Review of the Year 2021
compiled by Andy House
It is probably fair to say that 2021 won’t go down as one of the most memorable years on the Peninsula, with a total of 205 species seen, the lowest since 2006, no new species added to the list and generally low numbers of migrants in both spring and autumn.
However, the locals still turned out in force, despite further lock-downs and several prolonged periods of pretty uninspiring weather, and once again, the Bill was covered every day of the year, and for many of the locals there were several new birds to be had.
‘Vis-migging’ at the Bill (SR) (above) & devotion to the cause (RP)
The whole year’s weather seemed to work against our hopes, never really bringing conditions conducive to producing interesting birds.
The winter was, as they increasingly are these days, fairly mild, with plenty of wind and rain, whilst the spring saw the wind settle in the north for most of the period, including an unprecedented run of frosts throughout the whole of April and into early May.
The summer, too, was mostly unusually grey, damp and cool for the season, before the winds shifted unhelpfully back to the south and west for much of the autumn, though a little cold snap in December brought in a few wintering seabirds.
Flooded Honer 1 field from the North Wall (JDW) (above) & a winter sunset over Medmerry (AH)
And humanity seemed to have it in for us, too, with a seemingly relentless succession of small but dispiriting assaults on cherished areas of habitat, including the Bill House Garden, Flycatcher Corner and the last unspoilt bit of Toe End at Medmerry, whilst the relentless quest to turn the Peninsula into one big housing estate continues.
The last bit of wilderness at Toe End, Medmerry, succumbing to caravans (above) & the scorched earth policy in the Bill House garden (AH)
Also, for better or worse remains to be seen, it was decided to dig out the harbour mouth, taking it back to where it was 20 years ago, in a bid to save the rapidly disappearing spit on the Pagham side.
The new harbour mouth (AH)
But despite it all, there were some cracking birds seen this year, with many of the rarer ones being unusually obliging for those that made the effort.
The best bird for many was a stunning Golden Oriole that actually hung around for a couple of days, with other contenders including the second Ring-necked Duck for the Peninsula, a long-staying Temminck’s Stint and an unusually obliging Purple Heron, the daylight hunting Long-eared Owl and a Puffin that gave itself up to a large spring sea-watching crowd.
And there was more good news from the tern colony in the harbour, with breeding Marsh Harriers and more Cattle Egret success at the North Wall.
The biggest non-avian story of the year was the discovery of an apparent breeding colony of Norfolk Hawkers on Chichester Canal, just two years after the first - and only other - record on the Peninsula, and indeed the county. In a poor year for butterflies, a Silver-washed Fritillary for the second summer in a row was a nice surprise, whilst the pod of a dozen or so Bottle-nosed Dolphins continued to appear fairly regularly off the Bill.
Norfolk Hawker at Chichester Canal on 8th June (AW) (above), Silver-washed Fritillary at Church Norton on 22nd August (BI) & Bottle-nosed Dolphin off the Bill on 18th April (AH)
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.
It was a better year for Red-throated Divers, with good numbers around early in the year, with a peak count of 116 west on 27th January, and a number of days when over 50 birds were seen. A spring total of 190 east and 33 west was still well below average, but an improvement on 2020, though the last was on the early date of 13th May.
The first bird back was early, too, with one west at the Bill on 4th September, but thereafter, numbers remained respectable, if unremarkable, with couple of days in December with over 50 birds seen.
Red-throated Diver at the Bill on 10th January (AW)
Black-throated Divers are becoming increasingly scarce in recent times, and there were no winter records at all this year, and just six in the spring, after the first of the year on 19th April.
The first autumn record was of one west at the Bill on 6th November, whilst what was possibly the bird seen quite regularly in recent winters was off East Head on the 25th, with up to two reported from the borders of the Peninsula (and county!) in the wider harbour. Further reports were received in December from Selsey Bill and Church Norton on several dates from the 14th onwards, suggesting a wintering individual.
Black-throated Diver at the Bill on 13th May (AH)
There were only modest numbers of Great Northern Divers around the coast in the early part of the year, culminating in a peak of just ten on 23rd March, though as is usual birds linger on well into May, with five west on the 22nd possibly being birds migrating.
The last of the spring was actually on 1st June, with the first one back on the relatively early date of 28th September. By late November, numbers had risen to at least six back offshore, with a maximum of eight present on several December dates.
Great Northern Diver at Medmerry on 4th January (SR)
What was presumably last autumn’s Red-necked Grebe at the Bill continued with its habit of popping up once a month, with just three sightings, on 14th February, 12th March and 4th April.
Late in the year one went east past the Bill on 11th December, and seen again off Church Norton on the 16th and 17th and again at the Bill on the 26th and 30th.
Red-necked Grebe at Church Norton on 16th December (AH)
Sadly, Slavonian Grebe numbers seem to be in a long-term decline, with very few records from Church Norton, and only one double-figure count at the Bill, of 13 on 5th February.
The last of the spring was there on 18th March, whilst the first of the autumn was on 23rd October, with numbers reaching seven off Church Norton by 25th November and a more respectable ten on 11th December, a day when six went east past the Bill, too.
Slavonian Grebe at Church Norton on 2nd Jan (AW)
In what was a good year for shearwater sightings, the pick occurred on the afternoon of 28th May, when a Cory’s Shearwater went east – just the seventh for the Bill and the Peninsula, and the first since 2018.
There was a rare winter record of Sooty Shearwater, with one going west close in past the Bill on 24th January, whilst the other record for the year was on the more typical date of 2nd October.
Sooty Shearwater at the Bill on 24th January (AH)
It was a fairly moderate year for Manx Shearwaters, after the first at the Bill on 28th March, with 32 west on 24th May and 17 west on 30th July being the biggest counts, though there were many more autumn records than usual, with five reports of nine birds between 17th September and 2nd October.
Manx Shearwater at the Bill on 3rd May (AW)
It was a very good late summer and early autumn for Balearic Shearwater sightings at the Bill, with records of 33 birds thus: one on 1st August, seven on 4th September, three on the 8th, three on the 11th, one on the 25th, six on the 26th, three on the 28th and finally nine on 2nd October.
Balearic Shearwaters at the Bill on 2nd October (BI)
There were a lot of Gannets around early in the year, with a count of 600 offshore on 17th January the biggest, and though birds were present most days, numbers didn’t reach that level again.
An individual seen on 25th May at West Itchenor was very much out of its usual habitat, and at least four miles inland from the open sea.
Gannet at the Bill on 21st May (AH)
Small numbers of Shags are seen quite regularly off the Bill these days, and this year was quite unremarkable, with one to three birds seen on many days, and with a peak of just eight east and five west on 20th March, with autumn numbers rarely straying beyond one or two birds, though six east and two offshore on 11th December was exceptional.
Shag at the Bill on 7th March (AH)
After last year’s good news story of Cattle Egrets breeding at the North Wall, this year was one of considerable consolidation, with up to 20 pairs raising young in Owl Copse over a very long period, with juveniles still in the trees there in late September.
