Sunday, 27 March 2016

A tale of two walks at Keyhaven

A belated post of our walks at Keyhaven/Pennington Marshes, our first walk was on Saturday, 19th March, a grey and unappealing day.  We started with Greenfinch, the explosive sound of a Cetti's Warbler and Goldfinch.  There were plenty of other songsters on our walk with the usual Chaffinch, Wren and Dunnock's.  During the walk we often saw a large skein of Brent Geese which seemed to be very restless.

Looking over the Balancing Pond were Teal, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler and Canada Geese.  On the old landfill site next to the pond were Oystercatchers and Curlew, often to be found here.  A flock of five Skylark and a little later 2 were singing, along with Meadow Pipits and Linnets. On the pool by camp site were a few Redshank, plus Shelduck, Coot and Mute Swan and of course more Canada Geese.   The wet fields of Lower Pennington held plenty of duck including Pintail, a flock of over 100 Golden Plover, Black-tailed Godwits nearly all in their lovely brick red summer plumage.  Then a Raven flew over our heads towards the shoreline.

Looking over the salt marsh at the wader roost there were good numbers of Grey Plover and Dunlin, a few Ringed Plover and Bar-tailed Godwits.  On Fishtail Lagoon more Black-tailed Godwits and Redshank.  Two Spoonbills were on the western edge of the lagoon and Nick got everyone on to a Water Pipit, though as I went to look in the scope it decided to fly on!  A flock of nine Spotted Redshanks flew in and later were seen flying around Keyhaven Lagoon calling before returning to Fishtail Lagoon.   We couldn't find the Long-tailed Duck but we could see Red-breasted Mergansers  at Iley Point.  Our last species of the day was Rock Pipit.
Rock Pipit, Keyhaven © Nick Hull

Three days later I was back at Keyhaven, 22nd March, this time with our Tuesday group and the weather could not be better, sunny, mild and very springlike.  As we gathered to start our walk a Marsh Harrier appeared  and was quartering the reed bed.  As on Saturday Cetti's Warblers called and one made a very brief appearance as we walked down the Ancient Highway.  Greenfinch and Chaffinch singing and a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers flew into one of the trees.  On the Balancing Pond were a few duck including Shoveler and Tufted, the usual Coot and Canada Geese.

Moving on we had several Meadow Pipits, some giving display flights and I counted five singing Skylark on the old landfill field.  A Chiffchaff gave a short burst of song, we counted 3 along here and on the other side of the track a pair of Stonechat, plus another female.  At the end of the highway a look over the pool added Gadwall, Shelduck, Teal and Wigeon to the list and a Buzzard over.  We found the Golden Plover were in much the same place as on Saturday but were disturbed by a female Marsh Harrier flying over putting them up into the air.  Such a wonderful sight as they whirled round putting on a lovely display for us.

Moving on to Fishtail Lagoon a Grey Heron stood stock still then lunge catching a small fish then flew away.  Looking through the waders I picked up several Spotted Redshanks, then I said I had a Snipe.  Then I paused thinking it didn't look right, that's because I soon realised it was the Long-billed Dowitcher.  Clive and Kate had good views before it disappeared behind some grassy looking mound and before I was able to make sure everyone else was looking in the right area.  We did find several Snipe and more Spotted Redshank and Clive found a single Ruff.  On the water we had a few Little Grebes, one calling with it's distinctive "whinnying" call.  We had a count of six Spoonbills this time and the superb Water Pipit with it's pinkish summer tinge showed well.

Grey Heron and Spoonbill © Lesley Waller
Looking across the salt marsh as we moved on to Keyhaven Lagoon, we had Black-tailed Godwits, Grey and Ringed Plover, Curlew, Dunlin and Redshank.   A smart drake Red-breasted Merganser was on the lagoon as well as Pintail, also another addition to the list with Greenshank.  Though not quite the last species to add as a pair of Dartford Warblers earned that honour.

On the 19th March when dull and dreary we had just 45 species, but on a bright sunny day on the 22nd we managed to see 58 species!

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