Monday, 11 September 2017

2nd September - Pennington, Oxey and Keyhaven Marshes, Hampshire

Yet another glorious morning, today I was meeting Ian at the Pennington Lane car park, nothing of high interest was reported in the week from here, but at this time of year anything can turn up.  Surprisingly the car park was empty when I arrived, normally there would be dog walkers here at this time.  We set off down the cycle path, stopping to view the gravel pit.  All three hirundines flew low over the water, and around the edge there were at least six Grey Herons.  At a good vantage point we were able to pick out a Green Sandpiper, and as we watched it a Common Sandpiper flew in calling.

A little further on we scanned the land at the back of Fishtail Lagoon.  A  light shape on the bulrushes was standing out, and on closer inspection turned into a Whinchat.

As we watched the Whinchat we could see three Avocet feeding on Fishtail, and also two Spoonbill.  The light was excellent, so we decided to walk around to the sea wall, in the hope the Spoonbill would continue feeding.

As we walked back along the path a Wheatear flew up on to a post in front of us.

We walked across the Old Tip, and then alongside the small pool just before the sea wall.  A Little Grebe was fishing close in, and with the morning light, and the still water stood out.

The Spoonbill were still active, feeding vigorously in that unique sweeping style.

They were wading quite deep in the water, pausing to look around.

The other bird was in more rippled water, and would sweep the head from side to side then throw the head up and with it the food it had detected and then catch it.

This one looks like it has swallowed a small eel.

The technique was to wait as the bird swept its bill back and forth, and fire away as the head was lifted.

As we watched the Spoonbill, waders flew in.  A Black-tailed Godwit.

Plus small groups of Dunlin.

Back to the Spoonbill.

Then they stopped feeding and flew away to more shallower water and started to preen, a precursor to probably going to sleep.

As we left the Spoonbills to see if we could get closer to three feeding Spotted Redshanks a Redshank was feeding on the sea side, again with some great reflections

There was also a Dunlin very close to the sea wall, feeding with a very rapid head movement, drilling the bill into the mud.

And on the path and the sea wall was another Wheatear.

By the time we got close to the Spotted Redshanks they had stopped their deep water feeding, and were either preening, or standing quietly as this one was.

We moved on to Keyhaven where there were a lot of waders roosting at the back of the lagoon.  The three Avocet we had seem earlier were a little closer though.

On a sand bar were a good number of Grey Plover, some still in summer plumage.

As we were scanning the waders I noticed movement from the bushes on the right. A Sparrowhawk came out of them and flew low on the other side of the fence.

It was one of those moments when you think please fly up and perch close, and of course, for once it did!

She was very aware of the birds around us, particularly the Black-headed Gulls.

The gulls were no  happy with her being there and flew close.

And it was not to her liking so she flew off, across the lagoon scattering all the waders.

We were then treated to an amazing sight as hundreds of Canada Geese, at first heard at the back of the lagoon, probably from the new tip, came over the lagoon, and over our heads, out on to the saltmarsh, Fishtail, and Butts Lagoon.

Yes they were only Canada Geese, but it was an incredible sight, and sound.

We walked back past Fishtail and around Butts Bay, a white gull passed us and despite Ian claiming different this was a second summer Mediterranean Gull.

Walking along the sea wall, we were pushing Meadow Pipits in front of us, and with them were at least four Yellow Wagtails.  The light wasn't good so we tried to get in front of them to get the sun behind us.  They wouldn't let us so the first shot was taken into the sun.

We dropped down on the marsh side and walked along coming up, hopefully beyond the wagtails.  A Great plan but didn't take into account the cyclists and walkers.  This pushed the birds all the way back to Butts Bay.  We stood and waited to see if they would return.  While we did so a Whitethroat appeared in the bramble below us, feeding on the small blackberries.

Some walkers did return the Wagtails to us, but they carried on and we were faced with the sun problem again, but at least they dropped down on to the sea wall.

They continued to be very flighty and I decided to go after them, and followed them all the way back to the corner, where I finally managed to get a good shot.

While I had been chasing the wagtails, Ian had stayed watching the reeds.  We had heard Bearded Tits calling from the reeds, but despite Ian's watch they never showed at the top of the reeds.

At the back of Butts Lagoon there was a Greenshank feeding in amongst the eclipse Gadwall, Teal and Mallard.

On the edge of the lagoon were several Snipe.

A feature of the morning had been the number of hirundines moving through, good numbers of Swallows, and House and Sand Martins.  As always I can't resist the challenge of photographing the hirundines, and as I tracked this Sand Martin I was reminded of the first Sand Martins we had seen at Testwood 6 months ago.

Out on the sea, there were several Sandwich Terns sitting on the exposed metal.

As we watched the terns, and the many Turnstones, that were using the posts as a place to see out the high tide, there was some violent movement in the water.  At first I thought it was a seal, or maybe even otter, but it turned out to be a redhead Goosander, and it appeared with a fish.

