Review of the Year 2019

Review of the Year 2019


compiled by Andy House



As the 20th year of bird-watching in the New Millennium draws to a close, it is perhaps reassuring to learn that this year's total of 217 species on the Peninsula has not been bettered once in that time (though it was equalled in 2002), and that despite all the pressures on the natural world, many species would appear to have bounced back after last year's awful spring weather.


There were many positives to take, including continuing good fortune for the tern colony in Pagham Harbour and evidence of continued colonisation by species such as Cattle and Great White Egrets and Marsh Harrier, whilst the much improved autumn numbers suggest a better breeding season both locally and to the north of us.


Another successful summer on Tern Island (AH)

And the Blog passed another milestone in its seventh year, as we recorded the millionth page-view in June.


Blog milestone (BI)



Fortunately, most of the year's weather was unremarkable, with a fairly dry first half of the year and a pleasant summer followed by an increasingly wet and windy autumn (although not as bad as in some parts of the country).


The only snow of the year in the harbour on 1st February (above), a winter sunset over Medmerry & Selsey Bill from the sea  (AH)




And there weren't too many dramatic changes to the topography of the Peninsula, though the ever-present threat of development hangs over a number of sites around both Selsey and Pagham village, and management/ownership issues continue to hamper the potential of other sites.


The old gas-pipe across Ferry channel being dismantled (AH)



A long-overdue first Surf Scoter for the Peninsula was finally added this year, with a second-ever Caspian Gull and Squacco Heron also recorded, whilst many of the other rarities and scarcities were obliging to at least a few observers, including Montagu's Harrier, Quail, Hooded Crow, Wryneck, Rose-coloured Starling and Lapland Bunting, though inevitably there were a few - including Glossy Ibis, Smew, Long-tailed Skua and Richard's Pipit - that only gave themselves up to the finders.


Squacco Heron success! (OM)


Selsey Bill, in particular, kept turning up unusual birds, with a number of seasoned observers racking up four or five new 'ticks', including Whooper Swan, Smew, Cattle Egret, Hen Harrier, Black Guillemot and Woodcock to name a few, whilst there were bumper counts of several species, too, including Red-throated Diver, Gannet and Razorbill early in the year and Black Redstarts in the autumn.
And there was a new name on the Pom-King trophy, in another closely fought competition.

PB proving that winning the Pom-King trophy is a battle of endurance (OM)

A typical spring view of the Bill (OM)


It was an interesting year for other wildlife, too, including an extended stay off the Bill of a pod of a dozen or so Bottle-nosed Dolphins in the spring, a first Norfolk Hawker (dragonfly) for the county in July at Medmerry and a couple of rare and interesting butterflies in the form of a Silver-washed Fritillary at the North Wall and several Long-tailed Blues at Pagham Spit and Church Norton.


Norfolk Hawker at Medmerry on 7th July (courtesy Chichester Natural History Society) (above) & Long-tailed Blue on Pagham Spit on 2th September (CRJ)


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

The early part of the year saw large numbers of Red-throated Divers off our shores, with up to 20 birds off Church Norton, peaking at 35 on 2nd February, and regular counts of over 50 at the Bill, culminating in a massive westward movement of 577 birds in three hours on 3rd February, more than doubling the previous day count. 
Spring passage was, by contrast, average at 285 birds east, the last of which was on 26th May and autumn numbers were also fairly average, after the first bird back on 22nd September.



Red-throated Divers at Church Norton on 23rd January (AH)


Black-throated Diver numbers were typically low, though the regular winterer was seen again off East Head and one was seen inside Pagham Harbour on 3rd January. The Bill only returned single February and March records, whilst the spring was just about average at 18 birds east, with the last two seen on 16th May. The first returning bird of a poor autumn was seen on 19th October.



Black-throated Divers at the Bill on 15th April (AH)


Winter numbers of Great Northern Divers were lower than for recent years, with no more than half a dozen birds spread around the coast of the Peninsula, though spring peaks of 11 on 28th March and nine on 23rd April at the Bill were more typical.
There were two June reports, including the very late date of the 17th, whilst the first returner was back on the fairly early date of 2nd October and by the end of November five were back at the Bill and a showy individual was at Fishbourne Creek.


Great Northern Diver at Fishbourne Creek on 29th November (AH)



Grebes


The only site to record a Red-necked Grebe was the Bill, with a series of sporadic sightings in February - 16th and 17th, March - 3rd and 9th, and April - 1st, 6th, 7th and 8th, though how many different individuals were involved is impossible to tell.

It was a respectable start to the year for Slavonian Grebes, with a peak for the year of 18 counted off Church Norton on 3rd January, and though numbers diminished somewhat there were several double-digit counts including 17 on 3rd February and 14 on 21st March. 
They were also recorded in small numbers off the Bill on many occasions, including a peak of 13 on 14th March. The last spring sighting - of eight birds - was at the former site on 24th March and the first back was on 1st November, with ten at the Bill on 7th December the biggest count.



Slavonian Grebe at Church Norton on 17th February (AH)


There was a surprise appearance at the start of the year of three Black-necked Grebes off of Chichester Marina, remaining until the 4th, but the only spring records were from the Bill on 5th and 17th April. There was also one autumn bird, in Fishbourne Creek on 28th to 30th November.



Black-necked Grebes at Chichester Marina on 1st January (AW)



Seabirds


It was the reverse of last year for Manx Shearwaters off the Bill, with a distinctly average spring totals of 57 east and 21 west, but followed by a run of June records, peaking at 115 west on the 14th. There was also an unseasonal record of seven west on 6th October.



Manx Shearwaters at the Bill on 23rd April (AH)


There were just three confirmed sightings of Balearic Shearwaters this year, totalling nine birds, thus - five offshore and then west on 24th May, one west on 9th August and three west on 26th September, whilst there were also a number of distant sightings of what were almost certainly this species during August.



As is usual, Gannet numbers were hugely variable through the year, but for a few weeks from the middle of January some big counts were made off the Bill, with at least five days returning in excess of 1000 birds and 3rd February producing close to 3000 birds either going by or feeding offshore.




Gannets at the Bill on 16th January (AH)


It was definitely a year of two halves for Shag numbers at the Bill, with a poor start producing just a handful of records and spring passage not much better, but then, after the first sighting of six east on 27th August they were recorded almost daily throughout the autumn, often into double figures and peaking at 26 east on 15th October. 
Almost all the records were of juvenile birds heading east in the morning and returning west in the afternoon, suggesting a roost somewhere along the coast to the west of us.




