Selsey Bill Spring Summary - 2022


by the Editors

Once again, the coming spring brought hopes of a good season to Peninsula birders, with the spectre of last year's Covid-19 restrictions thankfully behind us. Spring 2021 was largely considered to have been very disappointing overall, so the theory was that there had to at least be an improvement this year, lifting expectation somewhat. In the event the results were very mixed; good or even outstanding for some duck and tern species, whilst being decidedly poor or even worryingly low for some passerines and hirundines. Such is the nature of the sea-watching beast with no two springs the same.

The vagaries of the weather and the geography of our little patch on the South Coast always contrive to give mixed results, but once again our stalwart log-keeper JA managed to keep the log to his high standards and without any obvious problems, We continue to be grateful for his efforts and can only repeat what we said last year..." Quite how he manages to compile an accurate and detailed log on a busy day, with observers shouting information at him and whilst intently watching the sea is best known to him, but this skill makes him the best man for the job, leaving your esteemed editors trailing by a distance."

And so to the details of the spring 2022. Readers can decide for themselves whether they consider it a good, bad or indifferent season - but whatever the outcome, you can bet that those of us still able to will be back there again next spring....! (Eds)

Selsey Bill Sea-watching - Spring 2022 Summary

 Compiled by Justin Atkinson

This report covers March, April and May and only includes records submitted to the Selsey Bill Log or the Selsey Blog.

Selsey Bill was watched every day throughout the spring and the total hours watched this year were 438 (March – 105, April – 177 & May – 156).

Winds – The first half of March was mainly east or south-east and the second half of the month was mainly east or north-east. Bar a few days early on in April, the rest of that month it was light to moderate north-easterlies or just easterly. To nobody’s surprise, the first week of May saw the winds shift to the west, and apart from the 8th and 9th when they were easterly force three, and a handful of days much later in the month, the westerly airflow continued.

JA getting close to the action (OM)

Great Northern Diver – Generally, 1-7 offshore most days up until the second half of May, but nine offshore on the 8th of April. At least four birds attained full summer plumage in April. Numbers dropped quite quickly during May and the last was a single offshore on the 17th.
Note: A very late individual flew east on the 8th of June.

Red-throated Diver – 351 went east this spring, with about two thirds of those in March. The peak day was the 13th March when 39 flew east and 1-4 birds were seen offshore on 14 days during the period. One flying west on the 14th April was the last sighting.

Black-throated Diver – The decline continues for this species. Only 11 passed up channel this spring, well below the spring average of 18. The last was one seen very well close inshore on 9th May.

Diver sp – 42 east and one west during the spring.

Great Crested Grebe – Offshore 1-3, and/or east and west on most days this spring, with four east on 15th March. Sightings diminished during May.

Red-necked Grebe – One flew east on 16th March.

Slavonian Grebe – Between 1-4 around at the start of March, last seen on 19th March when one was offshore.

Fulmar – 40 went east and 85 went west, mainly in April and May.

Manx Shearwater – A very poor spring. The total of 19 birds seen is well below the average of 93. Ten were seen in April (eight east and two west) and these included a flock of six seen on the 29th. The first was a bird lingering offshore before flying off east on the 13th, five days later than the average first date. Another nine were recorded in May, comprising eight east on the 25th and a single west on the 26th.

Gannet – The spring totals were 3,052 east and 1,115 west, the bulk of these being in April and May, with 283 east on 27th April being the biggest day total. There were several records of birds lingering and/or feeding offshore, generally in small numbers, but 50 on the 25th April.

Cormorant – There seem to be less Cormorants being seen in the last year or two and no really notable counts were made, with 22 offshore on 21st April being the highest day count.

Shag – Seen regularly throughout, Totals for the period were 23 east and eight west. There was also the occasional bird offshore. A similar pattern to previous springs with birds seen going east in the morning and west in the afternoon. Last seen on 12th May.

Great White Egret – One flew in off the sea at 08.15 on 9th April and continued inland.

Grey Heron – One went east offshore on 27th March and another east on the 12th April.

Spoonbill – One flying east on 15th March was the only record.

