Tuesday, 29 January 2019

29th - 31st January 2019

Thursday, 31st JanuaryA very cold and grey morning, with the temperature barely above zero degrees in the brisk and freshening south-easterly......

Advanced Notice: Please be aware that next Thursday & Friday (7th-8th February) we have a contractor carrying out some reed cutting in the Severals reedbed at Church Norton. This management is being carried out to ensure the reedbed continues to provide excellent habitat for the summering warblers that visit our reserve. It will also provide some open vista across the reed system. Thanks for your patience and understanding while the work is being carried out. (I. Lang, Reserve Warden)
(We thank the RSPB for the update and are pleased to note this improvement to the habitat.) (Eds)

Selsey Bill: The huge feeding flock of Gannets was a little closer and more central this morning, and numbered a minimum of 1500 birds, though individuals were joining and leaving all the time. Also, 60+ Red-throated Divers went west and an Eider and a Fulmar were among other species seen. Full log below. (AH/IP/R Baker)
Red-throated Diver - 9E, 68W
Gannet - 1500+os
Fulmar - 1E
Brent Goose - 2W
Common Scoter - 2E
Eider - 1E
Red-breasted Merganser - 20E, 10W, 10os
Mediterranean Gull - 2os
Common Gull - 5W
Kittiwake - 40E, 20W
Razorbill - 200W, 100W, 1os
auk sp - 300E, 500W

Razorbill (above), Red-throated Diver & Mediterranean Gull at the Bill (AH)

Ferry Pool: There were just two Lapwings on the pool and one in the field this morning, though a couple of Gadwall and c50 Teal were in the adjacent rife, and a Spotted Redshank, a Kingfisher and c200 Wigeon and c50 Teal were in the channel opposite. (AH/R Baker)

Spotted Redshank and Teal (above), Gadwall and Teal & Wigeon around the Ferry (AH)

Church Norton: There were just a couple of Common and Mediterranean Gulls along the beach and 50+ Cormorants on the sea this morning, whilst in the harbour there were half a dozen Red-breasted Mergansers, 100+ Brent Geese and a few Wigeon and Teal.
Also, one of the Peregrines was on its island, the Whimbrel was in its usual patch and there were plenty of Dunlin, Knot and Grey Plovers about, but a dozen Skylarks on the spit and a Goldcrest and a few Long-tailed Tits and Goldfinches along the path to the harbour were about the only small birds noted. (AH/IP/R Baker)

Whimbrel (above), Common and Mediterranean Gull and Dunlin at Church Norton (AH)

Chi GPs - Drayton Pits: The Great White Egret was still present this morning on the south pit, viewed from the usual gate, though it was in flight and a little distant, heading north. Both pits were largely frozen over, though there were a few patches of open water full of wildfowl, with 120 Shoveler on the south pit and half a dozen Snipe and 20 Lapwing flying around there. The north pit - viewed from the gates on the A259 - held 90 Pochard and 40 Tufted Ducks, plus a flock of 40 Redwings and a pair of Bullfinches calling and showing occasionally. Other species seen included a Chiffchaff, three Jays, three Green and two Great Spotted Woodpeckers. (OM)

Not quite Swan Lake as a lonely pair of Canada Geese walks across the ice to survey the wintry scene at Drayton pits....(OM)

Wednesday, 30th JanuaryA mostly bright and sunny morning, though very cold again, with a light north-westerly breeze...

Selsey Bill: It was quiet after yesterday's activity, though the big feeding flock of Gannets was viewable very distantly to the east and a few Red-throated Divers moved through. Full log below. (AH/IP/RP)
Red-throated Diver - 12E, 4W
Gannet - 4E, 2W, c400os
Shag - 1E
Brent Goose - 9W
Common Scoter - 1W
Red-breasted Merganser - 10os
Mediterranean Gull - 3os
Common Gull - 1W
Razorbill - 5E
Guillemot - 1os
auk sp - 10E

Brent Geese & Mediterranean Gull at the Bill (AH)

Ferry Pool: There were half a dozen Snipe around the field this morning, along with c500 Lapwings and c300 Wigeon, whilst 20 or so Shovelers and Teal were around the pool. (AH)

Shovelers on the Ferry (AH)