Consequently, it was no surprise that a new record high count – of 76 birds – was recorded around Marsh Farm, Sidlesham on 6th November.
Cattle Egrets at Marsh Farm, Sidlesham on 6th November (AH)
By contrast, Great White Egrets remain a rare bird locally, with just three spring records – from the harbour on 17th and 19th April and one flying west off the Bill on 22nd May, and no more records until one was seen at Medmerry on 10th October. Thereafter there was a little flurry of reports of one (and occasionally two) birds from there until the 23rd, and then one in the harbour on 3rd November.
Great White Egret at Church Norton on 3rd November (AH)
One of the most popular birds of the year was undoubtedly the first-winter Purple Heron that intermittently graced the fields around Honer Reservoir between 12th September and 18th October.
Initially identified from photographs it was not seen again until 24th September, whereupon it showed well for the next two days before vanishing again until 9th October, when it began to appear regularly, showing uncharacteristically well for such a skulking species, as it worked its way through the vole population in its favoured field over the next nine days before vanishing again.
Purple Heron at Honer Reservoir on 10th October (AB)
There were only four reports of Spoonbills early in the year, all from the harbour, on 6th February,14th March, 4th April and 4th May (when two were seen), with further sightings in June at Church Norton on the 26th and Medmerry on the 28th.
Long-stayers settled in at Medmerry from 23rd to 28th August and from 13th to 25th September, with two in the harbour on 30th September and one there the following day, before a flock of 14 turned up in the Medmerry breach area on 7th October. These were joined by another for the 8th and 9th, before the 14 presumably left together, leaving the one to remain through the autumn, eventually settling in at the North Wall.
Spoonbills at Medmerry on 9th October (BI)
Last autumn’s Glossy Ibis remained at Marsh Farm, Sidlesham until 4th January, when the spell of harsh weather presumably moved it on, whilst there was another in August in the ditches behind the North Wall from the 10th to the 13th, though it took an excursion past the Bill on the 12th, with one lucky observer seeing this first record for the site.
Finally, on 7th November, a group of three birds flew in at Medmerry, settling briefly before carrying on inland, being re-found in fields just north of West Wittering, where they remained until the 9th.
Glossy Ibises at West Wittering on 8th November (AH)
There were only two records of White Storks this year, presumably of roaming Knepp Estate birds, with two west over the Ferry on 16th September and one over the north of Selsey and then Medmerry two days later.
White Stork over the Ferry on 16th September (PHu)
A surprise turn-up on 22nd November was a family group of two adult and two juvenile Bewick’s Swans that flew around the harbour before heading off west – the first record since 2012.
Bewick’s Swans at Church Norton (AW)
A few White-fronted Geese were left over from last autumn’s bonanza, with one on 1st and two on 2nd January among the big Brent Goose flock at Dell Quay, whilst the family group of five continued to divide their time between the harbour and Medmerry until they were last seen on 31st January.
Unsurprisingly, given the influx into southern England, there were a few stragglers left into the spring, including one at Ivy Lake on 28th March and then at Drayton Pits on 4th April, one east past the bill on 20th April, and finally one seen at Medmerry on a number of dates between 22nd April and 29th May.
White-fronted Geese at Medmerry on 21st January (AH)
The biggest count of Dark-bellied Brent Geese in the harbour was 2500 on 6th March, which was closely followed by the biggest eastward movement of the spring on the 9th, when at least 400 went over the harbour and 1000 passed the Bill, mostly late in the day. Otherwise, a spring total of 2709 east past the Bill was just below the average. A very scruffy looking bird that could barely fly remained at Medmerry through the summer, so one west past the Bill on 23rd June must have been a different individual.
The first three birds back were in the harbour on 18th September, with the first big movement – of 825 birds east past the Bill – on 7th October. Good numbers were back for the winter by early November, though there were many fewer juveniles than last year.
Brent Geese at the Bill on 22nd March (AH)
There were plenty of reports of Pale-bellied Brent Geese early in the year, with December’s birds at Dell Quay and at Medmerry (two) remaining until 3rdJanuary, though a succession of reports of one or two from the harbour until 13th March may all have referred to these latter two. There were also two reports of single birds east past the Bill on 23rd February and 1st May.
Finally, a juvenile bird turned up at Porthole Farm, Medmerry on 29th and 30th December, with two adults there with it, too, on the 31st.
Pale-bellied Brent Geese at Medmerry on 2nd January (AH)
The Black Brant found in late December at Dell Quay only remained until 4th January.
The Barnacle Goose present from last December at Dell Quay was last reported on 5th January, though it may well have been the same bird that remained in the harbour from 6th February until 14th March.
The origins of three west at the Bill on 17th April may never be known, nor the flock of 34 birds over Church Norton on 21st October, though the latter flock probably have better credentials, given the date.
There was a surprising final twist to the year for the species in December, when an unprecedented influx occurred, almost entirely along the West Sussex coast, starting with 61 birds in the harbour on the 13th, followed by a total of 324 the next day, all of which dropped in, having been tracked along the coast before arriving. At least 200 remained until the 16th, but thereafter just five remained at the North Wall for a few days more.
Barnacle Geese at Church Norton on 21st October (AH)
Egyptian Geese seem here to stay on the Peninsula, with an early brood of eight young goslings seen on Ivy Lake on 8th January and possibly a different brood of six juveniles there on 20th June confirming their breeding status, and numerous reports from Chichester GPs and, particularly, Medmerry throughout the year, including a peak of 16 at the latter site on 3rd September, whilst three passing the Bill on 24th November was a very rare event.
Egyptian Geese at Ivy Lake on 20th June (AH)
The first Garganey of a decent year (a drake) turned up on the Ferry on 17th March, but oddly relocated to the brackish water of Ferry Channel, where it remained until the 22nd, proving obliging and popular with a large number of visitors, whilst a much less co-operative bird was in the flooded fields behind the North Wall from 29th April to 2nd May.
A flock of two drakes and a duck went east past the Bill on 1st April, with another drake east on the 14th, though the only other records for the year were a female reported from the Stilt Pool at Medmerry on 12th July and one west past the Bill on 11th September.
Garganey on the Ferry on 17th March (AH)
The second ever Ring-necked Duck for the Peninsula, after one at Chichester GPs in 1982, proved to be a very popular bird, despite the relative inaccessibility of Honer Reservoir, where it first appeared on the evening of 20th April, remaining until the 24th.
Ring-necked Duck at Honer Reservoir on 23rd April (AH)
It would appear to have been a poor year for breeding Pochards, with perhaps only four broods on the Drayton Pits and probably none at all around the Ivy Lake complex, where there has been a very considerable clearance of waterside vegetation in the last two years.
Pochard duckling on Drayton Pit on 8th July (OM)
Unfortunately, the fortunes of Goldeneye on the Peninsula continue to decline, with a peak of just nine at Fishbourne Creek on 2nd January, with the last departing on 8th March, whilst just two were in the harbour, from 8th to 29th January.
