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Pagham Birder: The Blog

A regular account of the birds seen mainly on and around Pagham Spit, the Lagoon and the North Wall plus other birding exploits from time to time.
Any news of interest regarding the ongoing erosion problems on Pagham Beach will, from now on, be shown on my other blog together with general beach photos.. Click on the link... Pagham Beach Blog on this page.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Perishing Pagham!

It is very windy and miserably cold today so the need for extra layers was essential when I made my way to the harbour spit hide. However I was rewarded by the vast numbers of birds now present... 145 Mediterranean gulls on the Lagoon, at least 400 Black Tailed Godwits wheeling over the harbour plus hundreds of Knot, Dunlin,Grey and Golden Plover and all the 'usuals'. 3 Avocets are still feeding in the main channel and a Peregrine made several unsuccesful stoops on various waders.
Pintail, Wigeon, Teal and Shelduck are the most numerous of the ducks but there are smaller numbers of Red Breasted Mergansers and Goldeneye throughout the harbour. With a forecast of snow on Sunday and Monday it will be interesting to see the effect this will have on the birdlife. ..but for now I'm battening down the hatches and staying in the warm!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Big Garden Birdwatch Weekend

Yesterday was the big day for the start of the RSPB's 'biggest garden party' when we were all requested to count all the birds that visited our gardens in the space of one hour. I duly started in late morning and after 20minutes I had one Blackbird and one Dunnock. Having given up I decided that the next day would be a better day to take part in the census so wandered up to the harbour mouth in late afternoon with my camera in the hope there might be a good looked hopeful. After enjoying the various waders in the middle of the harbour feeding on the mudflats I wandered along the beach when I noticed a drake Red Breasted Merganser on the shingle, preening. Not that unusual, but in the failing light he didn't seem to notice me and allowed a reasonably close approach. The light was poor so I changed my camera settings to 800ASA and managed to get a few reasonable shots.
So today it was back to the counting business in the garden. In the pouring rain during the early part of the morning the birds were feeding and after an hour I had managed 1 Magpie, 4 Dunnocks, 2 Blackbirds and 15 House Sparrows...a pathetic count compared to what I have seen in the garden on other days but the rules state we have to record the maximum number of birds of the various species seen during the selected hour.
If only I could have included birds seen from the window but not in the garden I would have a VERY good list including Knot (150) Great Crested Grebe (6) Mediterranen Gulls(35) Slavonian Grebe (3) and many more....but that wouldn't be permitted (or very useful for the purpose of the R.S.P.B.'s Garden Birdwatch).

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sick Seal, Poorly Avocets.

As I wandered along the beach towards the harbour entrance I met a birdwatching group from Berkshire who pointed out a young seal hauled up on the shingle bank opposite, not looking at all well. I tried unsuccessfullyto contact the local reserve and left a message on a mobile answerphone. An hour and a half later the seal was still there and as it happened, when I passed by again, a person was strolling along the shingle so I called out to him across the water and alerted him to the sick seal. As he approached, the the seal managed to get into the water and swam slowly towards the harbour exit. I am not at all certain whether the creature will survive but it is worth keeping an eye out for it and reporting it if it seems in trouble.
Next stop was the hide and the 5 Avocets were still in the middle of the harbour, asleep. However after about 10 minutes they were disturbed by something and flew a short distance. It was then I noticed that 2 of them had difficulty in landing and each appeared to have only 1 leg. They hopped along the mud before settling down and going back to sleep. All 5 remained on one leg and this is quite normal for waders when roosting, but it was only after their flight I realised there was a problem with 2 of them when landing.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Avocet treat.

Following a few days of being confined to the house as a result of a nasty 'bug' which seems to be doing the rounds I ventured out and walked to the hide. Besides the usual Goldeneye,Wigeon, Shelduck and waders I was treated to 5 Avocets.....4 were sleeping but one was preening and it was really good to be able to enjoy them from the relative warmth of the hide. There is still a keen wind albeit a southerly and the temperature is only just nudging 5c.
Back in the bungalow I have been watching an almost total albino Oystercatcher (well about 90% )...there has been one about most winters for the past 15/20years and whether it is the same one it is difficult to know. This one seems somewhat more white than previous ones I've seen but who knows?
During the past few days a couple of Razorbills and a single Guillemot have been residing off shore and Great Crested Grebes have been accompanied by Slavonian Grebes.

I shall be pleased when the weather improves...I'm getting a bit fed up with this continual ' grey'!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A walk to the shops!

