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Selsey Bill - W. Sussex (1 Viewer)

Tri-Counties Birder

AKA The Portland Naturalist
Another second division location to add to this section of the forum, but like anywhere it has its moments!

My knowledge of the site is not extensive, as I only visit on my days off from work during the spring.

Observer presence:
During spring mornings, there is almost a constant presence. A small band of keen watchers my be present at other times. The site where everyone seawatches from is by the car park next to a playing field at the end of Grafton Road. Depending on wind direction, the observers may be around the bench at the end of the car park (in westerlies), in front of the wall to the west of the car park (in northerlies, or no wind), or in the lee of the wall to the east of the car park (in south-easterlies).

Being a headland, it has reasonable potential for seawatching. Unfortunately, the presence of the Isle of Wight does create a 'sheltering' effect to some extent to easterly passage. Birds that pass round the island may move back towards the coast in time to be seen distantly from Selsey, or they may not. Birds which pass through the Solent often pass by close, particuarly Skuas. The site also has good potential for passerine migration, particularly in the spring. The main disadvantage of Selsey for passerines, is the lack of fields and bushes, almost the whole peninsula being covered in houses. Despite this, perfect falls conditions can create nice falls of exhasuted birds on the shoreline and in the gardens, and the site is still good for overhead migration (swifts, swallows, thrushes etc.).

Like anywhere on the south coast, south-easterly is the eagerly awaited wind direction for spring seawatching. However, good birds can occur in almost any direction, but some easterly in the wind is neccessary for sea passage. A light northerly is often best for passerine migration in spring, and birds 'in off' the sea. For a fall of migrants, cloudy conditions, perhaps with some drizzle, and a northerly wind is best. My knowledge of autumn in very incomplete, but I understand a south-westerly is required for best passage (although autumn sea passage is never as good as spring). An early start is most ideal for seawatching, but not essential, as passage can continue all day. However, there is often a lull through the middle of the day, before it picks up again towards the evening.

The species which everyone at Selsey eagerly awaits the first appearance of each year is the Pomerine Skua. As with most seabirds, south-easterlies are best, however, they can occur in almost any conditions, and unusually, anytime of day (in fact, quite a few seem to occur during the 'duldrums' during midday/early afternoon). Arctic and Great Skuas occur in good numbers, but Long-tailed is very rare. Waders pass by in good numbers (particularly Bar-tailed Godwits and Whimbrels). Terns (including Black and occassional Roseate) pass in good numbers, as does Little Gull. Shearwaters are very scarce here (probably mostly because, unlike other groups, Shearwaters NEVER seem to pass through the Solent, but instead are always distant, as they pass round the Isle of Wight), but all species have been seen at one time or other. Storm Petrels regularly make appearances in early summer, mostly during periods of strong southerlies/south-westerlies. A period of strong south-westerlies in autumn, in common with other sites, can produce Sabine's Gull, Leach's Petrel, and rarer Shearwaters. Fulmar, Gannet, Kittiwake, Auks, and Divers are all frequent. In recent springs, there has been a regular gathering of Great Northern Divers offshore (up to 11), including birds in full summer-plumage. A period of freezing weather in winter can produce large movements of ducks and Divers. Passerines coming in off include good numbers of hirundines and Swifts, but can include the occassional Hobby. Birds in the gardens can include things like Grasshopper Warbler and Whinchat amongst the commoner species.

Rarites/scarcites recorded include Bee-eater, Nightjar (including three off the sea on the same day this spring), Nightingale, Cory's Shearwater, Black Guillemot, Montagu's Harrier, Honey Buzzard, Golden Oriole, Alpine Swift, Iceland Gull, and a Blue Rock Thrush. For a couple of springs in a row, Serin were frequently recorded, but not so many in recent years.
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delia todd

If I said the wrong thing it was a Senior Moment
Staff member
Opus Editor
Thanks for starting this thread Sean, I've linked it to the Opus article.

Any chance of getting a picture or two, I never thought about it the last time I was there.


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