After dipping the long-billed dowitcher in April 2014, I was delighted when one reappeared at Keyhaven Marshes, so went down with Dave Stevenson and Kev and Kim Ilsley on 3rd. At first the bird was sleeping but ended up providing us with good prolonged views once it awoke. A Great start to the month. The morning continued with a trek along the Solent Way to Normandy Marsh for spotted redshank – 4 in fact – which makes up for only ever seeing one ‘in the hand’ previously. Other highlights included 2 eider, a red-breasted merganser, numerous greenshank and 2 little stints. Finally, we stopped off at Cadnam Green to admire little fleabane and pennyroyal (rare plant species).
Two unsuccessful twitches followed, with the red-throated pipit disappearing before Dave Wallace & I arrived, resulting in us heading over to Hayling Island for a red-backed shrike on 4th. The following Sunday (11th), Olly Frampton and I headed over to Burpham in search of a pallid harrier. While the bird in question wasn’t seen, it was a pleasant morning with 6 red kites, many buzzards, a hen harrier, kestrel, sparrowhawk, peregrine and more grey and red-legged partridges than I’d ever seen before!
4th-7th down at Hill Head proved to be rather quiet, with very few birds seen, though by 8th it seemed as if thing were looking up. A wheatear was hopping around the beach – a sign that birds might be moving. 10th was again pleasant with more passage. The passage was mostly made up of finch flocks heading east, but also a number of swallows and skylarks and meadow pipits. 4 siskin briefly landed in trees on the reserve, which made a welcomed change. Other highlights included a single wigeon, green sandpiper and greenshank on the scrapes on 10th. By 12th, brent geese numbers had risen to at least 400 individuals. Other highlights that day included 2 curlew and 5 sanderling on the beach.
While the east coast, Shetland and the Scillies etc have been enjoying more than their fair share of rarer species, Hill Head and Titchfield Haven have continued to be quiet. That said I did see my first redwing of the year (over the garden, off patch alas) and my first mistle thrush of the year (on patch) on 17th. Other highlights on 17th included 6 flyover golden plover, 9 wigeon and 350+ brent geese. It was similar on 18th, but a pheasant on the beach was rather unusual, while an avocet on south scrape was the highlight of a brief trip on 19th.
It seemed as if much of this month has involved being in the wrong place at the wrong time – missing 2 great white egrets, a Dartford warbler, hen harrier, short-eared owl and spotted redshank on patch (among other birds) seemed to confirm this, so my only patch highlight of late was the brent geese numbers reaching around 600 individuals on 19th. Sadly it seems they’ve had a poor breeding season this year as very few 1st winter birds have been seen.
A brief trip to Titchfield Haven on the morning of 24th yielded very little, with the highlights being a single green sandpiper and good views of a marsh harrier. It seems Dan Houghton had more success along the canal path with a pintail on Posbrook Floods, 4 lesser redpoll 2 siskins and 5 redwing. Alan Butler, Dan and I then planned to spend the afternoon in the meadow hide at Titchfield Haven. Our visit was cut short by a phone call from Mark Palmer regarding a Siberian stonechat at Hook, so off we went – and a very nice bird it was too!
Sunday (25th) was one of those rare ‘right time, right place’ days. Dan, Alan and I had set off from Bridge Street and seen very little along the canal path. Other than an immature gannet on the sea and a single flyover lesser redpoll, there seemed to be very little at Hill Head too. That was when a man approached us saying he thought he’s seen a great grey shrike on the top of one of the bushes on the reserve but had to go, so we went to have a look. Trying to locate a possible great grey shrike from the road when most bushes and trees are rather distant seemed impossible until Al remarked “I’ve got it!”. And sure enough, there it was – sat on a tree close to the Meonshore hide; far closer than we ever imagined it would be.
A brief early morning trip down to Hill Head on 26th yielded a single grey plover – strangely my first for patch. I’ve seen them reported now and again so was rather pleased to finally connect with one. Also of note was an immature gannet flying around the Solent. The other highlight of the day was a white-fronted goose at Farlington Marshes – the first one I’d seen in Hampshire.
The colder nights mean the moth trap has been catching much less, but still interesting for me. While there have been less than 21 moths over 5 sessions, I had my first 3 feathered ranuculus, a pine carpet and garden carpet for the garden, among others.