West Itchenor: The Nuthatch was heard a couple of times in the copse at Chalkdock Marsh, though not seen, whilst along the edge of the harbour there were 20+ Bar-tailed Godwits, at least a dozen Red-breasted Mergansers, 200+ Brent Geese, 500+ Dunlin and a handful of Knot and Grey Plovers. Also, a Kestrel was present and at least 50 Lapwings were in the fields. (AH/IP)

Bar-tailed Godwit (above), Knot, Kestrel, Red-breasted Mergansers & Brent Geese at West Itchenor (AH)

Fishbourne Creek: A Jack Snipe was present again this morning. (IP)

Sidlesham: Mapsons Lane - Half a dozen Redwings were in the paddocks at the west end of the lane, along with two Jays, a Song Thrush and a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker. (AH)

Redwings in Sidlesham (AH)

 This morning, west of the reservoir and south of the village, was a flock of about 20 Redwings and a few Fieldfares, by the old flint barn. (CRJ)

Medmerry (west side): The Dartford Warbler was present again in the usual gorse bushes near Marsh Barn this afternoon (TG-P), whilst a Barn Owl was out hunting at 1430hrs (TG-P/IP).

Church Norton: There was a Firecrest in the east hedgerow of the churchyard this afternoon. There was also an Avocet in the harbour among the usual waders and a few Meadow Pipits along the spit. (AW)

 Avocet, Firecrest and Meadow Pipit at Church Norton (AW)

Tuesday, 29th JanuaryA cool and grey morning, with just a light southerly breeze...

Selsey Bill: Another fairly busy morning, with over 40 Red-throated Divers (including a loose flock of 14) west, a lot of auks on the move and a huge - if distant - gathering of Gannets. Full log below. (AH/IP)
Great Northern Diver - 2E
Red-throated Diver - 42E, 9W
diver sp - 2E
Fulmar - 1W
Gannet - 12E, 280W, 700os
Shag - 1E
Brent Goose - 2E, 11W
Common Scoter - 5W
Red-breasted Merganser - 10E, 12os
Mediterranean Gull - 10os
Common Gull - 3W
Kittiwake - 15W
Sandwich Tern - 3W
Guillemot - 1os
Razorbill - c100E, 750W
auk sp - c400E, 1800W

Red-throated Divers (above), Razorbills & Razorbills and Gannets past the Bill (AH)

North Wall: The Hooded Crow re-appeared after nearly a month's absence, flying over the wall and into the harbour. (IL)

West Itchenor: Around the village pond area were a Treecreeper, a Coal Tit,  a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker and six Redwings. After we passed through Home Farm to the 'Horse pond' area of Chichester channel, we found 60 Bar-tailed Godwits along the shore and 23 Red-breasted Mergansers on the water with just a couple of Great Crested Grebes, but little else of interest bar a few hundred Brent Geese. (OM/BFF) 
Also, a Nuthatch present in the small wood at Chalkdock Marsh was probably of interest to any Peninsula year-listers! (OM/BFF/BI)

Nuthatch at Chalkdock Marsh, Itchenor (above BI, lower two OM))

Treecreeper at Itchenor pond (OM)

Chi Marina: We made two visits to the Marina today; the first being early afternoon and the second a watch over the Marina pool reedbed from 16.30 until dusk. The first visit produced a Marsh Harrier briefly hunting before dropping down into the reeds, plus two Buzzards, a Water Rail and a Cetti's Warbler. The second visit failed to produce our target bird (a Bittern) despite our best efforts, but there were at least four different Water Rails calling, plus about five Snipe, another Buzzard, a calling Chiffchaff and some Long-tailed Tits. (OM/BFF)

Ferry Pool: There were just three Wigeon on a frozen pool, with c100 Lapwings on the field, whilst in the channel opposite there was a Kingfisher, 16 Black-tailed Godwits, c30 Redshank and c80 Teal. (AH)

Kingfisher (above), Black-tailed Godwits & Teal in Ferry Channel (AH)

