I have been invited to organise a field sketching workshop for South Downs Wildlife, and I thought I would look for somewhere at my end of the South Downs National Park for a venue. I landed upon Newhaven or Seaford as a possibility, and discovered the Ouse Estuary Nature Reserve. I took a trip there to establish how well it would work, and had a slightly disconcerting moment realising that I have lived in Sussex for 35 years and still find places I never knew existed.

After a rather inauspicious start in the Homebase/McDonald’s/Halfords car park, I crossed the road and headed for the wild-looking place between the industrial estate and the A259. As with many of these ‘payback’ nature havens (this one was created to offset the business park and aforementioned main road), it provides a surprising and pleasant contrast to the surrounding landscape, and the quiet and calm that inevitably sinks in to these places is welcome and beneficial. There is a good variety of habitats, such as reedbed and scrubby undergrowth; farmland and wet meadow.

I took my Town & Country Garden Birds logbook as thought that would be the most appropriate, and saw lots of male Blackbirds feeding on the numerous hawthorn and guelder rose shrubs that surround and divide the area. A few Redwings, but lots of Goldfinches which twittered and buzzed in the branches above me. Half a dozen Magpies hopped across the wildlife sanctuary, copying the Ravens by sitting on the fenceposts although looking less lugubrious than their larger corvid cousins.

I spotted a brown shape in the field on the other side of the track – also designated as wildlife sanctuary. I heard the unmistakable whistling call of a Curlew, and the brown shape duly took to the air and flew past me, lozenge-shaped white patch on its rump clearly visible. Long-tailed Tits, Wrens, Robins, many Starlings overhead, and two very dark Buzzards sitting together in the top of a tree on the other side of the road. They were the same size so I wonder if they were siblings? I heard Great Tits, saw Blue Tits, and the Wood Pigeons were omnipresent.

There is a screen across one end of the wetland site, which allows for some unobtrusive viewing, but apart from a few rabbits I didn’t see any birds. Opposite the wetland is a stretch of farmland and a pool that had collected at one end was a popular spot for Black-headed, Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls, as well as about 50 Lapwings.

Here are the quick scribbles I did in the back of the logbook. I will use these to practise more comprehensive drawings.

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