on increasing our Northiam house sparrow population. At the time the peak count in my garden was a paultry 6 birds, whereas the garden of the hotel I stayed at was full of them, and numerous other species of course. OK, there was a white stork nest on the roof that contained a small nesting colony of house sparrow, but I came away thinking that food was probably the key.
Since then I have fed the birds consistently through summer and winter, and have experimented with different brands to get the version that seems most attractive. For a few years now I have been using Read the rest of this entry »
Photo by John Willsher
The Red-breasted Goose was still present at Pett Level about midday, at that point at the back of the marsh. It could be picked out from the seawall but the best views were to be had from the footpath alongside the RM Canal, about 15 mins walk from Toot Rock. It was in a flock of Greylags, Whitefronts and 2 Barnacles.
Other species seen from that spot were m Marsh Harrier, f Merlin and a Med Gull. Far fewer Whitefronts today and probably fewer Wigeon but still thousands of those.