The autumn theme of weather-affected walks continued with a vengeance for the ten members who assembled at East Head. The threatened showers largely failed to materialised and the morning was bright but gales were howling in from the south-west. The initial route took advantage of the shelter afforded by the dunes. On the salt marsh small groups of Brent Geese were assembled with Lapwings dotted among them. Among them were also the odd Curlew and Redshank. Small birds were few and far between but eventually a small flock of Meadow Pipits was seen foraging among the grass, a Reed Bunting perched and a pair of Stonechats landed ahead on the path. At the inner harbour birds appeared in much greater numbers, the most obvious species being Oystercatchers scattered on every part of the shore. A flock of Dunlin flew to new feeding grounds and a Little Egret followed them. A few more Grey Plovers appeared and among them a single Golden Plover was identified. Out on the water a Great Crested Grebe and a Cormorant were diving while on the shore two Sanderlings shone beautifully in the sun. A distant Sandwich Tern was also spotted patrolling distantly. To avoid walking head on into the wind along the beach the decision was taken to retrace steps to the car park; for the most part the shelter of the dunes held up but at points unpleasant sandblasting could not be avoided. After lunch the walk continued along the path on the east side of the marsh towards the wetlands. Early sightings included two Ravens, some Rooks, two Shelducks, a Little Grebe and, as the channels filled on the rising tide, some Black-tailed Godwits and a Turnstone. A large flock of over one hundred Golden Plovers settled on the sand for a while before departing. The more distant ponds held a substantial number of Wigeon accompanied by several dozen Teal and a few Mallards plus some Common Gulls and one Mediterranean Gull but the star attractions were twenty Avocets sweeping the water. On a testing day species seen totalled a satisfactory 38.
Eleven members attended the walk around East Head and Snowhill Creek/Ella Nore in good weather though the promised sun did not materialise until late morning. Some parts of the route were more productive than others because of weekend crowds with particular highlights being avocets, snipe and golden plovers. Other waders identified included black-tailed godwits, redshank, dunlin, greenshank, grey plovers, oystercatchers, curlews, turnstones and lapwings. Among the many species of songbird seen were greenfinches, meadow pipits, skylarks, linnets and stonechats. Brent geese were ubiquitous as usual and an unseen Cetti’s warbler made its unmistakeable presence known. Great amusement came from a harbour seal christened by one wag with the name of Bob, because of his action in the water.
Thirteen members made the trip to the stunning location of East Head on Chichester Harbour. As we assembled in the car park handfuls of Brent geese flew over on their way to the feeding grounds that were slowly being uncovered on the falling tide. Then several huge flocks of golden plovers appeared high over the harbour circling in their typically tight formations. With this promising start we headed for the marsh pools in search of the high tide roost noting a fair number of rooks in the pastures as we passed. At the pools we found dozens of teal and a scattering of wigeon. The predominant wader species was lapwing while dotted among them were redshanks probing in the mud and a few somnolent grey plovers. Further round we identified nine greenshanks quietly roosting while up to a dozen little egrets accompanied by just a single grey heron stalked around. More waders had already settled on the harbour mud where we counted over fifty black-tailed godwits feeding on the side of a channel. Alongside were small numbers of oystercatchers and more redshanks while a knot feeding close to a grey plover allowed a close comparison of their respective sizes and plumages. By far though the most numerous species was Brent geese stretching away as far as the eye could see. As returned to the car park an unusual duck caught the eye; it had a chestnut coloured head, a duller brown body, a pale blue bill and a white undertail. We later speculated that it might be a ferruginous duck a species more likely to be an escapee than a wild bird.
After an early lunch we took the path around the Head where initially things were quiet (apart from the large numbers of Sunday visitors). At the north end of the dunes we finally encountered some of the golden plovers we had seen earlier their plumages resplendent as they sat on the sand. Distantly over fifty dunlins foraged at the edge of the tide while scanning identified a turnstone, a few more grey plovers and another greenshank. We then tried a little seawatching with limited results. Eventually a red-breasted merganser and a great crested grebe were seen while another grebe puzzled us for a while until it was tentatively identified as a black-necked. The dunes were unproductive but finally delivered a small flock of greenfinches feeding in the marram grass. The bird list for the day totalled 37 species.