Shags at the Bill on 21st September (AH)


Herons

In what was a fantastic year for herons locally, pride of place undoubtedly goes to the Squacco Heron tantalisingly seen at Halsey's Farm on 11th June and then presumably the same bird settling in from 2nd to 14th August, allowing all-comers fantastic views of what is normally a rare and secretive bird, as it feasted on grasshoppers in a small grassy field.
This was only the second-ever record for the Peninsula, after the first in 1995, and was almost certainly the bird that took up residence at Titchfield Haven (Hants) during the spring.




Squacco Heron at Halsey's Farm on 2nd August (GHi)


Last year's record flock of 26 Cattle Egrets remained into January around Marsh Farm, Sidlesham but dispersed fairly quickly, with just half a dozen remaining by the end of the month, but most of the rest were rediscovered in February around Hunston, with up to 17 birds remaining in a small road-side sheep field until at least the middle of April.
Numbers dropped away then, but by mid-July the first two were back and by November numbers had built back up to at least 15 around Marsh Farm, with 23 there on 17th December. Selsey Bill recorded its first ever record - of two west on 27th May, with another there 28th October.



Cattle Egrets at Church Norton on 30th December (AH)

Great White Egrets also consolidated their position on the Peninsula this year, with the first over-wintering individual - at Drayton Pit, with it, or another, at the North Wall on 28th March. There were ten autumn records around the harbour, too, after the first there on 19th July, with the returning bird settling back at Drayton Pits from 6th November.



Great White Egret at Drayton Pits on 6th November (OM)


There were no reports of Bittern in the early part of the year, though one did settle in to winter at Chichester Marina reed-beds, seen intermittently, but occasionally well, from 13th November on into december.




Bittern at Chichester Marina reed-beds on 9th Dec (AW)


There was just a single record of Glossy Ibis, too, after a blank year last year, with one seen flying over Pagham Harbour Visitor Centre on 9th November.


There were no over-wintering Spoonbills at the start of the year, with the first (two) seen at Medmerry on 23rd March, and this site dominated reports, with a different two from 22nd April to 9th June, with one staying until at least 23rd July and two birds recorded more or less continuously again until 1st September, with one remaining until the 18th. 
The only records from the harbour were what was presumably the long-staying Medmerry bird on 22nd June and the last of the year on 5th October.



Spoonbills at Medmerry on 22nd April (AB)


After several escapees over the last couple of years, it was very pleasing for a genuinely wild White Stork to be seen on the Peninsula, with the one at Medmerry on 23rd March seen to come in off the sea and subsequently tracked all the way into Hampshire.



White Stork at Medmerry on 24th March (AB)



Wildfowl

Probably a first for the Bill - certainly the first for very many years, and certainly unexpected - was the first-winter Whooper Swan that flew west, close inshore, on 17th February.



Wintering Dark-bellied Brent Goose numbers were good, with a peak of 3040 birds counted on - inevitably - the land earmarked for development between the North Wall and Pagham village. Passage numbers were good, too, with the spring total of 4327, only bettered in recent times by the exceptional movement in April 2013.
There were just two summer reports, including one past the Bill on 30th June, and the first (eight) returning birds went west there on 20th September. Autumn numbers seemed good, too, with an early big count of 1585 west on 2nd October and reasonable numbers of juveniles were present among the wintering flocks, too.



Dark-bellied Brent Geese at the North Wall on 15th February (JDW)

There were only two reports of Pale-bellied Brent Geese during the year - namely two east past the Bill on 22nd April and seven west there, also seen at Medmerry, on 17th November.




Pale-bellied Brent Geese at Medmerry on 17th November (AH)


There was a remarkable influx of Barnacle Geese in January, with 60 appearing in the harbour on the 13th, rising to around 150 by the 16th, but not seen subsequently. Their appearance did coincide with a spell of harsh weather on the continent, whilst BWP states that the north Russian population winters mainly in the Netherlands, with a population peak in January, all suggesting that this may be their origin. 
Amazingly, a flock of around 50 dropped in near the North Wall on 8th December, but they didn't linger long.


Barnacle Geese at Church Norton on 13th January (AH)


There were no reports of Egyptian Goose until one was found among the Cattle Egrets at Hunston on 15th February and then almost no reports until 17th March, when a pair appeared on Ivy Lake with nine goslings in tow!
At least seven goslings were reported intermittently through the summer, with apparently four other juveniles seen there on 16th June, whilst seven birds (presumably part of the family) were seen again on 16th September.


Egyptian Geese at Ivy Lake on 17th March (BI)


After a complete blank everywhere last winter for Mandarin, Birdham Pool - undeniably the species' favourite haunt on the Peninsula - turned up a lone duck on 2nd November, with another joining it on the following day and at least one of them remaining into December..



Mandarin at Birdham Pool on 3rd November (AH)


After a run of poor springs, this was a good one for Garganey, with no less than nine recorded at the Bill, including the first two on the fairly early date of 23rd March and two groups of three on 10th and 15th April.
Away from the Bill, a drake was on the Breech Pool on 30th Mar, a pair were there on 17th (having been reported near the Golf Course at Hunston the previous day) and another lone drake was at Medmerry on 4th June.



Garganey at the North Wall on 30th March (AH)

Gadwall have become so regular in recent years they barely merit a mention nowadays, but there were several successful attempts at breeding again this year, including on the Long Pool, Medmerry and the Ivy Lake complex.




Gadwall at the Long Pool on 3rd July (AH)



One of the oddities of the year was a female Pintail that spent the summer commuting between the Long Pool and Medmerry.


Pintail at Medmerry on 22nd July (AH)


It seemed to have been a good year at Chichester Gravel Pits for Pochard (a nationally scarce breeding species), with confirmed reports in June and July of four families on the Ivy Lake complex and five on Drayton Pits.



Pochards at Ivy Lake on 16th June (SR)

A group of five Red-crested Pochard (three adult drakes, a first-winter drake and a female) dropped in briefly on East Beach Pond on 1st November. The date and nature of their occurrence would surely suggest a wild origin.




Red-crested Pochards on East Beach Pond on 1st November (SR)


Goldeneye numbers were steady again this year, but still a far cry from where they used to be, with six in the harbour on 6th January and nine at Fishbourne Creek on the 19th being the highest counts, whilst seven were back at the latter site by early December.




Goldeneye at Church Norton on 1st January (AW)

It was a better start to the year for Long-tailed Duck, though all of the reports were from the Bill, thus - one west on 5th March, one east on 30th April, two east on the following day and finally one west on 7th May.
The first returning bird was there, too, seen dropping onto the sea on 27th October, whilst one (and, briefly, two) settled in at Fishbourne Creek from 20th November.



