Sunday, 25 September 2016

24th September - Keyhaven, Pennington & Normandy Marshes, Hampshire

Friday was a beautiful autumn day, this morning as I left home the skies were clear and there was a red glow away to the east.  With it there was a fresh southerly breeze that already was making it feel quite warm.  I arrived at the car park at the end of the lane in Pennington with the sky now much brighter but stiil the sun had not arrived.  Birds were leaving the night roosts, I could hear the Canada Geese calling from over on the marsh, and ducks were flying high as they arrived from different places around the reserve.  These I think were Pintail flying past the waning moon.

Away to the east the sky was a collection of yellows and oranges.

A party of fifteen Little Egrets flew from the direction of the caravan park, followed by two that passed through the orange sky.

While the calling geese on the marsh finally took off heading to the flooded pit on the reclaimed land.

In the distance the Lymington to Yarmouth ferry was heading out in the glow of the sun as the Canada Geese headed toward Oxey Marsh.

We headed down the path alongside Fishtail Lagoon, and stopped to look out over the small pools at the back of the main lagoon.  There was little about but the early morning sunshine was lighting up the marsh and a pair of Mute Swans.

As we reached the sea wall we stopped to watch and photograph a Black-tailed Godwit feeding on the marsh close to the pools.

Another bird flew in and called which obtained a response from the original bird, a call back and a flaring of the wings.

The tide was still high, and we scanned the islands that were covered in waders.  There were predominantly Dunlin, with Grey Plover, a single Golden Plover and a Bar-tailed Godwit.  We walked on to the Jetty Lagoon where there was a large roost of Black-tailed Godwits, a single Curlew Sandpiper and a very confiding Little Stint, that eventually came very close.

Giving some lovely views in the morning sunshine.

Picking a nice reflection in the shallow pools.

From the Jetty Lagoon we made our way back to Fishtail, there were three Spotted Redshanks feeding in the deeper water, and on the small pools there was a Little Stint and several Dunlin.  Standing watching all the activity was a Grey Heron, that hardly moved while we were there.

From Fishtail we headed around to Keyhaven, a couple had remarked that there was a Pectoral Sandpiper close to the path feeding in the pools.  As we approached we disturbed many Meadow Pipits, some perching on the fence wires.

We found a wader, but unfortunately as suspected it wasn't a Pectoral Sandpiper but a very confiding juvenile Ruff.

After flying around it returned to feed in the vegetation around the pools.

We walked to look over the lagoon, where there were several Black-tailed Godwits and out on the saltmarsh were five Knott feeding.

In all the pools it was noticeable that the numbers of Wigeon had increased over those present three weeks ago.  They are still though in eclipse plumage.

Back at Fishtail the number of Spotted Redshanks had increased to five, and they were all feeding furiously in the pools at the back of the lagoon.

We walked to the jetty where with the tide out there were many waders feeding amongst the exposed shingle.  Turnstone were present in good numbers, but also Grey Plover and A few Curlew.

As we walked back towards the car park a familiar "gronk" signalled the arrival of a Raven flying overhead.

We were intending to check Normandy Marsh but couldn't face the walk around the sea wall, so headed inland along the footpath.  In one filed there were several Swallows flying low over the grass, while on the wires above there were many others waiting.  There was through out the morning a steady trickle of Swallows, House Martins and Sand MArtins moving through the marsh heading south.

Just before we reached Normandy Marsh we found a Greenshank close in, but as we tried to get closer it flew off into the middle of the mud.

Where it joined another feeding in the shallow water.

It was quiet on the marsh, but with the cattle in the distance we could see several wagtails and decided to get closer.  The wagtails were Pied, but on the mud there were Grey Plover, Black-tailed Godwits, and two Curlew Sandpipers among the numerous Dunlin.

Of more interest were the Little Egrets, fishing in the shallow water, showing the yellow legs of the adults as they stalked through the mud.

As we walked back close to the path there were eight Curlew Sandpipers feeding in the mud giving some excellent views.

You can see the clean appearance, the longer beak, and longer neck and legs compared to the Dunlin.

These were all juvenile birds.

As we watched the sandpipers a pair of Little Egrets were engaging in some interesting behaviour.  One bird addressed the other by extending its head up as it walked towards the other.

The aggressive bird did not have yellow feet, but black ones which meant that this was juvenile bird, this though did not stop it from attacking the other egret that was an adult bird, with yellow legs.

