Sunday, 27 March 2016

26th March - Titchfield Haven, Hampshire

Yesterday, clear blue skies, wall to wall sunshine, a warm feel in the air welcoming Swallows and butterflies, this morning as I packed my gear into the car it was wet, overcast and the wind was picking up and becoming more than a breeze.

I met upo with Ian in the sailing club car park just after 7.30, and out on the beach Ian had already found the day's first year tick, a Sandwich Tern.  It was sitting on the sand amongst Black-headed and Mediterranean gulls. Watching the sea, a single Great Crested Grebe flew past, and a small group of about 10 Sanderling headed east.  In this time the Sandwich Tern decided to leave, we never saw it go.

From the sailing club we walked around the harbour to watch from the sea wall.  Looking back towards the beach at Hill Head, the Brent Geese were collecting on the edge of the water.

The tide was still a fair way out, but the wind was now quite strong and blowing into our faces as we looked out across the sea.  Ian then picked up two duck flying from east to west, it took me a while to pick them up, but as I did I could see that one was all black, while the other was black with diagnostic white wing panels.  It was the Velvet Scoter that has been present all week, along with a Common Scoter.  We watched them head into Southampton Water and out of sight.

A little later Ian again found some duck, this time three Eider, two males and a female coming from the direction of Cowes.

They settled on the water, and gradually drifted towards us, showing well before a kite surfer disturbed them and they flew off to the east.

So it was into the reserve and first stop was the Meon Shore Hide, where you open the windows and are greeted by the constant calls of the Black-headed Gulls as they continually squabble and parade in the effort to attract a mate and repel any others that want to get into their territory.  Some though manage to shut out the noise and settle down for a rest.

Aside from the gulls, others would come close to the hide, this drake teal looking splendid at this time of year.

A quick count around the scrape revealed about 30 Avocet, and in their pairs they were either resting or feeding with that characteristic sweeping action.  We left the Meon Shore Hide though and then walked to the Spurgin hide where the water level is lower, and there was the chance of maybe a wader away from the noise and hustle of the Black-headed Gulls.

There was a wader in front of the hide, but it was an Avocet, however it gave some lovely views and reflections as it fed close to the hide.

A beautiful graceful bird, always a pleasure to watch and photograph.

As well as the Avocet there was also several Gadwall and one pair came close to the hide, although they did seem to be a little concerned, raising the head as if there was some danger about.

It was the Avocet though that continued to demand attention.

The strong wind blowing on the water changing the look of the reflections.

There was a large flock of Golden Plover on the north scrape, and like last weekend at Pennington they could not settle and would be up to fly around before settling again in the same place.  Many of them were showing about three quarters summer plumage.

Other entertainment was provided by the Lapwing, they were obviously searching for suitable nest sites, scraping the ground and vegetation.  As they did so there would be competition and little fracas would break out, one of which flushed some Snipe that had us trying to turn Common Snipe into Jack Snipe, without any luck.

The Lapwing though look wonderful, with what you think is green reflecting all spectrum colours.

We walked down to the Pumfrett Hide, where the noise from the gulls picked up once again, however some of the Avocet were trying to make the most of it.

Out in the middle a pair of Great Black-backed Gulls sat, looking as if they knew that no one was going to argue with them.

The gulls were fascinating to watch, they are constantly calling and on the move, fighting, mating and just walking around and displaying.  I love the way they call while in flight, the bill wide open as they fly around.

We could see the Golden Plover on the ground from this hide, but they were still nervous, and would fly around this time coming close to the hide.

Again you could see the summer "golden" plumage.

At the back of the scrape the Mediterranean Gulls tucked themselves away from the boisterous Black-headed, who despite being smaller appear to be able to boss and bully the Mediterranean Gulls.

The Med Gulls would also fly around and I was able to catch them on the aire, showing the lovely puree white of the primaries.

And like the Black-headed's would fly around in pairs.

Back on the mud, the Black-headed Gulls continued their displays, this one showing a lovely pink flush on the breast.

We paid a brief visit to the West Hide where there was a lone male pheasant on a mound just to the side of the hide.

After negotiating the spray coming over the sea wall as the wind and tide combined to produce a very high tide, we stopped to watch the Sanderlings feeding at the edge of the surf on the beach, some though were just sitting it out

These lovely little waders though would go right to the edge of the surf, picking out food as the surf crashed in.

Sometimes though they would stand in the foam, giving up while other times they would leap up and fly back to the dry.

As well as the Sanderling, there were the usual Turnstones.

We made our way around the the Knights Bank Hide, settling down to watch what was a very quiet scene.  Out in front of us were the Plastic Barnacle Geese.

Ian picked up Sand Martin over the trees at the back of the Frying Pan, and as we watched them I picked out one with a white rump, a House Martin, and the earliest I have ever seen.  In fact with the Sand Martin and the house Martin this is the first time I can recall ever having seen all three hirundines before the end of March.  In all I estimated that there were at least 10 Sand Martin, and a single House Martin above the trees.

There was also a March Harrier over the reed bed, it showed the colours of a female, but looked quite small, and the colour on the head seemed to be both grey and yellow so it could have been an immature male.

In front of us there were several Lapwing that were determined to move the Magpies away by dive bombing them, but hey also found time to display together showing some amazing coordinated acrobatics above the field.

After stops in the Meadow and Surfern hides, and to try and find the many singing Chiffchaffs along the walkway, we made our way back past the gauntlet of the sea wall and to the Meon Shore Hide.  The numbers of Black-headed Gulls seemed to have increased and the noise appeared even louder.  Every so often  the gulls would take to the air creating what seemed like a snow storm, the sky turning white.  On one of these "storms" The small group of Black-tailed Godwits and Redshank flew in closer to the hide.  There were six Redshank present

And ten Black-tailed Godwits.  These birds were not showing such advanced summer plumage as the birds from last weekend.

The Black-headed Gulls would move amongst the Godwits as if on purpose looking to move the godwits out of the way, or even just teasing and playing with the larger birds.

There was yet another chance to photograph the Avocets as they came closer to the hide.

The Avocets though seemed to get caught up in the Gull snow storms, their black and white plumage loosing them in the many gulls.

But of course it was all about the gulls, the scrape the islands and the air was just full of them, and like it or not they were the focus of attention through the eyes and the ears.

Then for the last time until the autumn we had to leave the hide as they locked up at 4.00pm, but despite the forecast we had managed to avoid the rain, sheltered from the wind and picked up five year ticks (well I did, I think Ian had just a couple), and some nice close action.

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