Monday, 8 May 2017

6th May - Hurst Beach, Keyhaven and Pennington Marsh, Hampshire

While we were away in Suffolk, the south easterly winds produced some good sea watching at Hurst Beach, throughout the week the wind has been more from the north east but I was hopeful this morning that maybe it would veer more to the east and hopefully deliver some long awaited sea birds.  As I arrived at New Lane next to Cut Bridge on the Hurst Spit to meet Ian it was cold and the wind was still very much from the north east.  Wrapped up we crossed the bridge and settled down in the rocks to stare at the sea.

While still a little gloomy there were a pair of Sandwich Terns flying up and down and fishing just off the rocks on the beach.

A little later a pair of Little Terns were in the same area, the first of the year for me.

Initially the sea was quiet but around 6.30 the first Gannet appeared, not necessarily heading any where just moving around in the bay.

The interest between Gannets was provided by the little Terns and more Sandwich Terns close in.

A single adult Kittiwake was watched heading into the Narrows just after 6.45, and a group of three Bar-tailed Godwits flew past, with one settling on the beach about 200 metres from us.  The Gannets continued to move around the bay, following a circle that took then out to wards the Needles and then back around coming in close to the beach.

Another group of waders to head east consisted of 2 Whimbrel, 4 Bar-tailed Godwits, 2 summer plumaged Grey Plover, and 15 Dunlin, not the best photograph.

Ian then decided he needed coffee and went back to his van, just after he disappeared four Common Scoter appeared heading east, and flew into the Narrows, past the chalk cliffs of the Island.

More annoyingly for Ian, AL who was watching a little further down the beach picked up two Black-throated Divers, both in summer plumage, they two were heading east and low on the water.  It was either watch them or try for a photograph, I ended up watching them fly past the Needles and then into the Narrows.  They were quickly followed by three Guillemots that went in the same direction, but Ian had returned in time to see these, however it had not been the best time for a coffee break.

There was a steady trickle of Swallows coming in off the sea, and an easterly passage of Whimbrel in ones or twos this group of five being the exception.

The Sandwich Terns continued to fish in the tide line.

A pair of Eider then flew in and settled on the sea in front of us.

At first then landed well past the rocks in front of us, but drifted closer allowing the chance to get close and to appreciate the breeding plumage of the drake.

A lovely sage green patch at the back of the head, and a pinkish flush to the breast.

Initially in the morning the visibility had been a little hazy with the distant Needles slightly shrouded in a mist, but as the morning moved on, and the sun came out this hazy conditions lifted and they became clearer, this is an intentional black and white picture.

Gannets continued to move around the bay, and a Swift headed in off the sea amongst the Swallows, but it remained slow.  Reports of 13 Pomarine Skua heading east from Portland had kept us interested, but that report had come at 8.30 am, it was now approaching 10.30am and we were discussing what to do, move on, or stick it out further.  Frustratingly we decided to move on.  After parking at Keyhaven we walked to the harbour.  I checked Bird Guides to find that there was a report of four Pomarine Skuas heading into the Narrows and 10.50, twenty minutes after we had left.  The air was blue!  Apparently there was a report of the 13 passing St Catherine's Point on the Isle of Wight, so these were additional birds.

Undeterred we decided to make up for the loss by photographing a Whitethroat in the Gorse and bushes just off the sea wall at Keyhaven harbour.

Showing the dexterity of a Bearded Tit.

Leaving the Whitethroat we headed off in search of further compensation.  A male Chaffinch posed nicely at the top of the bushes alongside the footpath.

Then a Raven was picked up just over Keyhaven Lagoon, and it flew in front of us, and settled on the salt marsh.

This was much to the annoyance of the a lapwing that considered the area his territory, and a large Raven was definitely a threat whether or not the Lapwing had a mate nearby.  The Lapwing started to mob the Raven, that gave as good as it could to the dive bombing Lapwing.

Whether or not they actually clashed was hard to see but both birds came very close.

A little further on we were informed by a couple that they had seen a Cuckoo on the edge of Keyhaven Lagoon.  As we approached the area where it had been seen I saw a Cuckoo at the back of the marsh flying across being pursued by what I think was a Linnet.  It dropped out of view.  We stood and waited and were rewarded when it re-appeared and flew alongside the Gorse.

Unsure of where to settle it flew around, and then headed for the footpath where it settled on a Bramble bush quite next to the path.

It didn't stay long though, and this time headed out across the water, before heading back towards the path, this time on the other side of us.

It eventually landed on the post of the fence that runs just in the water.

From there it disappeared into the gorse, and we waited for it to re-appear.  As we did so we were treated to a pair of Little Terns fishing in the lagoon quite close to the footpath.

Many attempts without much success meant they came very close.

The footpath was quite busy, and finally a group of people flushed the Cuckoo out once again, and it flew off across the lagoon, this time away into the gorse on the far side.  The buckthorn bushes were full of the silk nests of moths, and many caterpillars could be seen emerging, ample food for a newly arrived Cuckoo.

A pair of Pintail were present on the lagoon, although the birds seemed not to be feeding together.  The male made its way to back of the water, and stood on the island at the back of the lagoon.  These birds were unusual at this time of year, when they would be expected to have moved on to their breeding locations.

We moved on to Fishtail, where a Lapwing was showing all it aerobatic skills, displaying over the island in the middle of the lagoon.  Twisting and turning as it fell to the ground before pulling up and repeating.  At times the Lapwing turning through 360 degrees.