Long-tailed Duck at Fishbourne Creek on 3rd December (DM)

One or two Eider were present offshore intermittently during the early months, though 34 seen fom a fishing boat in Chichester Harbour mouth on 21st January and 15 west past the Bill on 17th March were exceptional. Small numbers passed the Bill both east and west during the spring, whilst at least one remained off the Bill and Church Norton through the summer and two were off East Head on 25th July. 
The first returning birds were five west past Church Norton on 7th October, whilst remarkably, on 17th December, a flock of 47 (mostly drakes) were discovered in the same area, off Chichester Harbour mouth, as in the spring, and at least 40 birds were seen several times subsequently in the vicinity.



Eider off East Head on 30th December (AH)

A Velvet Scoter west past Medmerry on 1st January and two off Church Norton on the following day were the only winter records, though - after a late start of 31st March - it was an above average spring at the Bill, with a total of 58 birds logged east, including a flock of 18 on 18th April.
Two birds west past the Bill on 11th October were the first back and there were at least half a dozen reports thereafter.



Velvet Scoters (with Common Scoters) at the Bill on 30th April (AH)


Between 50 and 100 Common Scoter were recorded regularly off the Bill and Medmerry early in the year, whilst the spring total of 7487 east was the best since 2013 and included several big days, with the best being 741 east on 5th April. As is usual, some birds move very late in the spring, as was evidenced by a count of 175 east on 31st May.
Small numbers remained offshore during the summer, with a drake settling in on the Stilt Pool at Medmerry from 22nd to 24th July, but the autumn was poor compared with recent years, with only small numbers of birds seen.



Common Scoter at Medmerry on 24th July (AH)

One of the highlights of the year was the fine drake Surf Scoter that dropped in for about fifteen minutes offshore from the Bill among 33 Common Scoter, before carrying on east, on the morning of 30th April. This was a long anticipated first accepted record for the Bill and the Peninsula, and was much appreciated by the good-sized gathering of sea-watchers present.



Surf Scoter (with Common Scoters) at the Bill on 30th April (AH)

A redhead Smew that flew east past the Bill on on 1st November was another of the unexpected birds that graced the Bill, and the first seen there since January 1985.



Goosanders, by contrast, seem to be becoming a more regular part of the bird-life of the Peninsula, with one or two reported fairly regularly around Church Norton up to 3rd March, whilst four were seen going west past Selsey East Beach on 5th January and the odd one or two others were seen from the Bill early in the year.
There was a very random sighting of two east past Church Norton on 23rd June, with the first returning bird of a moderate autumn seen on 10th October.



Goosanders at Pagham Spit on 6th November (AB)



Raptors

A ring-tailed Hen Harrier seen over Northcommon Farm on 18th April was the only spring record, whilst autumn records comprised of one flying east past the Bill (though never attempting to come ashore!) on 22nd September and one that showed very well as it hunted over the harbour at Church Norton on 2nd October.




Hen Harrier at Church Norton on 2nd October (GaH)

A ring-tailed 'harrier sp' that couldn't be nailed down but was almost certainly a Montagu's Harrier was seen at Medmerry on 18th May, whilst a much more obliging individual was seen well and photographed in the same area on the evening of 23rd June.




Montagu's Harrier at Medmerry on 23rd June (AB)


Marsh Harrier reports up to March and from August onwards were far too numerous to list, with regular sightings of one or two birds from both Medmerry and the harbour, with a roost seemingly becoming established behind the North Wall.

The really remarkable development, though, occurred at Drayton Pits, when the regular summer sightings of a female there transpired to be because a pair had successfully raised two chicks in an out of the way spot nearby. This is almost certainly the first instance of breeding on the Peninsula in modern times, and quite possibly ever.



Juvenile Marsh Harrier at Drayton Pit on 17th July (OM)


The pattern of occurrence of Red Kites on the Peninsula is becoming quite well established these days, with odd roaming individuals possible at any time of year, but with a very pronounced increase in March and April that accounts for over a dozen of the 20 or so annual sightings.



Red Kite over Church Norton on March 19th (BFF)

There was only a single accepted record of Honey-buzzard this year, of one seen over West Wittering on 24th August.



It was a fairly average spring for Osprey sightings, with just four reports - from the harbour on 17th March (the earliest this century), 10th and 28th April and one from Medmerry on 28th March.
The autumn was fairly typical, too, in as much as there were near daily reports from the harbour after the first on 12th August, with regular, if less frequent sightings at Medmerry, too, up until the last at the former site on 4th October. What was particularly notable this autumn was the number of sightings of two birds, with three seen together on several dates, too, including 7th and 16th September.



Osprey at Church Norton on 1st September

The first Hobby - at Ivy Lake - was not seen until the very late date of 25th April, with the first of a spring total of 11 at the Bill seen three days later.
There were a few mid-summer records, but no indication of breeding, and autumn passage was unremarkable, if better than last year. The last bird of the year was seen at Medmerry on 3rd November, the latest date this century.



Hobby at Church Norton on 12th September (AH)


There were just two reports of wintering Merlin - at West Wittering on 7th January and Medmerry on 10th February, and five spring ones - three at the Bill and two from the north of Selsey, between 24th March and 13th April.
The first autumn bird wasn't until the late date of 24th September, with another ten reports up to the end of October, including five sightings off the Bill, but then just a couple more after that.


Merlin at Church Norton on 7th October (AH)


The pair of Peregrines in the harbour were seen displaying and mating around their island in March, but seemed to abandon it by April, with the Little Terns settling in instead! They were back in residence again by early autumn, though.



Peregrine at Church Norton on 20th August (GaH)



Gamebirds/Rails


Small coveys of Grey Partridges were reported from Medmerry and Marsh Farm, Sidlesham during the winter, with the only reports from elsewhere being one at the Ferry on 14th February and three at Park Farm, Selsey on 24th February. 
Breeding was confirmed for at least one pair at Medmerry, with chicks seen on 21st June, but the only autumn report was of three at Park Farm, Selsey on 7th December.





Grey Partridge at Medmerry on 21st February (AH)

The first Quail on the Peninsula since 2013 was heard - and even seen a few times! - along the banks at Medmerry between 21st and 26th June. Another was reported calling from fields in Sidlesham on 25th July.




Quail at Medmerry on 21st June (MW)


Almost as improbable as its first appearance last year, what must surely have been the same Water Rail settled in among the Hebe bushes in the Bill House garden between 22nd and 28th March.




Water Rail at the Bill on 22nd March (AH)



Waders

There were very good numbers of wintering Avocets in the harbour - peaking at 75 birds on 6th to 9th March, before they started moving to Medmerry. Sadly, though, there was no repeat of recent breeding successes this year as almost the entire colony of 20+ pairs was predated by a Fox early on and the few remaining nests also fell to predation later. The Stilt Pool seemed very quiet without them this summer!




