Tuesday 14 December
Shopping completed and car refuelled so arrived at Titchfield Haven, Hill Head on Southampton Water by around 10.15. Calm with broken cloud and even a hint that the masked Sun might actually brighten the day and hold off the expected rain. On the other hand, it was full tide and just about to turn so those birds about were taking a well-earned rest. A large flock of Black-headed Gulls on the bank next to the sailing club and below them, on the beach, about a score of tightly packed Sanderling. But there is always one individual that wants to explore the water's edge where it was joined by a Turnstone. Slightly nearer to me, a single Little Egret whilst the Meon harbour, now awash with water, held a good-sized flock of Mallards.
|Resting at hightide, Black-headed Gulls Larus ridibundus
Checking the Solent to see what might be out on the open water whilst contemplating what to do next, After the few Black-headed Gulls I found a half-dozen Great Black-backed Gulls acting more like drifting Common Scoters and there, right in front of them, a single male Eider Duck. Following this little group I eventually managed to find both a second male and a single female Eider along with a Great Crested Grebe.
|The distant Eider Ducks Somateria mollissima, two males and a female
Returning the car I was surprised to see a pair of Mute Swans casually walking long the road, keeping to their own, correct, side of the road as they approached me. Was this some sort of Muhammed and the mountain incident or an avian interpretation of the Hamilton's last lap of Sunday's race? But on this occasion I think he must already have been overtaken assuming the Meon harbour was the finishing line!
|Mute Swan Cygnus olor
With the likelihood that the rain would not come in the next hour or so I took the opportunity to purchase my entrance fee to Titchfield Haven reserve and, having parked the car, started the walk up the eastern side of the reserve to check out the three hides. The small pool on the approach viewed from the entrance off the main road produced a number of Lapwing, Cormorant and more Mallard. The Cottage Hide was very quiet with just a Robin on the feeders nut there was a pair of Gadwall on the distant water.
|Male Gadwall Anus strepera
Taking the boardwalk and arriving at the Suffern Hide I was greeted by a pair of Blackbirds and a Great Tit and, once inside, more Mallards and Gadwall plus a lone Little Grebe. All relatively quiet until the Meadow Hide where I found most of the birds. Away to my left a large number of feeding Oystercatchers, to their right a very large flock of Feral Pigeons and on the water and grass away from me a large number of Canada Geese and Black-headed Gulls. A couple of Magpie were feeding on the grass to my left and a Heron flew across to alight on my right. About the same time a handsome male Marsh Harrier drifted past via the back of the hide. Also present were a number of Carrion Crows and a flock of Starling.
|Feeding Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus
Once at the Knights Bank Hide and closer to the above birds seen from the previous hide I was also able to add a score or more Wigeon and a Curlew was happily feeding on the grass in front of me.
|Curlew Numenius arquata
Time to retrace my steps back to the Visitors Centre and walk the road to the entrance to the western hides. However, on reaching the road the Meon harbour had now almost drained itself dry and so exposing a visiting Moorhen and, from the road above the beach I could see that the Brent Geese had appeared along with very many Oystercatchers but no longer any sight of the Eider Duck.
I had no sooner entered the Meon Shore Hide when all were quick to draw my attention to the resting male Bearded Tit on the reeds in front of the hide to the the right. No time for a camera but in time to see the bird take flight and move to the western reeds, never to be seen again. But a couple of photographers already in the hide had managed to get some some really great shots of the Bearded Tit. This was certainly the best hide on this side of the river with a great selection of ducks including very many Gadwall, Mallard, Teal and Shelduck. On the islands a small number of resting Shoveler and very many Lapwing. Just the single Black-tailed Godwit but somewhere in the region of at least sixty Snipe. Meanwhile, in the very far distance to the left of the distant Spurgin Hide a Buzzard was resting on a fence pole.
|Male Teal Anas crecca and (below) Teal resting with Snipe Gallinago gallinago
|Teal Anas crecca resting with Snipe Gallinago gallinago and above male Teal A. crecca
Moving on northwards I had a brief sighting of a male Sparrowhawk that flew into a thick bush to my right and then straight n to the distant Spurgin Hide. The latter was the hide that had produced the recent sightings of a Jack Snipe. Not today, though and, indeed, the bird has not been seen/recorded since last Saturday. Back then to the Pumfrett Hide to get a better view of the bird s at the back of the South Scrape, which was where I was able to find a couple of Pintail in addition to the many Teal and a handful of Moorhen - plus more Snipe.
|Snipe Gallinago gallinago and yet more below
A return visit to the Meon Shore Hide added nothing new so I made my way back to the main rod and the walk back to where I had parked my car on top of the hill above the sailing club. However, checking the bay at the end of the River Meon to my left I found a couple of Coot and taking the scope to check the Solent I noticed not only the many Black-headed along with a few Herring Gulls plus now many Brent Geese, but also, eventually, found a couple of distant Redshank feeding at the water's edge. Only a limited stay but rewarded with 41 species.
|View looking north from Meon Shore Hide
Canada Goose, Brent Goose, Mute Swan, Shelduck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pintail, Eider Duck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Sanderling, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Wood Pigeon, Robin, Blackbird, Bearded Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Starling.
|Snipe Gallinago gallinago
|One of scores of Lapwing Vanellus vanellus