Sunday, 29 November 2015

28th November - Pagham Harbour, West Sussex

This weekend was a Crab and Lobster weekend always something to look forward to, but when we awoke of Friday morning it looked as if it was to be an extended Christmas shopping day in Chichester rather than enjoying a winter walk along the North Wall at Pagham.

And so it turned out to be.  Heavy overcast conditions in the morning gave way to very heavy misty rain throughout the day, the result was some more Christmas shopping online, but sitting at the bar.

Saturday morning dawned clear and sunny, but with a fresh breeze.  There was blue sky and some lovely winter sunshine, but the forecast was not good for later in the day.  We took the decision to walk to the North Wall, and set off through the muddy fields.  As we reached the gate to the path onto the wall a Robin was singing in the bushes, the sunshine picking out its red throat as it turned to watch us.

Out of the wind it had been quite mild, and I was beginning to question the need for the heavy coat , fleece and hat, but once up on the wall the need was clear.  The wind by now had picked up considerably, and behind us we could see grey clouds gathering.  We negotiated the muddy path, stopping to watch a wren flitting in and out of the rocks on the wall, a Reed Bunting also flew past.  On the Breech pool there was a pair of Mallard and that was literally all.

We met a local birder who walked with us to the sluice, like us he was disappointed with the lack of bird life, and we all were hoping that the Kingfisher might brighten the day up.  It wasn't on the posts, but as we stood talking the familiar whistle heralded the arrival of the bird from the ditch in the reeds.  It flew around us, past the sluice, then around the Salthouse and over the path and then settled on the sluice on the other side.  I made my way to get a better look and it then flew off over the reeds and out of sight.

We stood waiting again, and sure enough it came back this time flying past us, dropping down by the main sluice and then gone, we suspect it carried on along the sea wall..

Along White's Creek there were Redshank and several groups of Wigeon.  Hidden in the saltmarsh were also a few Curlew.  We decided to walk on with the aim of getting to the Spit, and to walk around the little Lagoon.

We walked past the golf course where there was a large gathering of Brent Geese.  As we came out back into the harbour looking to the west the skies were very dark and groups of Brent Geese were flying across the water to join the geese on the golf course.

We headed off around the spit, on the water there were at least five Little Grebes, and plenty of Linnet in the gorse.  As we reached the furthest point by the hide, the rain came, along with the wind.  Fortunately we started with the rain and wind behind, but as we turned to walk past the lagoon we were treated to the full force.  We stopped and sheltered byu the lagoon, watching more Little Grebes and a few Tufted Ducks.

Finally the rain eased and the sun came out, but the wind had strengthened even more, and I was not looking forward to crossing the wall again as we would be walking straight into the wind, and possibly more rain.

Passing the paddocks I was taken by a little Shetland Pony with a curly coat.

The tide was now well up, a combination of one of the highest tides for awhile and a strong gale force wind that was blowing the water into the harbour had resulted in the water being very high well before the designated high tide.

We had left geese still on the golf course, and there was a large group on the open water that was White's Creek when we walked past earlier.  Away in the distance you can see the dark clouds that had just treated us earlier.

My worst fears were then realised as we crossed the North Wall, another shower, but thankfully not too long.  Once it passed I was able to watch and photograph a small group of Wigeon close in.

They were feeding on the eel grass that was being held up by the high water.  Always a lovely duck to watch, and also listen to, their whistles evoking the sound of wilderness, and when coupled with the call of the curlew it is magical.

And that was about it.  We walked back to the pub, and debated walking on to the visitor centre, the clouds though looked very ominous once again, so we decided that we would return to the bar, which is exactly what we did, spending an afternoon with a drink, some lovely company, and a roaring fire, while the wind and rain battered the windows outside.

It was a shame that for once the weather let us down, this has happened only once before on these pilgrimages, we will be back in the new year, and hopefully normal service will be resumed.

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