Church Norton: There were four Red-throated Divers close offshore this morning, with a flock of ten seen heading west further out, but there was nothing else beyond a distant Gannet and a handful of Common Gulls.
There wasn't too much unusual in the harbour, though the Whimbrel was present again, as were 20+ Ringed Plovers among large numbers of Dunlin, Knot and Grey Plovers, at least 50 Teal, a handful of Mediterranean Gulls and 2-300 Brent Geese at the far end of the harbour. (AH/IP)

Red-throated Divers (above), Whimbrel & Ringed Plover at Church Norton (AH)

Apuldram & Fishbourne channel: A Firecrest and a Goldcrest were in the bushes at the car-park, but along the hedgerows a flock of a dozen Long-tailed Tits was the only interest, with no sign of a single Yellowhammer today! The Fishbourne channel was more productive though, with perhaps 1500 Brent Geese and a good number of Wigeon, plus five Spotted Redshanks in a tight group, at least three Greenshank, a Jack Snipe and several Common Snipe. The Lavant outfall area also produced a Kingfisher, a Grey Wagtail and a showy Water Rail. (OM/BFF)

Water Rail at Lavant outflow, Fishbourne creek (OM)

Saturday, 26 January 2019

26th - 28th January 2019

Monday, 28th JanuaryA very bright and sunny morning, but decidedly cold in the fresh north-westerly breeze....

My thanks to all who have contacted me with kind comments and anecdotes in response to my comments on yesterday's blog, concerning the sad passing of Chunky King. I would just like to share one of them, from Chris Janman, which beautifully highlights why Chunky will never be forgotten..........(OM)

I was sad to hear of Ron’s passing; I know he had been frail for a while, I think I last saw him at the Elegant Tern at Church Norton when he was using a walker, but still as mustard keen as ever, and being driven by Simon. One of my first memories of Ron was at the Ferry many years ago when some rarity turned up along the footpath to Norton - he was full of jokes, smiles and laughter. He was accompanied by his faithful dog “ Dodge.“ Dodge always had a small pair of binoculars around his neck, and Ron kept his list. I suspect that Dodge had a far greater list than I did, but Ron’s list was stratospheric. Such a lovely man, mind you... remember that trip with him driving us to Stodmarsh to see Slender-billed Gull, phew that was a trip ! (CRJ)

Selsey Bill: Most of what movement there was was very distant, but a couple of Shags went east closer in and three Great Northern Divers were on the sea. Full log below.
Great Northern Diver - 3os
Great Crested Grebe - 1os
Gannet - 40E, 20os
Shag - 2E
Brent Geese - 2W
Common Scoter - 4E
Red-breasted Merganser - 6E, 5W, 10os
Mediterranean Gull - 3W, 1os
Common Gull - 2W
Kittiwake - 25E, 20os
auk sp - c100E

Great Northern Diver (above), Shag & Red-breasted Mergansers past the Bill (AH)

Pagham Hbr North Fields: A single (and very confiding) Cattle Egret was present on the North Fields this afternoon. (TG-P)

Confiding Cattle Egret at Pagham North Fields (TG-P)

Ferry Pool: A Green Sandpiper was at the back of the pool and three Curlews were on the field, but otherwise it was the usual suspects, including c300 Wigeon, c50 Lapwings, c30 Shoveler, c30 Teal and four Shelducks. (AH)

Lapwings on the Ferry (AH)

Medmerry: Porthole Farm to Ham Farm - There was not much around Porthole Farm, but along the track to Ham Farm there were 20+ Yellowhammers, at least four Reed Buntings, three Greenfinches, a pair of Stonechats, 20 Skylarks and 40 Meadow Pipits, plus a couple of Pied Wagtails, half a dozen Song Thrushes and five Red-legged Partridges.
The banks and adjacent stubble field at Ham were full of birds, with at least three singing Corn Buntings (at one point in a row along the fence), a couple of Yellowhammers, c300 Linnets, c100 Goldfinches and Meadow Pipits and c50 Skylarks, with similar numbers of the latter out over the reserve.
Also, a Peregrine was sat out on the derelict building, a Kestrel was by the farm and a handful of Dunlin and Redshank were on the tidal area. (AH)

Corn Buntings (above), Yellowhammers, Reed Buntings, Stonechat, Peregrine, Linnets, Skylark & Meadow Pipits at Medmerry (AH)

Chi GPs - Drayton Pits: The Great White Egret was again present on the south pit, viewable from the gateway beside the road. (GW)

West Wittering - Snowhill marsh: Two Curlews were present on the marsh at about 1500hrs this afternoon, apparently pairing up and doing a strange slow motion dance of sorts. A nice Greenshank was also on the marsh and showing well. (MR)

Curlews (believed female left, male right) apparently pairing up and (below) Greenshank on Snowhill marsh (MR)

Sunday, 27th JanuaryA mixture of cloud and sunny spells after some overnight rain, with a fairly strong north-westerly wind making it feel decidedly chilly throughout......