Greylag Goose – Seven east on 4th March was the only sighting.

Canada Goose – One west on 8th April was the only record.

Brent Goose – Total of 3,046 seen, which is close to the average of 2,981, the vast majority of these being in March. There were just two days with totals over 400, both in March, 410 on the 9th and 406 on the 12th. A flock of 37 birds flew east on 8th May, rather late for such a flock, and the last were nine going east on the 10th.

Pale-bellied Brent Goose – One flew east, all by itself, on 1st May.

Shelduck – Most records were in April and included 16 east on the 11th. The odd bird was seen offshore but there was no obvious attempt to breed as there has been in recent years.

Wigeon – Total of 76 passed east this spring, including 52, in one flock, on 17th March. Eleven east on 11th April were the last.

Gadwall – Four west on the 4th May and a single east the day after were the only records.

Teal – Some 140 passed east this spring, including 52 on 28th March. Eight east on 17th April were the last.

Mallard – Two or three ‘local’ birds were seen on occasion throughout the period. Six were offshore on 4th May and five offshore on the 30th.

Pintail – A great spring for this species….309 east smashes the previous record of 84 set in 2003. This duck normally moves quite early and 95 heading east on 8th March was a new record day count. However, this record didn’t stand for very long, being beaten later that month when 113 flew east on the 21st. A total of 264 were seen in March and 45 in April, 43 of those being on the 11th.

GarganeyA brilliant record-breaking spring for this species with a total of 28 seen. The previous best spring total was 13 in 1968. A new spring day record was also set when ten went east on the 21st March, beating the previous best of eight on the 15th April 2006. Then another ten were seen on 23rd March equalling the new spring day record. Four more were seen in March on 29th, and four more went east in April. To put these numbers in context, the spring average here is three.

Shoveler – A fair spring with 178 being seen, mostly in April. The 11th April was a good day, when 107 went east. Six going east on 12th May were the last.

Tufted Duck – A total of 38 went east in March, with 25 of those on the 8th.

Eider – The spring total of 58 east and 26 west may include some duplication due to birds going both ways and being offshore. The largest number offshore was nine on the 7th March. An impressive flock of 17 went east on 30th April. Last recorded on 29th May when two went west.

Long-tailed Duck – Two were offshore on 10th April.

Common Scoter – The total of 4,174 for the spring is slightly below the average of 4,493. Birds began moving in March, but not in any numbers until the 29th when 178 passed east. Most of the migration was in April and included 448 and 337 on the 11th and 12th respectively. As usual, they continued to move during May, albeit in smaller numbers, although 228 on the 17th was reasonable.

Velvet Scoter – A below average spring with 32 recorded, 21 of those seen on 11th April. A single east on 17th April was the last.

Red-breasted Merganser – Winter numbers seem to be reducing year on year for this species and so do spring movements….319 passed east during the period, most of those in March which also produced the best day, 49 on the 13th. The highest number seen offshore was 20 on 2nd April.

Goosander – One flew west on 14th March.

Kestrel – One flew north on 23rd April.

Hobby – Thirteen in total is an average spring. The first came in on the 23rd April, four days later than the average. The best day was 2nd May when four flew in heading north, all very early in the morning and two of them with prey. The last was a bird in off the sea, also with prey, on 19th May.
Note: A very late bird arrived in off the sea and headed off north on 5th June.

Peregrine – One offshore on 13th March and two seen on the 28th. Two went east on 3rd April and another came in off the sea, chasing pigeons up the beach, on the 28th. The only May record was one in off the sea on 6th.

Merlin – One in off the sea on 11th April was the only record.

Sparrowhawk – There were three March sightings. From the 12th April to the end of May, a local male was seen every other day or so patrolling low along the beach and sometimes perched on one of the groynes. It took a Goldfinch, just offshore, on 24th April, and it was also seen to catch two Starlings, one of which had flown too close to it as it perched on the groyne. A female was seen along with the male on the 14th May.

Oystercatcher – Seen virtually every day in small numbers, either passing east or west or on the beach, or the shingle bar. The largest number present was six on the bar on the 5th March.

