Saturday, 26 March 2011

Pagham Harbour with the Hemel RSPB Group

This was an amazing Saturday, the Hemel RSPB local group and I met up to go on a joint trip to Pagham Harbour.  The day started well and on the journey 4 Jays flew over the motorway.  2 Herring Gulls flew over the car park in Tesco in Fishbourne and a further 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls were perched on a lamppost over the road.  Just outside Pagham Harbour 1 Green Woodpecker bounded over the fields (also seen from the car).  The day really got of to a good start when we arrived at the reserve, had a brief look at the recent sitings at the visitor centre and we were soon on our way around the reserve.  The first of the birds included 1 Kestrel (over the visitor centre), 1 Singing Chiffchaff near the reserve entrance and a further 3 Chiffchaff were all heard (and seen in most cases).  The first and only hide that we visited, was also near the reserve entrance and overlooked a small pool surrounded by stubble grassland and fields, on the bank alone there were 100s of Black-headed Gulls and amongst them there were an astonishing 21 Mediterranean Gulls, occasionally they would all take of as a group either grouping together into groups of the same species or mixing.

two adult Mediterranean Gulls on the bank of the lake

The lake also hosted c.14 Black-tailed Godwit (1 of which was almost in full summer plumage), there were also good numbers of ducks including 18 Shoveler (predominantly male) and 5 Shellduck, 1 Little Grebe, 1 Herring Gull and numerous Lapwing, bearing in mind all this was seen within 30 mins of our arrival!  Further around the reserve 1 Grey Heron flew over and 2 groups of a total of 10 Redshank and 2 Oystercatchers were the first of the waders to be seen.  The local farmland also had a variety of species including singing Skylarks, 2♂ Reed Buntings,(+1 more singing in a hedge) and 1 Little Grebe calling in the gully to the left of the path.

male Chaffinch


The same area also had 1 Buzzard (perched in a dead tree over the neighbouring farmland), 1 Little Egret, 2 Red-legged Partridges and 4 Linnets.

Little Egret

A tip from another birder was worth a second glance at the small gully as he put us on to a ♂ HOODED MERGANSER (most likely an escape) idling around between the two beds of reed!  We had fantastic views of the north american duck and I managed to take some quick photos

♂ Hooded Merganser in the small gully to the left of the path soon after coming onto the reserve.

Of course the debate is open to whether it is escape or genuine.  However, there is a strong possibility that it could be wild (presumably it was the same bird seen in Weymouth earlier in the year), the markings were almost perfect and to be honest, genuine or escape it is a fantastic duck.  On the way back to the centre 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard and 2 Pheasants were also nearby.  From the reserve entrance we made the small journey to the other end of the reserve by car and arrived by the Church Graveyard, this led onto wide expansive mudflats and this was evidently a magnet for the birds.  The most obvious of all were the 40+Oysercatcher, 3Turnstone, 12+Ringed Plover and 2 Black-tailed Godwit (both in summer plumage).  Other common Waders included 12s of Curlew, 15+ Dunlin (+12s more around the rest of the reserve).  Other highlight were 53+ Turnstone and 2 flocks of 16 and 20 Dark-bellied Brent geese respectively, 2 more individuals were also feeding separately closer to the western spit.

Brent Goose


2 more individuals were also seen seperatly feeding on the seaweed.  2 Little Egrets were also in the salt-marshes and 1 Chiffchaff was singing form within the churchyard.  2 Pheasants were also bordering the reserve (1♂,1♀), the rest of the walk up to the spit that was once the old sea wall included 1 Linnet, 2 Skylarks and 3 Wheatear, a good early spring find which had probably just made the exhausting journey from Africa (I didn't manage to tell which sex they were but most likely ♀).


beach at Church Norton

Numerous Cormorants were also perched along the entrance to the Distributary) and 1 Grey Heron flew over.  Other ducks seen at the reserve included Teal and Wigeon.  This relatively tame Pheasant and Reed Bunting were also feeding underneath the reserve feeders. 

male Reed Bunting

male Pheasant

Lastly on our second visit to the reserve centre I rushed of again to have a third encounter with the Hooded Merganser and I manage to take some better photos.

male Hooded Merganser

having a good old stretch

earlier in the day it made a short flight to the pool in front of the nature reserve

this was taken later in the evening when the light was fading and was becoming less active

After today's frantic birding a relaxing car journey back home was a luxury (not to mention the additional siting of 1 Kestrel and 1 Red-legged Partridge (just outside the reserve).

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