Selsey Bill Spring Summary - 2019


Selsey Bill Spring 2019 Summary 

compiled by Justin Atkinson

Every day from the 1st March to the 31st May was watched. The total number of hours watched this spring was 596.

Great Northern Diver – There were smaller numbers offshore this spring than in recent years: 1-4 birds offshore during most of March, with 11 on the 28th being the only double figure count that month and the highest count of the spring. Numbers remained low in the first half of April, although nine were seen on the 5th. A slight increase in the second half of April was noted, with between six and nine birds being present. Numbers started to drop off in May, with only one-six present earlier in the month. A single bird was still offshore on the 31st. As usual, three or four birds attained full summer plumage during April.

Red-throated Diver – 285 birds passed up channel this spring, well over half of those being seen in April. The highest day count was 64 east on the 5th April. A few birds flew west, and even fewer were seen on the sea, only one in March and odd ones and twos in April. Numbers dropped off quickly during the first half of May and the last was seen heading east on the 26th.

Black-throated Diver – An average spring with 18 seen. One flying east on 23rd was the only March record. Eleven flew east in April and six in May. The last sighting was of two birds on the 16th May.

Diver sp – Most divers were identified to species this spring. Birds that were not, as follows –
March – 9e, 1w
April – 21e, 2w
May – 5e

Great Crested Grebe – 47 flew east and 75 went west this spring, most being seen in March, that month producing the best day when 15 flew west on the 4th. One to two birds were seen offshore on several days throughout the period.

Red-necked Grebe – What was possibly the bird from February was seen on the sea on the 3rd and 9th March, when it was seen to fly off west. It, or another, appeared offshore on the 1st April and was seen again on the 6th, 7th and 8th of April, when it flew past eastwards.

Slavonian Grebe – Very few records. Seven on the sea on 12th March, included two in summer plumage. The peak count was on 14th March with 13 offshore. The last sighting was of two flying west on the 16th March.

Black-necked Grebe – By no means annual, so two sightings is a good spring for this species. A summer plumaged bird was offshore on the 5th April, and another was seen on the 17th April.

Fulmar – 125 east and 306 west this spring, the majority of those being seen in April. Only two notable day counts, eighteen east on the 4th April and fourteen west on the 24th May.

Storm Petrel – Just one record of a bird offshore, before drifting off east, on the 18th May.

Manx Shearwater – A below average spring. Nine flying east on the 4th April were the first, being four days ahead of the average. Three more flew east on the 5th, but only six others were seen that month. May was better with 39 east and 21 west, which included a very close flock of eight birds on the 7th. The 17th was the best day with six east and 11 west. Another flock of ten birds was seen heading east on the 24th May.

Balearic Shearwater – A flock of five birds landed offshore on the 24th May.

Gannet – Gannet counting from Selsey Bill this spring produced the following:
In March 240 flew east and 522 went west. Birds were seen every day, but there were no notable day counts that month. Number increased dramatically in April, with 3626 seen going east and 896 flying west. The highest day count in April was 675 eastwards on the 5th. Numbers remained high in May when 2704 went east and 1457 flew west. The peak day was the 8th, with 285 east and 670 west. Birds were also seen loafing or feeding offshore on several dates, with the highest offshore count of 78 occurring on the 28th May.

Cormorant – Smaller numbers than usual seen offshore. Also, birds do not seem to be flying west early morning like they used to.

Shag – In March two flew east and three flew west and there were singles on the sea on the 12th and the 17th. Only eight sightings in April, including one offshore on the 6th, and only two seen in May, singles on the 2nd and 12th.

Little Egret – The usual smattering of records. One east on the 30th March, another east on 4th April, one in off the sea on the 17th April, one east on the 7th May and another heading northwards on the 11th May.

Cattle Egret – Two flew west, distantly, on the 27th May, at 6.30am. A first for the Bill.

Mute Swan – Three flew around a bit before landing offshore on the 23rd May.

