Have the blackbirds started singing yet?

Young males will begin to sing this early in order to establish and defend the territory they hope hold for the rest of their lives. Older and more experienced birds will wait until February or March.

On the twelfth day of Christmas

The park’s twelve drummers drumming are great spotted woodpeckers. They begin drumming at the end of winter as part of a courtship ritual in which the male marks out his territory and advertises his presence. He drums his beak against hollow wood 10 to 20 times in just 2 seconds, and the females replies briefly as she enters his territory.

Here is a video:

Video recorded in March 2019 by George Ewart

Seven swans a-swimming.

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me seven swans a-swimming.

Mute swans (Cygnus olor) come to the park to graze, not to swim or raise chicks. They break their long journey to some faraway lake or river, to rest and eat in the park’s green fields. We are a swan service station.

Six geese a-laying…

…or not.
There are no geese anywhere on our species lists but we can offer you six species of corvid instead.

[1] Crow [2] Jay [3] Rook [4] Jackdaw [5] Magpie [6] Raven

Goldfinches of course.
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love sent to me five goldfinches. . .

Pictures taken in the reserve by DKG.

Four calling birds

Not calling birds, according to the experts, but colly birds. Colly is an old word for soot or coal dust and a colly bird is a blackbird. We have tuneful blackbirds by the dozen in the park.

Audio by Beatrix Saadi-Varchmin (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) xeno-canto.org

Christmas robins

A Christmas Eve gallery of the park’s robins, photographed by DKG.

Pigeon post

Pigeons are known to have been domesticated for more than 5,000 years. They are mentioned in cuneiform writing on clay tablets dug up in Mesopotamia and in hieroglyphics on the walls of ancient Egyptian tombs. There is a growing belief among archaeologists that pigeons were, in fact, the first birds to be domesticated, more than 10,000 years ago,

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We have both greater and lesser spotted woodpeckers on our species lists but it is many years since the single sighting of a lesser spotted woodpecker in the park. Here is a video from the BTO to help you tell the difference between the two.

Header picture: greater spotted woodpecker in the reserve photographed by DKG


Since the 1960s, the number of Eurasian blackcaps that overwinter in the UK has got bigger and bigger. It’s no longer a rare sight to see them in the reserve in the middle of winter. The blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) is one of the rare species that sings all year round. Listen out for them:

Recording: Blackcap by Alexander Henderson (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) xeno-canto.org

Migration changes

Analysis of records kept since 1964 has found that some species of European migratory birds are spending up to 60 days less each year in their sub-Saharan wintering grounds. Over the most recent 27-year period, migratory birds, including the whitethroats commonly seen in our reserve, were found to have increased their time in Europe by an average of 16 days. It has even been suggested that some species may stop flying south for the winter altogether.

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Mail from Cheryl Cronnie with pictures of a kingfisher:

Hi there, I’d just like to share with you the kingfisher I spotted today at Southwick Country Park by the pond. I was over the moon as I had never seen one before.

Lovely! Thank you, Cheryl.

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