Review of the Year 2020


Review of the Year 2020


compiled by Andy House

As we come to the end of this remarkable year and look at the bare numbers, it might seem like a fairly average year, but, as we are all too well aware, it has been anything but, with bird-watching at times seeming somewhat secondary to bigger events. However, and despite it all, there was thorough coverage of the Peninsula throughout the year and for the first time ever, at least some sea-watching done at the Bill on every single day.

A socially distanced sea-watch just before lock-down (above) & our esteemed log-keeper holding back the waves (AH)

From a bird-watching perspective, it was a year of two halves, with three months of almost uninterrupted westerly storms at the start of the year, followed by a benign spring for migrants (if not for those looking for them!) meaning that numbers of species and interesting birds in general were well behind the pace compared to recent years.

A fairly typical February morning at the Bill! (AH)
Flooded fields behind the North Wall (JDW)

However, following what would appear to have been a good breeding season both here and elsewhere, the autumn produced a succession of good birds, including two new species for the Peninsula list, and the year finished up on a very respectable 214 species.

It was, though, a fairly fraught year for those unable to travel during the lock-downs and the continuing social restrictions, whilst the vast increase in ‘stay-cationers’ put unprecedented pressure on the infrastructure of the reserves and the wildlife, too. 

The general public ignoring the fences and signs during the breeding season at Church Norton (AH)

There were also a series of seemingly unnecessary assaults on various sites, such as the brutal clearance along the Long Pool and west side, the ongoing difficulties with the Ferry and Breech Pool and evident attempts to stop the Drayton Pits being properly monitored. 
And there remains the continuous threat of mass development, too, with the Local Plans for housing being overridden by the government, increasing the likelihood of further swathes of inappropriate housing appearing around Selsey and Pagham.

The destruction of habitat along the Long Pool (AH)

One of the most dramatic topographical changes was along Pagham Beach and Spit, where the houses that were in imminent danger of collapsing into the sea seem to have had a reprieve, but the small lagoon on the spit was breached by the sea, becoming a tidal pool, with every likelihood that the leeward side will be breached, too, creating an island of the western end.

The new shape of Pagham Spit (TG-P)

There were some birding highlights, though, (for some, at least!), such as the first Common Nighthawk for Sussex, followed by another potential first, if a little less glamorous, in Stejneger’s Stonechat, and a good selection of scarcities, including Sooty Shearwater, Black Brant, Honey-buzzard, Black-winged Stilt, Dotterel, Glossy Ibis, Puffin, Richard's Pipit, Red-backed Shrike, Red-rumped Swallow, Golden Oriole and Lapland Bunting, plus an unprecedented influx of White-fronted Geese..
And there was further good news in the breeding season from the Sandwich and Little Tern colonies and the first ever – and successful – breeding attempt by Cattle Egrets, plus the pair of Marsh Harriers in the Drayton pits area fledging young for the second year running.

Away from the world of birds, the regular occurrence of a pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins off the Bill was welcome, whilst the first records (of recent times, at least) of Large Tortoiseshell butterflies were received from gardens in Selsey on 7th and 12th April and Birdham on 10th April.

Large Tortoiseshell in a Selsey garden on 7th April (AW)


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

It was fairly poor year for all the diver species, none more so than Red-throated Diver, which saw a winter day-peak of just 21 west on 6th February, and a spring total of just 147 birds east, barely half what might have been expected. 
There were three unseasonal June sightings – off East Head on the 12th and then off the Bill on the 19th and 23rd, but no more reports until the first back on 19th September. 
Autumn numbers were unremarkable, too, though an individual that intermittently frequented Pagham Lagoon from 9th to 26th October drew a few admirers. The best count of the year was 53 west at the Bill on Christmas Day.

Red-throated Diver at the Bill on 14th October (AH)

It was no better for Black-throated Divers, either, with a solitary winter record - at the Bill on 25th January, a spring total of just six birds between 23rd March and 3rd May and five autumn records, from Church Norton on 22nd November and the Bill on 29th November, 19th December, when two birds went west and 21st December

Black-throated Diver at the Bill on 29th April (AH)

Great Northern Divers, too, were in short supply, with a winter peak of just six off the Bill on 14th February and a best for the year of seven there on 4th April. As is often the case, several birds remained into May, with the last seen on the 29th, whilst the first back was on 4th October. 
Numbers were respectable during the autumn, before a big increase in late December, including a new county record count of 20 (13 west and seven offshore) at the Bill on the 28th.

Great Northern Diver at Medmerry on 19th April (AW)

Grebes

There were three widely spread autumn records of Red-necked Grebe - of one that dropped in briefly off the Bill on 26th October, before carrying on east, one offshore there on 20th November and off Church Norton on the following day, and finally  one close in at the Bill on 28th December and seen there again on the 31st.

Red-necked Grebe at the Bill on 28th December (AH)

One of the features of recent times has been the apparent relocation of the wintering Slavonian Grebes from Church Norton to the Bill, and this was more pronounced than ever this year, with very few reports from the former site and almost daily sightings from the latter, including a year’s high of 19 on 19th January. 
There was a notable exception with a single bird lingering around the inside and outside of Pagham Harbour mouth between 1st and 14th March. The last of the spring was off the Bill on 26th March, whilst first of the autumn was back at Church Norton on the fairly early date of 24th October, though numbers remained very low thereafter, with just two or three seen intermittently off the Bill until a little influx in late December, peaking at eight on the 28th.

Slavonian Grebe at Church Norton on 19th March (AW)

Seabirds

After an early flourish of four east and seven west past the Bill on the early date of 15th March, it was a very poor spring for Manx Shearwater sightings, clearly not helped by the settled weather conditions. A big storm on 6th June, though, produced a bumper day, with 206 birds seen going east, mostly in a few hours in the afternoon, and including flocks of 23 and 18, though thereafter it was typical summer fare, with any stormy day producing a few records.

It was good year for Balearic Shearwaters off the Bill, with six accepted records of ten individuals, thus - on 4th and 12th (two birds) July, 6th and 21st (two) August, 24th October (three birds) and 14th November.

And it was a good October at the Bill for Sooty Shearwaters, with one seen on the 2nd, and then four on a very stormy 31st.

There was just one record of Storm-Petrels off the Bill, on the morning of 7th June, following a big storm, when two lingered for some time offshore, close enough to be observed pattering over the water as they fed. 
Ten or more were seen following a fishing boat some 30 miles south of the Bill on 25th May – perhaps a little too far out to count, really!

Storm-petrel in the English Channel (30 miles south of the Bill!) on 25th May (CW)

These days, Gannets are more or less ever-present offshore from the Bill, but there were no really big movements this year, with 290 west on 11th January and 522 east on 17th April the biggest counts in the first half of the year and 618 east on 19th August the biggest of the second half.

Gannets at the Bill on 17th April (AH)

After last year’s bumper counts, it was back to more usual number this year for Shag, with the first not noted until 19th January and no more than three seen on any watch. There was an unusual summer record of one east on 18th July, but autumn reports were restricted to fairly regular ones and twos after the first on 24th August.

