Review of the Year 2018

Review of the Year 2018
compiled by Andy House

Once again it has been a year of highs and lows, with potentially two new species to add to the list, which would bring the total to 342, plus a good selection of rarities and a respectable total of 212 species seen.

The blog is now approaching the end of its sixth year, and it feels a very permanent feature of bird-watching on the Peninsula, with a Twitter and an Instagram account to boot, but it all only works thanks to the many people who kindly contribute their records and pictures during the year. It is a surprisingly common event for the Peninsula to have more reports and pictures than many county sites!

Dedication to the cause! (AH above, & Mrs M))

And we now have some fairly detailed figures on the occurrence of all the 290 species recorded since the Millennium, of which 166 have been seen in every year, 39 in at least half of them and 34 in just one year.


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.

Braving the dismal spring weather at the Bill (above), happy bird-watchers & snow on the beach at Church Norton (AH)




There were, however, some species that bucked the trend, and many of those that did reach our shores, along with some of our scarcer residents, were rewarded with kind summer weather and had a successful breeding season, including our local specialities like Little and Sandwich Terns, Avocets, Corn Buntings and Yellowhammers. 


And there were some special birds, too, including two potential new additions to the Peninsula list in the form of American Royal Tern and Pallid Swift, and some sought-after species that were widely appreciated, like Red-necked and Black-necked Grebes, Stone-Curlew, Black-winged Stilt, Temminck’s Stint, Glaucous and Iceland Gulls, Hooded Crow and Serin, whilst others, including Cory’s Shearwater, Bee-eater and Golden Oriole were the preserve of just the fortunate finders.

The gathering crowd for the American Royal Tern (AH)


Fortunately, there were not too many geographical changes this year – as they tend to involve our local landowners’ never-ending desire to use farmland to build more houses to sell! – but the threat of continuing development is never far away, and, indeed, the huge development on the west side of Pagham village was given outline consent late in the year.

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.

The new lagoon on Pagham Spit (AH)


Among the more modest changes were the plugging of the hole in the side of the Ferry and the completion of the splendid new hide and adjacent Discovery area, and the erection of some sturdy fencing on Tern Island which, though it created the rather unattractive impression of a prison-camp in the middle of the harbour, was successful in keeping gulls and terns in and foxes out.



The new Ferry hide (above) and a tern’s eye view of the new fencing on Tern Island (IL)


The Birds

As in previous years, this is a list of the bird-watching highlights - and interesting and unusual reports of more familiar birds - rather than a full report, and has concentrated on the birds rather than the finders. Records of rarer species are only included where there is likely to be a description submitted to the SOS.

Divers

There were reasonable – if unremarkable – numbers of Red-throated Divers about early in the year, but it was a very good spring for the species, with an impressive 781 logged east off the Bill, including a peak of 118 on 4th March, though movement all but ended by 18th April, and the last of just eight May records was on the 18th. The first returning bird was off the Bill on the early date of 24th September, but very few were then seen until well into November


Red-throated Diver at Church Norton on 5th January (AW)


After just a single winter record - from the Bill on 14th January - it was a better spring, too, for Black-throated Divers, with 21 seen heading east past the Bill, including seven on the late date of 7th May, and the last seen on the 20th. The first returning bird was noted on 4th November, a pretty typical date.



Black-throated Diver at the Bill on 3rd April (AH)


Great Northern Diver numbers were unexceptional during the winter, with half a dozen birds seen regularly around the Bill and Medmerry, and a spring peak of 12 birds noted at the Bill on 9th March. As usual, the last of this species is slow to depart, with six birds still present in early May and the last two still present on the 28th. The first returning bird was seen on 13th October, with at least half a dozen settling in to winter.

Great Northern Diver at the Bill on 18th February (AH)

Grebes

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.


Red-necked Grebe at Church Norton on 11th January (AH)

It was a poor start to the year for Slavonian Grebes, with single figure counts off Church Norton until 13 were seen there on 28th January – the same date that 15 (presumably including the aforementioned) were seen off the Bill. In fact, the Bill was often a more reliable site to see the species in the winter, though only one was seen there on a number of dates in March and the last of the spring was at Church Norton on the 25th. The first one back was off the Bill on 2nd November, though numbers remained low until nine were seen there on 2nd December and then 14 on the 16th, though very few were recorded off of Norton, with a peak of just seven on 27th December.

Slavonian Grebe off Church Norton on 15th February (AW)


A very obliging Black-necked Grebe also put in an appearance early in the year, with one showing well on Pagham Lagoon during a spell of horrible weather on 1st and 2nd March.


Black-necked Grebe on Pagham Lagoon on 1st March (JDW)

Seabirds

Rather oddly, given that it was by no means a stormy year, with the wind rarely in the south-west, it was a record spring, and probably a record year for Manx Shearwaters. After the first seven west on 29th March there were totals of 258 east and 58 west seen past the Bill by the end of May, including the biggest flock ever recorded – of 40+ east - on 21st May. Summer numbers were average, with a peak of 21 east on 16th June, whilst there were many more autumn records than of late, including 18 west between 19th and 21st September and very late records of two east on 31st October and one west on 10th November.

Manx Shearwater at the Bill on 24th April (AH)

By contrast, there were only five reports of Balearic Shearwaters during the year – namely two west on 27th July, one east on 9th August, one west on the following day, one west on 23rd August and the last (west) on 27th August.

A Cory’s Shearwater – just the fifth ever seen at the Bill (and on the Peninsula) – went east on the afternoon of 16th June.

For a species that can be seen almost daily off the Bill it was a fairly middling year overall for Gannets, but spring totals ended up quite impressive – with 9209 birds seen, mostly heading eastwards, including 823 on May 11th.

Gannets past the Bill on 19th August (AH)

It was distinctly average start to the year for the Shag, too, with one to four birds seen regularly throughout the winter and on into May, but it was an even poorer autumn, with not much more than a handful of records of odd passing birds at the Bill, though a flock of eight east on 9th December was a notable exception.


Shags at the Bill on 16th December (AH)

Herons

There were only two sightings of Bittern – but both at known wintering locations in January, namely Drayton Pits on the 19th and Chichester Marina Reedbeds on the 30th, so it is to be hoped that both were settled in and just not giving their presence away! Drayton Pit appeared to be hosting a wintering bird late in the year, too, with one seen there on 11th December.

