1st January was the day to start the year list off, so after (rather madly) turning down an offer to see the little bustard and a Blyth’s pipit in Yorkshire, I headed to my patch. I might regret this, but there was one species I really hoped to catch up with at Titchfield Haven and staying local meant I could also do more uni work.
I was in luck. I headed to the South Scrape first and my target species was there – golden plover. For some reason I’ve never been at Titchfield Haven on the ‘right’ days before so have missed them in the past. At first I counted 6, but the numbers steadily increased after a marsh harrier flew by.
Other waders in the South Scrape included oystercatchers, lapwing and snipe. I reckon there were at least 200 lapwing, and the same for oystercatchers though I fear I’ve underestimated! The sound of several hundred roosting lapwing is definitely one I associate with winter.
In parts of the reserve I visited today, I noticed the wildfowl were distinctly lacking in numbers. In the South Scrape teal, gadwall and shelduck were feeding in the water, and on the meadow Canada geese and wigeon were grazing, while shoveler drifted along the river Meon. Where were the tufted ducks, pochard and pintail? The regular feral barnacle geese were missing too, nor did I catch up with the resident fulvous whistling duck. I can only assume they were further up the valley, where the flooded fields are, or perhaps a different site completely.
Asides from the geese and wigeon, there wasn’t much else in the meadow. In the foreground, a group of curlew and moorhen were grazing and in the distance by the Frying Pan were roosting gulls and cormorants. I checked the gulls and noted that the roost was made up of herring, common, black-headed and lesser black-backed gulls.
As I alluded to earlier, a marsh harrier put on a good display. It flew over the scrapes and meadow, flushing the waders as it went. While watching it we decided it was a female, so different to the adult male seen previously on other days. A kestrel and a buzzard were also about on the reserve.
After wandering around the reserve it was time to see what, if anything, was lurking on the beach at Hill Head. Earlier I had spotted 2 great crested grebes drifting slowly towards Lee-on-the-Solent. Now the tide was out so I went to look for more waders and gulls.
A decent sized flock of black-headed gulls were sat on the beach with a few common gulls mixed in. Well, they were sat there until the dogs came along. Being the holidays, the beach was particularly busy with dog walkers and families, and the Solent itself was full of wind surfers. The great black-backed gulls were less bothered by all the disturbance.
Still, the small waders – turnstone, ringed plover, sanderling and dunlin – were scurrying along the beach trying to feed while avoiding the people and dogs, with some success. The oystercatchers moved on to the beach too in order to feed.
By lunch time I had seen 39 species and retreated into the café to warm up. What could have been a day twitching turned into a relaxing day on my patch! And you never know, a little bustard, or something just as rare, could turn up here this year…. maybe…