Shag at the Bill on 17th March (AW)

Herons

One of the headline stories of the year was undoubtedly the successful rearing of young by the Cattle Egrets that took up residence in Owl Copse. The group of 24 birds remained into the new year around Marsh Farm, Sidlesham before once again decamping to Hunston, but this year they came back, with 18 birds seen around the copse on 4th March, rising to 25 by the 12th. 
A minimum of five nests were confirmed on 21st May, and then, on 23rd June at least two fledged juveniles were seen in the colony. It likely that at least five young were raised, though it was difficult to be certain if there were more, with the issue further confused by an influx in August from elsewhere, producing several new record counts and a peak of 46 birds on the 23rd, whilst confirmation of birds on the move was seen at the Bill, with flocks of eight on the 1st and 13 on the following day. 
Good numbers remained in the area all autumn, with at least 44 present around Marsh Farm, Sidlesham on 13th November, rising to a new record count of 56 on the 21st.

Juvenile Cattle Egrets at the North Wall on 23rd June (TG)

By contrast, it was a disappointing year for Great White Egrets, with a reversion to their former scarce status, with just three reports in the first half of the year – from the Medmerry Trail on 27th March, Drayton Pits on 17th April and well offshore from Medmerry on 27th April, and three from the harbour in the autumn, on 3rd and 12th October and 4th November.

Great White Egret at the Long Pool on 3rd October (AB)

A Bittern wintered at Drayton House Pits, appearing on 1st January, then intermittently until the 13th, with the same bird presumably popping up again between 21st and 25th February, whilst one was back at Chichester Marina from 25th November.

Bittern at Drayton House Pit on 3rd January (AB)

Spoonbills were very scarce in the first half of the year, with one at Medmerry on 22nd February the first, followed by one in the harbour on 7th March, one at Medmerry from 2nd to 6th May and at the Ferry on the 14th and finally another at Medmerry on 14th June, seen east over both the Bill and the North Wall on the following morning. 
However after the first back at Church Norton on 26th August, the autumn produced a long list of reports, mainly from Medmerry of one to four birds, with five there on 12th September and seven on the 15th, with the last one reported there 10th October, with the last three of the year over Church Norton on the 7th.

Spoonbills at Medmerry on 15th September (AH)

In recent years the Glossy Ibis has become an almost expected annual visitor, and one that popped up among the Cattle Egret flock at Marsh Farm, Sidlesham on 24th November, staying through December, kept the good recent run going.

Glossy Ibis at Marsh Farm, Sidlesham on 24th November (AH)

Despite the knowledge that they had emanated from the Knepp re-introduction project, the sight of 22 White Storks thermalling over first the harbour, then Selsey and West Wittering on 30th August was still spectacular for those that witnessed it. There was a further report of presumably 17 of that flock over Medmerry on 5th September, then a lone bird over Ferry Field on the 11th.

White Storks over Selsey on 30th August (AW)

Wildfowl

After the first blank year this century in 2019, it was the family group of two adult and three juvenile White-fronted Geese that dropped in on Marsh Farm, Sidlesham on 30th November proved very popular, but turned out to be precursors to a remarkable influx into the Peninsula and South-east England, with a maximum of 47 birds seen on 4th December, split between Medmerry and Marsh Farm, Sidlesham. 
Further flocks were seen moving through, including 21 at Church Norton on 9th December and 11 on the 12th, whilst the very confiding flock at Medmerry remained until then, too. Oddly, one took up residence on the Peregrines' Island, even seen sharing it with them on occasion!
Including the afore-mentioned bird in the harbour, a total of 69 birds were counted on 22nd December,  with 44 at Chichester Marina added to the 24 still at Medmerry.

White-fronted Geese at Medmerry on 12th December (AH)

Two Pink-footed Geese were seen going west over Park Farm, Selsey on 30th November, but were sadly not relocated. They were the first recorded since October 1997.

There were plenty of wintering Dark-bellied Brent Geese early in the year, with 2500 behind the North Wall on 28th January the biggest count. Spring passage was unremarkable, with an average total of 2901 birds counted heading east and a modest peak day-total of just 762 on 15th March. 
There were just two summer records, both from the Bill on 12th June and 12th July, whilst the first (two) returners were seen heading west over the harbour on 18th September. The population slowly built up until early November, when good numbers were back, including considerably more juveniles than the last two years.

juvenile Dark-bellied Brent Goose at Church Norton on 12th November (AH)

A flock of 23 Pale-bellied Brent Geese going east past the Bill on 25th March was very unusual, whilst the other spring report of this scarce sub-species was of two at the North Wall on 1st May.
One past the Bill on 25th and 26th October, then in the harbour on the 28th and 30th was followed by one at first Medmerry on 30th November, one at Chichester Marina on 22nd and 23rd December and then two at Medmerry on the 29th and 30th.

Pale-bellied Brent Goose at Chichester Marina on 22nd December (GM)

To complete the set, the first Black Brant since 2016 turned up in the big Brent Goose flock at Chichester on 28th December, remaining until the year's end.

Black Brant at Chichester Marina (AW)

There were no big mid-winter flocks of Barnacle Geese this year, with the only records being of five north-east over the harbour on 2nd April, four west over the harbour on 3rd November and one with Brent Geese at Medmerry on 30th November, (presumably) relocating to Chichester Marina, where it was present from 22nd December onwards.

Barnacle Goose at Medmerry on 30th November (BI)

The status of Egyptian Goose has changed markedly in the last few years, having gone very swiftly from rare visitor to breeding (if still somewhat scarce) resident, with numerous reports received all year from Ivy Lake, where breeding was confirmed, the Marsh Farm, Sidlesham area and in the second half of the year particularly from Medmerry, where between five and nine were seen regularly.

Egyptian Geese at Medmerry on 4th August (AW)

That other introduced wildfowl species – Mandarin – remains as scarce as ever, though, with a single bird at its favourite haunt of Birdham Pool on 1st to 3rd January and it or another there on 26th September the only records.

Mandarin on Birdham Pool on 1st January (AH)

A group of two male and a female Garganey around the Breech Pool from 16th March until 2nd April proved very popular, though they could be frustratingly elusive at times, and they were complemented, in what was a good spring for the species, by a pair at Drayton Pit on 21st to 23rd March and drakes at the North wall on 5th May and on the Ferry from 9th to 11th May. 
The only return passage record came from the Bill, where a flock of five was seen heading west on 16th August.

Garganey at the North Wall on 20th March (AW)

The only confirmed breeding report of Gadwall this year was from Drayton Pit, where a mother and five young was seen on 8th June, though a dozen juveniles on the Long Pool together on 18th July would suggest they were reared nearby.

Gadwall at the Long Pool on 11th April (AH)

Never a very common species, a loose flock of 122 Pintail in the harbour on 24th September was both unusually large and unusually early.

Pintail at the North Wall on 19th September (AH)

Another big count was of 224 Pochard on Drayton Pits on 13th January, whilst the pits remain an important breeding site for the species, with the Ivy Lake complex holding at least four mothers and ten young and Drayton pits three mothers and nine young in early July, with the latter site then producing a very late mother and duckling on 20th August.

Pochard family on Ivy Lake on 13th June (SH)

A juvenile Scaup was tucked away on the Long Pool on the early date of 28th August until 6th September, but was frustratingly only seen and identified from photographs on the first and last dates.

Scaup on the Long Pool on 6th September (A Ashdown)

Fishbourne Creek was the only regular site for Goldeneye this year, with nine on 4th January and ten on 25th January the peaks, whilst just two were recorded in Pagham Harbour on a number of dates in February, though not at all from the Lagoon which was formerly one of their favoured sites.
Autumn numbers were low, but one seen off of the Bill on 27th, 29th and 30th November was particularly noteworthy, with just four back at Fishbourne Creek by 1st December, though this numbr had risen to eight by the 29th, with the only other sightings being of a drake on Honer Reservoir on 1st and 2nd December and a female in the harbour on the 26th. 