Canada Goose – Four small flocks were seen. Four west on the 30th March, three east on the 18th April, three west on the 20th April and five east on the 23rd April.

Brent Goose – 4327 this spring, which is well above average and only one other spring has been better in the last 17 years (11093 recorded in 2013).
March – 2152e with 941e 16/3, Birds, in varying numbers, seen moving east on all but three days in March, giving a month’s total of 2152. The main movement took place on the 16th March when 941 birds headed up the Channel. It was a similar story in April, 2169 birds flew east during the month. Numbers tailed off very quickly at the end of April. The last were three flying east on the 21st May.

Pale-bellied Brent Goose – Two flew east with the dark-bellied Brent on the 22nd April.

Greylag Goose – Two flying north on the 30th March, and another two flying east on the 4th May were the only records.

Shelduck – Two to six birds seen regularly offshore or on the beach from the 27th March to mid-May, may have been attempting to breed again, but this was not proven this year.
There was no obvious passage in April, but a total of 26 did fly east in May, with eleven of those being seen on the 15th.

Wigeon – A very poor spring, with none being seen in March and only one sighting in April, three east on the 17th. Two birds heading east on the 13th May was the only other record.

Gadwall – A similarly poor spring for this species as well. None in March, and only two going west on the 28th April and four west on the late date of 31st May.

Teal – The only record of the spring was of a flock of eight birds flying east on the 15th April, this flock also included a male Garganey.

Mallard – Less around than usual, with local birds not so evident, although seven were about on the 23rd March.

Pintail – Only nine birds seen moving up Channel, four on the 21st March, two on the 18th April and another three on the 20th. Two birds went west on the 4th April.

Garganey – The spring average for this species is three, so nine in a spring is a good year. The first were two east on the 23rd March, two weeks ahead of the average first date. Another three flew eastwards on the 10th April. Two males and a female passed east, very close inshore, early in the morning on the 15th April and another male was seen the same day in a flock of eight Teal.

Shoveler – A total of 40 was seen, which is reasonable. Nine in March, eight on the same day, the 30th. 26 birds flew east in April, including eight on the 21st. Only five seen in May, two on the 8th and three on the 13th.

Tufted Duck – Three records, one east on 4th March, one east 30th April and 2 flying west on 7th May.

Eider – A confused picture as birds moved both ways this spring. In March, seven flew east on the 7th, fifteen went west on the 17th and five were offshore on the 24th. The best April day was the 20th when eight were seen flying east. ‘Mrs Eider’ turned up offshore on the 6th of April and remained until the end of May, being either joined, or ignored by, other offshore birds during her stay. Twenty five birds moved east in May.

Long-tailed Duck – Five sightings is a good spring total. One flew west on 5th March, one flew east on the 30th April and two went east on the 1st May. The final sighting was of a bird that came in from the east and landed offshore.

Common Scoter – 7487 in the spring is well above average but in line with last two springs. It’s the highest spring total since 2013. 649 were recorded moving in March, and there were 20-40 birds offshore during the first half of that month. The bulk of the passage occurred in April when 4656 were logged moving east. There was also a couple of ‘big days’, 741 on the 5th and 645 on the 22nd, and several other days when 100-300 birds were seen flying east. As is usual for this species, passage continued throughout May, when 2182 were logged. The best May day was the 7th with 266 east; there were also 2-3 birds loafing offshore in the middle of the month.

Velvet Scoter – 58 in a spring is above average. Only two seen in March on the 31st. April’s total was 51, with ten east on the 5th and an impressive flock of 18 on the 18th. Five were logged in May, three on the 13th and two on the 16th.

Surf Scoter – The highlight of the spring!  A male dropped onto the sea amongst a flock of 33 Common Scoters at 09.40 and remained until the flock took off and headed east at 09.55. This is the first ever record of this species at the Bill (and indeed the Peninsula).

