Church Norton 14 January 2024

Just six members joined this usually popular walk and enjoyed a dry and not too chilly amble along the shore of Pagham Harbour on a rising tide.  At times, the sun shone brightly from a clear blue sky and gave wonderful views of a profusion of waders and ducks with large skeins of Brent Geese frequently passing overhead. The first port of call was the salt marsh, where the usual Curlews, Redshanks, Little Egrets and Moorhens were present. Then to the Ferry Pool hide with its numerous ducks, Teal, Wigeon, Shovelers, Shelduck and Gadwall sharing the facilities with Lapwings and gulls (Black-headed and Herring).  The feeders in the woodland area held tits (Great, Blue, Long-tailed), House Sparrows and Chaffinches, while Robins, Dunnocks and a Wren searched the surrounding bushes for food. At the start of the harbour-side walk came the thrilling squeal of a Water Rail in the reeds.  A Marsh Harrier flew up the channel while plenty of new wader species began to appear including Grey Plovers, Dunlin, 20+ Avocets and a single Snipe. Three perched Reed Buntings added to the enjoyment.  On the approach to Church Norton the tide was reaching its highest forcing the waders into tight flocks especially the Dunlins, Knot and Grey Plovers.  A few Bar-tailed Godwits were noted settling down to sleep among the roosting Cormorants and Oystercatchers.

On the beach was a group of keen birders from SOS (Sussex Ornithological Society).  Using their powerful telescopes and a wealth of sea-watching experience, they had identified lots of distant specks on and above the water notably a Slavonian Grebe, a Common Scoter, a Great Northern Diver, Gannets, and a Razorbill.  They did their best to assist by pointing out the rough location of the birds, a tricky task on a sea free of landmarks. With this help some were able to pick out some of these birds. On the return from the beach one member spotted and photographed a Sparrowhawk in a tree, while in the harbour Great Crested and Little Grebes and some Turnstones were now showing well. The walk back to the visitor centre added a few more species to the day list including Starling, Stonechat, Yellowhammer and Mute Swan. The final species list reached an impressive total of 61, a just reward for a cracking day’s birdwatching.

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