The first returning bird on 8th November, was a rare record for the Bill, whilst one was on Pagham Lagoon on the 11th, joined by a second bird on the 25th, and there were five back in Fishbourne Creek on 1st December.
Goldeneye at Pagham Lagoon on 5th December (AH)
The numbers of Eider were low early in the year, with a single bird off Medmerry from 3rd to 10th January and a maximum of just four birds reported from the Bill on a number of dates in January and February, with five east on 1st March the highest count, equalled by the first returning birds on 20th September.
It actually proved to be a good autumn, though,with peaks of nine at Church Norton on 19th December and 12 at the Bill on the 30th.
Eider at the Bill on 3rd June (AH)
There were multiple records of a single Long-tailed Duck off the Bill from 6th January until 28th April, always following the same pattern of flying in from the west to land on the same fairly distant patch of water east of the Mile Basket and drifting off out of view.
In the autumn, one was off Church Norton on 25th November, with it, or another off the Bill on the 27th, when four were also seen to drop in offshore at the former site, with the single bird back again on 11th December, when another went west past the Bill, with a further sighting there on the 31st
The small wintering flock of Common Scoters off of Medmerry peaked at 32 on 3rd January, whilst spring passage was way above average at 6055 birds east, including 1876 on 24th April, the fifth biggest day count ever.
As is usual, small numbers remained throughout the summer, with a peak of 26 east on 13th June, but in what was quite a good autumn for birds offshore, numbers remained very low, with no obvious wintering flocks present, though they were still reported almost daily.
Common Scoters at the Bill on 8th May (AH)
The only winter records of Velvet Scoter were one east past the Bill on 6th January and one off of East Head from 15th to 20th February, whilst the very poor spring total of 14 birds east were all recorded on a single day – 14th April.
The first back of quite a good autumn was seen going both east and west past the Bill on 2nd October, with two west there on 25th October and then a succession of reports of up to five birds in November and December, whilst two birds took up residence off Ella Nore from 2nd November.
Velvet Scoters at the Bill on 25th October (AW)
All the reports of Goosanders early in the year came from Church Norton in a little flurry in February, starting with a flock of eight (including two drakes) on the 11th, followed by one the next day and then three on the 14th.
There were no further reports until two in Fishbourne Creek on 2nd and 3rd November, with three turning up off Pagham Spit on the latter date, soon joined by a fourth bird, and remaining until 18th December, whilst two went east past the Bill on the 22nd November.
Goosanders at Church Norton on 17th December (AH)
The only record Hen Harrier early in the year was of one seen between Sidlesham and Medmerry on 27th February.
The first definite bird of this species (see below) was a splendid male over the harbour on 5th October, with the only other record being of a ringtail seen passing the Bill on 7th November before appearing at Medmerry shortly afterwards, remaining there until the 9th.
Hen Harrier at Church Norton on 5th October (AB)
A very obliging ringtail bird seen at several locations around the harbour on 27th and 28th September proved to be contentious, with the conclusion being drawn that it was most likely to be a Hen x Pallid Harrier hybrid.
Hybrid Pallid x Hen Harrier at the Ferry on 28th September (AW)
It proved to be a year of very mixed emotions regarding Marsh Harriers locally, with the triumph of the first successful breeding in the harbour – with three chicks fledged from the reed-beds behind the North Wall – very much tempered by the tragedy of the breeding female at Drayton Pits dying after getting tangled in discarded fishing lines, with her chicks presumably perishing, too.
Aside from breeding, the species was recorded almost daily from the harbour during the year, apart from September and October, after the young had fledged, when at least one juvenile was seen regularly at Medmerry.
Marsh Harrier at the North Wall on 29th July (AW)
There were over 30 reports of Red Kites between the first of the year, at Fisher on 10th February and birds at Medmerry and Donnington on 11th June, including a remarkable eight together heading south-west over Church Norton on 17th March.
As usual, autumn birds were much scarcer, after the first, at Medmerry, on 25th August, though one was over the Bill, where they remain rare, on 4th November.
Red Kite at the North Wall on 20th April (AH)
There were just three spring sightings of Osprey – from Church Norton on 27th March and 12th April and Medmerry on 30th April, whilst the first back, on 10th August, put on quite a show, sitting atop a telegraph pole along Easton Lane at Medmerry, clutching a fish.
After another at Medmerry on 23rd August, there were almost daily reports of one, and often two, there and in the harbour until 19th September, with other sighting including one at Drayton Pits on 26th August, several reports of one or two birds from West Itchenor between 13th and 21st September and the last of the year over the Golf Course at Hunston on 24th September.
Osprey at Medmerry on 10th August (AH)
The Sparrowhawks at Church Norton repeated last year’s breeding success, albeit from a slightly different location, with at least two juveniles ready to fledge seen on 24th July.
Sparrowhawk chick at Church Norton on 24th July (SH)
After three years of released birds on the Isle of Wight, we still await a White-tailed Eagle doing the decent thing and letting the locals see one on the Peninsula, with the only report being of one tracked over Medmerry on 27th January, as it headed home from a wander around the mainland.
Oddly, in what was reported to be a poor spring nationally for Hobby numbers, the Bill did better than usual with a total of 18 birds seen, after the first on the late date of 24th April, when one was also seen over Ivy Lake. Generally, there were few other spring records, though one seen on a number of occasions around Drayton Pits in June might just have been nesting nearby.
The first returning migrant of a low-key autumn was at Park Farm on 14h August, with the last of the year over the Long Pool on 10th October.
Hobby at the Bill on 16th September (AH)
Encouragingly, it was another good year for Merlin sightings, with over 20 sightings early in the year, primarily from the harbour, with the last record coming from the Bill on 23rd April.
The first autumn bird was at Church Norton on 23rd August, followed by a good run of sightings throughout the remainder of the year from the harbour, the Bill and Medmerry, where two were seen on 9th October and on 28th November.
Merlin at Church Norton on 24th January (AH)
It would seem that the Peregrines have given up attempting to nest on New Island, much to the benefit of the Little Terns (see below) but continued to use it as a winter home.
Peregrine at Church Norton on 4th May (DM)
The first report of Grey Partridges was not until a pair were seen at Medmerry, on 27th March, with that area producing most of the other relatively few records in the spring, though the other regular area for the species, north of the North Wall, turned up a couple of April sightings, and the first of the autumn on 9th October.
Grey Partridge at Medmerry on 6th May (AH)
There was no repeat of last year’s breeding success for Water Rails at the Ferry, with very few summer reports from their other regular haunts where breeding has been suspected, and, indeed, fewer winter sightings than usual, too, though a couple of birds in Red Barn Ditch were particularly confiding.
Water Rail in Red Barn Ditch on 25th November (AH)
There were good numbers of Avocets in the harbour during the winter, peaking at an impressive 78 on 24th February, and 24 birds were back at Medmerry by 18th March, but the breeding season was again disappointing, with 21 pairs fledging just eight young on the Stilt Pool and last season’s newly established colony at Snowhill Creek seeming to fail almost completely, though an adult and two young were there on 10th August. The fact that 38 birds were back on the Ferry by 5th July was testament to the poor breeding season.