It was not clear what the intent was, maybe the young bird was just trying to exert dominance, but the attacks were quite aggressive.

In the end they just went there own way leaving each other alone.

We decided to walk back around the sea wall, but were intending to cross the marsh at Moses Dock.  A small group of waders close to the old sluice turned out to include four Bar-tailed Godwits.  here you can see the key difference between the two godwit species.  The Br-tailed being paler, shorter legged and and with a shorter bill.

As we walked towards the dock a passerine flew past, across the hedge and then down on to the path.  I thought maybe a pipit, but it was large so maybe Rock Pipit but then the head was in a strange position, could it be, surely not?  I thought then Wryneck, and despite doubting me at firs Ian agreed.  We then proceeded to get pictures quickly.

We edged forward slowly, but it was off, across the water and into the bushes on the far side where we lost it.  We made our way around to the other side where we searched the gorse and scrub, but could not relocate the bird.

In Oxey Creek a Little Egret stood with its reflection in the dark water.

In the end we had to give up, and we set off along the path.  We stopped at area with concrete and scrub, looking to check the perfect place for the Wryneck to be.  As we looked over the gate a bird flew into the hedge.  I could just see it, the only thing immediately visible being a flicking red tail, a Redstart.  It then disappeared into the hedge.

We waited and finally it emerged flying over the far side, but then returned hovering around the edge of the hedge before returning out of sight, only to put in a brief final appearance of which I managed a very poor record shot.

We continued back along the sea wall where the Goldfinches were all over the teasels growing along the path.

Walking back towards the car park we came across four Yellow Wagtails at last, they were amongst a herd of cattle close to the footpath.

Back in the car park we were told of a Spoonbill that had been seen on Fishtail, so we decided to once again walk back there.  We stopped at the point where you can look over the pools at the back, and scanned across the marsh to look for a white bird, the only ones we could find though were several Little Egrets.

There were though quite a few small waders, of which we identified several Dunlin and a couple of Little Stint.  Then one slightly small wader appeared alongside the Dunlin, with a white belly different from the Dunlin, and a very distinct supercilium.  More importantly it was slightly smaller than the Dunlin, while definitely bigger than the Little Stint.  Overall appearance was of a grey bird.  We were satisfied that this was the White-rumped Sandpiper.  And watched it for at least twenty minutes before we lost it when all the birds flew up as a Kestrel flew across the marsh.

It was very distant, and at best the only photograph was a record shot.

So it turned out to be not a bad day after what was a quiet start.  We missed an Osprey, but did manage two year ticks including a self found Wryneck, and a life tick.  Not bad!

Monday, 12 September 2016

10th September - Titchfield Haven, Hampshire

The forecast for the day was awful, but as I set off from home to meet Ian it was still dry, this was soon to change as I passed under the M27 it became very wet, and as I parked at Titchfield Haven, the wind was blowing from the south West with quite a bit of rain.  Ian had been there awhile, and had found a tern on a sand bank that had become exposed with the falling tide.  We moved closer to find that there were in fact two Sandwich Terns present.

At opening time of the reserve we made our way to the visitor centre to pick up the passes, with  the weather set to be bad almost all day we were going to take refuge in the hides around the reserve, and so we set off to the Meon Shore Hide, at this time not aware that the events of the day was to take an interesting twist before it was over.

Close in on the mud in front of the hide a Snipe was feeding.

Every so often it would pause to have a quick preen.

Black-tailed Godwits were spread out all over the scrape, and I counted 101, which by coincidence was the number reported on the sightings board.  A Lapwing came close to the edge of the mud, again one of those birds that you just seem to accept, but has a beauty that may not be appreciated.

At this stage it wasn't raining, but the sky was threatening, and during the dry spell there was a concerted movement of House Martins and Sand Martins low over the water and out over the top of the hide towards the sea.  It was a mixture of adult birds, and juveniles.

A Kingfisher then put in a very brief appearance, flying in, perching on a post, and then away all in the same time.  We picked up a Ruff on the far side of the scrape, and it came ever closer joining up with a Little Stint on the east side of the scrape.  Both at this stage were distant, but the Ruff came closer, moving via the islands to finally feed in front of us.

A juvenile bird, it continued to feed in front of us until it was spooked by a Sparrowhawk that flew low very close to the hide.

