An early start in the Arun Valley got the day off to a good start. I met with Sally and Andy from Hampshire who joined me for the day to explore a few West Sussex sites to see as many species as possible from dawn until dusk. The aim was 100 species... so how did we get on?
A calling Tawny Owl had us off the mark but in dull overcast conditions, the other birds took a while to wake up! Up to six Marsh Harriers were seen leaving their roost site, four Cattle Egrets flew upriver and six Egyptian Geese flew in. Nearby, the search for woodland birds and wildfowl gave us excellent views of several Firecrests and Marsh Tit, whilst Mandarin Ducks were also added to the tally and Mistle Thrush and Treecreeper were duly seen.
We then made the short journey to the Selsey Peninsula and were treated to the spectacle of several large flocks of Golden Plover in formation overhead, two flocks of Avocets numbering just over 40 birds roosting. The skies were alive with Lapwings, Black-tailed Godwits and Snipe displaced by the exceptional high tides. The harbour itself produced good views of waders, including a single Whimbrel and some Bar-tailed Godwits roosting. Other notable species included a distant Stonechat, a Peregrine Falcon caused panic across the harbour and a nice adult winter Mediterranean Gull which gave a nice fly-by.
On the sea, a nice flock of eight Eider were sat on the sea, a Red-throated Diver flew westwards fairly close in, as did a Razorbill. Several Gannets coasted effortlessly, much to Alan's delight.
Moving inland, we discovered a lovely flock of Brambling along the roadside, using the car as a hide we had point-blank views as they perched up from feeding in the leaf litter. The weather had decided to hinder our progress with some torrential rain enabling a respite for sandwiches and coffee!
Then it was back to the Arun Valley to make the most of they daylight left and the conditions to scan the water meadows for some speciality winter visitors...the Bewick's Swans. We managed nice scope views of six adult birds, and nearby we had some Chiffchaffs and two large finch flocks overhead, mainly containing Chaffinch but another Brambling was heard with them.
Sally noticed a bird perched up in the distance and the scopes revealed a nice female Marsh Harrier. A covey of Grey Partridge showed exceptionally well and a couple of distant Red Kites were seen, with a few Brown Hares seen in nearby fields, which concluded our day.
94 species were seen and heard which we were pleased with, considering the challenging weather conditions. It was certainly a day of quality with birding spectacles than quantity.
We are out again on the 15th January, so if you wish to join us, please book via our events page.