Avocet family at Medmerry on 18th May (AH)
There were 15 pairs of nesting Oystercatchers around the harbour and five at Medmerry this year, whilst there were 11 and five pairs respectively of Ringed Plovers, though inevitably productivity was low, with disturbance often the cause for these beach-nesting species.
Oystercatchers on 2nd June (above) & Ringed Plover chick on 10th June at Church Norton (AH)
What was presumably the same returning pair of Little Ringed Plovers reappeared at Medmerry on 19th March, and three chicks were seen there on 14th June, with possibly another pair with young there on 22nd July. Possibly another pair was seen around the Ferry during the summer, too, but no young were noted.
There were some odd records late in the summer, including two juveniles out on the saltmarsh at the Medmerry Breach on 23rd July and two birds flying out south over the Bill on 9th August, whilst late juveniles were on the Stilt Pool from 4th to 6th and 16th to 20th September.
Little Ringed Plover at Medmerry on 31st March (GHi)
There was an unexpected appearance by a Kentish Plover, seen briefly by a single observer at Church Norton on 6th July and sadly never re-found.
These days, Medmerry is the most important site on the Peninsula for Golden Plovers, with all the biggest counts coming from there, including 300 on 14th January and perhaps 800 on 19th December, though good numbers remained in the harbour, too.
Golden Plover at Medmerry on 29th November (SR)
It was something of a bumper autumn for Little Stints, with the Peninsula getting its share of a big national influx, all juveniles after the first of the year – an adult at Church Norton on 4th August.
After one at Medmerry on 20th and 21st August, there was another in the harbour from the 23rd to the 30th, but thereafter almost all the reports were from Medmerry, including four on the 28th, six on the following day and multiple September reports, including four on the 11th and 19th, two up to the 22nd and the last of the year on the 26th.
Little Stint at Medmerry on 20th August (AH)
A Temminck’s Stint settled on the Ferry from 16th to 22nd August and proved very popular during its stay, being just the fourth since 2004 and the first since then to stick around and be widely appreciated.
Temminck’s Stint on the Ferry on 17th August (AH)
It was by no means a bumper year for Curlew Sandpiper reports, with two at Church Norton on 15th May the sole spring record, followed by a smart, near summer-plumaged adult there on 12th August, but just a maximum of three juveniles were seen, all on the Ferry between 30th August and 5th September, the earliest ‘last date’ this century.
Curlew Sandpiper at Church Norton on 12th August (AH)
A count of 75 Sanderlings at East Head on 22nd January was noteworthy, even for the species’ local stronghold, and small numbers occurred fairly regularly at the Bill during both winter periods.
Spring migration records were confusing, to say the least, with more counted west – 171- than east – 99, and unusually there was no passage at all in early June at the Bill and very few birds in the harbour either. The first back of a modest autumn was at the Bill on 16th July.
December counts of 22 at the Bill on the 15th and 20 at Toe End, Medmerry on the 21st were good winter site totals.
Sanderling at the Bill on 25th April (AH)
The peak count of Knot for the year was 400 in the harbour on 20th January, but again numbers were low at the Bill in the spring, with just 18 east in April and one on the beach on 9th May.
Numbers built up slowly in the autumn back to a peak of at least 300 in the harbour by early December.
Knot at the Bill on 9th May (AW)
After last autumn’s good showing, it was disappointing that no Purple Sandpipers appeared to winter, with the sole record – of two on the beach at Medmerry on 1st April - quite probably relating to migrants passing through.
Unexpectedly, one turned up at Medmerry on 19th December, with two then seen on the 20th and 21st, so hopefully these will overwinter.
Purple Sandpiper at Medmerry on 21st December (AH)
Conversely, it was a better start to the year for Ruff, with two different birds being seen a number of times at Medmerry and the North Wall between 22nd February and 9th March, followed by reports from Honer Reservoir on 8th April, the North Wall on 28th and 29th April and finally at Medmerry on 23rd and 24th May.
One back at Medmerry on 25th August was followed by a succession of sighting from there and the Ferry until 19th September, including two on the 8th and four on the 12th, whilst three at the North Wall on 17th September rose to five by the 22nd, with the last report, of two, on 9th October.
Ruff at the North Wall on 17th September (AH)
The first Common Sandpiper was at Honer Reservoir on the typical date of 8th April, but spring and autumn passage was fairly unremarkable, with a peak of seven at Medmerry on 31st July. The last of the year seemed to one at Medmerry on 20th September, until an unexpected appearance of one on the Ferry on 6th November, seen again at Medmerry the following day.
Common Sandpiper at the Bill on 6th July (AW)
Spring Wood Sandpipers are actually very rare on the Peninsula, with the one on the flooded fields behind the North Wall on 28th and 29th April, in fact, being the first this century.
It was a very respectable autumn, too, for the species, with one at the North Wall on 28th to 30th June and then one at Medmerry on 22nd July that was joined by two (and possibly three) birds on the 31st, until they all departed on 4th August.
Wood Sandpiper at Medmerry on 28th July (AW)
Given the relatively early date, a Green Sandpiper present at Park Farm, Selsey between 20th and 23rd March might have been a locally wintering bird, but equally possibly just moving through, with the only other spring report, from the Ferry on 17th April almost certainly a migrant.
The bird seen at Medmerry on 5th June could still have been heading north, but one on the 19th would certainly be going south and was followed by a steady stream of reports from likely sites, including a peak of three at Medmerry on 31st July and a very rare sighting from the Bill on 25th September. The last (two) of the year were on the Ferry on 14th October.
Green Sandpiper on the Ferry on 10th July (AH)
Two Greenshanks wintered at Medmerry, whilst at Fishbourne Creek the peak was six on 8th March, but spring migrants were few and far between.
Two at Church Norton on 6th June were presumably the first returning birds, but again passage was light, with six west over the Ferry on 21st August the best count. A dozen birds in Fishbourne Creek on 19th October was the highest count of the year, with wintering birds remaining there, at Medmerry and Snowhill Creek.
Greenshank at Fishbourne Creek on 20th February (AH)
Peak winter counts of four Spotted Redshanks in Fishbourne Creek on 2nd January and three in Ferry Channel on 19th March were about par for the course, but there were very few spring birds noted.
Return passage was much better, though, after the first on the Ferry on the typical date of 17th June, with four in the vicinity from until mid-August, when number crept up to a peak of seven birds that remained around the harbour until 13th October, leaving just a couple of birds to over-winter.
Juvenile Spotted Redshank on the Ferry on 6th September (AH)
Our long-staying Whimbrel was again present and correct at both ends of the year for approximately its tenth winter, whilst, encouragingly, a spring total of 466 birds east at the Bill was above average.
Whimbrel at the North Wall on 18th July (AH)
A spring total of 1100 Bar-tailed Godwits east at the Bill in the spring was well above average, too, with, remarkably, almost half of them – 553 birds – seen on 22nd April.
