Trip reports

Pagham Harbour, RSPB - Tuesday 17 March 2020

Saturday, 21 March 2020

While waiting for everyone to arrive, one of our group saw a flock of about 40 golden plover fly over near the visitor centre and heard a blackcap singing briefly. There was also a kestrel over the centre. We drove round to the Easton Lane car park at Medmerry and walked down to the Stilt Pool. There was a chill wind blowing, which probably kept some birds in cover. Before leaving the car park we heard a yellowhammer, but couldn't see it. Several skylarks were singing away and a couple of members thought they heard a greenshank calling. The occasional chiffchaff and Cetti's warbler were singing as we went. Despite scouring the gorse bushes there was no sign of the Dartford warblers that had been seen the previous day. Down at the Stilt Pool area several avocets were on show as was a small flock of ringed plovers that contained two little ringed plovers (which were elusive and seemed to vanish into thin air).
It was then back to the centre where we had our lunch in the hide overlooking the Ferry Pool. Trade was slow and the only snipe of the day was hunkered down in waterside vegetation while a couple of black-tailed godwits were present. Then at least three sand martins appeared beyond the pool and flew around for a couple of minutes. After lunch we wandered back to the cars via the old railway track hearing a goldcrest singing and a green woodpecker yaffling away.
A brief discussion later, we headed round to Pagham village to walk out along the North Wall. A flock of dark-bellied Brent geese were in the field behind the Breech Pool and more were seen later in the harbour. Eventually we found one of our target species here. Two drake and one duck garganey showed well at times giving cracking views, although true to form they could also be elusive. A buzzard appeared distantly behind the pool. As we started off towards Owl Copse our next target was picked up. White blobs in the trees were confirmed as being a mix of little and cattle egrets. Getting closer we were able to estimate that there were around 24 cattle egrets present; by far the highest single count I have had in this country.
Back at the start of the North Wall a barn owl was hunting over the fields. Several of us set off on the rather slippery route towards Pagham Spit. From here we got reasonable views into the harbour with numbers of waders building with the tide including 150+ black-tailed godwit, 5+ bar-tailed godwit, oystercatcher, knot, dunlin, single sanderling and turnstone. Wildfowl included several pintail and at least three distant red-breasted mergansers.
At the end of the day, as we bade farewell to Group birdwatching for an unknown period, we had recorded a very respectable 80 or so species with the highlights being the garganey and cattle egrets.
John Birkett