Bittern at Drayton Pit on 11th December (OM)

This was the year of the Cattle Egret, with the Peninsula garnering its share of a big influx into southern England in the early autumn, starting with a single bird at Halsey’s Farm on 24th August and soon followed by a big arrival on 2nd September, with 12 birds together behind the North Wall and another two (presumably different) at Medmerry. The latter two were only seen for a couple more days, but between 10 and 13 birds were seen regularly among the cattle herds in the North Fields until at least 17th September, though numbers declined thereafter as the cattle were removed from the fields, with seven seen on 13th October and just two on the 19th. There was one more twist in the tale though, when a group of up to 21 birds (a new county record) appeared around Marsh Farm, Sidlesham on 4th December, with numbers increasing to new records of 24 birds on the 28th and 26 on the 30th.

Cattle Egrets from the North Wall on 4th September (PB)

There were just three frustratingly brief sightings of Great White Egret – at Medmerry on 24th April, over the Ferry on 5th August and again at Medmerry on 20th August – before one finally gave itself up along the Long Pool on 30th September, seemingly touring every corner of the harbour before its departure on 2nd October. Further birds were then seen between West Wittering and West Itchenor and then (presumably the same bird) over Ivy Lake on 17th November, at the North Wall on 22nd November, at Drayton Pit on 14th December and then Ivy Lake on the 17th and 23rd.

Great White Egret at Church Norton on 1st October (BI)

It was an extraordinary year of two halves for the Spoonbill, with the total for the first six months comprising just a couple of records from the harbour in early January and one seen flying over Church Norton on 12th May, whilst the total number of birds seen in the latter half probably exceeded 40. There were just a handful of reports in July and August, but then two took up residence in the harbour from 18th Sept, followed by a succession of multiple sightings, including 19 – the biggest flock ever seen on the Peninsula – over the harbour on the 25th, with another five over on the 29th, five more in the harbour between 15th and 17th October and four over the Ferry on 27th October, whilst throughout the whole autumn there were almost daily reports of one or two more settled birds until the last on 8th November.

Spoonbills over Church Norton on 29th September (AH)

Delightful though it is to see one, it will be hard to get a White Stork accepted as wild these days, with free-flying ‘released’ birds loose in the county, and the ragged wings of the one seen at Medmerry on 11th September and in the harbour two days later definitely fitted that category. A flock of five over the North Wall on 15th September, later seen over Hampshire, were also considered to be of dubious origin.

White Stork at Church Norton on 13th August (GaH)

Wildfowl


A single White-fronted Goose seen going east past the Bill on 7th April was the first in over a decade there and was the only record of the spring, with the only other report being of four that went west over Pagham Lagoon and then the harbour on 30th November.

Spring passage of Dark-bellied Brent Geese was above average at 4100 birds east, but was mostly in a fairly narrow time frame between late March and early April, including big days of 1070 east on 26th March and 1097 east on 3rd April. As usual, a dozen birds summered around Fishbourne Creek, but unusually a lone bird summered in Pagham Harbour, where three west offshore on 7th July were also seen. The mild autumn meant a late return, with 510 past the Bill on 28th October being the first big movement, though encouragingly, after two poor years, there were a respectable number of juveniles among those back in the harbour.

Juvenile Brent Goose at Church Norton on 2nd November (AW)

What started as a fairly typical year for Pale-bellied Brent Geese – with two seen at Church Norton on 29th March and one east at the Bill on 3rd April – ended up being a remarkable one, when a flock of seven birds turned up in the harbour on the improbable date of 7th July, remaining until 23rd August. Finally, in December one was with the big Dark-bellied Brent Goose flock at Medmerry on the 7th and at Church Norton on the 29th.

Pale-bellied Brent Geese from the Long Pool on 2nd July (AH)

The six very shy Barnacle Geese that dropped in on Medmerry before Christmas and remained until 6th January had good credentials, as did a lone bird that popped up among the Brent Geese flocks at the North Wall, Fishbourne Creek and East Head early in the year. More contentious were three that passed the Bill on 22nd May and were seen several times subsequently there and at Medmerry, and a flock of 16 that went over the North Wall and were then at Medmerry on 7th July. Certainly, the first three appeared at the same time as a small flock did likewise at Portland, and their view was that they were wild. And of course, there was a wild flock of Pale-bellied Brent Geese also at large in the area in the middle of the summer!

Barnacle Geese at the Bill on 22nd May (AH)

After a couple of years with many reports, Egyptian Goose reverted to its former scarcity status for most of the year, with just four records – of two on Ivy Lake on 30th March, singles there on 3rd April and on the Breech Pool on 24th June and at the Ferry on 29th August before a flurry of December records reversed the trend. A flock of seven  going west over the harbour on the 8th was followed by a flock of eight (possibly a Peninsula record) at Runcton Farm from the 17th until the year's end and finally two were on Ivy Lake on the 24th.

Egyptian Goose at Ivy Lake on 30th March (BI)

A Ruddy Shelduck turned up on the east side of the harbour on 3rd July, before relocating and remaining at Medmerry until the 18th. There was one further record of it – or possibly a different bird – from the same location on 22nd August.

Ruddy Shelduck from the North Wall on 7th July (AH)

There was a remarkable record of Shelducks breeding at the Bill – with a pair (and occasionally two) hanging around the beach and big beach-side gardens for much of April and May - culminating with an adult and eight very small ducklings being seen on the sea on 8th June.

Shelduck family at the Bill on 8th June (OM)

After a bumper year last year, and with a stable breeding population barely ten miles away, the Mandarin proved very elusive again in 2018, with just a solitary record – of a drake in a roadside ditch in Sidlesham – on 31st March.

Mandarin in Sidlesham on 31st March (JW)

It was another poor year for Garganey – but at least the drake at Chichester Marina Reedbeds on 20th March and the pair seen at Medmerry on 7th and 10th April were obliging enough for those that went looking for them. The only other records were of a drake east past the Bill on 3rd April and an unconfirmed report from Medmerry of two on 19th July.

Garganey at Chichester Marina Reed-beds on 20th March (AH)

Having only very recently colonised the south of the Peninsula, the Gadwall has gone from strength to strength, with confirmed breeding at Church Norton (quite possibly on Tern Island!), the Ferry, the Long Pool and the North Wall, whilst at Ivy Lake there were over 50 juveniles seen on 12th July.

Gadwall family at the Ferry on 12th June (AH)

The Pochard population consolidated its stronghold of the Drayton Pits, with four confirmed families this summer, though there were no reports from Ivy Lake.

Pochard family on Drayton Pits on 4th July (OM)

A drake Scaup that settled briefly on East Beach Pond during a storm on 18th March was a real surprise, though it very quickly flew off out to sea. More obliging was a female that settled on the Stilt Pool between 23rd March and 2nd April, whilst there was also a record from the Bill, where four birds (three of them drakes) went east on 25th March.