Goldeneye at Honer Reservoir on 1st December (JDW)

Last autumn's Long-tailed Duck remained loyal to Fishbourne Creek from the start of the year until 8th March, joined by another briefly on 4th January, whilst a succession of records from the Bill – on 1st and 18th January, two on 20th March, one on 13th, 17th and 18th April and a late one on 24th May were presumably of other birds.
After such a good first half of the year, there were no autumn records at all.

Long-tailed Duck at Fishbourne Creek on 23rd January (AH)

It was a very poor year for Common Scoter, with low wintering numbers and a very poor spring, with a total of 2737 being less than a third of 2019’s (admittedly bumper) count. 
As usual, they were comparatively numerous through the summer, seen almost daily, but autumn numbers were low, though small wintering flocks settled in off the Bill and Medmerry.

Common Scoters at the Bill on 5th April (AH)

Sadly, it was an even worse spring for Velvet Scoters, with two east at the Bill on 7th May being the only record. 
Autumn was a little better with, two east there on the early date of 20th September, followed by a flock of seven west there on 6th November, one east and two west on 21st November, and another half a dozen December records, including a peak of four west on Christmas Day.

Velvet Scoters at the Bill on 6th November (AH)

The previous December’s Eider flock off of East Head persisted into the new year, with 20 seen on 19th January, but nine there on the 24th was the only subsequent sighting. As usual small numbers were seen off the Bill, with nine west on 10th February the biggest winter count and nine offshore on 16th April the biggest spring count.
A single bird on 8th August was the sole summer record, whilst a flock of 15 west past Church Norton on 12th October was the best of a moderate autumn.

Eider at Church Norton on 12th October (AH)

Goosanders proved to be hard to pin down early in the year, with a succession of records, but no birds sticking around. The first was of one flying over Drayton Pit on 19th January, followed by singles at Fishbourne Creek on 5th February, the Bill on 3rd March, Fishbourne Creek on the following day, a pair at Church Norton on 7th March, a pair past the Bill on 26th March and singles there on 3rd and 5th April.
The first autumn bird was at Church Norton on 10th and 11th November, with another there on the 21st, one past the Bill on the 28th and further sightings from Church Norton on 9th  and 28th December.

Goosanders at Church Norton on 7th March (AW)

Raptors

After a blank first half of the year, it was a much better autumn for Hen Harriers, with eight records in total, after a first one at Medmerry on the early date of 30th August. This was followed by September reports from Church Norton on the 26th, the North Wall on the 28th and Medmerry on the 29th, and subsequent sightings were received from Church Norton on 8th October, the Long Pool on 4th November, the North Wall on 19th November and the Tramway on 10th December, all of which were ring-tails.

Hen Harrier at the Long Pool on 4th November (AH)

Marsh Harriers were seen at least weekly, if not quite daily, throughout the year around the harbour in particular, with Medmerry a little less reliably, but with just sporadic reports from Chichester Harbour. 
The pair at Drayton Pit were successful again this year, too, with definitely one and probably two youngsters fledged, whilst two were noted interacting on a numbers of occasions early in the year behind the North Wall, and again in late autumn, so this might be the next development.

Marsh Harrier at Drayton Pit on 1st July (OM)

The first Red Kite of the year wasn’t seen until one went over West Itchenor on 14th March, with the prolonged spell of dismal weather perhaps discouraging them from wandering, but between then and the end of June a further 25 sightings were noted, including two reports of individuals over the Bill, where they remain scarce, on 21st March and 7th May. 
For some reason it is a much scarcer bird in the second half of the year, with just five records received, including another at the Bill on 18th October.

Red Kite at Northcommon Farm on 25th March (AW)

A single Honey-buzzard was seen this year, with one crossing the harbour west and then back east on 22nd August.

Honey-buzzard at Church Norton on 22nd August (AB)

There were again only four spring records of Osprey, after the first of the year over Ivy Lake on 27th March, with the other three all coming from the Bill, on 18th April and 5th and 7th May. There were also four June records – from Medmerry on the 2nd and 3rd, over Sidlesham on the 4th (possibly the same bird) and another over the Tramway on the 18th. 
The first autumn report was from Medmerry on 26th August, with many records from there over the next month, and others from Birdham, various parts of Pagham Harbour and the Bill, with one east there on 25th September, whilst the last of the year was over the North Wall on 8th October.

Osprey over the Tramway on 18th June (AH)

One of the little local highlights was the nesting Sparrowhawks at Church Norton, watched from a brooding mother to the discovery that there were five juveniles ready to fledge on 11th July.

juvenile Sparrowhawks at Church Norton on 11th July (AB)

Another interesting development was a White-tailed Eagle over Selsey on 13th October. One of this year’s juveniles from the re-introduction scheme on the Isle of Wight, it was tracked on its first exploratory flight, returning over our airspace as it headed home, and actually seen by one lucky observer. 
Despite their tendency to roam widely, this is the only one so far known to have passed over the Peninsula.

Hobby numbers were low again this spring, after the first – at the Bill – on the typical date of 20th April, with just five recorded there and few elsewhere. 
Unusually, there were a number of summer records, including one over the Bill on 11th June, it or another over Selsey two days later and what was possibly the first returner over the North Wall on 24th July. Autumn numbers were unremarkable, with the last seen over Park Farm, Selsey on 18th October.

juvenile Hobby at Church Norton on 24th August (AW)

After a number of poor years, this was a very good one for Merlin, with regular, if sporadic reports from all round the harbour and Medmerry from the start of the year till mid-March, with what were then presumably migrants at Medmerry on 4th April and the Bill on 11th May. 
The first autumn report was from Church Norton was on 2nd September, but thereafter there were a plethora of records, including almost daily sightings from either the Bill, Church Norton or Medmerry, including two birds hunting successfully together at the Bill and others bringing prey in from far offshore.

Merlin at Church Norton on 2nd September (AW)

The long-standing pair of Peregrines again showed signs of nesting on New Island before departing for the summer and did not return until mid-November.

Peregrine at the Bill on 12th February (AH)

Gamebirds/Rails

It was a fairly quiet year for Grey Partridge sightings, with the two traditional sites of Medmerry and the farmland behind the North Wall producing all of the reports, most of which were between March and May.

Grey Partridge at Medmerry on 14th May (SR)

Hot on the heels of last year’s first Quail in six years another amenable bird turned up on 29th May at the unlikely location of the barley field next to the very busy East Head access road. It could be heard calling from the road end of the field until 16th June, and given the length of its stay, it is just possible it found a mate.

What was a ‘first’ for almost all those who were lucky enough to see them was the sight of two little black puffball Water Rails chicks that occasionally popped out from the roadside reeds on the Ferry from 29th May into the middle of June.

Water Rails on the Ferry on 2nd July (AH)

Waders

After missing out on one last year, a Black-winged Stilt dropped in on the Ferry 8th May, though sadly it only stayed for the day.