Avocets over Ferry Channel on 6th March (AH)

The first pair of Little Ringed Plovers were back at Medmerry on 21st March and probably two pairs did raise young there this summer, though a pair on the Ferry and others at the North Wall seemed less successful.
One that dropped on the beach on 23rd April was only the third in 15 years there. The last sighting of the year was at the Ferry on 13th September.



Little Ringed Plover at the Bill on 23rd April (AH)

One of the positive developments of the last few years is the large Golden Plover flock that has taken to wintering at Medmerry, where an early peak of 400 was seen on 7th February and similar numbers were recorded from late October onwards, whilst an exceptional count of 600 birds (with presumably many of the Medmerry birds among them) was noted on Ferry Field on 14th December.





Golden Plovers at the Ferry on 14th December (AH)

By contrast, it was a poor year for a number of migrant waders species, and none more so than the Little Stint, with the solitary record of the year being of two (presumably adults) at Church Norton on 12th August.



Curlew Sandpipers fared a little better, with a flurry of adults in the harbour from 10th August, including five on the 11th, and a succession of juveniles reported from the Ferry and White's Creek from 2nd to 19th September, including four at the former site on the 3rd. There was also a winter-plumaged bird at Church Norton on 3rd October.


Curlew Sandpipers (with Dunlin) at Church Norton on 11th August (AW)

It was a better spring for Sanderling passing the Bill, with 397 recorded in total, with most in May, when there was also a flock of 23 at the Medmerry breach on the 15th. There were one or two early June records before the first four were back at the Bill on 31st July.




Sanderling at the Bill on 31st July (AH)

The were more 'Red' Knot than usual living up to their full name this spring, with regular small flocks seen at Church Norton, and a notable one of 26 on 20th May. There seemed to quite good numbers of juveniles, too, including 14 together in the harbour on 14th August, whilst 27 on the Ferry on 14th September was a very unusual sight there.




Knot at Church Norton on 14th May (AH)

Ruff, conversely, probably had their worst year ever locally, with the first not seen until one on the Ferry on 9th September, with it, or another, settling in Fishbourne Creek from the 20th until 19th October.



Ruff on the Ferry on 9th September (IP)

There wasn't a report of a Common Sandpiper at Medmerry until 23rd March, so it is uncertain if that was the one that has wintered in recent years. There was one other winter report, though, from Westhampnett Pit on 9th January.
Otherwise, it was a wholly unremarkable year, with first definite migrant at the Ferry on 16th April and the last of the year at the North Wall on 15th October.



Common Sandpiper (above) & Wood Sandpiper at the Ferry on 6th August (AW)

There were only two Wood Sandpipers this year, but fortunately after a fleeting bird on the Breech Pool on 24th June, one settled in obligingly on the Ferry from 31st July until 12th August.



The Ferry was the most reliable place to see Green Sandpipers early in the year, with one or two, and occasionally three, seen regularly, though one at Park Farm, Selsey on 13th January, was the only bird seen elsewhere.
The first returning bird, seen over Church Norton, was on the early, but not atypical date of 10th June, with the usual scattering seen thereafter, though they were thin on the ground in the autumn, possibly due to the surfeit of muddy ditches to hide away in!



Green Sandpiper at the Ferry on 22nd January (AH)

There were a dozen wintering Greenshank around the Peninsula, with one at Medmerry, three at Snowhill Creek and a peak of eight (on 3rd February) at Fishbourne Creek, though spring passage was distinctly average, with a count of 17 at the latter site on 22nd April being the biggest.
Return passage - after the first bird at Medmerry on 29th June - was modest, too, with once again Fishbourne Creek getting the best numbers, including a peak of 15 on 21st September, and retaining at least seven wintering birds until the year's end.



Greenshank at the North Wall on 5th September (AH)

There were good numbers of wintering Spotted Redshank, too, with a peak of seven at Fishbourne Creek on 12th January and three at the North Wall on 27th February. The last spring bird was in Ferry Channel on 13th April, and just over two months later - highlighting just how quick the turnaround is for some species - on 15th June, the first one was back at Medmerry. 
There were nine individuals across the Peninsula on 14th August and then, oddly, a group of up to nine together (not all the same birds) were tucked away on the Long Pool from 30th August until 4th September. Late autumn numbers were fairly typical, with at least four birds in Fishbourne Creek and three in the harbour.




Spotted Redshank at the North Wall on 25th July (AH)

The long-staying Whimbrel was present again at Church Norton through the winter and back in its usual haunts again this autumn. Encouragingly, the spring passage numbers at the Bill were above average at 585 heading east, including 161 on 18th April.




Whimbrel at Church Norton on 29th January (AH)

Spring Bar-tailed Godwit numbers at the Bill - with 1616 birds east in total - were well above average, after several poor years, and the best since 2011, including a remarkable 636 east on 22nd April.




Bar-tailed Godwit at Church Norton on 8th May (AH)

A Woodcock flushed from fields near Northcommon Farm on 25th February was the sole record early in the year, whilst in the autumn one was flushed from waste ground on the north of Selsey on 24th October and then two individuals, thirty minutes apart, came in off the sea at the Bill on 15th November. Amazingly, another came in off the sea there on 8th December, and there was also one at Drayton Pits on the 1st.


It seemed to be a very good autumn for Snipe, after an unusually early one at Medmerry on 2nd August, with several counts of 30+ birds in flight during high tides in late November and 114 recorded during surveying at Medmerry on 23rd December.


Snipe on the Ferry on 23rd October (AH)

Wintering Jack Snipe were seen early in the year at Drayton Pits and Fishbourne Creek - both regular winter haunts, whilst individuals at the Ferry on 25th March and at Medmerry three days later might have been migrants.

Apart from a couple of reports from Fishbourne Creek, Medmerry held the monopoly on autumn records, after the first on 22nd October, including several counts of five birds and a peak of six there on 5th December, all unfortunately in inaccessible areas of the reserve.



There was just a single record of Grey Phalarope, of one seen going east, close inshore from the Bill, on 13th October.


Skuas

It was a better year for Pomarine Skuas, with a new Pom-King and a total of 61 birds east at the Bill, including 37 on 16th May, oddly all appearing after 1.30pm. The last of the spring was on the fairly early date of 18th May, whilst westward birds were seen on 6th and 13th October.



Pomarine Skuas at the Bill on 16th April (AW)

A Long-tailed Skua was recorded at the Bill this year, with one seen going east on 2nd June.



