Sunday, 17 January 2010

Pagham Harbour surprise!

Yesterday I accepted an invite to meet friends for a walk at Pagham Harbour at midday. Winter is the best time to see the variety of waders and wildfowl around the harbour. It is always best to check a tide table and plan your visit for at least two hours either side of a high tide. As the water rises the birds are pushed off the mudflats and up on to the saltmarsh and the surrounding fields, especially on the north side of the Reserve.
Well the morning outlook was dismal with constant rain showers; throughout the journey southwards the roads were awash with the continuing thaw and more rain; high tide was around midday and the plan was to walk the southern route to Church Norton. So was this a good choice? Only time would tell, but at least the forecasters suggested that the weather would improve during the afternoon.

The main habitats are intertidal mudflats, saltmarsh, saline lagoons and vegetated shingle. Birds present at this time of the year include up to 10,000 waders and wildfowl including Dark Bellied Brent Geese, Wigeon, Black Tailed Godwit and Knot present in national / international numbers, and (if you are in luck) Avocet. These birds can be viewed from anywhere around the Harbour's edge but some of the better areas to try are the north fields and Breach Pool, and the areas around Pagham Spit and Church Norton.

We started with a scan over the Ferry Pool (point 1) where the predominant species were Shelducks and

after some discussion we estimated that 100+ were present, on and around the pool, plus Teal, Mallard and a Little Grebe. A Common Buzzard was located perched on a fence post (too distant for a picture), and a couple of Common Snipe on the grassy margins. From here we followed the southern route with the totally flooded estuary on our left and fields on the right and located Wigeon, Northern Pintails,  Gadwall, Shovellers, more Teal and Shelducks, plus Curlew, Redshank, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Cormorant, Great Black-backed, Black-headed and Herring Gulls. At Church Norton while watching various finches, tits, Redwing and a Great Spotted Woodpecker on the feeders a pair of Mandarin Ducks flew out of a nearby ditch (drat..saw the shapes disappear but I didn't ID them !)

Lonely Redshank searching for a meal.
At this time of the year it is always worth a look on the sea from either of the two spits. Offshore, particularily at high tide, a range of seaducks, divers and grebes can often be found.
On this occasion the view from the shingle beach was an angry sea nearly devoid of activity apart a Cormorant and two groups of Red-breasted Mergansers flying west, but there were plenty of Turnstones feeding along the foaming shoreline and the usual gulls around the spit entrance. With a falling tide our return journey produced reasonable views of Goldeneye, more Little Grebes, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwits with decent sized flocks of Knot moving and resettling on the slowly receeding tide.

Returning towards point 2 with Meadow Pipits providing brief views a Sparrowhawk zipped past us at low level. Scanning over the saltmarsh north-west towards Sidlesham I picked up the unmistakeable shape and colouring (blue-grey upperparts with bold black wing-tips) of a male HEN HARRIER hunting way in the distance and putting the ducks etc. into flight including a single Avocet. During the next 20 minutes or so we watched this individual make a number of forays and then picked up two ring-tails heading over towards the North Wall. There was much discussion amounst us as one bird appeared to be far larger and the flight shape suggested a Marsh Harrier but unconfirmed due to the poor failing light.

Even with a total of 46 species logged, including a few additions to my year list, I was surprised that we failed to see any Brent Geese, no Grebes or Divers on the sea and no Little Egrets anywhere but it was a bracing stroll in the company of friends which was topped off by a lovely evening meal together when I also bumbed into and chatted with a previous 'boss' who is now self employed...more about that sometime soon.

Always enjoy the unexpected.......Happy Wildlife Watching.  FAB.


  1. Seems like you had a great walk, and well documented with pictures. Also 46 species on the day was a good count. Enjoyed this post very much Frank. Well Done.

  2. What a fantastic day Frank. Some excellent ticks there, and a handsome tally for the day.

    Rounded off perfectly too.

  3. the legs on the Redshank--so colorful. Sounds like a wonderful time with friends. 46 species is a nice tally for me!

  4. Wow that was a trip Frank!! I'm happy you are seeing so many species. My one hour (with light) trip only produced 15 species, but that's not bad for the season ;-)

  5. What a great bird to come across Frank, Hen Harrier - brilliant!

  6. Hi Monty. Glad you enjoyed this little foray to the south coast.

    Hi Keith. Not a bad tally but a few notable exceptions..still there's always next time.

    Hi Kelly. One of the easiest waders to ID by sight and sound.

    Hi Chris. Plenty to see but nothing close enough to photograph so a bit long on words this time.

    Hi Warren. Yes, I actually knew one was around but kept it up my sleeve. Thank goodness it performed and was a 'lifer' for one of my friends.

  7. 46 species in a day is a good day - I don't think I am quite there for the year - loved the redshank

  8. Hi Chris P. Just remember it was raining and we were only birding for just on 3 hours. Need to find a few common species locally before the month is out!

  9. Hi Frank, great post - you keep reminding me of so many memories!! Thanks, and keep them coming!!

  10. I love this sort of peaceful.....

    The snipe shot is of my favourite birds......

  11. Hello Frank
    Good to see the weather isn't stopping you getting out & about.
    Unfortunatley, it's making me stay in at moment & starting to have a sort out!
    Just caught up with your other posts.
    Love the kingfisher & a further Robin photo. Brilliant.

  12. Hi TonyC. Cheers. Is there anywhere else you would like me to go...just for the memories? Let me know providing it's not too far from Surrey.

    Hi Cheryl. Thank you, but I think I need to spend some time in the garden rather than gadding all over the place!

  13. Hello Shirleyanne. I never need much of an excuse to go wildlife watching. Now don't make me feel guilty, as the tidy up job list is getting longer and I'm sure to get the 'word' soon!!

  14. What a great walk and day. It really is a blessing to be able to spend time in the great outdoors.

  15. Looks like it was a great day out Frank. Nice to get rid of all that snow and ice.

  16. Bill S. Certainly was good to get out and enjoy the fresh air.

    Midmarsh John. Very liitle sign of the bad weather at the coast but stiil snow lingering over the South Downs. Forecast suggests we may be in for another blast on Wednesday though!

  17. Sorry I missed this post when you put it up. I especially like the photo of the Redshank. They only very occasionally come down this way although the Greenshank is commonly seen. A good total of birds even though you didn't see what you expected.

  18. Hi Mick. Redshank are so common here they are so often ignored, whereas the elegant Greenshank is not so abundant. Will definitely try to get more pics of waders this year.


I hope you enjoyed your visit and I always appreciate your comments and feedback.


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