Sunday, 10 September 2017

26th August - Titchfield Haven and Old Winchester Hill, Hampshire

I had been back from Costa Rica for three days, and was very much still on another time zone.  But that didn't seem to stop me getting up relatively early, and meeting Ian on the sea wall at Hill Head.  The tide was out, and the sun was rising on what was promised to be a lovely day, which is not something you expect on a Bank Holiday Weekend.

As is usually the case at this time of day during the summer there was a constant stream of Common Terns heading from the Meon out into the Solent and back.  Sometimes they would fish close in.

And sometimes they would be successful in catching a fish.

At this time of the morning, the light is excellent, and with the shallow water there are some wonderful reflections stretching across the mud.

As well as the terns, Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls were moving.

With the reserve not opening until 9.30am, we walked along the Canal Path, in the hope of finding some migrants moving through.  After walking through jungle with birds of all colours appearing and butterflies floating past it was difficult to change to UK mode.  but after a short while it was business as usual.  Reed Warblers were moving through the reeds, keeping well out of view, and Chiffchaffs could be heard calling.  A scrawny looking juvenile Reed Bunting was taking in the sunshine in a bush.

Activity in the trees made us pause.  There were Long-tailed Tits and Goldcrests, plus Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers that were a little more shy.  One larger warbler appeared and showed very well, one of the best views I have had of a Garden Warbler.

We were scanning the fields for any sign of Whinchat, but without any success.  As we approached the turn for Posbrook, Ian picked up a pair of birds on fence posts.  As we got a little closer we could see that they were a pair of Redstarts.  Unfortunately as we got close enough to photograph, they flew off never to be seen again.  To compensate we were left with two Spotted Flycatchers.

On our way back there were four Yellow Wagtails in the field with cattle.  They had not been there when we walked down earlier.

One of the reasons the Redstarts disappeared could be down to the presence of a Kestrel that was moving around the area.

A Chiffchaff appeared and stayed long enough for us to photograph, and confirm the identification.

The first butterfly of the day was a Speckled Wood.

Quickly followed by a Green-veined White.

Dragonflies were also about, but we could only find Common Darters.

We entered the reserve and explored the east side, checking the meadows for any sign of chats.  It was very quiet, hardly anything about.

From the east side we crossed to the west, we were looking for the reported Wood Sandpiper, but first decided to check the south scrape from the Meon Shore Hide.  Again quiet, there were plenty of Black-tailed Godwits, but nothing to make you feel the need to stay put.

As well as Ian and I there was one person in the hide, and suddenly he started to photograph something, but didn't say a word.  My curiosity got the better of me and I moved to get a look and found that he was photographing a Water Rail.  Just as I raised the camera the rail started to dart across the mud.  I managed to get one photo before it was gone, but Ian didn't get to see it.  Why he decided to keep it quiet I don't know, but I made my feelings known.

We left the hide and headed on to the Spurgin Hide.  The Wood Sandpiper had been on the south scrape this morning, but had flown off and had probably returned to its normal place in front of this hide.

On entering the hide there was nothing about, but watching the open mud we could see a Green Sandpiper, and eventually had quick glimpses of the Wood Sandpiper.

We sat it out, and waited to see if it would give abetter show, and it did coming from behind the small islands into the open water.  Although still far away we did get better views.

Very cropped records but you can see it is a Wood Sandpiper.

Then it decided to preen alongside a juvenile Little Ringed Plover.

Then just sat it out on one leg!

Leaving the Sandpiper, we decided to head back to the cars for lunch, and then to decide our next stop.  We did though, pause at Darter's Dip to see if there were anymore interesting dragonflies.  It was still only Common Darters, but there was a large shoal of Roach at the surface of the water.

OPver lunch we decided to go on the hunt for butterflies once more.  This would definitely be the final serious foray, I still needed Adonis Blue, and Ian wanted Silver-spotted Skipper and Chalkhill Blue.  The closest place would be Old Winchester Hill, so we set off up the A32.

It was a glorious day, blue skies, and not to hot.  We walked alongthe top of the ill towards the Hill Fort.  The views south were spectacular.

There were plenty of butterflies about, good numbers of Small Heath.

Small Whites.

A male Brimstone.

And of course the Meadow Brown.

At the Hill Fort we walked along the south slope, where there were several Common Blues.

From there we headed down the field, through at first long grass, but as we reached the sheltered spots towards the bottom the grass became much shorter, cropped to the ground in places.  It was here we began to catch up with the target species.

A female Adonis Blue

And what is probably a very faded Chalkhill Blue.

There was plenty of scabious about, and this was a favourite of the Silver-spotted Skippers.

Unlike the skippers I had seen earlier in the month at Broughton, these were happy to sit still on the flower heads.

Allowing a very close approach.

 A female Adonis had been seen earlier, but what I wanted was a male.  This is the second brood of the year, and I had missed them for some reason late in may and early June.  A flash of blue passed me and I chased it down and waited for it to settle.  At first it would not open its wings, but slowly it did so.

The grass was also full of small Grasshoppers, nothing like the giant Red-winged Grasshopper we had seen in Costa Rica.  This is the boringly named Common Green Grasshopper

There were plenty of Chalkhill Blues, this pair mating.

As we got closer they flew off still joined and then settled a little further away.

As well as good numbers of Chalkhill Blues, there were plenty of Silver-spotted Skippers.  They too were engaged in copulation, 

While other females egg laying amongst the grass.

Gradually making her way up the grass stems

Then coming up out of the grass to fly off.

Another Adonis male sat with wings tightly shut, but with a little patience it slowly turned and opened them for us, not all the way but enough to see the electric blue.

We walked back up from the bottom of the hill, and then onto the slope of the fort.  Here a group of Autumn Gentian was pointed out.

Found on dry, calcareous grasslands and sand dunes, Autumn Gentian is a late-flowering biennial - the leaves grow in the first year, and the flowering stem appears in the second. It can sometimes be found growing in large groups, its spikes of purple blooms appearing from July to October.

Looking out across the fields, the combine harvesters were busy while the weather was good.

With the dust and uniformity of the ground, I felt this was better in black and white.

We walked around the fort wall, and came across some other butterflies, a Red Admiral

And what looked like a newly emerged Small Tortoiseshell.

 The hope was for a Clouded Yellow but we couldn't find any, having to be satisfied with a fly past from a Painted Lady.

Looking across to the trees that lined the field, there were at least six different Spotted Flycatchers, maybe more, flying around the trees and settling back on the prominent perches that were available.

Also taking advantage of the insects around the trees was a large flock of House Martins, while on the grass we were disturbing Green Woodpeckers that were feeding on the ants.  As one woodpecker flew up we had the bizarre sight of a large flock of House Martins chasing the woodpecker.  I can only assume they saw it as a threat like a raptor.  They chased it for a good distance before they realised it was no longer a threat.

We made our way back to the cars, with more Small and Large Whites plus of course Meadow Browns in the grass and bushes alongside the footpath.  

It was an interesting day, three bird year ticks,a nd a butterfly tyear tick, some glorious weather and excellent company.

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