Having decided it was necessary to buy a few bits at the local shops I decided to walk along the beach the half mile or so instead of getting the car out! It was a superb, warm(ish), sunny morning and I was really glad I did. The usual Turnstones and Redshanks were feeding along the shoreline when I noticed a very pale almost white small wader....a Sanderling. This is unusual for Pagham beach as they usually show a preference for sand rather than pebbles and although common along the coast at Elmer and Clymping I haven't seen one here for several years. Having got the shopping I walked back along another route skirting the Lagoon and was rewarded with 5 Red Breasted Mergansers, a pair of Goldeneye, a Shoveler, a Kingfisher and 20 Mediterranean Gulls. I returned home and, looking out over the beach, noticed that a wheeling flock of Knot were just landing on their high tide roost on the off-shore shingle bank.
This is really not a bad place to live despite the threat of being washed away at some time in the not too distant future. Once again we have been reminded of this fact as we have lost another 2 metres of beach during the high spring tide and southerly wind earlier in the week!
(Click on pictures to view full size)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Bean Geese Alert !

Had a telephone call from local birder (Tim Edwards) after lunch to say he had just located some Bean Geese from the North Wall. As it happened I was just about to set out to obtain better photographs of the Water Rail as the light had improved so quick change of plan to look for Tim and the geese. As I arrived Tim had started walking over the fields to where he believed the geese had now gone....the old story...'should have been here 10 minutes ago'.
A long walk resulted in no success and we trundled back to the North Wall but then ....success...they had re-appeared. For the next hour we watched them feeding and enjoyed noting the dark brown head and neck and the bright orange legs and bill in the fast disappearing sunlight. They were really too far away for a photograph but I managed a very poor record least I know they are there....somewhere!! (Well maybe it just shows the location! )

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

An Even Colder Morning.

Frozen pipes and no water in the bathroom signified a cold start to the morning!

The Lagoon is 99% frozen over with a small patch of water occupied by gulls (including Meds)4 Pochard and a few Tuftys. A Water Rail was seen by one birder skating!

...but the place to watch is the sea ! Approximately 60 Great Crested Grebes, Slavonian Grebes, Red Throated Divers, Great northern Divers (2), Eider Ducks, Velvet Scoters, Common Scoters, Cormorants, Teal, Wigeon, Brent Geese and numerous Gulls...fantastic. Along the shoreline waders galore....Turnstone, Dunlin, Ringed Plovers, Grey Plovers, Curlew, Redshank. All in all good for birders but perhaps not so good for the birds being driven to the coast by the freezing conditions. Hopefully we should see some Smew if the temperatures don't improve!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A VERY cold morning!

Another even colder morning this morning and a very red pre-sunrise sky. Parts of the harbour were frozen and in places it looked quite arctic.
Grey plovers and Turnstones were feeding along the tide line and later in the morning as I made my way along the North Wall an obliging Water Rail found an ice free patch of water.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

An early start

Up before breakfast this morning....VERY cold and VERY frosty. The edge of the harbour was frozen along the high tide line indicating it was really VERY cold in the middle of the night!
The Purple Sandpiper was difficult to locate as it was feeding on the Little Lagoon and could have been easily tended to merge into the seaweed and if I didn't expect it to be there I doubt if I would have seen it.
7 Female Goldeneye were accompanied by 2 drakes in the main channel occasinally throwing their heads back in there typical display 'mode'.
It was unusually still and totally windless which is quite uncommon for Pagham Spit and even the birdlife was quiet apart from a few Skylarks calling as they flew up from virtually under my feet.
Later in the morning I looked out the window to see a small flock of Gannets in the bay diving into the sea having obviously found some fish near the shoreline....always a wonderful sight and even better on a cold winters day from the warmth of the living room!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Years Day

As we had friends arriving for lunch I wanted to ensure yesterdays birds were 'showing' well so I decided to have a quick walk round my patch to make sure! The Mediterranean Gulls were present but there was no sign of the Avocets. I arrived at the Little Lagoon to find a couple of birders 'scoping the pool and quickly ascertained that they had 'got' the Purple Sand...that's good as I could at least show my visitors this (for them) new 'tick'. We chatted about various birding things, as birders do and I learnt, amongst other snippits of information, about their experience of finding a Sardinian Warbler in Norfolk many years ago, and parted company.
A quick look at New Island for the resident Peregrine and yes, he was finising off a meal...Peregrines are always nice to show visitors.
As I was checking the gulls and waders I was suddenly aware of a pair of eyes looking at me from just the other side of the sea wall... a seal... another nice sight for visitors!
I wandered back along the beach and then checked that the Purple Sandpiper was still in position...had another chat with a birder directing him also to the sandpiper and headed for home...reasonably satisfied.
Our visitors duly arrived and we had a leisurely lunch before setting out along Pagham spit to see the 'special'birds. By 3.30 the light wasn't brilliant, there was no sign of the Purple Sandpiper or the Peregrines or the Seal or the Avocets or the Diver but there was a Redshank and a Teal and of course Brent Geese...and they I think enjoyed their birding walk despite my disappointment of not being able to show off some of Pagham Spits' specials!