Trip reports

RSPB Pagham Harbour

Adult black-tailed godwit in summer plummage, at the RSPB Snettisham nature reserve, Norfolk

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Shortly after having been welcomed by a single twittering swallow flying over the car park at Sidlesham Ferry, it began to rain, so we moved swiftly to the hide overlooking Ferry Pool. Initial scans revealed numerous black-tailed godwits, four avocets and a common sandpiper, whilst two buzzards had elected to perch on separate fence posts a short distance apart. Conditions deteriorated rapidly and forced to close the hide windows, we found ourselves confined for just short of an hour to avoid getting soaked by the driving rain. Several of the godwits took exception to this deluge and left to seek shelter in the harbour, so when the rain did stop there were a lot less birds on view. A lone shelduck was on the water at the back of the pool and some wheatears were seen at distance in the fields beyond it.

Three coot and a few mallard were on the mud adjacent to the tidal channel, but no waders were seen initially. A lone whimbrel was then noticed, but soon wandered left behind saltmarsh vegetation failing to reappear. Two curlew flew out from the marsh and a couple of common whitethroats were seen in the scrub on the landfill area. A female sparrowhawk circled overhead near Red Barn Ditch offering super views before stooping at great speed over the hedge. Two kestrels also circled high overhead before an immature female sparrowhawk was noticed perched in a hawthorn overlooking the ditch. Her piercing yellow eyed stare surely enough to scare any small passerine in the vicinity.

At Church Norton, the tide was just beginning to turn. A group of 37 dunlin and seven ringed plovers fed on the mud and one of the two grey plovers present was in full summer plumage. Pick of the waders was probably a group of five juvenile knot feeding tightly together, with another bird on the mud some distance away. A single greenshank was a bonus and a few swallows and house martins were flying out over the water and around the trees. Several Sandwich terns announcing their arrival with loud 'kir-rick' calls were seen in flight over the water, and one group of 21 birds passed only a few yards out and proceeded down the west side of the harbour to land way in the distance. Six great crested grebes were then seen on the main channel before two redshanks obligingly arrived to feed at the edge of the nearest incoming water.

A lesser whitethroat and a female blackcap were the only migrants we managed to see in the trees and bushes behind the hide, whilst two willow warblers were searching for insects in a euonymus bush in the churchyard.

Finishing the day back at Sidlesham Ferry, several painted lady butterflies and a female wasp spider were seen near a patch of common fleabane. What birds that remained on Ferry Pool were sheltering from the strong wind and just five black-tailed godwits feeding near some cut reed in Long Pool rewarded the extra walk.