Selsey Bill Spring 2017 summary

Selsey Bill Spring Sea-watching Summary – compiled by Justin Atkinson:

Selsey Bill was watched every day in March, April and May, except for the 1st and 16th March. A total of 521 hours was logged for the spring.

Apart from a few days towards the end of March, the wind that month was in the west. A mixed bag of wind in April, but again with a fair bit of north west, only turning south east on the 30th. South east winds on the 1st of May and then north east until the 12th. Predominantly south west for the rest of May.

 Great Northern Diver – Birds seen offshore throughout the period, albeit in smaller numbers than previous springs. The peak count was eight on the 7th April and again on 22nd. Up to five birds still present in early May, but this had dropped to only two being seen offshore by the middle of that month. Some individuals had attained full summer plumage by mid-April.  Last seen on 29th May when one was offshore.

Red-throated Diver – Single birds seen offshore on several occasions during the spring. The peak count for passage birds was nineteen east on 30th March. A respectable total of 166 passed up-channel in March and April.

 Black-throated Diver – Dismal. Only five seen, all flying east. Two on 22nd March and singles on 12th, 20th and 30th April.

Diver sp – Spring total of forty two east.

Great-crested Grebe – One to four seen offshore or flying east/west on several days throughout the period.
Red-necked Grebe – Two settled briefly offshore, on the 1st May, before flying off east.

Slavonian Grebe – Eight offshore and seven east on the 4th March was the highest count. One to four offshore on a few dates in March, with one on the 20th appearing to be in partial summer plumage. Last recorded on the 28th March when four were seen on the sea.

Fulmar – Seen most days, with a peak count of fifteen west on 22nd March.

Storm Petrel – None (until June).

 Manx Shearwater – A poor spring. First seen on the early date of 22nd March, when seven flew west, this was also the highest day count. Only ten others seen on three days in April and a further four, on two days in May.

 Gannet – Who doesn’t like counting Gannets in the spring? Seen on every sea-watch. Only one noteworthy count in the period, when 959 passed east on 30th April.

Cormorant – No noteworthy records.

Shag – Ones and twos seen on several dates throughout the period, either offshore or flying east.

Little Egret – Occasionally seen on the foreshore or flying past, generally eastwards.

Grey Heron - One flew in off the sea and continued north on 30th April.

Mute Swan – Only three records, all in May. Five west together on the 9th, two north on 20th and one on the sea on 22nd.

Brent Goose – Spring total was 3,833, which is above the spring average. 2,839 of those were in March, 962 in April and 32 in May. The biggest day passage was on the 28th March, when 644 passed east. One pale-bellied was seen in amongst the passing flocks on 9th April, and a flock of twelve dark-bellied on 1st May included two pale-bellied.

Canada Goose – Three records. One west on 13th March, three east on 30th March and two east on 9th April.

Greylag Goose – Two records. One east on 19th and three west on 24th April.

Shelduck – One to four seen on several dates during the spring. No effort was made to breed on the beach this year…probably for the best.

Wigeon - Eight on the 20th and six on the 26th March were the only east bound birds of the spring.

Gadwall – Four records. Four east on 9th April, three west on 6th May and one east 21st May. A single bird spent most of the day offshore, on the 30th April, before flying off east.

Teal – Fourteen east this spring. Eight east on the 9th April was the biggest day total. Note: This species is occasionally seen in with passing Common Scoter flocks.

Mallard - One to three birds seen offshore, flying ‘around’, or in gardens.

Pintail – Spring total of 31, most of those on two days, fourteen east on 27th March and ten east on 29th.

Garganey – An above average total of five birds. A pair flew east on 19th April and a further three east on 11th May.

Shoveler – A spring total of 62 was made up of 54 in March and 8 in April. The majority of these birds passed east on just two days, 29 on 26th, and 18 on 27th March.

Pochard – Only one record, three flew east on 30th March.

Tufted Duck – A flock of eleven flying east on 26th March was the only record. 

Eider – The only obvious passage was 29 east on 1st May. A single bird was present for the whole spring. Often close inshore, it allowed photographers the opportunity to take many…many pictures. An additional 2-3 birds were also seen offshore between 23rd March and mid-April. 

