Sunday, 5 July 2015

Did I find the Greater Yellowlegs? Take 2!

Common Tern Sterna hirundo
Sunday 5 July 

We set off back to Spain in the morning following our two weddings and an aged mother visit (all the way for Stamford in Lincolnshire to Plymouth then back up to Southampton) but I did finally manage to get one, last birding trip in whilst staying with my brother-in-law relatively close to Titchfield Haven reserve at Hill Head.   Special permission granted for no more than an hour before we had to leave for the eldest son's home near Newbury.

Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus
This time I was able to visit the Meon river harbour and "ponds" before ten in the morning so , whilst the tide had reached the shingle beach, the pools were full of lovely mud.  No time to be messing about, more a case of establishing whether or not the target bird was still present and, if so, where? From the start there were plenty of Black-headed Gulls about and a small number of Common Terns fishing in the water below me along with Mute Swans, Moorhen and Mallards.  Closer inspection revealed a couple of Oystercatchers along with both Grey Heron and Little Egret.

More Little Egrets Egretta garcetta present than Grey Herons
Speaking to a local birder who had been visiting the site for thirty years or more, he informed me that he saw the Greater Yellowlegs about a month ago and no longer went in search of the bird.  On the other hand, a few minutes before my arrival, he watched a pair of Bearded Tits skim over the reeds immediately in front of where we were standing.  Just my luck I thought and, almost at the same time, happened to look across the water to the opposite reeds when a small family of six Bearded Tits came up and out and along the top to our side of the water,  Great!  But was this to be the precursor of even better things to come?

The ever graceful Mute Swan Cygnus olor
Off into the reserve and informed that the bird was presently playing "hide and seek" in and out of the reeds at the first hide so on my merry way, with hope spring eternally from within.  on arrival I had Coot, Common Tern, Mute Swan and a trio of Little Egrets not to mention a dozen Black-tailed Godwits and a couple of Grey Herons.  We even had a single Mediterranean Gull on the river below us for a few minutes.  The distant mud flat to my right was proving challenging with a couple of Lapwing and the wandering juvenile Black-headed Gulls in their "ginger" plumage but what was this?  A smaller bird close to the edge making its way right and all (experienced local birders) in the hide were able to unanimously proclaim the re-emergence of our Greater Yellowlegs. Lots of distant photographs taken as the bird worked its way along the fringe of the reed bed and then back again abut some good views of the diagnostic yellow legs.

Distant record shot of the Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca
With a big smile on my face I made my way back to the exit, passing a Song Thrush in the process, in readiness to drive home.  My original contact as mentioned near the beginning was still checking out the roadside pool and conformed that he, too, had taken a short stroll up towards the pool's end and found the family of six Bearded Tits. (Speaking to the local reserve staff I was informed that might be as many as 60 individuals on site and breeding had been recorded for a number of years.) Even better, when checking the far side not only did I find a couple of extra Redshanks, including a one-legged specimen, but also a single Whimbrel making its way along the waterline.  Photographs taken, books consulted but I somehow think it would be asking too much that this was the Hudson's Whimbrel seen at Pangham harbour!  And then a very close, hovering Kestrel to complete the visit.

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus but sadly not, I think, a Hudsonian!
Nevertheless, a tremendous way to prepare for a family wedding.

The very close female Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus

Birds seen:
Mute Swan, Mallard, Little Egret, Heron, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Greater Yellowlegs, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Common Tern, Wood Pigeon, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Bearded Tit, Magpie, Common Starling.

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa

Juvenile Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundas with Redshank Tringa totanus behind
By way of a change, a Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

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