Black-winged Stilt on the Ferry on 8th May (AH)

A good-sized wintering flock of Avocets is usual these days, and this year the peak count was 47 on 10th February, well down from last year, but still way above the numbers of twenty years ago. 
The breeding season was very much one of mixed fortunes, though, with the Medmerry colony failing completely again due to predation, whilst Snowhill Creek went from a standing start to fledging at least 20 chicks. It is possible that these were some of the failed breeders from Medmerry, but a big flock settled on the Ferry at the same time (late May), so they may equally have originated from elsewhere.

juvenile Avocets at East Head on 31st May (MR)

Despite the huge increase in human activity this summer, there was some success for our breeding waders, with 13 pairs of Oystercatchers fledging four young and eight pairs of Ringed Plovers fledging seven young.

Oystercatchers (above) on 25th July & Ringed Plover chick on 17th July at Church Norton (AH)

The first (two) Little Ringed Plovers appeared back at Medmerry on 14th March, a week earlier than last year, whilst another pair were there on the 30th, but it does not seem likely that breeding was successful, despite the continued presence of adult birds. 
There were also two, and sometimes three, adults seen on the Ferry throughout April and May, though again breeding was doubtful, with three juveniles there on 22nd July more likely to have come from elsewhere. The last report of the year (from the Ferry) was on the very early date of 8th August.

Little Ringed Plover at Medmerry on 30th March (AH)

There were very big numbers of Golden Plovers around the harbour and Medmerry again in the early part of the year, with a spectacular flock of 500 or more on the Ferry on 12th January the biggest count, whilst 600 were recorded in White’s Creek on 7th November.

Golden Plovers at the North Wall on 31st December (AH)

One of the birds of the year was undoubtedly the juvenile Dotterel that sat out the high tide on the beach at Medmerry on the afternoon of 22nd September, seemingly unconcerned by the growing gathering of observers nearby.

Dotterel at Medmerry on 22nd September (AH)

It was a very slightly better year for Little Stint reports, though it is becoming an increasingly scarce visitor these days, with an adult on the Ferry on 17th July the first of the year, followed by a juvenile in the harbour off Church Norton from 25th August to 3rd September, being joined by a second bird on its last day, and finally one was there on 4th October.

Little Stint at Church Norton on 4th October (AW)

A single spring adult Curlew Sandpiper was in the harbour from Church Norton from 22nd to 24th May, with another there on 27th July, whilst there was a good number of juveniles recorded more or less continuously around the harbour, after the first three on the Ferry on 21st August, including four on 24th August and six on 17th to 19th September from the White’s Creek area, with the last of the year there on 5th October and the last (two) of the year at Fishbourne Creek on the following day.

Curlew Sandpipers at the North Wall on 16th September (JDW)

Sanderling numbers were well down on spring passage, with just 88 (a quarter of last year’s total) seen at the Bill, and they were fairly scarce in the harbour, too, with few lingering into June as they often do. The first (two) back of a quiet autumn for the species went west past the Bill on 19th July.

Sanderling at the Bill on 28th July (SH)

A flock of c250 Knot on 8th February was a very good count for what was formerly considered a scarce bird in the harbour, but they were in low numbers at the Bill, with just 16 birds seen in the spring. At least 400 were back in the harbour again, though, by mid November.

Knot in Ferry Channel on 4th April (AH)

A Purple Sandpiper seen briefly at Medmerry on 19th September was welcome after a blank last year and was the fore-runner to an exceptional autumn for the species. Another appeared on Church Norton spit on 29th and 30th October and was followed by several reports of one or two birds at the Bill in early November, culminating in a possible record count of six on the 3rd. Two were on the rocks at Medmerry on the 5th and with four there on the 10th and 16th,  and one or two reports of singles thereafter, though none appeared to have remained to winter.

Purple Sandpipers at the Bill on 4th November (AH)

It was another very poor year for Ruff, with just four reports – from the Ferry on 3rd/4th and 20th June, one with Curlews in fields at Park Farm, Selsey on 4th October and it, or another, on the Ferry on 1st December.

Ruff on the Ferry on 4th June (SH)

There was no wintering Common Sandpiper this year, with the first of the year turning up at Church Norton on 7th April. Spring and return passage were about average, though, with six at the Ferry on 2nd September the biggest count. 
A little late flurry on 3rd October brought three or four birds to the harbour, the last of which was seen on the typical date of 14th October.

Common Sandpiper at the Bill on 24th April (AW)

The first Wood Sandpiper of the year turned up on the Ferry on 9th August and was joined by another on the 11th, with both present until the 16th and one lingering to the 20th. 
Then, completely unexpectedly, three together turned up there on 3rd October, along with a couple of the previous species, though they were gone by the following morning.

Green Sandpiper and Wood Sandpiper on the Ferry on 12th August (AH)

For the first time in quite a number of years there were no reports of wintering Green Sandpipers, and indeed, no spring records either, with the first of the year being (presumably) an early returner at Medmerry on the not atypical date of 8th June. 
Thereafter there were a succession of reports, including three at the North Wall on 9th August and three on the Ferry on the following day. Autumn records were few, though one was seen at Medmerry on 18th October and two were at Porthole Farm on 12th November.

Wintering Greenshank were down on last year, with peaks of three at Medmerry on 10th January and five in Fishbourne Creek on the 23rd, whilst latter site had the best of a modest spring, with a maximum of 16 there on 21st April. 
The first bird back was on 8th June, whilst highest count was 11 at the North Wall on 21st August. In the autumn at least two birds were at back Medmerry and eight were counted at Fishbourne Creek on 23rd October.

Greenshank at Church Norton on 5th October (BI)

Spotted Redshank numbers were lower in the early part of the year, with a maximum of five in Fishbourne Creek on 19th January and three in the harbour (at the North Wall) on 18th February. Spring passage was very slight and the first returning bird wasn’t back until the late date (by this species’ standards!) of 24th June at the Ferry. 
Return passage was reasonable, with eight at the North wall on 9th September, and strangely the Long Pool, which gets very few waders on it, was a popular roosting site with at least five present during the first week of September and then seven or eight again between the 23rd and 25th, and four still roosting there on 10th October. 
The three seen in Ferry Channel on 19th October and two there on 2nd December would appear to be wintering birds, as were seven at Fishbourne Creek on 27th November.

Spotted Redshank at the North Wall on 31st March (AH)

Church Norton’s regular wintering Whimbrel duly departed among the passage birds in April and was back again in August for what will be at least its tenth winter. 
There was also a wintering record from Fishbourne Creek on 1st January, but two at West Itchenor on 15th March and five over the North Wall on the following day might well refer to early migrants. As with many species, a spring passage total of 218 east was well below average.

Whimbrel at the North Wall on 5th May (AH)

A count of 26 Bar-tailed Godwits at Church Norton on 13th March was good for the harbour, but a spring total of 378 east at the Bill was barely a quarter of last year’s high total, though still better than some recent years. 
There was a noticeable day of movement on 25th August, when 80 passed the Bill going west and a very restless flock of 126 birds dropped in for a while in poor weather at Church Norton.

Bar-tailed Godwits at Church Norton on 25th August (AH)

Black-tailed Godwits are a familiar and near ever-present species around the harbour, but the wet conditions early in the year was very much to their liking and a big flock built up in the waterlogged fields behind the North Wall, peaking at an impressive 2100 birds in early March.

Black-tailed Godwits at the North Wall on 6th March (AH)

A Woodcock at Drayton Pits on 23rd January, one flushed on 10th February from Ferry Channel were the only reports in the early part of the year.
One at Church Norton on 14th November was the first of a very modest autumn, with the only other records coming from Drayton Pits, with three reports in December, and Medmerry, with one on Christmas Day.