The rain was coming in short showers now, and in between the showers Swallows replaced the House Martins flying low across the open water.

It was then that we picked up a Stint on the far west side, and watched as it slowly made its way closer to us.  We had seen two Little Stint that had been reported, and as there was only one showing at the far side of the scrape we assumed this to be the other.  It moved past Black-tailed Godwits and two Common Snipe as it worked the mud with a clockwork efficiency.

The majority of the Black-tailed Godwits were first year birds with the grey winter plumage, but every so often one with fading summer plumage would come close.

It was now all eyes on the stint that was coming closer and closer giving us the opportunity of some good close views.  We concentrated on the pictures, and didn't really take in the appearance of the bird, a lesson there for us all.

I even took the time to video the feeding action.

We were pleased with the opportunity to get close pictures

Later that evening I received a mail to tell me that the Little Stint we thought we had, was in fact a Semipalmated Sandpiper.  It had been seen later in the day and photographed and identified.  Needless to say I was a little shocked, and then embarrassed by the fact we hadn't really looked properly at the bird, just spent the time photographing and assuming it was one of the Little Stints.

Now when I look at the pictures I can see the difference between the two birds.  Firstly there is no white mantle "V".

The upper parts appear greyer and darker, and there is a clearer cap being made by the supercillium, while a dark line extends from a much more blunter bill, back though the eye to produce a dark patch around the ear.

Checking the books, other points to look out for are the shorter primary projection, in the Semipalmated the projection is much shorter, making the Little Stint appear much more longer winged.  The Little Stint has a split supercilium, where the upper supercilium forks up the side of the crown, where in the Semipalmated there is no split.

As they say hind sight is 20/20 vision, and looking now with the aid of all the literature it is a lot easier, but at the time we were pleased with some good views of Little Stint!

The bird continued its clockwork feeding and at one stage flew off to return to the far west bank where we had originally picked it up and it started its way back all over again.  We turned our attention to the other areas, a Grey Heron being something we couldn't confuse, could we?

And even during the rain, which by now was settled in, and quite heavy, the swallows continued to fly over the water and head out to the south.

As always presenting the challenge to photograph.

A lull in the rain allowed us the chance to move to the Pumfrett Hide, but halfway there it started again, and we arrived in the hide a little damp.  There were plenty of Teal all over the mere, and on both sides Black-tailed Godwits, that in the main were quite settled, but had one little episode where they were spooked and flew around the reserve before settling back on the south scrape.

One was feeding close in, and every so often would have a funny five minutes, flapping wings and dashing about.

In amongst the Godwits were two Avocet that managed to stay far enough away to avoid the camera lens.  We scanned through the many eclipse Teal in the hope of finding a Garganey but without any luck.  Sitting in amongst the Teal was an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Despite the persistent rain we moved on to the next hide, Spurgin, where we found a distant Green Sandpiper that then disappeared, and again plenty of Teal.  The hirundines continued to pass through, and with them a Swift, that flew around the reed beds in front of us for about five minutes before moving away along with the hirundines.

The Green Sandpiper then re-appeared flying across and past us in the hide to the water on the left hand side.

Here it stayed for a short while

Before flying again past us to settle on the mud to our right.

It then managed to disappear once again.

We sat and watched Snipe, and continued to check the Teal, but nothing else appeared so we braved the rain once again, this time walking around to the east side of the reserve.  Along the board walk a flock of Long-tailed Tits called in the willows.  Checking the Suffern Hide didn't take long it was devoid of any birds apart from a single Little Egret sheltering from the rain in the reeds.

We walked to the Meadow Hide, but here the birds were distant, and there was no sign of the hoped for Yellow Wagtails, despite the fact that the cattle were feeding close to the hide.  Entertainment here was provided by a Marsh Harrier, that at first teased by staying distant, but then gave some good views as it followed the river.

The rain had returned to coming in pulses now, but out over the Solent there were signs that maybe the worse was over.  We decided that we had had enough, and headed back to the cars.  The tide was coming up once again, and the harbour was filling up.  On the far side we were surprised to find a single Brent Goose.

We headed home satisfied that despite the rain we had quite a good day, needless to say it became better later, but we can't claim to have found the bird, but we did see it, and probably helped to finalise the identification.  A lesson learnt here that you should always be on the look for something different, and not just accept what you think you see.