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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

RSPB Pagham Harbour 22.05.21: Ringed Plovers and Dunlins

On this visit I walked from the Visitors Centre to Sidlesham Quay, past Halsey's Farm to the North Wall then on to Salthouse, past White's Creek, down to Pagham Lagoon and Pagham Spit.

As usual I visited Pagham Harbour by pubic transport, travelling by train form Brighton to Chichester, and bus from Chichester Station to the Pagham Harbour RSPB visitor centre. It is very easy to get to Pagham Harbour RSPB by bus; the 51 goes every 15 minutes form the centre of Chichester and takes 20 minutes. Timetable: 51 Bus Route & Timetable: Chichester - Selsey | Stagecoach (

I saw Avocets, Redshanks, Moorhens, Black-Headed Gulls, Skylarks, Mute Swans, Shelducks, Little Egrets, Grey Herons, Coots, a Reed Bunting, Oystercatchers, Woodpigeons, Mallards, Tufted Ducks, Ringed Plovers, Dunlins, Greta Crested Grebes, Herring Gulls, Sandwich Terns, and Common Terns.

Avocets Recurvirostra avosetta on Ferry Pool

Shelducks Tadorna tadorna and a Redshank Tringa totanus on Ferry Pool

A juvenile Moorhen Gallinula chloropus at Sidlesham Quay

Saltmarshes from Sidlesham Quay

Walking past Halsey's Farm

Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus

Trees killed by the salt water, on the way t the North Wall

Stepped path through the saltmarshes to North Wall. This path is flooded at high tide.

Skylark Alauda arvensis

This skylark shot up in a song-flight. He (it has to be he as its male Skylarks who sing to advertise themselves to females or reaffirm their territory to other males) reached about 300m (this photo is from the top of his song-flight); where he stayed almost stationary for a long time singing, before plunging to the ground again. "The stamina required to sustain long song flights has led to song flight length being used as an “honest signal” of male quality by females, allowing male Skylarks to advertise themselves without bright plumage, so they have kept the cryptic, brown and streaked coloration that affords them protection from predators on the ground." Skylark | BTO - British Trust for Ornithology

From the North Wall (north)

A Mute Swan Cygnus olor looking at her eggs

A Shelduck Tadorna tadorna in a rife (south of North Wall)

The Heronry Ardea cinerea on North Wall; where there are nesting Herons (see), Little Egrets Egretta garzetta (seen flying in and out) and a pair of Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis (not seen on this visit)

A parent and juvenile Coot Fulica atra, pool north of North Wall.

A Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus

A Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus and Woodpigeons in meadows north of the North Wall Columba palumbus

Mallards Anas platyrhynchos

Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula

A Mute Swan and a Mallard

A Mute Swan

Submerged tree trunks viewable at low tide, White's Creek

An Oysetcatcher

A small mixed flock of Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula (red list) and Dunlin

Ringed plovers breed all around Britain’s coastline, ... and they also occur inland in many areas.

They nest on bare ground, such as shingle and sandy beaches, and rely on their camouflage when sitting on the nest. The eggs and chicks are very well camouflaged too. Ringed plovers are vulnerable to disturbance and successful breeding will only occur along the less disturbed beaches or areas without public access. If breeding ringed plovers are disturbed near the nest they can entice the predator away in a novel way – they pretend to be injured. The adult will flap along the ground as if it has a broken wing and run away from the nest. A predator such as a fox (or an inquisitive human) will follow the adult away from the nest. Once far enough away, the adult flies off and will only return to the nest when danger has past.

In the New Forest, the best place to see ringed plovers is along the coast. The area between Keyhaven and Lymington is particularly good – they breed around the pools or on small islands within the pools that lie just inland of the sea wall walkway. Ringed plover - New Forest National Park Authority (

Dunlin - right of the Ringed Plovers

Dunlin, (Calidris alpina), also called red-backed sandpiper, one of the most common and sociable birds of the sandpiper group. The dunlin is a member of the family Scolopacidae (order Charadriiformes). It is about 20 cm (8 inches) long and has a bill curved downward at the tip. In breeding season, its plumage is brightly coloured, with its belly black and its back reddish (or dun-coloured, hence the name). In the winter the plumage is dull gray above and white below.

A short-distance migrant, it is a circumpolar breeder in the Arctic and sub-Arctic, favouring wet tundra around the North Pole and also in the British Isles and the Baltic region. The dunlin winters in great numbers on seacoasts, particularly at locations such as tidal flats, sand beaches, and rocky shores. It eats mainly insects on the tundra and worms, snails, and crustaceans on the wintering grounds, where it probes the mud with its bill in a rapid “stitching” motion.

In his display flight, the male circles over his breeding territory, fluttering and singing. Shallow scrape nests lined with leaves and grass are concealed in hummocks. A few days after the three to four downy young hatch, the female departs, leaving them to the care of the male. Both sexes are accomplished fliers; large flocks impressively twist and bank in unison. Dunlin | bird | Britannica

White Creek

An Oystercatcher

A Great-crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus

A Woodpigeons

The sea from Pagham Spit

A Herring Gull Larus argentatus A red list bird

A fenced nest area of mainly Common Terns Sterna hirundo and Sandwich Terns Sterna sandvicensis

Toward Bognor Regis from Pagham Spit

Pagham Spit

A Great Black-Backed Gull Larus marinus

Pagham Spit

Grey Herron

Grey Heron and Great Black-backed Gull

Grey Heron

Grey Heron and Herring Gull

Two Grey Herons, Pagham Harbour close to Pagham Spt (this is a short flight (200m) from the Heronry on North Wall)

Little Egret Egretta garzetta

Ringed Plovers in flight, probably the flock a saw earlier further inland

Grey Heron, Herring Gull and Little Egret

Great Black-backed Gull and a Herring Gull

Great Black-Backed Gull

Grey Herron and Great Black-Backed Gull

A Black-headed Gull hiding! Chroicocephalus ridibundus

Little Egret

North of the North Wall toward the Herony

Walking back to Sidlesham Quay

Crab shells - probably caught by Black-headed Gulls

Sidlesham Quay

A path at Sidlesham

A RSPB fascinating sign on Herons and Glass Eels

The Sargasso Sea was perhaps made famous by Jean Rhys's marvellous feminist prequel to Jane Eyre, The Wide Sargasso Sea, telling the story of Mr. Rochester's marriage from the point-of-view of his Creole first wife, Antoinette Coswa). Glass eels (Anguilla anguilla) imprint the magnetic direction of tidal currents from their juvenile estuaries, so they can return to the Sargasso Sea. Isn't that extraordinary. It is tempting to contrast that with Antoinette - the first Mrs Rochester - who never returned to the Caribbean, as she was driven "mad" by her rejection by British society, and ended up imprisoned in the attic of Rochester's house. The real and fictional stories of animal and human migration tell as much about our attitudes to migrants and refugees.

Avocets preening, Ferry Pool

Avocets are The symbol of the RSPB. I thought I'd have to go to RSPB Minsmere to see them, but each time I have visited Pagham Harbour and Dungeness of late I've seen some. When your bill turns upwards, your pre-roost preen takes a little more effort. One of the advantages of arriving a little too early for your bus at the RSPB Pagham Harbour bus stop is you can walk 100m down the road to the Ferry Pool to see if there are any Avocets around.



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