Red-breasted Merganser – Wintering birds were moving about offshore during March, although there was an easterly bias – 174 east, 115 west.  Up to 11 were seen offshore during the month. In April, 69 flew east, the best day being the 8th with 20. The highest offshore total for that month was six on the 8th. Merg's had all but disappeared by May; one was seen flying east on the 7th and the last sighting was of two heading east on the 12th.

Red Kite – One flew in from the north, before returning back north, on the 17th April.

Kestrel – A bird headed in off the sea, from a long way out, on the 18th March, this being the first of several birds presumed to be crossing the Channel. Four more singles came in off the sea in April on the 13th, 19th, 23rd and 28th, whilst one was flying around offshore on the 18th. Three more incoming birds were seen in May, on the 2nd, 11th and 19th. More usual for this species was a bird hunting over the Oval Field on the 24th and 25th March.

Hobby – The first, and only record for April, was seen heading north on the late date of 28th. A further ten were seen in May. One flying north at 06.33 on the 4th May was plucking and eating prey on the wing.

Peregrine – This species is normally seen in the spring, as it hunts over the sea for incoming birds, but as they were rather lacking this year, there were only four sightings. Birds flying north, in off the sea, having been hunting offshore, were seen on the 31st March, the 16th April and two together on the 22nd April. There was also a bird present over the gardens and beach for a while on the 12th April.

Merlin – As with the last species, this bird can be seen in the spring looking for tired migrants, although cross Channel migration of Merlins cannot be ruled out. One came in off the sea on the 26th March, one flew low over the beach on the 6th April and another flew north on the 13th April.

Sparrowhawk – Like the previous two species Sparrowhawks are adept at picking off incoming, tired migrants and usually are seen in good numbers here in the spring. There were a few sightings in March, but only two in April on the 17th and 18th, the first bird being seen with prey. A bird flying offshore on the 6th May was the only sighting that month.

Marsh Harrier – A female flew in off the sea, heading for Medmerry, on the afternoon of the 6th April.

Water Rail – One was present in the Bill House garden from the 22nd to the 28th March. As the first ever record for the Bill was at a similar time last year, it is likely that this year’s sighting relates to the same individual.

Oystercatcher – Ones and twos were seen most days in March and April, to-ing and fro-ing or on the shingle bars. Seventeen flying east on the 21st April could have been on migration. May totals were down on previous years, with 20 east and seven west.

Avocet – Two passing east on the 23rd April was the only sighting.

Ringed Plover – Three went east on the 22nd March. A lone bird was present on the beach on the 7th and 8th April. Another flew east on the 17th, and one flew west on the 19th. In May two were on the beach on the 10th and one flew east on the 13th.

Little Ringed Plover – One was on the beach before flying off east on the 23rd April.

Golden Plover – A flock of 20 flying east on the 8th April was the only record.

Grey Plover – A good spring for this wader with a total of 145 passage birds, with over half of those being seen in May, the best day being the 13th with 29 passing east. It was a slightly confusing set of records though, as birds also passed westwards as well, such as 43 in May, with 23 of those on the 9th.

Knot – 32 is a below average spring for this species. The first were on the 13th April when four went east. Twenty eight were seen in May, with the 13th being the peak day, when 15 were logged.

Sanderling – None were seen in March and 58 were logged in April. A good total of 339 was seen in May. Peak numbers were in the middle of that month, 87 east on the 14th being the peak. Birds often landed on the beach for brief periods before moving on, such as four on the 10th. This species continues be seen on migration through to late May, demonstrated by a flock of 13 on the beach on the 31st.

Dunlin – Good numbers of Dunlin this spring. The 16 seen in March were presumed to be birds moving between the harbours, whilst 92 moved up Channel during April, including 80 on the 29th. Not really sure what was happening in May, as 71 went east and 65 went west.

Black-tailed Godwit – Two records. A flock of 12 flew east on 28th March and a single west on the 20th May.