It is with great sadness that I must inform you all of the recent passing of two long-time regular visitors to the Bill.

Most of the more mature birders on the Peninsula, and indeed many other places, will have known Ron King from Hampshire - always known as "Chunky." He was especially keen on visiting the Bill in spring to see Pomarine Skuas - especially as this co-incided with his birthday in early May - and he usually brought cake and sausage rolls to celebrate and even the odd drop of fizz! Chunky was full of good humour, with a big personality which ensured plenty of lively banter, especially when he teamed up with the other Hampshire boys present. He even attended a couple of Pom parties, including one of mine in the year 2000. 
Perhaps though, Chunky was best known on the national birding scene, for he was an inveterate twitcher, with a big British List. I had the pleasure of going with him a few times, on some unforgettable journeys (!) but you could be sure that wherever he went, someone would shout "hiya Chunky." In later years as age began to catch up with him, his son Simon paired up with him and did most of the driving, adding many more species to his life list. He died last Wednesday and Birding in general will be the poorer for his passing. Our condolences go to Simon and the family....and you can bet Chunky has already started on his next list at the gates of heaven. (OM)

The late Chunky King at my Pom party in 2000 (OM)

Sadly, I also recently noted the passing of Mike Snelling from Worthing, who apparently died in the preceding week. Mike is probably much less well known to more recent Peninsula observers, for he was a rather quiet and unassuming but knowledgeable birder with a pleasant and gentlemanly manner....and in short, he was a really nice guy. Mike especially enjoyed the spring sea-watches at the Bill, though he could be found visiting throughout the year, especially in the 'golden years' of the Pontins era. 
He became less frequent in his appearances in latter years, though I would occasionally bump into him at other places, and quite by chance, I met him up at West Dean Woods, looking for Hawfinches early in this month. We had a pleasant catch-up chat and eventually said our goodbyes when he had to return home. Little did I realise it would be our final goodbye and he passed away barely a week later. I didn't know Mike's family, but offer my deepest sympathy to them. Rest in peace my friend. (OM)

This shot from the south-east corner at the Bill dates from May 2003 and shows the late Chunky King serving up birthday cake to the gallery of observers. Nearest the camera (facing away) is the late Mike Snelling, (sadly the only shot of him I can so far trace), whilst next to him is anon, with Richard Prior smiling towards the camera and the late Barry Carter beyond him, scoping.
(In memory of all our absent friends from the Bill) (OM)

Selsey Bill: Large numbers of auks, Gannets and Kittiwakes re-appeared today, after dwindling counts over recent days, though little else was on the move. Full log below.(JA/BI/IP/AH)
Great Northern Diver - 2os
Red-throated Diver - 2E, 2os
diver sp - 1E
Great Crested Grebe - 1os
Fulmar - 1W
Gannet - 382E, 731W, 60os
Brent Goose - 1W
Red-breasted Merganser - 9E, 6W, 8os
Sanderling - 1E
Kittiwake - 154E, 90W
Razorbill - 26E, 64W
Guillemot - 1E, 3W
auk sp - 1796E, 18W

Red-throated Divers (above) & Gannets at the Bill (AH)

Ferry Pool: There were at least 400 Wigeon around the pool and field, along with two Black-tailed Godwits, c30 Shoveler and c60 Teal, with a least 500 Lapwings on the field. Also a Kingfisher was briefly in the channel opposite and a Grey Wagtail flew over. (AH)

Black-tailed Godwits and Wigeon (above) & Wigeon on the Ferry (AH)

Church Norton: There was not much going on this morning, though a big flock of Dunlin plus a few Knot and Grey Plover, were near the old harbour mouth, one of the Peregrines was on their island, a few Shelduck, Wigeon and Teal were scattered about and a Firecrest was briefly in the car-park. (AH/IP)

Shelducks (above) & Dunlin at Church Norton (AH)

There was little of note in the harbour this afternoon, either, save a few Brent Geese, whilst two Pheasants were squaring up in Rectory Lane, with another looking on. (R Porter)

Pheasants at Church Norton (R Porter)

Saturday, 26th January: A mostly grey, if fairly mild, morning, with a freshening north-westerly breeze.....

