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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

RSPB Pagham Harbour; first Terns of the year. 12.04.22

I travelled to RSPB Pagham Harbour by train (Brighton to Chichester) and bus (51 from Chichester). I went to Pagham as

I went to Pagham to see if the Terns had retuned. They have. One of the highlights of summer is our tern colony on Tern Island. Take a seat at Church Norton and look out across the harbour to the flurry of activity over the island. The sound of chattering terns drifts across the languid waters mingled with the harsher squawks of the black-headed gulls, with which they share nesting rights on the island. Common, sandwich and little terns all nest on the island and it is a delight to watch these elegant seabirds fishing in the harbour, hovering briefly before diving into the water for small fish. Pagham Harbour Local Nature Reserve, West Sussex - The RSPB

Birds seen: Shovelers, Teal, Mallards, Avocets, Lapwings, Black-Tailed Godwits, Redshanks, Spotted Redshanks, Oystercatchers, Curlew, Whimbrels, Little Egrets, Mediterranean Gulls, Black-Headed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Great Black-Backed Gulls, Cormorants, Common Terns, Sandwich Terns, Linnets, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Long-tailed Tits, House Sparrows, Song Thrush, Blackbirds, Carrion Crows, Magpies, House Sparrows, Dunnocks

Around the visitors centre

Spotted Wood butterfly

Blue Tit

Ferry Pool

Cormorant (Shovelers at the back)


Avocets, Black-Tailed Godwits, Shelducks, Black-Headed Gulls.

Male Chaffinch in breeding plumage (in the bird feeder area behind the Ferry Pool Hide)

Ferry Channel

Great-Crested Grebe

Spotted Redshank

Elegant wader with a long fine bill and long reddish legs (dark on breeding adults). Striking breeding plumage dark overall. Nonbreeding plumage is paler and grayer than smaller and chunkier Common Redshank. In flight often appears dark overall with narrow white oval up middle of back. Breeds in arctic bogs and swamps; migrants occur in varied wetland habitats. Usually seen as singles or small groups, though will sometimes congregate in large flocks, especially on wintering grounds. Feeds mainly by wading in fairly deep water, probing and picking with its bill, at times swimming. Spotted Redshank - eBird

The path to Church Norton

Another Spotted Wood

Ferry Channel wit a Redshank

Redshank in the rife in the field to the south of the Ferry Channel


Toward Tern Island at the south of the harbour

Harbour Mouth

A Little Egret flying over two Redshanks

Terns and Black-Headed Gulls by a groyne in the harbour

Black-Headed Gulls, and Mediterranean Gulls

Mediterranean Gull, close up of photo above

Sandwich Terns


Sandwich Tern

Mediterranean Gull and Black-Headed Gulls


Sandwich Tern

The Sandwich tern is a very white tern, with a black cap on its head, a long black bill with a yellow tip and short black legs. In flight it shows grey wedges on its wings tips and it has a short forked tail. In the UK, many of the important colonies survive because they are on nature reserves. Sandwich Tern Bird Facts | Sterna Sandvicensis - The RSPB

Many of the important sandwich tern colonies in the UK survive because they are on nature reserves specifically looked after for their wildlife value. Sandwich tern | The Wildlife Trusts

Black-Headed Gulls, Mediterranean Gulls and Terns on Tern Island (fenced to prevent mammal predation of eggs)

The following has been adapted from original text by Norman Ratcliffe in Seabird Populations of Britain and Ireland (with permission from A&C Black, London).

Sandwich terns exhibit the most erratic population trends and distribution of any seabird breeding in the UK. The population fluctuates dramatically among years due to large variations in the proportion of mature birds attempting to breed and distribution varies owing to mass movements between colonies. The species is distributed widely but patchily around the coasts of the British Isles, broadly reflecting the availability of favoured nesting habitat: low-lying offshore islands, islets in bays or brackish lagoons, spits or remote mainland dunes. Despite frequent changes in the sites used, the broad distribution in the UK has changed little over the last 30 years. Sandwich terns are among the most gregarious of all seabirds, with the population confined to a small number of relatively large colonies in which birds nest at very high densities.

Tern populations in NW Europe were brought to the brink of extirpation at the end of the 19th century by egg collection for food and hunting of adults for the millinery trade, but recovered in response to protective legislation in the early 20th century. Sandwich terns in the UK increased from the 1920s to the mid 1980s, with protection from increasing recreational disturbance on beaches as well as from persecution probably facilitating this recovery. Annual counts of the main colonies demonstrated that there was a sustained increase between the first two national surveys, but that the population fluctuated erratically around this trend. Sandwich tern (Sterna sandvicensis) | JNCC - Adviser to Government on Nature Conservation

Oystercatchers and Black-Headed Gulls

Black-Tailed Godwits

Black-Headed Gulls, Sandwich Tern and a Curlew

Little Egret and Redshanks


Sandwich Terns and Black-Headed Gulls





Linnet on Pagham Spit (much of the spit is closed during the nesting period to prevent damage to nests)

Curlew, looking inland from Pagham Spit

Shelducks in the pool behind the beach

Little Egret and Redshank

Redshanks in front on the groyne in the Harbour

Tern Island

Walking back up the Ferry Channel




The whimbrel is a large wading bird. It has longish legs and a long bill which curves near the tip. It is brownish above and whitish below. In flight, it shows a white 'V' shape up its back from its tail.

In the UK, this species only breeds in north Scotland. It is a passage migrant to other areas in spring and autumn on its way from and to its wintering areas in Africa. The Shetland and Orkney breeding population has been slowly increasing. Whimbrel Bird Facts | Numenius Phaeopus - The RSPB

Male Chaffinches in breeding plumage



Black-Tailed Godwits in breeding plumage

Great Crested Grebe eating a Glass Eel

Shovelers in the Ferry Pool

Song Thrush in the Discovery Zone

Male Chaffinch

Long-Tailed Tit on visitor centre bird feeders




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