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.