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Natural History

The small area which comprises West Wittering Estate and East Head contains many different habitats the most notable of which are the car park fields and coastal pasture immediately to the north; the wetlands and reedbeds managed in conjunction with English Nature between the pasture and the village; the sand dune spit of East Head; the salt marsh between East Head and the village; and of course the sand, shingle and pebbles of the beach itself backed by the tamarisk hedge.

East Head


The area is particularly noted for the water birds but in addition to the usual distribution of common land birds, skylarks and pipits abound on East head, and several species of warbler can be heard and occasionally spotted around the wooded and reeded fringes of the area. A list of birds can never be definitive but those most likely to be seen during the appropriate season are:

Waders: curlew, whimbrel, godwit, oyster-catcher, redshank, turnstone, dunlin, sanderling, lapwing, ringed plover, grey plover, golden plover, greenshank, sandpiper

Geese: brent geese

Ducks: shelduck, mallard, wigeon, teal, redbreasted merganser

Herons: grey heron, little egret

Terns: sandwich, common, little


Snowhill Creek


Starting on the east side of East Head and working across to the west the following plants are some that can be found:

Lower saltmarsh: sea purslane, rice grass, eel grass, glasswort

Upper saltmarsh: sea lavender, sea blight, sea aster, sea purslane, saltmarsh grass

Grey dunes (eastern side dunes): marram grass, common gorse, red fescue, ragwort

Slack (low lying in the middle): glasswort, saltmarsh grass, rice grass, sea purslane, tree lupin, seaclub rush.

Fore dunes (western side dunes): yellow horned poppy, sea beet, sea holly, sand couch, lyme grass.

Mammals: rabbit, woodmouse, fox.

Insects: bristle tail, spring tail, mantis, grasshopper, cricket and common insects.

Invertebrates: mollusc, woodlouse, centipede, millipede, harvestmen, lugworm, ragworm. Molluscs which can be found on the shore include: common limpet, supper limpet, various oyster, common whelk, various mussel, great scallop, razor shell, common piddock, lagoon cockle, little cockle, common otter shell.

Reptiles: common lizard, sand lizard. Butterflies, Moths & Dragonflies: 14 species of butterflies, 4 of moths, 2 of dragonflies.

Flotsam & Jetsam: Washed up on the shore most frequently are: cuttlefish bones, various crabs, sea urchins & sponges, mermaids purse and various sea weeds.

All the above are described in more detail in the Chichester Harbour Conservancy Fact Sheet 2 – Plants of Chichester Harbour, Fact Sheet 5 – East Head , and Birds of Chichester Harbour also published by Chichester Harbour Conservancy. Information is also available on their website: