Monday, 17 July 2017

14 - 15th July - Pagham Harbour RSPB, West Sussex

Middle of July, middle of the year means we head off to Sidlesham to enjoy some self indulgence, and at this time of year some sunshine.  We arrived to lovely clear blue skies, and warm sunshine.  After a welcoming drink we decided to walk around to the North Wall of the harbour.  As we walked along Mill Lane towards Halsey Farm butterflies could be seen on either side of the road.  Gatekeepers, Comma and Meadow Brown  were in the bushes, and as we walked through the farm towards the footpath a really smart Red Admiral flew past and settled on the hedge.

Walking towards the fields the path was fringed on both sides by bramble and as we walked loads of Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers would fly up just ahead of us.  Some though remained settled on the leaves soaking in the sunshine, showing the lovely orange and brown colouration.

While others sat with wings closed.

The fields can be quite wet, but that was definitely not the case today.  Walking was easy across the hard baked mud, with only the dried out footprints of the cattle to negotiate.  Up on the sea wall the tide was in, and out towards Owl Point a group of Little Egrets sat amongst the saltmarsh.  They breed close by but this now is over and large numbers can build up in the harbour.  This though was not one of the highest counts I have seen here.

As we approached the Breech Pool it was clear that the water levels were very high.  All we could see were some really tatty Mallard, and a couple of Teal on the water, and a Common Tern on a post, that as we got closer took off and flew around the pool before heading out into the centre of the harbour.

With the tide so high there was little chance of finding the Kingfisher at the sluice gate that enters into White's Creek.  On the other side of the wall the water around the sluice was covered in pond weed creating a bright green pool.  In this a family of Moorhen were feeding.

As we walked towards the paddocks a grey brown falcon swooped low over our heads and then banked around the Poplars and back out over the paddocks.  It was a juvenile Peregrine, probably one of the two that were reared on the island in the middle of the harbour at Church Norton.

We walked down the path that leads from the Slipe Field the whole area now has been allowed to turn to wild flowers, and there was plenty of teasel, knapweed, thistles and ragwort.  This was a big attraction to even more butterflies, and we were able to find several Essex Skippers in amongst  the many Gatekeepers.

Coming back along the footpath past the golf course there were Speckled Wood and this lovely Comma.

Walking along the road towards the Salthouse, a Holly Blue butterfly flew past, not bothering to stop.

There was an unusual sight in the horse field when we came past, a juvenile Heron was just standing close to the fence.  It attracted the attention of one of the horses that slowly moved it on.

back on the North Wall, another Grey Heron was feeding in more usual settings, the deep water of the Breech Pool.

The Mallard were still present on the pool, and at the back around the edge of the water I could see two Black-tailed Godwits.

The tide was still high, so any hope of finding a Kingfisher vanished.  

Out on the saltmarsh the Little Egrets were still roosting, and Curlew could be heard calling.  One or two Curlew would fly over the wall heading towards the fields around Honer Farm.

Coming back into Halsey Farm a Green-veined White joined the many Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns on the Bramble.

We made our way back to the Crab and Lobster where we sat and enjoyed the early evening sunshine before dinner.

Saturday morning arrived with overcast conditions, but the sunshine seemed to be always just around the corner, the sun daring to show itself through the white cloud.  After breakfast we set off in the hope that it may clear and that we could get some time on the beach.  Temperature wise though it wasn't cold, in fact the breeze felt quiet warm and humid.

As we walked along the path past Yeoman's field clouds of Gatekeepers came off the bramble bushes.  There were also Meadow Browns but it was the flash of orange from the gatekeepers that seemed to be everywhere.

The brown butterflies are always the first to appear, and on overcast days these can be quite dominant.  As well as these two "brown" butterflies there was also a few Speckled Woods.

We walked through the visitor centre, and then towards the Ferry Pool.  Teasel were almost everywhere, there lilac purple flowers starting to emerge.  At the Ferry Pool I could see three Avocets, five Black-tailed Godwits, a few teal and a single Shelduck on the mud, and a pair of Red-legged Partridge by the side.  They were all at the back of the pool and impossible to photograph.

On the other side of the path in the channel alongside the Ferry Long Pool was a single Little Egret fishing.  After some running around it flew across to the other side and suddenly shook itself sending all the feathers into a frizz!

We walked along the track towards Church Norton, and I recalled the time we had seen a Magpie Moth here, almost as soon as I thought this Helen pointed out a Magpie Moth, so this must be a guaranteed spot for this speckled beauty.  They are not known as day flyers, and this one was tucked away down amongst the thorns of a dog rose.

This part of the walk can be quite boring at the best of time, but with the tide out,  and it being mid July it was very quiet.  Once we came up from marsh, through the Oaks and onto the path that is lined on both sides by hedges we encountered a large swarm of orange flies.  They were very distinctive with two small black spots on the thorax.  A quick check at home revealed these to be Turnip Saw Flies.

The larvae typically feed on brassica plants, and over winter in the ground before emerging as adults in early summer.  They were everywhere, and it can not be a coincidence that the fields around Church Norton were growing beetroot.

We stopped at the mound to check the islands, the tide was low, and we could see Sandwich, Common and Little Terns but they were very distant.  There was no sign at all of any Peregrine.

It was still overcast, and with no sign of any potential breaks in the cloud, so as a result we walked on, heading past the Severals, and on to the private road that leads to the many converted railway carriages that are now used as beach homes.  This has always fascinated us, why are there so many converted railway carriages here.  Finally I managed to find out.  This was the easiest way to get a house close to the sea.  The carriages were discarded by the railway, and used at first by rich Victorians as a beach house as a way of avoiding planning, but then later were a source of housing for the not so wealthy.

Today the further rooms have been built around the carriages, but it is easy to see where the originals are, and some even still have "no smoking" etched on the glass windows.

Plants and flowers have grown up on the edge of the path, and these were attracting more butterflies.  This female large White on a Valerian flower.

While the Red Admiral enjoys the mass attraction of the purple flowers of the Buddleia.

We walked on, past the East Beach, and eventually to our stopping place the Lifeboat pub in Selsey.  The old Lifeboat house has now been removed, yet another feature of the this walk over the years I have been coming here now no longer about.

We had a drink in the garden, and at one point it started to drizzle, but fortunately not for long.  An adult Herring Gull was on the look out for any scraps coming from those having lunch.  Ever watchful I was able to get in close with a portrait shot.

Earlier that morning I had to watch yet another news clip about the marauding gulls in Whitby, and how they have to be controlled.  What infuriated me most was the fact that the reporter, bought some chips, and deliberately walked through a group of gulls in the hope he would be attacked.  These birds are opportunists, we have fed them and caused the problem, now we want to cull them as a result?

As we walked back, retracing our steps the sun started to come out.  The old fishing boats and crab pots standing out on the sea wall.

Overhead Mediterranean Gulls flew past calling, and on the sea you could hear the harsh screeching calls of the Sandwich Terns before you saw the bird.

Back at Church Norton I was surprised to find that the tide was still very low, I had hoped it would be higher and have pushed some of the waders closer.

The terns and gulls suddenly went up from island, looking around it seemed for no reason.  In amongst them were Sandwich and Little Terns plus a couple of Mediterranean Gulls.

Out on the mud a Whimbrel joined the more numerous Curlew.

We put in a good pace back along the path to the Ferry, the cloud had returned now, but was thin and you could still see and feel the sun through it.

On the Ferry Pool the five Black-tailed Godwits from earlier were now seven, and a little closer to the road.

The teasels around the visitor centre discovery centre were now being visited by large White butterflies which made a change from the Gatekeeper and Meadow Brown.

It was then the walk back to Sidlesham, and again a drink outside on the terrace.  Later we found out  that despite the cloud the sun still managed to get through, and I was grateful for the sun tan lotion I had decided to apply.  

A typical mid summer trip, quiet, but to be fair it is not all about the wildlife on these trips, it was about the weekend away in the summer time, good food and drink, location and people.

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