AvocetThree flew in from the west on 1st May and landed on the shingle bar briefly before moving off east.

Ringed Plover Only seen on six days, three in April and three in May. Most of these were on the beach, although eight went east on the 4th May.

Golden Plover – There was a strange series of records for this species, in April, of flocks flying inland. Fifty on the 10th, eight on the 23rd and 16 on the 27th. Three also went east on 15th April.

Grey Plover – One went east on 10th March and a further 13 were seen in April. The only May record was a flock of 27, heading eastwards, on the 8th.

Lapwing – One north on 22nd March was the only sighting.

Knot – Not a very good spring with only 21 recorded. The first was a single on 26th March. The next were six on 28th April, and the remainder were seven east on the 1st and 2nd May.

Sanderling – Three were on the beach on the 5th and 15th March and six others went east mid-month. Only 24 were seen in April. There was a bit more passage in May, but a 106 for that month is still below average. The highest day total was 31 on the 9th. Sanderling always continue to move up to and even beyond the end of May, as shown again this year by 20 going east on the 30th.

Dunlin – 123 seen this spring. The peak day was the 11th April when 30 went east. The odd bird was also seen on the beach.

Bar-tailed Godwit A good spring; 870 seen is better than the average of 785. Seven went east on 18th March, 17 days earlier than the average, but just two others were seen that month. The end of April is the time for Bar-wits and most passed between the 22nd and the 30th, including 331 on the 23rd. There were 127 in May, most of these at the start of the month.

Whimbrel – A well above average spring for Whimbrel; 615 were seen. First noted on the 10th April, but as with the above species the end of April is their peak time and 362 were recorded between the 22nd and the 30th, with 132 on 26th. Another 129 in May, most of these being early in the month.

Curlew – No obvious passage, but a slight easterly bias as 18 went east and 12 went west. One was on the beach on 5th May.

Redshank – Six flying east on 11th March was the only sighting.

Common Sandpiper – One flew east along the beach, and landed briefly, on 1st May, four days later than the average. The only other sighting was of a bird going west, also along the beach, on 12th May.

Turnstone – Seen virtually every day. Hard to pick out obvious migration with this species but the figures do show an easterly bias especially in April when the eastwards total was 116, and the highest day count was 60 east on the 17th. The highest count for birds on the beach was 38 on 14th March. There was a notable drop in numbers from mid-May onwards.

Pomarine SkuaIt was a very early start to the Pom season this year, when three birds passed east on 11th April. This is twelve days earlier than the average and only one day later than the earliest ever. It was also an above average spring with 75 seen. Fifteen were noted in April and 60 in May.

April – 15
11th – 3e (1e@8.01, 2e@15.30)      
12th – 1e (13.20, sat on sea before moving on).
14th – 1e (between 10.00 & 11.40).
24th – 2e (17.30).
29th – 7e (4e@6.25, 2e@8.10, 1e@16.00).
30th – 1e (15.05).

May – 60
1st – 1e (9.22).
4th – 1e (10.10 from Hillfield Road car park, not seen at Bill tip).
8th – 13e (4e@12.25, 4e@16.44, 3e@17.13, 1e@17.54, 1e@18.05) 
9th – 43e (1e@5.50, 2e@6.26, 2e@7.46, 1e@8.02, 1e@8.05, 1e@8.07, 4e@9.00, 3e@9.18, 12e@9.30 (Inc. two dark phase), 2e@9.35, 4e@9.45 (Inc. one dark phase), 2e@10.31, 1e@10.38, 1e@10.41, 1e@13.25 (sat on sea briefly), 2e@14.05, 1e@14.27, 1e@16.30 (dark phase), 1e@18.14)
14th – 2e (17.30).

Many of the birds seen on the 8th and 9th May passed close inshore and the ‘tight’, close in, flock of 12 on the 9th was really rather glorious.

