Monday, 12 December 2016

Bird Fest at Keyhaven

We haven't had a group out birding Keyhaven and Pennington for quite a while, so it was about time we returned to this excellent birding area.  We assembled at 10 o'clock and whilst we were doing our introduction and locking cars Liz and I saw two birds drop out of the air into the reedbed behind my car.  Scanning the reedbed we eventually located two Bearded Tits, the male only showed briefly but the female gave amazing views, an absolutely brilliant start to a walk.
female Bearded Tit - Keyhaven © Nick Hull
We walked the sea wall and quickly ticked off Redshank and Turnstone as they flew in to feed on the edge of the expanding tide line.  There was a constant movement of wildfowl flying out of their high tide roosts and on to the salt marsh to feed as the tide dropped, with many Teal, Wigeon, Mallard and Pintail being seen. On the marsh we found our first Rock Pipits and one or two Snipe and a small flight of Reed Bunting flew in and perched up for us to get to grips with telling males from females in their winter dress.
Male Reed Bunting- Keyhaven © Nick Hull
Looking over the Keyhaven lagoon we had Shelducks, Dark-bellied Brent, Teal, Mallard and Liz found a close Snipe in amongst the marsh grass.  Looking out over the outer marsh towards the Solent we could see a large flock of waders moving along the shoreline but they landed out of sight but there were others still roosting in the spartina and Grey Plover, Knot and Dunlin could easily be seen. In the water channels we found Red-breasted Mergansers and a single Greenshank.  A Curlew flew in and landed right in front of us giving us  great views and then we watched as it swam across a small creek.
Swimming Curlew - Keyhaven © Nick Hull
On the Fishtail lagoon we had more of the same wildfowl and I was asked to look at a duck at the back on the lagoon which turned out to be a female Wigeon in amongst a group of Teal.  While I was looking at this bird an obvious pipit flew through the scope, I quickly found it feeding along the back edge of the lagoon it was a Water Pipit which gave good scope views for everyone in the end.  
Drake Wigeon drying off after bathing © Nick Hull
Walking towards the Pennington jetty and looking out over the Solent we added more Red-breasted Mergansers and Great Crested Grebes.  Looking toward Lymington we had a number of waders on the shingle islands which were now exposed due to the dropping tide with Grey Plover, Knot, Dunlin plus Ringed Plover and Mediterranean Gull.  Moving on and looking over Pennington Marsh there were good numbers of mixed waterfowl spread over the marsh.  Jackie found a small flock of Golden Plover which were looking their best in the morning sun and she also pointed out a Ruff.  Returning via the ancient highway Sarah stopped and drew our attention to a Dartford Warbler in the hedge next to the path, in fact there were two but one was very visible hunting for insects in the gorse and showed exceptionally well.
Dartford warbler © Nick Hull
Beyond on the large pond by the landfill there was a large flock of Canada and Brent Geese and an assortment of gulls.  Continuing on we looked over the balancing pond where we added Gadwall though Joe had seen a pair distantly on Pennington marsh.  As we arrived back at the cars I picked up a Marsh Harrier quartering over the reedbeds.   Sitting on the seawall with our lunch watching the reedbed we realised that there was another harrier and then three were stirring up excitement in the waterfowl.  With Black-tailed Godwits, Lapwing and Teal all taking flight and they only settled when the harriers landed on the distant hedge but were soon off again when they took flight again.  It was a tremendous end to a super walk around an excellent birding area.

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