Wednesday, 9 January 2008

West Sussex. 6th Jan 2008.

Little Egret
Red-breasted Goose

After my good friend and fellow birder Roy Rose and I decided we would have a good attempt at a decent year list for 2008 I've been planning trips and routes in the aim to see some of the overwintering rarities and scarcities that might be on offer. My first choice was the Hoopoe that had been seen in Kingsley, Hants since 24th December 2007, always a fantastic bird to see and at this time of year it would certainly be an added bonus, the last time I had seen one was back in late March 2005 at Reading Brewery so that was the first stop. As I looked through the birdmap on I noticed that the Cattle Egret at East Lavant, West Sussex was still being seen on most days and as it had been present since the 7th December there was a good chance of connecting with it, as it's not far from Kingsley it was soon added to the trip. As long as we were in the area it made sense to keep heading south for the long staying Red-breasted Goose at West Wittering and maybe just enough time to drop into Pagham Harbour and Church Norton.

The Plan was hatched and the journey programed into the Sat Nav, a beautiful cold but sunny day greeted me as I left home for Roy's house. Our usual Red Kite was sat in the tree outside the cottage and further along my journey a flock of Feral Pigeons sat on the farm roof by the Ploughden Arms pub in Shiplake, as I approached Caversham a number of Starlings were seen, and at Roy's a small flock of Fieldfare were busy feeding through the fields as we loaded the cars.

Off we set and before long we arrived at Kingsley, sadly no sign of the Hoopoe and after an hour of searching nearby fields and paddocks there was still no sign, Fieldfare, Redwing, Mistle & Song Thrush but no Hoopoe, we decided to leave and return later if we had time.

After a short drive we arrived at East Lavant and as we drove along Fordwater Road I spotted a few Egrets in a field, we stopped the car to scan the fields and promptly found the Cattle Egret in the cattle fields along with Little Egret. We made our way across the public footpath and stream to where 3 Little Egrets were feeding with the Cattle Egret. We watched it for sometime before it headed down a ditch and out into the next field, whilst walking back towards the car a Grey Wagtail flew over calling as it headed upstream.

The next stop was West Wittering to hopefully find the Red-breasted Goose and upon arrival we soon noticed a large Goose flock feeding in the fields behind the cafe. We scanned the flock and only managed to find Brent Geese so decided to walk around the fields to view from the northern side, the field slopped away and many of the geese were being lost to view as they headed to the rear of the field. We met a couple of local birders that gave us directions to another location where the Red-breasted Goose had often been seen and we said our goodbyes. We stayed to check the pools and beach front which hosted Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Shelduck & Oystercatcher and back near the car park a small flock of Golden Plover had joined the large flock of Brent Geese. I know the Witterings pretty well and spent many family holidays there in my youth, my late father spent many hours birdwatching at Pagham, Selsey and at West Wittering and I guess that the times we spent together have imprinted a fondness for the area and a sense of direction so by the time we got in the car and left for Bracklesham we were there already. As we drove towards the South Downs Caravan Park I spotted a large flock of Brent Geese in the fields opposite and we stopped the car to have a look, it didn't take long to find the Red-breasted Goose in the middle of 300+ Brent Geese although the Black Brant wasn't with them. By now time was ticking away and at 3pm we left Bracklesham hoping to have a quick look at Pagham Harbour and Church Norton before we headed home.

We had a quick look at the visitor centre to see what sightings had been seen but the book was empty so we headed off to the Ferry Pool hide. The Ferry Pool was extremely quiet and we made our way to the sluice gates to look down the channel towards the harbour, two birds caught my eye as they flew across the fields that are next to the path and as I watched two Short-eared Owls appeared again as they quarted the fields. We only had an hour or so of light left so we got back in the car and drove to Church Norton, the mudflats were very quiet other than 6 Avocet and a few Shelduck in the distance so we made our way towards the beach. At the beach the birdlife was much better with Turnstone, Dunlin, Knot, Grey Plover and Redshank on the shoreline and at least 5 Mediterranean Gulls joined the melee of Gulls feeding on the waters edge. Out at sea were Red-breasted Mergansers, a Black-throated Diver flew West and a Slavonian Grebe drifted Eastwards, whilst scanning the harbour entrance a pair of Velvet Scoters took flight from the water and headed round the spit towards the harbour, good views of the white secondary panels in their wings as they flew.

We never made it back to Kingsley so the Hoopoe will have to wait for another day.

Added To My Year List 2008.
70. Cattle Egret (East Lavant, West Sussex)
81. Red-breasted Goose (Bracklesham, West Sussex)
82. Short-eared Owl (Pagham Harbour, West Sussex)
89. Mediterranean Gull (Church Norton, West Sussex)
91. Black-throated Diver (Church Norton, West Sussex)
92. Slavonian Grebe (Church Norton, West Sussex)
93. Velvet Scoter (Church Norton, West Sussex)

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