Until the 14th Century, Pagham was one of the foremost English ports, but a huge storm in 1341 devastated it. As the harbour silted up, Pagham’s wealth diminished, but today, a local nature reserve (LNR), incorporating 700 acres of intertidal saltmarsh with associated shingle banks and nearly 400 acres of farmland, pools, ditches and hedgerows, has become an internationally known refuge for migrant birds. In 2012, the RSPB took over day-to-day management from West Sussex County Council, who remain an important partner. Although primarily a wintering area for wildfowl and waders, it is also noted for migrants and is an important breeding site for several species. Eight hundred acres of tidal mudflats are intersected by channels. Patches of gorse and scrub occur around the perimeter alongside harbour banks and walls, and are attractive to migrant passerines. It is surrounded by fields, used by waders at high tide. A path runs around the whole harbour. The mouth is bordered by shingle spits, the beach on the south side protecting wet grassland and reed-fringed pools known as the Severals. Just inland from the Severals is Church Norton, with wooded areas and a graveyard attractive to migrants. The Ferry Pool, a short walk from the visitor centre, can be outstanding for passage waders in autumn. The harbour is at its best in winter when thousands of wildfowl and waders may be seen. Little Egret, Shelduck, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Barn and Little Owls may be seen all year. Spring brings passage waders, terns and offshore, divers, scoters, grebes, auks and skuas. Passerine migrants add interest, plus occasional Osprey and Garganey. By July, waders and terns are returning. Passage of waders increases in autumn, along with Black Tern, Little Gull and passerines, including Redstart. Winter finds the harbour at its best with waterfowl such as Brent Goose, Wigeon, Pintail, Teal, Goldeneye, Eider and Redbreasted Merganser, as well as Hen Harrier, Merlin, Short-eared Owl and Water Rail. All estuarine waders including Avocet are possible. Occasional wintering Twite, Chiffchaff, Firecrest and, offshore, Slavonian Grebe, ensure there is always the possibility of something exciting to see.
GREAT FOR Wildfowl and waders in this huge reserve