Surveying at Medmerry revealed just how under-recorded Snipe can be, when a search on 21st January produced a remarkable 150 birds. There was a surprising summer record too, of nine at Church Norton on 19th July.

Snipe at Church Norton on 18th March (AH)

The regular surveying at Medmerry also found five or six Jack Snipe present up till early March, with two still present on the 17th, whilst the traditional site at Fishbourne Creek held one or two birds early in the year. Away from these sites, the North Wall was also productive, with five seen flying in from the harbour on 10th January, two there on the 18th and another on 23rd March. 
The first of a quiet autumn was flushed from the field by Ferry Farm on 16th October.

Jack Snipe at Fishbourne Creek on 26th January (AH)

There was only one accepted record of Grey Phalarope, with one off of Tern Island in the harbour on 9th October.

Grey Phalarope at Church Norton on 9th October (P Rhodes)

Skuas

A middling total of 38 Pomarine Skuas were seen in the spring, after the first (two) on 24th April, with a few seen on a number of days and a peak of 15 on 7th May, whilst the last of the spring was the biggest flock – seven – on the 16th. It was generally a frustrating spring for them, though, and not just for those unable to attend, as many were very distant and at odd times of day and several promising-looking days yielded a blank. There was just one seen in the autumn, on 14th November. 

Pomarine Skuas at the Bill on 29th April (AW)

The first Arctic Skua of a well below par spring was on 25th March, and only 85 were counted, just half of last year’s count. They were seen pretty consistently through the summer and early autumn at the Bill, with a couple in the harbour, too, and the last of the year was on 14th November.

Arctic Skua at the Bill on 23rd April (AH)

Unusually there were no wintering records of Great Skua, with the first not seen till the first passage bird on the late date of 11th April, and like the other species it was a below average year, with just 41 east noted, though five sat on the sea (including four together) on 27th April was an unusual sight. 
As with previous species there were a number of summer and early autumn records, with a few more right through to the year's end, including three on 5th December and two the 13th.

Great Skua at the Bill on 28th April (AW)

Gulls

Little Gull was just about the only species to have an above average spring at the Bill, after the first five of the year on 23rd March, with an impressive day-count of 76 on 5th April adding considerably to the tally of 122 birds east. 
The only record away from the Bill was off one at Chichester GPs on 20th April, whilst autumn numbers were very low, with eight west on 24th and two west on 30th August at the Bill, plus singles on 14th November and 3rd December being the only reports.

Little Gull at the Bill on 14th November (AW)

There were very few notable days of Kittiwake movement, with 102 east on 15th March and 210 west on 13th December being the biggest counts for the two halves of the year.

Kittiwake at Church Norton on 1st November (AH)

Despite being a now familiar and regular bird, Mediterranean Gulls remain something of an enigma, with large numbers building up in the harbour again in April before all but a handful departed - with just three young being fledged from two pairs. 
There was another big build-up in late September when well over 1000 were present for at least a week before the majority moved off once again.

Mediterranean Gulls at Northcommon Farm on 5th April (AH)

The Black-headed Gull colony on Tern Island continues to prosper, with 785 young being fledged by 583 pairs this summer, whilst a small colony was discovered on a flat roof near Ivy Lake that held 13 youngsters.

Black-headed Gulls at Church Norton on 23rd July (AH)

One species that is becoming distinctly scarce on the Peninsula is Yellow-legged Gull, with almost all of the reports relating to the long-staying adult off the North Wall, present from 13th July until 10th September, with the only other reports being one at East Head on 10th July and two at West Itchenor on 2nd August.

Yellow-legged Gull at the North Wall on 5th August (AW)

Terns

The year started with almost daily sightings of Sandwich Terns the Bill and there was a new winter high of 17 birds on 2nd February, and whilst a spring total of 2870 east, including 511 on 4th April, was just below average, it still compared favourably with most species. 
More significantly, it was the best year yet for the colony in the harbour, with 175 pairs fledging 164 young, an even more important achievement given that the nearest colonies east and west of us – namely Rye and Langstone Harbours - both failed completely.
As is now usual, two or three birds were seen regularly off the Bill throughout the autumn, with a remarkable 12 present on 20th December.

juvenile Sandwich Tern at Church Norton on 5th August (AH)

It was another poor spring for Common Terns at the Bill, after the first on the late date of 5th April, with a combined Common/’Commic’ total of just 2706 birds east, down year-on-year again, with a peak of just 376 east on 3rd May. 
Only eight young fledged from the 11 pairs in the harbour, but there was encouraging news from Chichester Harbour, where nesting rafts set up near Ella Nore proved to be successful, and from Ivy Lake, where a small colony of nine pairs on an adjacent rooftop had 14 youngsters. The last of a low-key return passage was at the Bill on the fairly early date of 4th October.

Common Tern at the Bill on 23rd April (AH)

It was a very poor year for Arctic Terns – after the earliest one ever at the Bill on 5th April, there was only one other spring record, of six east there on 11th May, and no summer/autumn records at all.

On a more positive note, Roseate Terns kept up their good run of appearances in recent years, with firstly one at East Head on 8th July, followed by another in the harbour on the following day, rising to a peak of three on the 13th and 14th, with two still reported until the 16th. It is a rare bird in Sussex as a whole and their prolonged presence on the mud in front of Tern Island drew plenty of admirers.

Roseate Tern at Church Norton on 14th July (AH)

The first Little Terns of the year – one at the Bill and four in the harbour – on 5th April equalled last year’s earliest ever date, but a spring total at the Bill of 99, with a peak of just 27 east on 25th April, was well below average, though the difficulty in separating migrants from the birds taking up residence in the harbour means the number may be under-stated. 
The initial colony on Tern Island was washed out by high tides early on, but the satellite colony on New Island was successful and another small group set up on the far end of the spit, with 21 pairs fledging 15 chicks in the end. Some of these were very late, with three adults and three juveniles seen on 16th August and the last to depart was on the 26th.

Little Terns at the Bill on 4th August (AH)

Unfortunately, though, another species that had a very poor year was Black Tern, with just three spring reports – from Ivy Lake on 17th April and from the Bill on 18th and 21st April, and a solitary autumn record from the latter site on 22nd August.

Its near relative, the White-winged Black Tern was the one that got away for all but the lucky observer, with the summer-plumaged adult seen just west of the Bill as it passed east on 23rd April being just the third ever Bill record, after previous individuals in 1959 and 1960!

White-winged Black Tern at the Bill on 23rd April (AW)

Auks

What was presumably the same Puffin was seen twice off the Bill, on 29th February and 7th March, with a couple of other ‘possible’ sighting between these dates. There were also two west on Christmas Day, during a busy day of auk movement.

There was a big movement of auks, again almost all Razorbills early in the year at the Bill, with 404 (of 800 auks) west on 6th January and an estimate of at least 3000 birds west over a very short period of time on the following day, but there were no more big counts after that date, though small numbers were seen regularly for all but high summer.
There were fairly frequent more modest counts throughout the autumn, with 13th December, when 836 went west, being the biggest movement.

Razorbills (plus a Guillemot) at the Bill on 13th December (AH)

Guillemots, by contrast were only ever recorded in small numbers, albeit fairly regularly.