It was a generally good year for Arctic Skuas, with a winter record from the Bill on 19th January, and an above-average spring total of 177 east, after an early start, with two on 16th March. One or two birds were noted at the Bill throughout June, July and into August, with five offshore on the 17th and 18th, whilst return passage peaked in October, with good numbers including 12 west on the 1st and 13 on the 13th.
There were also three records away from the Bill - one in the harbour on 25th August, a juvenile over Birdham three days later and one over Pagham Lagoon on 18th September.



Arctic Skua over a Birdham garden on 28th August (AB)

By comparison, it was a middling sort of a year for Great Skuas, with just a handful of the now-expected winter sightings - though one that spent the greater part of the day in the harbour on 21st February was definitely out of the ordinary - and a spring total of 68 birds east being bang on the average. 
One west past the Bill on 28th August was the first of a poor autumn, with only one September and three October records noted, the last of which was on the 19th.




Great Skua at Church Norton on 21st February (AW)



Gulls 

It was another indifferent year for Little Gulls locally, with the only winter record being one offshore from the Bill on 8th February, one at Medmerry on 26th March and then a below average spring total of just 42 birds east past the Bill. 
A first-winter bird settled at Ivy Lake from 25th April until 8th May, with the only other records away from the Bill being one in the harbour on 28th May and another on 20th June. The first two autumn birds went west past the Bill on 6th October, with another on the 9th and then the biggest count of the year - 18 west - on the 18th. The last of the year were three west at Church Norton on 9th December.



Little Gull at Ivy Lake on 2nd May (AW)



There were good numbers of Kittiwakes on the move in late January and early February, including 1977 west on 16th January and 377 west three days later. The only notable autumn count was on 19th October, when 318 went west.



Kittiwake at the Bill on 12th March (AH)

At one point in April, it looked like several hundred pairs of Mediterranean Gulls might settle on Tern Island, but fortunately, given their liking for eating tern chicks, they all disappeared again, leaving 15 pairs - still a record - to nest in the colony.




Mediterranean Gulls at Medmerry on 27th June (AH)

It was another record year for Black-headed Gulls too, with Tern island hosting 523 pairs and the harbour thick with freshly-fledged youngsters from early July onwards.




Black-headed Gull in Ferry Channel on 18th July (AH)


Remarkably, given their frequency further east along the Sussex coast, Medmerry produced only the second-ever Caspian Gull for the Peninsula on 25th February, when a first-winter bird - colour-ringed in Poland or Germany - was among the roosting flock there.




Caspian Gull at Medmerry on 25th February (BI)

First-winter Yellow-legged Gulls were seen in January at Westhampnett Pit on the 2nd and 17th, with another off the Bill on the 25th, with another sub-adult seen at Church Norton on 25th April.
There was a reasonable scattering of mid-summer records this year, after the first at the North Wall on 1st July, with at least half a dozen seen regularly there, along with up to five at Medmerry and four at Ivy Lake.



Yellow-legged Gull at Medmerry on 22nd July (AH)



Terns

It was a bumper year all round for Sandwich Terns, with very a high spring count of 5316 east past the Bill (though, as ever, it is difficult to separate migrants from residents) and the colony on Tern Island finally coming into its own, with at least 150 pairs producing around 120 chicks. The cry of 'Sandwich Tern, carrying fish' was one of the sounds of the summer!
And it would appear that as many as seven birds have settled in to winter off of the Bill and Church Norton, with almost daily sightings right up to the year's end.




Sandwich Terns at Church Norton on 5th August (AH)


It was another relatively poor year for Common Terns, though, with the combined Common/'Commic' total of 3312 birds east past the Bill coming in below last year's count, after the first on 23rd March, with biggest day count being just 352 on 5th April. There were only 12 pairs in the harbour this year, though they raised 17 young. 
A total of 169 west past the Bill on 6th August was a notably high count for returning birds, and there did appear to be a few more about, including 14 west on the fairly late date of 29th September, and a late last date of 25th October.



Common Terns at the Bill on 21st May (AH)

A mere 16 Arctic Terns were positively identified at the Bill in the spring, after the first on 11th April, though return numbers were a little higher than usual, starting with individuals at Church Norton on 1st and 11th August. 
There were 11 'definites' and 39 'probables' past the Bill on 26th September, with a single bird in the harbour on 28th and 29th, and a final one past the Bill on 26th October.



Arctic Tern at Church Norton on 28th September (AW)

After a blank spring, an adult Roseate Tern popped up at Church Norton on 12th August, remaining for most of the day.



Roseate Tern (with Sandwich Tern) at Church Norton on 12th August (AH)

A Little Tern at the Bill on 5th April was the earliest ever recorded, but thereafter it was a below average spring, with just 269 birds passing eastwards, though inevitably the presence of birds from the harbour clouds the issue. Most of the Tern Island colony decamped to Peregrine Island, but breeding success was similar to last year, with 20 pairs rearing at least 13 chicks.
The last double-digit count in the harbour was of 17 on 29th July, though the regular post-breeding build-up (of 55 birds) in Chichester Harbour was noted from West Itchenor on 1st August. The last of the year were two west past the Bill on 12th September.



Little Tern at Church Norton on 20th June (AH)

It was a poor spring for Black Terns, with just 15 passing the Bill, and the first four were on the very late date of 7th May. There were other spring records of a single at Church Norton on 17th May, and of three seen from the east side of Chichester Harbour on that and the following day.
Returning birds were seen in August at Church Norton on the 5th and 9th August and at the Bill on the 11th, 17th (four) and on the 18th, the very early last sighting.



Black Tern (with Common Terns) at Church Norton on 5th August (AW)



Auks

It was something of a bumper year for auks at the Bill, with the two Puffins that were seen dropping onto the sea for an hour before flying off east on 13th March sharing joint top-billing.



That top-billing was shared with the winter-plumaged Black Guillemot that was seen heading west on 19th January and then presumably the same bird again on 1st February, with, interestingly, the gap tying in quite neatly with the presence of an individual off of Portland.



The wintering auk flocks were back again this year, too, from mid-January until early-February, with multiple counts in excess of a thousand birds, of which the vast majority were Razorbills, including a new day record of 3500 (of 5000 auk sp) heading west on 16th January.


Razorbills at the Bill on 8th February (AH)


As in previous years, Guillemots seem to make up just a fraction of the total auk numbers, with the 200 recorded during the huge westward passage of the above species on 16th January still being the biggest count of the year by a distance.



Guillemot at Church Norton on 18th January (AW)



Pigeons/Owl etc



There were sadly just three records of Turtle Dove this year - a much-appreciated individual on the playing field at Northcommon on 2nd May, one at Medmerry on 22nd May and one at Birdham Pool on 23rd June.



