Book a Birdwatching break in Chichester Harbour

Chichester Harbour, just a pebble’s throw from Quay Quarters’ luxury holiday cottages and B&B accommodation, is an area as abundant in varied habitats and conservation areas as it is rich in the wildlife species who live there. Offering everything from fertile mudflats and saltmarsh for native wading birds to sandy dunes and high shingle for protected nesting birds to water-flanked farmland for feeding migrants, Chichester Harbour is an international hotspot for birdwatchers and twitchers alike.

About birdwatching

For those who don’t know the difference, twitcher is a name given to an enthusiast who, after a tip-off, will travel to see and tick a rare bird off their list. A birdwatcher is a hobbyist who merely enjoys observing birds in their natural habitat, While a birder is one intent on finding and studying birds and their behaviour. Did that fly over your head?

Anyway, back to the birds… They choose to spend part of the year in Chichester Harbour because of the ideal resting, preening and feeding conditions. This Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty attracts summer visitors that nest here, winter visitors that nest elsewhere and passage migrants that spend time here between destinations.

Depp clean salt-water channels covered twice daily by natural tides provide plenty of food. Whether it’s waders such as curlew and redshank probing for worms and shellfish plovers plucking food from the mud surface, turnstones doing as their name suggests, shelducks sifting for snails, Brent geese and widgeon feeding on vegetation or terns and grebes fishing the shallows – Chichester Harbour has rich pickings. You can read more about our local birds on the Chichester Harbour Conservancy website.

Birdwatching hotspots in Chichester and West Sussex beyond.

Here are some of our favourite locations and birdwatching related activities in the Chichester Harbour and the surrounding West Sussex countryside:

  • Visit nearby Dell Quay at low tide and you’ll likely see an array of wading birds feeding in the mud. While out walking the dogs the Quay Quarters crew has seen everything from little egrets and grey heron to a variety of gulls and ducks.
    Spend a little extra time down there, say with a pin t in hand at the Crown and Anchor, and who knows what you might spot?
  • Walk along to Cobnor Point and look out for Brent geese grazing in the surrounding farmlands between November and March. Beautiful lapwing may also be seen feeding on fields and mud during summer and winter. There are also nesting boxes for protected barn owls housed on the Cobnor Estate.
  • Explore Fishbourne Creek where wildfowl and waders can be found. You can also walk through meadows here where you might see flocks of finches and bunting wintering during December. The reed beds often offer a glimpse of diving ducks too.
  • Jump on the Solar Heritage boat from Itchenor and join one of their many Bird Watching, Bird Roosts at High Tide or Wildlife Discovery tours, Bird Watching trips run regularly at the weekends in November and December and more information can be found on our See Chichester Harbour by Boat blog here.
  • Enjoy a paddle around Chichester Harbour, anywhere from Bosham to East Head, and you’ll be on the same level as many of the resting local seabirds. This past May, a couple staying in our luxury bed and breakfast went kayaking around Bosham where terns were sighted sunning on buoys and cormorants were poised atop navigation posts. An island housing nesting oyster catchers and black headed gull was found just off, of Emsworth.
  • Take an afternoon stroll around Emsworth’s Slipper Mill Pond, where you’ll find an array of the more common ducks and mute swans. Out towards the harbour and the Nore  Barn Woods more unusual species may be hiding. This past summer, the stunning cacophony of nesting reed bunting was heard in the local area (they were spotted darting in and out of the reed beds too.)
  • Park at Prinstead and walk or cycle along the path to Thorney Island and you could see all sorts. As well as being a hotspot for grey plover in the later summer and autumn, knot, spotted redshank and Brent geese (who are encouraged to feed on the grass here) are also sighted. During the winter, coots like to feed in the Thorney Deeps too. If hawks are more your thing you’ll be interested to know that common kestrel, barn owl and little owl are resident at Thorney and are often joined in the winter by merlin and short-eared owl.
  • Wander the sand dunes at East Head and watch out for nesting Eurasian skylarks flying in and out of the grass. If you’re lucky you might be serenaded by a few from up above. The saltmarsh here also attracts wintering wildfowl including common shelduck, Eurasian widgeon and Brent geese. Surrounding farmlands are a draw for partridges and owls.

Some more obvious days out for birdwatchers and birders include Arundel Wetland Centre where you can hand feed rare geese and take a silent boat safari through the reed bed channels. There are also a number of RSPB reserves in the local area including Pagham Harbour Local Nature Reserve, Medmerry, Langstone Harbour and RSPB Pulborough Brooks Nature Reserve – one of the few places you can still hear the delightful nightingale sing.

Kit list for a beginner birdwatcher

Get a pair of binoculars – While many birds will be close enough to see with the naked eye, in order to identify details, plumage colour and to distinguish between similar species a pair of bins can make all the difference.

Buy or borrow a bird book – Planning on birdwatching for the weekend or taking up birding as a regular hobby? A bird book with clear pictures and good descriptions of likely habitats and differences in plumage between juvenile and adult birds can fill in a lot of gaps. If you prefer to keep things digital try and birdwatching app, see some suggestions here.

Take a hat and a brolly – No matter what weather you’re out and about in Chichester Harbour and beyond, a hat and/or an umbrella is a good idea, Not only will a hat or brolly protect you from sunshine and showers (both as likely as each other year-round on the South Coast) but a hat can protect your ears from coastal winds, which can be quite chilly.

Make yourself comfortable – Whether you choose to take a picnic blanket and some sandwiches or a collapsible chair and a flask of tea, you could be in the same location for quite some time so you might not want to stay on your feet and you’ll likely get peckish.

Stay in a luxury holiday cottage while birdwatching in Chichester.

Many of the birdwatching activities and locations mentioned above are within easy walking, cycling or driving distance from Quay Quarters. When it comes to your choice of accommodation, you can be sure of ultimate comfort in our luxury self-catering holiday cottages. You can even return to your home from home after a hard day’s birding and snuggle in front of a wood-burning stove with a decent cup of coffee.

Prefer to stay in our bed and breakfast accommodation? No problem, we’ll send you out with a full warm belly. Listen carefully when you’re tucked up and you’re sure to hear the birds coming in to roost from the harbour – curlews, geese and oyster catchers are often heard calling at duck and dawn.

Book you birdwatching break at Quay Quarters