As we move into January and a new year many of us may be thinking of how to work off the excesses of the festive season. A walk in the countryside is as good an exercise as any but a walk around our Pagham Harbour & Medmerry reserves has the added bonus of some great birds. Plus of course, if you want a good start to your 2019 year list, 70+ species in a day is more than achievable.

January is an excellent month to be heading down to Church Norton and Pagham spits to look for birds of the sea. Slavonian and great crested grebes can be seen both offshore and in harbour while their diminutive cousins the little grebes can be seen found on any enclosed waters as well as the harbour as their numbers swell.

Slavonian grebe - Ivan Lang

Red-throated and great northern divers are also found offshore along with small flocks of common scoter. It worth taking a closer look at the scoter flocks as each year there are reports of the odd velvet scoter mixed amongst them. Other sea ducks that although not frequent, invariably turn up during the coldest months are eider and long-tailed duck.

Common scoter - Andy Hay (

Auks can be seen passing by, the most common of these being razorbill and guillemot. Mediterranean gulls are seen in large numbers, while gannet feeding frenzies can turn up any time.

Razorbill - Ben Hall (

Gannet - Michael Harvey (

As you wander back into the reserves check pool edges for sneaky snipe skulking around the margins and melting into the surrounding vegetation with the skill of a ninja. As with the scoter, it is also worth taking a closer look as what at first sight looked like a snipe may actually be a jack snipe, a couple of which have been found on both reserves already this winter.

Snipe - Andy Hay (

Head back to our Visitor Centre where there is always the possibility that our Visitor Centre feeding station will entice brambling within easy viewing while you warm up with a hot drink.

So grab your scarf, hat, coat, and binoculars – winter sea watching may be a little bracing at times but bird potential is great and you’ll also feel invigorated and much better for it after!