Saturday, 15 February 2020


The title is an exaggeration of the truth... it's a treecreeper on a wall. In years gone by, at around this time of year, we have seen treecreepers on the old stone walls around the farm and in the last few weeks, one has been spending a lot of time in and around the nature area outside the shop. It has been quite a treat to not only have something out of the ordinary (in an otherwise boring winter), but it seems to be far from concerned about us being there and taking photos.

In the shop, we have been making a few changes since the start of the year, with the addition of a new store room making more space in the shop which we'll no doubt eventually fill with more optics. Our reshuffle has made the room feel more spacious, and our 'comfy corner' is perhaps a little too comfortable now...

The best binocular selection in Sussex

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Beautiful barn owl

If you're wondering why I haven't posted anything on here since September, it's mostly down to this winter's frankly miserable weather. Yesterday, last night and this morning were just about as bad as it's been, so when the rain stopped and the sun came out this afternoon, it was a more-than-welcome change. I guess the local barn owl must be a bit more fed up than me, as they find it nearly impossible to hunt in the rain, so with a break in the weather this afternoon it came out early to hunt. Lynn, who lives in the farm house, popped into the shop to tell me she had seen it down by the old chicken coop, adding it had completely ignored her while she was working. So I took my chance, fully expecting it to have disappeared already or would at least take flight when it saw me, but fortunately I crept up in just the right place where I was slightly hidden behind a patch of brambles, and I managed to get some nice photos. Eventually it took off to search somewhere else and I wandered back up to the shop happy as larry.

Hopefully we'll have some more dry, bright weather so the barn owls will be able to feed and I will be able to get outside with the camera a bit more!

Rare birds have been hard to come by this winter, with the usual thrushes around, but no winter visiting finches on the feeders yet. We spotted a red kite briefly early on in January, at least one kestrel has been taking interest in the usual nesting spot in the church tower, but the resident buzzards have been quiet (again probably because of the weather).

It's the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch near the end of the month. We'll be taking part as usual, so let's hope for something interesting!

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Summer sightings

It's been a fairly average summer, both weather wise and bird wise. There has been very little of note, but it does seem to have been a successful breeding season for many garden birds. Once again blue tits have been the most abundant, but we've been hearing reports of house sparrows, goldfinches and great spotted woodpeckers aplenty too.

Juv great spotted woodpecker 07/06/19
A pair of kestrels nesting in the church again this year, raising 3 or 4 young. Occasionally a hobby caused a stir, harassing the youngsters but soon seen off by the adults.

Hobby 04/07/19
The swifts, which also nest in the church, seemed to have another successful year, with a highest count of 16.

Swift 12/07/19
Green woodpeckers have been busy this summer, the farmhouse lawn the most common place to find them but one juvenile took a liking to sitting on the old wall.

Juv green woodpecker 13/07/19
Both male and female sparrowhawks have been swooping through, with an unfortunate sparrow falling victim to the male on one occasion.

Male sparrowhawk 19/07/19
Male sparrowhawk with sparrow prey 19/07/19
Buzzards had been oddly quiet early in the summer, but with the arrival of some finer weather later in August, sightings became more regular.

Buzzard 23/08/19
August was dominated by blue tits on the feeders, with species such as blackbird and great spotted woodpecker becoming notably absent as they found more natural food. By later in the month the long-tailed tits arrived back after a summer hiatus, and a few chiffchaffs starting appearing, feeding up before their long migration south.

Long-tailed tit 30/08/19
Chiffchaff 29/08/19

We are still waiting for our 100th species, having been on 99 now since spring last year. Bring it on!

Friday, 31 May 2019

Where are all the hirundines?

This year there seems to be a real shortage of swallows, house martins and swifts across the county (and maybe Country?). Here at Feathers we used to have dozens of pairs of house martins nesting between the old vicarage and the farm house, whereas now we are lucky if we see any at all. Swallows have bred on the farm in years gone by, but again we now only see them occasionally. Fortunately, the swifts that call the church home still seem to be stable, with about 8 birds back again this year. Other birders in the area and plenty of customers have noted the lack of hirundines this year and it would be interesting to know whether this has been a trend for the whole of the UK.

Swift at Feathers, 25/05/19

On a more positive note, we have had a firecrest present for at least a month now. Throughout the day I can hear it singing somewhere just over the road. For the most part, owing to their protected status (Schedule 1 species), we haven't been even trying to look for it, but just knowing it is here and potentially breeding is great news for us. However, we were afforded wonderful, albeit very brief, views of it earlier in the month.

Firecrest at Feathers, 02/05/19

It seems to have been favourable weather for the breeding season, if anything perhaps a bit too dry! Hopefully it will mean great success for many species. So far we have seen young starlings (although the boxes weren't used this year), sparrows, great tits and blue tits. No doubt the blackbirds, robins and dunnocks have fledged but we haven't been introduced by the parents yet. The great spotted woodpecker parents have almost been a fixture for the last couple of weeks, taking food away but back within minutes. Perhaps there is more than one pair. No sign of the juveniles yet but I hope it won't be long.