Pom passing the Bill (OM)

Arctic Skua – The spring average is 132, so 174 east this year was a good return. The first was seen on the late date of 8th April and a total of 114 went east in April and a further 60 flew east in May. The peak days were the 11th and 12th April with 17 seen on each day. Some birds were seen lingering and attacking Sandwich Terns offshore on occasions, notably five doing this on the 11th April, these being in addition to the birds moving east on that day. One was seen going west on 24th May and the last was recorded offshore on the 26th of that month.

Great Skua – An above average spring for this skua as well, with 95 recorded eastwards. Most of these were in April, the peak day of the spring being 23rd when 18 flew east. The first was on the 5th, five days later than the average. Numbers dropped away very quickly in May, with the last one being seen on 17th. As is usual with this species 1-4 birds were seen lingering offshore on several days during the period.

Mediterranean Gull An obvious easterly bias to the records with 164 east and 56 west. Most passage occurred in April and the biggest day was the 3rd with 53 seen. One hundred were on the Oval Field on 7th April and there were other large offshore counts as well that month such as 81 on the 7th. There were smaller numbers seen in May.

Little GullA good spring for Little Gull, the spring total was 175, well in excess of the average of 78. Nine were seen in March and the first birds, five going east on the 22nd were eleven days ahead of the average. 156 were recorded in April and included the best day which was the 23rd when 113 went east. Only ten in May, of which six on 9th were the last.

Black-headed GullA reasonable passage in March and April totalled 354 birds. The peak day was 17th April, when 280 passed up-channel. There were several high offshore counts, in April and May, with birds feeding close inshore, 575 on 15th April being the highest. A westerly movement of 351 birds on the afternoon of the 21st May was unusual.

Common Gull – 109 east this spring.

Lesser Black-backed Gull – Only recorded on six days this spring.

Great Black-backed Gull – No noteworthy records.

Kittiwake – Recorded regularly but only in fairly small numbers. Occasional birds seen lingering offshore with feeding gull flocks.

Sandwich Tern – Defining obvious easterly passage of this species is becoming increasingly difficult - this being due to overwintering birds, as well as the nearby breeding colonies using the sea off the Bill for feeding. A total of 3,696 were logged as passing east this spring, mainly in April. Sixteen were offshore on the 6th March, but these may relate to overwintering birds. A tight, quick and heads down flock moving east on 18th March were clearly on the move, as were the 33 seen on the 26th. There were not many other obvious movements until the 11th April when a massive 1,348 passed east. This beats the previous day record of 990, set on the 23rd April 1994. As April progressed, more and more birds were seen lingering and feeding offshore, including 100 there on the 17th. A few more went east in May, but during that month most seen appeared to be local birds, including 115 offshore on 18th, and 120 on 7th. A distinct westerly movement occurred on the afternoons of the 20th and 21st with 183 and 263 respectively, and again on the 30th and 31st. I am not sure what these birds were doing.

Roseate Tern – One offshore on 11th May was nine days behind the average first arrival date.

Common Tern – A relatively poor spring with 1,339 being seen. Only one March record, a single seen offshore on the 25th, four days earlier than the average. The next wasn’t seen until 8th April and the peak day that month was a poor 166 on the 23rd. May was slightly better with 574 on 9th. Small numbers were seen fishing offshore from 14th April, with lingering birds peaking at 70 on 5th May.
Note: What looked to be a migrating tight flock of six went east on the late date of 4th June.

Arctic Tern – A total of 41 seen this spring, with 29 of those being seen in April, including 20 on the 22nd. A further 11 were seen in May, all on the 15th.

Commic Tern – 484 this spring, 306 of those being seen on the 9th May.

Little TernLow numbers of this tern seen to be migrating this year; 198 was the spring total, with nearly all of those moving in April of which 48 on the 29th was the main movement. Some, presumably from the Pagham breeding colony, began lingering and fishing offshore from 15th April and occasionally built up to 15-20 birds.

Black Tern Three records. Two east on 24th April were the first, followed by six east on the 9th May, which included four beauties that lingered close inshore for an hour and a half, and one other east on 14th.

Auk sp – 189 east and 146 west, at various ranges from distant to incredibly distant!

GuillemotNone in March and only two seen in April. Twelve went west in May, mainly in singles.