Scaup at Medmery on 23rd March (BI)

The Long-tailed Duck on Honer Reservoir, first seen in the previous November, remained faithful to the site until 10th April, though where it went during frequent absences remained unknown.

Long-tailed Duck on Honer Reservoir on 2nd February (AH)

A lone female Eider remained around the harbour until well into the spring and may have accounted for the records from Medmerry in late May and off the Bill in June and August. At the Bill 11 east on 2nd April was the best day-count, whilst six together offshore on 28th May was unusual for the time of year.

Eider in Pagham Harbour on 22nd Feb (AH)

A group of five Velvet Scoters took up residence off Church Norton and the Bill during January and February, last seen on 2nd March, but it was a very poor spring for sea passage, with just ten birds seen between 11th March and 27th April. The first two of the autumn went east past the Bill on 21st October, with one or two seen there on a number of dates thereafter.

Velvet Scoters at Church Norton on 9th February (AW)

Common Scoters, by contrast, were in quite short supply early in the year, but ended up with the second highest spring total this century (and just pipping last year), with 7141 bird east, including a peak of 854 on 6th April. There are always birds offshore in the summer, but 104 east on 15th June was still quite exceptional.

Common Scoter off the Bill on 17th March (AH)

Up to six wintering Goldeneye around the harbour was fairly typical of recent years, with the last three seen on 10th March, but there were barely more than half a dozen seen in Fishbourne Creek, a far cry from the counts of 30 and 40 made twenty years ago. The first four birds were back on Pagham Lagoon on 22nd November.


Goldeneye at Church Norton on 16th December (AH)

For the first time, Goosanders fully over-wintered, with two redheads being seen regularly around the harbour mouth right up to the end of March, and a last report (of one of them) on 3rd April. The only other record came from Selsey Bill on 1st April, when (possibly the same) two went west. Two redheads re-appeared in the harbour mouth on 2nd November and stayed for a few days, with three seen there on the 17th, with the last reported on the 21st. Also, three turned up at East Head on 6th November, but didn’t stay, two popped up briefly in the harbour on 24th December and a drake was on Ivy Lake on the 28th.

Goosander at Church Norton on 26th February (AW)

Raptors

Hen Harrier remains a very scarce bird these days, with a ring-tail seen over Northcommon Farm on 2nd May, a report from the North Wall on 29th September and fleeting views to the west of the harbour on 17th and 22nd November being the only records.

There were barely a dozen Marsh Harrier reports in the first half of the year – and most of those in April, but from mid-August onwards into the autumn records increased dramatically, with almost daily sightings from the harbour and Medmerry, with a bird seen to be going to roost behind the North Wall on a number of occasions.

Marsh Harrier over the North Wall on 15th February (AH)

There remains a bias towards spring records of Red Kites, with 25 of the 30 or so received coming in the first half of the year, including the two biggest gatherings yet seen – seven thermalling over the North Wall on 20th April and then a group of 11 seen following a plough at Apuldram on 6th June.

Red Kites over the North Wall on 20th April (AH)

After a quiet spring, with just three records – on 2nd and 29th April and 2nd May, all from the harbour, and an unexpected half dozen sightings in June and July, there was something of a return to what we nowadays consider normal numbers of Osprey sightings during the autumn, with at least 15 reports received, including one flying out to sea at the Bill on 1st Sept and a late last date of 16th October.

Osprey over Church Norton on 7th August (DM)

It was a very poor year for the Hobby, undoubtedly one of the species adversely affected by the very dire spring weather in the Mediterranean, with the late date of 15th April for the first record (at Church Norton) and just six seen at the Bill. A family party (of five birds) over Church Norton on 3rd June was an unexpected bonus, but the first returning bird was not seen until 23rd August and there were barely a handful of autumn records until early October, when a late flurry of reports concluded with the last at Medmerry on the 12th.

Juvenile Hobby at Church Norton on 8th October (AW)

Half a dozen widely scattered reports of Merlins – including of one flying in off the sea at the Bill on 11th March – was a fairly typical start to the year, and the autumn was in similar vein, after a first at Park Farm, Selsey on 1st September, with a flurry of September and October records from Medmerry in particular before the frequency of sightings began to decline, though at least one bird appeared to be wintering locally.

Merlin at the North Wall on 7th October (AB)

Sadly, there was no repeat of last year’s breeding success for the pair of Peregrines in the harbour, with their eggs predated early in the season, but at least the same pair (a very large female and very small male) reappeared in the autumn to reclaim their home island.

Peregrine at Church Norton on 2nd September (AW)

Gamebirds/Rails

Against all the odds, Grey Partridges continue to survive on the Peninsula, with one report from Park Farm, Selsey, a handful of sightings from farmland north of the harbour and the farmland to the north of the harbour, and a few more from Medmerry - where at least one pair was known to have bred successfully – being the sum of proof.

Grey Partridge at Marsh Farm, Sidlesham on 4th June (AH)

One of the most unusual occurrences of the year was the appearance of the first ever Water Rail at the Bill on 26th March. It remained through a period of cold and wet weather until 3rd April, skulking in the Hebe bushes in the Bill House garden and periodically darting out to feed in the puddles in the car-park, fairly oblivious to a steady stream of admirers.

Water Rail at the Bill on 3rd April (AH)

Waders

One of the undoubted highlights of the year for the locals was the appearance of a twitchable Stone-curlew at Porthole Farm (Medmerry) on 1st May. Favouring the adjacent maize-stubble fields, it could just melt away in plain sight at times, but during its four day stay it gave good views to almost everyone who went to look for it.

Stone-curlew at Medmerry on 1st May (AB)

After a blank year last year, a Black-winged Stilt appeared on the Ferry on 3rd June, though sadly it was gone by midday, possibly unsettled by the cattle that decided to invade the pool from the adjoining fields!

Black-winged Stilt on the Ferry on 3rd June (SH)

Avocets certainly seem fully established on the Peninsula these days, with a wintering flock of over 50 birds in the harbour and a thriving breeding colony at Medmerry, where 76 birds were back in situ by19th March and at least 30 pairs bred, though with slightly lower productivity than last year. Also, for only the second time, a pair reared a chick to adulthood on the Ferry.

Avocet chick on the Ferry on 18th July (AH)

Two or three pairs of Little Ringed Plovers were successful, too, at Medmerry, where the first two back were seen on 14th March, though attempts behind the north Wall and on the Ferry probably failed. The latter site had a constant presence of juveniles from late July until the last two of the year were seen on 12th September.

Little Ringed Plover at Medmerry on 22nd June (BI)

The extremely harsh weather in mid-March brought a huge influx of around 1000 Golden Plovers onto the Peninsula at a time when most of our winterers had already departed. There were 280 along Rectory Lane, Church Norton on the 18th, when c700 were at Ham Farm, Medmerry, with 930 counted at the latter site on the following day and 550 were again at the former site on the 20th, though within another two or three days they had all departed.

