Sunday 18 December 2022

Solent shore from Hill Head northwards

Saturday 17 December

Another bitterly cold start to the day as I met up with our leader, David Wallace, and seven other members of HOS (Hampshire Ornothological Society) for our walk along the shore and just inland from Hill Head to Brownwich Pond and beach before returning along the relatively newly-created coastal path.  Perfect birding weather as clear skies and a rapidly thawing ground with corresponding rise in temperature and with the water well out  a chance to find waders and even more on the return journey when such birds had been pushed further in towards the shore. 

Mainly male Eider Ducks Somateria mollissima

Moving from the cliff top down to the shore path we immediately recorded Black-headed, Herring and Great Black-backed Gull, many Oystercatchers and a couple of Carrion Crows. To the right a dozen Gadwall were on the sea's edge and just off-shore two groups plus further individuals total 28 Eider Duck.  What a lovely sight and close to the shore for all to enjoy.  Moving on round to the harbour we added dozens of Mallard along with Little EgretCoot, Turnstone, Dunlin and Ringed Plover.

Turnstone Arenaria interpres

Time spent at the road bridge enable a wonderful, close view of a Kingfisher with a foraging Blue Tit above and in the reeds to the right a Water Rail.  Two resting Teal and on the open water Shoveler and Moorhen.  In the distance a Heron and a number of passing Woodpigeons along with a Cormorant.

Silhouette of the Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
Distant record shot of Water Rail Rallus aquaticus

Moving on round to the coastal path many more Oystercatchers and Carrion Crows and, on checking the lagoon once again from a different angle, a male Common Pochard.  A Wren was working the nearby bush and seen by most of the group.  By the time we reached the chalets to take the upper coastal path we had encountered the first Jackdaws and a Robin.  Then a couple of Dunnock before noting the small flock of Starling.  Strange to say, this small group of "shacks" seemed to attract the local Feral Pigeons but there was no sign of the recently seen eastern Lesser Whitethroat.  Meanwhile, on the beach, we had also recorded both Redshank and a Sanderling and were able to confirm that, despite the continuing freezing temperatures (currently around -5C), the local postman was still undertaking his early morning deliveries wearing shorts!

Once working alongside the open fields and hedged paths we soon found Blackbirds and more Dunnocks.  In the field very many Pied Wagtail and eventually Meadow Pipit was added to the morning's sightings. A distant female Marsh Harrier brought a little excitement and then the first Stock Doves of the morning.  Moving on towards the Brownwich Lane we stopped at the farm buildings to check the far fields and quickly added a small number of Lapwing.  A Song Thrush was resting on top of the far hedge and then joined by two more.  In front of as a handful of Skylark with one very close and in typical "hovering mode."  Whilst in the area we also found a cock Pheasant and Ian, using his scope, managed to finally locate the small number of Golden Plover that were moving about very low at the far end of the field.

"Dancing on ice" with Coots Fulica atra

Moving on the the nearby pond we stopped to check a large, bare tree, and identified the foraging small bird as a Goldcrest. Then on to the pond's viewing platform which revealed a number of Mallard and Coot searching for clear water in the ice.  Almost immediately they were joined by an adult Mute Swan and two well-grown and moulting cygnets.  Rather a surprise, according to David, to actually find a pair of Little Grebe and the ducks were joined by a couple of Shoveler and a Gadwall.  At the far end a solitary Moorhen.

Mute Swan Cygnus olor with drake Mallard Anas platyrhnchos

As we left the pond we noted the Fox in the field to the right and then took the narrow, now muddy, path down towards Brownwich beach.  Lots of stubble on the fields to our right and many foraging Pied Wagtails and Linnets

Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba

Not just ones and twos or even in dozens, but a large flock of Stock Doves flew over the field raising some interesting comments from the local specialists.  In the distance hundreds of Carrion Crows and Woodpigeons along with a smaller number of Jackdaw.  A Great Tit alighted on the the hedge in front of us and then, suddenly, there was a massed irruption of birds up in the air.  And we all know what that might suggest and good old Ian was first to spot the high Peregrine Falcon and, judging by the size, we presumed a female.

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus

Then we were at the shore and making our way back to Hill Head using the main Coastal Footpath as far as the chalets.  I managed to pick up the female Reed Bunting that made a brief stop, but long enough for most to observe, on the top of the hedge in front of us.  Reaching the chalets we then took the inside path to our left as far as possible and recorded the quintet of Shelduck that passes overhead.

Once back near the lagoon with the tide now almost fully in and the ice on he lagoon thawing, we noted  couple of Black-tailed Godwits and the flock or Gadwall were now well out onto the Solent.  A pair of Mute Swans had arrived in the harbour and I was fortunate to be looking in the right direction at the right time when a single Jay crossed the lagoon and disappeared into a thick bush within the Titchfield Haven reserve.  And the last bird of the day happened to be a solitary Greenfinch which passed overhead as we were watching the feeding Blue, and one Great, Tits feeding on the Centre's feeders.  A Lovely birding session in excellent company and knowledgeable leaders. Thank you all.

Gadwall Anas strepera

Birds seen:

Brent Goose, Mute Swan, Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Eider, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Peregrine Falcon, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Sanderling, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Stock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Kingfisher, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Goldcrest, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Linnet, Reed Bunting.

Common Gull Larus canus (left) with 4 Black-headed Gulls Larus ridibundus

Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula

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