Mad March Hares and More!

 Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved] © Copyright Nick Smith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved] © Copyright Nick Smith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

A couple of years ago, I read about The Burgh, an area of farmland on the South Downs just above Burpham, near Arundel. It is a conservation area, with the landowners working with the Farming Wildlife Advisory Group, who are collaborative independent consultants serving farmers, landowners and land managers in the region by delivering a wide range of practical environmental land management advice.

I had heard that the area was a great place to see hares and raptors, including barn owl, short eared owl, red kite and merlin, and when I discovered that my local RSPB group were planning a visit, I jumped at the chance.

On a cold and rather overcast Saturday morning, I joined about a dozen other birders from Chichester RSPB, at Peppering High Barn, near Burpham village. As a pulled on my walking boots, it started to drizzle, and my heart sank a little as my long awaited day looked set to be a washout.

However, just as I finished lacing my boots, someone spotted a hare in a distant field and after a bit of a scramble, I got a decent view of this beautiful creature as it paused and then sped along the field. A wonderful start!

As we made our way up towards the triangular formation of The Burgh, we disturbed both grey and red legged partridge. One of the members explained that the landowner has put back much of the hedgerow that was removed during intensive farming, and has extended the field margins to provide a rich habitat for invertebrates, small mammals and in turn, raptors.

There were both reed and corn bunting, and above a skylark hung suspended in air, its song radiating down to the group of excited birders. A male yellowhammer flew out in front of us, treating us to a glimpse of its bright yellow head and underparts before disappearing into a hedge. All along the route, we caught glimpses of hares including a pair who were hunkered down together in their form; ears back and looking directly at us. Magical!

Other highlights included buzzard, red kite, mistle thrush and redwing. I also discovered that there was a nearby spot where you could see little Owls on a regular basis – a bird that I haven’t seen for many years.

Red Kite

Red Kite

I am planning to return to The Burgh very soon and hope to catch a glimpse of the Barn Owls which hunt across the rich farmland habitat as well as a nearby stop off to look for the enchanting little owl.

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