Sunday, 11 October 2015

10th October - Keyhaven, Pennington & Leaden Hall NF, Hampshire

There was a thick fog as I left Four Marks, but by the time I was on the M27 this had cleared away.  Today I was off to Pennington to meet with Ian.  I arrived with Black-tailed Godwits seemingly everywhere, large flocks flew around the flooded field, and then the ducks all went up.  I quickly got out of the car, and scanned the field and soon found the reason for the panic, a Marsh Harrier flying low over the ground.



Once Ian had arrived we set off along the lane to view the field, almost immediately we cam upon a flock of Black-tailed Godwits feeding furiously in the grass.



Then a car went by and put up the Godwits and a large flock of Starlings that had gone unnoticed in the long grass.



On the other side of the lane there was a pair of Roe Deer watching us as we walked past.



On a flooded part of the field there were good numbers of Wigeon, their whistles a signal that we were heading into winter.  Other duck present included Teal and Gadwall, and a few pairs of Pintail, one male looking immaculate.  The Godwits were now settled on the marsh, and with them were Golden Plover, and a single Dunlin.  Away from the flooded area there were also quite a few Lapwing.

As we watched the birds we could hear grunting, and across the field a Bull seemed to be getting quite worked up about the fact that a Bull behind us in a field on the other side of the lane was grunting too.  It then made a purposeful walk across the field to get closer.



It came right up the hedge and fence and we could hear it grunting and pawing at the ground as the other Bull returned the calls.

We then walked on the path alongside The Fishtail Lagoon, and scanned for waders there were several Redshank, Lapwing and Snipe, but not the bird we were looking for.  We walked up to the sea wall and then made our way to get a closer view of the lagoon.

Ian then picked out the bird we were looking for feeding amongst a few Snipe, a Long-billed Dowitcher.  It was though quite distant at the back of the lagoon.



Dowitcher is an Old World word used in the New World that is taken to mean "snipe like".  The Long-billed Dowitcher is an american species that nests in the tundra and should migrate to the southern US and even central America, but recently they have become a regular arrival in Western Europe.  This bird is a juvenile, and was feeding with a similar behaviour to the accompanying Snipe.  Slightly smaller that the godwits, it was basically grey in plumage colour.  From the distance we were it was difficult to pick out the leg colour.  With the long bill, size relative to the snipe and teal, and the grey colour it was unmistakable.



Leaving the Dowitcher we walked on to Keyhaven.  A Raven flew over calling.



On Keyhaven Lagoon a Reed Bunting sat in the top of a bush.



And you could hear the soft whistles of the Wigeon out on the water.



The Marsh Harrier appeared again, and flew along the top of the distant hedges, we commented on the fact that today could provide some quality raptor sightings and as we did a Peregrine flew over our heads.



Our thinking was driven by the large number of Meadow Pipits about, they seemed to be everywhere in the grass on on the marsh.



We walked back along the cycle path, stopping to inspect the many Blackbirds that were feeding on the berries in the bushes.  A Grey Heron was also hunting in the long grass.



The gravel pits to the north of the lane were covered in feeding Swallows and House Martins, you could also see both settled on the ground along the edge of the water.  They would fly off around the surface and then return to rest on the ground.

On the other side was a large flock of mixed gulls, there were Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls at the back, and in the foreground Common and Black-headed Gulls

We stopped for lunch back at the car, then walked down the footpath toward Butts Lagoon.  A Raven was walking around on the grass, and we were able to get quite close and watch as it called from the ground rather than the normal view as they fly over.



I tried to see how close I could get, and it flew off, so we then turned our attention to a Chiffchaff that was calling in one of the elder bushes.



The flock of Starlings were constantly spooking and flying around the fields, and after one of these mass flights we noticed a small raptor that had us hoping Merlin, but as it banked the concern that the tail was too long was confirmed as it turned out to be a Sparrowhawk.

We walked along the sea wall, with Little Egrets feeding close to the bank.



We walked across the marsh through a field with at least three Stonechats and many Meadow Pipits.  On the water there were many Little Grebes, they seemed to be everywhere, constantly diving to fish.



There was a large flock of Canada Geese on the sea, the water calm and still, and providing some nice reflections.  I find it hard to be attracted to these geese, as they are not really "real" geese, but birds that seem to just be here.  However today there was some scenes like these sitting on the mirror like water with the sun sparkling the waves behind them.



On Normandy Marsh we finally found some Spotted Redshanks.  Four in total they were sitting close to the bank.  



Looking back the geese were once again attracting my attention due to the reflections and composition of the birds.



Then they started to move, heading off towards the marsh.



Looking through the geese my concerns about these birds was confirmed with some showing signs that maybe they were crosses with feral Barnacle Geese, the head markings looking a bit like those of a Barnacle Goose.



On the marsh we found at least three Knot, quite a few Dunlin, and at least 500 Ringed Plover.  At the back of the pool there were two Greenshank, and as we watched them a Grey Wagtail dropped in.

The Spotted Redshanks also decided to come a little bit closer.



We turned back and on the corner of the sew wall was a male Stonechat posing nicely aon a small shrub.



We made our way back to the cars, then decided to head into the Forest.  Three Ring Ouzels had been reported from Leaden Hall so we took the opportunity to go and see if we could find them.

We parked and then walked down through Black Gutter Bottom, and then up to Leaden Hall.  When we arrived one Ring Ouzel had been seen, but was said to be elusive.  There were several people there so we walked around the area looking for anything.  Finally I walked around the back of the bushes where it had last been seen, and almost immediately I flushed a Blackbird that flew off calling then to be followed bu a "chucking" Ring Ouzel, that flew up from the gorse into a bush where it disappeared in the middle of the bush.  We could though see the bird as it moved and I managed to get a very poor record shot.  You can just see the silvery grey edges to the wing feathers.



We walked around a bit more, and then Ian called that the bird had flown out and we watched it head away to a single tree.   We circled the tree and managed to find it in the bush, and briefly got a view of the gorget, it was quite dull, and meant that this was probably a female bird.  We waited trying to get another view when it came to the top of the tree, called and then flew away from us towards the Pitts Inclosure and out of sight.

And that was it, we walked back to car the area very quiet.  Not a bad day, with quite a good count of different birds, which gave me that necessary shot after some really quiet walks locally.

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