Golden Plovers at Church Norton on 18th March (AH)

The restored water level on the Ferry was rewarded on 23rd May, with the first Temminck’s Stint on the Peninsula since 2012, often keeping company with a Little Stint during its brief - if widely appreciated - stay.

Little Stint (left) and Temminck’s Stint on the Ferry on 23rd May (AH)

The first Little Stint of the spring was on the very late date of 22nd May, remaining until the following day, with two at Church Norton on 25th, another on the Ferry the following day and then an unprecedented event, when 15 together were seen on the mud at Church Norton on 31st May. An adult there on 21st July was the first returning bird, but only another five birds were seen before the last ones - at Medmerry and Fishbourne Creek – were seen on 14th September.

It was a pretty poor year for Curlew Sandpipers, with just one spring record – at Church Norton on 25th May, followed by a handful of reports of one or two smartly summer-plumaged birds (probably the same ones), from the North Wall and Church Norton between 19th and 22nd July, and then one at Medmerry on 8th August, but there were only another handful of reports of one or two juvenile from the North Wall between 4th and 15th September, with the last report (of two) from Church Norton on the 19th.

Curlew Sandpiper at Medmerry on 8th August (AH)

Another wader species for which this was a poor year was Sanderling, with only 181 east at the Bill, less than half last spring’s total, though there was some very late movement, notably on 4th June when 18 were at Medmerry with another eight at Church Norton. Seven on the beach at the Bill on 9th August were the first returners, but autumn numbers were very low.

Sanderlings at the Bill on 9th August (AH)

In a generally poor year for waders, Purple Sandpipers bucked the trend, with the pleasing discovery that the two seen last autumn had in fact settled in for the winter on the new sea-defence rocks at Medmerry, occasionally venturing to the Bill, as they remained in the area until 29th April, with a third bird seen with them on 20th March and 14th/15th April. Encouragingly, one bird was seen at the Bill on 12th October and then again on several dates in November.

Purple Sandpipers at the Bill on 22nd March (AH)

The early months of the year proved to be good for Ruff around the North Wall, with regular sightings of various numbers seen, peaking at nine on 22nd January and 17th February, with presumably part of this number accounting for the six on the Ferry between 8th and 10th March. Sadly, the rest of the year did not live up to the early promise, with just one at the latter site on 26th May the only spring record, and only three autumn records – from the North Wall on 14th July and 29th October and from Medmerry on 14th September.

Ruff at the North Wall on 25th January (AH)

There was a respectable showing of six reports of Wood Sandpiper this year, with the first at Medmerry on 7th May, another in the fields behind the North Wall the following day and the remainder from the Ferry on 21st to 23rd May, 24th June and 6th to 8th August.

Wood Sandpiper on the Ferry on 24th June (SH)

Once again, the Ferry was the most reliable site for Green Sandpipers, with one to three wintering birds popping up periodically at both ends of the year, often after a bit of rain, with peaks of four on 14th March and again on 18th October. Away from there, there were just a handful of records from Medmerry, the North Wall and Park Farm, Selsey, plus one at Hunston on 22nd February.

Green Sandpiper at the North Wall on 27th July (AH)

The Common Sandpiper completed its third winter at Medmerry, last seen on 12th April, and appeared to be back in situ again this autumn. Otherwise it was a fairly middling sort of a year for the species, with eight in Ferry Channel on 18th July the biggest count.

Common Sandpiper at Medmerry on 1st February (AH)

The Greenshank, too, over-wintered again at Medmerry, and it, too, was last seen on 12th April and was back again this autumn. Three also wintered at Fishbourne Creek, and were back in the autumn, but there were no reports from East Head. Generally, it was a poor year for the species, though, with no double figure counts – not helped by the high water levels on their favoured roosting site of the Breech Pool during the autumn, with a peak of five there on 20th September being very poor by recent standards. The last report from the harbour was on 15th November, though three were still at East Head on the 30th and three at Fishbourne Creek during December.

Greenshank at Medmerry on 1st September (SH)

At least three Spotted Redshanks over-wintered in the harbour again, but there were no reports from Fishbourne Creek, and there was little evidence of spring migrants, either. However, after the first returning bird on the Ferry on the very early date of 11th June, the second half of the year was much better, with peaks of 12 together seen in the North Wall area on 28th July and 20th September and ten still there on 12th October and at least six on the Ferry on 7th November.

Spotted Redshank in the Ferry Channel on 25th June (AH)

Yet again the wintering Whimbrel remained around its favoured haunts at Church Norton at both ends of the year, but there were no others reported out of migration season. A spring passage total at the Bill of 393 birds east was almost exactly in line with the long-term average.

Whimbrels in Ferry Channel on 25th April (AH)

A spring total of exactly 600 Bar-tailed Godwits east past the Bill was just below the long-term average, but was certainly better than a number of recent years, with the peak day of 29th April, when 225 went east, being exactly the same date as last year. Oddly, two summer-plumaged birds took up residence in the harbour in December.


Bar-tailed Godwit at Church Norton on 10th December (AW)

There were just two Woodcock reported in the spring – in Priory Wood, at Church Norton, on 28th February and at Northcommon Farm on 2nd March, and one autumn one, at Drayton Pits on 26th November.

The regular wintering site in Fishbourne Creek regularly produced one or two Jack Snipe for the year-listers in January, with another (presumably a migrant) on 17th March, whilst elsewhere Ferry Field produced one on 5th February, with another there and one behind the North Wall on 28th February. There were more autumn records than usual, including a number of November sightings from more atypical locations - after one at the traditional site of Fishbourne Creek on the 2nd - such as Church Norton on the 20th, the east side of Medmerry on the 21st and 22nd, and the Ferry on the 27th.

Jack Snipe on the Ferry on 27th November (AH)

After missing out on a Grey Phalarope during a big influx along the South Coast in late September, amends were made when one dropped in close offshore from the Bill for a couple of hours on 18th November, and remarkably popping up again off Church Norton two days later. It, or another, was also reported flying east past the Bill on 12th December.

Grey Phalarope at Church Norton on 20th November (AH)

Skuas

The poor spring weather made it a late and disappointing year for Pomarine Skuas at the Bill – a species that, as the Pom-King challengers always say, ‘likes the sun on its back’ - with the spring’s total being just 37 birds The first was not seen until 4th May, and 14 on 7th May (all after 4pm) was the best day-total, with the last reported on 25th May.

