Tuesday, 29 November 2016

26th November - Sidlesham, Pagham Harbour, Selsey Bill and Medmerry, West Sussex

It has been awhile, but we were both looking forward to a break this weekend, and nowhere better than the Crab and Lobster in Sidlesham.  We arrived late on Friday afternoon so were not able to get out in daylight on what had been a lovely late autumn day.  The forecast for the weekend was mixed with dry but cloudy weather, however the morning dawned clear, and despite some cloud build up early on, as we walked around the footpath towards the Pagham Harbour visitor centre it was thinning and there were signs that the sun could come out.

It was just high tide as we left, and the salt-marsh was almost covered.  In these conditions there is an strange silence that seems to fall over the marsh with only the odd call of a Curlew, or the whistle of a Wigeon to alert you to the fact that there is wildlife about.  A small flock of Canada Geese flew low over the water with the spire of Pagham Church in the background.

High tide is a time when those birds that rely on the exposed mud to feed look to sit it out, this Little Egret looked quite fed up as it hunkered down in amongst the vegetation.

We stopped by the creek to look for Kingfisher and were instantly joined by a very tame Robin that was clearly used to being fed.

Helen couldn't resist and did give it some biscuit crumbs.

Turning attention to the creek there were two Redshank, and a single Black-tailed Godwit feeding in the water, and along the shore was a Water Rail.  It walked away from me, but would stop to plunge its head into the water to feed.

Then came around and out into the open, but distant.

At  the Ferry Pool there were three Redshank, six Teal, a sizeable flock of Lapwing and a single Black-tailed Godwit that was covering its face and bill in the dark black mud.

With the water high there was only a lone Moorhen on the Long Pool.  From this view you can take in the vastness of the harbour at high tide.

As we walked along the footpath towards Church Norton we would disturb Curlew from the salt-marsh, this one stayed long enough for me to get a photograph.

At Church Norton the water was still high, and I counted twelve Great Crested Grebes in the harbour.  There was no sign of the reported Long-tailed Duck.  The waders were still roosting on the iron construction, there were Dunlin, Knot, Oystercatcher and a few Turnstones.

On the island in the middle of the harbour I could just make out a Peregrine sitting on the ground.  Apparently there are two regular birds here, this one was probably waiting for water to drop, and the movement of birds that comes with it as they look to feed on the exposed mud.

As we left the bench to walk to the sea another Curlew was feeding close in amongst the eel grass.

A little further along a small group of Wigeon were also feeding on the grass.

We crossed the beach and walked down to the sea. With the tide still high the waves were crashing into the shingle.  Scanning the water there were again several Great Crested Grebes but no sign of any Black-necked or Slavonian.  There was though quite a bit of sea weed washed up, and with it lots of shell fish, and this was attracting Turnstones, Oystercatchers and some Redshank along with a very good collection of gulls, including a Mediterranean Gull at the top of the photograph.

We headed south at first along the edge of the water, and then along the sea wall.  Out on the water were more gulls and I picked out another Mediterranean Gull.

Despite the fact it was nearly midday the sun was very low in the sky, and this was putting up some considerable glare on the sea.  Everything in front of us became a silhouette like this Cormorant sitting on the groyne marker.

 The Turnstones are quite resourceful birds and can be seen in many different locations along the beach, here they were sunning themselves on the groyne.

With the recent storms there was plenty of weed and shellfish washed up all along the beach and along with the gulls there were also plenty of Carrion Crows searching through the tangled vegetation looking for an easy seafood meal.

As we passed East Beach a pair of Stonechat were present in the long grass, using the higher stalks to scan for any chance of an insect in the grass.

We stopped at the Lifeboat pub for a drink, and sat outside.  All wrapped up against the cold air the sun was still warm on the face.  As we sat there a Red Admiral flew past in front of the houses, it has been a very good year for them, will I manage a sighting in December I wonder?

From the pub we headed on south towards the Bill in the sunshine, then made our way through West Sands to the breach at the Medmerry reserve.  As we passed the caravan homes another Red Admiral passed us heading towards the Bill.  Looking out across the open expanse there were collections of birds, but they were all a long way off to really appreciate.  I hadn't brought a scope, but quite frankly even with binoculars I could see there wasn't much other that the normal.

 The tide was falling fast and all the way along the side of the creeks the water was tumbling over the side into the channels.  We walked on in the hope of disturbing maybe an owl, or other bird of prey but it was not to be.  When we had been here last the banks were covered in daisies and insects, today it was most old brown grass.

We dropped down to the footpath and headed in land.  In the fields to our left there was a large group of lapwing, but on our right there were Golden Plover.

I counted 60 birds in total all gathered together in the middle of the field.

The path took us through a solar farm, around the edges there were plenty of Chaffinches and Linnets, plus the occasional Reed Bunting, this one being very obliging.

Our intention for comingn this way was to check the old Ferry Farm buildings, last July we were surprised to find a Barn owl there, and the hope was that it might still be around.  After a very quiet and boring walk we approached the buildings only to find that they had been fenced in, probably due to the fact that they were rather derelict.  So with no chance of finding the owl, we continued on past the Ferry Pool that was now empty, past the Ferry Long Pool which was quite busy with a few Wigeon, but mainly Teal, and then out again to the main harbour past the visitor centre.

A kestrel was perched high above the rough ground to the back of the centre.

On reaching Sidlesham Quay we decided to carry on out across the North Wall, there was always a chnace the Kingfisher would perform at the sluice.  Walking through Halsey's Farm another Kestrel was using the trees as a vantage point to scan the field below.

Crossing the fields towards the wall was not too difficult, despite the recent rain it was still quite passable.  Close to the creek Wigeon were feeding on the grass.  There were mostly females in the group, the few males were on sentry duty with their heads up watching for any sign of danger.

It was now getting quite dark, and the skeins of Brent Geese were moving across the harbour and north across the wall in the direction of Honer Reservoir, or maybe Chichester lakes.

The water was high in the breech pool, and of a consequence there were only Mallard to see with just a few teal hidden in the reeds.  We walked to the sluice but there were quite a few people about and there was no sign of the Kingfisher.  With the sun now almost set we turned and headed back to Sidlesham.  More Brent flew above us high in the direction of Chichester.  they were joined by Canada Geese that took the lower altitude low over the marsh and with the last colours of today's sun in the background.

Not the best of birding days, but a lovely walk in one of our favourite spots in what has become regular good weather when we are here, maybe we shouldn't make too much of that as it might tempt fate.  So it was back to the pub, and a drink before yet another superb dinner.

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