Razorbill – Only one in March on 21st. A further 27 east and 22 west were seen in April and May, split evenly between the two months.

Stock Dove – Spring records of this species are not common, but we had three sightings this year, all in March. One in off the sea on 19th, another or the same east on 20th and two east on 25th.

Cuckoo – One heard calling in gardens on 8th May, this being just the third record this century.

Great Spotted Woodpecker – One flying around over the gardens on 17th April was the only record.

Ring-necked Parakeet One seen flying east on 26th March was accompanied by a Lord Derby’s Parakeet.

Swift – A remarkably low 15 seen migrating north this spring! Four coming in off the sea on 8th May were the first, two weeks later than the average. Very small numbers of local birds were seen from the 10th.

Skylark – Just two records, both in March, two east on 8th and another north on 29th.

Sand Martin – Just 13 north. The first, a single north on 14th April was a week later than the average.

Swallow – One in March on 29th and 790 in April, including 344 on the 29th, with another 346 in May. The odd bird was hanging around from the 14th May.

House Martin – The first were three north on 27th April, this being 17 days later than the average! Only another five were actually seen coming in all spring! A spring total of eight seen migrating is rather worrying. Our local birds seemed to be present from 4th May, and 19 were seen on the 17th, whilst 8-10 birds were collecting mud from the nearby puddles at the end of the month.

Tree Pipit – Three records. Two on 23rd April and another on the 29th.

Meadow Pipit – A total of 489 flew north this spring, and as usual, most of these came in at the end of March. The best day was the 27th with 103 heading north.

Rock Pipit – Just three records of single birds in March.

Yellow Wagtail The spring total was 42, with 39 of those in April and only three in May. A notable 27 went north on 29th April.

Pied WagtailForty were seen heading in off the sea, two thirds of those in March. A few others were seen, either on the beach or coasting both ways.

Black Redstart – One was present on 17th and 18th March. There were also two sightings in April, one on 2nd and another on 30th.

Redstart – Two present in the gardens on 29th April were two weeks later than the average first date. One of these, or another, was seen on the 30th.

Whinchat – Just one sighting of a bird on 5th May, three days later than the average.

Wheatear – The first was seen briefly on the beach, before flying inland, on 10th March, this being nine days ahead of the average. The next were two on the beach on 16th, and a further 18 were seen in March. Only 13 were observed in April which is a low total. Another 18 were recorded in May, including six on the beach on 5th and another three there on the fairly late date of the 16th.

Redwing – One north on 5th March.

Blackbird – Unusually one was seen floating on the sea, close in, on 15th April, before flying inland!

Starling – A total of 68 seen flying in off the sea early in March.

Reed Warbler – Three on 4th May was the only record.

Blackcap – Mainly the odd single seen from 20th April through to 15th May.

Lesser Whitethroat – Just two seen in gardens on 4th May.

WhitethroatOne seen on the 25th April hung around until the end of the month. Just three others in May, one on 4th and two on the 8th.

Garden Warbler – One on 25th and 28th April. Two on 4th May and another on the 8th.

Willow Warbler – The first was on 20th April, there were then one or two seen until the end of the month with five present on 25th. Four were logged on 4th May and another on the 8th.

Chiffchaff – First seen on 23rd March and another on the 29th. Eight recorded in April and just two in May.

Firecrest – One was present in gardens on 12th March.

Jackdaw – Two in off the sea from a long way out on 11th April.

Jay – One seen flying over the houses, headed off inland on 17th April.

Goldfinch – The only birds seen coming in were four on 27th March and two on 29th April.

Siskin – This species is unusual in the spring, but 35 went east on 27th March and three were seen going south out to sea on the 17th May.

Serin – One heard and seen briefly, on 17th April, flew in at 06.44 and didn’t stop!

Linnet – There were the normal northerly movements of Linnet this spring, as well as some easterly ones, and 62 went north and 168 went east, mainly in March and April.

Brambling – One north on 22nd March.

(Lord Derby’s Parakeet – One flew east with a Ring-necked Parakeet on 26th March)

A gathering of Pom observers, 9th May (OM)

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