West Wittering 14 November 2021

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.