Trip reports

Pagham Harbour

Pagham Harbour
Neil Bew

Thursday, 27 October 2016

A misty start turned into a fine, clear day for a group of nine members to wander Pagham reserve. Pagham is a large, shallow natural harbour, silting up now at the northern end but still holding passage and wintering waders and wildfowl enough to delight birdwatchers.
Having been here a couple of weeks earlier and been forced through the fields due to a very high tide, I was a bit concerned that today's high water at 11.00, might yet be a problem. As a result, we did hurry a little on the first part of the walk just to get to a spot I knew where we wouldn't get our feet wet! A short stop at the ferry pool gave us our first lapwings of the day but turning onto the main pathway to Church Norton, we could indeed see the tide rising quickly.
Our first decent view of the harbour mudflats nonetheless showed us a nice group of twenty or so avocet, the 'Audrey Hepburn' of the birdworld as Chris Packham calls them. Other waders in evidence included the noisy and obvious curlew, redshank, a few grey plover and small numbers of dunlin. Numbers of all of these waders will build as the winter progresses. Another early winter visitor whose numbers will increase dramatically is the Brent goose, a few were present today and even after many years of seeing and hearing them, the continual but actually quite gentle Brent calls winging their way across the harbour always give me a little lift.
We had, of course been seeing the odd buzzard on our walk but now something a little bit different. Ron, as so often, picked it up first. I had wandered further on but Ron's call brought me back to the sight of a harris hawk perched in a tree being annoyed by the local crows. This one came complete with jesses having been presumably lost by a falconer, a magnificent bird just the same. Sad to report that our illustrious group leader seemed pretty keen to 'tick' this one!
Looking across at Bird Island, the high tide had forced a mixed population of birds onto its shoreline, turnstone, dunlin, little egret, cormorant and grey heron amongst them. Wildfowl across the now flooded harbour included wigeon, teal and the always elegant pintail. Having lunched on the beach, we turned for home the checking the harbour as went. Towards the end of the homeward jaunt, we spotted an elegant, long winged shape out over the saltmarsh and just had time to enjoy the sight of an early short eared owl before it dived into the undergrowth, never to emerge again. Our last addition to the day came in the form of two snipe feeding around the edges of the ferry pool. A pleasant day all round.
Neil Bew