Trip reports

Pagham Harbour RSPB Reserve on 23 March, 2014

Friday, 28 March 2014

Pagham Harbour has featured in our annual field-trip programme for many years and the venue rarely disappoints. This year's visit was attended by eight members and began behind the visitor centre with a stroll along the route of the one-time railway line along the harbour edge. With the incoming tide still far from full, the most obvious birds out on the mud flats and channels were two Little Egrets, Wigeon, Grey Plovers, Curlews and Dunlins, while a Kestrel and two pairs of Common Buzzards overhead were soon joined by a magnificent Red Kite, a new Pagham bird for most of us. Not a cloud was to be seen throughout the day and, even at this relatively early hour, the sun's heat was enticing spring butterflies onto the wing : Small White, Brimstone, Peacock, Comma and ten or so Small Tortoiseshells were soon recorded. A check of Ferry Pool across the busy Selsey road added Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Redshank and Avocet to our lists before we set off on the harbour-side footpath down to Church Norton. Song Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff, and Reed Bunting were singing in the bushes fringing Long Pool, where a Little Grebe was spotted through the reeds. When we reached the open fields, Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Linnets were active, the distant cronking of a Raven was heard, and a Stoat ran down the path ahead of us. Frequent stops to scan the harbour produced one or two Red-breasted Mergansers, Oystercatchers, a single Ringed Plover, a synod of Snipe, a couple of Black-tailed Godwits and a roost of Turnstones. We were surprised to observe the extent by which Great Black-backed Gulls resting out on the islands towered over nearby Shelducks! Small flocks of Brent Geese were lazing out on the water with rather larger numbers feeding in the fields, probably enjoying a last opportunity to put on extra fat before heading north to Arctic Russia to breed. We ate our own sandwiches in the churchyard but bird interest there, and in the nearby paddocks and spinney, proved fairly minimal this year and we lost no time in heading out to the shingle beach for a sea watch. After the best part of an hour hunched over scopes in the sunshine, our tally of birds glimpsed between swells was a Great Northern Diver, a lone Slavonian and several Great-crested Grebes, and a further ten or so Mergansers. We then heard a Water Rail squealing from a reed-bed at the Severals and a Mistle Thrush singing from the Priory grounds before beginning the return walk to the visitor centre. On the way we came across three Red-legged Partridges and then a brace of Grey Partridges, the latter being considered the birds of the day by some. The group day-list totalled 72; not many spring migrants were included (just the Kite and Chiffchaff) - but once again Pagham had done us proud!