It is that time of the year again, and it meant our homage back down to Sidlesham, and the Crab and Lobster. This time though with both daughters and their partners. We left Friday in beautiful sunshine, and spent some time in Chichester before negotiating our way across the A27 in some horrendous traffic, and then down to Sidlesham. The stress of the traffic required a drink in the garden before heading off out towards the North Wall through Halsey's Farm.
At this time of year I wasn't expecting too much about, and with the tide low everything will be a long way off as well. As we walked along Mill Lane there were several Gatekeepers about in the road side hedges. These are quite pretty looking butterflies with the orange markings giving them a step up from the ubiquitous Meadow Brown.
As we walked across the field towards the wall you couldn't but help to be struck by how dry it was, the ground here is normally damp at the best, but today it was bone dry and very hard. The butterflies though were everywhere in the warm sunshine.
A Large Skipper.
And this Comma that was among many Meadow Browns on a Bramble bush that was in full sun.
Young eyes are amazing, as we walked further on Katie called to borrow the binoculars as she had seen what she thought was a deer. Helen and I could see nothing , but when I checked with the binoculars I could see that it wasn't a deer, but in fact a fox sitting in the long grass. A distant shot, but you can see it is a fox.
The tide was a long way out, and as we walked up onto the wall footpath the wind picked up. This though did not deter the butterflies that kept below the grass around our feet. The breech pool was very high in water, and as a result there was very little about other than this pair of Tufted Duck, and several Mallard.
We stopped at the sluice to look for the Kingfisher but there was no sign, however a Little Egret was feeding in the low water of White's Creek.
We walked along side the estuary, it was very dry, and with the water a long way out it was easy to make our way across the pebbles and sand, This years Starling fledglings are gathering together in flocks, and they could be seen flying over the saltmarsh, and also settling in the trees, clear all up to no good what so ever.
We could get a better view of the creek from the path, and the water was beginning to rise slowly. Out in the middle of the creek several Sandwich Terns called and flew past us.
We left the harbour and headed inland along the path by the side of the golf course. Again a sheltered hedgerow was full of butterflies. There were several Small Skippers, I checked them all for the black clubs on the antennae just in case there was any Essex.
Another Comma put in an appearance, a chance to see the under-wing.
And also a Red Admiral that has an under-wing that is quite special.
We turned onto the lane that heads back to the Salthouse and the North Wall. As we walked we could hear quite a few Long-tailed Tits above us, and in the hedge. A couple appeared on the wire that ran alongside the road.
Back at the sluice the water was definitely on the turn, and White's Creek was rising. As we looked out across the mud and water, the creek was living up to its name with at least 4 species of white plumaged birds to be seen.
Every so often the water would explode as fish broke the surface. On closer examination we could see some very big Grey Mullet at the surface.
Grey Mullet are one of the favourite prey for Ospreys, this large fish would fit that bill quite nicely, it won't be long until the Osprey are returning.
We made our way back the way we came, the sun still very warm, while the wind provided some welcome coolness. The wind was also transforming the dry grass as it blew across the wall.
Back at the pub it was another drink in the garden, and then off to get ready for dinner.
Saturday started bright and with plenty of sunshine, but by the time we had finished breakfast the clouds had rolled in, it was though still quite warm. Today's walk was to be down to Selsey by way of the visitor centre and Church Norton. While I was not too bothered it would be nice to see the Hudsonian Whimbrel that has been around since June.
As walked through the Discovery area at the Visitor centre a Song Thrush was singing. I have heard a Song Thrush sing every month since December, they must be getting to the point where they are fed up with it by now, and will need a rest!
As we made our way towards the hide I found a Small Skipper that was a good candidate for an Essex Skipper, but I can not be 100% certain.
On the Fleet Pond there were six Black-tailed Godwits all in differing stages of summer plumage, and three juvenile Avocets still showing brown feathers where there should be black.
A dragonfly turned up by the sluice and settled on the path in front of us. I was not able to get a better view because as I tried to do so it would fly off. However from this shot I think this is possibly a female Black-tailed Skimmer.
On the Long Pool there was at first a juvenile Great Crested Grebe still showing the striped plumage on the head.
The a little further on we found an adult with another juvenile. The youngster copying its parent as it dozed.