Bar-tailed Godwits at the Bill on 25th April (AH)
Woodcocks are perennially very hard to see on the peninsula, with just five spring records between 1st January at Drayton Pits and 7th March at Itchenor Pond, and autumn records equally few, starting with one at Church Norton on 7th November.
Fishbourne Creek remains the most reliable site for Jack Snipe, with half a dozen records there early in the year, with the only other one seen at Honer Reservoir on 7th February. One at the North Wall on 21st October was the first autumn report, with another there on 23rd and 25th November.
A spring total of 29 Pomarine Skuas east, plus two west, was well below average, and spread out over ten dates between 22nd April and 10th May, with just 13 on the early date of 24th April being the best day.
Pomarine Skua at the Bill on 23rd April (PM)
It was a below average spring for Arctic Skuas, too, with just 85 east, after the first on 2nd April, and a peak of just nine on the 24th. There were intermittent, but fairly regular, sightings throughout the summer and early autumn at the Bill and occasionally Church Norton, though, with the last seen at the latter site on 7th November.
Arctic Skua at the Bill on 24th April (PM)
It was no better a spring for Great Skuas either, with a well below average count of 57 birds, after the first on 11th March, and with a peak of 11 on 26th April. There were sporadic summer sightings from the Bill, with one or two birds seen quite regularly in September and October, up until the 31st, with just one subsequent sighting, on 28th December.
Great Skua at the Bill on 20th October (AW)
A Little Gull seen briefly on 12th February at Church Norton was the only winter record, with the first nine of the 85 spring birds at the Bill not seen until the late date of 16th April. Away from the Bill, one was on the Stilt Pool at Medmerry on 9th May, whilst a first-year bird was seen at Church Norton on 20th May and 22nd June.
The only autumn records were from the Bill, of singles on 7th and 29th October, and two east together on 7th December.
Little Gulls at the Bill on 24th April (PM)
Kittiwake numbers were reasonable early in the year, with several three figure counts in January, including a peak of 189 west on the 24th, whilst the biggest autumn haul was 685 east on 12th December, after a good westward movement of 217 on the 5th, 184 on the 6th and 201 on the 7th.
Kittiwake at the Bill on 13th August (BI)
As is their way, Mediterranean Gull numbers built up hugely in April in the harbour, only for them to suddenly dissipate again, but this year 20 pairs stayed to breed, rearing a record 32 fledged young.
Juvenile Mediterranean Gull at Church Norton on 13th August (AH)
Black-headed Gulls, too, had a record-breaking season, with 921 pairs rearing a total of 1028 fledged young, with the harbour literally carpeted in them in late July.
Juvenile Black-headed Gull at Church Norton on 24th July (AH)
A first-winter Caspian Gull at the Bill on 25th February was the first recorded there, and only the third for the Peninsula.
Caspian Gull at the Bill on 25th February (AH)
Almost all of this year’s records of Yellow-legged Gull would appear to relate to one, and occasionally two, adult birds that frequented the harbour off the North Wall between 28th June and 5th August, with a near adult bird there on 8th October probably new.
Yellow-legged Gull at the North Wall on 29th June (OM)
Wintering Sandwich Terns were recorded regularly off the Bill again, with nine present on 7th February the highest count, whilst a flock of 21 that dropped in on the beach there before flying off east on the 21st were almost certainly very early migrants. A spring total of 2120 east is below average, but probably an under-estimate, given the almost continual presence of birds from the colony in the harbour.
What is known for certain, though, is that 2021 was a record-breaking year for the Tern Island colony, with 243 pairs producing 252 fledged young, 88 more than last year’s record.
In the autumn, up to ten were recorded off the Bill up until late October, before becoming more sporadic in their appearance thereafter, until a remarkable occurrence of 32 - a new wintering record - offshore on 9th December.
Sandwich Terns at Church Norton on 22nd July (AH)
Common Terns, however, had another really poor spring, after a first on the early date of 26th March, with just 1248 Common/Commic Terns going east at the Bill – way below the long-term average. Just seven pairs nested in the harbour, producing six young, though the colony near Ivy Lake produced at least ten fledged young.
A total of 93 east at the Bill on 23rd August was an unusually conspicuous bit of autumn movement, whilst a very late juvenile bird popped up in the harbour on 31st October and again on 13th and 14th November, then seen later, going west past the Bill, the latest date this century by three days.
Common Tern at the North Wall on July 9th (AH)
A few more Arctic Terns were seen this spring, starting with 18 east at the Bill on the late date of 25th April, but the spring total was still just 29 birds, with just two autumn records, of an adult in the harbour on 12th August, and then a first-winter bird there on 16th and 17th November, equalling the latest ever record from 2018.
Arctic Tern at Church Norton on 17th November (AH)
One particularly nice side-effect of the successful tern colony has been the increase in Roseate Tern sightings in recent years, and this summer, between 5th May and 9th August there were intermittent but regular appearances by one, sometimes two, and on two occasions three birds in the harbour, along with a single record – on 14th May – from the Bill.
Dare we dream that a pair might settle in to breed in the near future?
Roseate Tern at Church Norton on 9th August (AH)
Seven Little Terns east at the Bill on 13th April were the first of a modest total of 320 for the spring but, again, birds from the harbour muddy the waters somewhat. A total of 83 east on 28th April was by far the highest count.
Despite several false starts, the colony finally settled on New Island, after a brief re-appearance by the Peregrines saw off the Black-headed Gulls that had taken a shine to it, and 46 pairs - the highest number in 40 years – equalled the best ever return of 25 fledged young. Having done such a good job, the whole colony was gone by the end of July, and the last of the year – a juvenile – was seen in the harbour on 16th August, ten days ahead of last year, which itself was the earliest this century.
Little Tern at Church Norton on 13th July (AH)
It was another very poor spring, though, for Black Terns, with just seven birds east past the Bill between 2nd and 11th May.
The only other bird of the year was an obliging juvenile that settled on the Stilt Pool at Medmerry from 6th to 11th September, before being seen heading off out to sea.
Black Tern at Medmerry on 8th September (PM)
The only Puffin of the year proved quite popular, picking 24th April to give a prolonged and relatively close flyby to the delight of the large gallery of early morning spring sea-watchers.
After a quieter winter last year, 2021 proved to be another bumper one for auks, with some very big movements, particularly in January, starting with 8156 east on the 15th and c3500 east on the 17th. These were probably almost all Razorbills, but always too distant to be certain, though 1023 west on the 24th and 1200 west on the 27th were close enough to be sure. Moderate numbers continued into early February but declined quickly through the month.
The autumn was typically much quieter, but reasonable numbers were about, including quite a few feeding close inshore, and there were a few big days, including at least 1800 'auk sp' east on 29th November.
Razorbills at the Bill on 24th January (AH)
As is usual, Guillemots only seem to make up a small proportion of the total auk numbers, with 34 west on 24th January and 94 on the 29th the highest counts. Like the previous species, small numbers seemed to settle in and feed close inshore at the Bill during the autumn.