Common Scoter – A good spring for this species, with a well above average spring total of 7,046. Although spring passage started in earnest at the end of March, the big days were at the end of April, with 480 east on the 20th and 721 east on the 30th. Birds continued moving throughout May, with notable numbers still passing at the end of that month, such as 275 east on 29th. As always, there were birds offshore, such as 64 on 7th May. 

Velvet Scoter – 66 this spring was above the average. Seventeen on 30th April was the highest day count. 

Red-breasted Merganser – Birds moved both ways during the spring, and there were small numbers offshore during March and April. Seven east on 25th May was a late movement. 

Osprey – One flew north on the early date of 21st March. 

Kestrel – One was seen hunting over the Oval Field on 1st April. Four birds were seen coming in off the sea between 17th April and the 17th May.

Hobby – Spring total this year was 19, with the first being seen on 12th April. Six were seen in April and 13 in May. Four came in on 6th May, including one with prey. 

Peregrine – Only three records. One was seen with prey (Starling) on 9th April. One seen flying in off the sea on 6th May had presumably been hunting offshore. One flying around high over the gardens on 13th May.

Merlin – One hunting Meadow Pipits offshore on the 20th March was the only record. 

Sparrowhawk – Single birds seen on several occasions over the gardens. 

Common Buzzard – Two west on 30th March and three over gardens on 10th April. Local peninsula birds don’t tend to drift down as far as the Bill, so possible migration involved here. 

Marsh Harrier – A male flew in off the sea, and continued north on 24th March. 

Oystercatcher - Seen on every sea-watch... 20 west on 5th April was the highest count. 

Avocet – One flying east on 9th April was the only record. 

Ringed Plover – A handful of records, mainly east. 

Little Ringed Plover – One east on the 5th May, was only the second record in recent times. 

Golden Plover - Not normally recorded at The Bill in the spring, so nineteen west on 13th May was unusual. 

Grey Plover – A very good spring with an easterly total of 278, the vast majority of these birds passing between 18th April and 10th May; 49 on 22nd April was the peak count. As is normal, a lot of these passage birds were in mixed wader flocks, and some were in full summer plumage, superb! Birds moving west in March were presumed to be local movements. 

Knot – Spring passage was c90 birds, most in May. Peak day was 30 on 22nd April. 

Sanderling – 400+ passed east this spring, with nearly 300 of these in May. Biggest day total was 83 on 30th April. 

Dunlin – Noted on several days, 30 east on the 13th May was the peak. Some movements westwards in March were assumed to be local movements. 

Bar-tailed Godwit – A below average year with 549 birds seen. First seen when one passed east 23rd March, but the bulk of the passage occurred in April. Peak day was 29th April with 243 east. 

Whimbrel – An above average year with 561 seen. First seen on 25th March when one flew east. The majority passed in April, but odd birds were still passing into late May. Peak day was 29th April with 94 east.  

Curlew – Small numbers passed east and even smaller numbers flew west. 

Redshank - Three records. One east on 24th March, one east 10th May and one on the beach on 26th May. 

Greenshank – Two records. Two east on 24th April and one east 28th April. 

Common Sandpiper – Two east along the beach on 1st May, one east on 2nd May and one on the beach on 7th May.

Turnstone - 75 east on 1st April were presumed passage birds. Small numbers on the beach noted most days. 

Pomarine Skua – A good spring with 83 seen. The first were on the 23rd April, when two flew east in the morning, and a further two were seen in the afternoon. Three of the twelve seen on the 1st May, were dark phase birds. Two flew west into the Solent on 2nd May. The ‘big’ day was the 10th May when 26 passed east, this was also the day of the biggest flock, consisting of nine birds. 

Arctic Skua – A below average spring total of 115. First on 26th March. Peak day 30th April with 36 east. 

Great Skua – Spring total 94, that being well above the average. First on 22nd March. Peak day 29th April with a huge 39 east. 

Long-tailed Skua – One east on 11th May, was only the second ever spring record (the first being in 1985), and the undoubted highlight of the spring, if not the century. Grrrrr…. 

Mediterranean Gull – 146 this spring, with 107 of those in April. 

Little Gull – A below average spring. 54 this spring, with 47 of those in April. Peak day 9th April when 21 flew east. 

Black-headed Gull – Passage confined to April with 126 east, including 59 on the 1st.

Common Gull – 231 this spring, with 96 in March, 132 in April and 3 in May. 66 flew east on 1st April.