There were more butterflies in the grass on the path as we walked towards Church Norton, again the majority were Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers, but every so often there would be a skipper that needed closer inspection. Yet another candidate for the elusive Essex.
Its the underside of the antennae that have to be black, and this one does look that way.
As we walked I scanned the mud, there were plenty of Curlew about, and Eurasian Whimbrel. I stopped several times to ask if it had been seen, and the general consensus was that it had not.
At Church Norton there was quite a large gathering of Sandwich Terns on the mud. As I scanned these and the mud for sign of the Hudsonian, they all suddenly flew up calling loudly.
We walked on to Selsey, and our end point of the Lifeboat Inn. The walk was largely uneventful, with the focus being on the gulls down on the beach. The Herring Gulls of all ages were settled on the groyne posts.
And there was also what was probably a second or third year Great Black-backed gull on one too.
Having reached the pub we didn't just turn around and head back, of course we stopped for a drink. The cloud that had been with us to Church Norton had now rolled away, and it was wall to wall sunshine, and now quite a lovely day.
The pub garden was quite busy, with several fish 'n' chips being left out on the tables. An adult Herring Gull was hanging around and was quite fearless and moving on to the tables to pursue the opportunity of nicking a chip or two. This is probably the last thing a chip sees before it is taken.
We left the pub, and headed back in glorious sunshine. The tide was by now way out, and looking across the beach I do not recall seeing the tide so low before. There were still gulls on the groynes, this adult Great Black-backed Gull bearing a ring number P71A.
Once past East Beach you could clearly see the impact of the low tide with sand banks and stretches of the beach and long lost groynes revealed.
With the sunshine the water was a lovely sea blue colour contrasting with the bright pebbles on the beach.
At the edge of the beach a long way off a Little Egret was fishing.
In contrast to the white pebbles and the blue sea, the reeds surrounding the Severals Pools were a bright lush green in the sunshine.
I stopped to speak to somebody at Church Norton, and established that the HW had been seen but had flown towards the Visitor Centre, so I kept looking as we walked back along the raised bank. Once again there were several Curlew and Whimbrel, the latter of which none had a dark rump.
On the Long Pool the Great Crested Grebes had been replaced with a Juvenile Little Grebe.
We made our way back to Sidlesham with no further sightings other than the numerous butterflies that had been with us all weekend. It was a quick break and a drink in the garden again before Helen and I set off to walk to the North Wall for one more time.
Rather than go through Halsey's Farm we took the footpath out to the salt marsh, again the tide being so far out, and the ground very dry it was an easy walk. There was lots of samphire shoots growing in the mud, something you don't expect to find here.
The path takes you past a breech in the sea wall, which at sometime saw all the trees and hedgerow killed by the salt water. A scene that looks very similar to Dead Vlei in Nambia (well almost!).
Up on the wall it was a lot windier now, and scanning out across the fields there was no Fox, but there was a Brown Hare sheltering in the grass.
We sat on one of the benches on the wall watching Sand Martins over the breech pool, and Starlings out on the salt marsh. The numbers seemed to have increased form those we watched yesterday, these juvenile birds quickly learning the need to fly and stay close together.
We decided to go just as far as the sluice. As we reached it Helen went to have a look for the Mullet, but something better appeared. She found the Kingfisher on the groyne. As we watched it flew straight at us and settled on a rock right below us. In perfect light I managed two shots before either us, or the sound of the camera spooked it, and it flew off.
We searched for it, but could not find it again, I suspect it flew around the cottage and off along one of the rifes. As we waited to see if it would return, there were three fledgling Swallows on the a gate waiting to be fed.
We waited but the Kingfisher did not return so we made our way back. It was still a beautiful day so we sat in the garden and had yet another drink (or too). The wild life may not have been at its best this weekend but that was more than made up by the Kingfisher, and of course the company, the weather and the as ever the location.
There was to be though one final event, on Sunday morning we were woken by a strange whistle. Wondering what it was we looked towards the window, and there was a young Collared Dove sitting on the arm of the window. The picture is awful taken with my phone, but you can clearly make it out. It stayed for awhile watching us and calling, then eventually flew off.
Happy Anniversary Helen x