Guillemot at the Bill on 6th November (AW)
It was another poor year for Turtle Doves, though, remarkably for the second year running, one was watched coming in off the sea at the Bill, on the early date of 10th April.
There were just two further birds reported, with a very elusive individual frequenting the gardens behind the Bill from 1st to 5th September and the last of the year, seen on a rooftop near Park Farm, Selsey on 26th September.
Turtle Dove at Park Farm, Selsey on 26th September (IP)
The first Cuckoo of an unremarkable year was heard from Sidlesham Churchyard on the fairly early date of 11th April and birds were calling from most of their favoured sites during the spring.
As is often the case, they become more conspicuous towards the end of their stay here, with three together on the Long Pool on 16th June and three at the North Wall on the 26th, before the last adult was seen at the former site on 3rd July, with just a solitary juvenile reported, along the beach at Church Norton on 8th August.
Cuckoo at Medmerry on 30th April (IL)
Barn Owls do seem to have made something of a comeback in recent years, with birds seen at Medmerry, Marsh Farm, Sidlesham, various locations around the harbour, Birdham and West Itchenor during the early months of the year, and sightings from two breeding sites at Medmerry, as well as the North Wall and Ferry area during the summer.
Autumn records were typically fewer, but again birds were seen fairly regular at favoured sites.
Barn Owl at Medmerry on 22nd June (AH)
Sadly, by contrast, Little Owls seem to continue their decline, locally, with birds only seen once in January and not again all year at Northcommon Farm and Bramber Farm, two formerly reliable sites.
Reports from previously unknown, but unfortunately private, sites at Runcton and near the North Wall offered hope, with the only other record being of one heard in Sidlesham on 17th September.
Little Owl at Runcton on 4th September (BI)
One of the nicer surprises of the year was the discovery that the Tawny Owls near the Visitor Centre hadn’t, in fact, failed to breed this year, but merely relocated to a different box, with three owlets known to have fledged in late June, at least a month later than last year.
Tawny Owlets at the Visitor Centre on 18th June (AH)
There was no reliable sites for Short-eared Owl early in the year, but one was seen at various points in the harbour on six dates between 7th February and 9th March, suggesting one was wintering somewhere locally. There were four records of likely migrants – one over Donnington on 7th April, one at the Bill on the 11th and it, or another, at Church Norton on the following day and one over West Itchenor on 7th May.
The first autumn bird was at Medmerry on 1st September, but barely half a dozen reports were received thereafter, though two were there on 24th to 28th November.
Short-eared Owl at the Tramway on 6th March (AW)
A Long-eared Owl, seen hunting in daylight at Medmerry on 24th May prompted a lot of speculation over whether it might have been breeding locally, but in the end it only remained in situ until the 27th, though it was seen by many admirers during its stay.
Long-eared Owl at Medmerry on 27th May (AB)
The first six Swifts of the year were over Ivy Lake on 24th April, with a dozen in at the Bill on the following morning, whilst a total of 247 north over the Bill on 19th May was a notable movement.
There were few big gatherings during the summer, with the last birds – two at Park Farm, Selsey and one at Church Norton – being seen on 12th September.
Swift at Ivy Lake on 24th April (AW)
A Ring-necked Parakeet was seen over the north of Selsey and then at Church Norton on 7th March, with what was presumably the same bird seen around the Bill and then Church Norton (and remarkably, then over Aldwick, Bognor) on the 30th.
It, or another was seen again over the north of Selsey on 30th June, with a final record from the Bill on 6th November. Is there one lurking unseen around the gardens of Selsey?
Ring-necked Parakeet at the Bill on 30th March (PM)
Kingfisher numbers were quite good again, with milder winters to their liking, though there were none reported from the pits this summer, with one at the North Wall on 14th August, presumably a returning bird, the first report after the spring.
One that went west along the beach at the Bill on 25th September merits a mention, as they are much less than annual there.
Kingfisher at the Medmerry on 17th January (SH)
A Wryneck was bang on schedule this year, with one turning up at their favourite site, along the Severals at Church Norton on the typical date of 29th August, remaining until the 31st.
Wryneck at Church Norton on 29th August (AB)
There was a rare report of Woodlark from the first half of the year, with one seen along the west side of the harbour on 13th February, with all the other reports from October – singles over the Bill on the 4th and 9th, one over Park Farm, Selsey on the 10th and then one over Church Norton and two over Honer Reservoir on the 21st – save a final flourish of four together west over the Bill on 7th November.
Woodlark at the Bill on 4th October (AW)
Last December’s Richard’s Pipit remained at Marsh Farm, Sidlesham until 4th January, and then there was a remarkable turn of events on 31st March, when one appeared on Ferry Field. We will never know whether the earlier bird had wintered locally, and was passing back through, or if it was an entirely different one.
Richard’s Pipit at Marsh Farm, Sidlesham on 1st January (AH)
It was an extremely poor year for Tree Pipits, with a single spring record, from Medmerry on 30th April, and, after a very unseasonal bird at Church Norton on 28th June, just four autumn reports, all of single fly-overs, from the Bill on 29th August and 3rd September, Medmerry on 16th September and the last of the year, at the Bill on 14th October.
The first Yellow Wagtail of the year went over Church Norton on the fairly early date of 30th March, with the first (of 19 spring birds) at the Bill not until 15th April.
The first returning bird, at the North Wall, was on the typical date of 23rd July, and reasonable numbers were seen there and at Medmerry, including peak counts of 200 on 9th September at the former site and 40 on 24th August at the latter, whilst a count of 156 east at the Bill on 4th September was an unusually high ‘vis-mig’ count from the coast. The Bill also had most of the late records, including the last of the year, of five on the beach on10th October.
Yellow Wagtail at Medmerry on 23rd August (SH)
White Wagtails undeniably go under-recorded locally, with the only report being of one at Ivy Lake on 5th April.
White Wagtail at Ivy Lake on 5th April (AW)
A Sand Martin on Ivy Lake on 5th March, remaining until the following day, was the earliest this century, whilst a spring total of 48 north at the Bill was a considerable improvement on last year’s two!
The first bird back was on the typical date of 21st June, but there were no big gatherings until August, starting with 224 at/over the Bill on the 2nd, with 500 at Church Norton on the 17th the first count of that size. A count of 500 at Medmerry on the 20th rose to an estimated 2000 by the 30th, by far the biggest of the year, with 200 still being seen there on 12th September. The last of the year was on 6th October, at the Bill.
Sand Martin at Medmerry on 28th August (AH)
Very unusually, Swallows were the last hirundine species to arrive this spring, with one at Ivy Lake on the fairly late date of 26th March, and unfortunately it was a precursor of a very poor year, with anecdotal reports from many sites that the numbers of breeding pairs were well down.
