Sunday, 4 September 2016

3rd September - Keyhaven & Pennington Marshes, Hampshire

After what was a glorious August the weather changed on Friday, with much cooler conditions and a lot of rain.  The rain continued overnight and into the small hours of the morning.  As I headed towards Lymington there was still dampness on the roads, and with the clear skies, plenty of mist.  As I pulled into the car park at the marshes the sun was trying to burn off the the mist that was hanging over the marshes.


The teasels close to the fence were covered in cobwebs, that in turn were covered with dew, and shining in the early morning light.


As the sun climbed higher the mist began to recede and the distant trees emerged.


I had met up with Ian, and we headed down the side of Fishtail Lagoon, heading for the sea wall.  We stopped to scan over the pools at th back of the lagoon and immediately found two distant Little Stints.  This reserve is an excellent place, but it is essential to use a Telescope as many of the birds are quite distant from the viewing points, this also makes it a challenge for photography.

As we stood looking at the pools, there was a sharp shrill whistle, and we turned to see in disbelief, two Kingfishers in the elder tree quite close to us.  It took a little while to realise that there was the opportunity for a photograph, and as the cameras were raised the Kingfishers were off again with another sharp whistle.

We made our way to the sea wall, where the tide as already coming in despite high tide being around 13.00.  Looking across Fishtail, a Cormorant sat on the island drying its wings.


Another whistle, and I turned again to see a Kingfisher on a post in the water, as I raised the camera it was off, but I did manage to capture a record as it flew away from us once again.


As the Kingfisher few away into the bushes, all that was left on the water was a Little Grebe, only a silhouette in the early morning gloom.


We walked on to get a better view of the pools where the Little Stints were.  We counted at least eight Little Stint as they fed amongst the larger and bolder Dunlin.


As well as the Little Stints there were several Dunlin, a single Greenshank, two Curlew Sandpipers, and a Common Sandpiper.  There were also Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, and a shoveler all in eclipse plumage.

Every so often the waders would be spooked and would fly around the marsh, only to return to the same spots.  As the sun came out it would highlight them.


We walked up to Keyhaven Lagoon where there were two Curlew Sandpipers and about twenty Black-tailed Godwits, but again very distant, so rather than hang around we returned back towards Fishtail.  We stopped again to watch the stints, and as we did so five Knot appeared, at first settling at the back of the lagoon, but they soon were off, this time coming to rest on the small sand island.


They were clearly restless, and were off again flying over our heads and out on to the salt marsh.


Next stop was the Jetty lagoon, where we did manage to find the two Wood Sandpipers but these were at the back and would move behind both the little grass islands, and the Canada Geese making it impossible to get a credible photograph.

There were several Black-tailed Godwits and a single Curlew Sandpiper that showed well.


As we stood watching the waders large skeins of Canad Geese were strung out across the sea heading for the lagoon.  We watched them as they came in low skidding across the water.


Pretty soon the water was covered with them, and the air filled with the calls of the geese.

We moved on again, around the sea wall, and past the jetty.  A little further on we disturbed a Wheatear in the grass on the edge of the sea wall.


As we edged forward to get a closer look we flushed it and it flew down onto the beach.


We carried on around the path, past Butts Lagoon where there were several Ringed Plover feeding in the familiar style where they move gentling, and then stop to bend down slowly to peck at anything they have found.  Contrast this with the energetic clockwork action of the stints and the Dunlin.


We had hoped for a Spotted Redshank on Oxey Marsh, but could only find Redshank, and this single Greenshank.


From here we made the long trek towards Normandy Marsh, it is this part of the walk that can be a little boring, as you turn back on yourself crossing the outflow.  A Kingfisher put in another rapid appearance speeding off with a whistle just like roadrunner.

At Normandy most of the waders were very distant.  We counted at least six Greenshank, and seven Knot amongst the usual fare of Dunlin and Redshank.  Two of the Knot then came close to the sea wall.



The sun of the early morning and the still calm conditions had now disappeared and we were under darkening overcast skies, and a very strong westerly wind.  The forecast was for rain in the afternoon, but it was still only 11.00 but rather than hang around we decided to head back.  Rather than walk around the sea wall we crossed the marsh to reach the jetty, where at first we found a single Eider, which from nowhere became three, only to turn into a raft of fifteen Eider.


We made our way back to the Jetty Lagoon to see if the Wood Sandpipers would be a little more confiding and come a little closer.  The lagoon was still covered with Canada Geese, and the numbers of Black-tailed Godwits had increased, but more importantly one of the Wood Sandpipers was closer to us on the sea wall, not a lot but closer to allow the chance to get a photograph.


Of the three commoner sandpipers we see in the UK, the Wood Sanpiper is much longer legged than the green and common.

The wind was now quite strong, and it meant it was necessary to rest the camera on the telescope to keep it still.

We walked back to Fishtail, then back again to walk down the footpath to check the fields, which were pretty much dry, and empty, other than a large flock of Goldfinches on the teasel and Thistle heads and a single Wheatear.


After dropping off the scopes we walked down the cycle path in the hope of some small birds, but the fresh wind meant that very little showed.  On the lake by the reclaimed land were Tufted Duck, two Great-crested Grebes and several Sand Martin.  On the bank a large roost of gulls including Great and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

We were also searching for Whimbrel, but with no luck.  As we headed back Golden Plover called and then two flew over our heads and out to the back of Fishtail.


We scanned the lake, and Ian asked for a Common Sandpiper, and I duly found one.


After stopping for lunch we headed back out to the lagoons, walking along Fishtail where a solitary Greenshank was standing amongst the Dunlin and Little Stints once more.


From Fishtail we walked around to Keyhaven, and as we reached the corner, in the deeper water was a Spotted Redshank.  As it fed the head was almost always under the water, and it moved closer to the reeds.  


With the tide now at its highest the lagoon at Keyhaven was full of feeding and roosting waders.  Close in were several Black-tailed Godwits.


And at last some Curlew Sandpipers that were close.


It is slightly larger than the Dunlin with a longer neck, and legs.


The bill is also longer, finer tipped, a with a more evenly decurved bill.


These were I think juvenile birds with an unmarked belly and a prominent supercilium.


Here you can see the comparison of the much greyer Curlew Sandpiper with a paler belly than the Dunlin behind it.


At the back of the lagoon was a large roost of well over 100 Grey Plover, some of which were still in summer plumage.


We headed back to Fishtail to see if the Spotted Redshank was showing better.  It was still there and with a Greenshank.  The Greenshank flew off leaving the Spotted Redshank still feeding vigorously, but finally it slowed up and allowed us to get some views of the head.


And that was it for me, domestic duties called and I headed off home leaving Ian to go off in search of more goodies.

Not a bad day with some quality waders, eighteen wader species not a bad day total.  We missed Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel and maybe Green Sandpiper.

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