Pomarine Skuas at the Bill on 11th May (BI)

By contrast, it was a well above average year for Arctic Skuas, with 202 seen going east after the first on 30th March, with the peak date of 11th May, when 34 were recorded, being rather late or the species. It was also noticeable that all the early birds were dark-phase individuals, with the first light-phase bird not seen until 15th April. As is usual, odd individuals were seen through the summer and early autumn, with the last at the Bill on 16th October.

Arctic Skua at the Bill on 19th May (AH)

Winter sightings of Great Skua are quite regular these days, though one that toured the harbour before settling out on the mud on 13th January was quite exceptional. The spring total of 110 east was well above average, with 17th April contributing 51 of those, including a memorable flock of seven right over the observers’ heads, and was the second highest day-total ever recorded. Equally memorable was the sight – on 21st April – of one attacking and drowning a Herring Gull. The last of the autumn was seen at the Bill on 20th November.

Great Skua at Church Norton on 13th January (AH)

Gulls

Very few Little Gulls were seen away from the Bill this year, where a middling spring total of 92 birds east was noted, including 42 on 15th April. The only reports from elsewhere were of four east past Medmerry on 10th May and two at Ivy Lake on 14th and 18th April, and no reports in the latter half of the year until four went west, close inshore along Church Norton beach on 21st November, with another past the Bill on the 28th.

Little Gulls at Church Norton on 21st November (AH)

It was an unremarkable year for Kittiwakes, with spring totals of 190 east and 115 west, mostly In May, and though they were regularly recorded, there were no big counts.

Kittiwake at the Bill on 7th November (GH)

Mediterranean Gulls to continue prosper on the Peninsula, and their consolidation took another step this year, with the first confirmed breeding on Tern Island, with six pairs rearing eight young. A gathering of 900 in Fishbourne Creek on 10th August must have been quite a sight!

Juvenile Mediterranean (top) and Black-headed Gulls at Church Norton on 21st July (AH)

Black-headed Gulls, too, had a very successful year on the newly fenced-in Tern Island, with 459 pairs rearing 584 chicks.

The cold weather in March produced the second highest ever day-total of Common Gulls at the Bill, when 563 were counted roosting on the beach on the morning of the 3rd.

Common Gull at the Bill on 3rd March (AH)

Sadly, the decline in numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls visiting the Peninsula in late summer continues, with the first not seen until 3rd July, off the North Wall, with this site contributing the bulk of the dozen or so records – with a peak of just three on 14th July – until the last on 12th October. The only other summer records were of single birds at Medmerry on 14th July, Church Norton on 2nd August and Park Farm, Selsey on 12th August, though a first-year bird appeared to be lingering around the Bill, seen several times during December off Hillfield Road.

Yellow-legged Gull at Church Norton on 2nd August (AW)

Two different Glaucous Gulls graced Church Norton spit in the early part of the year, with a first-winter seen briefly on 19th January, then a more obliging second-winter bird on 16th and 17th February.

Glaucous Gull at Church Norton on 16th February (AH)

And there were possibly three different Iceland Gulls seen, with a second-winter bird at the Bill and then East Beach on 5th March, then again at the Bill on the 14th and 20th, a first-winter bird off the Bill on 3rd April and then an unusual record of one over Porthole Farm, aged as either first- or second-winter and seen at several inland sites in the county in the preceding days.

Iceland Gull at East Beach on 5th March (AH)

Terns

Star-billing most definitely goes to the American Royal Tern that appeared on Tern Island on the afternoon of 19th June, roosting overnight and departing at dawn on the following morning. Most local and county birders caught up with it as it showed well to dusk, but it left the roost at 4.37am, to the dismay of all but the earliest risers among the huge crowd that had assembled, and was re-found that evening at Portland.

American Royal Tern at Church Norton on 19th June (AH)

It was a very good year for Sandwich Terns, with up to six seen regularly during the early months and a well-above average 4847 logged going east at the Bill during spring migration, including over 2000 between 2nd and 7th April. Best of all, though, the improved fencing made it the best year ever for breeding in the harbour, with 29 pairs raising 18 chicks from their relatively recently established colony on Tern island. Numbers remained quite high throughout the autumn, including an unprecedented 18 going east past the Bill on 17th November, and up to eight were seen regularly into December.

Sandwich Terns at Church Norton on 24th July (AH)

Unfortunately, the opposite was true for Common Terns, with the spring total (after the first on 24th March) of 3487 ‘Commic’ Terns past the Bill being well below average again, albeit better than last year, and an almost complete failure of the colony in the harbour, with just 15 pairs raising a meagre five chicks. Numbers were poor in the late summer, too, though an arrival of 30+ juveniles in the harbour on 7th August was unexpected, whilst the last of the year were two west past the Bill on 5th October.

Common Terns at the Bill on 14th May (AH)

Just 45 Arctic Terns were definitely identified during spring passage at the Bill, despite a conscientious effort this year to try to separate out as many of the ‘Commic’ Terns as possible, suggesting that this species may be much scarcer than formerly imagined. One on Chichester Gravel Pits on 5th and 6th May was the only other one noted until an exceptionally late adult bird dropped into Church Norton on 9th November and was (presumably) seen again on the 17th off the Bill.

Arctic Tern on Ivy Lake on 5th May (GH)

Only one Roseate Tern was seen, passing the Bill among a Common Tern flock on 20th May.

A spring total of 307 Little Terns east past the Bill, after the first five on 7th April, was respectable, but better news was that once again the breeding colony around Tern Island prospered and 20 pairs fledged 13 young. Remarkably, the bulk of the colony left on 23rd July, exactly the same day as last year, though a few more stragglers hung around through August, and there was a very late one seen off the Bill on 27th September.

Little Terns at the Bill on 16th May (AH)

The first Black Tern of the year at the Bill, on 7th April, was the earliest ever record, but it was another poor spring, with just 18 seen in total, including eight on the late date of 24th May. Away from the Bill, one was at Church Norton on 2nd May, two were there and another two were on Ivy Lake on the very stormy afternoon of 26th August and the last of the year was at the former site on 1st September.

Black Tern on Ivy Lake on 26th August (AB)

Auks

There was no repeat of last year’s auk bonanza, with few big counts, but a lot of days with a few ‘auk sp’ noted, and once again, of those identified to species, Razorbills vastly outnumbered Guillemots

Guillemot at Church Norton on 3rd October (AW)

Pigeons, Owls etc


Sadly, it is inevitable that there will soon be a year without a Turtle Dove on the Peninsula, but fortunately not yet, as it just crept onto this year’s list, with one reported at Nunnington Farm, West Wittering on 6th/7th May and two reports from Medmerry on 17th July and 11th August, none of which were seen by more than the original observers.

