Saturday, 28 March 2015

28th March - Titchfield Haven

The calm sunny weather of yesterday was replaced with misty and damp conditions Saturday morning.  As I drove south the mist turned into fog, along with some spots of rain.  It was still misty when I arrived at the Haven, but the wind was very strong.  I scanned out into the Solent, unable to see across to the Island, but all I could find were a few Turnstone flying past.  Both Gannet and Common Scoter were reported.  

Unfortunately we found a dead and flattened Water Vole on the road, why it was there was a mystery with one or two theories.  May be caught by a raptor or gull, and dropped and then run over, or maybe fancied some time on the beach and didn't look both ways to cross the road.  Sad either way.

Ian and I walked around to the west side and down to the Spurgin Hide, in search of a Jack Snipe reported the previous day.  As was to be expected there was no sign of it, but there were a few Common Snipe.  The water though was full of Black-headed Gulls and their calls were constant all the time.

The gulls were everywhere, and in pairs although there would be little "issues" breaking out in threes.  They would call by pointing their heads down, and then lay low in the water with the bill held as if just on the water.  They were also aggressive to anything that got in their way, Teal Lapwing and even the few Mediterranean Gulls.

Lapwing were also in pairs, but would wander about, coming into the shallow water from the islands.

Teal were mostly all sleeping, unconcerned about the raucous noise and antics of the gulls, one though was preening just out of the water and in doing so showed off a part of the male Teal not seen that often, the orange marked breast and belly.

It was fascinating to watch the gulls and their behaviour.  Once in pairs, what I assume was the female which would look slighter, would beg the other birrd by tapping at the bill.  Eventually it would regurgitate food which the begging bird would quickly gobble up.

At one stage, for no reason a Black-headed Gull just flew at a Lapwing.

I can only assume it was something to do with raging hormones!

Black-tailed Godwits were about in good numbers, over 100 counted earlier.  They are all in various stages of summer plumage, and are beginning to look splendid, this bird was feeding in the grass and the scene looked just like one we had seen last year in Iceland where they breed.

In contrast to the Black-headed Gulls the Mediterranean Gulls appear much calmer, no calling no fighting, happy to sit on the islands.  Far fewer than the Black-headed though we counted probably around a dozen birds.  Every so often they would fly off, the white wings standing out against the distant reeds.

We made our way around to the Meon Shore Hide, and while here it started to rain, along with the wind picking up. The Black-headed Gulls didn't seem to care.  These three were engaged in some "banter".  We had noticed that some of the gulls breast feathers had a rosy tinge to them, and these birds seemed to be more dominant than the others.  Loud calls, wings held slightly open, and a bobbing action would start proceedings.

The calls would then continue, but the birds would drop lower, almost laying on the water.

Then they would go their own way, off to find the partner they had left watching.

At this time of year there is the chance of other waders, but other than the Godwits, and 25 Avocet there was nothing else about.  The Snipe were more than likely their but hiding, and the Oystercatchers were on the beach.

The Avocets kept very distant, but the Godwits were prepared to run the gauntlet of the gulls.  They fed in the deeper water thrusting their heads deep into the water and mud, sometimes coming up with a black, muddy head.

One was close to the hide, and gave the opportunity to see the full detail in the feathers as they develop the brick red plumage.

There was a break in the weather and we headed on, stopping at the cars for lunch, the rain though returned and along with it the wind too.  We walked around to the east side, and watched from the Knights Bank Hide, the highlight here was a distant flock of about 40 Wigeon, two Great Black-backed Gulls a Stock Dove.  In the bushes there were a few Chiffchaffs singing, and every so often a Cetti's Warbler would burst into song.  

The weather though for once had beaten us, and the birds were staying in shelter.  We decided that was it, and headed for a pint before setting off home.  Surely there has to be some movement and birds soon.

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