Trip reports

Weekend visit to RSPB Pagham Harbour on 30th November 2019

Weekend visit to RSPB Pagham Harbour on 30th November 2019
Curlew in reeds at Pagham. (Dave Panchaud)

Sunday, 29 December 2019

The southbound A3 was foggy and frosty as far as the South Downs, but the frost disappeared south of Petersfield, and the fog lifted, so despite a cold wind it promised to be a good day for birdwatching.

On arrival as usual the bird feeders were busy with house sparrows, greenfinch, chaffinch, blue tits and great tits. The feeder behind the Ferry Pool hide added a long-tailed tit and goldfinches, while a couple of cock pheasants and a robin were in the surrounding bushes.

On the Ferry Pool shoveler and lapwing were most numerous while mallard, teal, wigeon and gadwall were also present with black-headed gulls all around. On the far bank rooks, carrion crows and jackdaws patrolled the meadows with stock doves and wood pigeons. An absence of waders was noted at which point a small group of snipe rose from the rushes and flew overhead.

The tide was still low as we headed down the very muddy riverside path but as the river widened and the mudflats came into view a curlew and a small number of avocets were spotted. Large groups of waders in the distance were mainly golden plover together with grey plover, redshank and dunlin. A little egret flew over the path and landed in a channel in the fields. Wood pigeons and a jay were seen inland over the stubble fields.

As we approached the Church Norton Hide a large flock of Brent geese was stretched along the far bank and surrounding grasslands. Closer to the coast we saw a group of oystercatchers, while cormorants were on sentry duty on a sandy promontory. From the hide looking across the harbour towards the inland side of Church Norton Spit yet more waders of all sizes were gathered. These ranged from curlew and grey plover down to dunlins, turnstones and a single knot. The presence of at least one sanderling was also confirmed by a photo. Shelduck and mallard were on the water and banks while great crested grebe, a pair of little grebes and a single female red- breasted merganser were swimming and diving on the river.

The wind was building up and a very rough sea could be seen with large waves breaking at the harbour mouth. Some of the group headed on towards the beach and on the way saw a group of twenty turnstone, two Mediterranean gulls and a kestrel.

During our return walk a single reed bunting and several skylarks were observed. The tide was rising rapidly totally changing the view with all the sandbanks submerged. No changes were observed around the Ferry Pool as we headed back to the Visitor Centre.

A total of around fifty-five species had been observed during the morning - although not all by every member of our group of six - making this an extremely enjoyable outing, with excellent conditions for birdwatching on our last weekend outing of the year.

Legh Langston.