There were still some big gatherings in the autumn, including 2000 at Church Norton on 4th September, 2500 at the Bill on the 16th and 1000 again at Church Norton on 29th, with a late flourish of over 50 spread around the Peninsula on 23rd October, with a flurry of November records, the last of which were at the Bill on the 23rd and 27th and finally one over Pagham Spit on 4th December.
Remarkably, though, it appears that two birds were attempting to over-winter around the sewage farm and Porthole Farm, with two there up until 15th December and at least one still present up to the 31st - the latest ever date.
Swallow at Church Norton on 7th May (AH)
A House Martin was at the Visitor Centre on 25th March - an early first arrival date, and it seemed a reasonable spring for them, though numbers nesting around Selsey and at Itchenor were lower than expected.
There was a massive movement on 12th September, with probably in excess of 10,000 birds around and through the Peninsula, including 4254 counted going west at the Bill, with another 2100 going west there on the 20th, and the last six birds were also there, on 23rd October.
House Martin at Medmerry on 21st June (AH)
There were very few Fieldfares early in the year, with around 50 at Medmerry during January the only notable flock. The first back was at Honer Reservoir on 11th October, though there were just a handful of records through the rest of the year, until presumably the same wintering flock reappeared at Medmerry late in December.
Fieldfare at Medmerry on 1st January (AH)
Redwings were even thinner on the ground, with the only reasonable counts – of 20 along Chichester Canal on 23rd March probably migrants.
The first returning bird was at the North Wall on 11th October, but they remained in short supply during the autumn, too, though two in off the sea at the Bill was unusual on 5th November was unusual, as they are surprisingly scarce there.
Redwing at Chichester Canal on 23rd March (AW)
The solitary report of Ring Ouzel for the year was of a brief ‘probable’ near the Visitor Centre on 1st May.
Stonechats are a much more numerous species than they used to be on the Peninsula, but they, like many passerines, didn’t seem to do so well this year, with just three or four pairs and less and later broods around Medmerry, and a highest autumn count of just 26 there on 6th October.
Stonechat at Medmerry on 14th May (AH)
It was actually quite a good spring for Whinchats, after the first, at Park Farm, Selsey, on 14th April, with as many as 14 birds counted from five sites on 7th May, including seven together at the aforementioned site.
There was a very late last spring record – from the Long Pool on 5th June and an early return date, too, with one at Warner Lane paddocks on 17th July. Thereafter, it was a fairly modest autumn, with a high count of just seven at Medmerry on 1st September, with the last of the year there on 6th October.
Whinchat at the Bill on 25th April (AB)
Pagham Spit took the laurels for the first Northern Wheatear of the year, bang on its average first arrival date of 12th March, but it was an otherwise unremarkable spring, with eight at Church Norton on 26th March the best count.
Oddly, the first return migrant was also on the average date of 26th July, at Church Norton, but the biggest count was just 14 at Medmerry on 8th September, whilst one at East Head promised to complete the sequence on its average last date of 2nd November, was gazumped by the latest bird this century at Medmerry on the 28th.
Northern Wheatear at Medmerry on 15th September (SH)
There were just five Common Redstarts seen in the spring, after the first at Warner Lane paddocks on 9th April, including a smart male seen flying in off the sea and landing at the top of the beach.
The first of an equally quiet autumn was in a Paddock Lane garden on 16th August, with the last on the very early date of 20th September at Halsey’s Farm.
Common Redstart at the Bill on 13th April (AH)
Two Black Redstarts over-wintered around the west Sands Caravan Park, with records through January and February, with the four March records there possibly referring to migrants. The bird at Dell Quay also remained all winter, last recorded on 16th March, whilst the only certain migrant was at Park Farm, Selsey on the 28th.
This latter site held the first of the autumn, on 13th October, but as for so many species, it was a quiet autumn, with other reports comprising one at the Bill on 1st November, one back around the farm buildings at Dell Quay and three at the Coastguard Station on the 11th, with the one that remained there until until the 16th being the last record of the year.
Black Redstart at the Bill on 1st November (AW)
The first two Sedge Warblers were back on the Long Pool on the early date of 30th March, with the first Reed Warbler, at the North Wall also quite early on 3rd April.
Both species seemed to be present in reasonable numbers, with last of the former seen on 22nd September and the last of the latter at Church Norton on the fairly late date of 13th October.
Juvenile Sedge Warbler at the Long Pool on 7th June (above) & Reed Warbler at the Ferry on 19th July (AH)
There were three reports of Grasshopper Warbler this year – of one reeling from the Breech Pool at the North Wall on 3rd April, the earliest record this century, with one flushed from the wall there on 5th August and another seen briefly at Medmerry on 11th September.
Up to five singing Willow Warblers along Chichester Canal on 29th March were the first of the year, with three around the Visitor Centre and one at East Head on the following day, but once again, spring numbers were low, and autumn numbers weren’t much better, with the first three at Greenlease Farm on 30th July and the last of the year at Park Farm, Selsey on 19th September, the earliest 'last date' this century.
Willow Warbler at Halsey’s Farm on 1st August (AH)
Numbers of over-wintering Chiffchaffs were on the low side of average early in the year, though plenty were seen on passage, including 20 at Drayton Pits on 14th March and similar numbers at Church Norton on the 20th.
The poor spring and summer weather meant there were few juveniles around their usual haunts in the late summer and autumn passage was light, too, with relatively few birds remaining into the winter.
Chiffchaff at Hunston Copse on 1st March (AH)
A smart Siberian Chiffchaff was seen at Ivy Lake on 11th December.
Whitethroats, being a little later to arrive, with the first in North Selsey on 3rd April, seemed to have had quite a good breeding season, with fair numbers about later in the year, with the last seen, at Church Norton, on 4th October.
Whitethroat at the Long Pool on 7th June (AH)
The first Lesser Whitethroat of the year was along Chichester Canal on 20th April, but numbers were generally quite low throughout the season, whilst the last of the year was at Church Norton on the late date of 13th October.
Lesser Whitethroat at Church Norton on 6th September (AH)
The first Garden Warbler, at the North Wall, was also on 20th April, but it was a very poor spring, with just two at the Bill (where they are very uncommon) on the 27th, one along the Medmerry Trail on 1st May and one on the late date of 16th May at Church Norton.
The first birds back weren’t noted until 19th August, the latest date this century, when two were at Church Norton, whilst the last of barely half a dozen further reports was of one at the North Wall on 10th September.
Garden Warbler at Church Norton on 23rd August (AW)
A Blackcap seen in the north of Selsey on 27th January was the only definite winter record, with another there on 19th March and one in Pagham village five days earlier quite probably early migrants.
Like so many passerines, numbers seemed well down in the autumn, with no ‘big’ days, with the last of the year at Church Norton on 26th October.
Blackcap at the Visitor Centre on 18th June (SR)
There were up to half a dozen Dartford Warblers over-wintering on the Peninsula, with peaks along the banks of the west side of Medmerry of four on 8th January and three on 7th March, two at Church Norton into February and other scattered reports, including one along the Tramway on 3th January and one on the east of Medmerry on the 18th.
