Sunday, 5 February 2017

4th February - Titchfield Haven, Brownwich and Warsash, Hampshire

In the middle of the last week the forecast for the weekend was storms and heavy rain.  As I drove along the A32 towards Titchfield Haven to meet Ian there was a lot of water on the roads, but it was dry, and the cloud was high, the forecast was for the sun to arrive later in the day, so I was optimistic we would be OK.  Pulling up at the sea wall the tide was still high despite it being close to low tide.  It was still gloomy and the light took on a blueish hue.  Out over the water Brent Geese and Oystercatchers flew past us towards the emerging sand banks.



As the light improved there were a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers away off shore, and a Little Grebe appeared on the water in the reserve on the other side of the road.



We scanned the sea, but could not find anything of interest in front of us, but further up the Solent we could see rafts of duck out on the water that could be quite interesting so we set off along the beach, and then up path and onto the cliffs.  

On reaching the opening that looks out over the solent the water was dead still, and with excellent visibility it was easy to pick out any birds regardless how far out.

But close in the Brent Geese were unmistakable as they still streamed past leaving reflections in the grey still water.


Mid-channel a group of six duck turned out to be the Scaup that have been present for sometime.  While distant it was possible with the scope to pick out the two males with their grey back, and four darker females.  This is purely a record shot.



Turning away from the sea Ian picked out the other long stayer, the first winter Little Gull.  Once again it was circling the field in the company of Black-headed Gulls.



Back on the sea we found the Long-tailed Duck, this time with three Common Scoter.  Again a distant record of what was a much better view through the scope.



I turned my attention, once gain to the field but was called back by Ian as the large flock of 5o Eider we had seen in mid-channel suddenly took to the air, circled around and came quite close past us.



Some great views of what are normally very distant ducks.



Standing on the cliff it was quite cold, the dampness in the air seemingly coming up through the ground.  Things warmed up a little though when Ian found the two Velvet Scoter.  A wing flap by both birds confirmed the identification a white flash being visible in the wing, but as they settled you could also make out the white in the folded wing.  Yet again a very distant record shot.



The Little gull had been seen down on the shore, but then returned to circle the field, this time coming very close to me.



It then disappeared only to appear again down on the shore, this time a little closer to us.



We decided to head back to the car to pick up the rucksacks and then set off along the beach towards Warsash.  Over the Haven a large flock of Lapwing circled.



We walked along the beach, the cloud still sending a strange light out over a very still sea.  From nowhere a group of eight Great Crested Grebes appeared just off shore.



Eventually the sun began to break through sending a silver shimmer across the water.  Here I have under exposed the shot to pick out the silver sparkles on the sea.



More movement offshore a small flock of Black-tailed Godwits passed through heading up the Solent.



Looking behind us the clouds once again closed in creating a monochromatic scene with the Brent Geese on the water.



An exposed gravelly sand bar on the beach was the source of food for several waders.  Mostly Oystercatchers there was also a flock of 17 Sanderling feeding with their typical energy amongst the pebbles.



While in the water at the edge of the beach a group of five Grey Plover were present.



We stopped at Beam Cottage to look for the Little Owl, but there was no sign.  There was though a single Stock Dove that would commute from the oak trees to the horse paddock, but every time I tried to photograph it, it would move on.  As we walked back to the beach there was a large flock of Curlew in the flooded part of the field and a single Roe Deer was out in the dryer part of the field.



On reaching the scrapes a Sparrowhawk suddenly appeared from nowhere, I picked it up as it dived almost vertically into the marsh, then pulled up and shot away from us over the marsh.  This was our first raptor of the day.



Brent Geese were collected in the fields at the back of the marsh, grazing in the field.  Suddenly they all took off with the noise of their calls and the rushing of the air through the wings.



Apparently there are foxes that hunt around the area, and the thought was that maybe they were spooked by one of them.

We stopped for lunch overlooking one of the large scrapes.  The air was filled with the constant calls of Teal, as groups of males displayed to a few females, and the calls of Lapwing that were roosting on the islands and the shallow water.



After lunch we walked to the sluice to look for Bearded Tits, but with too many dog walkers about it was unlikely they would show, and they didn't>  So we started the long walk back in what was now quite warm conditions.  My concerns in the morning about being cold were now turned on its head as it was quite hot under the coat and fleeces.  

Looking back up the Solent the clouds and blue sky show what a lovely day it now was.



While looking towards Lepe and beyond to the Isle of Wight a series of small clouds hung at a set height, controlled by the heat and pressure in the air.



A Carrion Crow fed in the field, and as it concentrated on searching the tufts of grass it allowed me to get close.



A little further on and a strange shape amongst the gorse caught my eye.  A closer look revealed a dog Fox enjoying the sunshine, probably resting after chasing the Brent Geese earlier?



There were more reflections on the water, but now they were a blue, cast from the reflection of the sky in the still water.  A Great crested Grebe is silhouetted amongst
 the ripples.



We stopped again at Beam Cottage, but there was still no sign of the Little Owl.  There were though two Stock Doves present now.  Along the lane a Goldcrest called and then appeared in the Ivy.



We returned to the beach, where the tide was quite high, but we just managed to get past the area where the cliff had fallen.  A surprise a little further on coming down from Solent Breezes on the top of the cliff was a Rock Pipit, probably the first we had seen here.  We walked a little further then headed up onto the cliff path.

In the field at the top of the cliff a Buzzard was being kept company by a crow, they were both examining something on the posts.



We then decided to have an hour around Titchfield Haven reserve before it closed.  Walking past the harbour a sleeping Mute Swan caught my attention.



The water in the east side of the reserve was high on the scrapes, so we decided to go along the west side of the reserve.  The area around the cottage hide and the pond has been cleared and tidied up.  A Blue Tit bathed at the edge of the pond.



Along the board walk were Goldcrests, Long-tailed Tits and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.  A check of the Suffern Hide produced nothing, so we stopped at the pond and watched a pair of Bullfinches stripping the leaf buds on the hazel bushes.



For such a stocky little finch it showed some considerable dexterity as it lowered itself to reach the buds.



From the Meadow Hide we had good, if distant views of an immature male Marsh Harrier hunting over the Frying Pan and reeds.



In the field in front of the hide were three Barnacle Geese amongst the Canada Geese, the Canada Geese though being much closer to the hide.



We were kicked out at 16.00 and made our way back to the car.  On the Meon River were six Tufted Ducks, and amongst them a single male Pochard.



Before leaving we decided to have a look to see if the Snow Bunting was about.  We couldn't find the Bunting, but we did manage some close encounters with two Sanderlings feeding at the edge of the beach.



Beautiful birds, and mesmerising as they race across the sand avoiding both us, and the incoming tide.



An interesting day, with some excellent birds despite the fact that they were too far out for some respectable photographs.

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