One thing that the lists do not show though, is the numbers of individual birds seen during the year, and the extremes of weather during 2018 will make it remembered for the wrong reasons, particularly the very poor numbers - in spring and in autumn – of our summer visitors.
Basically, we endured a year of two halves – with a cold and fairly wet winter leading into a prolonged spell of exceptionally cold, wet weather during March, April and May, before the weather turned about and the hottest, driest summer in forty years followed, leading into a fairly dry and benign autumn. These extreme weather patterns prevailed across the whole of western and southern Europe, making it the poorest spring for migrants in many years, with the low autumn numbers undoubtedly a consequence of this, too.
Among the more notable natural alterations were the continued erosion of the area around the breach at Medmerry - with most of the remaining vestiges of the old banks and hedges now lost to tidal mud - and the continued reconfiguration of the spits and harbour mouth at Pagham. The Church Norton side has continued to erode considerably in the last year, whilst on the other side a whole new lagoon and beach has formed in front of the houses that looked like they were imminent danger of disappearing into the sea.
One of the undoubted highlights of the winter was the immature Red-necked Grebe that took up residence in the harbour from 6th January until the 28th, often feeding close inshore by the spit and it was also recorded on a number of dates in January from the Bill, though it may well have been a different bird seen there on 6th and 7th April. Autumn records were also received from the Bill, with two birds west on 11th October and further sightings of one bird on the 14th and 23rd and finally two west on 7th November.
It was a very poor start to the year for the Little Owl, with the only spring sightings coming from Bramber Farm, with the first of the year not until 19th April. However, the autumn brought some marginally encouraging reports, with birds seen at Northcommon Farm again, after nearly a year’s absence, Halsey’s Farm, Medmerry and Park Farm, Selsey – with the latter two sites both also having formerly held breeding pairs.