Like many summer visitors, 2018 was a poor year for Cuckoos, with the first not recorded until 19th April, on the North Wall. Numbers were low at all their regular haunts, and most had fallen quiet by early June. The last of the year – a juvenile – was seen at Medmerry on 31st July.

Cuckoo at the Ferry on 3rd June (AB)

One of the more pleasing aspects of the year was the breeding success of the Barn Owl, particularly after such a cold and wet spring, with at least three pairs – two at Medmerry and one to the north of Sidlesham - known to have successfully fledged young.

Barn Owl at Church Norton on 10th March (SH)

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.

Little Owl at Northcommon Farm on 28th August (AH)

Sadly, the Tawny Owls vacated their box in the Discovery Area by the Visitor Centre; doubtless there was just too much going on there during the improvement work. Otherwise, they were typically thinly spread, heard but unseen in a number of suitable woodlands, including three different ones calling to each other in Sidlesham on 16th March.

There were only five sightings of Short-eared Owl in the first half of the year, one in January, three in March and the last at the Bill on 4th May, when one was seen to come in off the sea. It was a better autumn, though, after the first at Church Norton on 28th August, with at least 15 reports, including twos at Medmerry on 24-26th September and on the east side of the harbour on 22nd October, and another in off the sea at the Bill on 28th October.

Short-eared Owl at the Bill on 28th October (AH)

Amazingly, for the fourth year running, a Nightjar was seen offshore at the Bill, on 16th May, and what was even more remarkable was that it was present for fully 50 minutes, clearly feeding over the water at least half a mile out until it gradually drifted away east.

What will be one of the birds of the year, if the tricky identification can be clinched and accepted, was a Pallid Swift seen and photographed over Church Norton spit on 13th October. The date, the weather conditions and the photographs look promising, but we will have to await the British Birds Rarities Committee’s verdict in the fullness of time.

Pallid Swift at Church Norton on 13th October (AW)

Unfortunately. Common Swifts were one of the species clearly affected by the poor spring, with numbers low throughout, although the date of the first sightings – of 50 over Ivy Lake and one over the Bill on 24th April – was fairly early. The last of the year was at the Bill on 15th September, though a bird which may have been of either species was seen over Sidlesham on 10th November.

Common Swift at Medmerry on 11th August (AH)

There was just one report of Ring-necked Parakeet, from the Slipe Field on the east of the harbour, on 26th March.

The first Bee-eater seen since 2013 dropped in briefly at Church Norton car-park on 23rd May, but frustratingly did not linger, being seen once nearby as it departed west. Possibly the same bird, or another, was seen at Medmerry just a few days later, on 2nd June, but again only briefly.

Bee-eater at Church Norton on 23rd May (AW)

As usual, it was hard to prove if Kingfishers bred locally, but one seen carrying food at Drayton Pit on 13th May was an encouraging sight. Otherwise, it was reasonable year for them, with the first ones back around the harbour by mid-August.

Kingfisher at Fishbourne Creek on 14th November (AB)

After a blank year last year, it was good news that there were three Wrynecks seen, but unfortunately all of them were incredibly unobliging. The first, on the very typical date of 30th August at Medmerry was only seen a couple of times, one along the beach at Church Norton on 2nd and 3rd September was perhaps seen half a dozen times over the two days despite a lot of people searching for it, and the last, on the North Wall on 24th September was only seen by the finder.

Wryneck at Church Norton on 3rd September (BI)

Larks/Pipits/Hirundines

There was a pretty typical showing of Woodlarks, with three records of fly-overs during visible migration watches in October, namely two over the Bill on the 19th, one over Church Norton on the following day and, finally, another three over the Bill on the 28th.

Woodlarks over the Bill on 19th October (GH)

A Tree Pipit in off the sea at Medmerry on 24th April was the sole spring record, and it was very poor autumn, too, with singles at Church Norton and Park Farm, Selsey on 2nd September, and, remarkably, two over the latter location on 8th September, with what were apparently two different birds dropping into bushes there.

Tree Pipit at Park Farm, Selsey on 2nd September (SH)

Possibly because it is easily overlooked and hard to identify until it begins to acquire summer-plumage, the Scandinavian Rock Pipit seen at Fishbourne Creek between 30th January and 3rd March was only the fourth accepted record for the Peninsula, and the first since 2008.

Scandinavian Rock Pipit at Fishbourne Creek on 26th February (BI)

The first two Yellow Wagtails of a distinctly average spring were at Warner Lane paddocks on 13th April, whilst the spring total at the Bill was just 30 birds, including 11 over on 29th April. The first returning bird was back on the early date of 4th July, at Park Farm, Selsey, but numbers were never large, with 100 at Marsh Farm, Sidlesham on 11th September being the best, and the last flourish of over 20 birds, spread between the Bill and Medmerry was on the fairly early date of 27th September.

Yellow Wagtail on the North Wall on 3rd August (AH)

The first Sand Martin of a very meagre spring for the species was over Ivy Lake on the late date of 28th March, whilst the Bill saw none in March and April and just three in May. The first two returners were at Medmerry on the early date of 23rd June, but there were no big build-ups during July, with c200 birds around the North Wall on 5th August the first gathering of any size, and counts of around 500 at Medmerry on 22nd and at Church Norton on 28th August being the biggest. The last bird was seen at the Bill on 6th October.

Sand Martin at the North Wall on 2nd July (OM)

A Swallow over Ivy Lake on 29th March was the first of a bad year for this species, too, with anecdotal reports from many sites of less than half the usual number of nests being occupied, though the pair in the hide at Church Norton took up residence once again. Numbers seemed okay in the autumn, though – for example, there were an estimated 4000 Swallows going east over Medmerry in three hours on 26th September, with other counts that day including 2600 at the Bill and over 1000 at the North Wall, and there were smaller, but still impressive, numbers on the following day. Remarkably, there were two December records - from Church Norton on the 3rd and Medmerry on the 10th.

Swallow at Church Norton on 19th May (AH)

The first (ten) House Martins of the year were over Ivy Lake on 9th April, and, possibly because they migrate a little later in spring, seemed a little less adversely affected by the poor weather than their congeners, with numbers around the Bill in the summer, for example, pretty similar to other years. Return passage was notably later than last year, with a gathering of at least 1000 birds over Halsey’s Farm and the North Wall on 3rd September being the start of a respectable autumn, with at least 1000 birds over Medmerry and 300 at the Bill on the 27th being the last big count, and the last four of the year were seen at the latter site on 20th October.