It wasn't what we expected to see here, and at first thought they were Red-breasted Mergansers.

Then others started to appear.

There were six of them, and they were adopting what I can only describe as "lunge" feeding.  Together they would swim towards the bank, putting there heads under the water to look.  Then as they became close to the shore I can only assume the fish would break away to the side, and the Goosanders would lunge and dive into the water to chase them.

Then they would gather together again, swim back out and then do it all again.

leaving the Goosander, we walked on, and on the Jetty Lagoon there was another duck sitting on a small island.  As we got closer we could see it was a Red-breasted Merganser.  Perversely the Merganser was where the Goosander should be, while the Goosander was where we would normally see the mergansers.

The blue sky reflected in the still water made it perfect for photographing the Little Egrets once again.

A small bird flew from the bank across to a clump of bramble.  We waited and it appeared to confirm it was a Dartford Warbler.

We crossed Oxey Marsh to to Moss's Dock.  Overhead a pair of Raven called to each other.

Rather than carry on we followed the sea wall back with the intent of returning to the car park.  Off shore there was a lone Eider.

While a little further on we came across the group of six redhead Goosanders, this time just quietly swimming together.

Back on the lagoons the Swallows now were flying low over the water, 

Dipping in for a drink or brief splash to wash.

The Turnstone were still occupying the metal posts despite the falling tide.

We walked back to the cars where we stopped to eat lunch.  With the temperature now rising, and with the clear skies and sunshine we decided to set off after lunch in search of butterflies.  This area is one of the very few sites in Hampshire where there is the possibility of seeing the Wall butterfly.  The time of year and conditions were perfect so hopes were up.

There were Red Admirals, Meadow Browns and both White species, we even picked up a Clouded Yellow flying over the ground beside the gravel tip, but no Wall.  From Keyhaven we walked around the sea wall.  We had seen Small Copper her in April, and after a short while Ian picked on up on a daisy.

As we watched it a Clouded Yellow flew past, and we ste off in chase.  But it wasn't going to land, and rather than head off all the way back to Keyhaven, I let it go, Ian though kept going.  As I stood and waited another came back heading towards Pennington, and I set off after that, but again it didn't stop.  It was becoming ab it like the Benny Hill Show!

At least four passed us going in both directions, and none stopped.  Ian though, did manage to photograph a Painted Lady.  We returned to the sea wall, and as wwe approached Keyhaven Lagoon we could see several Clouded Yellows flying around the short grassed area.  Desperate I tried to photograph one in flight, and managed an acceptable shot showing the sulphur yellow and black upper parts.

Then finally one settled on a dandelion, a long way off but reachable.

Then one a little closer.

We stood watching the Clouded Yellows flying around the field, and estimated at least six individuals were present.

As well as the butterflies there were several warblers in the bramble,a nd a Wheatear sitting on the top.

There were Willow Warblers around the bottom of the bushes and two juvenile Dartford Warblers closer to us in the brambles.

All the waders were back on the Keyhaven Lagoon, but very distant still, as we walked around to Fishtail I picked up a Ruff on the bank feeding in the shallow water.

There were in fact two, and there was with them a Black-tailed Godwit.  

The Godwit did not like the Ruff coming too close and grabbed out biting the tail of the Ruff.

And was determined to not let go!

In amongst the Canada Geese on Fishtail was a Swan Goose, and escaped bird from somewhere as these geese are normally found between Mongolia and China!

Then as we came up onto the sea wall to look into Butts Bay, Ian picked up a smaller wader in amongst the Redshank.  It was instantly picked out due to the size, the bill too was shorter.  My first thought was Wood Sandpiper, but the light was very poor, and as we set out to look for butterflies I had left the scope in the car.

We walked round to a couple on the far side who had a scope.  They hadn't seen the bird but once picked out and seen in the better light it was clear it was a Wood Sandpiper.

We then walked back to where we had first seen in, and now it was settled and in better light.

As I took my eye of it, a bird flew over and called, the Sandpiper had flown of, and out over Fishtail and off in the direction of the gravel pits.  From the call there was no doubt.

Just as we were about to leave a Wheatear appeared on the wrack at the base of the sea wall.

With it now very warm we decided to head off to Crockford Bridge to see if there were any dragonflies about.  We both had not been here before, but had heard it is a good site.  When we arrived the pools were almost all dried out, and all that remained was a stream.  However the trip was worth it as flying around the stream were two Golden-ringed Dragonflies.

I have only ever seen one briefly before, let alone photograph them so this was a little special.

The two were male and female, the female is the UK's longest dragonfly, due to her long oviposter.  The male here has a waisted appearance due to a slight club shape to the abdomen.

Away from the stream there was a group of burnt trees or bushes.  And in and around these were at least four Spotted Flycatchers.

From their perches they would fly around the base of the branches, even dropping to the floor to catch the insects that seemed to be attracted to the burnt wood.

It had been a great day with 90 species of bird seen and the first Clouded Yellows of the year, and the first photographable ones for a while.