Thursday, 9 April 2015

Pennington and Keyhaven Marshes and Denny Wood - 6th April

Since getting back from Norway I have not been out birding and there were no summer migrants on my year list. Much of the Easter weekend was tied up with domestic duties and various social events not least Tobias's 2nd birthday. However, on Monday I had set aside the morning to spend some time at Pennington Marshes and the New Forest while Sarah went shopping with her mum. The alarm went off at 05:30 and by 06:30 I was at Pennington Marsh. There was a fog in the air as I drove through the New Forest to get to Pennington and within around 30 minutes of arriving at the marshes a fog bank appeared from the west and enveloped the coast in thick fog. I decided to head out with no camera and just my scope and bins but could only see for approximately 50m. I walked from the car park out past Butts Lagoon along the seawall to Pennington Lagoon. A Willow Warbler sang from scrub alongside the Old Tip and I could just about make out its pale legs at a range of 10m in the fog, a Ruff and a partial summer plumage Spotted Redshank were on Butts Lagoon and a second Spotted Redshank on Pennington Lagoon. The sun was starting to break through and the fog was visibly lifting so I decided to head back to the car for my camera. At Pennington Marshes I paused on the corner of Lower Pennington Lane and scanned the marshes, the Lapwing were in full display and the pipping of 'singing' Redshank was all around. There were a few Wigeon (30) and Teal (50) remaining and I scanned amongst them for Garganey but it was not to be. Back at the car I grabbed my camera and headed off in the sunshine. This time I walked out past Shoveler Pools, and as I left the car park a Sand Martin flew over, scanning Pennington Marshes there was a fine male Wheatear perched atop one of the venting pipes - thats more like it! At Butts Lagoon the sunshine was bright and the Ruff and Spotted Redshank were still present along with around 30 Teal and five Snipe. I waited for a while to see if the Spotted Redshank or Ruff would come closer but they were always a little distant for anything other than record shots. The Spot Shank was in partial summer plumage and it was not long before it would gain its full summer dress and be on its breeding grounds, it fed furiously in the shallows often submerging itself with just its back remaining visible.

Male Ruff just starting to gain its breeding plumage

Spotted Redshank, this bird has gained a great deal of its summer plumage with extensive black appearing on the underparts

Spotted Redshank showing its characteristic foraging behaviour

I walked west along the seawall past Butts Lagoon and stopped briefly to scan the Solent, there were eight Great Crested Grebe and good numbers of Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit and Grey Plover, most still in their winter plumage on the remaining mudflats. Approximately 30 Brent Goose were still present. In the sunshine the hordes began to appear, mad shouting dog walkers, cyclists, children and joggers and the place began to feel more like a theme park than a nature reserve. At Fishtail Lagoon there were three partial breeding plumage Black-tailed Godwit and more Teal, Wigeon and two more Ruff.

Dunlin, Knot and Grey Plover off Fishtail Lagoon

Partial breeding plumage Black-tailed Godwit

Numbers of birds on Keyhaven Lagoon were high with around 40 Shelduck, 40 Black-tailed Godwit, 25 Pintail, 40 Wigeon and 50 Teal, there were two further Ruff and a single Spotted Redshank. There was a definate air that these birds wouldn't be with us for much longer. Half a dozen Willow Warbler sang from the scrub bordering the lagoon and a single Swallow, my first of the year, zipped eastwards.

Ruff on pools to west of Keyhaven Lagoon

Ringed Plover

I then wandered along the Ancient Highway where a great deal of activity from the local breeding birds was evident with nest building Robin, Greenfinch and Blackbird. A few Chiffchaff were singing loudly but by now the numbers of people using the site was almost unbearable and so it was time to head for a short stop in Denny Wood before heading home. Although a quick scan through the 250 or so gathered Black-headed Gull on Efford Lagoon produced a bird bearing a white ring with the combination 23N4, I contacted Tim Ball who runs a colour ringing project in Berkshire, he returned the following information on the bird:

Black-headed Gull – White 23N4
EY83034 1 08/06/2014 Hosehill Lake LNR: 51°25'N 1°5'W (SU6469) (West Berkshire) 
24/06/2014 Hosehill Lake LNR: 51°25'N 1°5'W (SU6469) (West Berkshire)   16 days
27/06/2014 Hosehill Lake LNR: 51°25'N 1°5'W (SU6469) (West Berkshire)   19 days
02/07/2014 Hosehill Lake LNR: 51°25'N 1°5'W (SU6469) (West Berkshire)   24 days
25/03/2015 Hosehill Lake LNR: 51°25'N 1°5'W (SU6469) (West Berkshire)   290 days
31/03/2015 Hosehill Lake LNR: 51°25'N 1°5'W (SU6469) (West Berkshire)   296 days
05/04/2015 Hosehill Lake LNR: 51°25'N 1°5'W (SU6469) (West Berkshire)   301 days
06/04/2015 Pennington: 50°44'N 1°34'W (SZ3192) (Hampshire)   83km SSW 302 days

So it looks like the bird has been semi-resident at its place of ringing through the latter part of last summer and into the spring before going on a wander to the south coast.

Denny Wood produced relatively little with mainly common woodland birds in full breeding swing there didn't seem to be any summer breeders on site and no sign of any Redstart, I had the feeling that migrants were a week or two behind schedule as normally the first Redstart are on territory by now.

Greenfinch on the Ancient Highway

Treecreeper prospecting for a nesting site in Denny Wood