Sunday, 27 March 2016

Pennington Marsh - 25th March

I spent a couple of hours at Pennington Marsh this morning and walked from the Lower Pennington Lane car park to Keyhaven Lagoon. It was a bitter day and the feel of spring that we had felt earlier in the week had vanished under overcast skies and a stiff north-westerly wind.

At Keyhaven Lagoon five Spoonbill showed very well as they fed in the shallows on the east side of the lagoon. It was great to watch these often lethargic birds feeding in sweeping unison. One bird was colour ringed and a little research suggests it is from a Netherlands ringing scheme. A barking dog flushed the birds and they flew together and headed east, later being reported from Normandy Lagoon. Earlier in the week 11 birds had been present here.

Spoonbill - Keyhaven Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Spoonbill - Keyhaven Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Spoonbill - Keyhaven Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Spoonbill - Keyhaven Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Colour ringed Spoonbill from a Netherlands ringing scheme- Keyhaven Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

A scan from the seawall at Keyhaven Lagoon produced the long staying drake Long-tailed Duck in a channel off Iley Point. This bird appears to be a young male, perhaps a second year bird which is now undergoing moult to summer plumage. The head and breast being speckled with the darker garb of summer. Most duck species show two moult cycles per year, however, Long-tailed Duck are unique in that they undergo three moult sequences. These are (1) in summer/early autumn consisting of replacement of head, neck and scapular feathers continuing in September-December where all feathers are replaced except tail, wing and rear underparts; in April (2) when much of the head, breast and mantle are moulted; and after breeding (3) when the rest of the feathers are moulted including the flight feathers. This bird is therefore undergoing moult 2 as described above. The wing feathers are clearly worn having been retained since the post-breeding moult, number 3 in the sequence above.

The Long-tailed Duck was feeding avidly amongst a fast moving tidal stream running through the salt marsh and spent a great deal of time underwater.

Long-tailed Duck off Keyhaven Lagoon moulting from winter to summer plumage

The tide was high and therefore most of the waders were roosting on the saltmarsh and on Keyhaven Lagoon. A roosting flock of 37 Curlew on Keyhaven Lagoon was notable and also here were three Spotted Redshank and two Greenshank.

Dunlin, Grey Plover, Knot and Brent Geese on saltmarsh off Keyhaven Lagoon

Roosting Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit and Spotted Redshank

Cormorant fishing, very successfully, for shrimps in the shallows of Keyhaven Lagoon

I then spent some time birding around Efford Lagoon scanning the gull flocks for a Yellow-legged or Caspian Gull but no luck. There was a good selection of common gull species and eight adult and two 2nd summer Mediterranean Gull.

Mixed flock of Herring, Lesser Black-back, Great Black-backed and Black-headed Gull on banks of Efford Lagoon

A male Dartford Warbler showed well, albeit in windy conditions, in the gorse along the Ancient Highway. This bird gave bursts of song in the intermittent sunshine. A summer plumage Water Pipit showed briefly on the floods to the south of the Ancient Highway but unfortunately I was too quick in raising my camera and flushed the bird into the rushes.

Male Dartford Warbler - Efford Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Male Dartford Warbler - Efford Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

I spent a little bit of time scanning the marshes on the bend at the bottom of Lower Pennington Lane. A lovely white necked Ruff showed well. The Golden Plover flock was down to around 150 birds but many were now in or close to summer plumage.

Male Ruff - Pennington Marsh

Golden Plover - Pennington Marsh