Bar-tailed Godwit – 1616 this spring, well above the average, and the best spring since 2011. A bird flying west on the 9th March was probably just moving between the harbours, whereas four east on the 29th March may have been the first passage birds, albeit a week early. The bulk of the passage was in April, and in particular between the 20th and the 24th, when a total of 1365 were logged, 636 on one day, the 22nd. A further 93 were seen in May.

Whimbrel – 585 in spring is above average; 447 in April and 138 in May. The first were two flying east on the 6th April which is close to the average, and the best day was the 18th April with 161 east.

Curlew – A total of 24 passed eastwards this spring.

Common Sandpiper – Two east on the 30th April were the first, three days later than the average, but that was the only record.

Turnstone – Small numbers in both directions and on the beach in March. There was clear passage in April, when 85 flew east, including 16 on the 5th and 17 the following day. A further 13 were seen in May.

Pomarine Skua – 61 this spring, above the average of 53. Nine were recorded in April, the first birds being two moving east, distantly, on the 22nd, an average date. Ones and twos were seen on five other days in April, whilst 52 were seen in May, which included four on the 1st. Of the two noted on the 15th, one was a dark phase (morph) bird. Observers had to wait until the afternoon of the 16th May for a proper Pom Day, when 37 were recorded. It started with the biggest flock of the spring, ten at 13.35. The remaining 27 were all seen after 15.30 and included a flock of eight and two flocks of five, some of the flocks passing by close inshore. The only other dark phase bird of the spring was also seen on this day. The final bird of the day passed by at 19.33. The last sighting of the spring was of two birds on the 18th.

Arctic Skua – 177 sightings, which is an above average spring. The first and only March record was of two flying east on the 16th, two weeks ahead of the average. Good numbers in April when 123 were seen. The highest day totals of the spring were on the 5th and 25th April, with 24 passing. The first pale phase/morph bird wasn’t noted until the 15th April, and they remained scarce until May (only 20 in April out of the 123). May’s total was 52, the 9th being the best day, with a rather poor seven. Pale phase/morph birds outnumbered dark birds two to one in May.

Great Skua – 68 in the spring is average. The first on the 31st March was one day later than the average, whilst 62 were recorded in April, the 16th being the peak with 16 passing east, and 1-3 were seen offshore on several dates that month as well. A strangely low, three east and two west were all that were seen in May.

Mediterranean Gull – Small numbers throughout March included 20 offshore, in a large mixed gull flock, on the evening of the 29th. There was a distinct easterly passage in April, a total of 126 birds, passing mainly in pairs, as usual. Thirty were offshore on the 8th, and the best day was the 21st, with 37 east bound birds. Another 37 birds heading west on the 28th were thought to be relocating to Medmerry or Chi harbour. Sightings dropped right off in May when only eight were seen, four each way.

Little Gull – Well below average spring, with only 42 logged. None in March and only 32 east in April, with 17 of those being on the 8th. Only two May records, a flock of ten on the 12th and a single on the 14th.

Black-headed Gull – Small numbers throughout March were probably ‘local’ birds. 465 offshore late evening of 29th March were possibly going to roost on the sea. A reasonable easterly passage in April totalled 341 birds, all between 19th and 23rd. The peak day was the 21st when 126 in various sized flocks passed eastwards.

Common Gull – 343 is a good spring total for this species. 122 went east in March, nearly half of those, 66 on the 7th. Thirty were also in the gull flock offshore on the 30th. 219 were counted in April, most of these between the 20th and 22nd. Appears to have been under recorded in May as there was only one sighting of two birds flying east on the 14th.

Lesser Black-backed Gull – We don’t seem to get many but definitely under recorded. Only two in March and five in April.

Great Black-backed Gull – Also under recorded, no counts submitted.

Herring Gull - A large mixed gull flock offshore on the 29th March contained 883 birds. The only other large count was 484 on the various shingle bars, at low tide, on the 20th April.