Selsey Bill: The big feeding flocks seemed to have moved on, but there was a bit of interest, including a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull east and three Slavonian Grebes and an Eider on the sea. Full log below. (AH/BI/IP)
Great Northern Diver - 1W
Red-throated Diver - 12E, 4W, 1os
Slavonian Grebe - 3os, then E
Gannet - 25E
Eider - 1os
Common Scoter - 2E, 6W
Red-breasted Merganser - 10E, 5W, 5os
Yellow-legged Gull - 1E
Mediterranean Gull - 1W
Common Gull - 2W
Kittiwake - 20E, 4W
Razorbill - 30E, 12W
auk sp - 100E, 30W

Red-throated Divers (above) & Red-breasted Merganser past the Bill (AH)

Ferry Pool: There were 50 Golden Plovers among c800 Lapwings on the field, with c300 Wigeon, c30 Shoveler and c60 Teal around the pool. (AH)

Golden Plovers and Lapwings (above) & Shoveler on the Ferry (AH)

Later on, up to 220 Golden Plovers were among the Lapwings on the field. (R Porter)

Golden Plovers at the Ferry (R Porter)

Medmerry: Porthole Farm - This morning there was a Marsh Harrier over the farm and a flock of ten Yellowhammers were nearby. (AW)

Marsh Harrier (above) &Yellowhammers at Porthole Farm (AW)

Park Farm, Selsey: A dozen Curlews were on the uncropped field, with a Stonechat along the wheat fields, whilst a Grey Wagtail was in the paddocks on Park Lane. Also, c250 Golden Plover appeared over from the Medmerry direction. (AH/IP/RM)

Grey Wagtail (above) & Curlews at Park Farm, Selsey (AH)

Church Norton: A lone Guillemot, the 15 Common Scoters and a couple of Great Crested Grebes were all that could be found on the sea, whilst a group of five Red-throated Divers went distantly east and a Red-breasted Merganser went west.
An Avocet, a couple Bar-tailed Godwits and 30 Ringed Plovers were among many of the commoner waders, one of the Peregrines was present as were 20 Mediterranean and five Common Gulls,and at least 1500 Lapwings went up several times over the North Wall.
Both Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker were heard, but passerines of note were restricted to the pair of Stonechats in the horse field and a few Skylarks along the spit. (AH/IP/RM/P&JW)

Avocet (above), Bar-tailed Godwit, Mediterranean Gull & Skylark at Church Norton (AH)

Later on, a redhead Goosander was showing well in the harbour. (AW)

Goosander at Church Norton (AW)

Medmerry: Easton Lane to the Stilt Pool - There were at least 2800 Brent Geese present on the Stilt Pools and surrounds this morning, at one time all taking to the air at once as the Royal Navy Bomb Disposal team made a very large bang offshore! 
Also present here were a few Wigeon, Shoveler, Gadwall and Tufted Ducks but the only wader seen was a Greenshank. Along the banks there were a few Meadow Pipits and Skylarks and around the feeding station were good numbers of House Sparrows, Starlings and a few Yellowhammers. (BI)

Chichester Gravel Pits: Ivy Lake was largely quiet other than 12 Pochards and the flock of Canada Geese; Nunnery and Deep Lake had Coots and Gadwall present but there was nothing at all on Copse and Triangle. West Trout Lake was quiet as usual but the East lake had 22 Greylag Geese, a Bar-headed Goose and another flock of Canada Geese present. 
On New Lake there were good numbers of Shoveler with at least 170 there along with a scattering of Tufted Ducks & Gadwall. (BI)

Drayton Pit: The Great White Egret was in its usual spot, viewable from the gate, this afternoon. (AW)

Great White Egret and Grey Heron on Drayton Pit (AW)