House Martins at the Bill on 22nd June (AH)

Thrushes

The reasonable numbers of Redwings and Fieldfares present in the autumn continued into the new year, with, for instance, 100 and 200 respectively seen in paddocks at South Mundham on 4th January. Generally, though, Fieldfares were the more numerous, with 130 at Medmerry on 28th January and 100 at Hunston on 2nd March being the best, with Redwing numbers much lower. The very mild autumn meant numbers remained low initially, with 15 Fieldfares behind the North Wall on 18th October the only double figure count of either species until early December, when at least 250 Fieldfares and 100 Redwings were uncovered between Chalder and Bramber Farms on the 6th.

Redwing and Fieldfare at Hunston on 2nd March (AH)

There were just two reports of Nightingales singing briefly – along the Tramway on 21st April and what was presumably a failed breeder from elsewhere at Marsh Farm Sidlesham on 4th June.

After a suggestion of Stonechats breeding locally over the last couple of years, there was confirmation this year, with two families seen during the summer at Medmerry and another at Marsh Farm, Sidlesham, tracked from a singing male in April to a family party in June.

Juvenile Stonechat at Marsh Farm, Sidlesham on 1st June (AH)

The year’s first Whinchat was at the North Wall paddocks on 14th April, but there were only two more spring records – of one inYeoman’s Field on 21st April and two at Medmerry on 1st May. The first bird back was there, too, on 5th August, but numbers were generally low, with 25th August, when a count of 11 at Marsh Farm, Sidlesham, plus another nine at other locations, being the only double figure day. The last of the year was at Medmerry on 19th October.

Whinchat at Halsey’s Farm on 17th September (AH)

The first Northern Wheatears of the year- three of them – were at the Bill on 11th March, a day ahead of last year, and, unusually, a week ahead of the first one in the harbour. Like so many other species, though, it was a year of poor numbers, both in spring and autumn, with a spring peak of 19 at Medmerry on 1st May and an autumn one of around 40 birds, divided between the Bill, Pagham Harbour and Medmerry on 13th September. Once again, the last report was in October – at the North Wall on the 22nd.

Northern Wheatear at the Bill on 25th March (AH)

It was poor spring for Common Redstarts, too, with barely a handful of records after the first one at Northcommon Farm on 11th/12th April. Return passage wasn’t much better, after the first at Church Norton on 15th August, but four that settled in around the hedges at Halsey’s Farm from 31st August to 8th September were widely appreciated. The last of the year was at Church Norton on the same date - 29th September – as last year.

Common Redstart at Northcommon Farm on 11th April (AH)

Just one Black Redstart wintered around the breach area at Medmerry this year, though one seen at Sidlesham Sewage Works on 17th February could have been over-wintering. Six widely spread individuals between 22nd March and 13th April was the sum of spring passage. One seen at East Beach on 8th October was an early returner, with the next reports not occurring until 5th November, when there were a flurry of records around Selsey (but no-where else) over the ensuing days, including at least four at Toe End (Medmerry) on the 19th, at least two of which remained into December.

Black Redstart at Medmerry on 19th November (AH)

Warblers/’crests/Flycatchers

Only two Grasshopper Warblers were recorded – and then heard, but not seen – with the first in Seal Square, near the Bill on 14th April and then one in the Bill House garden on 29th April.

The first Sedge Warbler was at Church Norton on 7th April, whilst the first Reed Warblers were five days later, at Drayton Pit and Chichester Marina Reed-beds. One of the latter took up residence, singing noisily for two days from 23rd May, in the small ornamental garden in Broadreeds Estate, near the Bill. Both species appeared less badly affected than some by the adverse weather spring weather, and average numbers were recorded in autumn before the last individual of both species were seen along the North Wall on 26th September.

Sedge Warbler along Long Pool on 16th June (above) & Reed Warbler there on 22nd June (AH)

However, one species that did seem badly hit was Willow Warbler, with a very mediocre spring, after the first, at Selsey Bill, on 27th March, though the afore-mentioned site did witness a fall of 40+ birds in poor weather on 29th April, and possibly an even worse autumn, with few recorded and a modest 30 around the North Wall on 20th August being the peak. The last of the year was at Church Norton on the late date of 7th October.

Willow Warblers at Medmerry on 14th August (AH)

Chiffchaffs also seemed well down in the spring, though most traditional sites were occupied during the breeding season, and autumn numbers were very poor, too, with no obvious influxes and few lingering on into the winter.

Chiffchaff at the Bill on 24th September (AH)

A fine Wood Warbler was singing from the car-park outside the Visitor Centre early on 3rd May, but sadly it did not linger long.

Wood Warbler at Pagham Harbour Visitor Centre on 3rd May (AB)

There was also just a single record of Yellow-browed Warbler, with one around the gardens just inland from the Bill on 15th October.

Yellow-browed Warbler at the Bill on 15th October (SH)

The first Common Whitethroat of the year was at Medmerry on 10th April, and breeding numbers seemed reasonable compared to reports from elsewhere, with autumn peaks of 40 at Medmerry on 17th August and similar around the Tramway three days later. The last of the year was at Marsh Farm, Sidlesham on the late date of 17th October.

Common Whitethroat at Church Norton on 18th June (AH)

Numbers seemed respectable for Lesser Whitethroats, too, after a first singing bird heard in a Sidlesham garden on 14th April. The last of the year was along the Tramway on the fairly early date of 24th September.

Lesser Whitethroat along the Tramway on 31st July (AH)

Garden Warblers seemed thin on the ground this year, with just a handful of spring records after the first at Church Norton on 16th April, and there were relatively few in the autumn, before the last of the year along the Tramway on the early date of 25th August.

Garden Warbler at the North Wall on 4th Aug (BI)

The only wintering Blackcap was seen in Runcton from 26th January until 11th February, whilst the first migrant was at Church Norton on 26th March. Numbers of this species seemed down, too, particularly in the autumn, with the last report on 17th November at Park Farm, Selsey.


Blackcap at Church Norton on 22nd April (AH)

Two Dartford Warblers successfully wintered in the gorsey banks of Medmerry, being recorded up to 7th March, whilst a couple of summer records there – on 7th July and 22nd August were unusual. An autumn bird was at Church Norton on 15th October and several subsequent dates, whilst at least one was back at Medmerry by 25th October.

Dartford Warbler at Medmerry on 21st February (AB)

There were perhaps half a dozen wintering Firecrests locally, with Church Norton, Pagham Lagoon, Sidlesham churchyard and Park Farm, Selsey all logging birds early in the year, with probable migrants appearing from mid-March, including at the Bill on the 14th and 16th. Also, a late one was in Church Lane, Pagham on 10th May. The first one back in the autumn was at Church Norton on 14th October, with birds present from early November at most of the regular wintering sites.

