Ian and I parked the cars, got our ticket and then braved the sea and walked around to the Meon Shore Hide. It was not a day for great photography, with it being very gloomy. Out in front of us on the small island were a Redshank, two Lapwing, four Teal and two Snipe. One was settled down dozing, while the other was a little flustered by the proximity of the Teal.
It was though as they say perfect weather for ducks, and the Teal were making the most of it.
Fortunately there was plenty going on despite the rain. A distant Peregrine put up all the Lapwing and Starlings, and a male Pintail flew over. On the water there were groups of male Teal, and female Teal, still not ready to pair up.
On the islands, and along the edges of the water there were more Snipe, and Starlings seemed to be everywhere.
With the tide high there were plenty of Oystercatchers roosting on the islands, and in amongst one group was a male Pochard.
The snipe in front of us continued to move about, avoiding the ducks as they fed by the edge of the water. They had a strange behaviour where they would lay their head and bill horizontal with the water, and raise their tail up almost vertically.
Snipe would fly up from almost everywhere, and it was impossible to count their actual numbers. The Lapwing though were more stationary, and it was possible to count them and I reached a total of 130.
One though did fly straight at us as it came into land on one of the islands
A break in the weather allowed us to walk around to the Spurgin Hide, where lifting the windows there was nothing. With the weather closing in though we sat tight, and after awhile was rewarded. A female Marsh Harrier fighting the wind hunting low over the reeds scattering the ducks on the meadow.
It fought its way past us into the wind, then gave up and allowed the wind to take it back from where it had appeared, and then it did it all again, coming past us a little closer.
A few duck settled on the water in front of us, but didn't stay. A pair of Stonechat appeared on the cut reed area, using the wind to perfect their hovering techniques, then settling back in the shade of the vegetation.
We picked up our lunch, and sat eating it in the Suffern Hide. The highlight here was a Coot, a Little Grebe and a very brief and fast Kingfisher. From their we went to the Meadow Hide where we could see the Marsh Harrier once again, a large flock of Black-tailed Godwits, A male Pintail and four females, and a single Green Sandpiper.
Amazingly the weather started to improve and the sun came out, it was decision time. We had always wanted to go to Farlington to try and catch up with the Short-eared Owls, but the weather never seemed to be right. However with the sun we decided to give it a try, and headed back to the cars and then off to Farlington.
We walked along the Seawall, and Ian picked up what we were certain was an owl, but it was very distant, and we watched it head high away towards the A3. Rather than walk the sea wall we crossed alongside the lake. Suddenly all the gulls went up from the water.
Ian picked up a Peregrine flying just above the reeds, then out of sight. As we waited it appeared again and then zipped away heading out across the marsh.
In front of us a large flock of Linnets were sitting in the Hawthorn bushes.
And out in the middle of the water a Grey Heron sat in the late afternoon sunshine.
we decided to walk the sea wall now briskly in the hope of finding the owls, that is if they would show in what was still a very brisk wind.
As we passed the Deeps I picked up a white shape in the middle. A closer look revealed it to be a Sleeping Spoonbill, what else would it be doing?
The sun now was almost set, and looking away to the west we could see the Portsmouth skyline, and the Spinnaker Tower backed by golden light.
A kestrel was hunting over the sea wall, and as is typically the case in those situations, allowed us to get quite close.
I then tried to adjust for the bright back light by opening the exposure, but for some reason (gloved fingers) I not only did that, but I changed the settings to monochrome. The results though, I was pleased with
It seems to add to the detail.
The sun was now down, and we headed back to the car. We had manged to fashion some good birds out of a day the most of which was dominated by horrible weather.