Male great spotted woodpecker

Juvenile and adult starling
Adult and juvenile blue tit

Friday, 12 April 2019

Spring Migration 2019 first arrival dates

2019 Spring Migrant first arrival dates at Feathers, Salehurst, East Sussex

Swallow: 10th April (2018: 7th April)

House Martin: 10th May (2018: 20th April)

Swift: 11th May (2018: 8th May)

Chiffchaff: 1st April (2018: 3rd April)

Blackcap: 13th April (2018: 8th April)

Whitethroat: 19th April (2018: 20th April)

Cuckoo: 20th April (2018: 14th April)

Saturday, 16 February 2019

A dearth of unusual visitors

I haven't 'blogged' for months, the reason being there hasn't been much to share. So far this winter, apart from a very brief cold snap at the end of Jan/start of Feb, it has been pretty mild. The feeders have still been busy but only with the regular visitors; we haven't seen siskins, redpolls or bramblings, while the redwings and fieldfares occasionally fly over but are finding plenty of food around. Lots of customers are also reporting a dearth of unusual visitors.

Now the birds are thinking ahead to spring; the great spotted woodpeckers have started drumming, the blackbirds have started singing, and great tits in particular have become very vocal.

The rarest visitor was a female black redstart in late November.

A recent poll on our Feathers facebook group asked 'Which is your favourite bird?'. A tricky question, with lots of suggestions posted, but the clear winner was the long-tailed tit. These gorgeous birds are popular for their character as well as their sweet looks, as they stick together in family groups. While they are around all year, the winter is the best time to spot them in your gardens, and good quality suet and peanuts are their preferred foods. During this past month we have had a group visit our feeders outside the shop regularly. Here are a few photos for your viewing pleasure :)

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Stoatally amazing experience

I moved to Rye in March this year, having been living with my parents after my separation in 2016. It was a tough time for me, and I found myself spending more and more time Rye Harbour Nature Reserve to walk, relax and unwind. It was the one place more than any other I found I could switch off my thoughts and just focus on what was around me. I can honestly say my visits to the reserve were, apart from the support from family and friends, the biggest help in my recovery.

When I found my flat up to let at the start of the year, it just felt like fate. I now have the reserve almost on my doorstep, and throughout the summer with the long, warm evenings, I was getting out as much as possible. I have enjoyed many memorable moments watching foxes, cuckoos, hobbies, marsh harriers and barn owls. Now the days are shorter I only have my days off from work to enjoy the wonders and wildlife of the reserve, so on Monday I took myself out to a part of the reserve known as Castle Water.

This area is not as accessible as the rest of the reserve and therefore I very rarely meet more than half a dozen other people out walking. It's also one of the best parts of the entire 1100 acre site for bird watching, with the habitat suited to a number of species which aren't seen an often on the beach reserve. With its reed beds, birds like bearded tits, bittern and marsh harrier are regular here (though finding them isn't always as easy). While I have a special place in my heart for birds, sometimes another animal steals the show...

I spotted the stoat in a place I fondly call 'rabbit corner'. My past sightings of these magnificent mammals have been brief, a quick view as it darts down a burrow or in to the undergrowth. So I was quick to pick up my camera and grab a photo before it disappeared.

As you can see, it was very aware of my presence, but none-the-less darted out further in to the open. I took to my knees to get a better angle and kept still.

It's quite obvious at this point it was somewhat intrigued by me, but I still expected it at any moment to turn back and run the other way, but that wasn't to be the case.

By now I was somewhat baffled by what was going on. Why was this typically shy animal running towards me and not away? How much closer would it come? The only thing to do was to keep still and keep taking photos.

Having come so close, I was having a hard time keeping up with its movements and certainly struggling to fit it all in the frame. If I haven't made it clear I am completely out in the open, on the footpath which runs adjacent to the fence line separating the field from the reserve boundary. Up to this point, the stoat had been running towards me on the very footpath I was on, but decided to cross through the wire fence to my left.

Still watching me, as some on social media have suggested, possibly wondering whether it could take me down. Stoats belong to the family Mustelidae, which includes weasels, mink and wolverines, all with a reputation for punching well above their weight in the animal kingdom. I prefer to think this little stoat saw me as a friend rather than foe. Whatever it thought of me, I was completely awe struck by this fantastic beast, and it decided to come closer still, in fact as close as my lens could possibly focus.

Less than 4m away, this photo hasn't been edited or cropped at all, just resized for the blog. A little look around and it finally turned back, coming back through the fence and taking one last look back at me before taking off.

After watching it disappear down a burrow, I carried on with my walk, feeling somewhat emotional at this wonderful experience.

I recommend a visit Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, but if you can't get there, I encourage you to find a place near you where you can reconnect with nature. I hope you have a stoatally amazing experience like I did.