The first autumn report was from Church Norton on 9th October, with three there on the 13th and a peak of five at Medmerry on the 25th, with birds remaining into December at both sites, though no reports were received from elsewhere.
Dartford Warbler at Medmerry on 8th January (AB)
There were just five reports of wintering Firecrest this year – in January there was one in Sidlesham churchyard on the 1st, two at Park Farm, Selsey on the 9th, one at Church Norton on the 9th to the 11th and two in a Birdham garden on the 24th, with the only other record coming from Hunston Copse on 11th February.
One at West Itchenor on 7th October was the first report of a very slow autumn, with two at Church Norton on the 26th, followed by a handful of sightings from there and one at the Bill on 15th November, the only other records.
Firecrest at Birdham on 24th January (AB)
One species that merits a mention for all the wrong reason is Goldcrest, which were scarce enough early in the year, but they were almost completely absent in the autumn, with none of the expected little influxes and very few to be found in any of their regular haunts. Hopefully they will bounce back next year.
Goldcrest at Church Norton on 23rd January (AW)
Six spring Pied Flycatchers was probably just above average, with birds seen in a Birdham garden on 1st April, at Church Norton and a Selsey garden on the 5th, a Pagham garden on the 13th, a nicely obliging one at Chichester Marina on the 23rd and 24th and finally at Halsey’s Farm on 7th May.
It was, however, a much poorer autumn than of late, with just three records, from the same Birdham garden that held a spring bird on 22nd August, one at Drayton Pit on the following day and the last of the year at the Bill on 6th September.
Pied Flycatcher at Birdham on 22nd August (AB)
The first Spotted Flycatcher of the spring was along the Tramway, near the Visitor Centre on 30th April, but all but one of the other reports came from Church Norton, with two there on the7th, 10th and 17th May, and one there on the 24th and 25th, with one at the North Wall on the 23rd being the odd one out.
Returning birds seem to be getting later on average, and the first, on 20th August at Ivy Lake, was no exception. It was a fairly average autumn for the species, with seven at Church Norton on 18th September the best count, though two reports from the Bill were unusual – with one there on 6th September and two on the 16th, whilst the last for the year was at Church Norton on 26th September.
Spotted Flycatcher at the Bill on 16th September (SR)
Though not the rarest bird of the year, one of the most popular was undoubtedly the stunning male Golden Oriole that popped up at the back of the Severals on 9th May, giving itself up to a good number of - admittedly patient and determined - seekers over its two day stay. Another more typical report, of a heard only bird in a West Wittering garden on the late date of 14th June, was the only other record for the year.
Golden Oriole at Church Norton on 9th May (AB)
Another very popular bird was the juvenile Red-backed Shrike that turned up at Sidlesham Quay on 5th September, exactly the same date as last year’s bird, though this time, after relocating to Owl Copse, it settled in for a week and was very widely appreciated.
Red-backed Shrike at Sidlesham Quay on 5th September (AB)
A Bearded Tit in the creek at Halsey's Farm on 2nd December was a surprise appearance by what has become a scarce species on the Peninsula in recent years.
Bearded Tit at Halsey's Farm on 2nd December (AW)
Encouragingly, there were too many reports of Coal Tit to fully list, but regular sightings were made during the first three months of the year at Sidlesham and Apuldram churchyards, West Wittering, Runcton and North Mundham, with the latter site’s last record being on 16th May. As with last year, though, there were few autumn records, though both West Wittering and Runcton were represented again.
Coal Tit at West Wittering on 18th November (GM)
There were no records of Nuthatch until one was found at Chalkdock Copse, West Itchenor, on 2nd August, though sporadic reports were received from there through the autumn, with the only other record coming from Salterns Copse at Chichester Marina on 7th November.
Nuthatch at West Itchenor on 13th August (BI)
Tree-creeper sightings were equally sparse, with one at Hunston Copse on 2nd and 23rd January and two at Itchenor Village Pond on 7th March the only records in the early part of the year, with one in a West Wittering garden on 27th July an unusual record.
Reports of Ravens were quite plentiful at either end of the year, particularly so early on, but they were more or less absent during the summer months. All reports were of one or, often, two birds, though three went over Park Farm, Selsey on 27th March.
Raven at Church Norton on 18th October (AH)
For the second successive year, a Tree Sparrow was seen on the Peninsula, with one briefly along Church Norton spit on 1st March.
As usual, Bullfinch sightings were restricted to a few favoured sites, primarily Drayton Pits, where a peak of five were seen on 1st January, and Chichester Canal where a peak of four were recorded on 1st March. The only other locations to report them were the Visitor Centre/Tramway area, where up to two birds were recorded several times in the early part of the year, and Runcton, where a young juvenile was seen on 2nd August.
Bullfinch at Chichester Canal on 1st March (AH)
The Siskin records early in the year were all in a little flurry in early March, thus – one a Sidlesham Quay on the 1st, one at Park Farm, Selsey on the second and two at Chichester Marina on the 8th – suggesting a small migration movement.
After a very late start, with the first two not seen until 6th October, at the Bill, it was quite a busy autumn for the species, including a peak of 24 west there on the 9th and sightings continuing into early November.
A single Lesser Redpoll at Drayton Pit on 23rd January was the only early record, until, unusually one took up residence in a Birdham garden from 10th March until 17th April.
After the first four of the autumn at the Bill on 8th October there were up to ten further sightings there and at Church Norton, but always in small numbers.
Lesser Redpoll at Church Norton on 30th October (JG)
Remarkably, after a blank last year, there were three Serins seen in the spring, all in off the sea at the Bill, with one on 25th April and two on 7th May.
The solitary record of Crossbills – of 13 over Birdham on 14th July – gave false hope of an irruption year, with no further sightings thereafter.
A Brambling was among the finch flock at Chalder Farm, seen several times between 1st January and 2nd February, with further sightings of two at the Visitor Centre on 13th February and the North Wall on the 27th, but despite there being a big influx into southern England in the autumn, the Peninsula clocked up just two reports – of one over Honer Reservoir on 11th October and one over Church Norton on the 21st.
Unusually, a Snow Bunting succeeded in over-wintering at East Head, with one seen intermittently up until 7th February.
In the autumn, one was back there on 1st November, joined by a second bird on the 5th, but neither were seen again after the 6th, whilst another bird was present at the end of Church Norton spit on the 14th, with it, or another there on 10th December, but they didn’t linger, either.
Snow Bunting at East Head on 2nd November (GM)
There were more reports of wintering Corn Buntings than usual early in the year, almost all from the southern end of the Medmerry Trail, near Ham Farm, with a peak of ten seen there on 2nd January. It felt like they were in short supply during the breeding season, but an RSPB survey found ten pairs, including a couple towards the western end of the reserve, which was encouraging.
Corn Bunting at Medmerry on 7th June (AH)
Yellowhammer numbers were never more than respectable at Medmerry during the year, but a male seen along the west side of the harbour between March and July might hopefully suggest a recolonisation of this area.
Yellowhammer at the Long Pool on 15th June (AH)