Summer meanderings around Pagham Harbour & Medmerry

It’s summer – the perfect time for a lazy stroll across our reserves of RSPB Pagham Harbour and Medmerry. The hum and buzz of insects fills the air, grasshoppers and crickets chirrup from the undergrowth, skylarks pour out their continuous song high above out of sight and butterflies dance across the fields.


Looking out across the harbour from Church Norton there is a flurry of activity around Tern Island. The sound of chattering terns drifts across the languid waters mingled with the harsher squawks of the black-headed gulls, with which they share nesting rights on the island. The hard work of staff and volunteers, clearing vegetation and preparing the island for the breeding season has paid off. Three species of tern nest on the island – common terns, with red legs and a black-tipped, red bill; sandwich terns, with black legs and yellow-tipped, black bill; and of course little terns, with yellow legs and yellow bill, for whom the harbour is internationally important as a breeding site. After an absence of nearly a decade, little terns returned to breed on our reserve in 2007 and with careful management our little tern colony has slowly grown making Pagham Harbour one of the most successful sites along the south coast. Take a seat by the harbours edge and watch these delightful seabirds fishing, hovering briefly before diving into the water for small fish.


Meanwhile wander around Medmerry and you’re likely to hear the often described ‘little bit of bread and no cheese’ song of the yellowhammer repeated over and over. The depiction portrays the songs’ pace and form of this farmland songbird, with a bright yellow head and breast and brown streaky back. The yellowhammer is a member of the bunting family, two other species of which you may see as you amble along the footpaths. Male reed buntings are often spotted singing from the tops of reed stems and have a sparrow-like body, with a black head and throat and a broad white collar. Less distinct with a streaky brown body is the corn bunting. This farmland bird has declined rapidly but can be spotted across Medmerry reserve and the surrounding agricultural countryside, perched on a post singing with a series of notes likened to the jangling of keys.


For more information about both reserves pop into our Visitor Centre south of Chichester on the B2145 between Selsey and Sidlesham.