Monday 4 March 2013

Glossing over the hardships 3rd March 2013

A visit to Selsey in West Sussex was required this Sunday to retrieve a pair of much loved binoculars that I had left for repair at Optrep after my WeBs count at nearby West Wittering last month. There was also the lure of two Tundra Bean Geese and two possible 'eastern' Greylags just down the A27 at Arundel. 

There is not too much to say about Selsey these days. In my opinion it should be avoided at all costs apart from Selsey Bill in the seawatching season. I am sure Selsey was nice in days gone by and indeed you can still see some of the original houses that formed what must have once been an attractive little village by the sea. Nowadays, as with a large percentage of the Sussex coast they have been swallowed up in a morasse of mediocrity with acres of jerry built ghastliness and caravan site naffness making the whole place singularly unattractive. Even it's most famous resident, the astronomer Sir Patrick Moore, who moved there many years ago due to the lack of light pollution gave up the ghost and died recently. Who can blame him? Some wag a few years ago placed a large banner across the roundabout at the entrance to the town proclaiming "Selsey twinned with Atlantis!"  doubtless wishfully thinking that Selsey too would sink below the waves. 

I retrieved the binoculars, paid the somewhat expensive bill and made off from Selsey as fast as possible. Arundel was abortive. No sign of the Tundra Bean Geese although the 'eastern' Greylags were both interesting and educational with their markedly paler plumage and pinkish bills. It was bitingly cold with a stiff southeast wind blowing up the metaphorical trouser leg and the inside of the car was definitely the place to be. 

All was not lost however as a phone call with Hugh alerted me to the fact that there was a Glossy Ibis frequenting a marshy field at Warblington just over the border in Hampshire. Turning off the busy A27 and going down the slip road I took a little minor road off the roundabout and went back in time to one of those forgotten enclaves that progress seems to have passed by. The two stand out features of the place are the remains of Warblington Castle with just the watchtower left standing

Warblington Castle remains
and the other is the huge graveyard between the church and the sea, completely out of proportion to the church, with even an overspill graveyard now being filled up on the other side of the church. No recession here! 

It was to the far left hand corner of the overspill graveyard that I gravitated as I walked, carefully avoiding the crocuses, to view over the unkempt hedge into a marshy field beyond.

Marshy field with Glossy Ibis.This field also hosted a Cattle Egret a few years ago
There was the Glossy Ibis. It saw me looking over the hedge. Stood still. Thought about it for a while. Inspected it's feet. Took another long hard look and then took no further notice of me. Nonchalantly, it wandered about probing energetically at the base of damp grassy clumps for earthworms and other invertebrates. I noted it was an immature, just beginning to gain some semblance of adult plumage although the head and neck were still visibly streaked with grey and the purple and green gloss on the body was definitely still a work in progress. So prehistoric and reptilian in appearance. It's dark, alien shape stalked around the marshy margins of the field. It was joined by a Curlew with such an enormous long bill it could only be a female. They seemed to enjoy one another's company but the Curlew's bill definitely won the 'mine is bigger than your's' contest. I watched them for around thirty minutes and then conceded to the cold, regaining a semblance of normal circulation courtesy of the car's heater some way down the A27.

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