From Fishtail we walked on but not at any great pace.  We stopped at the bend where there were several Reed Warblers singing.  They are difficult to see, but one bird was just visible as the reeds moved in the wind, patience and a lot of frames managed to get some clear shots.

We spent some time here looking for a Small Copper Butterfly that seemed to have vanished after being seen briefly.  As we stood listening I could hear the pings of Bearded Tits, but we never saw them, maybe they were being mimicked by the Reed Warbler.

After meeting a gentleman searching for Wall Browns we decided to search the bank alongside the lagoon, and we walked slowly around the edge of the water.  Another drake Pintail was upending close to the bank.

At the back of the lagoon an immature Marsh Harrier was drifting over the gorse and reeds upsetting the ducks and Lapwings.

From close in there was a Reed Bunting singing, it is not the most complicated song, but does travel across the reeds.  We found it about half way back on the marsh.

A rather tolerant Little Egret was feeding very close to us allowing some close views.

Up on the footpath once again there were little Terns feeding as the tide was falling, again quite close in they showed very well.

Another duck that should have left by now is the Wigeon, and one drake was present.  It looks as if this one is exercising to eventually move on.

 A little further on we finally located the Small Copper sitting in the grass.

Passing Fishtail once again we heard a familiar call from last weekend above us and a pair of Avocets flew in and landed at the back of the lagoon.

From Fishtail we walked on towards Keyhaven Lagoon and once again Common Terns were fishing, this time close to the fence where the water is shallower and much stiller.  This tern though got more than it bargained for as it dived for a fish.  It caught the fish but in the process got a nice blanket weed scarf.

There is something really elegant about a Common Tern in spring, the clean white plumage the contrasting deep red legs and the lovely tail streamer feathers.

The only shame here was that the sky background was not a deep blue.

As with all birds that hunt by hovering the tactic is to gradually drop while remaining focused on the prey below.

When not fishing the pair would sit on a post in the middle of the Lagoon.  This like the bench at Minsmere was deemed "theirs", and anything that came too close, including us, was chased off.  here the bird on the left was chattering away, while the other, which has a ring, basically ignored it by preening.  Eventually the chatter became just too much and the bird on the right flew off.

 We headed onward, but were brought to a stop by the gentleman we had met earlier.  He was lying on the sea side of the bank and waving at us.  We dropped down the side of the bank and he indicated to a clump of thrift where he was holding a stem, and on the flower was a Green Hairstreak.  he gently released the stem, and allowed us the chance to photograph it.

It is unusual to see them settled on nectaring on Thrift.  A couple passing by stopped to ask what we were looking at, and we pointed out the butterfly.  They asked if it was rare.  The truth is not that rare, but always a challenge to find.

here you see some damage on the underside of the upper wing which allows the chance to see the colour of the upper wing which is seldom seen because the butterfly immediately closes its wings on settling.

The bank here was south facing, and with the Thrift now coming into flower it was ideal for butterflies, unfortunately there was no sign of any Wall Browns, but there were plenty more Small Coppers.

One or too were a lovely rich coppery red on the upper side.

As well as the Thrift the path was a good place to warm up.  Here you can see the row of little blue spots on the hind wings, these belong to the aberrant form of the female Small Copper which have a row of blue spots inside the orange border, and are known as the form caeruleopunctata

The Thrift provided the perfect perches, and allowed for some lovely backgrounds.

here with another not too far away.

While here it sits amongst the pink of the Thrift flowers, again showing the pale blue spots of the female aberrant form.

The cloud was building up, and the sunny spells becoming far and few between, however when you consider the temperature when we arrived early this morning it was now quite warm.  We picked the cars up and decided to chance a parking space along Lower Pennington Lane.  We were successful and decided to walk along the cycle towards Keyhaven.  Almost immediately we found another butterfly, this time a Red Admiral.

Whitethroats were singing form the tops of trees and bushes and of course the gorse, but as you got close they would either burst up into the air and land a distance away, or just slip back into the cover.  This Greenfinch was too occupied with its song to worry about us and allowed a close approach.

In the ditch alongside the path there were Reed Warblers singing and every so often if you stood still you could catch a glimpse as they moved through the stems.

As I stood waiting for the Reed Warbler a largish fly appeared, it was a Scorpion Fly.

Scorpion fly is an insect which belongs to order Mecoptera. Insects in this order are called scorpion fly because they look like a fly that have scorpion stingers attached to their abdomen.   Scorpion fly do not pose any harm to human beings. The stinger attached to its abdomen is not really a stinger, It’s actually a sex organ used for mating or copulation, but can be curled up in the manner of a real Scorpion.

As I watched the fly and waited for the Reed Warbler above us a Whitethroat burst into song, they posed very nicely at the top of the Hawthorn tree.

A little further on another appeared, again singing, this time high on the tree so it added to challenge of the white sky behind it.

A little further on we heard yet another Cuckoo, and then watched as two flew past us.  We could hear then calling from the marsh behind Keyhaven Lagoon, but were never able to see them again.

With time moving on we decided to call it a day, and made the way back to the car park.  On any normal day we would have been very pleased with what we had found and seen, but the fact for the sake of 20 minutes we had missed what we had hoped to see nagged at us, but really should not be the reason to take any shine off the day, looking back over the photographs we have had some wonderful encounters today and should just  enjoy that.

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