RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Country walk: Fishbourne Channel

Here is an update on the bird life in Fishbourne Channel, a mile west of Chichester city.

I walk the seawalls once a month to count the waterfowl for the Harbour Conservancy and Wetland Birds Survey (WEBS) and have done so for the past 50 years.

I never get tired of the place because there is always something fresh and new to see there.

You can walk to the seawall from Chichester, catch a bus to Fishboune, or even a train if you are coming downline from east or west.

The railway station is about 500 yards from the channel, which is near The Bulls Head.

By car there is very limited parking at Dell Quay.

Parking by St.Mary’s church in Apuldram is not convenient for parishioners during services and church business times and this has to be respected.

Having got yourself to the eastern seawall you will find over a thousand sea birds of about fifteen species feeding, sleeping, or flying about depending on the state of the tide.

At high tide they are resting, or bathing in the fresh water outflow from the mill pond at the channel head.

At low tide they have their heads down in the mud, guzzling the snails and plankton, seaweed and salt water plants.

Last week I had an incredible view of 700 brent geese which had been feeding on a farmer’s cereal field near the solitary oak tree on my map.

They flew off the field over my head making a tremendous chorus, and landed near me in the main channel, where they spent the next hour having a wash and brush-up and a drink of fresh spring water.

150 redshank were sleeping near the reed beds on a small grassy knoll, together with some black tailed godwits and peewits.

Scattered across the wide channel were 300 wigeon, which spend the winter with us, flying back to Iceland or Siberia to breed in March.

Little egrets lined the edges of the high tide like white painted posts.

A dozen mute swans trawled the edges of the tide for seaweed.

I have sketched a few of the names of birds onto my map to show you some of the places and species you could to expect to see these Christmas holidays.

Happy Christmas to all!