A summary of the birding (& insects) over the August bank holiday and September 2015. As always, thanks to Dan for providing many of the photos.
The Bank Holiday weekend began rather quiet on 29th Aug with 3 whinchat along the canal path with Dan Houghton and Alan Butler. 30th & 31st Aug were an improvement with highlights including 2 tree pipits, 2 redstart, 6 spotted flycatchers (also 3 on 31st), a whinchat, 120 goldfinches and up to 25 yellow wagtails.
The afternoon was pleasant too, an osprey was followed by fantastic prolonged views of a juvenile marsh harrier enjoying an afternoon snack on North Scrape. The beach, however, was less than impressive with the only highlights being an arctic tern picked out by Dan and the 3cy yellow-legged gull.
September began with a visit to the Warsash wryneck with Dan after work. It’s safe to say that we had good prolonged views despite the bird being flushed several times by passing walkers. I can’t think of many better ways to spend an evening!
The 2nd came with lifer for me – a cattle egret found by Graham Barrett. True to form it was wandering around the cattle flock by the Frying Pan and stayed for a while, giving decent views on 3rd-5th as well. During our relatively short time at the Haven on 5th, we also had a flock of siskin and good views of a kingfisher and bearded tits. The shortened trip was due to the news of a tawny pipit at Gunner Point, Hayling Island – a lifer for myself and Alan, so paying it a visit was a must.
The south end of the canal path was explored on 6th, with our first meadow pipits of the autumn, a steady but small stream of siskins overhead and 3 redstarts (including a stunning male). Botley Wood that afternoon was interesting and rather pleasant, with plenty to see including Volucella inanis, Helophilus pendulus (hoverflies), tortoise shield bug (Eurygaster testudinaria) and Corizus hyoscyami (a rhopalid bug). An interesting looking Anomaloninae species also caught our eye on 9th at Titchfield Haven.
A good mix of waders started the week on 7th, with a greenshank on the river, common sandpiper, sanderling, 42 turnstones, 9 dunlin and 8 ringed plovers on the beach at dawn. That evening, 100 or so yellow wagtails came into roost and a spoonbill appeared from the scrapes, circled around and then disappeared.
A roseate tern roosting with 60 common terns was picked out by Dan on 8th before work – just what we needed after missing the previous one. The roseate tern was, yep you’ve guessed it, my 3rd lifer of the week!
We returned on 9th and joined Ashley Howe for a sea watch. Unlike the previous days, there were definitely things moving, including 3 brent geese, 24 dunlin, and a steady stream of hirundines travelling east. There were a few bits about on the reserve too with 3 ruff, a spoonbill that dropped in for a short while, and a greenshank being the highlights. To round the day’s birding off, the roseate tern was again present alongside little, sandwich and common terns.
Visible migration was the theme on 10th and 11th with Dan, with streams of swallows and sand martins, a few flocks of siskins (30+) and also yellow wagtails all heading east. Tree and meadow pipits were also about, most were only heard calling and not seen. Added to that we had a curlew and good views of a spoonbill on 10th, and 6 brent geese on 11th. The first 4 wigeon of the autumn were back on the scrapes, alongside 360+ teal, during a midmorning catch up with Pete Potts and Dan Hoare.
There was little change on 12th asides from a flock of 10 brent geese flying east and 7 pintail flying south over the reserve, during a visit with Tony Heath and Ivor McPhearson. The spoonbill returned on 13th and 14th together with a second. Added to this were 7 brent geese on the shore, a single redstart, numerous siskin and meadow pipits overhead and 2 wigeon with 20+ teal on Posbrook Floods. It’s nice to see the flood return!
A trip down to Siddlesham Ferry Pools on 15th made up for the morning’s empty sea. I must admit I only spent a short time down there, but it was a fantastic short spell with both grey phalarope and pectoral sandpiper a matter of metres in front of me! That evening back at Hill Head, 8 gannets and 4 common scoter were out in the Solent, approximately 150 yellow wagtails came to roost and the 3cy yellow-legged gull was out on the beach.
More swallows, sand martins and yellow wagtails trickling east on 16th-18th, but the reserve was quieter on 16th with highlights of 8 dunlin (rising to 10 on 18th), a greenshank, common sandpiper (at least 5 on 18th) and 2 ruff on the scrapes with Dave Wallace, followed by 5 sanderling on the beach.
It started off rather foggy at Hill Head on 19th, but that gradually cleared. Swallows and house martins were streaming west overhead in their hundreds, and along the south end of the canal path 6 whinchats and 4 redstarts were spotted with Dan, Alan and Ed Bennett.
The next week (20th-25th) was spent in Swanage, Dorset, on a field course with the uni. The aim of the week was to carry out group fieldwork so most of my time was spent in Lytchett’s Fields counting birds. Highlights included a little stint and a wood sandpiper. The rest of my time was spent admiring the moths attracted to the security lights of the accommodation. Over the course of the trip I had my first angle shades, feathered ranunculus, light emerald and much more.
A return to patch on 26th and 27th with Dan and Alan yielded a few bits and bobs including my first razorbill and red-throated diver for Hampshire which was rather pleasing. Other highlights over the weekend included a little tern, 2 common scoter, 7 or more stonechats along the canal path and an assortment of waders on the beach and scrapes.
The remainder of the month was spent watching the early morning passage of passerines such as swallows, siskin and yellow wagtails. With 60 brent geese and 20 or more wigeon at Hill Head on 28th, and sunrise after 7am, it really does feel like autumn is here.