Turtle Dove at Northcommon Farm on 2nd May (AH)


It was pleasing to report, though, that Cuckoo numbers seemed much better this year, after the first at the North Wall on 17th April, with birds frequenting all their regular haunts right up to the end of June. There were also three reports of juveniles - from Medmerry on 9th July, Fishbourne Creek on 26th July and Medmerry again, with the last of the year on 8th August.



Cuckoo at the Long Pool on 18th June (AW)


It seemed to be another good year for Barn Owls, too, with pairs at Medmerry and Marsh Farm, Sidlesham known to have reared young and others likely to have done so north of the North Wall and at West Wittering.



Barn Owl at Medmerry on 21st June (AB)


Unfortunately, though, Little Owls seem to be doing no more than clinging on locally, with just sporadic reports through the year from Northcommon Farm and Bramber Farm being the sum, with no sightings from other locations.



Little Owl at Bramber Farm on 26th March (JDW)


There were one or two more reports than last year of calling Tawny Owls, but the best news was the re-occupation of the nest-box in the Discovery area, with one seen nearby on 28th February the first indication of their return, and culminating in three owlets being seen sat out on 12th and 13th May.



Tawny Owlet at the Discovery Area on 12th May (RP)

The only report of Long-eared Owl was of one seen after dusk on 22nd February at Selsey Golf Course, but it was never seen again and may just have been passing through.



It was a very poor year for Short-eared Owls, with just three early reports from the harbour in February - on the 9th, 22nd and 26th, and then just half a dozen reports in October and similar for November and December combined, with none lingering anywhere.



Short-eared Owl on Pagham Spit on 29th November (AW)


The only Nightjar of the year was seen sitting on a fence just outside the Visitor Centre on 22nd May, but unfortunately it was disturbed before it could be widely appreciated.


Nightjar at Pagham Harbour Visitor Centre on 23rd May (IL)


It seemed a marginally better year for Swifts, after the first over Ivy Lake on 24th April - the same date as last year, with the last seen three seen over Northcommon Farm on the fairly late date of 30th September.



Swift at Medmerry on 14th May (AH)

There were three reports of Ring-necked Parakeet this year - of one that flew over the Bill on 9th April, having been seen over Hayling Island an hour earlier, one that flew over Birdham on 3rd August and lastly one at nearby Chichester Marina on 20th December.



Kingfisher numbers were quite low early in the year, and though there was no evidence of breeding locally, most regular haunts were occupied in the autumn.


Kingfisher at Fishbourne Creek on 5th February (PM)

A fairly obliging Wryneck took up residence in that most traditional site of the Severals at Church Norton between 14th and 17th September, whilst there were two very late records in October, with one along the west side on the 19th and another at Sidlesham Quay on the 27th, the latest this century.




Wryneck at Church Norton on 14th September (AB)



Larks/Pipits/Hirundines

It was a bit of a bumper October for Woodlarks, with one at Church Norton on the 2nd, two there on the 5th, and then at the Bill five east on the 13th and three east on the 20th.




Woodlark at Church Norton on 2nd October (AH)

After just two spring records of Tree Pipit - of one over the Bill on 6th April and one at Medmerry on the 19th, it was a better autumn with ten records (involving 13 birds), between one at the Tramway on 22nd August and one over Church Norton on 10th September.




Tree Pipit along the Tramway on 22nd August (AH)

A Water Pipit turned up this autumn, after a blank last year, with one in their favoured location of Fishbourne Creek on 28th November, remaining into December.




Water Pipit at Fishbourne Creek on 28th November (SR)


A Scandinavian Rock Pipit, colour-ringed in Norway, and only the third recorded on the Peninsula, was seen in Fishbourne Creek on 29th December.


Scandinavian Rock Pipit at Fishbourne Creek on 29th December (ES)

The Peninsula hosted its first Richard's Pipit since September 2000, when one was seen and heard briefly at Medmerry (the same site as the afore-mentioned record) on 20th November.



The first Yellow Wagtails appeared on the early date of 6th April, with two in off the sea at Church Norton and four at the Bill, where a spring total of 43 was an improvement on last year.
The first birds back were at Medmerry on 8th July, but almost all the early autumn reports were from the North Wall area, including huge pre-roosting flocks there of 500 on 29th August and 300 on the following evening. A total of 69 west at the Bill on 14th September was the biggest visible migration count, whilst the final report - of 20 or so at the North Wall - was on the very early date of 2nd October.


Yellow Wagtail at the North Wall on 24th August (BI)

Two Sand Martins over the beach at Church Norton on 16th March were the first of an average sort of spring, though in common with the other hirundines, it was a much better autumn than last year.
The first bird back was on the typical date of 30th June, and there were regular flocks of several hundred returning birds at Medmerry through July and early August, with a phenomenal gathering there on the 26th, possibly numbering 2000 birds. The last two of the year were at Greenlease Farm on 6th October.



Sand Martin at Medmerry on 12th July (AH)

There were very early Swallows seen at Medmerry - on 19th and 23rd February (the earliest this century), but spring totals remained modest, and whilst they were certainly better than last autumn, numbers of returning birds were far from spectacular. 
Some good days were noted, though, including at least 5000, in association with the previous species, at Medmerry on 26th August and 2110 west at the Bill on 20th September. A few individuals lingered on into November, with the last, over Northcommon Farm, on the 21st.


Swallow at Church Norton on 31st August (SR)

The first House Martin was on the early date of 29th March, seen flying over the Bill and, as with the other hirundines, it was a moderate spring followed by a better autumn, though there were few very large gatherings recorded. Counts of 717 east at the Bill on 14th September and 500 east on the 20th were the best, with numbers dropping off quickly thereafter, whilst the last of the year was seen there on 29th October.



House Martin at the Bill on 21st May (AH)



Thrushes

Numbers of both Redwings and Fieldfares remained very low all winter, with peaks of just 20 of the former at at Runcton on 30th January and similar of the latter at Medmerry on 27th February reflecting this. 
Numbers were low again in the autumn, with 30 Redwings in fields at Birdham on 21st November the most conspicuous flock, whilst the only sizeable flock of Fieldfares - around 100 individuals - was along Honer Lane in early December.


Redwing at Honer Reservoir on 14th December (AH) (above), & Fieldfare at Chichester Canal on 7th December (AW)


Spring Ring Ouzels at Church Norton on 17th April and at Warner Lane paddocks two days later heralded a welcome return for a species that was absent last year on the Peninsula. 
And it was followed by something of a bumper autumn, though all the ten records were of skulkers, from the first on 1st October at Church Norton to the last at Halsey's Farm on the 29th, with the exception of the two that went over the Bill on the 23rd.



