If you are a nature lover, you will certainly not be disappointed when you come to The Witterings and the surrounding area. Sarah Bovill picked out some of the wildlife that you may see.
Many of the birds that you see in the area will change with the seasons. Some are here for the winter months, such as the Red-Breasted Merganser, the Dunlin and the Knot, which visits fromtheArctic. Youalsowillseehuge flocks (up to 10,000 in size) of Brent Geese during the winter too, grazing on eelgrass, algae and nearby crops (not entirely popular with the farmers!), before they up and leave in March to make their way to Siberia for breeding.
During the summer, terns visit from Southern Africa. They are often confused with Seagulls due to their colouring, but are smaller in size. There are many different types, but here you’re more like to see the Sandwich or the Common Terns. There are also egrets with their beautiful white feathers (which were so popular with milliners for use in hat making that the RSPB was set up in 1889 to protect them from extinction) and oystercatchers.
You may see cormorants sitting on the top of posts or rocks, often with their wings outstretched to dry. Many visit over the winter, but it’s not unusual to see them during the summer months. If you’re lucky you might see the Kingfisher which has often been seen by the crabbing pool. And there, of course, many rooks which welcome you as you drive into the village on your way to the beach!
There are several Common Seals that live in the Solent but there is also a resident colony in the harbour, (hence they are often called Harbour Seals), where there are lots of sandy and rocky spots for them to rest. There’s also plenty for them to eat! They like a wide variety of fish, including herring, sand eels, whiting, salmon, flatfish and crustaceans.
Chichester Harbour Water Tours offer specialised seal watching tours. Other mammals in the harbour include water voles, which are rare and have experienced rapid decline in recent years, so the Harbour Conservancy and others are working hard to protect them.
The majority of deer that you see here are Roe deer, easily distinguishable by their while bottoms.
Rutting season is during mid-July to mid-August, when the stags can become aggressive and territorial. They usually won’t approach you but just keep an eye on your dogs and don’t let them approach or chase the deer.
What’s remarkable about the Roe Deer is that even though mating takes place in July and August, the fertilised egg remains almost dormant in the female until January, when it starts to grow. Perhaps it’s to avoid the prospect of a harsh winter for babies, who then arrive in May and June.
Photograph © Meerabai Kings