It was a little gloomy despite the fact that the sun had risen about thirty minutes earlier. We were heading towards the information centre, and we were hoping that the long staying Garganey would be about, as it seems to like the area around the channel. This is a very early migrant that turned up in February, and has been present ever since. But as we turned up the water was virtually empty, with a few distant Shelduck, and some Coot the only birds present. Behind us a Reed Bunting sang, and on the water on the other side a Lapwing, and a few Teal, but most definitely no Garganey.
We decided to walk along side the stream, in an effort to see if we could locate it, Brent geese were on the shore grazing on the grass, and just on the edge of the water was a group of Black-tailed Godwits feeding. Then all the birds went up, and Ian picked up a raptor that was a very large Peregrine over the top of the reeds being mobbed by a couple of Lapwing, then it disappeared and was re-found by Ian sitting on the ground beyond the reeds, and in fact just beyond it was a Buzzard.
We walked around to the west side of the marsh, and climbed up onto the sea wall. Here we felt the full force of the north easterly. The tide was still out with high tide due around midday. The reeds were blowing around fiercely and there was very little out in the open on the lake.
On the mud were quite few Pintail with one or two close in that flew off, leaving just this pair.
As we passed the Lake we flushed a Greenshank from the marsh, it flying off out of sight.
We walked on along the wall, in one of the pools close to the wall were several Shoveler but as we approached them swam away and even out of the water.
Wildfowl numbers were a lot down on those present when I was last here at the end of February, a few Wigeon could be seen close to the wall, this smart drake just standing on the side of the pool.
There were many Curlew out on the mud, and many more scattered over the marsh. They would move from the mud to the marsh, and marsh to mud, passing over our heads as they headed west at quite a speed.
Going the other way the flight was very laboured and it was easier to photograph the groups as they almost flew sideways.
There were also a good number of Meadow Pipits about, this one looking a little wind blown as it perched in the bramble.
From the sea wall we walked back to the information centre. In the bramble that line the fence a Chiffchaff was calling and creeping through the branches. Back at the small channel, four Teal swam out of the vegetation close to the edge. They did not seem to concerned by our presence, the drakes calling all the time.
A pair of Black-tailed Godwits were also feeding close in, but there was still no sign of the hoped for Garganey.
We stood and scanned the edge of the reeds, where another drake Teal appeared.
While behind us the Reed Bunting was still singing despite the gale blowing, and it was sitting in the bush out in the open.
Then Ian picked up the drake Garganey coming from the far side of the channel, probably out of the reeds. It flew low over the water and settled about mid way from us. The shots were very distant but we had found the bird we wanted to see today, and suddenly the cold wind felt like it was worth it.
It stayed close to the reeds, and decided to turn away and swim away from us. As a result we walked around to the path that crosses through the bushes, and were able to get a little closer. It kept following a pair of Mallard, and they did not appear to happy to have it with them.
As a result it kept following them, and then swimming off when they objected. Here you can see the considerable size difference, something not appreciated when looking through eclipse ducks in the autumn
On one of its moves away from the Mallard it stretched
And flapped its wings before flying off towards the hut.
We walked around, and it turned away and headed from us back to the far side of the channel. So we hatched a plan, Ian walked back to the path while I stayed at the hut waiting. The plan worked as the Garganey swam too close to the Mallard and was chased off, and flew past Ian and straight towards me where I gratefully received some excellent views.
It swam to join the group of Teal that were quite happy to let the Garganey join them.
And then some close views
A really elegant little duck with light blue plumes of feathers on the back, the delicate vermiculated lines on the sides in black and white and the detail of brown and white on the breast,and all finished off with the clear thick white stripe above the eye.
The Garganey, while being about the same size as a Teal, is more closely related to the Shoveler and the Blue-winged and Cinnamon Teals. Like these, it is found primarily in freshwater wetlands and shallow ponds. It breeds in much of Europe and western Asia, but is strictly migratory, with the entire population moving to southern Africa, India and Australasia in winter.
They are scarce and secretive summer visitors and they can turn up anywhere on passage, There are fewer than 100 pairs of Garganey breeding in the UK (with the RSPB listing the breeding population as 14-93 pairs), so it is certainly scarce. It is also quite a localised bird, with the main population centred in the east and south-east of England. There are populations in the west of England and west Wales as well as Cumbria and the Scottish borders in the east. They are primarily birds of flooded vegetated wetlands and ditches and can disappear into vegetation with great ease, so making accurate assessment of populations is often quite tricky.
With its new found friends it turned around and swam away from us.
And they all hauled out on the side of the channel, the Garganey's thick white stripe giving it away as it lifted its head above the
Moving to a place where we could see it better it sat preening on the edge of the water.
A good scratch
Then it sat and eventually tucked its head under the wing and you would not have known it was there.
We left it with the teal and walked back to the path. We stopped to watch the Brent grazing on the grass.
The wind was now bitter and the temperature had dropped from where it was in the morning. We decided to walk around to the lake, and as the tide was rising to stand and watch the duck and waders flying in from the harbour. On the lake itself were a few Pintail and six Avocet. The movement did not take long to get going, first were the Shelduck.
A really beautiful duck.
And then of course the Pintail, heading to the lake from the harbour as the tide rose.
As elegant in flight as they are on the water
I just don't have enough flight photographs of Pintail.
The movement then dried up, and the wind was getting even stronger and colder. I received a message that there was snow a falling at home so decided that enough was enough, Ian had found me an adult Mediterranean Gull over the sea wall, so my enthusiasm for Hayling Island was low, and I had no intention of getting stuck so I decided to head back home, and to hope that Spring will return next week.