Guillemot at the Bill on 11th September (SR)

Pigeons/Owls etc

Turtle Doves remain a very scarce visitor these days, with just five records for the year – the first of which flew in off the sea at the Bill on 20th April, followed by one seen at Church Norton on the 24th and one just heard calling there on 5th May, one in a West Wittering garden on 20th May, whilst the last of the year dropped in briefly at Medmerry on the fairly late date of 17th September.

Turtle Dove at Medmerry on 17th September (AH)

The numbers of Cuckoos on the Peninsula seemed quite respectable again this year, after the first at the North Wall on 18th April, and this area was popular all spring with at least four seen on several dates, whilst the Ferry area, Church Norton and Medmerry all seemed to hold their share. 
There were just two juveniles reported, though, at Church Norton on 17th July and the last on the late date of 30th August at Medmerry.

juvenile Cuckoo at Church Norton on 11th July (AB)

Barn Owl reports were definitely a year of two halves, with a bumper first half and a very meagre second. Possibly it was a consequence of the unrelentingly poor weather, though also because the population must have been quite high, there were regular sightings of daylight-hunting birds from the North Wall and Medmerry throughout the early part of the year, whilst occasional records were received from Fishbourne Creek, Church Norton, the north of Selsey, Sidlesham, Hunston and East Head. 
By contrast, there were almost no autumn reports, with just solitary reports from Medmerry and the North Wall where they were seen frequently in the early part of the year.

Barn Owl at Medmerry on 19th January (AH)

The Little Owls at Northcommon Farm and Bramber Farm were the only ones reported regularly through the year, though one was present for much of the summer around the paddocks at the North Wall, whilst single records were received from Highleigh on 10th Jan, Donnington on 17th March and Medmerry, where one was rescued from the road on 5th September. 

Little Owl at Bramber Farm on 28th March (AH)

The Tawny Owl was back in her box in the Discovery Area on 16th March and two youngsters were known to have fledged from there. Also, one was seen at Park Farm, Selsey on 16th June.

Tawny Owl in the Discovery Area on 15th May (AB)

The first Short-eared Owl of the year wasn’t seen until one was on Church Norton spit on 7th May, whilst the only other spring record was of an obliging individual along the Long Pool from 14th to 18th May. 
The first returning bird was at Owl Point on the early date of 7th August, but thereafter it was a good autumn, with at least a dozen sightings from all the usual sites, though again, none seemed to settle in to winter.

Short-eared Owl at the Long Pool on 14th May (AB)

One of the most spectacular events of the year for the lucky few who saw it was the presence of an Common Nighthawk at Church Norton on 8th October. 
First seen flying in over the beach late in the afternoon it dropped down into the Priory, but amazingly it reappeared at dusk and spent a short time feeding over the Severals and the small gathered crowd on the beach, before heading out over the harbour to be never seen again.

Common Nighthawk at Church Norton on 8th October (AW)

It has almost become expected that a Nightjar will come in off the sea in recent springs, and this year didn’t disappoint, with one doing just that on 17th May, whilst another was flushed from Ferry Field two days later.

The first Swifts of the year – a dozen of them – were over Chichester GPs on the fairly early date of 20th April, with at least 100 over Porthole Farm on 11th June and 183 west at the Bill on 21st June notable counts in an otherwise unremarkable year for the species. Two birds seen over the Bill on 6th September proved to be the last of the year.

Swift at the North Wall on 14th May (AB)

A Ring-necked Parakeet at Chichester Marina on 7th January was presumably the one seen in nearby Birdham in the preceding August, as it appeared to be resident, but highly elusive in the vicinity, with further sporadic sightings at the Marina again on 11th April, at nearby Birdham Pool on 2nd May, and a short flight up the canal towards Hunston on 7th august. There was also a heard only report of one over the Bill on 18th January.

Ring-necked Parakeet at Chichester Marina on 7th January (B Yates)

Kingfisher numbers seemed quite reasonable at both ends of the year, whilst reports from Chichester GPs in late June and early July would suggest that they are breeding locally. There was also a record from the Bill, where they are very rare, with one flying west along the tideline on 11th September.

Kingfisher at the North Wall on 18th September (AH)

Larks/Pipits/hirundines

All the Woodlark records came in a flurry in the first half of October, all of birds going over, thus – three at the Bill and four at Church Norton on the 5th, and then one on the 6th, two on the 7th, five on the 9th and two on the 16th, all from the Bill.

One of the least anticipated birds of the year was the Richard's Pipit that turned up at Marsh Farm, Sidlesham on the unlikely date of 4th December, remaining faithful to its favoured field until at least the 28th.

Richard's Pipit at Marsh Farm, Sidlesham on 15th December (DM)

Just three Tree Pipits were recorded in the spring, all flyovers at the Bill on 26th April, 17th May and 25th May, but it proved to be something of a bumper autumn after the first, again at the Bill on 10th August and one at Halsey’s Farm on the 13th. 
A visible migration watch from the east side of the harbour on the 24th produced an astonishing 73 birds over, whilst two were in a Birdham garden that day, too, after which there were another nine reports of a total of 21 birds, mostly flying over, from the harbour and the Bill, with the last at Church Norton on 9th October.

Tree Pipit at Church Norton on 31st August (AW)

Last autumn’s Water Pipit at Fishbourne Creek remained into the new year, but wasn’t seen again after 10th January.

Water Pipit in Fishbourne Creek on 1st January (AH)

A Norwegian-ringed Scandinavian Rock Pipit was photographed at the Bill on 7th November.

Scandinavian Rock Pipit at the Bill on 7th October (SR)

The first Yellow Wagtail, (of just 13 birds seen) at the Bill was on the fairly average date of 9th April, with just a handful of other spring reports received. 
Two birds over the north of Selsey on 15th July were very early for return birds, with few seen subsequently until the last week of August, when 20 at Church Norton and 61 at the Bill presaged some better numbers, including 110 over at the latter site on 31st August, 250 at Medmerry on 8th September and 236 at the North wall on the 10th. 
Numbers declined thereafter, with 70 at Medmerry on 19th September being the last big count, whilst the last two of the year went over the Bill on 11th October.

Yellow Wagtail at the North Wall on 12th August (GHi)

Only the third Red-rumped Swallow since the Millennium, and the first since 2016, was seen over the new reservoirs at Medmerry on 19th April, even settling briefly on the fencing, but it did not linger long.

Red-rumped Swallow at Medmerry on 19th April (SH)

Three Sand Martins at Medmerry on 17th March were the first of a very modest spring for the species, with just two seen at the Bill as an indication of it. 
The first back was an early juvenile, again at Medmerry, on 15th June, but numbers were slow to build up and there were only three occasions when big gatherings assembled – each estimated at 500 birds, namely at the North Wall on 11th July, Church Norton on 7th August and Medmerry on 9th September, whilst the last bird of the year was at Church Norton on 3rd October.

Sand Martins at Church Norton on 12th August (AH)

The first two Swallows were seen at Honer Reservoir on 24th March, but, like many spring migrants, numbers were low, with, again a very low count of just 179 at the Bill. 
They would appear to have had a good breeding season, though – including three broods in the hide at Church Norton – with notable counts including 1000 at the afore-mentioned site on 7th August and a spectacular 5000 birds at Medmerry on 9th September. Birds were present throughout October, with 12 seen at the Bill on 7th November and the last two there on the 28th, with another on the same date at Medmerry.

juvenile Swallow at Church Norton on 27th July (AH)

Two House Martins over a Birdham garden on 7th April were the first of the year, and as with the other hirundine species, the start of a poor spring, though numbers breeding in the vicinity of the Bill were encouraging, with 22 active nests found on 25th June, and there was constant activity around the puddles in Grafton Road to keep the slow sea-watches interesting. 
Early September saw a huge gathering at the Bill, with 1110 birds counted going west on the 5th and at least 1000 birds gathering on the rooftops and wires on the following morning, with another 1526 east over the Bill on the 17th. Three there on 16th October seemed like the last of the year, before an unexpected six together popped up on 7th November, with the last one seen on the 19th.

House Martin at the Bill on 24th May (AH)

Thrushes

There was a good sized flock of c150 Fieldfares around Medmerry at the start of the year, but they were generally thin on the ground, with Redwings even more so, as the persistently mild and wet winter weather did not encourage them south. 
The first Fieldfares back were on 14th October, with over 100 seen around the North Wall area regularly in late November and early December. 
The first Redwing back was on 5th October, and though a few were seen over the Bill, numbers remained low, with 20 at Bramber Farm on 7th December the biggest count.

Fieldfare at the North Wall on 14th October (AW) (above) & Redwing at Bramber Farm on 7th December (AH)

It was a very poor year for Ring Ouzels, with none seen in the spring and just three autumn records, of two behind the North Wall on 14th October, one over Ferry Field on the 16th and one at Medmerry on the 20th and 21st.

Ring Ouzel at the North Wall on 14th October (JDW)

It was also a disappointing year for Nightingale, with just a single report of one singing briefly along the Medmerry Trail on 11th April.

On the other hand, it was a very good year for Stonechats, with reasonable numbers wintering and an absolute minimum of seven pairs each rearing two broods at Medmerry. There were also lots in the autumn again, including a very impressive 55 along the banks on the west side of Medmerry on 29tth September.

juvenile Stonechat at Medmerry on 30th August (AH)

Perhaps not the most glamorous new addition to the Peninsula list, but certainly a subtly interesting one, the putative Stejneger’s Stonechat at Medmerry from 20th to 22nd October drew quite a crowd as a potential new species for the county, though currently news is awaited of DNA confirmation.

Stejneger’s Stonechat at Medmerry on 21st October (AB)

The first, of just a handful of spring records of Whinchat was at Medmerry on 11th April, whilst the first back was on the very early date of 14th July, also at Medmerry. 
Autumn passage would be classed as steady, with no double-figure tallies, though there were several reports in the latter half of October, with the last at (inevitably!) Medmerry on the 21st – a day with three species of chat present there.

Whinchat at Medmerry on 22nd April (AH)

The first Northern Wheatear of the spring arrived on 13th March at the species’ favourite first landing site of the concrete blocks at Church Norton. There were no more until the 16th, when quit a fall occurred, with at least five at Church Norton, four on Pagham Spit, one at the Bill and ten at Medmerry. 
As for many species, though, it was a slow spring overall, whilst the first back was a barely fledged juvenile at East Head on the early date of 16th July. Autumn passage was moderate, with 18 at Medmerry on 8th September the best count, though there were more October records than of late and the last of the year was at Church Norton from 1st to 3rd November.

Northern Wheatear at Medmerry on 8th May (AH)

There were just six Common Redstarts reported in the spring, from the first in Yeoman’s Field on 6th April to the last at Halsey’s Farm on 16th May, though there was an intriguing report of a male seen carrying food at Runcton on 20th May. 
The first back was at Church Norton on 30th July, but autumn numbers were fairly low, too, though their favoured hedges around the North Wall and Halsey’s Farm held half a dozen birds on 24th and 27th August. The last of the year- at Medmerry – was on the early date of 27th September.

Common Redstart at Church Norton on 18th August (AH)

For the first time in a number of years, there didn’t appear to be any wintering Black Redstarts on the Peninsula, with the first record not coming until 19th March at Medmerry, with a further five scattered reports until the month’s end, and one more, at Northcommon Farm on 10th April. 
The first autumn bird was at Church Norton on 19th October, with a little flurry of records over the next few days, then a gap until 7th November, when one at Medmerry was the precursor to a little influx, including six around the windmill/Toe End area of the caravan park on the 10th. There were also two unusually well inland, at Marsh Farm, Sidlesham on 20th and 21st November, with another five at Toe End on the 28th, at least two of which remained through December, and there was another unusual wintering record from farm buildings near Chichester Marina from 23rd December onwards

Black Redstart at Park Farm, Selsey on 20th October (SH)

Warblers/’crests/ Flycatchers

Unusually, the first Sedge Warbler and the first Reed Warbler appeared on the same day – 6th April, and both on the Long Pool. As is usual, there were some very late arrivals of the latter species, with a bird near park Farm on 2nd June and at the Bill two days later clearly migrants singing from unsuitable breeding habitat. 
The last Sedge Warbler of the year was at the North Wall on 20th September, with the last (two) Reed Warblers at the same site on the 29th.

Sedge Warbler at the Ferry on 8th August & Reed Warbler at Medmerry on 12th May (AH)

Around ten Willow Warblers were scattered around the Peninsula on 4th April, but it was another poor spring for the species. Strangely, one was heard singing for several days in the Bill House garden at the end of May. 
The last of the year was at the fairly unlikely location of East Head on 28th September.

Willow Warbler at Church Norton on 27th July (AW)

There were more usual numbers of wintering Chiffchaffs this year, including a dozen at Porthole Farm on 19th January, whilst autumn passage was respectable, with 50 around Church Norton on 26th September the biggest arrival.

Chiffchaff on the Medmerry trail on 25th February (OM)

The over-wintering Siberian Chiffchaff at Pagham Water Treatment Works remained in the vicinity until at least 25th January.
What was possibly the same bird was at the same location from 12th December onwards.

Siberian Chiffchaff at Pagham WTW on 12th December (BI)

There were four reports of Yellow-browed Warbler this autumn, possibly relating to just two, or maybe three birds, though they were all elusive and only seen by the initial observers, and all earlier than would normally be expected. 
The first three sightings were all at Church Norton and possibly relate to the same bird, with the first on 1st October by the Mound, the second on the 4th at the several and the third in the churchyard on the 7th. The last was along the Tramway on 18th October.

The first Whitethroat of what appeared to be a good year for the species was at Church Norton on 5th April, whilst the last of the year was along the Long Pool on 10th October.

Whitethroat at Medmerry on 10th August (AH)

The first Lesser Whitethroat was on 10th April in Yeoman’s Field, and it was a thoroughly unremarkable year for the species, though they seemed a little less conspicuous as their stronghold along the Long Pool was destroyed. The last sighting was on the fairly early date of 20th September along the Medmerry Trail.

Lesser Whitethroat at Medmerry on 20th April (AH)

Garden Warblers were very thin on the ground in the spring, with just three reports relating to four birds, with the first at Park Farm, Selsey on 25th April. 
Return passage was equally slight, from the first three in a Birdham garden on 30th July until the last two at the North wall on the typically early date of 11th September. Among the reports was of one sat out on the shingle at the end of Church Norton spit on 17th August – a reminder that migrants can drop in anywhere!

Garden Warbler at Church Norton on 17th August (AW)

Blackcaps seen in Hunston on 19th January and at Runcton on 14th February were clearly winterers, whilst one in a Pagham garden on 2nd to 6th March and in a pair in a garden near the Bill from 1st to 14th March were possibly the first spring birds. 
A count of 40 around the North Wall area on 13th September was the biggest of the year, whilst November records comprised one at Church Norton on the 21st, one at the Visitor Centre on the 29th and another in a Selsey garden on the following day, with a December record from Runcton on the 8th.

