• David Campbell

Local birding: March 2021

This March was a largely dry month here in West Worthing but offered precious few mornings which didn't still demand three or four layers. Glimpses of spring were everywhere, though, including a few birding treats. Over the course of the month, I recorded 68 species in my patch, which covers Marine Gardens, Heene Cemetery and my garden.

True spring migrants included Sandwich Tern, appearing off the beach from the 10th, and Sand Martin, with a flock of five seen arriving off the sea on 22nd and another bird over my garden a few days later.

My favourite bird of March was another early spring arrival, a female White Wagtail which afforded excellent views on the bowling green at Marine Gardens at the end of the month. It was seen alongside a female Pied Wagtail, the almost exclusively British subspecies which is much more familiar here. White Wagtails spend the winter as far as Africa and migrate to breed in across most of Europe, Iceland and even Greenland.

female White Wagtail at Marine Gardens

A lone Common Raven made a couple of appearances over my garden again early in the month and a Ring-necked Parakeet was not only a garden tick, but the first I've ever seen locally. I was even more delighted with my first local Mistle Thrush, also seen from my garden early in the month. Other garden highlights included sightings of Common Firecrest and Red Kite (both typical migrants at this time of year) and the local Peregrine Falcons. 'My' Song Thrush kept belting it out from the neighbour's trees just into March before moving on.

Common Firecrest in my garden
Mistle Thrush from my garden - a West Worthing rarity!
Red Kite over my garden

Easing of lockdown measures allowed the start of an exciting ringing project in Heene Cemetery (see previous post for a film featuring this by The Bald Explorer!). A gentle but interesting first couple of sessions produced 13 birds of eight species, including the first local Common Chiffchaff of the year, Goldcrest and Eurasian Blackcap. The cemetery hosted the occasional Great Spotted Woodpecker, though these have stayed well clear of my nets! A pair of Great Spots also visited Marine Gardens one morning.

Common Chiffchaff during licensed ringing operations in Heene Cemetery

Redwings could be heard migrating after dark on several nights. However, most birds heading away from us to breed further north were evident offshore, with Eurasian Teal, Northern Pintail, Dark-bellied Brent and, most unusually, Tufted Duck, seen past the shelter. Northern Fulmar, Black-legged Kittiwake, Northern Gannet, Red-throated Diver and Mute Swan were also seen on seawatches. Mediterranean Gulls trickled through in small numbers.

Dark-bellied Brents taking a breather off Marine Gardens before continuing east on the journey to Siberia

A Common Redshank was a nice surprise on the beach, while other waders included Grey Plover, Eurasian Curlew, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone and Dunlin. April should see an increased variety of waders moving through to their northern breeding grounds.

Ruddy Turnstones on the beach by Marine Gardens

Passerines migrating overhead during the daytime included Grey Wagtail, Common Chaffinch, Common Linnet and Meadow Pipit, with 65 of the latter over my garden on the morning of 16th.

Eurasian Sparrowhawks are a regular sight in the area but seeing a colourful adult male drinking from a gutter on Boundary Road was a thrill I'll remember for a long time. It's not often one gets such a good look at these speedy raptors, especially such a bright individual.

adult male Eurasian Sparrowhawk on Boundary Road