Firecrest at Sidlesham churchyard on 7th February (OM)

The 9th November saw the biggest influx of Goldcests for a number of years, with 20-40 birds seen at every location watched and several hundred logged around the area in total – one wonders just how many disappeared unrecorded into the gardens of Selsey and Sidlesham!

Goldcrest at East Head on 5th November (MR)

The spring produced just one Pied Flycatcher - at Northcommon Farm on 15th/16th May, but compared to most other migrants, it was truly a bumper autumn, with up to 20 different individuals seen. The first was along the North Wall on 3rd August, followed by two in Selsey, one in Birdham and one at Northcommon Farm on the 4th, with two there on the 6th and one there on the 10th and 13th, two at Church Norton the 20th and then an unprecedented five together at Northcommon Farm on the following day, with further records in Selsey on the 22nd, Ferry Corner on the 25th and the last of the year at Church Norton on 2nd September.

Pied Flycatcher at Northcommon Farm on 21st August (DM)

The first Spotted Flycatchers were quite early this year, by their standards, with two at Northcommon Farm and one near the North Wall on 29th April, though the only days of any notable numbers were 25th and 26th May, with eight at Medmerry on the latter date particularly noteworthy. Return passage was poor, too, with no obvious falls and a fairly early last date of 2nd October, when one was at Church Norton.

Spotted Flycatcher at Church Norton on 18th May (AW)

Starlings/Tits/Crows/etc

The first Golden Orioles since 2012, and only the second and third this century, were both heard and sound-recorded, but not seen, at West Itchenor on 1st May and at Church Norton on 25th May.

The only Bearded Tits were seen at Chichester Marina Reedbeds, with a group of at least five there on 5th April, and then a single bird two days later. Surprisingly, there were no autumn reports.

Bearded Tit at Chichester Marina reed-bed on 5th April (DM)

Coat Tits were reported from West Wittering, Itchenor Pond and Sidlesham churchyard early in the year, whilst a little flurry of autumn reports from Pagham and Sidlesham churchyards followed on from the first two at the former site on 16th October, and one was at Drayton Pit on 11th December.

Coal Tit in Pagham churchyard on 16th October(OM)

All the few Nuthatch reports came from the western fringes of the Peninsula, with one seen in West Wittering on 7th January and reports from the wood at Chalkdock Marsh, West Itchenor on 1st May and 9th/10th October.

The majority of Tree-creepers, too, came from West Wittering, Itchenor Pond and Apuldram in the first part of the year, but two at Ivy Lake on 17th January (with one seen four days later), and up to four around a small copse north of Hunston on 17th February redressed the balance, somewhat.

Tree-creeper at Itchenor Pond on 20th February (AH)

Even in a remarkable summer for northern birds the discovery of a Hooded Crow at Medmerry on 7th June seemed an improbable event, but after going missing for a month it was then seen fairly regularly right through into December, most reliably around the breach at Medmerry, but straying to Marsh Farm, Sidlesham on 25th August and Church Norton spit on 27th October.

Hooded Crow at Medmerry on 2nd November (AH)

Presumably the Ravens we see are passing through, with a strong bias again for March/April and August/September records, though there were records for most months, with four together seen at Church Norton on 5th April and 12th September.

Raven at Church Norton on 27th August (AW)

Sparrows/Finches/Buntings

Last autumn’s influx of Bullfinches produced a plethora of records in the early months of the year, particularly around Church Norton, the Visitor Centre/Tramway area, Sidlesham village and Chichester Marina. There were just a handful of records after March, though, including one at Halsey’s Farm on 5th May, the Visitor Centre/Tramway area on 26th July and 25th August (with two seen), the North Wall on the following day and Church Norton on 26th October.

Bullfinch in Sidlesham on 20th January (AH)

By contrast, last autumn's national influx of Hawfinches continued to pass us by, despite literally hundreds of birds present less than ten miles north of the Peninsula, with just four records, thus – one at Apuldram on 9th January, one at Church Norton on 27th March, two at Medmerry on 8th April and one in a West Wittering garden on12th May.

Hawfinch at West Wittering (GM)

There were fly-over records of Crossbills this autumn, at the Visitor centre on 20th October and the Bill on 28th October, the first reports since 2013.

There were two records of Serin, both conceivably of the same bird, seen at the Bill on 3rd May and at Ham (Medmerry) on the following day.

Serin at the Bill on 3rd May (DM)

Siskins were only reported three times in the spring – from a West Wittering garden on 30th March and 2th April and from Church Norton, where four were noted on 13th April, but it was a better autumn, after three at the Bill on 15th September, with small numbers counted on many days until the end of October, including a peak of 30 on 22nd September. Also, on 1st November about 20 were at Ivy Lake – a site that looks very suitable, but very rarely ever records the species.

Siskin at West Wittering on 2nd April (GM)

It was a poor year for Lesser Redpolls, though, with a solitary spring bird, at the Bill on 11th April, and only three autumn records, oddly all of two birds, from the North Wall on 20th October and from the Bill on 24th and 28th October.

A regular feeding station was established at Medmerry, and the effort was fully justified with an astonishing count of 1240 Linnets on 2nd March.

Linnet at Medmerry on 4th June (AH)

The cold snap in March brought a bonus in the form of up to five Bramblings that settled in around the feeders outside the Visitor Centre on 18th March, with the last to depart on the 27th, when one was also heard, but not seen, at Church Norton. There was also one in a West Wittering garden on 19th March, seen again on the 30th, with two there the following day and three on 2nd April. The first autumn bird went over the Bill on 20th October, with a dozen or so seen over the next couple of weeks, including six on the 28th, whilst, unusually, one was in a garden on Drift Lane, Selsey on 26th November.

Brambling at the Visitor Centre on 19th March (AH)

The only record of Snow Buntings for the year was a belated report of two at East Head on 24th November, followed by one there on the 29th.

It appeared to be a decent year for our Corn Buntings, with at least six singing birds noted around the eastern half of Medmerry, though sadly one of their favoured areas of waste ground near the breach has now been consumed by the caravan park. Given their usual scarcity in autumn, a group of anything up to 14 birds that took up residence along the west side of Medmerry was a welcome development.There was also a very unusual record of what was presumably a migrant bird on Church Norton spit on 11th October.

Corn Bunting at Medmerry on 15th May (AH)

Yellowhammers would seem to be going from strength to strength at Medmerry, with the sympathetic farming practises and winter feeding doubling the breeding population to over 30 pairs this year. They remain scarce away from there, Apuldram and the North Wall area, though there was an exceptional record from the Bill, where one was seen in the gardens on 25th March.

Yellowhammer at Medmerry on 4th June (AH)







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