A full day out in wonderful West Sussex with Mel and Adam who had kindly booked us for a customised day tour.
The day started nice and early in Arundel and the beautiful Swanbourne Lake. The morning rain had subsided leaving a good mixture of sunshine and cloud producing perfect lighting to observe the birds on offer here. We searched through the duck species on offer, unfortunately many were moulting so were not showing their best colours but we admired the Egyptian Goose, Mute Swan parents and their seven cygnets, Pochard, Gadwall , Mallards and Tufted Duck. One of the target species here was the Mandarin Duck, there was plenty of female's on view but the drakes were hiding away today, probably shy as not looking their best! A search on the nearby fields produced a single Cattle Egret in amongst the cows. After a good start to the day we headed to our next destination, Pagham Harbour.
The tide was out within the harbour from Church Norton which enabled us to scan through the birds present, the place was alive and the skies filled with the sound of terns. We were treated to excellent views of Sandwich, Common and Little Terns both in flight and on the deck, there were several young Sandwich Terns present too. Waders were observed including the delightful Oystercatcher. A Curlew entertained fighting with a crab which it was trying to eat, Ringed Plovers, Redshanks and a single Turnstone. It was nice to compare the summer plumages of the Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls along with the many juveniles. Several Little Egrets fished in the channels, a couple of Swallows moved overhead and both Lesser Whitethroat and Whitethroat sang from the churchyard behind.
We moved on to the main visitor centre at Pagham which enabled a coffee and toilet break, Adam enjoyed the 'self serving' cappuchino machine here. On the discovery ponds the Marsh Frogs really put on a show for us, it was from the new hide we saw one of Mel's target species, the Lapwing. It was here we saw our first raptors of the day with a female Kestrel showing extremely well as she hunted the surroundings whilst two Buzzards we picked out further out. Other birds on the pool included a pair of Shelducks with their youngsters and a sizeable flock of Black-tailed Godwits. The feeding station behind the hide provided a nice flock of Chaffinch, whilst in the nearby channel, excellent views were obtained of a Great Crested Grebe.
We then headed inland, where encountered close encounters with Buzzards and a Red Kite, a Sparrowhawk put on a brief show, one observation being the presence of Swifts on view in the sky everytime we raised our optics. Mel enjoyed watching a Great Spotted Woodpecker she had seen flying across the pathway. I dropped off Adam and Mel to enjoy a excellent pub lunch in the heart of the South Downs, refuelling for the second leg of the tour.
Our next destination for the afternoon was the fantastic RSPB Pulborough Brooks reserve, another opportunity for some coffee. We had great views of a Peregrine Falcon sat on a gatepost down from the centre and a perched Buzzard was close-by. The skies had good number of hirundines with House and Sand Martins, Swallows and Swifts all feeding up, probably a combination of local breeding birds and early returning migrants. The gentle stroll down the zig-zag pathway took us to the Hanger viewpoint. Here we managed to see the Spoonbill that had been present for a few days, the bird put on a feeding display before going to sleep with only its head left on view.
Adam picked out a distant object and this proved to be an excellent female Marsh Harrier giving all excellent scope views before taking flight and headed towards the south brooks. There were some Lapwing here too and 2 Black-tailed Godwits, whilst from Jupps viewpoint we managed to find a Green Sandpiper and three Egyptian Geese, whilst more Sand Martins swooped over the water. A Linnet sang throughout, as did a Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat. 2 Fallow Deer appeared in front of us and had a couple of Stonechats as spectators as they fed in the long grass. On our route back to the centre we encountered a couple of Treecreepers and a family of Long-tailed Tits which included many recently fledged birds.
Butterflies throughout the day included Red Admirals, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Meadow Brown, Small and Large Whites, Marbled White, Brimstone, Ringlet, Common Blue and Silver-washed Fritilary, whilst a Broad-bodied Chaser dragonfly posed well for the camera.
We drove back to where it all started having spent a full twelve hours out in the field, with some excellent company and excellent wildlife seen. A great day!