Church Norton

I was reminded today why I love Pagham Harbour so much, as I stopped off at Church Norton on return from Somerset and spent a good hour totally engrossed scanning a large flock of waders. I have a vague memory of a coastguard vehicle on blue lights zooming past me on Church Norton Spit as I stood with my head stuck to the eyepiece of my scope.

It was high tide so I wasnt expecting much luck finding the Little Stint I was seeking. However, whilst scanning the harbour and noting Whimbrel and some other bits I was enticed over to the spit when I saw a Wheatear fly low over the water and land over there.  I headed over there noting Greenshank and a Swift, and briefly scanning the passerines on Tern Island, which were probably Whinchats and Linnets but they were distant. Just beyond the island was a large wader roost on some exposed shingle. I saw it was made up predominantly of Dunlin and Ringed Plover. The Dunlin were in all variations of plumage and I think there may have been Sanderling amongst them too, but they were quite distant, and I certainly wasn't holding out much hope for seeing a Little Stint amongst them. However, very soon a smaller bird caught my eye, and I knew that was it. It was travelling quickly along the shingle weaving in and out of the other waders, but I really needed it to stay still so I could get a picture and confirm the ID. After some fumbling around with the camera I managed to get a few shots off. The tide was on its way out and this seemed to be increasing the activity and large numbers of birds were taking off and flying low over the water - there were many hundreds, possibly a thousand. One flock came to rest on the shingle and amongst them were at least 3 (5 I think) birds that stood out amongst the Dunlin. They were clean white below with a smudging around the neck and their upper parts were much more boldly marked with what appeared to me as darker markings. Noticing their long, decurved bills I was convinced they were juvenile Curlew Sandpiper, but again I needed pictures. Just to add an additional ID challenge a small number of juvenile Knot were around now. These, like juvenile Curlew Sandpipers, have a "peachy wash" on their underparts, but the bills on these birds were much shorter and their upperparts duller so I was confident these were Knot and not the birds I saw earlier.

The rain started to arrive so I reluctantly made my way back, checking first to see if the Spoonbill I had seen whilst I was inspecting the waders was still there on the opposite side of the harbour, but it had gone. I pinged a note to Matt who kindly confirmed the IDs on both the Little Stint, which is a lifer, and the Curlew Sandpipers. Another fantastic and informative trip to Pagham Harbour.

Dunlin and Ringed Plover

Little Stint

Little Stint

Curlew Sandpipers

Curlew Sandpipers

Curlew Sandpipers

Knot

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