For me it is the last month to experience the saltmarsh at its atmospheric best. Curlews start to call more frequently and their melancholy voices drift across the mudflats under moody skies.

Curlew - Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

February sees a peak in numbers of winter wildfowl and waders before they start to leave for their summer breeding grounds. Vast clouds of nervous lapwing frequently take to the skies before settling again.

Lapwing - Iavn Lang

The brent geese and wigeon move between the harbours and wet grasslands in large flocks keeping up their constant babbling and whistling as they go. Huge numbers of dunlin, golden plover and knot work their way across the mudflats, while turnstone run up and down the shoreline endlessly as if playing a child’s game of avoiding getting wet feet with the incoming waves.

Dunlin and turnstone - Ivan Lang

Good numbers of pintail can be found in the harbour along with goldeneye which also frequent Pagham Lagoon. These great concentrations of water birds attract hunting peregrines, while the big accumulation of finches, pipits and other farmland species on Medmerry also attracts merlin. If wandering around Medmerry keep an eye out for wintering Dartford warbler among the gorse.

Dartford warbler - Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)

Gorse flowers all year round but other plants are beginning to stir. Hazel catkins are out with the pussy willow not far behind attracting queen bumblebees that emerge from their hibernation, while the emergence of lesser celandine and snowdrops hint at the promise of spring.

Male catkin with female flower

If you have young ones we will of course be running family events from our Visitor Centre during half-term.

Anonymous