Blackcap at the Ferry on 7th September (AH)

One or two Dartford Warblers were recorded regularly from Medmerry early in the year, with another at Church Norton on 2nd February, whilst three at the former site on 16th March might have involved migrants. 
The autumn, meanwhile probably saw the most individuals ever recorded on the Peninsula, estimated to be up to 20 different individuals, after the first at Medmerry on 6th August, with the gorse-covered banks along the western side played host to at least four birds on a regular basis, with eight counted there on 20th October. 
Another two were at Ham, whilst three birds were recorded at Church Norton from 11th October onwards, one or two were on Pagham Spit from the following day and there was also one at the North Wall on 14th October. Individuals continued to be recorded from Medmerry and Church Norton until the year's end.

Dartford Warbler at Church Norton on 22nd October (AH)

Wintering Firecrests were seen in January at Apuldram, Hunston, South Mundham and Drayton Pits (where there was a pair), whilst individuals on Chichester Canal on 8th March and Church Norton on the 14th may have been the first migrants. This latter site produced the first returning bird on 30th August and was host to most of the relatively few autumn visitors, including possibly three on 27th December.

Firecrest at Church Norton on 22nd October (DM)

As seems to be usual these days, there were just four spring Pied Flycatchers reported, from a Birdham garden on 9th April, a Bracklesham garden on 16th April, Church Norton on 7th May and Halsey’s Farm on the following day. 
As also seems to be usual these days, it was a much better autumn, after the first on the early date of 27th July at Church Norton, with around another dozen reports received until the last on 2nd September from Northcommon Farm.

Pied Flycatcher in a Birdham garden on 9th April (AB)

After an early Spotted Flycatcher in Warner Lane, Selsey on 26th April, there were no more sightings until one at Church Norton on 17th May, with this latter site producing the other three reports of just four birds of a very poor spring. 
Three at Northcommon Farm on 10th August were the first of a pretty modest autumn, though Church Norton held five on 2nd September and four on the 25th, and also held the last two of the year on 5th October.

Spotted Flycatcher at Warner Lane, Selsey on 26th April (AH)

Tits/Crows etc

A Golden Oriole briefly present at Greenlease Farm, Church Norton on 9th May was the only one of the year, though the third year running that one has been recorded locally.

One of the birds of the year was undoubtedly the very obliging juvenile Red-backed Shrike that spent 5th September around the paddocks at the east end of the North Wall, allowing a steady stream of admirers some close views.

Red-backed Shrike at the North Wall on 5th September (AB)

The only report of Bearded Tit - a species that has become quite scarce on the Peninsula in recent years, despite a reasonable amount of seemingly suitable habitat - was of one heard, but not seen, at Chichester Marina reedbed on 4th December.

It would seem that Coal Tits have quietly colonised the Peninsula in recent years, though better coverage may just be reflecting their true status as a scarce resident, with pairs being seen regular at Drayton Pits and North Mundham early in the year along with one or two other reports from elsewhere, whilst a pair were seen feeding young in a West Wittering garden on 15th May. 
The first bird of a quiet autumn was seen at Church Norton on 15th September.

Coal Tit at Drayton Pit on 12th January (SH)

Nuthatches remain very scarce, though, with a handful of reports from Hunston Copse in January and of two at Runcton on 6th February being it for the year.

Nuthatch at Hunston Copse on 3rd January (BI)

Hunston Copse also seemed to hold Tree-creepers all year, and was responsible for most of the reports, though individuals were seen also seen a number of times at Ivy Lake and Itchenor Village Pond, whilst a pair were seen nest-building in North Mundham on 31st March.

Tree-creeper at Itchenor Village Pond on 6th February (AH)

Ravens seem to come and go from the Peninsula during the year, but overall numbers were better than last year. Four together around the Ferry on 20th June and at Porthole Farm on the following day was unusual and may well have referred to wandering juveniles. One over the Bill on 31st March and another on 5th September merit a mention, as it remains a very scarce species there.

Raven at Church Norton on 6th April (AH)

Sparrows/Finches/Buntings

A tantalising Tree Sparrow was heard, but not seen, over the Bill on 31st May. A twitchable one on the Peninsula is well overdue!

Drayton Pit was by far the most reliable site to see Bullfinches locally, with two pairs present early in the year, with another at Sidlesham Common on 1st January, three along the canal at Donnington on 20th January, one at the Visitor Centre on 11th February and a pair at the North Wall on 4th April the only other reports until two were seen back at Drayton Pit on 28th November.

Bullfinches along Chichester Canal on 20th January (AW)

After a blank spring it proved to be a bountiful autumn for Siskins, with two over the Bill on 22nd August heralding the biggest influx for a number of years, including 70 at the Bill and 50 at Church Norton on 10th September, 96 east at the Bill on the 17th and 181 east on the 26th. Numbers dropped away quickly in October, though, with 43 there on the 5th being the last big count.

Siskin at Church Norton on 18th September (AW)

Though they started a little later, with the first five over the Bill on 14th September, it was a good autumn for Lesser Redpolls, as well, with birds reported on many days from then on, and there were some good counts, too, including a flock of at least 50 over Church Norton spit on 14th October and 26 there on the 17th.

Lesser Redpolls at Church Norton on 16th October (AH)

Relatively speaking, it was a good year for Crossbills, too, though a big ‘irruption’ never quite materialised. A flock of 13 over Church Norton on 5th June was an early start, closely followed by eight over West Wittering on the 20th and two over the Visitor Centre, though there were no reports then until one over Owl Point on 22nd August and lastly one over the Bill on 10th October.

One species for which it was not a good year was Brambling, with a very early one heard only at the Bill on 18th September, one along the west side of the harbour on 5th November  and one under the feeders outside the Visitor Centre on 19th November being the only reports.

Brambling at the Visitor Centre on 19th November (SH)

After the first Lapland Bunting in nine years last year, there were two this autumn, both along the beach at Church Norton, on the fairly early dates of 2nd and 9th September and both only seen by the initial finder.

Lapland Bunting at Church Norton on 2nd September (AW)

More regular, but always welcome, two Snow Buntings graced the dunes at East Head - seemingly their favourite place on the Peninsula - from 25th November until 9th December.

Snow Buntings at East Head on 6th December (MR)

Corn Buntings seemed to carry on in their little world along the banks around Ham, at Medmerry, with the first (four) seen on 5th February, whilst two pairs with young juveniles were seen there on 6th August and 12 going into roost there on the 11th. As usual, a handful of juveniles were seen along the western banks in early autumn, but their range remains confined to a very small area, with no reports from beyond it.

Corn Bunting at Medmerry on 13th March (BI)

The numbers of Yellowhammers were well down at Medmerry, particularly early in the year, as the feeding station stopped being maintained, though things picked up somewhat in the summer. 
A few were seen early in the year to the north of the harbour, but again less than recent years, though the weather and a lack of observation may have had an impact. A juvenile seen along the Tramway on several dates in late August was unusual for the location, as were ten at Owl Point on 15th October.
Numbers seemed a bit better in the autumn, with 40 seen at Medmerry on 22nd December the highest count.

Yellowhammer along the Tramway on 25th August (AH)



 







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