A walk on the wilder side of Southampton part 1

Sometimes the common birds can make you just as happy as any rare or unusual species. It can be nice to have a wander around the local area and spend time appreciating the local birds. I guess that’s why I and many others enjoy patch birding – regularly visiting an area of land, be it a reserve, park or anything you like, and just seeing what’s there. I’ve always found it interesting to note the changes over time and through the seasons.

As I’m sure many of you have worked out by now, Titchfield Haven is what I think of as my beloved patch. It’s a lovely reserve, and I do miss it when I cannot get there for several weeks. This is the case at the moment. A mixture of exams, uni work and busy weekends mean finding time to visit the reserve can be difficult – it’s no wonder I’m yet to find anything (rare) there! Good job there’s plenty of others on the lookout.

To make up for it, it’s nice to spend some time exploring Southampton. Despite the fact that it’s a busy city, and at times a rather polluted city it has to be said, there are some lovely areas which are great for wildlife.

Riverside Park is one such place. I’ve decided I rather like it, though I’ve only visited twice. As the name suggests, you can follow the river Itchen along as it heads up towards Winchester (or Southampton Water). There have been some unusual birds recently – a long-tailed duck towards the end of 2014 (which I was foolish enough to miss) and a kittiwake in February last year.

Kittiwake, 19th February 2014.

Kittiwake, 19th February 2014.

I decided to return last week, as a much needed break from revision. I was hoping to see some common sandpipers but hadn’t checked the tide times. With the tide being in, there wasn’t much hope of that but I carried on regardless. I did see one wader – a redshank, so not all was lost. I also had a year tick in the form of 2 little grebes.

While the redshank and little grebes were distant, and by the far bank of the river, the pied wagtails and black-headed gulls were showing extremely well. In terms of the gulls, I suspect the food helped. As they flew low over the waters edge to catch the food (bread I assume) that was being thrown at the mallards and mute swans, you could almost reach out and touch them.

Heading back to the bus stop, I took one last moment to admire the pied wagtails as they hopped around the river bank and chased each other.

One of 3 or so pied wagtails. Not at all bothered by the dogs or people!

One of 3 or so pied wagtails. Not at all bothered by the dogs or people!

I then noticed a cormorant swimming around in the river so stopped again. It had been sat on a post earlier, resting but had returned to the water. Just time for one last picture, I thought… the cormorant had other ideas!

I'm sure they plan their dive to coincide with you lifting up a camera, ready to take a shot...

And so it dived. I’m sure they plan their dive to coincide with you lifting up a camera, ready to take a shot…

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