 Lesser Black-backed Gull - A handful of records. 

Great Black-backed Gull – No noteworthy records. 

Herring Gull – 447 present offshore at low tide on 31st March was the high count.

Kittiwake – Roughly equal numbers in both directions in March and April, and 105 east, 59 west in May. 31 east on 5th May was the biggest day total. 

Sandwich Tern – Spring total 3348, well above the average. Always tricky to work out the first true migrants, but 36 east 22nd March were clearly migrating. Two day counts over 300, 257 east 9th April, 318 east 30th April. 381 in March, 1865 in April, 1102 in May. As the spring progressed, reasonable numbers was also seen fishing offshore.

Roseate Tern – Two records. One flew east on the early date of 17th April, and another east on 1st May. 

Common Tern – Spring total 1015. First seen 28th March with five east. 357 on 30th April was the highest day count. Birds also lingered offshore in good numbers, particularly in May.

Arctic Tern Spring total of 36. First seen on 22nd April with one east. 16 east on 29th April was the peak count.

Commic Tern – A very poor spring total of 2723.... 1228 passed east on 30th April, made up of 357 Commons, 8 Arctics, and 863 Commics.

Little Tern – Spring total of 335. First seen on 9th April with three east. 104 on 30th April was the biggest day total. Between two and twenty birds lingered offshore fishing on several dates in May.

Black Tern – Spring total of 17. First seen on 30th April when 11 flew east, these were the only April records. Only a further eight seen in May.  

Auk sp – 84 west on 5th May was a noteworthy count. 

Guillemot – Eight this spring. 

Razorbill – 53 this spring mainly east and most in May. 

Short-eared Owl – One north 2nd April. 

Nightjar – One in off the sea on 10th May, continuing the recent run of spring sightings.

Swift – First seen on 22nd April when four flew north. Only another eight seen that month. Spring total c600, with 443 of these flying in on 5th May, which is a very good day count.

Sand Martin – Spring total 52. First were seven north on 27th March. 15 north on 22nd April was peak day. Last one north 18th May.

Swallow – First was one north 25th March. Spring total of 2389. Over half of these came in between 5th and 10th May. Peak day 7th May 480 north. 

House Martin – Spring total of 87. First were three north on 18th April. 10 north on 19th April was biggest day count. Local breeders had returned by May and were regularly seen collecting mud from the puddle edges near the Bill House. 

Tree Pipit – None. 

Meadow Pipit – 2,527 north in March, included 731 north on 24th. Birds continued to come in off the sea into April, albeit in much smaller numbers.

Yellow Wagtail – 33 this spring. First were three north on 14th April. Seven north on 7th May was peak count. 

Pied Wagtail – 38 in March, 29 in April, mainly coming in off the sea.

Redstart - Two records, one in the gardens on 18th April and three there on 8th May.

Whinchat – One on 8th May was the only record. 

Wheatear – Spring total of 80; 19 in March, 50 in April and 11 in May. First were two on the beach on 15th March. Highest day count was 9 moving north on 10th April. 

Carrion Crow – In offs in March, 33 north on 24th March was an unusually high day count. 

Raven – One west on 13th March. 

Jackdaw – In offs in March, 14 on 25th March was the high count. 

Jay – One present on 10th April. 

Starling – 17 north on 14th March. 

Sedge Warbler – Only three seen, all in the on 23rd April, one on 6th May and another on the 7th. 

Blackcap – One on 17th April was the first, thereafter was seen in very small numbers in the gardens.

Whitethroat – Arrived late with one on 24th April. Very low numbers seen after that. 

Garden Warbler – One present in the gardens on 27th April, and another on 4th May, were the only records. 

Lesser Whitethroat – Only one record of a single bird seen in the gardens on 7th May. 

Chiffchaff - Very small numbers present in the gardens from 14th March onwards. 

Willow/chiff - Quite a few phyllosc warblers in off the sea this spring, thirteen on 17th April was the peak count. 

Willow Warbler  Two on 6th April were the first. Nine in gardens on 22nd April was the highest count.

Goldcrest – One present on 27th March was the only sighting. 

Spotted flycatcher – Only one, a bird briefly in the Bill House garden on 13th May. 

Goldfinch – Three north on 26th March. Small numbers north in April

Linnet – Small numbers north in April. 

Many thanks to all who assisted with the logkeeping. (JA)



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