Kittiwake – No notable counts, the spring totals were 132 east and 170 west.

Sandwich Tern – 5316 noted moving eastwards in the spring, which is double the average. However, this may be an inaccurate representation of actual migrating birds as many Sandwich Terns here are ‘local’ birds on feeding forays from the nearby harbours. 95 were seen in March, with records at the start of the month related to the Chichester Harbour overwintering birds. Fourteen offshore on the 10th probably included birds already on migration and 25 flying east on the 24th were certainly moving up the Channel. Obvious passage days in April were the 5th, with 696 east, and the 25th when 408 flew east. The peak offshore count in May was 51 on the 3rd.

Roseate Tern – A blank spring.

Common Tern – 1142 recorded in the spring. The first was seen on the early date of the 23rd March. April produced 671 and the highest day total of 150 east on the 5th, this being an earlier than normal movement for this species. Only 470 were seen moving in May. Birds were seen feeding offshore during April and May, but in small numbers.

Arctic Tern – Only 16 specifically identified to this species this spring, 14 in April and two in May. Eleven were on the same day, the 13th April.

Commic Tern – 2170 in the spring is half the average spring total. 1161 were seen in April, 352 of those on the 5th, with just a paltry 1009 for May. The best tern day of the spring was the 5th April when an unimpressive 352 were counted east.

Little Tern – 269 this spring is well below average. The first, on the 5th April, was the earliest Bill record ever (previous early record date 7/4/99). 199 was the April total, the highest day count being 42 east on the 8th. A further 70 went east in May. Distinguishing true migratory birds has always been difficult with this species as many birds linger and feed offshore, flying backwards and forwards in both directions.

Black Tern – 15 in the spring is well below the average spring total. None were seen before the 7th May, when four were recorded passing eastwards, that being two weeks later than the average first date. One was offshore on the 11th.

Auk sp – Very few auks were seen and the ones that were tended to be distant.
March – 15e, 16w
April – 48e, 53w
May – 147e, 81w

Guillemot – Two were seen flying west in March and only two each way in April. May was slightly better with 17 east and eight west.

Razorbill – As usual, more sightings of this species than Guillemots, but still very low numbers, 23 east and 24 west. One to two were offshore on four days in March, and just one offshore record for April, on the 18th.

Puffin – On the afternoon of the 13th March, two auks were seen to drop on the sea before being identified to species. An hour later, they took off and headed east, and it became apparent that they were Puffins.

Stock Dove – Three appeared to being flying out to sea on the 6th May, but quickly turned back and headed north inland.

Swift – Three north on the 25th April were the first, two days later than the average. A total of 254 were seen coming in May, normally in pairs. The 15th May was the heaviest passage when 112 were seen. Local birds were noted as being present in the area on the late date of the 20th.

Skylark – One flew north on the 24th April.

Sand Martin – The first sighting was one flying in off the sea on the 24th March, over two weeks earlier than the average. Five more were seen at the end of the month. Fifty were logged in April, but only two in May.

Swallow – The first was seen on the 23rd March, one week early. Another four were logged on the 29th. Numbers increased in April with 515 being seen that month, the best days being the 17th with 141 north and the 30th when 105 flew north. May was even better with 808 sightings, and the highest day total of the spring was the 1st with 266 north recorded. Swallows have a protracted migration period, as shown by birds still coming in mid and late May, such as 80 on the 13th.

House Martin – The first was seen on the early date of the 29th March. Only 29 more were seen in April and 28 in May, the peak day being the 18th April when nine flew in off the sea. Our resident local birds were present this year from the 2nd May onwards.

Tree Pipit – Only one record, one flew in off the sea on the 6th April.

Meadow Pipit – March is normally the best month for incoming passage birds, but only 802 were recorded, with the first being seven north on the 7th. A good total of 234 flew north on the 16th, with the only other decent count being 268 on the 31st. Passage of this species tends to dwindle quite quickly once into April, but a further 752 were counted, 260 of those headed north on the 2nd, and another 281 on the 6th.