Ring Ouzel at Church Norton on 17th April (AW)

There was only one Nightingale this year, though that one sang enthusiastically (and showed briefly) in a dense bush on the Oval Field at the Bill, being widely appreciated during its brief stay on 4th May. 



There were at least two Stonechats families again at Medmerry this summer, with at least four young in one of them, and it is probable (though not confirmed) that they bred again at Marsh Farm, Sidlesham.


Stonechat at Medmerry on 12th June (AW)

The first Whinchat of the spring was at Medmerry on the fairly late date of 19th April and there were a handful of further records before a very late migrant at Church Norton on 26th May.
Return passage commenced with two at the North Wall on 13th August, and numbers were reasonable, with a number of double-figure counts from Medmerry, including a peak of 14 on 1st September, whilst the last of the year was at Church Norton on 6th October.


Whinchat at Medmerry on 20th April (AW)

Church Norton spit has hosted the first Northern Wheatear of the year several times of late, and this year was no exception, with one on 8th March a couple of days ahead of the long-term average. It was generally a good spring for them, too, with a splendid fall of at least 39 at the Bill (with up to 20 others elsewhere on the Peninsula) on 20th March particularly noteworthy.
The last two of the spring were at the Bill on 19th May and the first back was also there on 21st July. Autumn numbers were fair, with several days recording 20+ birds locally and a good tally of 75+ (including at least 40 at Medmerry) was amassed on 7th September. The last of the year was at Medmerry on 27th October.


Northern Wheatear at the Bill on 20th March (AH)

Common Redstarts were fairly thin on the ground again this spring, after an early start at Church Norton on 2nd April, with 17th April being the busiest day, with two at Church Norton and four at Northcommon Farm.
Two at the latter site on 9th August were the first back, with this and Halsey's Farm, where at least four were present on 25th August, being the most reliable sites, though the last of the year was a late-stayer at Runcton, where one remained from 8th to 15th October.


Common Redstart at Church Norton on 20th August (AH)

Two Black Redstarts over-wintered at Medmerry, whilst one at the Bill on 8th February may well have been a wintering bird, too. One at the latter site on 23rd March was the only spring migrant seen.
By contrast, after a quiet start - with one at Medmerry on 16th October - it was an extraordinary autumn, with a prolonged fall across the Peninsula over the last week of October and the first week of November, producing peaks of 16 on the 23rd and 20 on the 24th, including a remarkable 18 at the Bill, with birds seen daily, including three day-counts of nine birds and then 11 on 5th November, the last big day.


Black Redstart at Medmerry on 27th October (SH)



Warblers

After a fairly typical spring of just one Grasshopper Warbler record, of a reeling bird at Sidlesham Quay on 21st April, there were - unusually, for a species rarely ever recorded locally on return migration - five autumn records, thus: at the North Wall on 28th and 31st August, at Church Norton on 25th August and 13th September and finally at Park Farm, Selsey on the following day.




Grasshopper Warbler at Church Norton on 29th August (AH)

The Long Pool held both the first Sedge Warbler on 30th March and the first two Reed Warblers on 11th April. It is interesting to note that two of the three Reed Warblers seen at the Bill, where they are clearly on migration were on 15th and 18th May, yet a pair with already fledged young were at the Long Pool on 13th June.
The last sightings were the 23rd September at the Long Pool for Sedge Warbler and 19th September at the North Wall for Reed Warbler.


Sedge Warbler along the Long Pool on 1st June (AH) & Reed Warbler at Medmerry on 9th June (SH)


It seemed another poor spring for Willow Warblers, with few decent counts after the first one at Northcommon Farm on 21st March. An adult bird seen at Chichester Canal on 6th July was presumably a failed breeder shipping out early, with no more seen till six were at Church Norton on the more typical date of 1st August. Thirty seen along the east side of the harbour on 13th August was the biggest count and the last two were at Park Farm, Selsey on 22nd September.


Willow Warbler at Church Norton on 15th August (AH)

Unsurprisingly, given last autumn's poor showing, Chiffchaff numbers were well down in the early part of the year. A fall of 20+ at the Bill on 23rd March was interesting because it coincided with one of the local fishermen noting 100+ going over his boat in the small hours, many miles out in the channel. 
Autumn passage was better than last year, if hardly exceptional, and many of the regular wintering sites seemed to be holding birds late in the year.


Chiffchaff  on a fishing boat off Selsey on 23rd March (CW)

The sole Yellow-browed Warbler of the year was along the Medmerry Trail (aka the concrete road to the sewage farm!) from 19th to 22nd October, though it was rarely co-operative during its stay.




Yellow-browed Warbler on the Medmerry Trail on 19th October (AW)

The first Whitethroat of the year was on 10th April, on waste ground to the north of Selsey, and breeding numbers seemed reasonable this year, including potentially a pair in the gardens at the Bill. The last was seen at Medmerry on 20th October.



Whitethroat at Medmerry on 17th July (AH)

The first Lesser Whitethroat was a day ahead of its congener, at the Visitor Centre on 9th April, and there seemed to be good numbers about in the breeding season, with, for instance, at least three birds competing vocally along the Long Pool well into May. The last sighting of a respectable autumn was from the North Wall on 30th September.


Lesser Whitethroat at the Ferry on 5th May (AH)


Garden Warblers tend to sneak through on passage with minimal fuss and that was the case this year, with a handful of spring records after the first, at Northcommon Farm, on 19th April and a few more in the autumn, between one at Church Norton on 26th July and one along the Long Pool on 10th September.


Garden Warbler at the Ferry on 20th August (AH)


With the first sighting of Blackcap not until 19th March, at Ivy Lake, it would seem that none over-wintered, though numbers on spring and autumn passage were reasonable, and ones at Pagham Lagoon on 28th November and Church Norton on 1st December would appear to be settling in for this winter.



Blackcap at the Ferry on 10th September (AH)

A solitary wintering Dartford Warbler at Medmerry was the only one of its kind reported early in the year, though a sighting there on 9th April may well have related to a migrant bird. Single October sightings at the North Wall on the 16th and at Park Farm, Selsey on the 23rd were the the only reports away from Medmerry, where two birds appeared to have taken up residence for the winter.




Dartford Warbler at Medmerry on 3rd November (SH)

Church Norton, the North Wall, Apuldram and Northcommon Farm all recorded Firecrests in January and February, whilst one at the Bill on 23rd March was one of several reports of migrating birds.
The first returning bird was at Church Norton on the fairly early date of 17th September, whilst the Bill recorded another four autumn birds between 3rd October and 3rd November, and four were at Drayton pits on the 6th.


