Monday, 25 January 2016

23rd January - Selsey, West Sussex

Another weekend away at our favourite place.  We arrived Friday, but the weather was not conducive to a late afternoon walk, so we retired to the bar.  Saturday morning though the skies were clear and there was a little mist hanging over the fields at the back of the Crab and Lobster.  After breakfast we kitted up, and then set off to walk around the peninsula.  As we walked around the old Sidlesham Quay the mist was building up rather than dispersing, and looking out into Pagham Harbour it was very grey.

We stopped to check the pond on the opposite side of the road from the marsh.  A grey heron was sitting in a cedar tree, preening what looked to be very damp feathers

Whether this was a result of the recent rain, the dampness in the air, or just an early morning bath it wasn't clear, but it as completely occupied by the task.

Around the fringes of the reeds Mallard sat, most of the birds were paired up except for this lone male.

We made our way along the footpath towards the visitor centre, pausing to watch a pair of Goldcrests feeding on very small insects in amongst the lichen on the branches of the Blackthorn.  They would hover picking them off in flight.

Everywhere was very damp with the tree branches holding drops of water, and the spiders silk glinting like small silver chains stretched out in the trees.

When we reached the turn for the visitor centre the channel out into the harbour was filling up with the rising tide.  Small parties of Teal could be seen displaying, the males conducting their head bobbing routine for the many females with them.  Further out there were Shelduck and Wigeon, while Curlew called and emerged from the marsh as the rising water removed their roosting sites.

As we walked through the visitor we could hear Wren and Great Tit calling.  We crossed the road and briefly scanned the Ferry Pool where there were large flocks of Wigeon and Lapwing.  Along the path in the direction of Pothole Farm Chaffinches and Blackbirds were busy in the hedgerow, and I noticed another small bird catching insects from the bushes.  Every so often there would be a quiet seep call, and eventually I managed to locate the owner, a Chiffchaff.  I watched as it crept through the branches finally coming out into the open.

The path took us past the sewerage plant where the Starlings seemed to be riding a merry-go-round as the washing bars rotated over the beds, the birds dropping to the coals and then flying up as the bars came close.  There was also a count of about a dozen Pied Wagtails along with a single Grey Wagtail, its yellow colour standing out in the grey conditions.

The sun finally broke through as we passed the model aeroplanes at Porthole Farm, and headed in the direction of Ham.  In a small group of Alders was a flock of Goldfinches the light making them appear truly golden.

the footpath diverted away from the farm and up to the bank that surrounds the newly formed Medmerry Reserve.  As we approached the bank a pair of Reed Bunting appeared in the hedge in front of us, the male not so happy to have its photograph taken, but the female very confiding.

It was almost high tide, and the waves from the sea were crashing through the breach area, the water levels up over the marsh.  In front of us were a few Brent and Wigeon, and behind us a Kestrel hovered over the reed beds.

We walked west, in the direction of Chainbridge, there were few birds about, a lone female Tufted Duck in the pool with two Coot, a pair of Stock Dove over the fields, Black-headed Gulls on the water and away in the middle of the water three pairs of Red-breasted Mergansers.  As we reached the bridge there was a male Stonechat briefly on the top of one of the bushes.

In the field at Chainbridge there was a large flock of about 300 Brent Geese, and something spooked them up into the air.

We walked through the holiday camp to the beach, where a scan of the sea revealed only more Mergansers and a Cormorant.  We walked through the camp and out onto the footpath into Selsey.  This turned inland and then down a road to the Bill, once again the only birds of interest were Cormorants, Mergansers and a few Turnstone on the beach.  The weather though had changed once again, the fog rolling in from the sea, making it quite mirky and damp, but still dry

After a break for a drink in The Lifeboat we continued our walk along the sea wall. The conditions had brightened and there was even the hint of dome sunshine.  In the open grass area at East Beach a female Stonechat appeared on the dead stalks, always a nice sight.

A little further along the calls of a large flock of House Sparrows could be heard, some of the males feeding in the dead grass.

While others used the fence and bramble to clean up after a wash in the water that had collected in one of the boats.

The tide was now well on the turn and the sandy beach that was being revealed was attracting the Turnstones, they were looking for any sign of a meal in the surf.

The gulls that had flown by were mostly Black-headed, but as one came close along the edge of the water I could see it was the one gull I had hoped to catch up with, a Mediterranean Gull.

At Church Norton we turned inland past the Severals.  A small group of Wigeon had flown in from the harbour to enjoy the freshwater.

We checked the harbour for the reported Spoonbill, but there was no sign, even amongst the Great Black-backed Gulls it had been reported being with.  We made our way through the Gorse and Bramble where again I hoped for a Dartford Warbler, but only managed to get views of a little Wren, appearing above the branches as it called.

There was a beautiful drake Tufted Duck on the Long Pool with two coot and an invisible calling Little Grebe.

While in the fields on the other side there was a single Roe Deer, the first I have seen for some time this winter.

The path was very difficult, with muddy pools and slippery conditions but we finally made it to solid ground as we walked past the Ferry Pool.  The water level is low due to a breach in the bank and there were many lapwing in the shallow water, and many more settled in the field.  Once again they were spooked and flew up, circled around but settled back into the field.

Redshank fed in the shallow water, the grey conditions making it look quite atmospheric.

We walked through the visitor centre once again, and then back out along the sea wall in sunshine, the clouds though continued to come and go.  We wanted to get to the North Wall, a weekend here is not complete with out a visit there, and despite the possibly very wet conditions at the back of Halsey's farm we were determined to get there

It was very wet, but not muddy just mostly a flooded field, but we made it, and as we walked up on to the sea wall we were greeted with the sight of yet more Lapwing flying up from the marsh.  A conservative estimate was of about 500 birds, and with a similar number at the Ferry Pool it accounted for quite a few Lapwing.

As we walked along the main path of the wall, huge flocks of Lapwing would fly back and forth

Looking out into the harbour there was a group of seven Grey Heron settled on Owl point.  They all looked like adults and were sporting quite smart yellow bills.  They roost in the nearby copse which is also an Egret nesting site so I am not sure if they nest there as well.

In the fields behind the wall there were large flocks of Brent geese, and feeding in amongst them were quite a few Curlew.

We made our way to the Sluice where the hope was we would find the Kingfisher.  A little concerned that the number of people and dogs about would scare it off we approached carefully, and suddenly it flew around and up the sluice in front of us.  The water here was very fast though, and would not have been ideal for fishing.  As we watched and waited it flew out of the sluice and down White's Creek and away, the weak sunshine highlighting the turquoise colour on its back.

We waited again, to see if it would return, and as we did so the Lapwing stood out on the mud which was reflecting the low sunshine.

Finally we gave up on the Kingfisher and decided to head back.  Looking out across the wall to the north, with the dark grey clouds and the golden reeds highlighted by the setting sun, it was a timely reminder as to why we love coming here year after year.

The Geese were still in the field as we negotiated yet another muddy path, then for some unknown reason there calls changed and they were off up into the sky.  Joined by the Curlew they circled around then headed out into the harbour for the evening.

With the geese gone we made our way back through the flooded fields to the Crab and Lobster.  Once again we had been blessed with some dry and interesting weather.  Back at the bar I worked out that we had walked fourteen and half miles, and as we sat there with a well earned drink it felt like it!

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