Yellow Wagtail – The first of the spring were four flying in off the sea on 6th April, ten days ahead of the average first date. The best day was the 19th April, when 14 came in. The April total was 40. A mere three were seen in May.

Pied Wagtail – Just 46 north is a poor spring and there were no big days. Thirty were seen in March, 13 in April and three in May.

White Wagtail – One was on the Oval field on the 13th April.

Grey Wagtail – One present on the 23rd March was the only record for this species, more commonly seen in the autumn.

Black Redstart – One was on the beach on the usual date of 23rd March.

Redstart – Very poor; with only two birds recorded, both on the 19th April.

Whinchat – No Whinchats were seen at all.

Wheatear – The first sighting, one day later than the average, was of a fall on the 20th March, when 16 flew in and 23 were on the beach. These had all but disappeared by the next day, when only three were present. March’s total was 76. April was worse, with only 42 logged, and there were only four records in May, one of which was of the ‘Greenland’ form on the Oval field on 2nd, and the last were on the 19th when two were on the beach.

Nightingale – Birders arriving, just before dawn, on the morning of the 4th May, heard a bird in full song, well hidden in the Bill House garden. It was seen briefly a couple of times, later in the morning.

Reed Warbler – Just three records; one present on the 20th April, one on the 15th May and another on the 18th.

Whitethroat – The first sighting was of two birds in the gardens on the 11th April. Very few were seen this spring. During the latter half of April and through May a pair appeared to be in residence in the long gardens and later Bill House garden.

Lesser Whitethroat – Just the two records; one present on the 30th April and another on the 3rd May.

Blackcap – Only one seen on the 8th April. Representative of what was a very poor spring for passerines.

Willow Warbler – Very few. Two present on the 31st March were the first. Five were present on the 17th April, and there were a handful of other records.

Chiffchaff – 42 were seen in March; with the first appearing on the 17th. Numbers had increased to 20 by the 23rd, and five were seen flying in off the sea on the 31st. Just 15 were noted in April, and only ten in May, with five of those being on the 2nd.

Goldcrest – Singles present on the 21st, the 23rd and the 31st March, were the only records.

Firecrest – One was present in the Broadreeds ornamental garden on the 23rd March.

Spotted Flycatcher – Only one record this spring, one present, albeit briefly, on the 17th May.

Long-tailed Tit – Two records from the Bill House garden, both in March. Three present on the 19th and a single on the 27th.

Carrion Crow – Crows are often seen flying in off the sea here. Some are just coming back from feeding on the offshore bars, or may even be flying back from being on ships. However, 38 seen on the 13th April, all flying in from a long way out, could perhaps have been cross-channel migrants.

Rook – One flew north from a long way out on the 11th April.

Jackdaw – One flew north on 17th March, and another came in with crows on the 13th April.

Goldfinch – ‘Resident’ birds were seen occasionally in or over the gardens during the spring. Passage birds as follows – One north on the 20th March, and a total of 45 flew north in April, the peak day being the 8th when 17 were seen.

Siskin – More regularly seen in the autumn, so two early April sightings were unusual. Two flew north on the 6th and another came in off the sea on the 8th.

Serin – One was seen coming in off the sea on the 22nd April. It was then seen and heard briefly over the Bill House garden. What must have been the same bird was also noted, around the Bill House garden, on the 23rd and the 24th.

Linnet – In March, 49 were seen flying north, with a peak on the 12th of 29. In April, 111 flew north, the peak day being the 9th, when 53 were seen. Unusually for the spring three birds headed south on the 15th April, until lost to view.

Reed Bunting – One was seen on 23rd March.

Yellowhammer – One was present on the 7th May, briefly in Bill House garden.

Canary – An all yellow bird with a whitish tail was present briefly on the 10th May.



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