For the Bank Holiday weekend we decided to stay closer to home, and go down to Lymington, one of our favourite haunts. Fortunately I got the dates wrong in my mind, and instead of arriving on the Friday for two nights we were booked in from the Saturday. This meant that we missed the dreary weather on Friday and Saturday morning, and were treated to lovely sunshine for the length of our stay
We stayed in a hotel on Lymington High Street, the Stanwell House, which was perfect for the restaurants and pubs, and just to be able to wander around the small shops. On Sunday morning we set off down the high street in the direction of Pennington. We walked along the narrow road, and came out into the marsh area. It turns out we missed the Gargany that was in the fields, but it was quite distant and elusive
As we reached the footpaths, and the cycle track entrance to Keyhaven a Whitethroat was preening at the top of the Hawthorn bush. As I was taking the photographs somebody from the nearby campsite asked what I was photographing in the sky.
A little further on Helen pointed out a Whimbrel in the same field. I managed to get one photograph before it flew off.
A few minutes later a huge flock of well over 30 Whimbrel came from the same field and over our heads flying out towards the marsh.
As we followed the Whimbrel as they flew across the marsh I noticed a Roe deer standing in front of the yellow gorse and the white hawthorn may.
At the end of the cycle track at Keyhaven there were about thirty Mute Swans in the harbour, and a couple of Turnstone feeding amongst the sea weed as the tide moved out. It was quiet as we walked around the sea wall, a few Whimbrel could be seen in the inlets, and on the larger patches of water Mallard were in pairs.
At Fishtail Lagoon a group of approximately twenty Dunlin were feeding on the exposed mud in the middle. They all looked very splendid with their jet black bellies and rusty brown upper parts.
I scanned through the Dunlin and found a smaller wader amongst them, it was a Little Stint, and it gradually worked its way along the exposed mud and stones moving amongst the Dunlin.
It was a good opportunity to compare the two; the Little Stint is much smaller than the Dunlin, with a smaller proportioned bill. In the breeding season the Dunlin is unmistakable with the black belly, but overall is a much bigger bird in all areas.
The Stint made its way into deeper water and paused to bathe.
A little further on amongst the sea weed exposed by the falling tide there was another group of dunlin, with also a Ringed Plover present.
Moving on a pair of Common Terns posed nicely for us on the posts that surround the next lagoon. There was some preening taking place, and they would call to each other.
A little further on we came across a group of Oystercatchers on the exposed mud, they were frantically calling as usual and chasing each other around the mud with their heads and beaks pointed down.
Two terns were fishing the lagoon, and may have been the same birds we had watched earlier on the posts.
They would work their way around the lagoon constantly looking down, and every so often hovering before dropping into the water
A Little Tern called from the shingle on the exposed mud, and we watched as it flew over our heads and across the lagoon. It came back around and started to fish the lagoon too. The flight is a lot lighter than that of the larger Common Tern, and reminds me of a bat in flight.
The only duck we saw were Shelduck, and Mallard in one lagoon we were fascinated by what seemed like a shadow on the water around the ducks. But on closer examination this was where the ducks as they fed were disturbing the mud on the bottom. Interestingly they seem to have created the picture of a duck as they have dabbled in the mud.
We moved around to Normandy Marsh, and came across a pair of Spotted Redshank, one of which was in the immaculate black breeding plumage. I don’t recall seeing one in full breeding plumage before, and it looked really smart.
Unfortunately they were a little way off from us, and just as I thought they were going to come closer a Buzzard drifted over and spooked them, and they flew off.
The other duck of the day looked very splendid in the sunshine, and this also produced some lovely reflections that framed this male.
On the shallower lagoons they was another, larger group Dunlin, all feeding away as if their lives depended on it, which they probably did.
Perhaps not the most rewarding of walks we have done here, but it was lovely in the sunshine, and the yellows of the gorse everywhere made it look extremely spectacular. We made our way back to Lymington through the marine and boatyard, and spent the rest of the afternoon catching up with the papers in the hotel garden.
Monday morning was another sunny day, and after checking out we headed for the Shatterford car park in the New Forest, and headed out across the heath towards Denny Wood. It was quiet as we crossed the sandy heath, a few Grizzled Skippers could be seen on the wing, but they never stopped.
At the bog just before Bishop’s Dyke a Garden Warbler sang from the birches, and a male Stonechat sang from high at the top of a birch tree. As we walked away from the boardwalk I heard a Hobby call, but I never managed to find it.
It was a lovely morning, and we could hear Cuckoo calling away in the distance. At a small group of trees a bird dropped from the lower branches to the ground, but when I managed to get on it with the binoculars it was a Robin. As it flew off though, another flash of red revealed what I had hoped to find, a male Redstart.
We walked into the wood, and was immediately surrounded by bird song. Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers could be heard, Blue and great Tits called, and Nuthatches were chipping away. A Great Spotted Woodpecker called, but the drumming I then heard was not a Great Spot, it was quicker and lighter, a call then confirmed there was a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker close. We followed the call, and I did manage to get the slightest of sighting as it moved around the high branches at the top of the trees, but not the sought after photograph.
Another bird to call an hide was a turtle Dove. I could hear the purring, but was never able to find the owner.
We looped around and decided against walking back along the road to the car, so we re-traced our steps back around the heath. A cuckoo called quite close, and from the sound it was somewhere in the open. I managed to find it perched on a branch, and attempted to get closer for a photograph, but it was having nothing of it and flew off towards Denny Wood.
The walk back was quieter, and quite hot now in the sunshine. We paused to watch a Tree Pipit “parachute” over the heath and heather, and this male Stonechat adopted the traditional pose on the gorse.
The traffic was building up now, and the queues around Lyndhurst were very long, so we decided to head back home after a lovely weekend balanced between some lovely walks in beautiful weather.