Firecrest at Drayton Pit on 6th November (OM)

After what seemed a remarkable autumn last year for Pied Flycatchers, this year topped it, and again after a poor spring, with just a single report, of one along the Medmerry Trail on 21st April.
The first bird back was at Northcommon Farm, and there were around a dozen records locally, which - excluding four from Church Norton and two at Birdham on 29th to 30th August - were all from this site until the last there on 10th September. 
But the fall of at least 14, and possibly more, there on 27th August was a memorable sight for those that witnessed it, and is surely without precedent in recent times.


Pied Flycatcher at Northcommon Farm on 27th August (AH)


Spotted Flycatchers, by contrast, had a very low-key year, with a little flurry of half a dozen birds around the Peninsula on 6th May being a late start to a quiet spring. 

Autumn numbers were modest, too, after the first at Church Norton on 17th August, though there were several October records, the last of which was at this site on the late date of the 19th.




Spotted Flycatcher at the Bill on 8th September (SH)

Starlings/Tits/Crows etc

A Golden Oriole heard (and recorded) singing in a West Wittering garden on 22nd May was the only record for the year.



A juvenile Rose-coloured Starling popped up in September, among its commoner cousins along the Tramway behind the Visitor Centre from 24th to 28th September, though at no time was finding it very easy!



Rose-coloured Starling (with Common Starling) along the Tramway on 24th September (AW)

Bearded Tits have been in short supply on the Peninsula for a number of years now, despite continued success just a few miles to the west of us, and again this autumn they were scarce, with just a single male at the Severals on 15th and 16th October, with presumably the same bird there on the 23rd, whilst more than one were heard, but not seen, at Chichester Marina on 6th November and two birds were seen there on 1st and 2nd December.


Bearded Tit at Church Norton on 15th October (BI)

It would seem that Coal Tits are slowly colonising the Peninsula, with a number of winter reports from Hunston, West Itchenor and Sidlesham and a couple of mid-summer reports from the latter area, too, whilst the first autumn bird was at Church Norton on 20th October.



Coal Tit in Sidlesham churchyard on 24th January (AH)

It is possible that a pair of Nuthatches bred at Chalkdock Marsh at West Itchenor this year, with one heard calling regularly in the early months and a pair seen around a potential nest site on 25th April, though there were no more reports until 4th October. The only reports from elsewhere were of one heard at Runcton on 9th March, one seen at Church Norton on 26th September and two at Hunston on 22nd December.




Nuthatch at West Itchenor on 29th January (BI)

Tree-creepers remain hard to find locally, but Hunston, West Itchenor and Chichester Gravel Pits would all seem to contain small populations, though the only records were in January to March and November/December.



Tree-creeper at Ivy Lake on 19th January (BI)


Last year's Hooded Crow remained at Medmerry until 3rd January, but vanished until the 29th, when it popped up briefly behind the North Wall, and then disappeared again until 10th February, when it finally settled onto the beach at Pagham Spit (barring brief visits to Medmerry on the 12th, the Bill on the 24th and the North Wall on the 27th) until it was last recorded on 4th March.



Hooded Crow on Pagham Spit on 11th February (AH)


Raven numbers were low in the first half of the year, with only a dozen records spread across a wide range of sites, but the autumn seemed more typical, with a flurry of singles and several multiples, including a peak of four at Church Norton on 5th November.




Raven at Donnington on 18th December (AW)



Sparrows/Finches/Buntings

The most reliable site for Bullfinches was Drayton Pits, where they were present all year and were known to have bred successfully, and there was also success along the Chichester Canal. 
Away from these sites reports were few, though one was seen at Marsh Farm, Sidlesham on 15th February, one was at the Visitor Centre on 13th May, a pair were at the North Wall a week later, a pair were seen along the Medmerry Trail on 23rd October, one was in the Slipe Field on 30th November and a pair were near the Visitor Centre on 2nd and 3rd December.



Bullfinches at the North Wall on 20th May (BI)


Yet again, the Bill turned up a Serin, but it was a particularly unobliging bird that flew in off the sea on 22nd April and popped up briefly several times over the following two days - seen in flight and heard, but never located on the ground.



It was a particularly poor year for Siskins, with two over the Bill on 6th April and another on the 8th being the only spring reports. After an early autumn start there of three over on 13th September it was slim pickings, with under 50 birds recorded in total, almost all from the Bill and with a peak count of just 19 on 23rd October.



Siskin at Church Norton on 15th October (AW)


Conversely, it was an above average year for Lesser Redpolls, starting with an unusual sighting of one among Linnets at Medmerry on 1st May. An autumn total of 57 birds, all moving overhead between 14th and 23rd October, were counted, mostly from the Bill, though singles at Medmerry and Northcommon Farm, and nine at Church Norton on the latter date were also noted, along with a late one over the Slipe Field on 30th November.



Unusually, first a male Brambling on 28th March and then a female on 1st and 2nd April were seen at Ivy Lake, but the autumn was very poor, with two that flew in off the sea and settled briefly on the beach at Church Norton on 21st October and four over the Bill on the following day being the sum total.


Bramblings at Church Norton on 21st October (AW)


A quite boldly marked Snow Bunting was found at the far end of Church Norton spit on 6th November, but not seen again, though it is quite likely that this was the same bird that then settled in at the far end of the caravan park near the Medmerry Beach from the 9th to the 16th.




Snow Bunting at Memerry on 9th November (IP)


For the lucky few who saw it, the first Lapland Bunting on the Peninsula since 2010 that graced the North Wall on 18th September was one of the birds of the year. Unfortunately, for a species that is confiding and often settles in for a while, it departed that day never to re-appear.


Lapland Bunting at the north Wall on 18th September (IMcK)

Given their apparent continued wider decline in the wider countryside, the fact that there was nothing too remarkable to report about the Corn Bunting was probably good news. Small numbers were seen and heard singing from their regular haunts around Ham Farm and the east side of Medmerry, with at least six singing males heard on 16th July.
As has been their wont in recent years, at least ten were on the west side of the reserve from late August to early October, whilst a concerted count across the whole site on 3rd October produced a very encouraging 21 individuals.




Corn Bunting at Medmerry on 16th July (AH)


A similar tale could be told about the Yellowhammer, with the Medmerry population seemingly thriving and the other local populations, particularly north of the North Wall reasonably stable. Records away from these core sites are few, though, so ones at the Bill on 7th May and at Church Norton on 30th June were quite noteworthy.




Yellowhammers at Medmerry on 15th February (AH)




































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