I picked up Andrew and Bruno, visiting from Quebec, in Burgess Hill on a very damp morning last Tuesday.
For our first stop, on what would be a very damp day, we drove to Burton Mill Pond. Arriving before dawn, we had a quick scan of the pond in the dark. Then, we made our way into the woodland to the east of the pond. Other than the sound of rain, the air was filled with the "tseep" of Redwings leaving the roost. A small tit flock yielded Long-tailed, Blue, and Great Tits, and nearby great views of Treecreeper and Goldcrest were obtained.
A small pond within the wood held numerous Mallards and a couple of female Tufted Ducks, along with a single Little Egret. The alders above the pond held a decent finch flock of Siskins and a handful of Goldfinches. Exiting the woodland as the rain intensified produced a couple of rather damp-looking Red Kite and Egyptian Geese. Retracing our steps back to the pond, the improved light allowed us to pick out a single winter plumage Great Crested Grebe and some distant Coots!
Our next location was Pagham Harbour. Starting at the visitor centre, we wandered down to the Ferry Hide for some much-needed shelter and spent an excellent hour adding a number of birds to the day list. Highlights here were over 300 Lapwings, a great selection of ducks including Teal, Wigeon, and Shoveler.
A few Snipe were picked out of the muddy edges, and a single Little Grebe put in a brief appearance. We then moved to the hide at Church Norton as the tide began to drop. The vast mud flats were teeming with waders, with Knot being the most notable, with over 300 feeding in a tight flock. A smart trio of Avocet, a brace of Bar-tailed Godwits, and a brief Merlin provided some great birding. The sea off the spit provided us with an excellent view of three Mediterranean Gulls (two adults and a second-winter) and three Great Northern Divers.
The third and final destination for the day was Burpham and The Burgh. A stop in Burpham to view the water meadows quickly revealed the two long-staying Bewick’s Swans feeding in their usual spot. A bonus 15 Cattle Egrets also flew in following a digger that was dredging the ditches! We picked up a few harriers over the Arundel WWT, presumably starting to look to roost and had distant views of a ringtail Hen Harrier among the Western Marsh Harriers.
Moving up to The Burgh as the rain finally started to ease treated us to an excellent end to the day. The roadside hedgerows held over 50 Fieldfares, both Corn and Reed Buntings, and some vocal Grey Partridge flocks. The skies were full of Red Kites gathering to roost, a true spectacle for a bird that was still scarce until only recently. Sadly, no owls showed, possibly due to the weather during the day, but a great experience to end the day.