Sept 22 saw the occasion of the second RX birdrace, in which teams compete to record the most bird species within the Hastings-Dungenees area, and raise funds for RSPCA Mallydams wood and Rye Harbour NR.
Last year our team,” The Pett levellers” , were joint winners with 104 species, though we claimed the moral high ground because we did it all on foot. This year , with almost the same team, now known as “Slow but Sure “, set off again at 0630 with some relief after much planning of routes and logistics.
We spent the first few hours within Hastings Country Park NR, and it soon became apparent that this was the quietest day for autumn migration so far, a real struggle. We managed a Wheatear and a Stonechat, there had clearly been a “fall” of Blackcaps, but very little visible migration. We easily got Yellowhammer, a HCPNR speciality and the only ones seen anywhere on the day, but failed on some easy woodland species. A change of scene was needed, so we headed inland,
through Stonelink wood [Marsh Tit], up to Pett Church and down into the Pannel Valley [Water Rail, Marsh Harrier]. joining the Military Canal, we passed Carters Flood [the only Snipe], and arrived at the a beach after six and a half hours walking. Here we were met by Judith Dean with splendid lunch of Pasta Bake and Chocolate cake, and watched the first Brent Geese of the winter fly past.
As expected, birds got easier now we were by the sea, and we were pleased to see the Spoonbill which arrived yesterday on Pett pools, together with a Ruff and various wildfowl. After that, a brisk walk along Winchelsea beach produced a nice Arctic Skua harrying terns, after admiring that we pressed on along a complicated route through Rye Harbour NR. After a dismal autumn for waders it was nice to see a Wood Sandpiper with Greenshanks and a late Little Ringed Plover; the long staying Eider was at the river mouth.
After picking up a few more waders, and the day’s only Reed Warbler, we had just enough time to race down to the Bittern viewpoint, where it was nice to sit down after 12 hours and about 15 miles walking. Here, everything fell into place and we got Cettis Warbler [silent everywhere else], Barn Owl and some Bearded Tits, before being collected by Judith and Jill and driven back to Mallydams.
Here, after a meal of Jacket spuds and more cake, the teams scores were collated on a spreadsheet, projected for all to see -the results of a hard days birding in RX land. A total of 128 species were seen, of which we again saw 104 -but this time it was the winning total by 1 species [perhaps that was feral pigeon, which we failed to see last year !].
A pleasant evening concluded with a raffle where everybody won a donated prize, and a decision to do it again next year…